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

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.



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