See a good story I've missed? Email me at alan7388(at) gmail(dot)com.
February 15, 2018
Another country heard from: Polyamory in Iceland
This just in from the Reykjavík Grapevine:
Interest In Polyamorous Relationships Increases Among Icelanders
By Alice Demurtas
In a country [of only 333,000] where “if you can think it, there is a Facebook group about it,” the polyamorous of Iceland have indeed created two online platforms to talk about their experiences. One of the Facebook groups, which is closed, counts 100 members, while the open one includes about 200.
María Rós Kaldalóns
The power of intimacy and love
María Rós Kaldalóns, one of the administrators of the aforementioned Facebook groups, explains that this kind of relationships is not simply the opposite of monogamy.
Instead, it needs to be explained as a natural desire to form meaningful relationships with more than one person. In a nutshell, it’s not just about sex but also about emotional connection, intimacy and love. “We reject the idea that you are meant to love only one person at the time, or that you’re bound to live with only one individual,” María Rós told RÚV [in Icelandic]. “You could be married or living with your partner but also with other people.”...
Sexuality: does it matter?
...María Rós explains that a high percentage of polyamorous people in Iceland are pansexual, ergo sexually attracted to people of any sex or gender, including transgender people, the androgynous or the gender fluid. ... “We don’t really look at one’s gender as a defining factor in a relationship.”...
Four in a deep poly family will go on NBC Today Show Thursday morning
Update: The segment was preempted by the Florida school shooting. No word yet on rescheduling.
Zaeli writes, "Here's a picture of us last May buying a copy of the Times!" with them in its Sunday Magazine. "Taken at Book People in Austin, Texas. L-R: Blake Wilson, Zaeli Kane, Joe Spurr, Ixi Kirkilis."
Here's one to watch! Four polyfolks, deeply committed to the kitchen-table variety and raising kids, will be on NBC's Today Show tomorrow morning (Thursday Feb. 15) during its 9 to 10 a.m. segment. Zaeli Kane, one of the four, sent me her explanation of why they're doing it and the message they hope comes across:
What you're going to see on Thursday is four consenting adults in three distinct romantic relationships, several types of friendship, and one very fluid family agreement. We hope to dispel some myths about non-monogamy -- that it's for the commitment-averse or the greedy, that it's only about sex, that it's fundamentally less stable -- and instead emphasize that for us, it is simply the result of a practice in solidarity, which happens to deepen adult relationships to intimate levels of trust.
When I say solidarity, I mean internal solidarity between our conscience and our behavior, solidarity amongst ourselves as civil sovereign beings, solidarity in and between our genders, and now, solidarity with other polyamorous families, some of whom may be hiding their light in a closet.
We feel polyamory is not for everyone any more than snowboarding is for everyone -- there's no point in forcing someone to take it up and doing so is asking for drama -- but solidarity is a skill that we all should practice in whatever relationships we do have. That's what we admire about polyamory so that's where we aim to focus.
I love them already. She also tells how the show came about:
In the middle of the summer, an NBC producer found my Twitter account (@zaelikane) after reading Susan Dominus' article "Is An Open Marriage A Happier Marriage?" in The New York Times Magazine last May -- I was pictured on the cover and within the article, along with my husband and our other partners.
[The producer] asked if my husband and I would be interested to participate in a segment on open marriage, and I said we might be IF they included our other partners, because in my opinion, the metamour dynamic is perhaps the most "news-worthy" and socially useful aspect of ethical non-monogamy. By the end of the year it was agreed upon, with a Valentine's peg.
We agreed to put ourselves out there again for a few reasons. First of all, we're obviously already "out". Secondly, there is no more important conversation to us than the pursuit of stable families and ethical relationships. We're all careful people and I've written a lot about this, so we felt prepared to step more deeply into the role of "spokespeople", as we'd inevitably be seen.
We did hesitate, though. As parents and private citizens, we're naturally wary about the spotlight. Backlash after the Times piece wasn't as bad as we'd feared -- we'd braced ourselves, and there is some liberation in not minding what strangers say about you -- but it did bother our friends and loved ones, and it's unnerving to know what strangers are capable of when they strongly disagree with your choices.
But ultimately we're open to sharing with the media, despite a few frustrations (we declined all interviews after the Times article except one, an outlet I won't name, which took up a fair bit of our time for a piece that cut one of us out entirely, which was painful, and in the end they didn't publish it at all -- preempting it, understandably, to cover the firing of James Comey).
We as individuals all feel comfortable with this type of transparency. Collaboration is our mutual passion, and we're flattered to be asked by news sources to offer our perspective for the public record. We are not interested in suggesting that one configuration of love is superior to others. We're not interested in pretending to be perfect. We just hope the lessons we've learned (over and over again) will be useful to others, poly or not!
To that end my partner Blake and I (both comedians), will be launching a YouTube channel this month to address co-parenting, relationship, and cultural dynamics with a healthy dose of levity. But for now if people would like to be in touch, they can find us on Twitter and Instagram, and of course it'd be lovely to hear some support there because mostly it's the trolls that bother to comment!
Our names: Zaeli Kane, Joe Spurr, Blake Wilson, Ixi Kirkilis
Thousands of Canadians are rejecting the idea that you can love only one person at a time. We spoke to Toronto author Jenny Yuen on why polyamory works for her.
By Michelle Da Silva
On Sunday nights, Jenny Yuen and her husband, Charlie, walk up the street to Adam’s house. The three of them cook dinner and then settle onto the sofa to watch a movie. ... It was a pretty typical date night for anyone in a relationship. The difference is that Yuen is in love with both Charlie and Adam (whose names have been changed for privacy), and all three of them are in a committed relationship.
According to the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, thousands of Canadians practice non-religious polyamory, which is when a person has more than one committed intimate partner at the same time.
The 36-year-old journalist and author of the forthcoming Polyamorous: Living And Loving More (Dundern, November 2018) says when she started doing research for her book, she found at least 100 Facebook support groups and online polyamorous communities.
“A lot of people I’ve talked to across Canada have different reasons for going into polyamory,” says Yuen. “Some of them feel like they’ve always been polyamorous. Then there are people who came to polyamory not because something was missing out of their relationships, but more for the variety.”
The future book cover
For Yuen, it was because she found herself falling in love with two people at the exact same time.... “Everyone’s always telling you that you have to pick one because that’s the only way we know how to do things, but I couldn’t choose,” she says. “It broke my heart.”
So Yuen decided to be honest about her feelings with Charlie and Adam. Surprisingly, they were both open to being in a polyamorous relationship.
“It was a workable alternative solution because everyone gets something, but everyone doesn’t get it all – except for me. I kind of get it all,” Yuen says with a laugh.
...Yuen told her parents, who told the extended family, and she came out to friends in a Facebook post in 2015.
“I did it on National Coming Out Day to clear the air about why there were pictures of me with two people,” she says. ... “We’ve always talked about the three of us being poly-fi, which is polyfidelitous,” Yuen explains. “Charlie and Adam actually call each other ‘co,’ as in co-partners.”
...Her advice to people considering polyamory is to join online and off-line communities (Polyamory Toronto hosts monthly meet-ups) and to be honest with their partner if they’re already in a relationship. Yuen says polyamory isn’t for everyone, but neither is monogamy.
“People need to find what’s right for them,” she says. “As long as monogamy or polyamory is a choice and not the default, I think it’s healthy.”
– Kamala Devi, 42, lives in San Diego. She’s been married to Michael for almost 16 years. They have about a dozen other partners. “We tend to travel with lovers to celebrate Valentine’s Day. In past years, we've gone to the Bay Area for performance art or New York to visit friends and watch theater. Oftentimes there are lovers who can't celebrate with us, because of scheduling conflicts or other constraints, so we make an effort to celebrate on another date. We like to think of it more like Valentine’s Month."
– "Since becoming poly I really have internalized the realization that not all relationships will last forever or end in marriage, and that's okay. With that knowledge, it's much weirder to get someone a card that essentially says we will be together until death."
– "I was once dating six people who were also dating multiple people. We had to decide when and if we could physically see each other on that day or if another day that week was more plausible. Sometimes there were difficult feelings about who might get the actual day."
– "One of the best parts of being poly on Valentine’s Day is that there are more people telling you their feelings for you. It’s a great love boost!"
– "These days, I buy into the whole Valentine’s Day thing a lot less. When I was in a monogamous relationship, I placed quite a lot of stock into those kinds of rituals and they always felt a bit formulaic: demonstrate love with XYZ gesture, lingerie, and cards. Once you've broken the big rule of monogamy, it becomes easy and fun to break lots of little rules. For example, I like to buy one of my male partners flowers for Valentine’s."
– "You have to kind of accept that you'll never be able to equally distribute time across all partners. Sometimes that doesn’t even make sense — one of my partners isn’t really into Valentine’s Day anyway, so he'd find it strange if I went to great lengths to spend the whole evening with him every third year, for parity!"
– "All of us went to dinner, along with a couple of other partners that are connected to the group through my partners. I love it when there's an extended little circle of people hanging out."
– "I enjoy ‘silly’ holidays like Valentine’s Day, and I love celebrating them with multiple people. This past year I bought a monogamous-worded card for my husband and crossed some things out and re-wrote it to fit our marriage."
– Lola, 65, lives in Burlington, Vermont. She’s dating two women, both of whom have other partners. "We communicate everything up front, so we’re open about what we’re doing with our other partners that day without fear of retribution or disaster. The only complications are around expectations and scheduling. If someone has some deeper expectation of something special happening, and they don't make that request to the partner, there's room for ‘ouch.’ So it's an opportunity to grow our skills at asking for what we want or need."
– "There was definitely a competitive atmosphere among the girls I went to school with around whose boyfriend could produce the most romantic day of all, which made my unpartnered classmates feel unworthy. Looking back, I regret the power I let Valentine's Day hold over me. In my post-monogamy life ... my partners and I typically pool our resources and go in on a single excursion or indulgence that we all can enjoy. My partners and I also try to avoid feeding the capitalist machine around Valentine's Day if possible, so we don’t do many material gifts."
– Page, 36, lives in Cleveland, Ohio. She’s married to her husband and dates two women. Her husband dates one of her girlfriends, too. "The way I've typically celebrated is by having a big party near the actual date. All my partners are invited, along with their other partners, many of our friends, and those friends' other partners. We watch terrible movies and mock them, eat fried chicken, have drinks, and catch up with one another. It might be cheesy, but life is good and my relationships are so strong that every day feels like Valentine's Day. I know I'm loved year round."
...This will be Emilie’s first Valentine’s Day as a poly person with two partners. They say that “it’s so beautiful” to be in a poly relationship, and that all three partners share holidays, special events, and birthdays together: “It’s more complicated, and the planning is a lot more tedious, but in the end it’s all about love.”
While I am in a monogamous relationship now, I did spend three years in a poly relationship. In that partnership, I explored various ways of dating, celebrating pivotal events, and defining clear boundaries. It’s important to discuss your options with your primary partner. Since poly relationships come in all forms, with various dos and don’ts, it’s up to the people involved to create their own boundaries. In a poly relationship, especially a poly relationship with many partners, the people involved should remember to not make any partners feel unimportant. Discussing assumptions and expectations with a partner is considerate and important for a poly agreement.
Since couple’s privilege may cause a third partner to feel left out or abandoned, remember to discuss your plans with everyone involved in the poly relationship. Emilie explains that the term “primary” can be used to “create a perceived hierarchy among partners.” They continue, “I’m still working on finding my own language to describe my relationships.”
...“This year’s Valentine’s Day is about to be a damn dreamsicle,” says Emilie. Their partner is dating someone new and wants to spend the night, and since Emilie isn’t a night person, they are going out together earlier in the day. In the evening, Emilie is sharing time with their other partner. Emilie continues, “We will probably send each other selfies. We have a group chat on Facebook and it’s disgustingly adorable.”
Nicole MacRae, Doug MacRae, Dana Chase, Phil Chase and Rachael Feher. (BTL Photo: Andrew Cohen)
By Dana Chase
The other morning I was standing in the checkout lane behind a man who was buying two Valentine’s Day cards, each curiously turned faced down. ... After his strong assertion of monogamy, I felt moved to say “Not that there’s anything wrong with having more than one partner. I’m polyamorous and have multiple Valentines.” Blank stares from the clerk and the customer. ... I sometimes enjoy flashing my polyamorous identity, even more so during a holiday steeped in monogamy.
First, let me break it down. I have been legally married to Phillip for nearly a quarter century. We live in a big, love-filled house with Phillip’s girlfriend, whom I consider a kind of sister-wife. Together we are raising our two teenage sons alongside her teenage boy and eight-year-old girl. I am also partnered with Doug, who is married to Niki. They do not live with us, but Doug resides here scheduled nights of the week and his twins often join us at family gatherings. We consider ourselves chosen family.
People tend to view that which is foreign to them through an over-sexualized lens, thereby turning the exotic into the erotic. ... There are times when I hate having to painstakingly explain the sexual dynamic of our polycule, especially to those who have no idea whatsoever how to even begin to process what I take as a normal part of my sexual expression. Polyamorous people don’t have sex with everything that moves. We are, generally speaking, some of the most sexually responsible beings on this planet. ... Polyamorists have many of the same issues with labels as those who wave the rainbow flag. Small talk inevitably turns towards the family dynamic, and who is connected to whom.
...Tell me something: if a young girl knows the difference between polyamory and cheating, why can’t society see it, too? Rachael’s daughter tells all her friends about her polyamorous family. When one of them exclaimed “That’s cheating!!!” she replied “No it isn’t. My mom and Phil’s wife are friends on Facebook.” Which, of course, makes it all legit.
...After all, who out there can put a box around love? Or wrap it up in just one Valentine card?
Chase goes on to interview several of her partners about their (very sound) advice for newcomers to poly life. "Actively putting a face to polyamory for close to a decade, Dana has appeared at conferences, spoken to college classes and church groups, served on professional boards, and even held a feature spot on the evening news. She hopes to one day publish a memoir of her colorful polyamorous journey."
Adrian Buckley, John Wood, and Cass King of Cass King & The Next Right Thing. The bandmates are hosting a Valentine's day concert [named Alt-V] that is inclusive of Vancouver's polyamorous community. (Jennifer Gauthier / Vancouver Freelance)
By Tessa Vikander
...“There's this kind of Google Calender lifestyle that you kind of have to adopt,” [musician Cass King] said. “Celebrating Valentine's Day or New Year’s or any sexy holiday is always a kind of a negotiation.”
...“I tend to form longer term love bonds,” explains King. “To me it's really a family thing. If we are in love, then you are a member of my family,” she said.
...In an effort to refocus the evening of Valentine’s Day as “a celebration of love, but not necessarily of coupledom,” King and her band, Cass King & The Next Right Thing, are playing a poly-positive show that’s open to everyone, including asexual people, and even monogamous couples, whom she encourages to attend.
“You don't have to worry about being hit on by a bunch of ravenous poly people!” she said jokingly. “It's really just a dance….”
Because King’s band is chock-full of poly people, they expect a big turnout from Vancouver’s polyamorous community. ...
● So why not use Val's Day to publicize your own group? Steve K. of Vancouver sends us a nice press release that the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) issued three days ago: Polyamory Continues To Grow In Canada. Wherever you are, you could copy much of its text for your own use. (Ask the listed contact person, Zoe Duff, for permission).
I asked Noni, one of the people prominently featured, what she thought of the experience. She wrote back,
I became involved through my friend who runs the poly meetup in Dundee. He was approached by Benjie [Bateman], the maker of the documentary, and thought I would be interested. I met up with Benjie before any filming started and he seemed very genuine, and respectful.
Throughout the whole filming he was super keen to learn and understand. The same goes for pretty much everyone I spoke to within the BBC. Having read the article, and seen the show now, I do feel like I have been truthfully represented, everything I said in the show I think comes across in the same spirit I meant it.
All in all, I'm really happy with how it came out, and my experience working with the BBC was overwhelmingly positive.
Remember that if the BBC and/or Benjie Batemen come looking for more polyfolks to work with.
● Meanwhile, here's a new composite of clips from the show, courtesy of BBC Scotland:
The BBC is also featuring, on its World Service online, a video from Erika Kapin's Open Photo Project — which "uses photography, audio and text to present the beautiful, complex lives of consensually non-monogamous people":
If that embed won't display where you live, here's the link that will. Ruby Bouie Johnson, the dynamic organizer of the of Poly Dallas Millennium conference, writes "The video exhibits some of the most beautiful families. Kevin Patterson allows the world into his home, his life, and himself. The sincerity, genuineness, and authenticity is felt in the video (it is for me). I am very proud of the strides and exposure that Kevin has given the Black American Community, the Polyamorous Community, and the Multicultural Community. You and your wife and your babies are beautiful, my friend and brotha."
● The Guardian yesterday followed up with an opinion piece by the mom of a Love Unlimited star:
My son is trans and polyamorous — here's what I learned from him
I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a documentary featuring my son and his partner but I wanted to understand the paradigm shift millennials are spearheading
Iain, Ross and Pav in Love Unlimited. (Photo: Benjie Bateman/ Fall Films/ BBC Scotland)
By Claire Armitstead | associate editor, culture
...In Tuesday’s books podcast, we marked LGBT history month by interviewing Christine Burns, a campaigner for transgender rights, about her history of the UK’s trans community. The next day, my son was in a TV documentary – deep breath – about polyamory.
I’d known for a while that Love Unlimited was coming but was not sure I wanted to see it... had it not been for the subtitle of Burns’s Trans Britain, which collects the sometimes bleak experience of trans people over half a century into 22 essays.
The subtitle is Our Journey from the Shadows, and its point is that, in order to be understood, people first have to be seen.
Love Unlimited wasn’t about trans people, but about life choices that challenged traditional thinking about relationships.
...The interviewees included three gay men, two of whom work as nurses, who are filmed whiling away an evening with board games in their Edinburgh flat before retiring to their two bedrooms (there isn’t room for all three to sleep comfortably in one bed, and shift work means often only two of them are in anyway). Their setup is known in polyamorous circles as a triad or “thruple”. What, they say, could be more ordinary?
My son’s arrangement is a daisy chain, in which each person is free to have other lovers while remaining committed to each other. He currently has only one partner, but “they” – the pronoun of choice – are also in a lesbian relationship, so I resonate strongly with the splendidly upfront mother of one of the gay nurses as she recalled her initial reaction to the introduction of a third partner: “[I thought] that’s my baby’s man … Does this mean they’re not going to get married? Is my baby going to be lying in bed alone at night crying because his partner’s not there and is away shagging some other bloke?”
But that maternal worry isn’t going to disappear because I try not to think about it. The film says my son and his partner regard themselves as non-binary “in that they identify as neither exclusively masculine nor feminine”. Wrong, says my son, when I discuss it with him: they see themselves as neither exclusively male nor female, but his partner strongly identifies as femme.
Such delicate distinctions can wrongfoot the best of us. ...
...While Trans Britain valuably documents the long history behind what can seem to be a new phenomenon, Love Unlimited points to a paradigm shift among some millennials that is clearly enabling them to flourish. There’s even a very chatty Dundee polyamory group, which meets up once a month over coffee and cake to debate “poly” posers such as how to deal with envy and jealousy.
What, the interviewees were repeatedly asked, were the main challenges of their lifestyle? Trust, they said – and timetabling. I for one feel greatly reassured. There will still be board games in the evenings.
Thomas will be buried next to Henry where they originally lived together. The ceremony will be public, and no doubt packed with people — it’s all I can do not to book a flight to New Zealand right now.
Honestly, if we have learnt anything from Thomas, it’s that love and relationships don’t have to fit into the oppressive boundaries we’ve created for ourselves (yes, I am trying to make a serious case for polyamory based off the life of a goose).
A growing number of people are finding that traditional relationships don't work for them. So instead of just one, they have multiple romantic relationships. It's known as polyamory. Polyamory requires the full consent of everyone involved, but even then things can get complicated. Existing partners can easily feel left out, jealous or hurt. So open and honest communication is essential for polyamory to work — plus some careful timetabling.
From left: Oliver, Noni and Morgan
Love Unlimited features polyamorous relationships of many kinds. Noni is a young woman with two boyfriends, Kima and Toms are a bisexual couple in an open relationship, and Ross, Iain and Pav are a trio of gay men in a three-way polyamorous partnership. Jayne and Dom are very much in love but feel it's important to keep their relationship open to the possibility of additional partners. What they all have in common is that they have rejected monogamy in favour of a more open and fluid approach to relationships.
There is much negativity and confusion surrounding polyamory. It can be especially hard to understand for family and friends. There's also the emotional strain of dividing time and affection between partners and the stress and anxiety of opening up an existing relationship to new potential partners. Poly people insist that it's about multiple meaningful relationships and not an excuse to sleep with lots of different people — although that can happen too.
Despite the challenges, new research shows that overall satisfaction can actually be higher in polyamorous relationships. So how do you go about loving more than one person? And what can polyamory teach us all about happy healthy relationships?
The live program is viewable only in Scotland. It will be available online throughout the UK here (and worldwide if you can spoof an IP address), but only for 30 days.
Noni is polyamorous — she has two boyfriends and is committed to them both equally.
The 23-year-old, who lives in North Berwick, says she felt trapped and claustrophobic in monogamous relationships, no matter how much in love she was.
She tells the BBC Scotland documentary Love Unlimited: "There is nothing wrong with one partner.
"I just don't see why I should artificially limit the amount of love that I put out into the world."
Polyamory is having more than one romantic relationship at a time.
Noni says it could include non-monogamous practices such as swinging but for her there is an "ethical" dimension that means the relationships themselves are important.
Noni is in relationships with Morgan, a 27-year-old administrator, and Oliver, a 24-year-old drama graduate.
...Morgan had been with girlfriend Hannie for four years when he met Noni — and they are still together.
"Hannie introduced me to the idea of polyamory," says Morgan.
"When I mention that to some people they are quite surprised because they think open relationships, polyamory, that's clearly the man's idea because it's lots of sex, right?
"Lots of communication, a little more sex," he says.
...According to Morgan, Hannie, who is not currently seeing anyone else, is "happy for him" to have a relationship with Noni. He says: "She is very encouraging, she is very supportive. There is a lot of mutual joy in all of it."
...Oliver has been seeing Noni for about 18 months. [He] says Noni was clear from the start of their relationship that she was polyamorous. "That was who Noni was and it's fine," he says.
...[Noni] says there is no favouritism and the relationship she has with each is vastly different.
"I could not tell you what I liked more between chocolate and theatre," she says. "That's the way I see it. No matter how much I love one, that's not going to mean the other will fade away."
...Another "ethical" aspect of polyamory that is important to Noni is to protect each other from sexually transmitted diseases.
She says: "Using condoms and letting your partners know who you are or are not using condoms with is a necessity to practising polyamory in a way that is safe and ethical because obviously if I mess up and catch something then that risks my partner's health and that risks my meta's health and so on."
Although she is only 23, Noni insists that polyamory is a lifestyle choice she intends to continue and does not think it is incompatible with raising a family.
She says: "I know people who are polyamorous and have children.
"It is really outdated to think a child needs [exactly] one mother and one father.
..."I would not say we are blazing a trail, but we are definitely creating an environment that allows for a healthy community."
A mother has told how she grew to love her polyamorous son's husband — and his boyfriend.
Debbie McKinnon was delighted when son Ross told her he was marrying long-term partner Iain Waddell, 33.
But Ross, 27, then told her a third man, Pav Gill, 24, would be joining the relationship.
"Debbie McKinnon was delighted when son Ross (centre) told her he was marrying Iain Waddell (back right). But she was angry when told Pav Gill (back left) would be joining the relationship."
Mrs McKinnon's delight quickly turned to anger but she has now learned to love both of the men in her son's life — and is now a proud mother-in-law.
Ross met fellow nurse Iain on a dating app and they had an open relationship. They married in 2014 just days after Pav had moved in to their apartment.
Mrs McKinnon, 45, of East Lothian, told the Daily Record: 'I was worried my baby was going to be lying in bed alone at night, crying because his partner was in the next room sleeping with some other bloke.
'But Ross explained that while Iain and him had a deep, deep love, it didn't mean they didn't want to have sex or relationships with other people.
'They still got married, and Pav was at their wedding. Now Pav is Ross's boyfriend — they fell in love as well — and the relationship the three of them have is very beautiful.'
...Ross says sex with other people is now just a form of exercise for him and said the trio are completely honest with each other.
And he admitted he feels sorry for people who only have one lover. ...