Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

May 29, 2020

Friday Polynews Roundup — A poly house's quarantine debate, negotiating a non-explosive bubble, 'Trigonometry' reaches American TV, and more

Welcome to Friday Polynews Roundup — for May 29, 2020.

● First a happy note: The "Trigonometry" series is now streaming in America. This is the BBC's new, much-noted romantic drama of three people who fall in love in London and become a triad. In the UK it's been on the air and streaming for weeks; I've quoted reviews. It went live in the US on Wednesday, as part of the new HBO Max paid streaming service.

Here's a new review published for the occasion, on IndieWire: ‘Trigonometry’ Romantic Drama Should Be Your Top HBO Max TV Priority  (May 27)

Trigonometry's polyamorous triad
From left: Kieran, Gemma, Ray

By Steve Greene

...“Trigonometry” finds itself in a delicate balancing act, outlining three individual relationships that have to be cohesive and distinct at the same time. ... The show captures the gradual progression from each [of the original couple] being taken with Ray on [her] arrival, to then finding the emotional bedrock to match that initial magnetic attraction.

That process is helped along by a patient, observant mode of visual storytelling that’s a perfect fit for Macmillan and Woods’ writing. ... There’s a particular rhythm to the way that “Trigonometry” floats around its characters as they’re trying to triangulate their own feelings.

It’s a kind of harmony that comes through in the trio of central performances, too. ... In the scenes where dialogue falls away and all that’s left is two or three people looking for something unspoken in each others’ faces, these are three performers more than capable of filling in those spaces with all the jumbled feelings that new and renewed love can bring.

Gemma, Kieran, and Ray have the kind of dynamic that sings on screen even when they’re trying to suppress it (either to themselves or to each other.) So “Trigonometry” also recognizes that the people in the circles around them would notice it, too. ...

...By the end of the season, there’s a strength in the bond between these three that’s forged because they embrace their uncertainty, not in spite of it. There are plenty of stretches where feelings of jealousy and regret and anger are unspoken — the points when Macmillan and Woods allow those to bubble into words are consistently surprising and done in different ways. Spontaneous outpourings of affection, thought-out written expressions of feelings, and frank discussions of boundaries — they all combine in this carefully constructed evolution of love.... 

Like any good relationship, it’s hard work. But there’s enough communication between characters (and between the storyteller and audience) to build something special.

Grade: A-


● Back to reality. New York magazine's "The Cut" presents How a 16-Person Poly Pod Is Isolating in Bushwick (May 26). You already know that it must be Hacienda Villa, right? The description of their house meeting is interesting enough that, for the historical record, I'm reprinting most of it. 

Lovers woodcut illo
Stevie Remsberg
By Emily Bobrow

[The pandemic] makes life complicated, or more complicated, for the 16 tenants of Hacienda Villa, a “sex-positive intentional community” in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The residents of this 15-bedroom converted Brownstone, all in their late 20s to early 40s, typically have several lovers and not a few sexual exploits on the side. They host scores of people for regular sex parties, sometimes several times a week. 

A polyamorous lifestyle is undoubtedly ill-suited to our germophobic moment. Yet, the Villa’s residents seem to have an edge when it comes to thorny conversations about health and risk. “We’re all about responsible humanism, so we’re used to talking about how our behavior affects other people,” Kenneth Play, a sex educator and co-founder of Hacienda Villa, said. “...I think the sex-positive community has something to teach in a time like this. ...” 

Hacienda Villa’s members moved quickly to respond to the pandemic. In a meeting on March 1, weeks before New York would report its first COVID-19 death and while the president was still promising the whole thing would disappear, they hashed out plans for regularly sanitizing the space and caring for potentially sick peers. Although they went ahead with a party planned for March 7, they offered refunds to anyone feeling ill, encouraged serious handwashing for everyone else, and promptly canceled all other events. By mid-March, they had quarantined a symptomatic roommate in his room and began limiting all lovers to primary partners, some of whom have moved in temporarily (a “corona bae”). Household meetings used to be potlucks once a month. Now they are weekly and conducted via Zoom. Residents also engage in a constant klatch over Slack. 

“We function like a business,” said one resident who asked to be called “Lady M.” (Most Hacienda members prefer to use aliases to keep their private lives from their work colleagues.) Her analogy felt apt on a recent Sunday night, as the Villa’s members all called in from different floors and rooms for their latest household teleconference. The discussion, with its mix of strident pronouncements and delicate notes of passive-aggression, bore all of the hallmarks of a fraught, overlong office meeting among polite colleagues. 

At issue was the fact that many of the tenants had interpreted a trial “lockdown” differently. Some thought it was still okay to venture out occasionally to see other people. Others left the house only when absolutely necessary, and always wore masks and gloves when they did. This “misunderstanding” was particularly irksome to those who embraced the stricter standards, many of whom argued they should be behaving as if they are all carriers of the disease. 

“Okay, I admit I was really angry and frustrated at all the variance to what I thought we agreed to,” said Kristin, her voice wavering with controlled emotion. “I just think we owe it to each other and the community to go above and beyond what the CDC is asking for.” 

Strider, a tenant with asthma — one of three in the building — insisted, with some impatience, that he felt just fine with the precautions everyone was taking already. “But we’re all doing different things!” complained Kristin. 

House Lion, Lady M’s husband and “human pet,” tried to appeal to the others by bringing the conversation back to more familiar issues of consent. “I need to understand everyone’s risk-tolerance profile so I can decide if I feel comfortable sitting and eating dinner with you,” he said. But his request to know just how often other people planned to leave the house was swiftly shot down by a resident named Om as “completely unrealistic.” 

In the face of this deadlock, Kristin suggested they should try to find common ground on what they do when they return home. “I think if anyone goes outside, they need to strip immediately and jump into the shower. I think it’s okay to ask that,” she said, her voice going up at the end, which made her statement a plaintive question. “We can make it sexy! I can lather you up and jump in with you!” 

“So, when we walk in the front door, we need to strip butt naked?” asked Play, his eyes squinting with slight incredulity. 

“I think it’s on brand, actually,” offered Zed Sultanof, the roommate in quarantine. 

By the end of the meeting, which lasted well over two hours, the Villa’s residents reached some compromises. They agreed to limit most avoidable contact with the outside world, and allowed a roommate to bring in another lover (“She’s a very careful person,” he promised.) They established a plan for cooking and cleaning for another quarantined tenant, who was due to return from a trip to Bali (“Check the Google doc for her allergies,” reminded Sultanof), and reaffirmed that masturbation was essential to any wellness plan. They did not quite reach consensus on how they should reenter the house, but insisted they would all talk it through with their floormates, and promised to check-in again in a week. “I love that we’re meeting more often now!” Lady M gushed. 

Play sighed. “This meeting was way too long,” he said. “I love poly people, but we are just overcommunicators sometimes.” 

●  How to think about these conversations, starting with yourself. Really, read this: Thinking About Expanding Your Polyamorous Quaranteam? by Libby Sinback. She's the Making Polyamory Work podcaster, "a queer polyamorous mom, relationship transformation coach," and speaker at polycons. Posted May 26.

We are up to four Google Docs going between my household and my partner’s household. ... We are using the docs to share our household procedures for coming home from the grocery store, whether or not we’re comfortable with our kids sharing space indoors, and what kinds of plans we are thinking about for the summer. It feels weirdly dystopian, but also kind of exciting.

Libby Sinback
We’re trying to hammer out how we can make a bubble together.

There have been several recent articles written about “Covid Pods” or “Quarantine Bubbles.” The idea is that you relax social distancing to include one or two additional households beyond yours that you can be in close contact with. It’s become official policy in countries like New Zealand and parts of Canada. In the US, with stay-at-home orders still in effect in many states and cases still on the rise, some US health officials are saying it may be too soon to do here [especially depending on where you are], though others are saying that it’s the best way to continue to contain the virus while helping to mitigate quarantine fatigue.

...Polyamorous people, hurting for a lack of in-person contact with partners that they don’t live with, may see creating a “germ pod” as a way to to reconnect with those partners. There are also certainly potential health risks in making a pod, both to the individuals within the group, and to the public health project of flattening the curve by containing the spread of the virus.

I’m not here to make a recommendation about whether or how you should expand your bubble to another household or two. My business is relationships. ... 

What I want you to know is that it’s [going to be] a big shift in your relationships with people in your pod. You are not just gaining some relief from social distancing; you are also establishing a greater level of intimacy. Even though you’re continuing to live separately, it’s almost like you’re moving in together. If you’re polyamorous, you might think you have the kind of experience around healthy communication and discussing risk to sail through the kinds of conversations you need to have, but this is different. For example, have you ever had to communicate to your partner's roommate in detail about what happened when you took your kid to the dentist? 

...I think there is potential for a bubble to be amazing, and for it to be a relationship-destroying disaster. If you want to navigate this new situation successfully, here are some key things to consider before you pod up.

The article is long, so here are mostly just the headings for the rest of it. But go read the whole thing.  

1 – First, get clear on why you’re doing this

    Why is this important to you? 
    What do you hope to get out of being connected? 
    What is your dream scenario? 
    What are you most worried about? 
    What makes it worth it to you to share risk? What risks or other factors would make it not worth it? 

2 – Go slowly and with care

This kind of relationship is potentially a step up in intimacy, transparency, and accountability between you and the people in your bubble. Not everyone is a fit for this kind of connection....

3 – Be Completely Transparent About Risks and Overcommunicate About Practices...

4 – Shift your mindset about autonomy...

5 – Accept that things may not be fair...

6 – When you disagree: don’t try to be right...

7 – Be gracious and accept this won't be perfect...

8 – Stay flexible and adjust...

●  Our trashy British tabloid happy-poly story of the week as also about quaranteaming. The Sun features a lucky three who found themselves bubbled together from the start: THREE LOVE. I’m in lockdown with my husband & our girlfriend – we all sleep in one bed & the sex is great… (May 26). 

Melanie, Jon and Judy

A COUPLE have 'married' their joint girlfriend of two years in lockdown — on their 17th wedding anniversary.

Stay-at-home husband Jon Kaufman, 45, and midwife wife Melanie Kaufman, 41, tied the knot with shared girlfriend Judy Bame, 36, on May 24 in their back garden.

The ‘throuple’, who’ve lived together outside Denver, Colorado, for a year-and-a-half, met 11 years ago while playing roller derby and realised they had instant chemistry. ... It wasn’t until 2018 that they could get together, and they confessed their true feelings.

They share a bed, with Jon sleeping in the middle.

“The sex is far above average,” said Melanie. ...“We're also very open with our bodies and our interests, which leads to a very fulfilling sex life.” [And that's as far as I'm going with the smarmy tabloid sex content. –Ed.]

...“The transition to a throuple was very natural and organic. This type of relationship happens much like any other with all of the tingles and eager anticipation. Since then, we've been inseparable.”

...The throuple joked lockdown was an ‘improvement’ to their normal life. The ladies jointly said: “Jon’s always at home and now his ladies get to spend more time at home as well.”

But they're actually serious people:

Jon added: “Judy is on leave for the foreseeable future and stays home with me. Melanie, as a healthcare provider, has had her daily life rocked the hardest. Her schedule changes on a daily basis and she's having to give some prenatal visits over the phone now.

"At one point, Melanie's clinic was closed for two weeks due to two employees testing positive for Covid-19 and she had to work from home, which was a huge change.

“We haven't ventured out of the house too many times, just for groceries and other necessities. 


...Melanie, Jon and Judy were planning to 'marry' at a hot springs resort in the mountains of Colorado and honeymoon in St Lucia. 

But as a result of the coronavirus crisis they scrapped their plans and chose to have a small backyard wedding instead.

The ceremony took place on May 24, but unfortunately, as no Western country permits statutory marriage between more than two people, the wedding isn't legally binding.

“We won't receive the same innate government privileges and protections as married couples and will have to take extra steps to legally safeguard our relationship. 

“But what we can do is set up our relationship like a business, since there are more legal protections that way,” Melanie said.


...“Growing up with monogamy as the only option, it has taken self-growth to unlearn those old restrictions, but doing so has led to an amazing experience.

“Going from a monogamous relationship to a throuple is incredibly rewarding, but also requires extra effort and attention. 

“We get many questions from people interested in opening up their marriage. What you need to know is that everything is exponentially multiplied with each person you add to the relationship. You have more people to care for you, and also to care for. 

“It requires a constant stream of love and communication for everyone involved. Polyamory/polygamy isn't for everyone, but it is a valid lifestyle and one that can be overwhelmingly amazing.”

● Since the folks above consider themselves to be married morally though not legally, they are smart to incorporate via a small-business structure such as an LLC "to legally safeguard our relationship." Or at least to have a lawyer help them draw up signed property agreements. A polyfamily I know of tell what their lawyer said when they asked how to word their contract against possible busybodies at Child Protective Services. The lawyer said (as I remember), "They won't care. Your enemies won't be the state. Your enemies will be each other, just like any couple."

Here's an example of what can happen without a contract. It's making news this week in New Zealand and getting picked up by media around the world: Three exes battle over $2.2m Auckland house after polyamorous relationship breaks up  (New Zealand Herald, May 22).

By Isaac Davison

...In the first case of its kind in New Zealand, the High Court ruled that the Property Relationships Act (PRA) could not be applied to people in a multi-partner relationship.

Lilach and Brett Paul

The judge in the case, Justice Anne Hinton, also said the Family Court could not "stretch" the law to accommodate a three-way relationship.

The case relates to a couple, Lilach and Brett Paul, who married in 1993. In 1999, Lilach met Fiona Mead and in 2002 the three of them formed a polyamorous relationship.

They moved into a four-hectare property in Kumeu, which had just been purchased in Mead's name for $533,000 [US $330,000]. She paid the deposit of $40,000.

Fiona Mead

They lived together at the property for 15 years, and mostly shared the same room and bed, the court ruling said.

Mead worked as a vet, Brett set up a paintball business on the property, Lilach worked as an artist, and Lilach and Brett had a lawn-mowing business. They all contributed to the household, though they dispute how much each contributed.

In 2017, Lilach separated from Mead and Brett. Brett and Mead then broke up in early 2018. Mead kept living at the Kumeu property, which was now worth $2.1m.

Lilach applied to the Family court last year to determine each parties' shares in the property, and said she was seeking a third of the home. The Family Court referred the case to the High Court.

Justice Anne Hinton: No law fits this dispute.
In a ruling published today, the High Court said a polyamorous relationship could not be recognised under the law because all of the relationships covered by the PRA - marriage, civil union, de facto - were defined as being between two people.

But because Fiona was a member of both relationships this would mean she was entitled to 50 per cent of the property while Lilach and Brett would get 25 per cent each. That was inconsistent with the law's principles of equal sharing after a break-up, the court said.

"For all of the above reasons, not only does the Act on its face not apply to a polyamorous relationship such as the parties', but it would be unworkable to stretch the legislation to 'fit' this case," Justice Hinton concluded.

In an affidavit tendered to the court, Lilach said Fiona, Brett and herself were free to 'love others' but had an understanding that 'the relationship between the three of use was the main relationship'.

The court also heard how the throuple had a ceremony after Lilach and Brett moved in and that they wore rings, although she admitted to losing hers a few years ago.

She said reform of the kind required by the Paul-Mead case could only be done by Parliament.


The court ruling noted that polyamorous couples had asked the Law Commission to recognise their relationships when it recently reviewed the law. Some submitters felt it could give them some legitimacy which they did not yet have in society.

The Law Commission said at the time that excluding multi-partner relationships - which were "functionally similar" to marriages, civil unions or de facto relationships - could be difficult to justify.

Polyamorous relationships could share many of the hallmarks of the more traditional couplings, including house-sharing, raising children together, financial dependence, and mutual commitment to a shared life, the commission said.

But it eventually recommended to Government that the PRA should continue to cover only intimate relationships between two people.

"Extending the regime to multi-partner relationships would be a fundamental shift in policy and should be considered within a broader context involving more extensive consultation about how family law should recognise and provide for adult relationships that do not fit the mould of an intimate relationship between two people." 

Property relationship lawyer Jeremy Sutton said the PRA had been updated in 2002 to include non-married couples, but had not yet adjusted to more modern relationships. ...

The group house with no written agreement, on four hectares of farmland.

● A thoughtful, basic public service piece comes from Twin Cities Public Television in Minnesota: Is a Non-Monogamous Relationship Right For You? (May 22)

Open and honest communication from the start is key.

By Taylor Hartman

Dating and relationships look different today than they did even just five years ago. ... The idea of casually dating a non-monogamous person might seem daunting — as daunting as the idea of monogamy for someone polyamorous.

But, with honest and open-minded communication, you can experience a wide variety of dating and relationship styles, all while keeping your heart intact.

Set expectations

Communication from an early stage can help build stable and healthy relationships of all types. When faced with a variety of potential partners who each have their own expectation of what they want, it's important to be clear from the start what you expect in a dating relationship.

"Successful relationships of any kind require vulnerability, transparency and strong communication skills," said Marissa Miller, a Salt Lake City-based therapist specializing in relationship issues.

"While conflict can likely occur during conversations of this nature, active listening skills, affirmation of feelings and desires, discussion around values and common goals, and constructive problem-solving can provide an environment in which these conversations are less traumatic."

[ICYMI: Single, Hooking Up, Married: When Your Friends Are Doing Love Differently]

Understand your wants and boundaries...

It's always your choice.

No matter what you may want to get out of dating, remaining true to yourself should be a priority.

Relationships can come and go out of your life, but understanding what you want and how to communicate that can be hugely beneficial and a learning experience. ...

Taylor Hartman is a writer from Salt Lake City. He works at KUED, Utah’s PBS station.

●  "Do you think human beings are, or are not, naturally monogamous?", a YouGov poll asked 7,034 Americans. The results were announced this week:  36% said humans are naturally monogamous, 37% said they are not, 27% didn't know. Women were more likely than men to say humans are monogamous; so were Republicans; there was no difference by region; and little difference by age. Full results.

I say it was a dumb false-dichotomy question. I'd have answered, "None of the above. Some are, some aren't, and some change. Humans differ."

● And back to the subject of lockdowns, a spot of good cheer that's being heavily upvoted on reddit/r/polyamory: We thought sheltering in place with my mom would be awkward as a triad, but she's now pierced our ears, colored our hair, and binge-watched 4 seasons of Rupaul's Drag Race with us. ❤️ (May 24).

● Lastly: My Memorial Day post about the late US Navy Commander Alyce Grillet coming out as polyamorous with an infinity heart on her gravestone —  where she can finally thumb her nose at the Uniform Code of Military Justice, if only from six feet underground — became my most-read and most-shared post of 2020. Go have a look if you missed it.

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now! See you next Friday, unless something big happens sooner.



Post a Comment

<< Home