Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

July 31, 2020

Friday Polyamory News Roundup – Lockdown impacts overt and subtle, teen poly, choosing a group-wedding venue, unicorn hunters find a better way, and more

Carla Ten Eyck Photography

Welcome to Friday Polynews Roundup for July 31, 2020.

●  The big poly news this week was the Cambridge, Mass., City Council voting 6-0-2 to move forward on an ordinance allowing groups of three or more people to form legal domestic partnerships, much like neighboring Somerville did a month ago. The lopsided vote is said to mean the council will very likely enact the change at its next meeting September 14th. See report.   

●  Meanwhile BU Today, the official daily website of Boston University, hosted a Point Of View piece by lawyer and BU PhD student Kimberly Rhoten on the Somerville developments. POV: Somerville, Mass., Delivers a Big Victory for Those in Polyamorous Relationships (July 30)

...First, the legislation allows any number of consenting adults to be recognized as a family by the city. ... Although the definitive number of polyamorous households and families living in Somerville is currently unknown, polyamorous Facebook, Meetup, and other social media groups in the area boast thousands of members. As Somerville Councillor Lance Davis aptly stated in regard to these communities and residents, the new ordinance “validates their existence, it validates the way they love.”

Anastasia_M / iStock
Second, there is no city requirement, nor is it necessarily presumed, that persons in a domestic partnership be involved in a romantic relationship; instead, applying partners need only be in “a relationship of mutual support, caring and commitment and intend to remain in such a relationship.” As such, chosen families and expanded kinship networks may finally achieve legal recognition and governmental protections. 

Third, nonnuclear families (e.g., stepfamilies, multigenerational families), in addition to polyamorous families, could see significant benefits from the city’s expansive definition of domestic partnerships. The new ordinance gives persons in domestic partnerships the same rights and privileges that Somerville gives to married persons. As a result, these new privileges include, but are not limited to: hospital and jail visitation rights, bereavement leave (for city employees, and potentially, from private employers), and health insurance (for city employees, and potentially, from private employers). Further, Somerville’s Human Rights Commission is now mandated to look into instances of discrimination against persons in domestic partnerships.

...Yet there are still miles left to go. This legislation does not offer comprehensive antidiscrimination protections that would extend to all facets of polyamorous persons’ lives (e.g., housing, employment). For example, under the new Somerville legislation, a private employer is still within their legal rights to fire a polyamorous employee on the basis of their relationship structure. This, of course, may likely disincentivize polyamorous persons from notifying their human resources department of their multiple partnerships, preventing employee benefits (e.g., bereavement leave) from reaching their partners. Second, the Somerville ordinance does not prevent private companies from narrowly providing health insurance benefits to only married spouses of their employees. ...

As interest, awareness, and participation in polyamory increases, other jurisdictions, both within and outside of Massachusetts, may likely follow Somerville’s lead. For instance, cities in California (e.g., Berkeley) have already adopted (but have not yet implemented) antidiscrimination legislation to protect residents with nontraditional relationship structures, including polyamory; Somerville’s new ordinance may inspire further action.

...It is estimated that between 4 and 5 percent of the US population currently participates in some form of open relationship; this is roughly equivalent to the percentage of Americans who identify as LGBT. With increasing legal recognition of this substantial population, more American families can live their lives safely....

Kimberly Rhoten (GRS’26) is an attorney and PhD candidate in sociology; they can be reached at krhoten@bu.edu.

●  Expect to see more advice columns like this: In Slate's parenting column "Care and Feeding," I Think My Teenager Might Be in a Polyamorous Relationship (July 27).

"I’m worried she’s too young for this sort of thing. Should I talk to her about it?"

Slate / Getty
By Michelle Herman

Dear Care and Feeding,

...One evening when they were all at our house, on the way to our basement laundry room I found all three of them flushed and rapidly disentangling on the rec room couch. ... There was another occasion in which the boys dropped off a jointly purchased gift for her.

...Our family’s values are quite progressive and queer-friendly, but a potential romantic triad (or the aftermath of one) seems like a lot for an adolescent to handle. ... Teenagers being as they are, it seems like addressing this directly or offering unasked-for advice might be a fast way to slam the door shut. This feels like advanced placement parenting....

—Liberal but Maybe Not That Liberal

Dear LbMNTL,

The best perk of my day job teaching at a large public university (and in particular teaching classes in which my students write candidly about their lives, then sit around in a seminar room talking about what they’ve written) is that I have a unique, on-the-front-lines view into the way older teenagers and young adults experience the world. And let me tell you: It is sometimes downright perplexing to an adult whose sense of how things work and are supposed to work was shaped by another generation’s customs, ideas, and understanding of pretty much everything.

...So I am here, speaking from the trenches, to tell you that multipartnered romantic relationships among young people only a year or two older than your daughter are ever more common. I know this is astonishing ... but even in Ohio, where I teach, young people will casually mention their (plural) “partners.” ... If you have a teenager who is (or was) trying out a polyamorous relationship, the time has come for you to gather some information. Try this article in Teen Vogue for starters and this polyamory primer. (You say you want to advise her, but you won’t be able to do that if you don’t know anything about what she’s up to—or why she might be up to it.)

...Does she seem anxious, unhappy, scared, or depressed?

... If the answer is no, then what I’m going to suggest will probably sound scary to you. But if the channels of communication between the two of you have consistently been open, and she knows you to be a (genuinely) progressive and queer-friendly person, it would be wise to be direct with her. “Hey, I’ve noticed that only Jordan has been coming around lately, when it seemed like you were in a relationship with both Jordan and Jason. What happened?” If you can pull that off casually, it might lead to a real conversation. That is: If she doesn’t think it’s freaking you out, she might be willing to come out to you.

If, however, you have reason to believe that she is troubled—that this is a crisis for her—you’re going to have to take a different approach. Say something along the lines of: “I hope you know you can talk to me about anything. I have a feeling something’s worrying you/making you unhappy. Whatever it is, I’m here for you. There’s nothing you could tell me that would shock me, I promise. The only thing in the world that matters to me is your happiness and well-being.”

And work hard on meaning every word of that. ...

●  And there was more on the topic we can't get enough of. On Refinery29 came The Polyamorous Community On How Lockdown Has Impacted Their Relationships (July 24). 

Meg O'Donnell
By Megan Wallace

...As it turns out, being with your partner 24/7 – especially while worrying about your health and staring down the "worst recession since the Great Depression" – is not only pretty toxic but has UK lawyers reporting a 42% spike in divorce enquiries.

...On the one hand, polyamorous people normally report high contentment levels, particularly around sexual satisfaction and intimacy, which could no doubt help with the strain of lockdown. On the other, they’ve also been facing a set of specific challenges that many monogamous people won't have even considered.

...For Ryan, 31, who enjoys two committed, long-term partnerships – one with a 'primary' live-in, same-sex partner and another with a 'secondary' partner, a girlfriend living in a different city, both of whom also have additional partners – the fundamental question of who to go into lockdown with was tricky.

"My primary and I had discussed whether or not we might have our secondaries isolate with us for a period of time, but they each have their own households and it didn't work out restrictions- or travel-wise," Ryan explains. "It also might not have been fair on their partners, and my girlfriend is a mother of one, so further factors [such as childcare] would have needed to be considered." As a result, Ryan was separated from his girlfriend throughout lockdown, keeping in touch primarily through texts, voice notes and video calls, and his primary partner was separated from his boyfriend – who he would normally see multiple times a week – save for digital communication and the occasional hand-delivered care package. ...

[Said Amy,] "Throughout lockdown I’ve been living with a partner who I only started dating in January. I guess we made that decision because we had a lot of 'new relationship energy' and chemistry, and it felt like isolating apart could kill the momentum of the relationship," she says. "At first I was really freaking out about the pandemic and began worrying that we’d rushed things by moving in. But in hindsight I think it’s worked. We’re both pretty easy-going and it’s been way easier living with a new partner than someone I have a lot of history and, dare I say, 'baggage' with." 
For some, lockdown has been particularly damaging, as is the case with ethically non-monogamous Alex, 32. A well-known figure in London’s poly community for his work with kink, queer and poly-positive party Crossbreed, Alex’s own relationships have suffered due to the pandemic. The past few months have been a period of significant stress, seeing him not only fall ill with the virus but fear for his livelihood as a member of the nightlife economy. ... 'I didn’t have the energy or presence of mind to be there for one of my partners in the way they wanted me to be," Alex recalls.

..."I’m quite good at reading people in real life," he says. ... "During lockdown... there was a deterioration of communication between me and some of my partners, which is not something I really could have avoided."

...Ryan suggests, [Ahem,] "Rather than reading about other people's experiences and putting questions to [poly] forums, I personally get a lot more out of directly communicating to my partners about my feelings and needs."

●  In the South Seattle Emerald (and BTW, Seattle ought to be ripe for the next domestic-partnership expansion), comes Navigating Consensual Non-Monogamy During COVID-19 (July 30). The article is long. Excerpts from near the beginning:

Vlad Verano
By Alexa Peters 

...Seattle, for its part, has a robust non-monogamous community, evidenced by many local, online groups around polyamory, open relationships, relationship anarchy, and other styles. ...

...Though he considers himself a practitioner of non-hierarchical polyamory, in which no one partner is more important than another, [Darren] Brown says the pandemic has forced him to prioritize his wife, the partner he lives with, over his other partners. ...

“COVID really lays bare that we have these philosophies, but they don’t [always] line up,” said Brown. “Like, we kind of present [like], ‘Oh, I’m non-hierarchical, I’m not going to put one person in front of the other,’ but when COVID says ‘Who are you going to spend the next six weeks with?’ we all made that decision.”

...This COVID-induced philosophical dissonance, as well as the toll the social distancing has on relationships, has had very real mental health effects for Brown and other polyamorous folks. ...

...Comings, Brown, and other polyamorous individuals also note that the circumstances have offered opportunities for growth, namely by bringing incompatibilities with certain partners to the forefront and encouraging more transparency within polycules.

“I did have a third partner, but [that ended because] … when you take away the physical chemistry, what’s left is put under a microscope,” said Comings. ...

●  On a happier note, Offbeat Bride this morning, in response to a reader's question, published How to find a venue for your polyamorous wedding (July 31).

Carla Ten Eyck Photography

...Weddings don't all look alike, as we know — and polyamorous ceremonies can be even more varied! Here are a few of the structures of the real-life poly weddings we've featured in our archives since 2008:

    – Three (or more) single individuals may want to have a ceremony combining their lives into one, as you do.
    – Two single people may choose to marry each other, skipping the "forsaking all others" trappings.
    – A married couple may want to bring another couple or another person into their family with a ceremony.
    – One member of a committed, unmarried couple may marry a third member of the throuple.
    – One member of a married couple may want to have a handfasting ceremony with another person, who will join the original couple.

Selecting a venue for your poly wedding may depend on how many people are involved in the ceremony, and what kind of ceremony it is… But this much is clear: you should be able to have your ceremony. A survey of polyamorous individuals [the Loving More survey of 4,062 polyfolks in done 2012, when the movement was less broad-based than now –Ed.] found that 60% would want to marry multiple people if polyamorous marriages were legal. ...

Poly-friendly venues

Cruise ships may not welcome polyamorous weddings, but here are some other options that Offbeat Bride poly folks have used in the past. (Click through the links to see the examples!)

    – Your home — backyard weddings are some of the sweetest weddings, right?
    – Someone else's home. Click through the link to see a special polyamorous elopement.
    – A brewery or other interesting eating or drinking place.
    – A city park — many parks have gazebos or other structures that can be rented for parties of any kind.
    – A garden at an estate or museum. Many public spaces will allow commitment ceremonies on their grounds.
    – City hall, the site of so many different weddings.
    – Your church or temple — they might surprise you.

How to start the conversation

Is your wedding venue open to polyamorous ceremonies? Ask ahead, and give them some time to figure it out. ...

●  Newsweek ran an autobiographical piece, 'This Is What It's Actually Like to Be Non-Monogamous' (July 19), by Melina Cassidy, a relationship coach and organizer in sex-positive communities in British Columbia, Canada. Over the years some members of the Polyamory Leadership Network have expressed concerns about Cassidy' interactions with community members. She has formed an accountability pod, and any who have concerns about her are invited to contact the pod at http://radicalrelationshipcoaching.ca/accountability/.

By Mel Cassidy

On July 25, 2009 I was at home with my husband. Though it was more than a decade ago, I can vividly remember the lightning that filled the sky, the thunder that roared through the air and deep rumblings that shook the ground. Because that day, something awoke within me.

My husband and I had tried for years to start a family, but on that day I began to wonder whether my desire for a child wasn't actually about creating a new life outside of myself, but was a need to create a new life for myself.

I married when I was 22, to the first man I had a significant relationship with. Growing up I experienced homophobia and negativity around sex, which had the effect of squashing my queer desires and propelling me into a futile attempt to fulfil the heterosexual monogamous "dream."

Yet I knew I was attracted to women and desired multiple partners. I hoped those desires would evaporate when I experienced the "magic" of matrimony, but they never did, and for years I battled with depression and shame around my sexuality.

On that day of the storm, I had a realization that I had never really felt seen, understood, and loved for who I truly was—and that needed to change. ...

●  And lastly, another happy-polyfamily profile popped up in the tabloids. They started as unicorn hunters, then found a better way: Polyamorous mother, 29, who opened her relationship to a female colleague insists they're all parents to each others' five children - and wants her boyfriend to have a baby with their new partner (Daily Mail, July 30). With 19 pix of them. Once again, the tabloid is in the UK but its agent found a polyfam in the US. 

Polyamorous mother Cheyenne Barnes, 29, from Houston,Texas, is raising a combined brood of five after opening her relationship with James Chorman, 34, up to female co-worker Joelle Temporal, 24.

They are raising their 'rainbow family' under one roof with the youngsters referring to the women as 'Mommy Cheyenne' or 'Mommy Joelle'.

And they are hoping to add a sixth child to their brood, as machinist James and insurance agent Joelle are also trying to have a baby together.

Cheyenne said: 'People say we're messing up our kids, but the kids don't care. All they see is three people who love each other – and love them.

'My eldest daughter told me her friends think it's cool she has three parents because, "She can get even more presents." But she doesn't look at it that way. She says she has more people to love her.'

...As the trio all have different parenting styles – with Cheyenne being more of a disciplinarian than her boyfriend and girlfriend – they do disagree from time to time when it comes to decisions about the children, although they work through any clashes using open communication and, occasionally, a vote.

...Cheyenne continued: 'They get to be the fun ones while I'm the bad guy! I'm pretty fair across the board with each child, regardless of whether or not they are biologically mine.

'I always make sure to have a talk with the kids so they understand what they did wrong and can think about it in the future.'

The throuple are blissfully happy as a blended family of eight, and Joelle still has her heart set on having a baby, but has no plans to fall pregnant until next year....

The original couple started off by going unicorn hunting. It didn't work:

Setting up profiles on several dating apps, the couple soon realised that finding a potential candidate was going to be harder than they had anticipated.

'We started going on dates, but none of them lived up to our expectations,' Cheyenne explained.

'We were looking for a relationship where all three partners were equally invested in one another, but every date we went on, the girl was always more interested in either James or me - never both of us.

'The final nail in the coffin was after we'd spent five or six dates with one particular girl.

'She ended up trying to take James to bed, without me and he just said, "This isn't working".

'We decided maybe we didn't want to do this after all.'

But then Cheyenne "threw herself into her then job at an insurance company, where she met mother-of-one Joelle." They gradually bonded as work friends, and things developed naturally from there. Eventually, "We went to the bedroom as a trio, and it was surprisingly natural. It was the first time for all of us, but it all felt so natural."

...Keen to encourage more understanding about polyamory, Cheyenne said: 'Some people try and sabotage our relationship by saying it won't work out or it's not normal.

'We've been together a year and we're going strong. We have no intention of this not working out.

'I just hope that by sharing our story it becomes more normalised and poly people are treated equally without all the negativity.'

James admits, 'It's been difficult at times, but you work through it because you love two people.'

And while Joelle still faces negative reactions, she insists the relationship is worth it. ... 'People have told my daughter from a previous relationship that Cheyenne isn't her mother, and that hurts.

'But no matter how challenging it gets, I feel like we're in a good place in our relationship and that's worth fighting for.'

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now. Stay safe, don't be a knucklehead, and don't breathe knuckleheads' microdroplets.

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July 29, 2020

Cambridge moves to follow Somerville in recognizing poly partnerships

That didn't take long! Remember the speculation that Cambridge, Massachusetts, might follow the lead of its smaller neighbor Somerville and recognize domestic partnerships of three or more people?

We brought you the comment that a conservative outlet collected three weeks ago from Cambridge City Councilor Quinton Zondervan: “People in polyamorous relationships should be able to access the legal benefits that come with domestic partnership, including the right to confer health insurance benefits or make hospital visits. ...  I look forward to working with my colleagues and the community to update this law as soon as possible.”

Well, this just in from the Cambridge Day:

Law acknowledging polyamorous relationships takes step forward, two councillors holding back

The caption they ran was, "A widely used image of polyamory rights represented in a march." (This famous banner did duty in at least two San Francisco Pride Parades in the mid-2000s; one of them is seen here. The yellow sign, BTW, got it right.)
By Marc Levy

Cambridge took a step toward formally recognizing polyamorous relationships on Monday [July 27], advancing legislation in the City Council that would give domestic partnerships with more than two people the same legal benefits that married couples have.

City staff are asked to weigh in on the proposed law, including getting advice from the LGBTQ+ Commission and city solicitor, before it returns at the next regular council meeting, Sept. 14.

Recognizing poly relationships might seem daring to much of America, where conventional wisdom has it that no more than 5 percent of the population takes part in relationships that openly include more than two people. But Somerville enacted a domestic partnerships ordinance June 29 (“We can’t always be first,” [Cambridge] vice mayor Alanna Mallon said), and councillors heard from one resident who said the law didn’t go far enough.

In advancing to a second reading and likely enactment, the order drew six votes in favor and none against. Councillor Dennis Carlone wasn’t able to vote, being absent for the latter part of a nearly six-hour meeting. But two councillors voted “present” instead of taking a position.

“I’m going to vote present on this because there are some issues I’m not familiar with. I was hoping to have at some point a committee hearings so this can be talked about and explained,” councillor Tim Toomey said.

The second vote of “present” came from councillor E. Denise Simmons, whose term as mayor beginning in 2008 was notable because she was the nation’s first openly lesbian black mayor. When she married in 2009, her ceremony was the first same-sex marriage in a traditionally African-American church in Cambridge. She has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights over the years, as well as for the faith community.

Simmons took, if anything, a harder line on the motion.

“I concur with my colleague, councillor Toomey – I don’t know enough about it,” Simmons said. “I don’t want to send it to a second reading, because I don’t have enough information. And we’re just not going anyplace where it can be vetted. If it’s going right on to the second reading, I will be voting present.”

Inclusivity efforts

But councillor Marc McGovern said the order was in line with the effort last term to get state permission for a gender-neutral option on birth certificates, expanding options for transgender and gender non-binary people who wanted to correct their form, as well as for new parents. It was proposed by McGovern and co-sponsored by Simmons, as well as by Mallon and councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, who is now mayor. The city offered a domestic partnership ordinance, acknowledging non-married couples, in 1992.

“This is about an important acknowledgement of the various ways that people love and show their commitment to one another. And to think about how we continuously push ourselves to be as inclusive as possible,” said Siddiqui, author of the Monday order with co-sponsors Mallon, McGovern and councillor Quinton Zondervan.

Public comment

The order drew a handful public comments, mainly from people expressing support for the recognition for their own long-standing poly relationships – including one with a bit of drama to it. “This is my coming out,” one resident said. “If this policy order is passed, you will be recognizing my marriage of 38 years, and I deeply appreciate it.”

Another commenter wished the order went further.

“I am concerned that these changes are too narrow to achieve what I hope and believe are the city’s goal of inclusivity,” said a resident who identified as asexual and aromantic – not experiencing sexual romantic attraction. “The proposed changes are insufficient to include a partnership like mine, where my partner lives down the block from my intentional community.”

The law as written also doesn’t accommodate people who have multiple partners, the speaker said. “For example, someone who has two partners who are not involved with each other would not be able to enter into a partnership with each of those individuals. The city should take this opportunity to more broadly acknowledge the many types of families that already exists among its residents.”

The original (July 28, 2020). More news surely to follow; the lopsided 6-0-2 vote to advance the measure means it is quite likely to pass at the September 14th City Council meeting.

Compared to Somerville, Cambridge is larger in population and much larger in national and international renown, with Harvard and MIT and all that comes with them, and business and wealth; it's the biotech capital of the East.

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July 27, 2020

The polyamory flag is a grim, confusing failure. Let's do better.

So here's a years-long peeve, and boy howdy, am I not the only one. The polyamory flag stinks. It confuses, it fails to communicate a message other than Huh?, and its colors loom angry and foreboding. "Some math or engineering society" is what usually comes to people's minds. It fails to declare for us, fails to inspire, fails to do a flag's job.

But we keep using it decade after decade, ever since Jim Evans proposed it in 1995 against no competition. It seemed like a good idea at the time.1 Maybe it was, when the self-identifying polyamory community was small, insular, and (as Evans later explained) mostly trying to keep hidden.1, 2

From a typical recent discussion on reddit/r/polyamory (161,000 subscribers):

"The flag everyone is happy to see burn."

"New rule for this sub. Who ever posts this flag shall be banned. It is fugly."

"Every time it's posted, everyone hates it, so everybody just stop using it. It's no longer our flag."

"Can we please throw that flag out now?"

"Slowly takes walltacks out of the poly flag hanging on my wall I just learned everyone hates."

Another discussion on reddit/r/polyamory.

Fortunately, many people have created new polyamory flag candidates. At least two of them IMO would be excellent if enough folks decide to adopt them as the new standard.

At right are a few of the alternatives that people have put into the public domain on Wikimedia Commons. Take a look at the hi-res versions there, with the creators' names, dates and descriptions. And maybe add one of your own.

Here are more new candidates, sorted by keyword "polyamory" from the geeky site reddit/r/QueerVexillology. (I know this brings up the old debate "Is poly queer?", but there they are.)

And here's what an internet-wide image search brings up for "polyamory flag."

My own favorites are the two below. Both use our universal infinity-heart symbol, which is by far the most widely recognized emblem of polyamory today.3

This first one is by Emma @HECKSCAPER, created September 2019. It seems to be catching on, and it's my fav. Here's its Wikimedia Commons page. Emma tweeted that the Evans flag left her "so visually offended that I had to make my own version using the infinity heart instead, while maintaining the general meaning of the chosen colors." She made the colors lighter and less severe, and the central disk is bold, happy and airy. But shouldn't it be just a little larger for better proportioning?

This one is by Monroe of RatLab Art, August 2016. Its Wikimedia Commons page. Wrote Monroe, "I redesigned the polyamory flag bc the old one seems a little jarring to me. I like the original meaning behind the colors, though." Again the colors are more muted than the original's. The infinity heart is proudly center stage and grabs you from a distance. I might prefer a brighter gold rather than tan, keeping Evans' original symbolism that went with the gold color for the pi.1

So, how can we get a new flag into wide use? By using it! The ultimate decider will be the wisdom of the crowd. If you have a favorite, or design one, promote it (like I just did!) and see if other people pick it up.

I bet in a few years we'll be using a new poly flag that most of us are happy with and that carries our message proudly and well.

Update: Another interesting new proposal, skipping the infinity heart, from reddit/r/polyfamilies user TheGreyBandit. 

Update: A new Facebook thread with more proposed designs.

Update, June 15, 2021:  An organized initiative is starting up for a new and better polyamory flag and other symbology. Sarah at PolyamProud writes,

I recently read your article on your distaste for the polyamory pride flag. I noticed that you have seen the reddit post by TheGreyBandit and his new ideas on the Polyam flag. I am currently working with him and several other Polyam people who all agree with you. We have collectively formed @PolyamProud, a volunteer coalition dedicated to establishing a definitive and representative visual identity for the polyamorous community.

Update, November 23, 2022: The winner of that new-flag competition


1.  In August 2016 Jim Evans wrote about his thinking behind the flag when he created it 21 years earlier. Among other things, he says that he kept its meaning deliberately obscure because people were more closeted then. And he used the letter pi partly because he could simply copy it from a font into Microsoft Paint, while drawing an infinity heart in Paint would have been challenging "given my limited abilities."

From Evans' post: 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Polyamory, Pride Flags, and Patterns of Feedback

...I've been polyamorous, or "poly" for short, for nearly all of my adult life. A little over 20 years ago, I lived in the Pacific Northwest, and for the first time in my life, I experienced first-hand the struggles and celebrations of what is now known as the LGBT community. One thing that struck me was the imagery and symbolism those communities used to rally around, identify other members, and publicly announce their membership in the community. The pride flag was one image that made a huge impression on me. At that time, the poly community didn't really have similar symbols to use, so I took it upon myself to create one. Here's what I made up, and released into the public domain in the late summer or early fall of 1995.

Here's the text I wrote up describing it to the first mailing list I shared it with. It's become the canonical description of this particular flag:

The poly pride flag consists of three equal horizontal colored stripes with a symbol in the center of the flag. The colors of the stripes, from top to bottom, are as follows: blue, representing the openness and honesty among all partners with which we conduct our multiple relationships; red, representing love and passion; and black, representing solidarity with those who, though they are open and honest with all participants of their relationships, must hide those relationships from the outside world due to societal pressures. The symbol in the center of the flag is a gold Greek lowercase letter 'pi', as the first letter of 'polyamory'. The letter's gold color represents the value that we place on the emotional attachment to others, be the relationship friendly or romantic in nature, as opposed to merely primarily physical relationships.

Now, here are some things to understand. Clearly, I'm not a visual artist. My tools for creation at the time were literally limited to Microsoft Paint, running on Windows 3.1. Nevertheless, the flag design managed to limp along, with little fanfare. My friends and I used it, and thought of it as quirky and something that could be used in the way other pride flags were used, as a symbol to rally around and for identification.

Fast forward 20 years. Apparently, this thing called the World Wide Web happened, and let all sorts of people communicate and discover things they'd never known about before. New polyamorous people began to discover the flag existed. One would think that people might think it was an interesting idea, given its intent. One would be wrong. The flag has been called vile, no good, hideous, disappointing, ugly, and many other negative things.

One of the issues frequently brought up is that the color scheme is garish or unpleasing. That's subjective, and I can't argue with their perception. I still think there's value in the color symbology, if not the actual RGB values I used when creating it.

Many people seem to take issue with the pi symbol as obscure. There were specific reasons for choosing it at the time. First, I specifically avoided imagery that included a heart. The leather pride flag, which predates the design of mine, includes a heart, and I was trying to avoid confusion, given that community was there first. The "infinity heart" was not yet as widely accepted a symbol for polyamory, and would have been challenging for me to incorporate given my limited abilities in the visual arts. The letter pi was readily available on computer typographic platforms even in those days, so I chose that.

Also, at the time, I was more concerned with "in the closet" polyfolk, and was far more in the closet myself than I am these days. I wanted a symbol that could be used relatively anonymously, that could let people who were in on the symbology connect, without it being too specific.

Additionally, there was already a rich history of existing pride symbols using Greek letters, the use of lambda as an LGBT symbol being a concrete example. I was hoping to evoke similarity and solidarity without being too explicit or derivative. Finally, the fact that the "poly" in polyamory is a Greek root seemed to indicate that would be a natural choice. In retrospect, perhaps a lemniscate ("infinity symbol") would've been a better choice, but nobody spoke up then.


2.  In the history of the modern polyamory movement, one person stands above everyone else in bringing the small early community out of its shell of secrecy and fear of public notice. That was Robyn Trask, who acquired Loving More magazine and its gatherings in 2004 to rescue it when it was on the brink of extinction.

The common view in the polyworld up to then had been that all the news media are sensationalist and nasty and incapable of treating this thing we do accurately. There were examples of that. But few in the community seemed able, or willing, to see the difference between a scandal-seeking hack and the serious writers and editors who would soon be producing excellent, seminal feature articles about us for the likes of the Washington Post and New Scientist.

Robyn has always said that her motivation is to help people like her own younger self: lost and ashamed in a monocentric wilderness, with no idea that another way is possible. On taking over Loving More, Robyn realized that only the mass media could reach most such people and let them know that there's a whole community they can join, one that has amassed a great deal of practical polyamory expertise. She says that early on, she set a goal for Loving More "to make polyamory a household word."

She started sending out press releases to news media. Within two months of acquiring Loving More she got her hometown Denver Post to run a 2000-word feature story on the concept and on local polyfolks who volunteered to be interviewed. The 700 Club, the showpiece program of the Christian Broadcasting Network, invited her on and she bravely accepted. They treated her with surprising respect, giving her a chance to explain, in her pleasant and folksy way, that multiple loving relationships with everyone's understanding and consent are actually possible and really happening  to more than a million Christian viewers.

She sent out a press release before the 2005 Loving More conference at Ramblewood in Maryland, the first conference under her leadership, and welcomed onsite a reporter and photographer from the Baltimore Sun, which was then one of America's great newspapers. She introduced them to everybody at the beginning, they agreed in front of the crowd to hard rules she set around everyone's privacy, and they left after one day. The result was a major, excellent feature article in the Sun, later reprinted elsewhere. It was surely a life-changer to some readers who had thought they were the only ones in the world.

Good media like that began to change attitudes in the poly community about what was possible  especially if you chose intelligently who to deal with, researched their employers' biases and motives, and learned basic tricks for dealing with the media successfully. Such as memorizing and rehearsing your key talking points beforehand, presenting yourself well in the eyes of the audience, saying nothing that you don't want used even if it means a long silence while you think (they'll clip that out), and how to walk away from a trap.

The more news stories and TV interviews that poly people did, the better informed the media themselves became going into interviews, and the easier it got. This required many intelligent, good-hearted, quick-witted, very out polyfolks who were ready to go on camera and to talk to writers. But our movement had people like that! By about 2012 "herd journalism" had taken hold: If your competitor runs a story about an interesting new topic that grabs people's attention, you have to do it too. 


As it happened, that Loving More conference at Ramblewood was my own first. I'll always remember stepping out of my car in the parking field and walking toward the gaily decorated registration table, my heart pounding with an awareness that in a few moments my life would change forever. (I was right.)

Within weeks of the conference and that Baltimore Sun article, I started doing the project that became Polyamory in the News. My original intent was to capture and highlight how the mainstream world was actually treating us, and what we could do about it. That was roughly 4,000 articles and broadcasts ago as individually documented here, plus many more that I've surely missed.

It worked. Fifteen years later just about the entire Western world knows about us — and has learned that for some people, multi-relationships can work joyously all around, when carried out in the right environment of abundant communication with work on serious self-knowledge and relationship skills. "The polyamorous possibility" has become widely known.

It's so much better now — thanks to all you dedicated, great-hearted volunteers who are working in ways large and small, year after year, for a powerful idea.


3.  The infinity heart as a symbol for polyamory arose in the mid-1990s. The very first was the one at right, created and put into the public domain by Brian Crabtree. New versions quickly appeared (now there are hundreds), and by about 2010 the infinity heart had pushed the once-dominant4 poly parrot nearly to extinction. . .

. . .such as Ray Dillinger's parrot from 1997 or before, at left, one of the first. For years it was the familiar logo of the alt.polyamory Usenet group, the first large poly-specific discussion site on the web. The site was created (with no graphics) on May 21, 1992, by Jennifer L. Wesp, who had just invented the word polyamory in a Usenet discussion independently of Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart (who first published a form of it in May 1990). See "Polyamory" enters the Oxford English Dictionary, and tracking the word's origins. (Though it's often called the first internet poly site, the alt.polyamory list was predated by the "Triples List," founded around 1989 and hosted by Sun Microsystems, recalls Howard Landman, August 2020.)

In 2002 Alex West posted a history of polyamory symbols, documenting things back while the movement was still young.


4.  For instance, alt.polyamory had a very old FAQ page (undated but still in a version of the site "last modified June 1997"), including,  "There are several proposed symbols of polyamory, of which the most common seems to be the parrot.  As parrot pins and other ornaments are relatively easy to find, this symbol seems likely to catch on over the others."

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July 24, 2020

Friday Polyamory News Roundup – Laws are evolving our way. Poly isolation support networks. How to actually find a poly-aware therapist, and more.

Welcome to Friday Polynews Roundup for July 24, 2020.

●  Making the news this week in Somerville, Mass., was the Boston area's poly pandemic-support network: 'Quaranteam' connects and supports Somerville’s polyamorous families (Somerville Journal, July 20). It's by the same reporter who broke the news of the city's recent poly-friendly domestic partnership ordinance.

A Somerville resident built a web-based mutual aid network to support poly families during this tough time.

Somerville scene

By Julie Taliesin

...Somerville resident Andi McCollam shared her experience of being polyamorous, and the mutual aid network she founded to support the unique challenges of poly families during this difficult period of quarantine and isolation....

“Back in March, there was so much energy coming off of the pages – people wanted somewhere to throw their money – and a whole bunch of mutual aid orgs sprang up,” she said. “I wanted to put one together with a bit more structure and thought to help the poly community.”

McCollam works in public health and has studied community organizing, which is why Boston Poly Quaranteam struck her as an idea that needed to happen. This web-based network can connect poly families and coordinate care for community members in isolation, and currently has about 200 members.

“We’re really community-minded – a lot of us know and help each other – and we’re more non-default,” she said. “Many of us don’t have family nearby and lots don’t belong to religious congregations, so we’re running around without our own community-support structures.”

Privacy is also an important component of this network: members have a login and web administrators like McCollam ensure mutual consent before connecting two parties for support. Support can look like anything from buying groceries and cooking food to sending texts to people who are stuck isolating at home to check in.

“If you post on Facebook that you are stuck at home, you take on the emotional labor of everyone knowing,” she said. “Also, many people are closeted and we want to protect privacy at every step... I’m super delighted with the community leadership that has come out. With everyone losing jobs, a lot of people wanted a place to bring their professional skills, so they’ve put a lot of work into this.”

Building community

McCollam has a nesting partner (a live-in partner) and a non-nesting partner, and her nesting partner has a boyfriend. She noted that she does not speak for everyone’s poly experience, but said she was happy to see the domestic partnership ordinance pass and is hopeful about what it means.

“Consent is a big part of everything – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander – and though there are negative attitudes, it is very much about affection and the recognition that just because you love one person doesn’t mean you will never love anybody else,” she said. “I find it to be very nice to know that, and not have a zero sum mentality. There’s so much more collaboration and affection, and it’s so much better for building community and affinity.”

McCollam noted she was “on the shoulders of giants” in terms of creating a web-based community for poly folks. Though it’s less active today, the Poly Boston site that launched in the 90s used to coordinate weekly meetups at Diesel Café in Davis Square. Next, she hopes to expand the platform to include more closed, local communities.

    “We want to do it in a way that builds privacy, structure, and community in a way that’s absent from a lot of other mutual aid structures,” she said. “It’s the power of using established communities to come together, mobilizing rather than changing behaviors, and how to take communities and bring them together in times of crisis.”


●  Speaking of Somerville, this comes from Eli Sheff: Legal Protections for People in Polyamorous Relationships: New developments in a changing social landscape (July 23). Though the changes are frankly modest.

...Previous blogs in this series have identified the many ways in which polyamorous folks are vulnerable to stigma and discrimination, such as polyphobia, the reasons poly folks do not want to be on reality TV, possibly getting fired, polyamorous parents' well-founded fear of losing custody of their children, the blanket assumption that polyamorous families are bad for children, fear of the polyamorous possibility, and host of legal issues associated with being outside of a recognized family framework.

Until recently, these various concerns were all based on the fact that there were no legal protections to shield people in polyamorous relationships from the negative impacts of stigma and discrimination. Polyamorous activists across the US had gotten excited about the possibility of legal protection when the city council in Berkeley, California, passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that included protections for polyamorous and other CNM relationships. Unfortunately, that ordinance has foundered in implementation [employers were afraid of having to provide more health insurance] and remains unenforced. A similar ordinance is under consideration in San Francisco.

This year, however, outside of California there have been two significant moves towards protecting consensually non-monogamous people and their families:

Utah Decriminalizes Polygamy [and Consensual Non-Monogamy]

...Earlier this year Utah state officials decided to decriminalize polygamy, in part because laws criminalizing polygamy were “unenforceable,” according to Utah state senator Deidre Henderson. While polygamy is not legally recognized by this ruling, it is no longer a felony. ... This ruling also applies to polyamorous and other people in consensually non-monogamous relationships in Utah. 

Somerville Recognizes Polyamorous Partnerships

In the most surprising and sweeping legal recognition of multiple-partner relationships, an ordinance in Somerville Massachusetts that city council members proposed on June 25 and the mayor signed into law on June 29 grants domestic partnership recognition to people in multiple-partner relationships. ... 

Kimberly Rhoten, a lawyer and doctoral student, explained that, “Despite its shortcomings, the new ordinance is an essential step towards full legal recognition and protection of Somerville’s diverse family structures, especially those structures that don’t fit neatly within legal marriage. This includes relationships above and beyond polyamorous ones, such as extended kinship networks, platonic long-term life mates, and many others.” Perhaps most significantly, Somerville’s new ordinance grants people in domestic partnerships the same rights that married people have, like visiting their beloveds in the hospital and (if city employees) providing them with employer-sponsored health insurance. Rhoten concludes, “These rights are invaluable and unprecedented as non-traditional families have, until now, been denied equal access to government protections afforded to normative monogamous partnerships.” 

...When cities enact ordinances such as these at the local level, it can serve to inspire others to consider and perhaps even craft similar protections of their citizens. [Diana] Adams says, “At Chosen Family Law Center, we plan to introduce similar domestic partnership ordinances in progressive cities, and welcome local advocates to get in touch for support and collaboration. Somerville is just the beginning of a movement for partnership protections for polyamorous and multi-parent families.”

●  Just because a therapist advertises that they are alt-sex-aware or poly-aware doesn't mean they are, we read in Vice. With many now climbing on the bandwagon (that's sure a change!), you really need to know How to Find a Sex-Positive Therapist (July 22). It's a long, well-researched and deeper look at a common topic, with good links. Excerpts:

Some therapists advertising kink- and polyamory-friendly treatment might not be all they seem. 

By Penda N'Diaye

...Layla's first therapist assured her that her treatment plan was "kink-friendly"—a designation Layla felt was crucial to her emotional well-being and progress. How that was expressed in practice, though, didn't feel understanding or inclusive of Layla's sexuality at all.

“My partner has been very key to my recovery in that he has been there both emotionally and, when I have needed him to be, in a dominant way," she said. "But I soon realized that if I discussed my kinks or my dom/sub relationship [with my therapist], she was extremely uncomfortable with it—she told me [my dom] was controlling.”

"Once it became clear my kinks in general were an issue, I stopped telling her anything more”... 

The widening cultural acceptance and exploration of different sexual identities ... has caused an uptick in kink- and non-monogamy-informed therapy.  ... With this expanding market comes mental health clinicians who market their services as sex-positive—some who are qualified, and some who have little experience....

Kink sexualities are vast and nuanced, meaning that if a client is seeking care for sexuality or if it comes up as a secondary concern, there are varying levels of kink awareness and treatment. Because kink, particularly, is often based on power dynamics, it’s easy for a clinician to pathologize these behaviors, when, in reality, they are often positive and healthy modes of sexual expression. ...

If a client is asking a question like, “Why am I curious to explore polyamory?” that a therapist doesn’t have the tools to properly assess, we begin to doubt ourselves, shame ourselves, feel misunderstood, and potentially be misdiagnosed, Andrea Glik, poly and kink affirming therapist, explained. ...

How Therapists Falsely Advertise Kink-Friendly and Polyamory-Friendly Treatment

It’s not enough for clinicians to just want to talk about sex openly and affirmingly. When therapists are truly informed about kink and non-monogamy, they have histories of expertise around the intricacies that come with those dynamics. The Kink Clinical Practice Guidelines Project outlines three levels of kink-affirmative therapy: “kink-friendly,” meaning having minimal kink awareness and openness to not pathologize kink behaviors, “kink-aware,” which includes clinicians that have worked with kink-identified clients and have a specific grasp of concepts and practices within kink culture, and “kink-knowledgable,” being able to affirm kink and know the difference between whether a client’s treatment needs to solely focus on kink behavior, or if it is a peripheral part of treatment. 


....“Sex therapy is still a young industry," explained Jamila Dawson, a therapist who specializes in treating LGBTQ people, poly people, and people who are involved in kink. ... If someone seeks sex therapy, it benefits them to see a clinician with the same sexual experiences, Glik said. "As a queer therapist—and, also, a person who is in therapy with a queer therapist—the interrogation that I’ve done around my own sexuality, I want my therapist to have the same understanding of what that process is." 

...“One of the things that is important to me about polyamory, versus other types of ethical non-monogamy, is the focus on autonomy for all parties involved, but our therapist insisted that rules were necessary," Zoe said. "[The therapist] didn’t understand why her suggestion of what was essentially the veto system wasn’t ethical non-monogamy."

Part of what alarmed Zoe was that the therapist also said that a lot of her other clients followed a "one-penis policy" as a successful form of polyamory. ...

How to Find a Kink-Friendly or Polyamory-Friendly Therapist

...“I found my current therapist on the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom's kink-friendly professionals directory," [Layla] said, citing a resource that includes a listing of psychotherapists, medical, and legal professionals that are knowledgeable and sensitive to diverse sexualities. "[My current therapist] actually specializes in all kinds of kink/sexual identity/sexuality and relationships, as well as trauma. My experience with them has been mind-blowingly different, because I can actually tell them everything about how submitting to my dom is actually [part of] taking care of myself."


Beginning in 2010, a group of clinicians who work with sexually stigmatized clients created a comprehensive set of guidelines for therapists that want to approach kink and other sexual identities without shame or ignorance. The Multiplicity of the Erotic, a conference created in 2012 by the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) and Programs Advancing Sexual Diversity (PASD) reinforces these guidelines and promotes clinical training on alternative sexualities. The work of the clinicians that pioneered a broader scope of sex therapy is compiled as a set of kink-inclusive guidelines here. ...

●  Emma and Fin do a podcast called Normalizing Non-Monogamy – Interviews in Polyamory and Swinging (and often the overlap of the two). For Episode 133 they went beyond the usual personal interviews, mostly with couples, to host a panel discussion titled State of the Union of Black Polyamorous Relationships in the Pandemic and Uprising (July 6).

We're honored to welcome Ruby Johnson, co-founder of Poly Dallas Millennium, to moderate our first panel discussion. As she mentions, this is not a race 101 discussion. While it is targeted towards the Black community, it is an invaluable resource for anyone who finds it. The amazing and accomplished panelists discuss difficult topics, share vulnerable stories, and do it all while weaving in humor and laughter. It's a very real conversation with four powerful friends. 

●  MamaMia ("Australia's largest women's media brand"; 80 staff; "To make the world a better place for women and girls") profiles a founder of the polyamory movement in Australia at this later stage of her life: Anne was in a monogamous marriage. Then an emotional affair set her on a path to polyamory  (July 23)

Anne Hunter

By Belinda Jepsen

Anne Hunter's relationships don't slot into any well-worn societal groove. 

She's been with her long-term partner, Peter, for more than two decades, yet they don't live together; they're devoted, yet not 'exclusive'; deeply in love, yet not dependent.

Speaking to MamaMia's daily news podcast, The Quicky [listen below], the Victorian woman explained that she embraced polyamory after the breakdown of her monogamous marriage. 

"I found out pretty quickly that marriage didn't suit me," Anne said. "We had different life goals, and different things that made us happy."

And simmering beneath had been Anne's love for another person — Peter. Try as she did, Anne couldn't suppress her feelings and they engaged in what she's described as an 'emotional affair'. 

After their respective marriages ended, she and Peter entered an arrangement that wouldn't bind them to promises they couldn't keep, that would meet their changing needs over time, and wouldn't preclude them from making and exploring other loving connections.

"The thing that I love about ethical non-monogamy is the ability to really ask myself, 'What do I want?' And to start with that," Anne said. "And then to allow each relationship to offer what it naturally offers, without forcing it into offering either all or nothing.

"The model that we experience today is the romantic ideal in which we are turning to one person to give us what once an entire village used to provide," she said.  

"Meaning, that we still want that same person to give us the expectations of traditional marriage: companionship, economic support, children and family life, and social respectability. But we also want the same person to be a best friend, and a trusted confidante, and a passionate lover, and an intellectual equal, and a person who inspires us to strive for the best version of ourselves."

That's an utterly new model. ...

"Straying isn't necessarily a symptom of a relationship gone awry," Esther Perel said. "Affairs are about hurt and betrayal and deception. But they are also about longing and loss and self-seeking. It's the quest for lost parts of oneself, it's the quest for a sense of aliveness, for vitality, it's the quest to reconnect with unlived lives."

...Anne, for example, has "many, many" connections — be they long-term partners, lovers or 'intimates' — each of differing nature.

"A lot of them have been sexual in the past and are now more intimate, or have been friend[ships] and are now romantic. A lot of them have shifted over time," she said.

"My way of doing it is to allow each relationship to find its own comfortable resting place and to find where we overlap, and to get many different needs met in many different places."

...Of course, polyamorous relationships have their own challenges. Jealousy being one. ... "The difference with polyamory, or ethical non-monogamy, is that we accept that we are responsible for our own jealousy. Usually, in my experience, it is an expression of a need that's not getting met somewhere, and it's my job to understand what the need is, to communicate that with my beloveds and my intimates, to find ways of meeting that.

"Nobody else can save me from my jealousy; it's my job to do. Whereas in monogamy, [people] often will demand that their partner's behaviour change."

But more of an issue, Anne argues, is time management (finding time to honour each relationship) and stigma, which comes in many forms. ...
...COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria have introduced new complications; Anne hasn't been able to see her partners and connections for four weeks and says there's "heartache everywhere" among poly couples who've suddenly had to choose who to isolate with.

Once it's all over, she and Peter will be able to reunite, she'll be able to rekindle her other meaningful connections and even establish new ones.

"We're both open to it, and in fact Pete connected with somebody new last year," she said. "That's a bright, vibrant, sparkling growing, wonderful new connection."

●  Another basic, mass-market poly intro of the kind that's slowly educating the world: in Bustle, 3 People Share What It's Really Like To Be Part Of A 'Throuple'  (July 23) 

"When you're in a three-way relationship, you're actually dealing with four different couples" [sic; one of the four is the trio itself.]

(Some random stock photo)
By Emma McGowan

Carly, 32, has sex with her fiancé, and, sometimes, her fiancé has sex with her best friend. Other times, her fiancé and her best friend have sex while she’s in the room — but the two BFFs don’t have sex with each other. Occasionally, they’ll all participate in orgies or shoot porn together, but she still doesn’t have sexual contact with her best friend. Their relationship, while intimate, stays platonic.

...Melanie, 55, a performer and educator, credits that lack of drama to the fact that she and her partners — Cliff, 68, and Charity, 45, all of whom live together — have “more than 50 years combined experience in ethical non-monogamy.” And that means they know how to talk, talk, talk.

“When you’re in a three-way relationship, you’re actually dealing with four different relationships,” Melanie tells Bustle. “You have three couples and then the triad relationship. All of those need to be nurtured and taken care of.”

...One of the things that Beth, 30, a sex educator in Florida, loves about being in a relationship with a married couple is that if Beth is having a bad day, “I have a minimum of two people trying to make me feel better.” They’re also Beth’s cheerleaders when Beth goes on dates — the girlfriend does Beth’s makeup, and both the girlfriend and boyfriend like to tease them, lightheartedly.

For monogamous people, the concept of “compersion” — which means joy at seeing a partner have romantic or sexual relationships with other people — can be a hard one to grasp. But all three people who spoke to Bustle for this article said that while jealousy comes up — as it does in almost any romantic relationship, regardless of the number of people involved — they’re prepared to deal with it. ...

●  Remember the thing about X-Men superheroes developing a polyamorous relationship? A site called Comic Book Resources ran a member poll and got 252 responses, with these results:

How do you feel about Polyamory in the X-books?

•  Strongly Approve - Yes, Please!  43.65%

•  Neutral - Polyamory is fine, but doesn't seem to fit established characters/ relationships.  38.10%

•  Strongly Disapprove - Keep it away from my books!  18.25%

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now. Stay safe, don't be a knucklehead, and don't breathe their air.