Page 1

ModernPoly: Winter Edition

ModernPoly: Winter Edition

January 2014

Page

1

Odd Girl Out: Life in the Open as a Queer Poly Femme

Page

4

The Poly Trailer

Page

8

A Hickey in the Sunlight: The Story of a Metaphysical Outlaw

Page

6

Coming Out of Hiding: Understanding stereotypes while maintaining privacy

Page

11

Polyamory As Orientation (And Why It Works For Me)

Odd Girl Out: Life in the Open as a Queer Poly Femme Coming out is a big decision, especially when you have to do it more than once. Avie Saenz compares her different experiences in coming out as a queer femme as well as polyamorous, and explores how coming out changed her life as a writer – and could change yours too! When you're in the closet, you carry your secret with you, marking you as different from everyone else. The reception I got coming out of the closet made me feel like I was just like anyone else – I could talk about my relationships as much or as little as anyone else would. Once I made the decision that I wanted to be accepted by others, I just had to stop

making the extra effort to hide. Making a space where I can be openly poly didn't require a lot of special effort on my part. I've never been the sort of person to talk about my relationships much, so prying insinuations don't come up very often. Really, my outness is mostly the product of neglect and luck. Neglect, exemplified when my primary's

mother read one of my Modern Poly articles when I linked to it on Facebook (figuring it would be ignored), and then mentioned it to me over a casual dinner. I was mostly just starstruck that anyone was paying attention to my writing career, more than being surprised that she now knew about and acknowledged our non-monogamy. I am also lucky,


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

because I happen to be in a position in life where I have an accepting family, live in a permissive community, don't have to worry about endangering my professional life (being in an 'alternative lifestyle' may be to my benefit as a writer), and on top of that, I have at least one polyamorous relative. I don't pretend that coming out as non-monogamous will be as easy for anyone else as it has been for me. I acknowledge that I have less to lose than others do – I only have my own reputation to look out for, while others have families, children, and careers at stake. What I can say about being out is that it feels, believe it or not, entirely normal. I think feeling normal and at ease in your own daily life is something that most of us can agree is a good thing and worth aspiring to. So, if you're considering coming out in any capacity, I warmly encourage you to do it because of the incredible sense of relief and acceptance that comes with it. Although my coming out as polyamorous was easy, my first coming out, as queer, wasn't exactly smooth sailing. It took years of testing the waters and at times, I had to conceal my relationships from acquaintances. Growing up, I was never the first person to break the queer bubble in our groups of friends; I always waited for someone else to come out first. In that regard, I am still lucky, because I naturally grew into groups that proved themselves to be accepting, even if I wasn't the one to test their boundaries. However, due to my femme identy, I have faced resistance from others. For example, as a teenager, I once tested the waters one April first with a declaration: “I'm gay.” When I was met with a moment of awkward silence, I rescinded. “April Fools!” The response to that cut deep: “I knew you were joking, you don't look like a gay person.” In that moment I learned that to some people, the possibility of someone like me existing, queer and feminine, was nil. To some people, I am still invisible – it doesn't matter if they see me physically flirting with a woman, I am still the straight friend at the gay bar. My

2

January 2014

existence is improbable. It is a phenomena known as femme erasure. As a queer femme, I deal with erasure from both other queer people as well as heterosexuals. The definition of femme is hard to precisely pin down, and much like polyamory, femme can be expressed in many different ways – and there are many other blogs and other resources that explore in depth what can mean to identify as femme.

To me, femme is form of meta-aware gender expression. Because I am queer, I view femininity through a queer lens, and I intentionally choose to express my femininity without being subject to the heterosexual gaze. Because in the culture at large, female feminine expression is coded as “straight” or “normal,” while female androgyny or masculinity are coded as “queer,” my performance of femininity is often overlooked as a queer identity – I am mistaken for a straight girl in both communities. This erasure is further compounded by the fact that I am not exclusively lesbian, a fact which both communities also deride as proof of my illegitimacy. With years of struggling to legitimize my queer identity in the eyes of society, and being regarded as invisible, I at first felt that coming out as poly, an identity that many people have not even heard of, would be a daunting task. While the LGBTQ rights movement has made leaps and bounds in the last decade, non-mongamy is still relatively unknown, and sometimes even marginalized in discussions of gay marriage. For example, many proponents have claimed that gay people just want to have “normal families” – the image being of two monogamous adults and children, insinuating that anything else would be less worthy of acceptance. Detractors have claimed that allowing gay marriage would be a slippery slope to polygamy. With these cultural attitudes in mind, I had no assurance that people who accepted my queerness would also be receptive to polyamory. When I had finally come to terms with the worst possible outcomes to revealing my poly identity, I took the leap of faith and began to reveal that aspect of my life to those around me. I took a leap of faith and landed softly. I had taken for granted, for example, the history of open relationships that has existed in the gay community- which many of my queer


ModernPoly: Winter Edition friends alluded to to reassure me after I came out to them. I took for granted the possibility that my family, though not perfect, who had supported my identity and relationships in the past, could continue to do so even though there was more than one in my life. In coming out, I demonstrated to everyone I knew that someone like me could exist. Being out is as simple as changing your relationship status on Facebook or keeping pictures of your partners on your desk at work, or as complicated as negotiating family relationships and living conditions. Being out means different things to different people. For me, being out doesn't entail bringing up my polyamory or queerness at every opportunity, but rather a sense of quiet confidence acknowledging the effect that my relationships have on my life and that they are as valid as more traditional relationship structures. An example of this self-validation is my posting of my Modern Poly writings to Facebook – it is relevant to those who support me as a writer that I am being published somewhere. It is as legitimate as writing about any other topic, so I feel it appropriate to share these articles rather than hide the progress of my career.

January 2014

Avie Saenz Writer- Active Contributor

Avie is pursuing a degree in Creative Writing at a big university in the Southwest. She currently has two cats, a number of lovers, and an even greater number of novels unfinished. Her primary creative interests are fusing the style of Western literature with the stark landscape of contemporary city life, sexuality, and classical archetypes.

Both of my coming outs were unique experiences, and coming out as queer certainly paved the way for me to come out as poly. After the initial awkwardness of coming out as a queer femme, I had prepared myself for the worst. It ended up not being as much of a stretch to be accepted for another nuance to my identity as I had feared. The shift from anxious closeted living to being out in the open is an initially scary one to pursue, but the potential for relief that follows coming out is palpable. It will become easier to come out more after you have taken that first scary step towards asking others to accept you, however that may manifest. Change that relationship status, share that article you just read, or boldly use the word “polyamorous” in reference to yourself – or whatever your label may be, whenever you are ready. In asking others to accept you, you are also opening up the opportunity for them to accept other people who might be like you; you are building a safer community for all of us. Most importantly, don't let yourself be burdened by internalized guilt or shame about the way you love. Until you try, you never know if it could just be another casual family dinner topic.

3


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

January 2014

The Poly Trailer Can observing a potential partner's polyamorous relationships determine whether someone is a good partners? The author compares this poly trailer — the treatment of other partners — to a movie trailer.

I remember once hearing the advice, "If you want to know how a man will treat you as his wife, take a look at how he treats his mother." This mostly seemed like comically bad advice to me (and still does). I actively hope there are no similarities in the way a man treats a woman who may very well have ignored, neglected, or abused him his entire life growing up, and the way he treats me--a woman who intends to do none of those things and who intends to have copious amounts of sex with him to boot. But if not to mothers, where to look for a preview of how people might behave in a relationship? I used to think that the only real way to gauge someone’s relationship potential was to investigate his or her exes. Although consulting an ex is usually awkward and can, at best, provide a dubious representation of someone’s relationship skills, a little observation can help determine if he or she has a string of broken-hearted lovers, one really long relationship that just didn't work out, etc. This information may be useful in figuring out a potential partner’s relationship history, but it doesn't necessarily say much about where the person has ended up today. But lo and behold! Polyamory appears to offer the solution to this problem! For polyamory affords us the opportunity to preview relationships that people are in now before getting into one. No more nonsense about how a man treats his mother before making him your boyfriend: far more useful to know how he treats his wife, or even his other girlfriends! You can see how your potential partner acts as a partner, not in entirely irrelevant emotional roles. It’s useful to see what he or she is like in love, how he or she treat other partners, and if you run in the right circles, you can often get a preview of whether someone’s sexual… preferences… are compatible with your own. You can also often get a sense for whether someone is “good at relationships” in general, most particularly if he or she seem to be good at communication. But as handy as it might be to observe someone in a relationship and sexual dynamic with someone else and speculate and/or fantasize about what their relationship and sexual dynamic with you might look like, the reality is that people usually treat partners—both romantic and

4

sexual partners—very differently from one another (and the people who don’t usually don’t manage to keep partners for very long). The preview you get of someone else’s relationship and of sexual habits with their other partners is about as accurate as most movie trailers, which is to say, not very. The problem is that relationships are two-way dynamics: your potential partner might be awesome at being in a relationship with his wife because his wife is awesome, or because as a couple, they have some mystical connection that allows them to communicate near-psychically. Sadly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to be any good in a relationship with you. The converse is even truer, in my experience: it’s easy to judge someone as a bad potential partner based on your observations of him or her with other people, but it might just be that the relationship your potential partner has with that person just isn’t very good. I know I’ve been in a couple of relationships that weren’t very great (and I would have told anyone who asked me in confidence), and I would have hated for theoretical potential partners to generalize my behavior in relationships from those examples. Sometimes people just aren’t very attracted to their partners; sometimes they don’t get along that great; sometimes they think they have a great connection and later realize they really didn’t; sometimes they’re in a casual relationship, but would behave very differently in a more serious relationship. Regardless, the relationship they’re in that looks bad to you might look even worse to them. The comparisons may be starkest when people are in


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

long-term (5+ year) relationships; sometimes people started relationships at a point when they and their partner were a lot less mature, and the relationship didn’t mature along with the individuals in it. Then, in much the same way that going to your parents’ house or hanging out with the friends you haven’t hung out with since high school just seems to make you way less mature, the relationship becomes a frozen snapshot of a less mature period of the person’s life. The person might still like it anyway, or he or she might really be ready to move on, once presented with the realization.

I always used to have a rule for myself in reference to the poly trailer: having observed someone in a variety of unappealing relationships, never convince yourself that you’re special enough to be their ‘exception’ (i.e. their one good relationship). (This rule was sort of a subset under the “never date someone expecting to change them” rule). I’ve loosened up on that rule over time. Now it’s more, “cautiously lower your expectations with someone who has an unappealing dating history.” I’ve learned that (surprise, surprise!) some partners treat me kinda like they seem to treat their other partners (whether for good or ill), and some partners treat me very differently than they treat their other partners (whether for good or ill). And of course, if you expect someone to behave a certain negative way in a relationship, you often make a negative outcome more likely—even if their behavior remains essentially unchanged.

January 2014

Elenorofa Writer- Active Contributor Active Contributor

Elenorofa has a Ph.D. in Sociology and is a professor at a university in Washington, D.C. She is a P^3 (pansexual polyamorous pagan) and blogs about sex, kink, and polyamory extensively on fetlife as IPCookieMonster and has a personal blog at slutphd.com. Her current research focuses on the BDSM scene, polyamory, and paganism. When not busy "working," she is usually busy spinning fire with her troupe HVBRIS or poledancing.

The reality of the poly trailer is that it is probably only sufficient to help you avoid the really bad eggs. For instance, I know one guy who—without being really abusive—just seems to ruin women as a hobby, and I don’t think I’d have guessed that without observing him in action. Let’s say, I’ve watched him ruin enough women that I really don’t want to find out if I’m the exception to a very obvious rule. But when it comes to telling the difference between people you think you might want to date, and people you think might be a bit of a bad idea, the poly trailer is no more helpful or accurate than most movie trailers are at helping you make a really good decision about going to see a movie you’re on the fence about. You usually only ever really get a glimpse of someone else’s relationship dynamics—because you never see what people are like in private—and you never know what someone will be like in a relationship with you until you try. I still think the poly trailer is more useful than seeing how potential partners treat their parents, but it has the added risk of letting you think it’s more accurate than it actually is. It’s just a preview, nothing more.

5


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

January 2014

Coming Out of Hiding: Understanding stereotypes while maintaining privacy Because she blends in so well with her straight, monogamous neighbors, the author discusses how she is true to herself and her activist interests, while maintaining appropriate social boundaries and personal privacy. She explores questions like why we use stereotypes, what limits stereotypes have and how to appropriately utilize social media. As a brunette, blue-eyed classic beauty, I am the victim of stereotypes. Though my interests align more with the gauged-eared, tattooed, pierced, spiked, black-clad alternative crowd, I do not look the part, besides perhaps my fondness for wearing red lipstick. Stereotypes are just impressions of a certain group of people. They are generalizations by nature and do not apply to individuals. After all, not every polyamorous individual is, in fact, tattooed and pierced with a weakness for Hot Topic attire, just like not every soccer mom with a minivan has only PTA meetings and her kids’ sporting events on her Google calendar. Yet we all use stereotypes daily. Even me. So it seems that everyone is a victim of stereotypes. In spite of their superficiality, stereotypes do have a purpose. They are not judgments. They are labels we create to organize the world. They help us process information more quickly, conclude a rough first impression of common interests, and decide what social or behavioral constructs to use while interacting. We form stereotypes from our own interactions, and when we learn new information about an individual, we adjust our perception of the person. So here's the scene: we all walk around, weaving in and out of a crowd, brushing against people who may or may not meet the requirements that we consider "normal," or part of our most familiar stereotype category. When we recognize that a person belongs in another group, then other stereotypes are added to the mental list for that person. Like for instance, I once worked as a waitress. Chatty customers would ask me what college I was attending, partly, I imagine, because I look younger than I am, but also because there is an assumption, a stereotype, that young waitresses are generally working while they are in school. I imagine that these customers had to adjust their perception of me after I told them that I did, in fact, already have a biology degree. As tools that everyone uses, stereotypes surround us, help us ... but

6

cannot define us as individuals. Stereotypes cause a problem for people like me who belong in a newly formed, blooming stereotype. We have to correct someone's perception of our life because the basic details of our life do not match what that person sees on the outside or what that person understands as "normal."

We call this correction "coming out of the closet." But I resent the idea that I am in a "closet." I'm not in a closet any more than anyone else is. Because everyone uses stereotypes and because they are a social construct, a tool for interaction, I am not a victim of stereotypes. There are no victims.... unless you choose to think that way. Sadly, LGBT culture promotes this idea. We're told we are made to be strong and brave, seasoned to be fighters. Sticks and stones won't hurt us. In some ways, this is true. People who are rejected over and over again know how to react to it. But it still hurts. And reminding yourself that you must be stronger than other people does nothing more than propagate that same usversus-them, I'm-marked-because-I'm-different mentality. It's all perception. We all use stereotypes. They are tools- not traps, not closets. So what if the group I belong in is not familiar to some people?


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

It doesn't mean that I don't exist. We all use our experiences to shape the world around us, to organize the vast amounts of information we have to filter. I am just me, surrounded by the same stereotypes everyone else is. I have thoughts and dreams and hopes and fears, I have interests and quirks and desires and passions. A stereotype cannot define me any better than it defines any other individual human being. Most people won't care about my lifestyle or my choices because my life has little impact on theirs. We might just pass each other on the street, or most likely, we will never cross paths-- there are 7 billion of us after all. It is a social impossibility for me to interact with all 7 billion other people on the planet, or even the nearly 5,000 people in my small Southern town. We cannot all know each other intimately, and everyone does not need to know everything about me all the time. We know the details of those closest to us, partners, friends, family. On a day to day basis by situation, I have the power to correct someone's perception of my life or to choose not to. We all have this freedom. It is perhaps more challenging depending on what is being corrected. Knowing when to make this correction is done mostly on an intuitive level. I'll know when it's safe to tell details of my life to a new person. Or I'll feel the need to step outside my comfort zone to point out that something is offensive or unfair. Most of that is just experience. Some of it is, you guessed it, stereotypes. A lot of it is just remembering that it's normal for most people not to know what I consider basic details of my life. Deciding not to tell someone details of my life is not hiding. It is in fact the opposite of hiding. I am not keeping details of who I am from others out of shame or embarrassment. I am protecting details for my own privacy. I am being respectful of social boundaries and common interests. I have to know my audience and be mindful of who I'm talking to. For instance, Modern Poly is a good medium for detailed discussions of my alternative lifestyle because that is part of its purpose as an advocacy group for polyamory and relationship choice. Because Modern Poly states its intentions in its name, I can safely assume that my audience will be interested in the topics that affect me as a polyamorous and bisexual woman. But Facebook, which gives me a small window into the lives of people I stopped having connections and common interests with as far back as elementary school, is not the place for intense, detailed discussions of anything that I might want to keep private.

January 2014

However, posting an article that is interesting or relevant to me is appropriate and should not be construed as in-yourface because readers have the ability to filter their news feeds according to their interests. Writer or not, we all have to know our audiences and protect our own privacy in a society saturated with social media. None of these realizations mean that I will never be angry or hurt by another person again. Being in a less-than-common stereotype means that I will be subject to insults, assumptions, misunderstandings and judgment. But with healthy boundaries in place and the safe practice of privacy, I can choose to remember that I am being honest about who I am, that I am not hiding, and that I am the only one who can make me feel like a victim.

Heather Gentry Writer & EditorActive Contributor

Heather Gentry is a polyamory and bisexuality activist work-in-progress. She recently moved to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia to be closer to her secretary job. She hopes the move will allow her the time to pursue her writing and activism interests, while also proving the opportunity to secure other relationships in the works. She has one life partner, two stepsons, and two fat, cuddly kitties.

7


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

January 2014

A Hickey in the Sunlight: The Story of a Metaphysical Outlaw Discovering polyamory is only the beginning. Danielle shares an artist's perspective as she settles into a life that defies settlement.

As if family illness and death were not bad enough, last year I began mourning the death of my marriage. My husband and I temporarily split our home and our lives that spring and the surrounding months were colored with strife, full of things we just couldn’t control. My whole world shifted out from under me, and the summer became a reclamation of personal balance. I had subsequently decided to pursue an MFA degree in Boston, which set an ending date to the near-decade long affair with New York City. Imbued with uncertainty, I began forging a path through the terra incognito—the summer of internal reconciliation. I was dislocated, entirely removed from familiarity, lost in the woods as it were. Such uncertainty encourages a special type of freedom, the kind that allows the unexpected to happen. And, like a little, sexy monument rising from the shadows,Hysterical Literature marked the start of a new chapter in my life. It was a confirmation that I was capable of exploring my sexuality in a positive and affirming way. I practice polyamory. Fundamentally, this is who I am, not just the icing on the character cake. In fact, I’ve practiced some form of non-monogamy for the last decade. It influences every part of my life: whom I associate with, how I communicate, and even the artwork I make. My life looks more like a juggling act of Google calendars and group text messages than 24-hour make outs (although those happen too). You may ask, unimaginatively, “How then were you married?” and to that I say, ”Marriage to me has little to do with sexual exclusivity. I believe it’s possible to foster deep emotional and physical relationships with multiple people simultaneously. I believe in building relationships around the needs of the people involved and not blindly subscribing to what I’m told a marriage should look like.” If you tell me what a marriage should look like, I may just secretly give you the middle finger. There are far from just a few of us and I owe a lot of my clarity to those who proudly share about their alternative lifestyles without

8

inhibition: Tristan Taormino, Nina Hartley, Alyssa Royse, the Katz family and their podcast Pedestrian Polyamory, Minx and her podcast Polyamory Weekly, Franklin Veaux, and of course, Clayton Cubitt to name a few. In their book Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá take an anthropological approach to the quandary of monogamy: 
 "Marriage," "mating," and "love" are socially constructed phenomena that have little or no transferable meaning outside any given culture. The examples we’ve noted of rampant ritualized group sex, mate-swapping, unrestrained casual affairs, and socially sanctioned sequential sex were all reported in cultures that anthropologists insist are monogamous simply because they’ve determined that something they call “marriage” takes place there. No wonder so many insist that marriage, monogamy, and the nuclear family are human universals.”
 Yet, culturally, we’re encouraged to assimilate. Popularized thought is the antagonist to individuality, generally as a result of cultural tendency, religion, commerce, or some hybrid of all three. Exposure to a subtle marginalization may not seem like a big deal, especially in society where we often boast of our tolerances. But still certain prejudices remain and are widely accepted in subversive ways. These socializations are deeply embedded in daily life and often go unnoticed until you find yourself daringly going against the grain. In his book, “Still Life with Woodpecker,” Tom Robbins playfully writes, “If you’re honest, you


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

sooner or later have to confront your values. Then you’re forced to separate what is right from what is merely legal. This puts you metaphysically on the run. America is full of metaphysical outlaws”. The Woodpecker, a redheaded outlaw, lives by his own code of ethics. He is not dissimilar from my ex—fiercely autonomous, a strongwilled anarchist and autodidact. I’m attracted to the Woodpeckers of the world, and although this one had less experience with non-monogamy, he showed a genuine interest for exploring new terrain, discovering where his boundaries lie, and an overall intellectual capacity. Those qualities made it even harder to walk away and by the end of summer we decided to give the relationship another try. However, too much had changed within myself. Last summer’s events had already set in motion key attributes for a brand new trajectory, and finally, a relatively painless divorce by the beginning of this spring. Going forward, I’m not going apologize for who I am. I’m planting seeds for the relationships I want to have with people—transparent lines of communication inculcated between those who share my views of sex, love, and honesty. I have little desire to convince anyone of what is possible within relationships. I’m confident knowing that I live in a very special time, when I’m not as much of a minority as modern culture would have it. New York is full of beautiful, intelligent, open-minded people. Polyamory and non-traditional relationship structures are practiced worldwide, but of course, at a higher percentage in liberal metropolitan areas. The question now is: why would I even entertain the idea that I would have to compromise parts of myself that are so essential to my being? Sex therapist Reid Mihalko says, “Date your own species.” This might be the advice of the fucking century. (Century of fucking? Hmm.) Collectively, my experience nudges me in the direction of shame-free openness. Each step challenges my boundaries with regard to my new level of transparency and how it permeates other areas of my life. Now, only little threads of what was the old me remain. I write you from the epoch: An intelligent, young woman, fearlessly confronting her own bullshit and owning what it means to be sex positive and empowered. I wear these choices like a hickey in the sunlight; a beautiful badge of honor. Recently, I visited an old love. One of the first and one of the longest. I met his new wife and visited where they lived; the same house he occupied in our youth. Five years have passed since we’ve seen each other and longer since I’d been in that house. I entered the time capsule: a

January 2014

house decorated with prom photographs of the two of us— awkward smiles and lanky parts—dusty deer antlers his father had slain by bow and arrow, a scale I used to weigh myself on positioned in the bathroom in the exact same spot it always had been. Each a surviving relic, from another era, were the most pivotal parts of the reunion for me. Their existence confirmed his and most people’s underlying need for stability; a shred of assurance where an ever-changing world provides none. This was not as melancholy as one would imagine. It was like reading the alternate endings to a Choose Your Own Adventurebook. I viewed these moments as hallmarks of my personal growth. I left feeling affirmed in my place even though I was between homes, art studios, and freshly divorced. “The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration— how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?” asks Rebecca Solnit in her book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost. If this is true, evolution can otherwise be interchangeable with adaptability—not begrudging or fighting the current of inevitability, but optimistically approaching reinvention, armed with the power of self-awareness. We have passed the one year anniversary of Hysterical Literature. I now know that orgasming on camera for over two million people feels pretty amazing under the right circumstances. It harks to so many of my sensibilities. Mostly though, it correlates to the power that intellectualized sexuality has for me. It not only affects my romantic life but my artwork, as well as the story the two weave together. This connection is exactly what my artwork is about and the collaborations in which I participate. Invisible Cities, addresses how I’ve systematically began to redefine sex, love, and kin. Cameraless photos of intricate social networks approach the idea of ‘loving without limits’ in the simplest of terms. The work has since been shown nationwide and garnered modest attention. I found myself coy about making the direct connection between these influences. The subtle imagery isn’t overtly sexual so explicit communication about such would need mentioning. I was faced with yet another instance where I needed to draw the line between private and public. My shyness and ambiguity felt too similar to lying and often I feel comforted by the power that radical honesty brings. When I decide against that, out of fear, I do myself and my work a disservice. I also eliminate a platform of potential connection with an audience. My experience has assured me, both artistically and personally,

9


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

January 2014

that vulnerability is incredibly important. I would rather be honest and waving my freak flag high even if ultimately that deters someone. So here we are—the reveal—the moment where I can be stark naked for you. I get to share with you my sheer delight in being part of a throuple for the better part of four years. That I’m continually fascinated by how that has improved my capacity for empathy and communication, how it exponentially fuels and inspires the artwork I create, and how at some point in the future, I hope to use these positive experiences to become even more public about polyamory and alternative relationship choices. I want to share the power that I’ve discovered within myself and encourage the same in others. This constant motion, if executed with intention, is not an evasion of growth but the cyclical nature of a phoenix rising from the ashes. I want to share the idea that emotional awareness and intelligence, which can only grow as a result of living fully, are just as valuable as any other such standardized measurement. Each of us has the capacity of charting invisible territories that establish the boundaries of love’s expanse, and in turn, its unseen possibilities. I want to be a part of ending the fiction that there is only a single trajectory, to carve space for multiple co-existing love stories; that there’s a profundity to growing together instead of living in fear of the expanding distance between us; a constant struggle for the standard narrative. If love is a landscape, I want to cover the breadth of its interpersonal terrain. I want to know what the valley of jealousy feels like and if it is bridgeable. I want to know the highest mountain peaks to gain the most empathic perspective and submerge in the blue oceans of desire every time I engage with a lover. This is my commitment to myself, the freedom to never stop feeling.

10

Danielle Ezzo Writer- Active Contributor

Twitter: @danielleezzo


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

January 2014

Polyamory As Orientation (And Why It Works For Me) A vital component of self-discovery is figuring out how we're best set up to connect with others. For Saul-ofHearts, polyamory gave voice to something more than a workable relationship model.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting around a bonfire with some of my friends in LA, when I mentioned that my roommates and I were hosting a discussion on polyamory the next weekend. It had been a topic of much debate around the neighborhood lately. One of the guys in the group snorted. “Polyamory doesn’t work,” he said. He wasn’t trying to be confrontational, or dismissive — and he wasn’t judging the idea on any moral principle. For him, it was a simple fact: It doesn’t work. I didn’t feel like debating it at the time, so I just shrugged and moved on. But I thought to myself, That really depends on what you mean by “work." What does it mean when we say that a relationship “works”? Is there any objective way to measure it? I can think of a few ideas that most of us would probably agree upon: A relationship works if it lasts. If there isn’t too much fighting. If no one is lying or cheating. But even these measures are subjective. How long does it have to last to be considered “successful"? Should a relationship be static and unchanging, or adaptable and fluid? It seems to me that saying polyamory “doesn’t work” is missing the point. Of course it doesn’t — but neither does monogamy. Because there is no one way to define what works. What works for you may not work for me, and vice-versa. I don’t see polyamory as a solution to monogamy, but as an alternative. For me, it’s a matter of preference — a preference as deeply ingrained as sexual orientation. And not only that, but it helps to explain how I approach sexual orientation. I've never felt comfortable with any of the usual labels: heterosexual, heteroflexible, bisexual. Even if of one of those terms applied to me, I didn’t relate to how other people who used those labels approached sex. I admire people who find gender

irrelevant, or who could fall just as easily in love with a man or with a woman. But I can’t. A polyamorous identity allowed me to recognize a simple truth: I wanted other men to be a part of my sex life, but not necessarily as lovers. I could build up deep relationships with other men in the context of a quad or triad, without “dating” or pursuing a romantic connection.

This changed everything. It allowed me to get over my fears of male intimacy, without feeling pressure to pursue one-on-one relationships with other men. **** A few weeks ago, I started watching the reality TV series on Showtime, “Polyamory: Married and Dating”. There’s been enough debate already about whether or not it’s a fair or realistic depiction of polyamory, so I won’t get into that. But regardless of how “real” the depictions were, the individual scenarios and situations really hit home for me. I approached it as a kind of fantasy/thought experiment. I stayed up until 2 AM watching Season One back to back, and I was welling up with tears toward the end of it. The commitment ceremony between the LA triad, watched over by the San Diego quad, touched me in a way that no rom-com ever had. This is the kind of life I want to live, I thought.

11


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

January 2014

I’d kind-of/sort-of known this for a while, but seeing it depicted so openly on TV really brought it into a new light for me:

said to me — that I felt deeply moved. I felt a deep bond of trust and affection. How could jealously even come into the picture?

Polyamory is my orientation.

It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people who believe in an abundance of love, not scarcity — and who value the sexual fulfillment of those around them, as well as their own. I’m only at the beginning of my journey, but I couldn’t be more certain that it’s the right path for me. And if it doesn’t work out … I won’t be any worse off than if I hadn’t tried.

Even before I knew the word, before anyone around me identified in this way, I'd written stories in which the characters took part in multi-partner relationships. I gravitated to movies that questioned traditional relationship models and gender roles. I don’t think I’ve ever teared up watching a traditional chick flick -- but add a third person to the mix, and I’m bound to get emotional. Go figure.

All relationships have their ups-and-downs. Why should mine be any different?

**** For me, whether or not polyamory “works” is a moot question. That’s how I’m built to pursue love and relationships. That’s my orientation. So far, those issues that skeptics have addressed — jealously, time constraints, etc. — have been remarkably easy to deal with. I feel more jealously toward my “monogamous” male friends who bring home new lovers night after night, than toward shared polyamorous lovers. I feel frustrated when their “traditional” approach makes it easier for them to get dates than my polyamorous one. It’s one thing to see a love interest with another man, knowing she’d still be open to dating you tomorrow -- and another thing entirely to know that you don’t have a chance with her because she only dates “monogamously”.

And yet, as time goes by, even that bothers me less and less. If my dating pool has shrunk in quantity, it’s increased in quality. After the discussion group that we hosted at my house, I stayed up late talking with one of my female partners and her male lover. At one point, he turned to us and said, “If the two of you want to … um, continue in the bedroom … don’t let me stop you.” It was so unexpected — so selfless and open-hearted, and so unlike anything that most of my friends would ever have

12

Saul-of-Hearts Writer- Active Contributor

Saul-of-Hearts is a writer, musician, and videographer based in Los Angeles and Portland. He's lived among various subcultures and intentional communities, studied everything from yoga to evolutionary psychology, and writes about places where art and science meet. His writing has appeared in Slate and Brazen Careerist, as well as on blogs such as Puttylike, Gutsy Geek, and Burn After Reading Magazine. His most recent project is an e-book on the Share Economy called "The Lateral Freelancer." For more about Saul and his work, visit his website.


ModernPoly: Winter Edition

January 2014

Follow Us  Subscribe to our RSS Feed Modern Poly exists to create and maintain a safe and supportive space where those engaged in the practice of polyamory can come together to share ideas, experiences, resources and activism regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or physical location.

 Follow us on Twitter  Be a fan on Facebook  Follow us via Mail

Our vision is to facilitate the creation of an active and vibrant polyamory community which spans the spectrum of personal philosophies and physically diverse locations. Mail: info@modernpoly.com Or use our Contact Form

13

ModernPoly Winter 2014 Collection  

ModernPoly writers share their personal stories about coming out and the relationship they have with their poly identity.

Advertisement