Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

June 19, 2020

Friday Polynews Roundup: Black & poly realities, backstory of excellent coverage, Supreme Court, unicorning that worked for everyone, and more

Welcome to Friday Polyamory News Roundup for June 19, 2020.

Happy Juneteenth. Moose is out this morning for a commemoration in the Black quarter of our town's colonial-era burying ground, which holds the mostly unmarked graves of both the free and the enslaved who lived, or were held, in our nice, picturesque New England village. This afternoon we continue the daily Black Lives Matter vigil on the road in front of the Town Common, to be followed by another event at the burying ground.

Our Massachusetts town was founded in 1730 with the construction of what's now our Unitarian Universalist church on the Common; back then it was Puritan. A couple years ago the town historian discovered that the founding minister owned an enslaved woman named Nanne. Say her name. Because no record of her exists ― no last name, whether she was a child, middle aged, or elderly, nothing ― except for a line in the minister's will. He left her to a relative along with other property. At least she has a plaque now in the sanctuary. We don't even know if she's buried in the Black quarter; records of who is there barely exist.

Jumping across almost 300 years of American history to this week's polyamory in the media, we have...

●  A thoughtful and revealing perspective in Dismantle magazine, "an online magazine that frames fashion and popular culture as tools for creative identity exploration, activism and social change": “Poly Wanna What?” A Black Man’s Journey into Love, Polyamory & Kink (June 15).

By Ricardo Coleman

I distinctly remember the first time that I encountered the word “polyamory.” Like millions of other hopeless romantics, I was swiping away on Tinder one night in the summer of 2018 and looking for my next great love. I kept seeing this word strategically placed in bios ― usually paired or associated with “ethical non-monogamy.” I dismissed the concept out of hand. ...  

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Certainly, I have seen people who use it as an exercise in self-indulgence, but in a way that is similar to what I have observed among those who identify as monogamous. But also I have found that there are polyamorous folks currently in, or actively pursuing, ethical, loving and committed relationships.

Importantly, though, polyamorous culture is not the utopic space that some claim it to be. It is not outside of the world of mental health struggles, racism, and class and gender dynamics that pervade many people’s romantic pursuits. However, it does offer valuable ways of thinking about love and intimacy that need to be explored and critiqued so that the good stuff doesn’t get lost.  

Despite my mind-opening introduction to polyamory, I continued to hold on to my misconceptions about this type of relationship until I met her — I’ll call her Lucia. She was gorgeous and blonde, with big green eyes that could make you do anything she wanted. You could tell that they were full of kindness, and a fiery spirit, but I could also tell that there was a deep well of pain. ...

Illustration by the author

... I have never believed that I was jealous or possessive of my partners, but then again, I had never been in a relationship structure that challenged me in such ways. The spectre of her desire to take on another partner grimly hung over me. ... Plus, some other real differences existed between us. 

Our relationship was “interracial” ... for many it is still an uncomfortable pairing. I could hang out with her and her friends, but eventually, things were done and discussed in that space to which I just couldn’t relate. I began to feel left out. They seemed to speak about and enjoy a world that I could never know. She may have felt the same way about my world, although she never mentioned it. 

Importantly, despite her stated rejection of a racist upbringing, sometimes she said things that made me feel uncomfortable. She meant well, but it felt as if I was being fetishized by the woman I loved. If it had been anyone else, I would have checked them — and hard. ... 

I would come to find that in the polyamory, kink, and BDSM communities, these kinds of microaggressions happen more than most would like to admit. I desperately wanted to hold onto my black humanity in the face of these daily exclusions — but also hold onto my sexual identity and community. However, we live in a world where black pride and dignity are often viewed as highly problematic and dangerous....

So I struggled with the question of how I could reconcile my black identity and still function within a paradigm that positions itself as more enlightened than monogamy, yet is also limited by the same racial, cultural, and social prejudices and biases. While I’m open to dating outside my race and culture, I observed that many of the same people who proudly describe themselves as anti-racist liberal allies aren’t as open. I quickly observed that they don’t know or associate with many black folks outside of totally paternalistic relationships. ... To those who self-assuredly hide behind the mask of liberal enlightenment, yet maintain contentment with their whiteness, this “knowing” is just the toleration of a native nuisance that they have to deal with, same as the mosquitoes and potholes. ...

...I’ve never quite figured it out — maybe it is a “superpower’’ resulting from living and surviving in a systemically racist society — but black folks seem to have a strong intuition that tells us when non-POC are uncomfortable around us. Sometimes the signs are subtle, and they are sometimes nakedly present. When it kicks in, it causes a distinct uneasiness and can make many emotions arise. An environment where people are in wildly varying stages of undress can become a very precarious place. ...

As I have said before, for good odds of success with polyamory you need community. Coleman doesn't mention the POC poly support communities that have been built in the last several years, such as Black & Poly, now with chapters in many cities, and Black Poly Nation, whose Facebook membership is growing by more than 2,000 people a month. Or the POC-centered conventions PolyDallas Millennium in Texas and Black Poly Pride in Washington, DC (both cancelled for 2020 due to Covid-19). Other suggestions? Please put them in the comments here or email me at alan7388 at gmail, and I'll add them.  Update:  Steve Ks suggests, Toronto Non-Monogamous BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour). "That group has over 500 members, has lots of activity, and its founder, Millie Boella, attended one of our Vanpoly meets recently. She's awesome."

Whoever and wherever you are, you need to find poly community. Good community, that is.

●  Big news this week was the Supreme Court's surprise ruling that employment discrimination against LGBTQ people is illegal. Wow! Poly people wondered: Could we be next?

No, LGBTQ attorney Jonathan Lane tells us: The LGBTQ employment discrimination cases and the polyamory community (June 15). Key parts:

...​​There are currently in the United States no laws anywhere which ban discrimination based on polyamorous relationship structure or orientation. ... So where do today's Supreme Court's rulings in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and its companion cases leave the polyamory rights movement? About the same place it was yesterday.

The Court's decisions rely entirely on the Civil Rights Act of 1964's prohibition of employment discrimination "on the basis of sex." Sex here means male or female. The extension of this law's protections to the LGBTQ community were not intended when the law was drafted, but the logic is clear and compelling enough to win over two of the Court's five social conservatives: When you fire a man because he has or desires sexual relationships with a man, but you wouldn't fire a woman for doing the same, you discriminate based on sex. When you fire someone assigned male at birth for identifying and dressing as female, but you would not do the same for someone assigned female at birth, you discriminate based on sex.

Polyamory provides no comparable rationale to hook onto the existing protections of any of the classes of people protected by the Civil Rights Act. ...

Maybe someday a more liberal Supreme Court will extend discrimination protections on the basis of constitutional cases like Lawrence v. Texas, which established a right to sexual privacy. But in the foreseeable future, the emerging polyamory rights movement will need to continue its initial steps on the path taken by the LGBTQ community up until today, gradually convincing city governments to ban employment discrimination, and eventually working up to state legislatures.


●  The backstory to that excellent media we got. A few days ago I posted about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's long and remarkably well-informed article, "Polyamory during a pandemic? It's complicated".

Turns out it didn't get that good by chance. When people in the Vanpoly group in Vancouver, BC, found out that the story was in the works, they turned seriously proactive. Steve Ks write to us,

Carole Chanteuse and I monitor the info@vanpoly.ca email address on behalf of Vanpoly. ... We felt that the reporter's initial request (on May 21) was respectful and well-meaning, but was couched in the usual misconception that poly is all about couples opening up or seeking a third. If floated in our group as is, we felt the request could receive a predictable backlash from people tired of that constant media misconception, especially from those who considered themselves solo-poly or relationship anarchists.

Carole diplomatically corrected the reporter, who was then happy to adjust their pitch.

In the past we've maintained a list of members who we knew were well spoken that we could refer to media on short notice. That list was getting out of date, so our group's admin team agreed to put a call out to people we thought could represent us well for those willing to be interviewed, and we would present a list of people the reporter could choose from. To make that easier for the reporter, and to ensure that a diversity of styles could be represented, we would confirm each and ask a few questions first.

The call was an edited version of the reporter's pitch, along with Carole's response. That resulted in a healthy discussion and a number of people who considered themselves solo or diverse stepping forward saying "we need to be represented". I contacted each who stepped forward or was suggested.

One of the people recommended was Nienke E. van Houten -- a B.Sc. in Microbiology and Molecular Biology and a senior lecturer at Simon Fraser University (near Vancouver). She's a scientist who has studied vaccine design. She's new to poly, but coincidently had organized an info session for the Vanpoly group about polyamory and COVID-19, with behavioral epidemiologist Dr. Kiffer Card, called "Building a Bubble While Poly".

In presenting our list to the reporter, I hoped they would pick up that we in the polyamory community treat safety very seriously in all aspects of our lives -- and as part of that we're doing a seminar on keeping ourselves safer during the pandemic.

I was happy to see that the reporter did pick up on the seminar. Here is the publically available information from that seminar that may be useful to others in the polyamorous community.

Pay attention. They showed how it's done.

●  From a large business publication in South Africa: What is shaping culture? Polyamory: Multiple + Love (June 1)

"The Triad Family is a Christian polycule from Baltimore, USA on Instagram as @thetriadfam"

By Brett Rogers

It’s not that long ago that people were absolutely petrified of exposing their ‘abnormal relationships’ to the real world. People could be, and were, ostracised from family, friends and places of work. Under no circumstances are we saying that that is no longer the case, but there is a sea change happening where people with alternative relationships are emerging from the shadows of social judgment and criticism.

...What can the mainstream learn from polyamory?

Communication: Polycules are committed to regular, honest and frank discussions about how they feel and the state of their relationships.

Rules: These are vital to establish the parameters of the relationship, what are we ok with, and what are we not ok with? This is not about ruling a relationship with an iron fist, but is about complete freedom within those parameters.

Honesty: This one is hard but brings clarity.

Consent: Permission is always sought out between the people involved. There is no middle ground, it’s either yes or no. Something that we as South Africans have a major problem with. ...

Brett Rogers is culture lead at Cape Town advertising agency HaveYouHeard and content curator for In_, which showcases cultural forces that are changing the world.

●  Season 2 of The Politician premiers today on Netflix, with its supposed-to-be-edgy plot of young upstart Payton trying to unseat an entrenched woman state senator who, his campaign has discovered, is secretly in a poly relationship with two men (see Friday Polynews Roundup for May 22).

But after this disparaging review today in Hollywood Reporter, I don't think I'll bother. 'The Politician' Season 2: TV Review (June 19).

By Daniel Fienberg

...The problem is that Payton is annoying and fairly awful and the show has never found any way to illustrate why his peers have dedicated themselves to him.... Though I guess it's easy to understand why his election team includes nobody he didn't go to high school with.... 

The Politician doesn't really exist in our current political reality at all.... The real world is coming apart at the seams and The Politician dedicates an astonishing amount of its limited time to debating the rules and strategy of rock-paper-scissors. And here's the thing: That subplot is the best part of the season. That's how edgy The Politician has become.

...The show's bizarre pride in saying "throuple" over and over again, as if they'd tapped into the latest in outré sexuality, is straight-up sad....

Here's the 3-minute trailer:

Update: Best of all worlds! Refinery29 is posting detailed recaps. Read the drama quick, no hours of watching. I admit I started and got hooked.

●  On a recovery site called The Temper, "life through the lens of sobriety, addiction, and recovery": I’m a Better Polyamorous Partner Now That I’m Sober (June 17).

Growing up, I was shown that love is synonymous with giving yourself away to others, for if I didn’t put other people first, I’d somehow be unworthy of them. Through monogamy and then polyamory, I didn’t know the most important lesson in healthy relationships was that I had to actively, radically, and intentionally, love myself first on my way to understanding what nurturing and soul-filling relationships with others could be.

Polyamory, like any relationship, requires conflict resolution and communication. We blossom when we assume positive intent on behalf of the person with whom we’re in a relationship. We grow when we seek to understand and listen. ...

When I quit drinking I decided to build a life I wouldn’t want to escape from. ...

●  And finally, our happy polyfamily tabloid story the week: Wife opens up after inviting another woman into marriage (June 18). This isn't in an actual printed British tab yet; it first appeared just now in Yahoo Lifestyle Australia.

Moral of this story: Don't go judging that unicorn hunting never works out.

A woman has opened up about how she revealed to her husband she is bisexual before inviting another woman into their marriage.

Media Drum World/Australscope

High school sweethearts Cierra Applegate and David fell in love in 2012. 

“He was the first and only man I've ever been interested in, let alone in love with. We got married at the age of twenty-one,” Cierra said.

“When I was twenty-three, I came out to him and some other people close to us [as bi], and we decided to change our lifestyle.

...“In May 2019, I met our lovely girlfriend Mariah on a dating app and was upfront about our situation, and she was interested and so we set up the first date. And now it's been almost a year of bliss with my two favourite people,” Cierra, 24, said.

“David and I are husband and wife. We are both dating Mariah and there is both a physical and emotional relationship between all parties.

“Including Mariah in our lives has brought new perspectives, new hobbies and life experiences that would’ve been unexplored had another personality not been present and the tearing down walls of jealousy and distrust in your partner,” she said.

“We’ve learnt to love ourselves and one another differently and with a new appreciation. We’ve also learnt better ways to communicate with one another after learning how another person operates and how they feel most loved rather than the person we’ve always been with and known.

“To us, it means that we can share our love with not only one another, but another person. We feel like our marriage is so full of love and feeling free to express ourselves, that this isn’t something that negates from our relationship, but rather builds it and creates new forms of trust and respect.”

Whilst they couldn’t be happier in their polyamorous relationship, after a few months of dating as a threesome, they began to encounter jealousy between Cierra and Mariah, 21, which caused them to split up mid-September 2019 for over two months before they reconciled again at the beginning of December 2019 and have been smitten ever since.

“We worked through the negative feelings I was having and the toxic jealousy and focussed instead on how happy I am to see two people I care immensely about having a wonderful time with one another and being there for me.”

“...I get two people that console me after a bad day; I get to look forward to two texts every morning. I get to cry on two shoulders. ... At the end of the day, we know that not everyone will accept us, but life is too short to not live it to the fullest,” she said.

“When any tinge of jealousy arises, we communicate to one another immediately. We try to check in with one another once a week to make sure no one feels left out or suffocated.

“We also understand that because Mariah is not living with us and that we are married, there is an understanding that when she feels lonely or jealous, she can always reach out, video chat or even stop by.

“We are working very hard on being individuals first so that way what we bring to the table is the best version of who we are and that we can bring all our different perspectives and experiences together for one amazing relationship.”

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now.  See you next time!

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