Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

April 27, 2015

In the UK, a trans poly runs for Parliament

Can an out transgender poly woman get a respectable showing in an election for important public office? Testing that question is Zoe O'Connell in the U.K.

You may remember her from this story in The Guardian two years ago about her very out queer triad. She's running for Parliament in the May 7th general election, as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the mostly rural district of Maldon, Essex, described as "ultra-safe Conservative." The longtime Conservative incumbent won re-election the last time around by 41 percentage points.

The Lib Dems are Great Britain's third-largest party and hold about 10% of national and local elected offices. O'Connell's identities have been getting her a lot of press outside the district, some of it nasty. This morning The Independent, a leading national newspaper, interviews her:

Zoe O'Connell: Transgender Liberal Democrat candidate explains why being transgender and polyamorous isn't a big deal

O'Connell (left) takes a selfie with Lib Dem party leader Nick Clegg. (Original caption: "The MP hopeful has attracted the attention of the tabloid press ahead of the General Election.")

By Helen Nianias

Zoe O'Connell is hoping to become MP for Maldon, Essex, and pledges that if she's elected she'll push the equalities agenda.

However, what has primarily captured peoples' imaginations recently is the fact that O'Connell was born male, and is in a polyamorous relationship with two female partners.

IT specialist O'Connell realised she was transgender on October 13 2005. "For some people it’s a gradual realisation, but for me it was a light bulb moment," she told the Mirror.

O'Connell, whose wife Sylvia stayed with her during her transition, started dating her now-girlfriend Sarah while they were going through the process of transitioning at the same time. Now Sylvia, Sarah and Zoe have a harmonious poly relationship.

The Daily Mail remarked that "of course" O'Connell was Lib Dem, but she is unbothered by any criticism. She explains: "Someone said years ago with being gay that you don’t just come out once, you come out repeatedly. And then after a while you just get bored and you stop caring."...

The Independent: Hi, Zoe. Does your experience make you a better politician?

Zoe O'Connell: "Anyone who’s got a lot of life experience is going to be a better MP. In that regard, yes. My story is unique to me, everybody else has their own stories that are going to be different."

Are we starting to make progress in terms of candidate diversity?

ZOC: "I think so, there’s another candidate who’s poly, and other Lib Dem candidates have came out as having HIV."

I suspect if you’re polyamorous you’re also really good at organising things.

ZOC: "[Laughs] Yes we use calendars on iPhones a lot and we used to use Google calendars before that came along but I have no idea how people managed it before. I think it was possible – there's a polyamorous relationship in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – that one’s a "V" rather than a triangle, but that’s handled very well."

Does it help people relate to you, because the media coverage is so personal?

ZOC: "People will appreciate the honesty. It’s kind of like just saying: ‘I am who I am’."

Do you think people respect that?

ZOC: "Certainly the kind of people who would vote Liberal [laughs]."

How do your partners feel?

ZOC: "Sarah’s a former council person, so she’s used to the press. Sylvia’s not really the media type, so it’s not been a problem... As long as you’ve learned to accept it yourself, what other people think matters less. A lot of stress can be cured by going: ‘You can’t be worrying about what other people think.’"

Here's the original (April 27, 2015).

Update: This longshot of a campaign may not be as quixotic as it sounds to an American. I'm told that in Great Britain, you don't have to live in the district you run in. So, political parties often try out would-be candidates in hopeless districts to see how well they handle a campaign. Those who prove themselves may then be "promoted" to run in a district where they have a chance.

Similarly, a would-be candidate who wants to get the attention of party leaders can run in a sacrifice race, in a district the party's other candidates are not interested in, to show what they've got.

This would explain why such an alternative person as O'Connell, who thrived in the college-town hotbed around Cambridge University, is running in such a place as Maldon, Essex. Even if the incumbent wins by 41 points again next week, O'Connell may achieve what she needs, and we may be hearing more from her.

Election result update, May 8: As part of the Conservative sweep and Lib Dem wipeout, O'Connell got 4.5% of the Maldon vote; the Conservative incumbent got 61%.


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April 25, 2015

*The Guardian*: "The truth about polyamory"

The Guardian in the U.K. is one of the world's leading newspapers, progressive in orientation, and for several years it's been making a major online play in North America. This morning its online editions worldwide are running a 2,600-word feature story about the polyamory trend. It's written in the first person, by a self-professed queer Irish academic in Montreal.

It gets the picture right with no mistakes or misconceptions, IMO, and spans a range: open couples, solo poly, a group family. We come off as rather awesome.

Can someone see if it's in any paper editions?

A tale of two lovers (or three, or four): the truth about polyamory

At 19, Emer O’Toole had a boyfriend and a girlfriend – but no word for the arrangement. Now, like a growing number of people, she does: polyamory. She and her friends reveal what life is like with more than one lover.

‘It’s not always easy to define exactly what polyamory is, but it’s pretty easy to say what it isn’t. Poly isn’t cheating. It isn’t lying. It isn’t a disregard for the agreements you share with the people you love.’
(Photograph: Sobreira/Alamy)

By Emer O'Toole

Last summer, at a friend’s birthday, a man sat next to me, explained that he’d heard I was polyamorous and asked if we could talk about it. He proceeded to explain that he’s a poly person at heart, but that his partner would never go for it: that’s why he cheated on her. I asked if he’d tried communicating about the kind of relationship he really wanted. No. He couldn’t. His partner was too traditional, too closed-minded. I asked how he’d feel if she became romantically involved with someone else. This was a moot point – she would simply never do that. Oh dear.

Polyamory is usually described as ethical non-monogamy – that is, non-monogamy with the consent and knowledge of all involved. But, of course, there are infinitesimal interpretations of that. Whose ethics? Which actions need consent? What exactly do we want or need to know?

It’s not always easy to define exactly what polyamory is, but it’s pretty easy to say what it isn’t. Poly isn’t cheating. It isn’t lying. It isn’t a disregard for the agreements you share with the people you love. And it certainly isn’t positioning monogamous people as more blindly traditional or less emotionally evolved than you.

Despite my interlocutor’s unfortunate attempt to use poly identity as an excuse for shitty treatment of his girlfriend, the conversation did raise an interesting question for me. Are some people “poly at heart” while others are fundamentally monogamous? Is poly something you are, or something you do?

...But, given that monogamy is socially sanctioned, while there’s much suspicion and judgment around polyamory, it’s interesting that people end up “acting” or “being” poly at all. Perhaps, like sexual orientation, there’s a genetic component to poly preferences. Certainly – whether because of life experience, biological drive or a combination of both – some people are more drawn to polyamory than others.

...I had no word for it [as a teen] but, for a while, I was dating two people, who were aware of each other and who seemed content to date me anyway. “Emer’s got a boyfriend and a girlfriend!” my friends teased, remarkably cool about my queer polyness in an Irish town where the majority would have prescribed immediate and urgent exorcism. And, as lucky as it was that I managed to count some of the most supportive people in Galway as my besties, it’s also pretty interesting that I found my way to something resembling polyamory in the first place. After all, there’d been no signposts: I’d never seen poly relationships on TV or in real life.

Looking back, I wish I’d had a word. And more: some stuff to read – a copy of What Does Polyamory Look Like? or a poly web-comic such as Kimchi Cuddles. I lacked the tools I needed to communicate and behave in loving, respectful ways; to do poly right. And, unsurprisingly, I made a balls of everything. Like monogamy, poly needs work. But, perhaps unlike monogamy, it also helps to have some theory. You can’t just imitate the patterns you see around you.

This raises another question: why is polyamory becoming more widespread? If it takes so much communication to get right and if, having achieved something that works for you and the people you love, you have to deal with constant judgment by others, well, why bother?

...One obvious way to answer the question “Why poly?” is that it offers benefits that monogamy doesn’t (just as mono offers benefits that poly doesn’t). There’s something about the dedication to honesty and emotional work involved in poly that fosters self-knowledge, trust and compersion (poly-speak for happiness in your partner’s romantic happiness). I’m not saying that similar kinds of intimacy can’t be achieved in monogamous relationships; just that lots of poly people find the emphasis on honest, non-judgmental emotional communication a marked change from their previous experiences.

Illustration: Demetrios Psillos
Another way to answer the question “Why poly?” is to look away from individuals’ choices and towards wider social structures. If you take the Marxist line that capitalism requires the nuclear family, because the logic of accumulating private property only really works if wealth is hereditary, then it’s interesting that we’re living in a time when the family is diversifying so rapidly. We have stepfamilies; gay families; single parent families; and – less common than any of these, but certainly on the rise – poly families. Perhaps these are not just the result of individuals’ choices, but a sign that the economic underpinnings of our society are in flux....

Perhaps we’re in (or approaching) a period of late capitalism, and poly is one of the signs of this.


...I moved to Montreal, Canada: a city bursting with queer polyamorous anarcho-artivist yoga-vegans, where I am – at long last – the least out-there person at any party. Montreal offered me real-life models of poly relationships: of things working, not working and being worked on.

At the risk of sounding disgustingly smitten, my love life is pretty dreamy right now. I’m moving in with a partner for the first time ever, something I’d never seriously considered before. Love. It’s real! Even better, I could build this love without ending another very important relationship. Instead of feeling as though I’m living within a restrictive set of rules, guiltily desiring secret things, I feel as though we’re writing the rules together.

But that’s just me and I’m just one person. And since there are as many types of poly as there are poly people, I asked five friends if they would let me share their stories, too....

Some pullquotes accompanying the article:

"Instead of living within a restrictive set of rules, guiltily desiring secret things, we’re writing the rules together"

"Though we knew we wanted to spend our lives together, romantic and sexual fidelity was just not that important to us"

"I’ve always had crushes on everyone. I used to feel guilty about it"

"It’s really nice to be in a place where I sincerely care about my partner’s partner"

"My poly relationship is less co-dependent than past relationships – we both have our own friends and social lives"

Read the whole piece (April 25, 2015).

Update June 12: The author, Emer O'Toole, is interviewed on "The Last Word with Matt Cooper" on TodayFM.com: It's far from polyamory I was reared (June 12, 2015).


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April 23, 2015

Good poly-mono crossover values, continued


Here's another fine article on what mono and poly people may learn from each other. It's been getting good notices in the polysphere since it went up yesterday.

RoleReboot ("Life, off script") is an online magazine with often radical perspectives on building your own way of life. "We prize the personal narrative and believe that honest storytelling is the most powerful form of consciousness-raising. We believe that storytelling can subvert the idea that things have to be the way they are."

What I Learned About Polyamory From My Happily Monogamous Parents

They taught me that the more you love people, the more love you have to give.

By Leah Henderson

My parents (to my knowledge at least) are about as monogamous as you can get. They met on the playground — 11 years old, my mom turned to her friend and said “I’m going to marry him.” She did. And to this day my parents are best friends, lovers, companions, co-parents, who are socially, economically, spiritually, and politically tethered to each other.

Though they’re left-leaning, and accepting of their anarchist, queer daughter — who’s thrown a lot of shit in their direction in the last 30 years — there’s still one place that we just can’t seem to come to an understanding about: my choice to be in polyamorous relationship structures.

They are kind enough to mostly stay silent about it.... In the conversations we’ve had about polyamory, what I take away from my parents is that their relationship has been a source of nourishment, protection, and is a loving container — and they want me to have those things — and can’t imagine a different structure doing that. Which, while I don’t agree with, I can understand — lived experience is powerful and not something to negate.

...Often, people tell me that I am “good at poly.” I’m always curious about this. I fight. I’m jealous. I ask unreasonable things of my dates. I’m insecure, and when my relationships shift or grow, there is a time of adjustment that often includes tears, tantrums, and lots and lots of processing. Through these moments my dates and I find each other.

When I think about the two practices that I fall back on most often in my polyamorous relationships, all the credit goes to my monogamous superstar mom and dad:

The first practice: love multiplies love.

Going to sleep as a small child, when mom and dad would say to me “love you,” I’d respond with “love you more.” They would always reply “not possible” while kissing me on the head.

One night, I asked why it wasn’t possible. They told me that it was because with age comes more life experience — they had been able to love more people than I had in my six years. They said the more you love people, the more love you have to give. It was a simple love ritual between us every night. But it left a deep imprint in how I approach and view the world....

The second practice: different kids, different rules.

My youngest sister and I couldn’t have been more different as kids.... While we were not a rule-heavy house, I do remember that regularly when one of us would complain that it wasn’t fair that one of us was getting something the other one wasn’t, my parents would respond “different kids, different rules.”... They knew we were different....

I carry this with me. What I need to feel cared for and safe, to stretch and to grow, is usually pretty different than what my date needs (that whole, different people different experiences thing). Instead of creating a set of rules that we both follow, I work with my sweeties to learn what care and love and safety feels like for them and together we come up with ways to have those things met. We find each other....

Leah Henderson is a community activist living in Toronto, Canada. A trainer, facilitator and mediator, she works with Queer and Trans communities committed to anti-racism, and decolonization work.

Here's the whole article (April 22, 2015).


And on the subject of good relationshipping, Brian Frederick's classic from 1998 has gotten rediscovered and is going around again. It's as good as ever: Polyamory Self-Improvement Program. Here's an alternative link. And another.

Brian Frederick ("a proud member of the surfcow quad") originally titled it "Tools for Healthy Relationships" and posted it on the alt.polyamory Usenet group for comments and edits in March 1998. Alt.polyamory (now accessible through Google Groups) was the first poly discussion list on the internet; it started in May 1992. The Oxford English Dictionary credits its founding, by Jennifer L. Wesp, as the origin of the word polyamory — though the word also seems to have been coined independently by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart two years earlier.



April 17, 2015

"Seven Reasons Non-Monogamy May Be The Best Thing For You," and Ask Amy says never never.

Two hot-button open-relationship items are out and abroad in the media this morning, promoting opposite views. The mass-market women's site Bustle offers "7 Reasons Non-Monogamy May Be The Best Thing For You", and newspaper advice columnist Amy Dickinson is all over the place saying these things never work.

● From the Bustle article:

How Does An Open Relationship Work? 7 Reasons Non-Monogamy May Be The Best Thing For You

By Olivia Gatwood

When I tell people I’m in an open relationship, the most common response I get is, “But don’t you get jealous?” Well, if you must know, the answer is yes. Of course I do. Everyone does. My partner once said to me, “The problem isn’t the fact that we feel jealous, the problem is how we react to it.” The thing is, you create your open relationship rules. You have to mold your relationship so that it fits you best....

But the open relationship is made up of a lot more than just the question of jealousy. There are many reasons you might want to consider being in one, or maybe just reconfiguring the boundaries of the relationship you’re currently in.... The reality is, it’s a huge task to unlearn all of the things we are taught about love, but a vital one nonetheless....

1. It’s not just about sex.

...Sometimes having an “open” relationship just means a relationship free of the pressure that often arises when a person feels bound by monogamy. Sometimes, simply feeling like you can do whatever you want is enough.

2. But at the same time, you can discover other sides of yourself....

3. It can bring more honesty into the relationship.

Once the feeling that you need to hide something is lifted, you might feel more comfortable communicating with your partner about the way you feel in general. Maybe you can finally tell them that their eggplant parmesan isn’t even that good and they’ll just laugh and be like, “Yeah, well you fart in your sleep.”

4. Believe it or not, it can soothe your jealousy....

5. It will help you maintain your own identity.

Sometimes, when you fall in love, it’s easy to lose yourself to another person.... When I say “lose yourself” I mean it in the “hermit-in-love” kind of way versus the controlling, suffocating relationship kind of way. If you identify with the former, consider the fact that an open relationship might help you maintain a sense of autonomy, whether that’s going out and flirting at the club, or simply feeling like you don’t owe someone every part of yourself.

6. It can bring you and your partner closer together.

Once you’ve created an open-relationship that both you and your partner are comfortable with, the two of you might actually become more intimate than before. If honesty, autonomy, and support are all large components of your relationship, you are most likely going to feel happy, healthy and in love more often than not.

7. You can make your own rules.

Every open relationship is different.... Think about your own boundaries before setting rules. Challenge yourself, but also keep in mind what will be healthiest for you and your partner as emotional individuals. Listen to your partner, ask questions, try things out and if they’re not working, speak up! This is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of story.

Read the whole piece, with bouncy graphics (April 16, 2015).

"Ask Amy"
● Also just out, newspaper advice columnist "Ask Amy" (Amy Dickinson) responds to a reader that open marriages don't work, because

What are the odds that both partners will find other fulfilling sexual partners at the same time, have relationships of the same duration and intensity, and not damage their marriage? The prospects are not good. Open marriages don’t work because the “openness” more or less negates the “marriage.”

Maybe that's true if you're unwilling to examine and remake some of your cultural assumptions. Or to even see them.

Amy and her readers need education — starting with advice to google up your local polyamory support group and meet some of the people making it work well.

So, find a bunch of newspapers running this week's column and post to the comments. Email a copy of your post to letters@[newspaper's domain name].com, and copy Amy directly (once) at askamy@tribpub.com.


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April 16, 2015

In France, a new movie about a triad:
*À trois on y va*

Slate France

Eve Rickert found this movie review and personal story in France "because we [were] getting tons of site traffic from it" to MoreThanTwo.com.

The movie, À trois on y va, was released in France on March 25th and is getting a lot of attention. The title means "We go as three," but the official English title is All About Them. The trailer:

Excerpts from the Slate France article, with help from Google Translate:

Trouple: we must stop thinking of the couple as the only possible form of love

In «À trois on y va», director Jérôme Bonnell outlines the possibility of a three-way love. I've experienced this this love, and it is viable.

By Thomas Messias

The word sounds like a joke. Trouple. An awkward portmanteau of a word, not very engaging, hardly inspiring confidence. Yet in the language of polyamory (a generic term covering different kinds of multiple love), the trouple is a real word. Also used in English, it means a triangular love in which each person maintains a relationship with the other two. A loves B, who loves C, who likes A, and vice versa. It's a device that Bonnell develops in a part of his film À trois on y va, a little treatise on love and desire, and betrayal, that stands out from the traditional couple scenarios by examining the relationships between Charlotte (Sophie Verbeeck), Micha (Félix Moati), and Melody (Anaïs Demoustier).

The plurality of polyamory

The trouple is not the only form of relationship among three.

On his website MoreThanTwo.com, dedicated to polyamory, writer Franklin Veaux, who lives in Portland and has several partners, provides a detailed and fairly comprehensive glossary....

I personally experienced a vee for several months, not as the pivot. Last summer, L., wife, met E., another woman, who she fell in love with. We ended up all three meeting to better understand what was happening: the slow building of a triangular relationship.

Very quickly, because trust and respect were present, E. and I started to develop a true friendship.... it worked like clockwork for half a year....

Read on, in French (March 25, 2015). He gets back to the movie later.

Here are the movie's IMDB page in English and its AlloCiné page in French. It's had lots of reviews in the French press: in Le Monde, Libération, Le Nouvel Observateur, and many others.


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April 15, 2015

Long TV report on polyfolks in Israel

A 42-minute report on polyamory recently appeared on Israel's mainstream Channel 10 TV. It's mostly in Hebrew. Ofek at tvuna.org tells us, "Brave families, even with children, went out of the closet in a fairly positive TV [report]. It emphasized that polyamory is the future and that people who choose this path want acceptance. The highlight of the show is the 12 year old daughter who tells the annoying interviewer that she is happy her parents found a way to be happy."


If javascript version above fails to display, watch here (March 10, 2015).

The show's blurb, via Google Translate:

The true face of open relationships

How would you feel if your wife tells you she was in love with another man? Would you accept that your husband slept the night with a lover? How do you live with several mates? And how do the children feel? A glimpse into the lives of families who decided to kick all normative conventions.

The comments on the show's Facebook page are brutal, according to a thread that got going on reddit/r/polyamory. Some commented that we're seeing the difference between secular, liberal Tel Aviv and conservative, religious Jerusalem.


P.S.: About his group tvuna.org, Ofek writes,

TVUNA means "raw wisdom" — we started by going out on [raw food] foraging trips for several days at a time — and re-discovered eden. Magic happens when a group of people willingly choose to take care of their economy in most simple and direct way — and collectively. From this we realized the need for a tribe, questioned ownership of land and food, and from this ownership in general — naturally progressed to a more tribal view of relationships and wider view of intimacy.


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April 13, 2015

U.K. tabs spotlight triad with kids

The Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail, two of the papers that give the British press its trashy reputation, have decided apparently that poly sells. This morning they both present essentially the same splashy, photo-laden feature story about an MFF triad, treating it as the tale of a nerdy guy who made good. The story isn't so bad, considering.

Jane, Adam, Brooke and kids.

This comes a month after both papers picked up on the Looks Like Love To Me triad's story.

Short version of this new one: Adam was a lonely nerd, took pickup artist lessons, got so good at it that he set up shop as a dating coach, married "Alexandra," they moved to Texas, the marriage hit the rocks, they tried going poly to save the marriage, that worked until it didn't, and they broke up. Adam paired up with Brooke, they went on a unicorn hunt — and found one. Adam, Brooke and Jane have been happy ever after (we're given to believe) and are raising two kids in L.A.

Meet the polyamorous Brit who lives with two women in the US, raising their children as 'a throuple'

By Pesala Bandara

Dating coach Adam Lyons lives with Brooke Shedd and Jane Shalakhova in a polyamorous relationship — but when he was at school he was voted 'the least likely to ever get a girlfriend'

...The trio — who share a super-kingsize bed and take it in turns to have romantic date nights together — insist that they can provide a loving family environment for their newborn.

Adam, from East London, says: "We're just like any other family. Except in ours, there'll be one dad and two mums who live under the same roof — and there'll be nothing but love for our children.

Brooke, who already has a five-year-old son, Oliver, from a previous relationship who lives with the trio, adds: "With two partners, I'll never have to leave my kids with someone I don't trust."


Says Adam, "After trying marriage out with Alexandra, I didn't want to limit myself to being with just one person ever again.

"I loved the polyamorous lifestyle because it's okay to date someone else if one partner can't provide exactly what you need at that time."

Brooke, from Texas, says: "Equally although I loved Adam, I didn't want to stop seeing other women.

"I really pushed for us to have an open relationship too. So Adam and I decided to work as a team and pick up girls to have sex with together."

Adam and Brooke continued having casual threesomes together but were also looking for a third woman to permanently join their relationship.

Then in April 2013, the twosome met photographer, Jane, in a nightclub in Texas and immediately hit it off with her.

...Jane — who is bisexual but who had only been in a monogamous relationship before — says: "I loved how there was no pressure to do anything when I first met Adam and Brooke.

"We just hung out, spoke and flirted at their house. I had never experimented with polyamorous relationships but with Adam and Brooke, it felt so natural. They were two awesome people.

"It's like imagine you meet your soul mate. Now multiply that by two. It's twice the love."

...In early 2014, Brooke, Adam and her son moved to Los Angeles to be nearer to Jane. A few months later, they all bought a house that they could all live in together.

After a year of living as a trio, Adam and Brooke just gave birth to a baby boy, Dante in February and they hope to raise him together with Jane. Adam and Brooke strongly believe that three parents are better than two.... Jane says: "I will have kids in a few years too. Caring for Dante has been good practice. And I know Brooke will be there for me when I'm pregnant."

...Brooke says: "We are committed to each other. But we would be open to adding another person if we met another girl who we liked and fitted into our lifestyle.

..."In the same way that it's hard to find one person to commit your life to — there's three of us who have to agree to the next person."

Good luck, folks. Read the whole article (April 13, 2015) in the Mirror. It comes with a 2-minute video. Here's the version in the Daily Mail, almost identical but with a few sexier bits.

BTW, Adam is still in the dating-coach business, and he lists a bunch of his official PUA championship awards. (Yes official PUA championships exist, shudder.)

Update same day: The British celebrity-and-fashion mag Closer published the same story on its website the same day. All this simultaneous publicity comes from an outfit called News Dog Media. I wonder if Adam hired them?

A bit later: And now the New York Daily News. It's a conspiracy of tabloids.


April 10, 2015

"Poly Philly: What's that like?"

Philadelphia City Paper

Yesterday's post was on the first of the two long articles that appeared this week about the Philadelphia poly scene: the one in the upscale Philadelphia magazine. Here's the other, in the alternative weekly the Philadelphia City Paper.

It begins with a long account of February's Poly Living conference put on every year by Loving More. (Here's my own quite different report from that event.)

Poly Philly: People all over the city are practicing ethical non-monogamy. What's that like?

Maria Pouchnikova

By Mikala Jamison

From the front of the buzzing-with-energy events room of the airport Embassy Suites hotel, Robyn Trask instructs everyone to rise from their chairs and turn to their right.

It’s late February, freezing outside, and Trask, executive director of the Loving More nonprofit, tells the 200-plus polyamorous (or poly-interested, or poly-ally) people to get cozy.

Take the shoulders of the person in front of you, Trask instructs. The woman who is now behind me, Tori Sidenstricker, tells me I’ve got to play along, too. Prompted by Trask, she starts to massage me. Sidenstricker is simultaneously having her shoulders rubbed from behind by John Michael Neal, then one of her two male partners.

“Now say, ‘I appreciate you,’” Trask says. I’m at the end of my row; I have no shoulders to rub. I feel a degree of relief, and also very much like the outsider I am.

“I appreciate you,” the assembly echoes twice more. Once re-seated, three women sitting in front of me blissfully exchange kisses.

Soon, renowned polyamory writer, activist and educator Franklin Veaux will deliver the keynote address while wearing bunny ears.

“For those of us who can tell our stories, we are normalizing this,” Veaux says. “We are not monsters for doing this.”

Veaux implores, “We have to keep telling our stories.”

A few minutes prior, the group had been instructed to keep the PDA to a respectful minimum — no making out on the hotel lobby’s couches; please be fully clothed in the lobby — and some will soon change into fancier dress for the “Bohemian Nights”-themed Polyamory Dance Party. When I popped into the dance later on, the first song playing was “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” One guy had on shimmery harem pants. [That was me! –Ed.]

So began the 10th annual Poly Living 2015 Philadelphia conference....

Maria Pouchnikova

...But beyond the touchy-feely workshops, the conference serves a distinct purpose — to help educate and connect a growing community. Poly Living conferences usually attract 130 to 180 people; last year brought in 175 and this year, 210 people from all over the country attended. Poly Living was actually founded in 2005 right here in Philly.

“Whether you’re monogamous or poly, we’re really not taught these skills to have really healthy relationships,” Trask says. “That’s why we do these conferences; we help people learn how to do this.”

From Friday to Sunday, there are workshops on the basics of poly (emotional issues, safe sex, common concerns); coming out; jealousy; poly parenting; ditching the “rules” of poly; abuse in poly; gender in poly, even a faith-based workshop taught by a minister.

...Some poly relationships can evolve into [the Relationship] Anarchy model, says Phillip Weber, 30, one of the creators of the invite-only Facebook group, Polydelphia, which has 230 members, both poly people and allies.

Weber has six female partners in addition to Tiffany Adams, the partner he lives with in Bensalem. Adams has one female partner and three male partners. They each spend time with their other partners frequently — some once a week, some once a month. Weber might have three to five date nights in a week, but it’s flexible — he uses Google Docs and a Google calendar to keep everything straight. That’s common in poly, he says.

“It’s definitely like, ‘All right, this relationship is final because we’re sharing Google calendars,’” he says with a laugh.

Some of Adams’ partners date some of Weber’s partners. Adams doesn’t date any of the people Weber dates — but that’s not a “rule,” just how it is — that’s kind of what relationship anarchy is about.

Weber says his group of partners is “more free than a lot of people,” but for him, relationship anarchy is the closest definition of what they do:

“Everything is negotiable; relationships themselves aren’t more important than the people involved, and all relationships are one-to-one,” Weber explains. “If I start a relationship with Tiff’s boyfriend or girlfriend, that doesn’t give her [Tiff] any particular control over that relationship. … Third parties don’t control relationships.

...“People had to be a lot more entrenched and careful about who knew [about their poly relationship] 15 or 20 years ago,” he says. “So those [older] relationships are a lot more tight-knit and cellular.”


Four [local] online groups I found for poly people had popped up in 2014 alone — Weber’s 230-strong Polydelphia group, along with three groups on Meetup.com: Greater Philly Alt. Lifestyle and Relationship Social Tribe (304 members), NY/NJ/PA Solo Poly & Relationships Anarchy (RA) Network (104 members), and Black & Poly Philadelphia (52 members).

Another Meetup that started in 2007, Philadelphia Mindful Polyamory Meetup Group, has 931 members, and the Phila. Polyamory and “Open” Relationships Discussion Group, started in 2010, has 390.


I asked Weber if he thought polyamorous people are happier than monogamous people.

“A lot of happiness is prevalent in the poly community, and in the monogamous relationships that exercise the same skills, like consideration and thoughtfulness,” he says. “On average, I see a lot of happier poly people, but I think it’s just a matter of skills, it’s not necessarily built into the relationship structure.”

A challenge of monogamy, he says, is that there are just assumed rules and agreements, “the cookie-cutter, romantic-comedy version” of relationships, that couples implicitly agree to without talking about. That doesn’t happen in poly.

“The worst feeling is the idea that someone will hit you with, ‘’If you’re dating two people you can’t love them equally or the same amount you could love one person,’” Weber says. “That’s basically the challenge that I find, this idea of scarcity. The healthiest way for poly people to look at it is the only truly scarce resource you have is time.”...

Read the whole article, nearly 4,000 words (April 9, 2015).


IN OTHER NEWS, The Looks Like Love To Me triad had their ABC Nightline appearance bumped forward from last night, possibly to next Thursday night. They write, "Some other news out there in the world took the spot. Gives us more time to keep shining up our website! Have you noticed some spiffin' up in the past day or so?"



April 9, 2015

"Welcome to Polydelphia!"

Philadelphia magazine

The Philadelphia public just got two long feature articles, each nearly 4,000 words, about the local poly scene. Coincidence, I presume! This first one appeared in glossy, upscale Philadelphia magazine. Next up will be the one in the more street-level Philadelphia City Paper. The author of this first story is occasionally snarky but mostly is amazed and impressed by the people.

Welcome to Polydelphia!

Everything about these Philadelphians is completely normal. Well, except that Tiffany lives with Phillip, but also has sex with Jon and Josh. Meanwhile, Josh also sleeps with Heather and Mae, who both hook up with Phillip (who, you’ll remember, lives with Tiffany.) Isn’t millennial love fun?

FAMILY DINNER: From left to right: Jon, Josh, Tiffany, Phillip and Mae cooking up dinner at Phillip and Tiffany’s house in Bensalem. (Photo by Gene Smirnov)

By Chelsea Edgar

...Tiffany and most of her boyfriends are polyamorous, meaning that they’re free to pursue multiple romantic relationships at once.... All of her partners and her partners’ partners have complicated networks of their own. As if managing these relationships isn’t enough, Tiffany runs a 200-plus-member secret [Facebook] group called Polydelphia, an online community for Philly’s young poly cohort. When she’s not being polyamory-extraordinaire-about-town, she works a full-time job as a nurse. Oh, and she’s in a band.

...But here’s the thing about Tiffany: When she’s with you, she’s 100 percent with you, and you’ll forget that she was late in the first place. She makes direct eye contact. She barely looks at her phone. We talk in the coffee shop until the barista shuts off the lights in the pastry case, and she ends up missing part of band practice.

This is how she manages to juggle so many commitments: She doesn’t try to be everywhere at the same time. But it hasn’t always come this easy. As she sips her coffee, she explains that she’s a recovered serial monogamist.... Being polyamorous, she says, without a hint of irony, has helped her figure out how to get her needs met without losing herself in the process.

...Lately, the concept of fluidity in relationships has been inching its way into the zeitgeist... This increased visibility is partly a function of the Internet and social media, where everything that was once considered niche now lives at our fingertips. But polyamory also seems to be gaining currency as we search for a relationship model that can withstand the complexity of modern life. The numbers prove there’s growing interest: As many as 12 million Americans practice some form of consensual non-monogamy today. There are poly meet-up groups in major cities on both coasts [sic], including the notoriously in-the-box Philadelphia — which, incidentally, has hosted an annual polyamory conference since 1995 [Loving More's Poly Living East]. And now, thanks in part to Tiffany’s organizing efforts, polyamory is having something of a moment among Philly’s under-40 set.

Tiffany and Phillip first came up with the idea for Polydelphia about a year and a half ago, after attending a series of unsatisfying meet-ups. Tiffany doesn’t mince words in explaining what the problem was: “We were the youngest people in the room by, like, 30 years. And the most attractive. So we were this novelty, and everyone just wanted to talk to us.”... Tiffany and Phillip were looking for an active, engaged community, not a self-help circle.... Instead they would focus on issues relevant to them: how to manage packed Google calendars, how to navigate sticky situations at work, how to introduce significant others to their families. And, you know, have fun. By January 2014, an invite-only Facebook group had been created, and Polydelphia was born.

To preach the gospel of anything-goes while leading an exhaustively scheduled life might seem contradictory, but that’s the biggest surprise — or perhaps the biggest letdown — of polyamory: What appears to be romantic and sexual spontaneity is often a minutely choreographed balancing act, revised as needed to ensure that no one feels forgotten. Tiffany is at home in this particular world, and she says she’s never felt less constrained. Her goal, she says, is to experience real emotional freedom. She gets to be selfish at times, to focus on meeting her own needs instead of obsessing over someone else’s. She gets to date both men and women whenever she wants. She gets to use her unsurpassed gift for making new friends (“I used to have resting bitch face,” she confesses, though you’d never know it), and she can let those friendships seek their own level without imposing limits. She doesn’t do “me” time. Instead, she recharges by surrounding herself with people.

But it’s not just about being social; Tiffany says poly has given her an opportunity to “bash away at her insecurities.” “Initially it was hard for me to open up about my feelings when I was feeling jealousy or discomfort with a new situation,” she says. “Now, vulnerability is my baseline.”

...I can’t help but feel a stab of envy. What would it be like to have two or three or even four people who might be available to deliver an organic chocolate bar in times of need? What potentially could be an unreasonable request of one person — a last-minute ride to the airport, a late-night pep talk — is light work for a vast network of romantic partners — a network that becomes, in effect, a family. As Easton and Hardy write in The Ethical Slut, “When you are part of such a circle, new lovers of any member are potential friends and family members of your own, so the focus changes from competition and exclusivity to a sense of inclusion and welcome, often very warm indeed.”...

Read on, and on (May 2015 print issue; online April 5, 2015).


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April 8, 2015

Poly and Aging

You're older than you'd ever been
and now you're even older
and now you're even older
and now you're even older....
And now you're older still.
                        —They Might Be Giants

But that doesn't mean no sex, not always even less sex, as you age. People do tend to slow down, and many quit, by their 50s or 60s. However, the 2012 Loving More survey of more than 4,000 self-identified poly people found that they have substantially more sex in their later years than the average American, and that they are both happier and healthier than average in old age possibly because of this.

At 80, longtime polyactivist and benefactor Ken Haslam leads classes on how aging affects sexuality and poly relationships, and how people can adapt to these changes. This week he talks about things that we're all going to want to know about someday, on Cunning Minx's Polyamory Weekly podcast Episode 427: Is There Poly Over 70?

From her condensed transcript of the first minutes:

Ken Haslam with Liana Zhou, Special Collections
Librarian at the Kinsey Institute Library in Indiana.
Ken, tell us who you are.

I’m an 80-year-old failing polyamorist settling down into a more conventional lifestyle in a retirement community. I was a poly activist for about 15 years and ran about the country lecturing and ultimately set up the Kenneth R. Haslam Polyamory Collection at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University about six or eight years ago.

Didn’t you run the Poly Geezers list?

I am a founding member, along with another fellow, who is now dead. That’s one of the problems of getting old — sometimes you die. The Poly Geezers list died a natural death. [Not quite –Ed.] Old polys get it [about how to manage poly relationships]; they don’t have much drama, so they don’t have much to talk about!

What do you do if one partner gets dementia or is unable to have sex?

The first thing you do is to have that conversation when you’re both younger, and your brains are working well. You have these conversations before you get sick — before the age of 50. It’s important that you sit down with your partners and talk about this kind of thing. What happens when one of us gets Alzheimer's? And you take it from there. You do what you always do in a poly community: you talk. You extract the information you can from each other about what you would want.

What other issues could an aging poly run up against?

Divorce. There are people who just bail out, because caring for someone old and demented is a problem, and it’s very burdensome for the healthy partner.... I think that polyamory is a way of approaching this problem, of being there for a failing partner but still getting your own needs met.

What about people who weren’t poly to begin with, like someone who at 50 just doesn’t want sex any more?

I can think of one example of a couple in Illinois, where he went off on his own and went to swing clubs as a single man and went to parties by himself. And his wife stayed home and felt sorry for herself. And after a year or two, she ultimately joined him, and they now have a very happy, adventuresome poly/swing lifestyle. And they go to swinger conventions all the time, and they’re in their 70s!

What about people who discover bisexuality in their 60s?

Sometimes people don’t really discover their homosexuality or bisexuality until they’re older, when all of those programmings we have when we are young tend to go away. And you say “Gee, I’m really attracted to same sex!” Well, you need to sit down with your partner or partners and tell ’em. And that’s one of the beauties of polyamory, that your partners would be supportive of your needs.

What if you were monogamous until you discover your bisexuality?

That’s what lawyers thrive on.... [But] that’s one of the beauties of polyamory: if you can work these things out you don't have to get divorced. There are lots of options open to you if you keep an open mind and are flexible....

Listen here (April 8, 2015).

This show was a followup to Minx's Senior Sex show in January (Episode 417), which featured an interview with Joan Price. She's the author of the landmark book Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex (2011). As it happens, Ken Haslam contributed material about poly to that book. He commented at the time, "to my knowledge this is the first description of Polyamory in a book directed at Golden Years sexuality."

Perhaps surprisingly, old people tend to be less hung up than others about monogamy in their relationships, according to a study published in The Irish Psychiatrist titled "From closet to reality: Optimal sexuality among the elderly" (2009). It found that "about half of the participants who had been married 25 years and were over age 60 were not monogamous," Ken noted at the time. "There is even a mention of the word 'poly' by one of the subjects." I can't find a free link, but the reference is Kleinplatz, P.J., Ménard, A.D., Paradis, N., Campbell, M., Dalgleish, T., Segovia, A., & Davis, K. (2009). From closet to reality: Optimal sexuality among the elderly, The Irish Psychiatrist, 10(1), 15-18.

Ken continues, "This phenomenon of greater acceptance of non-monmogamous behavior in older people was also observed by [Alfred] Kinsey; see the section 'Relation to Age' in the chapter on extramarital sex in his 'Female' volume (page 416)."


Elderly polyfolks are not high on the media's interest list, but sometimes we see exceptions.

● Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor made news when she supported her declining husband's love affair with a fellow patient in his nursing home (2007).

● Robert H. Melton, a leading writer and editor at the Washington Post, suffered brain damage in 2003 and he ended up living happily with the devotion and support of his wife and her other, newer husband (2012).

Breast Cancer and Polyamory: A Story of Non-monogamy, Love and Commitment While Going Through Chemo — an interview with Allena Gabosch, the aging founder of Seattle’s Center for Sex Positivity and "a polyamorous, sex-scene goddess" (Oct. 25, 2011).

● Two articles at Loving More's site: Grief and Loss Among the Polys by John Ullman (with photo at right), and Sex at Sunset by Valerie White.

● While we're at it, there's a recently started Facebook group, Poly Over 50.

● And in closing, Time magazine has a photo essay and story on its website about Jeanie, Will and Adina, ages 82, 84 and 90, who formed a vee very late in life. They don't say they're poly, and one of the women opines that simple couple relationships are best, but "The trio’s relationship clearly challenges cultural norms. Will, describing the trio’s bond, said, “We live above the law. Not outside the law, but above the law. We are not outlaws.”

Jeanie, Will and Adina.



April 3, 2015

Laurell K. Hamilton explains poly, as she lives it, to her readers

Speaking of poly conventional wisdom, fantasy writer Laurell K. Hamilton answers some of her readers' questions about polyamory as it's portrayed in her many books (the Anita Blake series, the Merry Gentry series and others), and as she lives it herself. Which she told about on her blog a while ago. Her quad has been living together since last fall. She just posted this on her blog:

What Polyamory is, and What Polyamory isn’t

"The joined hands of our foursome:
Jonathon, Genevieve, Spike, and me."

Since I came out as polyamorous I have been getting a lot of questions, so here’s an attempt to answer some of them.

What exactly is polyamory?

Ans: It means to love more; to love more people at the same time. The only rule that all poly people agree on is this: you tell the truth to everyone involved. That means that everyone involved in the relationship, or relationships, knows about everyone else. I’ve negotiated with several wives about relationship parameters with their husbands before certain boundaries were crossed because to do any less than be totally upfront beforehand isn’t poly, it’s cheating, and true poly doesn’t cheat. If anyone is telling you they’re poly but they’re sneaking around behind someone’s back, then it’s not polyamory....

How do you bring up the topic of poly to your spouse or special person?

Ans: I’ve never had to do this, so I honestly don’t know. I can tell you how Jonathon and I brought up the topic to each other. Jonathon and I married with the idea that we would not be monogamous as a married couple. Since we’re celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary this year, it’s worked for us. We’ve managed to raise a great kid who’s now in college. Our empty nest turned into a decidedly full one when our girlfriend of four & a half years moved in with us and brought her husband along, so that our couple became a fourple. Again, it’s working for the four of us but your mileage may vary. Here’s a little bit of how we got to this happy multiple arrangement.

More than fifteen years ago when Jonathon and I realized we wanted to marry each other, we both had reservations; not about our love for each other, but what the next step was in that love. He’d never been married before and I’d just gotten out of a sixteen year marriage....


...One thing I do know is that polyamory isn’t a fix for a marriage that is already in trouble. If you’re relationship is in trouble, go to a marriage counselor, or to your local clergy. Go to someone that can help you work on your issues both as individuals and as a couple, because what I’ve found is that a couple’s issues are usually a mix of individual issues that have never been addressed and problems within the couple itself. This holds true whether it’s two, four, or more, involved in the relationship.

Poly is not a cure all for failing marriages, in fact, if the base relationship isn’t strong enough, poly can be the death knell because often the couple isn’t poly at all, they’re just unhappy....

I’m being so adamant in the above because I get far too many people asking me about poly as a “cure” for a marriage that isn’t working. People say, they’re bored and want to bring up poly to their spouse so they can add spice to their marriage. Poly isn’t about adding spice to your relationship, poly is a lifestyle choice. It is a way of dating, forming a domestic partnership, making a family....

Read her whole piece (April 1, 2015).



April 1, 2015

For newbie couples, "Polyamory 101: What the Curious Need to Know"

The Stir

A Poly 101 intro for curious couples, hitting nearly all the right notes in my opinion, just appeared in a conventional online women's magazine. The Stir is full of fashion and celebrities and describes itself this way: "We like to imagine we’re sitting in a coffee shop with a bunch of our friends. Yes, we talk about our kids — but we also talk about life.... everything from personal stories to parenting advice to decorating tips.... We will make sure you are in-the-know at the next after school activity or cocktail party!"

How do the insider views of a weird subculture get carried into a venue like this intact? By the writer stumbling onto good people to ask. Good things can happen when you make yourself known.

Incidentally, I see that both of the women the writer talked to are writing new poly guidebooks that I hadn't heard about.

Noteworthy: the story doesn't define polyamory — it assumes that the readers already know about it.

Polyamory 101: What the Curious Need to Know

bikeriderlondon / Shutterstock
Another feet-from-the-sheets stock pic.
Photographers, can you shoot some sweeter poly-
themed pix for stock agencies?
There's a demand for them.

By Adriana Velez

"I am zero percent interested in my new relationship becoming strictly monogamous," my friend revealed to me recently. A decade after her divorce, a decade of healing, dating, disappointments, and soul-searching has brought her to a place where she feels open and excited about exploring polyamory....

I asked my friend, a mother of three teens, what had changed for her. She said she'd done a lot of internal work and had finally arrived at a place where she felt like she could take care of herself and make herself happy. She feels settled in herself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually....

She's also felt a shift in how she wants to relate with other people. "I just feel like I really love having intensely close relationships with people, and that's what I do in my work, and that's how I behave in my life, and I'm just now having the courage to say that's what I want."

I think it's crucial that my friend is in this very grounded state of mind. She has just begun a relationship with a like-minded man and is looking forward to their adventures. This got us wondering about long-married couples who are also interested in exploring polyamory. How do you get started, and how do you make it a positive element in your relationship?

We asked some experts for their advice. Here are their tips.

1. Make sure your relationship is in good health before you try anything.

...Dedeker Winston, a relationship coach, author of the forthcoming book The Thinking Woman's Guide to Polyamory and member of a polyamorous community, also says that this is an important first step. "Take inventory of your relationship. How well do the two of you communicate? Do you trust each other? Do both of you have a similar vision of what the ideal romantic or sexual life would look like? What excites you about the prospect of opening up your marriage and what terrifies you? What are your insecurities?"

2. Think about why you want to try polyamory.

"Be as honest and vulnerable as possible," Winston advises. "Be aware of whether you are making this choice to bring more love, affection, intimacy, and adventure to your lives, or if you are making this choice to fix something in the relationship."

3. Do some research.

Winston recommends looking for stories from people who are practicing polyamory in a healthy way. "There are plenty of communities online, as well as numerous useful books."...

4. Communicate clearly.

"Communication is important in any relationship, and especially so in a non-monogamous context," says Winston. "It is of utmost important to be honest and active in your communication. Be honest about your desires, fantasies, insecurities, and fears, even if you're blushing like mad the whole time. Embrace these moments of vulnerability as opportunities for you and your partner to grow and deepen your intimacy. It can also be helpful to study particular communication techniques, such as non-violent communication and active listening."

5. Make sure any rules come from a positive place, not from fear.

"Because polyamory can be daunting, confronting, and scary, many couples start out making a laundry list of rules that are based in fear," Winston says....

"Instead of restricting your partner's activities, try communicating to your partner things he can do to help you feel more loved or more special," Winston suggests. "Instead of feeling like you need to keep each other 'in line' with a set of rules, communicate frequently what your desires are, and give each other opportunities to be considerate and gracious within those desires." Winston recommends creating an environment that's flexible and love-oriented, rather than harsh and regimented.

6. Create a Statement of Purpose.

Patricia Johnson, co-author of Designer Relationships: a Guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory and Optimistic Open Relationships, recommends writing a mission statement or mission of purpose. "Be clear, and try to be specific about your intentions and aspirations," she says. "Instead of thinking of this as a negotiation, think of it as an exchange of ideas, hopes, and desires for the future, while keeping in mind that you are seeking common ground, areas where your sense of purpose is shared or congruent." Consider it a work in progress, something you may change over time....

A glaring omission from this section, however, is that you plan how you will treat a third person just as caringly and respectfully, even if the situation starts to stress your marriage.

7. Cultivate a spirit of shared adventure....

8. Don't rush anything.

This is the most important general principle, according to Johnson. "It is far better to attend an event or a party and to go home thinking, 'Wow, there’s so much more I could have done' than it is to wake up the next morning feeling some emotional backlash, tension between you, or a sense that you’ve gone too far."...

Read the whole article (March 30, 2015). It's been reprinted a few other places.

I wonder: is conventional poly wisdom like this repeated so often because it really is the distillation of 30 years of community experience? Or just because people repeat each other?

Both, I think, with the former driving the latter. I count our blessings that this virtuous cycle seems to be firmly established. Things might not have worked out this way.

P.S.: Dedeker talks about her poly-awareness mission, and seeks women to interview for her book, in this reddit thread (April 2, 2015).