Anya Trahan on 'Marriage Equality' and the Politics of Love
Dr. Anya Trahan, who runs Purple Mornings Reiki in Bowling Green, Ohio, says she was recently fired from two jobs for coming out poly with her book Opening Love: Intentional Relationships & the Evolution of Consciousness. I haven't read it yet; on her site she calls it "a lucid manifesto for those who realize that love is a bigger story than the one we’ve been told. Sexuality is the fundamental pulse of the universe, and cannot be contained by partnership forms that induce scarcity and control."
Now she's traveling, lecturing, and giving workshops. She recently did an interview about poly rights that was published on Huffington Post. The piece has grown legs on the poly internets.
'Marriage Equality' and the Politics of Love
By Tim Ward
The recent Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage makes it seem as if marriage equality has finally come to the U.S. But that is not actually accurate....
For example, polyamory....
The ironic thing is, there would be no big deal about a person who just happened to be sleeping with more than one lover. But call it polyamory — in other words, a public, ethical stance about loving more than one partner with honesty and integrity — and that seems intolerable to so many. Currently, polyamorous people do not have equal protection under the law, because anything other than monogamy is seen as a fringe/ freakish/ immoral lifestyle choice and not as a valid sexual or relationship orientation.
I interviewed author and poly advocate Dr. Anya Trahan about the Supreme Court decision, and what she sees as the way forward for those who embrace ethical loving with multiple partners.
Trahan: ...The way I personally think of polyamory is as a relationship orientation. In my work as a relationship coach, I have found that a surprising number of my clients consider themselves "partners" or "family" with those whom there is no sexual interaction. In other words, polyamory seems to be more about coming together for the purposes of co-creating a life together, a support system, based on mutually shared values and philosophies. Responsible sexual expression may be enjoyed, of course, but that is not necessarily a prerequisite to form loving, intense, committed connections.
Question: You are a public figure, an author and a spokesperson for polyamory. Have you suffered any negative consequences?
Trahan: When I first came out as poly back in 2012, I lost a number of close friends. Members of my biological family reacted with open hostility and judgment, resulting in a period of estrangement. Since my book about polyamory, Opening Love, has been published this year, I have been fired from two jobs.... I know that I would have at least a small shot at winning a discrimination case, because one of the organizations stated openly in writing that the reason I was being fired was for being openly polyamorous. In theory, I could sue on the grounds of sexual discrimination. [The chance of winning such a case would probably be slim. –Ed.]
Although my personal experience with getting fired was difficult indeed, what is really difficult is when it comes to family discrimination cases. My heart goes out to those involved in the numerous child custody cases that have happened in this country in the past few decades. In many of these cases, wealthy grandparents or an ex-spouse with a bone to pick will target the poly parent.... To the best of my knowledge, there has only been one state, Pennsylvania, who has set any precedent for protecting poly parents in custody cases.
...As long as human beings are living in the sort of cultural paradigm that includes laws and legal codes that enforce certain ways of behaving, I think it makes sense to offer legal protection against harassment and discrimination for consenting adults who choose to create partnerships and families of more than two adults. This protection would include not just polyamorous relationships but also lesbian mothers and their sperm donor, gay fathers and their surrogate, polygamy (one male, multiple females), polygyny (one female, multiple males) [should be "polyandry" –Ed.], and other versions of loving relationships. There are so many ways to enjoy intimacy, connection and support between consenting adults, and the freedom of choice must not be denied us. "Relationship orientation" needs to be a protected category under the law, too.
...Question: In your view, how might legalizing polyamorous marriage improve society?
Trahan: The family is the basic blueprint for humanity as a whole. What happens in the internal family is reflected in the larger external world.... What many traditionalists don't realize is that from a global and historical perspective, the concept of the two-parent nuclear family in an isolated residence is rather new. And, although this at first appears counterintuitive, one big advantage that a poly family has over a monogamous one is stability — because, with more than two adults, if an individual adult member decides to leave, the family will persist in more or less the same form. If, for example, you have four parents living under the same roof and one leaves, it is not quite the same catastrophic situation as when divorce happens between two monogamous parents....
In our society, there is a very narrow view of what "family" is, and as a result, groups of loving people who want to live together often run into legal trouble due to zoning laws that protect outmoded concepts of economic scarcity and the supposed superiority of the nuclear family model.
...Question: What support is available for people who have lost their jobs or who face child custody crises as a result of polyamory discrimination?
Trahan: Contact Loving More, the nation's leading advocacy organization for polyamory and relationship choice. Also contact the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF). After I was fired as a result of being openly poly, these two organizations were invaluable to me, providing me with honest advice, legal facts, as well as much-needed emotional support.
Read the whole interview (Aug. 3, 2015).
● In June she had another interview hosted on HuffPost by the same author: Torn Between Two Lovers? The Spiritual Path to Choosing Both (June 25, 2015).
Q: How do you see polyamory as a spiritual practice?
A: Polyamory is a practice that encourages us to go beyond egos (the part of us that mistakenly believes we are separate from everything else), and therefore see the interconnected nature of all things. Seeing that interconnectedness, seeing that we are truly all One, helps us move towards a more egalitarian-based mindset, where the central value is helping each other rather than competition.
...Q: Polyamory has become a movement, not just an individual lifestyle choice. What are the pros and cons of becoming part of a community when it comes to one's own private relationships?
A: In hosting a support group for my local poly community, I have found that, in reality, there is no such thing as "private" choices. What we do in our so-called private life is really a reflection of the choices we make in our public life, and vice versa.
I encourage everyone who is poly or poly-curious to seek community. There are many support groups (online, as well as in-person) who maintain confidentiality, so even if you are not "out," you can still benefit from guidance and friendship with like-minded others....
● Article in her hometown newspaper: Author Offers New Look at Love (June 17, 2015).
● Her doctorate is in English/Philosophy; her dissertation was Relationship Literacy and Polyamory: A Queer Approach (2014), as Heather Anne Trahan.