Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

June 17, 2022

OPEN, a new polyactivist group, launches with petition drive: "Tell Facebook to allow multiple relationship statuses"

For years, polyamory activists have pushed Facebook to let CNM folks specify their "relationship status" clearly, rather than having to pick just one of the several, mostly mono-normative choices that Facebook allows.

Now the new polyamory activist group OPEN, the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy, has just launched an effort to get Facebook to allow polyfolks to specify themselves more correctly. It's running a petition drive, Remove Facebook's Limits on Love, addressed to Tom Alison, the Meta corporation's VP in charge of Facebook. Excerpts:

Human connection has long been at the center of Meta’s mission and values. ... Unfortunately, the design of the “relationship status” feature prevents many users from indicating the connections most important to them. By restricting users to one relationship status (and one tagged partner) on their Profile, non-monogamous individuals are arbitrarily prevented from expressing the full range of their connections on the Facebook App.

Ethical non-monogamy, also referred to as consensual non-monogamy, is a term encompassing a range of relationship practices involving multiple partners, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved. In the US, 4-5% of adults currently practice some form of ethical non-monogamy, with one in five adults entering into a consensually non-monogamous relationship at some point in their lives. ...

Given the growing prevalence of ethical non-monogamy, we believe that restricting users to listing only one relationship status on their Profile is arbitrary, exclusionary, and contrary to Meta’s core values. ...

Meta has long demonstrated a limited recognition of non-monogamous relationships through the inclusion of an “open relationship” option for the “relationship status” field. ... We are requesting that Meta take the next step in facilitating inclusive connection on the Facebook App by removing the limit of one “relationship status” on Profiles.

Nice and polite. Will they listen? Go sign. And,

Check out our promotional guide for graphics and captions to share this campaign with your community, or use the buttons below to share the petition directly:

Posting to Instagram stories?
            Please use the “LINK” tool to add a direct link from your story to the petition at tinyurl.com/facebooklimitslove 

Posting to your Instagram feed?
          Because Instagram does not support direct links in captions, consider adding a direct link to the petition to your IG profile or linktree.

The most interesting thing to me is who's behind this.

OPEN, the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy, is a newly founded non-profit based in Sacramento and San Francisco with some serious talent and money behind it. They've chosen the perennial Facebook relationship status issue for their public launch, but they have bigger plans: public-education and legal drives to establish "the freedom to be OPEN about everyone important in your life."

From their Mission page:

OPEN is a nonprofit organization dedicated to normalizing and empowering non-monogamous individuals and communities. More than that, we’re a movement of people working toward a future where romantic and intimate relationships between consenting adults are accepted and protected regardless of relationship structure, gender identity, or sexual orientation. 


OPEN was founded in 2022 to serve the 5% of American adults who practice some form of ethical non-monogamy. Too often, ethically non-monogamous individuals lack access to communities of people like them, and are forced to hide their identity to avoid stigma and discrimination. We believe it’s time for that to end. Here's how:


  1. -- Change how the world perceives ethical non-monogamy by advancing cultural acceptance and representation

  2. -- Improve the practice of ethical non-monogamy by empowering communities, sharing knowledge, and building resources

  3. -- Grow the power of the ethically non-monogamous movement in order to gain rights and protections, support aligned movements, and shape a more just and loving world.

    OPEN is a small but mighty network of community leaders, advocates, professionals, and more working to foster the grassroots movement to normalize ethical non-monogamy. Stay tuned for the launch of our
    legislative campaigns, Non-monogamy Day of Visibility, events, and more!

Who are these people?

The three co-founders are Brett Chamberlin, a sustainability activist and mover & shaker for nonprofits (executive director); Sheila (Shade) DeBlonk, a political-campaign professional (board president); and Bryan (Lefty) DeBlonk, previously a lobbyist and political-campaign operative. The board of directors includes the respected poly-community figures Heath Schechinger (co-founder of the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition and co-chair of the American Psychological Association's Division 44 Committee on Consensual Non-monogamy); Luna Ray (founder and CEO of Bloom Community); and William Winters (founder, Bonobo Network).

Chamberlin shares his own story of how the project came together at the end of this post.1

So it looks like they've got a capable crew. They've raised over $10,000 to get rolling, and crowdfunding continues. Sign up to get on the mailing list for news and "opportunities to help grow the movement."


What they're trying to become has been a long time coming.

Based on a revelatory, life-changing possibility, the polyamory movement has accomplished an amazing amount since it took shape 35 or so years ago. This happened slowly at first, then surprisingly fast in the last 10 or 15 years. And it happened with very little support structure, just a few small and scattered institutions, and practically no money.

The movement has never had a seriously effective broad organization of its own. That's what Loving More magazine set out to be 28 years ago when print magazines were king, but in the internet era its work pretty much condensed to putting on two conventions a year and smaller retreats, as well as media relations, webinars, and some local chapters. Loving More remains a two-person, part-time operation. The Polyamory Leadership Network started in 2008 at New York's Poly Pride Weekend with great hopes among activists to network and collaborate on projects. Dozens of ideas for projects emerged at the PLN's organizational meeting of 64 people in February 2009, but it soon became clear that ideas were cheap; volunteers willing and able to carry them to fruition were few. The PLN soon settled into what it has remained: a loose Google Group discussion list, increasingly diffused amid the growth of other social media and the widening of the poly world.

There are solid poly-friendly nonprofits like the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, and others, but they are not poly-specific. Special-focus organizations have recently sprung up, such as the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition and the Chosen Family Law Center, but these have their own particular focuses. The new Polyamory Foundation grants money to projects that other people and groups carry out; as a non-operating foundation it runs none of its own.

I can't think of any social-change movement of our size and popularity that doesn't have at least one big, strong organization, nonprofit or otherwise, helping to make it go.

Could that finally change?


1.  I asked Brett Chamberlin how OPEN came to be. He wrote back this:

As to your question about our origin, I'm delighted to share more – and I hope you won't mind if I tell you that story from a bit of a personal perspective.

I'm a lifelong activist and organizer who for the last ten years has been working in sustainability advocacy, with a focus on waste and consumerism. I co-founded a national nonprofit (Post-Landfill Action Network), led the global grassroots distribution for an Emmy-winning documentary film ("The Story of Plastic,"), and even made a couple television appearances (CNN, NBC). But over the last couple years, I started to feel a bit like a cog in the nonprofit industrial complex. Although I was proud of the work I was doing, I felt like I was lacking a deep personal connection to the issues I was serving, and couldn't shake the sense that I was replaceable.

Meanwhile, I was leading somewhat of a double life as I found myself immersing deeper into the Bay Area polyamory and sex-positive culture. Through these communities, I was discovering new ways to heal and better myself, to care for those around me, and to love and be loved in new abundance. I came to feel that poly culture's emphasis on authentic connection, mutual growth, consent and communication, radical inclusion, transformative justice, compassion, and more were precisely the medicine that our society so deeply needs. 

The deeper I immersed myself into the culture of ethical non-monogamy, the more I became convinced of both the opportunity and need for deep organizing work in this space. I saw how many of my peers were forced to hide their identity and intimate relationships for fear of losing their jobs – even in progressive states like California! I also saw how much power and passion was present in our communities, and felt that the national ethically non-monogamous population could be mobilized to bring new energy into the broader struggles for social, economic, environmental, and racial justice. In short, I began to feel called to this work. 

As part of that journey, I began having more substantive conversations with my community leaders and "poly elders" about these topics – in particular, with Lefty and Shade, who ultimately became my co-founders on this project. Lefty and Shade (a married, polyamorous couple) are central leaders of the "And Then There's Only Love" Burning Man camp, which produces the Orgy Dome. They also happen to be political consultants based in Sacramento, who had their own experience leading a "double life" until they were "outed" in the national media thanks to an article in Drudge Report. They really validated the social impact lens that I was applying to this space, and affirmed that founding an organization to advance this work could indeed be viable.

In October 2021 I left my full-time job at the environmental nonprofit where I had been serving for five years. Shortly after the new year, I started convening meetings with Lefty and Shade to sketch out what would ultimately grow into OPEN; I also started reaching out to other politically-minded polyamorous leaders like Heath [Schechinger] and William Winters (Bonobo Network). To be clear, I don't mean to center myself too much in that telling. I view myself as a steward of a shared vision, who just happened to be lucky enough to be in the right place in my life to take this on, with a relevant background in social impact movement building and nonprofit leadership, and some incredible support and mentorship from our founding team (and my partners and broader community). I am humbled to be in this position, and am working hard to honor this opportunity and the broader community that OPEN exists to serve.

That's my story! Hope you don't mind the essay or the personal framing. Alan, thank you again for your instrumental support for this new enterprise – I'm deeply grateful for your support, and look forward to more collaboration ahead.

For a more loving world,
Brett Chamberlin



Gotta hand it to these folks, they know how to do publicity. Their press release to the New York Times provoked a story in the Style section: Non-Monogamy Advocates Ask Facebook to Be More Open (June 17). The whole thing:

A group supporting those who practice polyamory and other forms of “ethical non-monogamy” want more relationship-status options on Facebook.

By Valeriya Safronova

A group that supports ethical non-monogamy sent an open letter to Meta on Thursday calling for Facebook to allow users to list more than one relationship status in their profiles.

The letter, which was initiated by the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy, or OPEN, said that Facebook’s current policy is “arbitrary” and “exclusionary.” Signees included leaders of groups like the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and the Center for Positive Sexuality.

A spokesman for Meta said the company was reviewing the letter and noted that one of the statuses that users can choose on Facebook is “in an open relationship.” The change the petitioners are asking for would allow them to list all of their romantic partners.

About 20 percent of people say they have engaged in some form of consensual non-monogamy, according to a 2017 study. Today, the term encompasses “a bajillion niche terms,” according to Brett Chamberlin, the executive director of OPEN. The most well-known terms include “polyamory,” which means dating multiple people at the same time [No, it means multiple loving relationships with the knowledge and agreement of everyone --Ed.], and “swinging,” which describes when people in relationships exchange partners with each other [sometimes].

A newer entry is “relationship anarchy,” in which participants break down all the expected norms involved in romantic relationships and subscribe only to rules established by the people involved. [Okay, she got one right.]

“Ethical non-monogamy is nothing new, but technologies like the internet have made it easier for people to build communities and pursue lifestyles that may not have been accepted in a mainstream culture before,” Mr. Chamberlin said.

Today, people interested in opening their relationships can turn to podcasts and polyamory coaches for advice, and join dating apps like Feeld and #open to meet like-minded others. Consensual non-monogamy has even reached Vogue magazine, where one writer asked: “Is Monogamy Over?[No, only the magazine's headline writer wrote that; it was clickbait.]

People have become more public about their non-monogamous relationships, too, writing articles and social media posts about their experiences.

Last month, Taylor Frankie Paul, a TikTok star with 3.6 million followers, talked about her open marriage in a livestream. Ms. Paul, a member of the Mormon Church, told viewers that she and her husband and some of their friends would engage in “soft swinging,” in which “you don’t fully switch and go all the way.” Ms. Paul also said that she and her husband were currently in the process of getting a divorce, partly prompted by Ms. Paul’s decision to break the rules of their agreement.

The most prominent people who have publicly discussed their experiences with non-monogamy may be Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Last year Mr. Smith told GQ about a period during which his marriage was open.

“We have given each other trust and freedom, with the belief that everybody has to find their own way,” the actor said. “And marriage for us can’t be a prison.” Willow Smith, the couple’s daughter, spoke about being polyamorous on “Red Table Talk,” a show she hosts with her mother and grandmother.

Part of the shift toward more acceptance could be generational. In a YouGov poll that surveyed about 1,340 people and asked them to describe their “ideal relationship” along a scale from “completely monogamous” to “completely non-monogamous,” 43 percent of millennials said their ideal relationship would be at least somewhat non-monogamous, compared with 30 percent of Gen Xers and 25 percent of baby boomers.

Despite the growing normalization of non-monogamy as a practice, Mr. Chamberlin said, many people who engage in it still fear being public about their lifestyles.

“You could be fired from your job, denied housing or lose a custody battle based on the structure of your intimate relationships,” he said. The goal of his organization, which he and two others founded in April, is to raise awareness and create more acceptance of non-monogamous relationships.

“Over the long run, one of the projects of culture and society is giving people more space to be in the consensual relationships they choose,” he said. He pointed to the movement for L.G.B.T.Q. rights as one of those projects. Consensual non-monogamy, he added, “is the next chapter.”

And now the Times article is prompting coverage other places: Yahoo News, the UK's Independent, the Times of India, Quartz, and elsewhere.
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