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

December 21, 2022

Poly at the holidays

One of the adorkable Polyamorous Platypus cards and items

It's that jumping time of year when multi-partnershipping often means exponential multi-scheduling and family-of-origin drama management. And every year, up comes lots of good advice about all this from the polyam community.

But first, a heart-warmer: 

●  I wasn’t allowed to celebrate holidays growing up. Now, I revel in hosting my queer, polyamorous family. This appeared in The Lily ("stories central to the everyday lives of millennial women"), the Washington Post's reimagining of the 19th-century feminist paper of the same name. (Nov. 23, 2021)

By Patricia Fancher

I’m preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving as I have for the past several years, with my extended queer, polyamorous family. My husband will make Norwegian cardamom buns, and his girlfriend wants to try a new Brussels sprouts recipe. My husband’s girlfriend’s boyfriend is committed to roasting a duck and making eggnog that no one else will drink. Her husband isn’t going to cook. We’ll make him wash the dishes.

Painting of three pairs of hands holding hands on a holiday-dinner table.
The Lily
...Polyamory is a nontraditional relationship structure where people have multiple relationships that can be sexual, romantic, casual, platonic or some mixture of all of these things. Each person practices polyam differently. My polyamory takes the word rather literally. I have many loves. While my entire polyam family celebrates our togetherness in nontraditional ways, for me, holidays are especially unconventional because I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness growing up in the 1990s in South Carolina.

...When I was 20, I was excommunicated and completely cut off from my family. The command to “quit touching the unclean thing” extends to people, even family. When I had sex, I became the unclean thing that my community, even my mother, refused to touch. The part of me that was broken when my family of origin rejected me gets a little closer to being whole each time I celebrate holidays with my chosen family.

This year, my crush of more than a year is bringing the cranberry sauce. They are now my dear friend, writing partner and occasionally more than a friend. Last year, I found joy during the pandemic when I fell in love with a nurse, and I celebrated all the locked-down holidays with him and his wife. Our romantic relationship ended as the world shifted toward normal, but our love still brings me joy. His wife will make multiple pies in my kitchen on Thursday....

The value of our polyam family isn’t in its stability, but rather that we choose each other even when we change, relationships change, feelings change. The power is in the choosing. There’s no obligation. I can only offer invitation and acceptance.

Next year, our Thanksgiving guests may be different. My ex, the nurse, and his wife may choose to visit family in Colorado. My husband’s girlfriend may prioritize another partner or her family. These choices are ours to make. For me, the beauty is in making space for us to gather and also making space for each person to make their own choices.

Polyam family is like any family. We get our hearts broken. We have petty fights and legitimate conflicts. We complain about one another from time to time. We don’t choose one another because we’re perfect. Chosen family means choosing complex humans, including our faults and struggles. It’s vulnerable to build a family with deeply flawed humans. But there’s no other option.

After a childhood spent learning to say no, deny pleasure and abstain from anything possibly unholy, I’ve learned to revel in life’s abundant pleasures. My polyam family amazes me with each of their capacities for love. It’s not easy to be vulnerable. We open ourselves, share love, swim in pleasure, sometimes get hurt.

...My community reminds me that the scarcity mind-set that tells us we can only have one love, that we must compete for our lover’s attention, is a lie. There’s always an abundance of love if you have the courage to be vulnerable. And the courage to share.

Ty, Jennifer, Daniel

By Jennifer Martin

I'm polyamorous, and I live with my two partners, Daniel and Ty, and our two kids, D and H. When it comes to the holidays, we try to take a fair and equitable position and see as many relatives as possible. It takes some finesse and a lot of scheduling, but we do it.

With two partners, you have two sets of in-laws, which means instead of juggling two places to go for holidays, we have to consider three places — or more, depending on how those relatives are dispersed. ... I luckily enjoy planning. We try to ensure that our holidays go as smoothly as possible, especially for our children. But we have limited space, limited time, and limited income. So how do we do it?

Our holiday schedule.... 


●  Navigating Holiday Events with Multiple Partners is a practical step-by-step from Dee Morgan of the PolyamProud group (Oct. 17):

...For all the many holiday movies, there’s not a lot that deals with this particular scenario: talking to whomever’s hosting that big meal about how to bring not just partner A, but also partners B and C (and possibly partner A’s other partner as well…). Or how to gracefully decline seeing family, because they were rude and unwelcoming last time. Or how to arrange your own celebration with all the people you love, and that they love. Or how to navigate a celebration day alone, as your partner has prior obligations with their other partner…

Graphic of three people together knocking on the door of a house.

For many polyamorous people, or those in open relationships/ consensually non-monogamous, the lack of models and stories that aren’t couple- or monogamy-oriented has meant working all this out for the first time.... What’s suggested here may provide a starting point for things to consider and to discuss.

1: What do you want? Given an ideal world, what would you like to do on the holiday days? Are there people you’d like to have a meal with – or spend time with at an event? Would you prefer to hang out at home and play boardgames and read books, or to go to the beach and surf? Is it important to you to see your partners on particular days, or simply at some point? Consider this, and then…

2: Talk to your partners. Do any of them have plans already? ....This is where shared calendars can come in handy, as people try to mesh their desires with the practicalities of time limitations.

3: Are there any potential conflict areas? This could be wanting (and able) to take multiple partners to a family event, but the family not being aware of the importance of each person to you. Consider if this is a situation where it’s worth being upfront and bearing the possible judgement, or if you can stand a day where yourself or a partner is considered ‘just a flatmate’ or ‘just a friend’. There’s no right or wrong answer here; it’s about what’s the least stressful for those involved. ...

Even if everyone in the family knows that you’re polyam, and who your partners are, there can still be awkwardness. Are you comfortable holding two partners’ hands on the sofa? Is your great-grandmother comfortable with it? ... (This is an ongoing issue for queer people as well, with actions that are ‘fine’ for a heteronormative couple taking on more ‘sexualised’ overtones, even when functionally identical.)

Another potential conflict area is a partner or metamour feeling unacknowledged during discussions, or that their plans aren’t considered as important as your own. ... If you’re in a hierarchical relationship, make sure your secondary’s plans aren’t subsumed into your own – they have rights and needs as well.

4: Consider your budget. ... Different people and households have different discretionary spending, and this can be brought into sharp relief when exchanging gifts. 

5: Alone for the holidays? ...Perhaps a phone call or video chat can be arranged. If you’re seeing family or friends, you can make note of funny or memorable experiences that you can share with your partners later (as they can share theirs with you). If you’re staying home, be gentle with yourself, and remember you’re loved and cared for – these are people who appreciate having you in their life. ...

Morgan includes quite a bibliography of further articles. Go browse 'em:

●  Family Holidays for Non-Anchor Partnersby Phoebe Philips

Give your Relatives the Benefit of the Doubt. If your dad has to ask you yet again who this new person is – even though you have been dating them for the past three years and your dad just met for the fourth time at your birthday party a couple of months ago -- try to stifle the dramatic sigh and explain kindly that you are dating this person, and yes, your/their spouse knows about it. Polyamory can be a foreign and confusing concept for many people....

Unless they are obviously trying to be rude or hurtful, try to cultivate patience and forgiveness for family members who are slow to grasp the true nature of your relationships.

Have an Escape Plan. When the benefit of the doubt has been stretched to its breaking point... be sure you can get away. Whether it is taking a walk, making a grocery store run, or returning to the sanctuary of a hotel room....

●  Poly Survival Guide for the Holidays, by Kathy Labriola

...Tip Five: Whatever amount of holiday events and activities you THINK you can do, decide to do LESS than that! ...

Tip Six: Don’t make the holidays into a test, because if you do, your partners will fail that test. ...

Step 1 or I should say Step 0, in making holidays work in a polyamorous constellation, is to get all expectations out in the open....

●  Polyamory at the Holidays, by Laura Boyle

...How comfortable is your polycule spending time together? If you’re a very kitchen-table oriented polycule, some holiday questions will be simpler. If everyone is comfortable being in the same spaces, and there are multiple options of spaces, it opens planning way up....

●  In Polyamorous holidays: When you’re the secondary, Noël Figart takes a reader's letter:

...He’s told at least his mother that he’s dating someone, but she has essentially bent over backwards to ignore our relationship. Although we don’t subscribe to an emotional hierarchy, there’s still the functional/social hierarchy of him living with her, being accepted by his family, etc., and holidays really seem to heighten that glitch in the matrix.

My own biological family lives too far away for me to spend time with. ...

●  Ideas for Polyamory Holidays, by Jess Mahler

...Host the Party Yourself. First heard this idea from a friend on a polyamory forum and couldn’t believe it never occurred to me. ...

Rotate Holidays...
Each Visit Your Own Family...
Create Your Own Thing...

●  Here's What Thanksgiving Is Really Like When You're Polyamorous: Kae Burdo collects people's stories. For instance,

...We are also a divorced family, with the child's birthday falling on or around Thanksgiving every year. Every year, our polycule decides on 'what to do' by throwing out ideas and seeing what we all like. Sometimes the fall and winter have already been so stressful that the idea of hosting ourselves is daunting.

When we do host, we give priority to guests who have no other place to go, and extra priority to Trans/NB, to POC and to the city's youth. reating an environment of warmth and support for our partners and the folks they know is important. It's equally as important to create an environment where people feel safe to speak on any topic, and in giving priority as we have, we have avoided a lot of drama. We find this collaborative process to be gentle and soothing. We can't control much of the holidays, but how we communicate and flow together is the gift we give each other...

●  Poly for the Holidays, by Elisabeth Sheff

Give your Relatives the Benefit of the Doubt

If your dad has to ask you yet again who this new person is – even though you have been dating them for the past three years and your dad just met for the fourth time at your birthday party a couple of months ago -- try to stifle the dramatic sigh and explain kindly that you are dating this person, and yes, your/their spouse knows about it. Polyamory can be a foreign and confusing concept for many people....

Unless they are obviously trying to be rude or hurtful, try to cultivate patience and forgiveness for family members who are slow to grasp the true nature of your relationships.

Have an Escape Plan
When the benefit of the doubt has been stretched to its breaking point... be sure you can get away. Whether it is taking a walk, making a grocery store run, or returning to the sanctuary of a hotel room....

  And this from Polyfulcrum does need saying again:

...I am strongly in favor of not coming out at major family events!!! There is a certain sick draw toward dropping the poly nuclear bomb at such occasions. Resist the temptation! ...Tell people in smaller groups. Answer the questions, deal with the shock and awe, and be prepared to have people tell you that they always knew there was something different about you/ going on. Then, by the time the next family gathering comes along it's part of the family fabric; weird fabric, but hey, there's always got to be an eccentric, right?

...We finished [Thanksgiving] weekend by hosting a meal here that was open to our friends in the poly community, as they often stand in as our family of choice (particularly for me, as I don't have relations close by). It was much more satisfying than the mandatory family event, because it was a conscious choice.

BTW, among all the authors above, women outnumber men 13 to 0. Not too unusual for poly writers and public figures, but on the holidays topic, a stronger tilt than the average of about 3 or 4 to 1.

● Not the first poly holiday bingo card and not the last. This one's from attorney Stacey McClarty of ChosenFamilyLawTX.

And a couple old faves of the season:

●  Sometimes you can't tell if Kimchi Cuddles is being her usually bubbly, helpful self or sliding a sly knife of snark  — in this case, regarding secondary-stranding:

● When Bone Poets Orchestra played the Poly Living West convention in Seattle a dozen years ago, lead singer Chris Bingham declared from the stage that any band hoping for commercial success (something that has eluded BPO) must do a Christmas song. Here are Chris and life partner Sue Tinney...

...from a video directed by Terisa Greenan, with "Christmas Down South (of your Mason-Dixon Line)". Also starring um-friends indoors. 

Bone Poets Orchestra and its previous incarnation as Gaia Consort produced some poly-themed songs across many years. These deserve to be heard. To listen to a selection, see Footnote 1 below.

●  And it wouldn't be the season without another reprise of....

Anne Hunter (in hat) and partners, of PolyVic in Australia, made this Christmas classic in 2007. The final verse:

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Twelve minutes alone (sigh)--
Eleven Christmas dinners
Ten jealousy cures
Nine long discussions
Eight dozen condoms
Seven Google Calendars
Six-handed mas-sage
Five, Ethical, Sluts!

Four sandwich hugs
Three-way snogs
Too much attention
And a quick course in polyamor-ee!


Again from Polyamorous Platypus


1.  Some poly songs from Bone Poets Orchestra / Gaia Consort:

● Their devotional Three [lyrics] [mp3] was an informal theme song of the annual Loving More East retreats.
Family [lyrics] [mp3] was used in the soundtrack of the poly documentary "When Two Won't Do" (2002) and later became the theme song of "Family" the poly-household web TV series (2008-09).
Move to the Country [lyrics] [mp3] is a friendly self-satire.
● Another satire: Perils of Poly [lyrics] [mp3] "Oh, if we all dream together/ Can we nightmare too?"
● Moving and deep: Goodnight [lyrics] [mp3].
Yes! [lyrics] [mp3].

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And now,

“This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live, and then their children and grandchildren. It will define whether it will be a democracy for Ukrainians and for Americans.

Volodymyr Zelensky to the U.S. Congress a few minutes ago (Dec. 21).

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

Because I've seen many good 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. 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 totally 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
coda 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, abusive police powers, or eventually, artillery and terror.

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 vetted 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, we unexpectedly find ourselves witnessing the most consequential war of our lifetimes. Because we have entered another time when calculating fascism, at home and abroad, is rising and sees freedom and liberalism and social tolerance as weak, delusional  inviting easy pushovers. As Russia thought it saw in Ukraine.

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 the night 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 it has quite the 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. Some 57,000 women volunteer in all roles in the armed forces, flooding a traditionally male bastion, 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's a crime for even a civilian to show a rainbow pin or "say gay."

And in November, Russia made it a crime not just to speak for LGBT recognition, but for "non-traditional sexual relations." Just recently Russia had a lively polyamory education and awareness movement.

Polyfolks are like one ten-thousandth of what's at stake globally. Ukraine must receive our steady support. Speak up and demand it.

"Defenders of Bakhmut," the city where Zelensky spoke to soldiers near the front line a day before he spoke to Congress. They gave him a battle flag that they signed, which he presented to Nancy Pelosi. Art by Natasha Le in Mikolaiv, who reinterprets traditional guardian angels as riot grrls for an upcoming generation.

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