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

November 18, 2022

Voting for a new polyamory flag passes 28,000. New book on poly history, a multi-relationshipping workbook...

●  PolyamProud's vote for a new polyamory flag is in progress and will close this Tuesday the 22nd. The project grew from widespread dissatisfaction with the old flag, the one from 1995 with the letter π.  Go vote. They've received 28,000 votes so far. The winner will be announced this Wednesday the 23rd, Polyamory Day.
Gripes arise: None of the four finalists up for the vote uses the infinity heart, which disappointed me because that's the only widely recognized symbol we currently have. A big complaint about the old flag has been its undecipherable meaning. And why are we choosing among only four candidates instead of, say, the top 10 or 15? The ranked-choice voting setup would work fine for that. But you'll never please everyone, me included.

Update: I asked Kristian of PolyamProud about my gripes above, which commenters on the flag-vote site have also raised, and he replied at length. Much of the finalist selection was due to the input of people from around the world, not just the Americans and other westerners in the project. Read his whole reply in Footnote 1 below. 

To recap: This project has been in the works for two years, as described here previously and at PolyamProud. A group of volunteers took the initiative to announce the project worldwide, collect and recruit flag submissions, and do a first pass through a panel of graphic designers, vexillologists (flag buffs), and poly activists. Designs that made it that far went to a committee of interested poly people "with a history of activism, advocacy, or other labor," recruited globally rather than only from the West, to make a cut of finalists. Those are what you're voting on. You rank them from 1 to 4 for ranked-choice voting.

No one pretends the winning flag will be "official," so don't get bent out of shape about that. People will keep using whatever polyamory flag they like; more than a dozen are in use. The project's hope has been to find something that will inspire many people to coalesce and use it, so that the world will finally come to know what it is and what it means. The inspiration was the rainbow Pride Flag and what it has done to boost LGBT recognition worldwide.

●  Speaking of flags, the LGBTQIA+ staff community at Microsoft Corp. recently created an all identities flag:

The all identities flag is open source. High-res version.

I like it! It's brilliant and bold, combining an unwieldy collection of 40 flags into something with unity and pizzazz. One of our many polyamory flags is in it. The infinity heart gives it away.

●  In other news, just published is Glen W. Olson's and Terry Lee Brussel-Rogers' history of the early polyamory movement: Fifty Years of Polyamory in America: A Guided Tour of a Growing Movement (Rowman & Littlefield). 

The book is slim at 160 pages. Much of it is about the modern movement's early development from 1968 through 1994, history that is receding from living memories into myth and legend. But that was when many of the current movement's core ideas, ideals, and language took their shape. I just ordered a copy and will review it.

Meanwhile, the publisher's blurb calls it

an exploration of two generations of Americans, the people and the organizations they founded, what they have chosen to do, and how it has changed their lives and affected the culture as a whole.

...We explore the history of the polyamory movement: from clinical definitions and attempts at psychiatric treatment, to the advent of advocacy groups in the 1960s and ’70s, to contemporary practitioners and the future of the movement.

At the Amazon link above, click the Look Inside for the table of contents and the first chapter. Looks good so far.


●  Polyamory lurched into the news with the spectacular collapse of the FTX crypto-currency corporation and its young founder Sam Bankman-Fried, a multi-billionaire until a few days ago. His top staff were said to be all trading sex partners, and although media stories referred to this as polyamory, it sounded more like a chaotic free-for-all.

But not even that is true, claims their in-house psychiatrist. Below is from Futurism.com (Nov. 16). Click the links for more, especially the New York Times interview. 

In spite of rumors of workplace polyamory, it appears that the psychiatrist charged with being FTX's in-house sex therapist didn't think the people involved in the now-collapsed crypto exchange were getting it on quite enough.

In a surprising interview with the New York Times, psychiatrist George K. Lerner said he'd known Sam Bankman-Fried, the exchange's disgraced wunderkind founder, for years before he took up a post as the firm's company "coach." For his part, he denies the claim that the CEO or anyone else in the company's orbit in the Bahamas was getting up to anything all that freaky.

"It’s a pretty tame place,” Lerner told the Times. "The higher-ups, they mostly played chess and board games. There was no partying. They were undersexed, if anything."

Update: But other other stories from inside the FTX core group paint a dark picture of poly gone truly awful-boss, rich-people bad. In the Guardian: Polyamory, penthouses and plenty of loans: inside the crazy world of FTX (Nov. 19):

...Take [FTX's] fourth major player, Caroline Ellison. Bankman-Fried’s sometime girlfriend, the 28-year-old was head of trading at Alameda before being promoted to jointly run the hedge fund in summer 2021, and was left in sole charge this year.... 

In posts on her account, since deleted, she wrote about her understanding of traditional finance (“it’s very unlikely for you to actually lose all your money”)... and her exploration of polyamory. “When I first started my first foray into poly, I thought of it as a radical break from my trad past,” she wrote in 2020, “but tbh, I’ve come to decide the only acceptable style of poly is best characterised as something like ‘imperial Chinese harem’. None of this non-hierarchical bullshit. Everyone should have a ranking of their partners, people should know where they fall on the ranking, and there should be vicious power struggles for the ranks.”

So the richer people get, the worse they become? This wild drama of incredible hubris and incompetency, which turned an estimated one million investors' money worthless overnight, goes down in history as one more argument for no billionaires. 

● Sarah Youngblood Gregory is getting good press this week for her Polyamory Workbook just out. From the publisher's description:

Successfully navigate nonmonogamous relationships with this practical workbook filled with activities, journal prompts, interviews, and more activities.... Helps you determine what you really want when it comes to your life, your relationships, and the community you build — and how to get it.

...This workbook focuses on the foundational knowledge everyone interested in or already practicing polyamory should know, including:
–  Types of nonmonogamy
–  Communication styles
–  Boundary setting
–  Consent
–  Metamours and jealousy
–  Pitfalls and red flags
–  Breakups

Teen Vogue prints an excerpt: The Polyamory Workbook: How I Discovered Nonmonogamy (Nov. 15):

Graphic of three smiling women snuggling on a couch reading.

I believe in love. I believe the best people love love and love to give love. ... But knowing how to love, to offer it up, is harder.

The Western world ... is by and large a sex-negative culture not just distrustful of, but destructive toward, most love that isn’t tidy, white, monogamous, cisgender, and heterosexual. But I feel a special, different kind of love when I share my strange, full life with others, either physically or through the page.

...When I was 16, and just barely scratching the surface of the queer desire I’d been largely ignoring since childhood, I declared quietly, and only to myself, that I’d never be in a monogamous relationship. I barely had the language to define myself in contrast to monogamy, let alone articulate what I now know about polyamory, relationship anarchy, and relationships based in love and agency. I stuck only with what I could imagine: “not monogamous.”

I held on to this knowledge tightly, secretively. ...

And here's the founder of Shrimp Teeth interviewing Gregory at PopSugar: Polyamory Isn't About Endless, Hot Sex — It's About Community (Nov. 15). If you remember nothing else from here, please remember that? 


1.  Kristian's reply to my flag-project gripes.

Sure!  Thanks for these great questions.

Why did only new, unknown flags make it to the finals, when several are currently in use and perhaps widely liked?
We were lucky to receive dozens of submissions and also to have found through our research, more dozens of existing designs. It felt important to give an opportunity to beautifully made, thoughtful flags that would otherwise have never been noticed. That said, several existing or well-known flags were involved in the multi-tiered selection process but eliminated for 1) copyright issues (they didn't belong to the public domain), or 2) lack of support from either our advisors and/or the committee (for example, the green-and-blue-banded design by Molly Makes Things made it through the advisory round and into the committee review, but it came out of their initial review among the least preferred options. One committee member motioned for a second decision on that particular design, in case it had been passed over for its colors instead of its symbolism, but it turned out that the symbolism was more of the issue. Which leads us to your next question:

Why do none have the infinity heart, our only well-known symbol?
There are a few reasons for this—we've been critical of the infinity heart in the past. Design-wise, its interlocking curves create messy and unwieldy negative space, especially when placed atop a striped background where the division between the bands of color dissects the symbol at odd intervals, creating a rather erratic image. Additionally, we've received feedback from artists, makers, and crafters who've found adding a symbol, especially a complex symbol like the infinity heart, makes it more challenging to reproduce images of designs that employ them. The harder the thing is to reproduce, the less it will be reproduced. That's the opposite of what we're looking for when it comes to community pride flags.  

In terms of its symbolism, there were diverse opinions among the committee, but a couple of the members offered this on their decision not to include it:

"To me, the infinity heart calls upon old romantic stereotypes upholding love and relationships as an infinite force, leading to unrealistic expectations both from oneself and our partners. Love isn't infinite, our time, patience, and the amount of affection we can give is limited, and as a movement that's rethinking the way we relate to each other we have to be realistic, honest and responsible with our limits and the limits of our partners, because if we aren't well ourselves we won't be able to be there for the people we love."
   - Jacques Treviño

“I personally think the idea of infinity+heart only represents that love can be infinite (in many ways) and does not necessarily imply unrealistic expectations of time and emotional bandwidth/resources also being infinite. 
However, I respect the process we arrived at not including it- the majority of this diverse committee had voted against it (5 vs 2) and so ideally we should stick with the committee's decision.”
   - Basit Manham 

The committee also selected two designs which were created with space to accommodate additional symbols of the user's liking. Similar examples of this occurring out in the world are the flags of Poland and Peru, which in some cases appear with a crest and in some cases appear without a crest, but are at all times recognized as the flags of Poland and Peru, crest or not. 

Regarding obscurity or confusion: we strongly disagree. The obscurity of the Pi flag is in part because Pi has many other (and stronger) cultural associations to the world at large, among them engineering or geometry. These designs, because they're new, don't have any associations at all. This is the case with any new flag, logo, symbol, icon intending to depict an abstract idea. For example, when it was first created, there was nothing inherently French about their blue, white, and red tricolor. Now, it is an iconic symbol of the country. The association came after the flag. We expect that will be the case here as well. 

Finally, it was always the hope of this project to produce something new—to move away from existing symbolism on the basis that no existing flag had taken a solid hold in the community to this point. That's not to say we don't appreciate the value of the infinity heart for polyamorous people (in particular those in Europe, it would seem based on where that critism is largely coming from). The infinity heart may well continue to have stronger and stronger associations with polyamory among the world at large—but that doesn't mean it must exist on the flag. We encourage everyone to use the symbols and flags that feel comfortable and inspiring to them. 

Why only four finalists?
From the beginning of this project, one of the primary drivers was the notion that polyamory has existed for far longer and is made up of far more people than the caucasian group in which it has in recent decades become more popular. It felt, therefore, principally important to prioritize voices of those with traditionally less decision-making power in the process of creating a new banner for our community. 

That's why we wanted a committee of diverse representatives to narrow the field of options first before putting them to a community-wide vote. The majority of voters was likely going to be english-speaking because, despite doing our best to provide translations of our plan in a variety of languages and our efforts to reach as many varied segments of the global polyamorous community, the creators of polyamproud are ourselves english-speaking. So, the majority of our content would be in English and accordingly capture a primarily english-speaking audience, whether or not that's actually reflective of the global demographics of polyamorous people. 

We knew from the jump that a vote with 10 or more flags would split the decision too much—that we might end up with a flag that was the majority of people's 4th or 5th choice. So, we always planned for the vote to include "more than two and less than seven" designs. After the initial advisory round, the committee saw 10 designs, and chose among themselves to only include those they thought were the best four, rather than including designs they didn't believe strongly simply for the sake of variety for voters. 

We considered using a bracket-style system and had a series of votes, but the demographics of those voters and number of votes would be inconsistent at each step. A single vote would maximize engagement and ensure a consistent voter base throughout. That's why we chose to hold only a single vote on a small group of designs which had been pre-selected by people whose voices were likely to have been drowned out by white polyamorous people in the vote. 

Overall statement:
Flags don't become beacons of a community overnight. That takes time, use, and persistence. We have been so proud of the engagement, excitement, and massive response from the community. With nearly 30,000 people having weighed in on these designs, we see this vote as a way to jump-start adoption of a new standard for the polyamorous community. We believe in the ability of each of these designs to become that beacon over the next decade. 


And to repeat...

Why have I been ending posts to this polyamory news site with Ukraine?

Because I've seen many progressive movements become irrelevant and die out by failing to scan the wider world correctly and understand their position in it strategically.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Some increasingly powerful people call us a threat to society — because by living successfully outside their worldview, we expose its incompleteness. Our freedom to choose our relationship structures, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's dignity to create their own lives, to access facts, and to speak of what they know.

The Russian family-cartoon series Masyanya
turned dissident. Watch. The cartoonist has fled.
Update: a brilliant sequel of turnabout, and a
message of empathy in wartime. 
Such a society is only possible where people have power to govern themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed to guarantee the rights of all.

People, communities, and societies who create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic structures and legal rights that enable them to do so safely, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States.

Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to choose their lives — by intimidation, repressive laws, inflammatory disinformation and public incitement, abuse of police power, or, eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, this site has received more pagereads from Ukraine over the years (56,400) than from any other country in eastern Europe.

For now, you can donate to Ukraine relief through this list of organizations, or many others. We're giving to a big one, Razom, and to a little one, Pizza for Ukraine in Kharkiv, a project of an old friend of my wife. (Story)


But that is only the start. For those of us born since World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetimes.

The coming times are going to require hard things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we find ourselves born into. We do get to choose how we respond to it. Buck up and be ready.

Need a little help bucking up? Play thisAnother version, on the streets of Kherson after its liberation November 11. More? Just some guys in Kharkiv (our Pizza for Ukraine town) helping to hold onto a free and open society, a shrinking thing in the world. The tossed grenade seems to have saved them. Maybe your granddad did this across a trench from Hitler's troops — for you, and for us, because a world fascist movement was successfully defeated that time, opening the way for the rest of the 2oth century. Although the outcome didn't look good for a couple of years there.

Remember, these people say they're doing it for us too. They are correct.  The global struggle between a free, open future and a fearful revival of the dark past that's shaping up, including in our own country, is still in its early stages. It's likely to get worse before it gets better. The outcome is again uncertain, and it will determine the 21st century and the handling of all its other problems.


PS: Ukraine should not be idealized as the paragon of an open democratic society. For instance, see If Ukraine Wants To Stand for Liberty and Democracy, It Should Rethink Some of Its Wartime Policies. And the country had quite a history of being run by corrupt oligarchs — until the Maidan Uprising of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, and Zelensky's overwhelming election in 2019 as the anti-corruption candidate. So they're working on that.

Now, writes US war correspondent George Packer in The Atlantic (Sept. 7),   

Here was a country with a tragic history that had at last begun to build, with great effort, a better society. What made Ukraine different from any other country I had ever seen—certainly from my own—was its spirit of constant self-improvement, which included frank self-criticism. For example, there’s no cult of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine—a number of Ukrainians told me that he had made mistakes, that they’d vote against him after the war was won. Maxim Prykupenko, a hospital director in Lviv, called Ukraine “a free country aspiring to be better all the time.” The Russians, he added, “are destroying a beautiful country for no logical reason to do it. Maybe they are destroying us just because we have a better life.”

They have a word there, with a deep history, for the horizontal, self-organized mutual get-it-done that grows from community social trusthromada. Learn that word. It's getting them through as well as they've been able. We polyfolks often dream of creating something like that community spirit in miniature, in our polycules and networks. Occasionally we succeed.

Social attitudes in Ukraine are generally traditional, but not bitterly so like often in the US; the ideal of modern European civil society is widely treasured, and social progressivism has room to thrive. More than 40,000 women volunteers reportedly serve all roles in the armed forces, including as combat officers, platoon leadersartillery gunners, tankers, and snipers. LGBT folx in the armed forces openly wear symbols of LGBT pride on their uniforms, whereas in Russia it can be a crime for even a civilian to show a rainbow pin.

They will require our long-continued support. 

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Anonymous Jim Catano said...

I would vote for the first one if there were four recognizable hearts coming together at the center. None of the offerings, despite being worthy attempts, really floats my boat.

November 19, 2022 12:37 PM  

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