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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