Frangipani

Polyamory, bisexuality and maybe even some atheism

Discussions February 28, 2008

Filed under: Bisexuality,Figuring it out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 1:37 pm
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So H and I talked. A lot. About sex, about sex with other people, about what we wanted, what we believed, what we thought, how what we believed and thought had changed, about jealousy, about love. It was intense, but it was wonderful to actually talk about it. It was particularly wonderful to discover that H was actually a lot more enthusiastic about my bisexuality than I had thought. I mean, he’s always been supportive and since I started actively investigating my sexuality, he’s actually said, more than once, that he’s proud of me for tackling it instead of burying it and letting it fester, but I’ve been afraid, nonetheless, that his view of what it meant for our relationship was pretty definite. Which is why when we had a tentative and less than positive discussion a few months ago I decided not to press the issue.

Turns out it was more timing than opinion. We were under a lot of work stress when I first brought up the question of my sexuality and there was simply too much else that needed to be dealt with immediately at the time. I also believe that H needed more time to process it. It was all very well for me to announce that I was actively interested in women – this wasn’t a revelation for me, after all, and I had time enough to think about whether this was something I really wanted to do – but springing it on H out of the blue was, in retrospect, a bit unfair. I wanted too much too soon. To his credit, H was supportive from the beginning, even encouraging me to go to a girl bar at some point or meet up with the local queer-interest group. Given that we’d signed up for a monogamous relationship though, I couldn’t really blame him for not being immediately gung-ho about my actual involvement with another person.

So yeah, we talked. And the upshot of that talk was that my having a relationship with a woman wasn’t out of the question (and neither, when you got down to it was a relationship with another man – in theory at least) and never really had been. Of course I fretted that I’d forced him to say that by making him feel either guilty for restricting me or afraid that I’d leave him if he didn’t accept it. I still have my doubts, though he assures me that it’s neither of those things and that polyamory is a reasonable enough proposition.

Polyamory is a reasonable enough proposition.

Sorry, had to type that again.

Now, happy as I am about that, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to be running out to hook up with the nearest available homosexually-inclined female I spot. It means some serious thinking and rule-making, lots more talking, and eventually figuring out what works for us.

To that end, I attended a discussion group for bisexuals the other day. It was a tiny gathering this time, which worked quite well for us because most of us were new to the group. I’ve known about it for a while but I’ve always bowed out of actually attending a group or even because I felt I had nothing to say for myself. This time, however, I could see the point.

Some of the members are polyamorous themselves and the discussion touched on how they manage their relationships. The key, as ever, is communication and honesty. The person who spoke the most about it is married (to, as luck would have it, a bisexual, polyamorous partner). Both partners came out as bi shortly after their marriage and have in the decade or so they’ve been together worked out an admirably durable system. They have their marriage as their primary relationship, and other committed relationships with partners of either sex. They started out with quite a few rules that centered on staying safe and keeping their spouse safe, both physically and emotionally. That is still central to their lifestyle, but it’s become a lot less codified now that they’ve worked through their initial fears and issues. Only one of them was there, but I’m looking forward to meeting the other.

The other people there were closer to where I am – just beginning to work out the practical implications of their bisexuality – and it was wonderful to connect with them. It was also a huge relief to enter a room where everyone knew already that I was bisexual (and where the straight people had to point out that they were there just to support their friends and partners) and where I knew I could talk about it without causing anyone any discomfort, ask for advice or perspectives, give advice (me?!) and even make a silly joke or two about the situation.

H couldn’t go with me this time, which I think was for the best since it allowed me to focus on just processing the situation without worrying about how he was feeling throughout (bad habit). I think that I’ve found my feet within the group to some extent and that I’m ready for him (yes after just one session) to join in. More importantly, after hearing about the session, he felt he might perhaps be up to going to the next one, without my pushing him to.

We have a long way to go yet, and I have no idea where we’ll end up, but at least in some small way, we’ve made a start.

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Who needs to know? February 27, 2008

Filed under: Coming out — Araliya @ 10:04 pm
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I spoke to a very good friend of mine for the first time in quite a while – we’ve both moved away from where we met so now are only in touch electronically or when we can figure out time zones and call. Lots of catching up, obviously. And I’d mentioned at some point that there was something I needed to talk to her about. Now, when I’d written that, I’d been feeling a bit low and since I know she’s not homophobic I had some vague notion that I’d tell I was bisexual.

But I didn’t. I just couldn’t do it. Part of it was the crap connection – I couldn’t always hear her very clearly and didn’t really fancy the idea of having to repeat myself a hundred times at full volume before she got it. But part of it was also the ‘why bother?’ thing. What material difference does her knowing make? Why do we insist on telling everyone something that people generally prefer not to talk about, particularly when it doesn’t affect them? I have to admit though, that I’m also a little afraid of telling any of my female friends because I don’t want to see them get that oh-my-god-have-you-been-checking-me-out?! look on their faces. The answer to that is usually a very emphatic no, but I know they’re wondering whether I’m just saying that to make them feel comfortable and they’re making a mental note to go change in the bathroom next time I’m over.

But then I think, if I can’t be myself around this person, why the hell am I friends with them? Surely we’ve built a relationship that’s good enough to take this in its stride? I’d like to think that we have. I’m generally a private person so I don’t really envision wearing a placard around my neck announcing my bisexuality at any stage (except maybe at the next pride march – we’ll see how that goes), but I would really like it if the people I’ve come to consider my closest friends knew. Family, I’m not keen on telling, mainly because it has no ramifications for them and because their involvement in my life is minimal. And they’d never accept it. Well, maybe my dad would. I would love to tell H’s family at some stage since I’m relatively close to his sisters, but I’m hesitant there because I’m afraid they’ll come over all protective of him – how dare I ‘cheat’ on their brother? I can’t really blame them though. My instinct to protect my own little brother is almost identical to theirs and I would probably react badly to any hint that he wasn’t being done right by too. Of course, I’d like to think that, given the proper reassurances that nobody was hurting him, I wouldn’t feel the need to go prep my steel-toed boots and knuckle dusters.

I love Armistead Maupin‘s idea of the ‘logical family’ in his Tales of the City books: your biological family is what you’re stuck with. But your logical family consists of the people you gather around yourself who are there because they choose to be.

And those then become some of the people that it’s hardest to lose. I don’t want to tell my family because their approval is irrelevant – it would be nice if they were ok with my being bisexual and polyamorous, but I don’t much care if they’re not and I don’t want to deal with their nonsense about it because it would be annoying. This friend, on the other hand, is someone whose acceptance, if not approval, I do want. It wouldn’t change things either, but it would affect me emotionally at a level my family’s disapproval wouldn’t.

So, yeah, I chickened out. I’ve been kicking myself since and I think I’ll just write to her instead. Or something.

 

Getting ‘involved’ February 24, 2008

Filed under: Bisexuality,Figuring it out,Lust,Monogamy — Araliya @ 11:20 am
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I look at women. No, I mean I look at women. I look at their mouths, their eyes, their hands, their breasts, their curves and lines. I listen to their voices, their accents, their speech, their laughter. If I can, I’ll get close enough to get a whiff of their hair or skin, make contact for a second. Sometimes, at some point, a woman looks back.

And that’s when I run.

Something in my head flips reality back on and I back off. You’re married, says my brain. You can’t get involved. So, over the protests of my lips and my skin and my cunt, I withdraw. Because my brain, you see, has a point. I am not free to get entangled with a woman and, without some kind of investment like that, I can’t see myself being with one. A man, yes. A man, I could just fuck once and never think of again. Knowing me, I probably wouldn’t even think of him while I fucked him.

Maybe it’s just the security heterosexuality gives you. It’s a given that men and women want to and will have sex with each other, so pretty much every kind of hookup is ‘normal’. There are endless acceptable variations to the dynamic between men and women – even the ones that are a bit out there still have a veneer of acceptability because they involve the right kind and number of people.

In contrast, if you have the ‘wrong’ kind (or number) of people, you’re immediately taking more of a risk, making yourself more vulnerable. As someone who can retreat into the safety of being ‘normal’, I think it would be unfair to ask someone to take that risk unless I do too. “I’m married so I can’t possibly be queer.” may be transparently disingenuous, but it can still be said and accepted, if not believed.

I can see why gay girls stay the hell away from bisexuals. From the interactions I’ve had and the conversations I’ve observed both online and in real life, I’ve understood that bisexuals are seen as predatory, unreliable and insincere. Some make the argument political, but for most it’s about being the more vulnerable person in the relationship. Being female and South Asian already, I really, really, don’t want to enter into a situation where I have to proffer even more explanations about who and what I am.

The solution, it seems, is to seek out other bisexual women because at least they’ll get where I’m coming from. Not as easy as it sounds, that, given that bisexuals make up an even smaller minority of what is already a pretty small minority in the queer world. And they’re harder to spot. My gaydar is pretty spot-on for both men and women, but bisexuals don’t seem to trip it.

And then of course we’re back to the “you can’t seek anybody out, missy, because you’re married.” I don’t cheat. I don’t want to lie and hide because I don’t think this is something that needs to be lied about and hidden, because I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong with it in the first place. Unfortunately though, that means that until I can expand the terms of my marriage, nothing can happen.

H and I have talked about it previously but since it’s an uncomfortable topic, nothing much has come of it. In some way, I think I’m hoping this blog will help us sort some of it out. He’s always known about my bisexuality – I’ve never made a secret of it and he’s never had an issue with it. We just sort of went along with the joke that all being bisexual really means is that there’s twice as many people in the world you’ll never have sex with. Five years on, I’m not so convinced.

Sometimes, I wish it were simply that monogamy wasn’t working for me and that I wanted to have sex with other men because I could do that without threatening the emotional base of my marriage. I can’t fathom keeping a woman at that kind of emotional distance. And that would have ‘implications’ that I don’t know if we’re equipped to deal with.

 

“Gay” February 23, 2008

Filed under: Definitions,Figuring it out — Araliya @ 10:10 am
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I was about eleven years old when my father brought home his usual copy of Newsweek. Per our custom, he handed it over to me and off I went to read it. I was vaguely aware, as I was leaving, that my mother had made an indignant-sounding noise that my father had countered with a mild, pacifying one. I paused to see if the magazine was going to be taken away, but nothing happened. Ah, blessed inaction.

When I got to my room and flopped on the bed, I saw what had probably upset my mother. On the cover was a couple, fully clothed, but in a pose that was unequivocally intimate. And they were both men. One had his back to a wall and had one or both hands on the other man’s waist, while the other was leaning over him, his wrist and forearm resting casually on the wall. They were staring right into each other’s eyes, faces inches apart. I had never seen a man look so tenderly, intimately, passionately at another man.

I cannot explain the sudden surge of joy I felt when I saw that. I wanted to cry with relief – I think I might have, I’m not sure. All I remember is that I also wanted to dance around my room and tell the whole world about this wonderful thing I’d seen. I felt good. I felt happy. I felt like everything was going to be alright. And I had no real idea why.

I didn’t really understand the story either. All about ‘Gay Pride’ and a ‘gay march’ and ‘gay men’. I’m sure the word homosexual was in there somewhere, which I also didn’t understand other than getting that it had something to do with sex. So I asked my mother.

She blinked. Paused. Exhaled. All signs of her preparing to lie to me. “Happy people,” she said. Now I was completely confused. Surely that couldn’t be it? They didn’t look unhappy, so maybe she was right, but it couldn’t just be that. On the other hand, why shouldn’t that be it? I was glad they were happy because some part of my brain reasoned that if they could do it, so could I.

I am unutterably grateful that my mother’s fear of addressing sexuality kept her from explaining homosexuality to me because not only was she unable to feed me canned homophobia, she inadvertently implied that there was nothing wrong with being ‘gay’. Her discomfort with my question made it clear, though, that this Was Not To Be Talked About, so I didn’t. I didn’t really mind not talking about it. I was too busy feeling vindicated and triumphant for weeks afterwards, though at the time I couldn’t have explained that either.

Some part of me must have understood though. I’d always fantasized about women so, I figure, seeing those men on that cover must have told me – thanks to the knack girls have for identifying with both female and male ‘characters’ – that it was ok for women to do the same thing. I couldn’t wait to grow up and get out there.

 

Wonderful words February 21, 2008

Filed under: Lustful language — Araliya @ 4:40 pm
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I have something of a visceral reaction to words. These are some of my favorites.

I’ve come to love the word ‘queer’ and now use it as a catch-all term for everything not straight, myself included. Both the rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciations slide of the tongue deliciously, but I think I like it better when it’s said more like “kwee-ah” with a slight downward dip into a hint of an ‘R’ at the end – a bit of a hybrid. Like me.

‘Dyke’ gives me goosebumps. It’s a decisive, uncompromising, take-no-prisoners sort of word.

‘Cunt’ is one of my favorites, rich with associations and connotations and visuals. The arch from the ‘n’ to the ‘t’ makes me thinkg of the way a woman instinctively tilts her hips when she wants you to touch her there. I hate that it’s used as an insult and considered ‘the worst word’ in English. It’s a beautiful word and we should use it more.

‘Polyamory’ is a wonderfully balanced word. Say it a few times and see how neatly ‘poly’ and ‘ory’ frame ‘am’.

There are more, of course. Some are sweet and soft, like ‘bum’ and ‘bottom’ for the human posterior, while some, like ‘suck’ are harsher and more arousing. And I’m sure different people find different words have different effects. I’ve been blogging here for a grand total of 16 hours so I doubt anybody’s reading this, but if someone eventually does, why not let me know what words you like?

 

Reasons

Filed under: Coming out — Araliya @ 2:30 pm
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Mortar and Pestle wrote:

I want to be unapologetically out as a feminist, as sex-positive, queer, atheist, angry, self-centred, female, human, in my daily life, whether it’s sleeping without underwear, or talking openly, or being able to find and read the books I’m searching for in a bookstore, or going out without answering to anyone or worrying that I’ll be harassed, followed, groped, raped. I want to be able to write freely without worrying about what people will think if they read it, about where to hide my diary, about how to make sure that nobody associates me with this blog, about how to keep myself safe. I don’t want safe; I’d rather push my limits further.

Yes. Just, yes.

 

The first step

Filed under: Bisexuality,Monogamy — Araliya @ 11:48 am
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Pinning down what this is about is proving a bit difficult, mainly because I’m not entirely sure myself. So I thought I’d start at one kind of beginning and go from there.

When we were about six years old, my best friend and I told our parents that we wanted to get married to each other when we grew up. It made perfect sense to us because we couldn’t see why girls could only go out with boys when boys were so smelly and noisy. We were promptly ‘separated’, which was a bit stupid considering we went to school together, but it did mean that we could no longer run over to the other’s house when we wanted to play and that, after we were allowed to see each other again – shortly before I moved away – our mothers always hovered nearby, as if waiting for something to happen. What, exactly, was never explained to us but we understood somehow that touching each other would be a bad idea; ‘bad’ not because we thought there was anything wrong with it, but because other people would not like it and might punish and separate us again. And by touching, I mean holding hands and kissing a bit, which we discovered was quite a pleasant thing to do, but not something I would call sexual at all. We were six. It felt nice. That was it.

I wonder if it would have been better or worse for me if I had told them that, honorable intentions towards my little girlfriend aside, I also had crushes on a few boys. Older boys, of course, since most of the hygiene-challenged creatures my age were my friends and didn’t look like anything one was supposed to have crushes on. But talking about boys – even just friends – was another taboo, so I kept quiet.

That pattern has remained pretty constant since then. There are certain kinds of men who make my knees go all wobbly, but my interest in them is purely sexual and I have no desire to get to know them (other than biblically, as it were). There are others that I have very loving, intimate friendships with, but with whom I don’t want the hassle and politics of a sexual relationship. Basically, with men, sex is sex, love is love and while it’s wonderful when the two coincide, it’s not necessary. I’ve never actively looked for a man to fuck or love or be friends with either. It just happens. All the bloody time.

Women, on the other hand, are a more complicated proposition mainly because I can’t switch off the emotional attachment in favor of the sexual. That doesn’t mean I don’t have purely platonic relationships with women – in fact, I have almost nothing but. The few relationships that have been anything like sexual have been extremely intense and wonderful but largely unfruitful because ultimately the risk, both personal and social, of going there, has been too huge.

So I’ve dithered.

And while dithering, I have landed myself not just in another straight relationship, but in a marriage. A wonderful, warm, loving, intense, committed, non-restrictive, happy marriage, yes, but also one that is entirely monogamous. If you would like to virtually whack me upside the head, please feel free to do so.

It’s not that I have a problem with commitment – I have no desire to end my relationship with my husband (henceforth H). But I do have a problem with monogamy. I think it’s too much to ask of a person to be all things to another. And, like it or not, we do all go outside our primary relationships for something, be it intellectual stimulation, fun, emotional support, or whatever, so why the restriction on sex? Neither of us wants children, so there are no potential paternity, pregnancy or child-rearing issues and no social fallout for potential children to worry about. We’re not possessive or jealous – we are both very comfortably with members of the opposite sex, sometimes more so than with our own, and nobody has a problem with that. We’re both all about safe sex and contraception, so infections are not an issue. We’re both quite private and, beyond basic updates on activities, don’t discuss our relationship or each other even with our parents and siblings, so it’s not like we’ll have to deal with their judgment. So then what?

I don’t know. It’s not that I’m confused. I know exactly what I want. The question is, is it workable?