Saturday, February 14, 2009

Open Forum: Where Does Polyamory Fit into the Queer Movement?

Parts of the LGBT community have been quick to embrace polyamory - relationships with multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all involved. Others feel that polyamory is just another form of "licensed cheating" and for them monogamy is critical.

There is a lot of internal debate about the ethics and rights of poly families. Is gay marriage the first step, would you go on to fight on behalf of polyamorous families? Is a family only a two person structure a mom/dad, mom/mom, dad/dad, or can there be triads and quads of people who all love each other and raise children?

How does polyamory fit into the mold of the LGBT movement for political rights, is it a distraction, is it not feasible, or is it a new minority within that deserves attention. Regardless of your viewpoint please be respectful of others.


Anonymous said...

Well full disclosure, it's what my partner and I do and it works great for us and I like a lot of the personally applied politics of not regulating the heart with social frameworks. It's also invaluable for mixed-orientation relationships.

In fact, I think the only thing that would make anyone shrug their shoulders is probably the fact that the community is in a big battle to have basic monogamous pair-relationships recognized against an enemy pretty much only looking for an excuse rather than a real opposition point. So I get the notion behind the "not yet" and "keep it quiet" in the community until we get through the first hurdles and I expect that push will only get louder the closer we get to the inevitable breaking point of general acceptance.

So politically, it can be seen problematic to be out and supportive, but personally, it's a very healthy and relaxing framework that still allows one to live monogamous if that's the way it is. Further full disclosure, me and my partner are poly, but I suspect I'd be unlikely to have extra partners for various reasons.

On children raising, I imagine it would be an even more healthy situation. The nuclear family is a really new and kind of extreme set-up. Families for the longest time were more diffused and expansive. Seeing various raising strategies, what seems to be best for the kids is to make sure the parents are happy, supported, and mentally healthy and respectful of each other. The rest seems to fall in line from there. Some of the most abusive families I've seen were the most traditional, the least, the least traditional. I see no reason why this wouldn't carry over into poly, though I'll tell you differently if I've ruined my kid in 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Oh, which fight first?

Probably gay marriages as it has the most public support, though I'd like to see more laying of the groundwork (and maybe participating in that groundwork laying myself) for recognition and respect for poly, because the mono forced choice seems to be making as many people miserable as forced gender role heterosexuality does. Expanding options usually leads directly to greater support among the masses and would help fight chronic ailments in our society such as cheating, feeling "trapped" in relationships, and sexphobia.

So I'd argue devote the main push to the close fight but resist the urge to forcibly disappear the polyamorous and let them bring the notion as well. At best, it may split the attention of the sex-haters much like how they've had less energy to throw at anti-choice measures while they've been trying to battle the homos.

Gary47a said...

Polyamory is very clearly a behavior, or choice, not an orientation. If has nothing to do with GLBT.

Addressing poly directly: if you are talking about sex, then there is no legal or social issue. People are legally allowed to have any form of sex they want with consenting adults in private. If your spouse objects to you being poly, it can lead to divorce, and is unlikely to be removed as a legal basis for divorce.

Practically: who is next of kin, if you have a poly relationship? Marriage is about kinship, not sex. Poly's will have to address the problem of next-of-kin if they want to sell the concept

MoonRaven said...

As someone who is both bi and poly, I think that polyamory is not a queer phenomena, not really part of the GLBT movement (as Gary47a says, it's a choice not an orientation), but I also think that poly (like kink) is another part of the sexuality spectrum and should have queer support. I agree with Cerberus about the importance of "expanding options" and I suspect that many of the gay marriage people who argue against polyamory are those that want to assimilate into the mainstream, who argue that 'gays are just like everyone else'--for them polyamorous relationships are very threatening.

I also agree with Cerberus that in the current political climate, just pushing for gay marriage is a big deal, and agree with the assessment that 'not yet' is the best strategy. Unfortunately, I don't know how quiet we can keep polyamory because there are archconservatives who are using poly and the 'slippery slope' to argue against gay marriage--ie, saying that if gay marriage is recognized soon we will want polygamy--and then trotting out poly literature to show that there really are polyamorous advocates out there. So I feel like I am validating their scare tactics when I say that I do hope that polyamorous families will be recognized and supported some day and I hope that queer folk will support them, but when we talk about valuing all families, it's got to mean *all* families, poly families included.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that polyamory is different things to different people. What you describe, with multiple people all living together and raising children, is one model, and I know at least one family that works this way. But a lot of people are polyamorous in other ways. There's also a difference between poly and open relationship. The "licensed cheating" argument doesn't really apply when people are committed to each other, but recognize that multiple partners are okay. I am a person who can be happy in either monogamous or polyamorous relationships. I'm super-honest, and whatever the rules are, I play by them. I have no desire personally to have multiple partners, but my life is very full and I'm happy to be someone's "secondary partner." That arrangement works better for some people than a monogamous relationship where I prefer to only see them a few times a month. I'm not, however, comfortable with an open relationship, because of STDs and for other reasons as well. If my partner is interested in having another partner, then that's great, and I'd encourage them to date, but I would rather not be with someone who has frequent one night stands, etc. I like to negotiate these things on a case-by-case basis and talk about it. That's just me, though. I support whatever people do that makes them happy and keeps them safe!

libhom said...

Male monogamy is a myth.

Sofia said...

Polyamory is a choice? Since when did love become a choice, queer community? I thought our motto was "you can't choose who you love." What if who you love is 2, 3, or 10 people? Can you choose not to love all but 1 of them? If that's the case, just choose not to love even that 1 person and sexuality isn't a problem for anyone. Sounds a lot like the ex-gay movement to me.

Next of kin is already a complicated, many-tiered issue. Who is next of kin for a single person with 2 living parents? What about someone with no living parents and 9 living siblings? There's a framework in place for handling such situations, so no new solution needs to be proposed.

Anonymous said...

Thia is a problematic question. As someone who is bi and poly, I support marriage for anyone who wants it, but I've been rather dismayed by the way that gay monogamists seem quite willing to throw polyamorists under the bus in their quest for marriage rights.

Mickbic said...

I consider myself monosexual, post-sexual, asexual and also poly. But all of that seems to be a threat to the status quo where men in their fifties are expected to want Viagra even if they aren't in a sexual relationship. The slippery slope of the Bible thumpers is real and must be handled carefully.

Anonymous said...

As a poly-folk I would like to first say that many of us believe that it *is* an orientation for many of us, and for others it may be a choice. This comes up often enough on poly discussion lists. There is however another suggestion that if one feels compelled to make that choice, one might most likely be oriented that way in the first place. For me it was as undeniable as being bi. While I realize there's a party line out there that states it's not possible to be bi, and that those that claim they are, are just gay wannabees, I decline that projection/rejection as well.

That being said, I'm not sure that poly-rights belong in the LGBTQ rights movement right now...unless we're broadening the focus to sexual freedom rights for all individuals regardless of orientation.

Also, actually, in some states certain activities between 2 consenting adults behind the closed bedroom door are still illegal.

Namaste': Tara Shakti

Anonymous said...

All I have to say about polyamory is that everyone's commitments are different. Just because I'm monogamous doesn't mean my commitment to my husband means more than someone else's commitment to their loves. Everyone's relationships have their own meanings, their own commitments, their own rules. It is of no business to anyone but theirs.

Anita Wagner Illig said...

Great discussion! Tara got it right- there is no evidence whatsoever that supports the notion that polyamory is purely a choice. I am bisexual, identify as polyamorous, and know many people who feel very deeply that polyamory isn't just what they do but who they are. There are others for whom it is indeed a choice - they can take it or leave it. Not so for everyone, but indeed so for others. That's where the comparisons between desiring members of one's own gender and desiring more than one open and honest partnership break down. I know being gay isn't a choice for anybody. No variance there, but there is one for poly people.

All that said, what's wrong with choice anyway? I realize it's been used as a red herring against GLBTs for ages, and the movement chose to fight that assertion with the "we CAN'T choose, it's who we are" response. But in reality, shouldn't we all have the right to make the sex-and-relationship choices that work best for us, if indeed that's what they are/were?

OrbitalDiamonds said...

Neither my pansexuality nor my polyamory are a choice, and I wouldn't have it any other way. And for damn sure I'll be fighting for multiple-partner marriage either during or after the fight for dual-partner marriage equality.

I'm still a part of the GLBTQ community...right?

Anonymous said...

No you're not and you shouldn't be.

Polyamory is not an orientation and it does not belong anywhere near GLBTQ rights or activism. A lack of self control is not an orientation.

Marriage is about commitment and monogamy. As a gay man if I get married, of course I'm going to be attracted to other men but I'm not going to have sex with them or fall in love with them or try to sugar coat it as some kind of "open relationship" that "we all consent too".

Polyamory is no different from polygamy or polyandry or any other form of group marriage it's dangerous. Of course all of the Poly people will make the same arguments that polygamists make, that "we all consent" that "we are all equal" that "we all love each other". In theory that sounds wonderful but the reality of the situation is that
It causes numerous psychiatric disorders in both adults and the children produced and subsequently trapped in these "relationships".

If you don't believe me look it up in the academic journals yourselves.

Anonymous said...

"A lack of self control is not an orientation."

Why should poly folk have a greater lack of self control than monogamous people? Self control is the ability to choose and regulate one's own behavior, right? So, if I'm polyamorous (and I am), my choice to be open to honestly and openly loving more than one person at a time is an exercise in self-control. Polyamorists aren't "out of control," they/we are simply capable of loving more people at a time than just one--and think that's plenty okay.

It's very strange--and sad--to me to see a gay man come across with such venom at another sexual/relatoinal minority!

"it's dangerous"

That's what the bigots say about gay/queer folk, right?

And they also toss around claims about mental illness of the sort you have done, above. They are wrong about that, and so are you, sir.

James R. Martin
Moderator at

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