Frangipani

Polyamory, bisexuality and maybe even some atheism

Why Pride? February 7, 2011

Today I overheard a comment I’ve heard a few times before about the concept of Pride March. It is basically: “it’s so weird to have people cheer you for just walking down the street.”

This comment always rocks me back on my heels.

Seriously?

Just walking down the street?

I don’t know which kind of privilege it demonstrates more: the straight privilege of people who claim the queer label but who haven’t really understood how far their apparent heterosexuality gets them, or the privilege of queer folk who have inherited a world made safe for them by the generation(s) of queer people before them who took the brunt of the bashings, hate and discrimination – those who would have marched – if they had the opportunity in the first place – in an environment where doing so would have been tantamount to being sentenced to jail, a mental asylum, or the gallows.

I actually think it’s a combination of the two. Although there are some places in the world where it is mostly safe for GLBTIQ people to be visible and live as they choose freely under the same kind of legal protection afforded to straight citizens, these places are few and far between. Even in the US, in Canada, in Europe, in Australia – the ‘first’ world, or the ‘western’ world, or ‘the world that thinks itself enlightened’ – GLBTIQ people cannot assume such freedom or protection. If they do, it is usually in defiance or the norm, rather than in compliance with it. And it is usually, still, dangerous. Look at how few places allow same-sex or otherwise queer couples to marry or to adopt children or even to visit each other in hospital if one is incapacitated. Is this a world where we ever just ‘walk down the street’?

It’s not like we haven’t gained some ground. Around the developed world – and even in some places in the developing world – queer visibility means a degree of acceptance, or at the very least, tolerance. This doesn’t mean we won’t be discriminated against or that we won’t have violence done to us or our property, but it does mean that more straight people will be angry about it and that more of their number will actually attempt to help us, stand by us as allies, or at least be sympathetic to us. This is a massive move forward, even if it isn’t full equality.

I think a lot of us on the borderline of queerness – by which I mean people who still present as heterosexual no matter what our actual orientation may be – take the general increase in the social acceptability of queerness (or, let’s be honest here, the increased acceptability of gays and lesbians – the ‘BITQ’ bit of the spectrum seems to become invisible when it’s convenient – but that’s another rant for another day)and combine it with the heterosexual privilege we have access to whether we like it or not, and conclude that everything is just peachy.

It isn’t.

Every time there is a Pride march anywhere in the world, people are coming out and saying that they belong to or support a group of people who are routinely marginalized by the mainstream population and the government. They are saying, yes we know you think we are less than you, but fuck you and your privilege. Not only have we survived your hate, we’ve done it in style and we have every right to be proud of it and to be cheered in the streets for it.

Yes, Pride is a celebration of queer culture, but it has a serious side too. People today are still taking risks. What for some people may just be a fun little stroll down the street is still a big deal to many. There are still people who don’t or won’t or can’t participate because of their work or their friends or their family or their community. There are those that participate because they have a cause to promote, or because they want others like them to see them and know they’re not alone. There are those who participate because they want to be seen and counted, who participate because they want to honor the memory and work of those who have marched before as well as those who will never get the chance or will be harassed, discriminated against, attacked, bashed, and murdered for being who they are in the face of hate.

That is what those people in the crowd are cheering.

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“Coming Out” October 15, 2009

Filed under: Bisexuality,Coming out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 7:49 pm
Tags: , ,

How much do you tell people? When do you tell them? How? Should you tell them anything in the first place? Why?

I’ve been poly for over a year now and haven’t run into any major issues with my relationships. I’m happy with my partners, they like each other, I like their partners, it’s all good.

But when I talk to my colleagues or to an acquaintance, how do I work in the partners? Thus far, I’ve spoken about my boyfriend/partner to some, about my girlfriend to others and about my husband to most. In some instances I’ve mentioned both my husband and my partner/boyfriend, but generally the persons I’ve been speaking with have assumed I was talking about the same person. Given that these are throwaway conversations with people I don’t intend to have any kind of deep-and-meaningfuls with, that’s not so bad. Flying under the radar and all that.

But what about contacts that are a bit more than that? What about people who, because we see each other more often, eventually mention their kids and what they did that weekend, or the funny thing that happened with their in-laws, etc.? At some level, you’re expected to reciprocate with stories of your own lest you seem uninterested in theirs. And I’m not uninterested. These are nice people who are fun to talk to and while they’re not on my BFF list, I don’t want them to think I’m being standoffish or that they’re boring me because neither is true.

My boyfriend gets mentioned more often than my girlfriend because, as I said earlier, people tend to confuse him with my husband, and that works fine for me. ‘Girlfriend’ however is a word that would draw attention and possibly questions or confusion from people who’d assumed I was straight. Now, on the one hand, so what? They made an assumption and it turned out to be wrong. Happens all the time. They’ll live. On the other, I dread the poly 1o1 conversation because I don’t want to have to explain the ins and outs of my lifestyle, or worse, have to give a summary and then have the person assume a whole new set of things.

But then again, why should I care what they assume? Why not just put it all out there and expect them to catch up on their own? There’s plenty of information out there – why should I have to explain anything? In general, I’d tend to agree with that, but then you could argue that the best way to avoid the tedious task of explaining things is by simply not mentioning them in the first place. It’s a bid disingenuous, after all, to throw something out there that’s clearly ‘out there’ by current social standards and just blink at people and say ‘what?’ all innocent-like when they don’t get it.

In retrospect, it was far easier to come out to existing friends because I already knew who I needed to tell and to whom it just wasn’t relevant. With new friendships, it’s a lot harder because you don’t know what level they’ll eventually find and it’s a bit hard walking the tightrope between full disclosure and oversharing. You don’t want to spring something on them that they really don’t need (or care) to know, but you don’t want to leave it too late and make them feel like you’ve been misrepresenting yourself or just plain lying to them all along.

Throw in other potential issues like professional contact, legal requirements, the likelihood of your lifestyle being used to discriminate against you, the impact of word getting out to whomever it is you’re not all that cool with or with entities or organizations  or communities that might create issues, etc., and it can get a bit worrying. I know there’s no delineated ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it, but I wish there were some sort of general guideline, because I really don’t know what to do sometimes.

 

I’m still here November 23, 2008

I am indeed still here and still working much stuff out, but work, deadlines and life in general have been taking up all my time. I have quite a few bits and pieces so, as a way or sorting through them and getting myself organized and writing on topic, here are some of the things, in no particular order, that I want/plan to write about in the (near) future:

  • Further issues with ‘ordering’ in relationships – This time from the practical standpoint. Yes I loathe the terms ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ but I suppose they do have some practical application.
  • Living arrangements – What I’ve seen, what I like, what I think I want/could handle, what I couldn’t deal with.
  • The mandatory jealousy post – Just about every poly blog seems to have at least one post on jealousy and while I suppose it is something of a cliche, it’s also just plain useful when jealousy does strike to have all these different perspectives, accounts, and advice out there. Given how similar and yet how varied everyone’s experience of jealousy seems to be, I hope my account can in turn help someone else get through their own battle with this particular bugbear.
  • Partners’ partners – How close can metamours get? What if you can’t stand each other? Is it important to meet them at all? If so, when? Why? Why not? Does one particular policy tend to work better than another or should it be completely ad hoc? What do/can you expect? What should/shouldn’t you do when you meet? etc.
  • Forays into ‘kink’ – Honestly, I don’t know where kinky actually begins and I suspect it’s different for different people. I’m not very easily shocked and I don’t consider most things ‘weird’ anyway, so my world is more divided in to stuff I will do and stuff I won’t, and my willingness or otherwise is decided by how interesting or appealing I find something, not how extreme or challenging or strange it is. I also deliberately didn’t use the term BDSM because it feels far too big and clunky for someone who’s only just taking the tiniest of tiny baby steps into the wonderful world of sadism.
  • Sexuality – Specifically, how mine has evolved, how I’ve been growing into it and getting comfortable with expressing it personally, socially and in some instances politically. I’ve begun to see coming out not as the end point or arrival, but the announcement of one’s departure on a kind of expedition into completely uncharted territory. I’m not done exploring yet by any means, but I’ve certainly learnt a lot already.

I think that’s it so far. Hopefully I’ll get at least some of these written before I start adding to the list. Thanks to the people who’ve been stopping by regularly. With more efficient planning, I should be able to offer up some new stuff for you to read soon!

 

Coming Out Interview September 22, 2008

Filed under: Bisexuality,Coming out,Polyamory,Sexuality — Araliya @ 9:32 am
Tags: , ,

In the comments on my last post, bentcrude asked me to do the interview on her site. I did it, though now I’d like to add a few things to the ‘other words that describe you’ section since Polyamory didn’t get much of a mention. I also don’t know why ‘What did you come out as?’ is repeated or why the second says ‘gay’ since I never said I was no longer interested in guys when I first came out – just that I’d also like to date women. Anyway, I’m sure that’ll get sorted. In the mean time, enjoy reading about all the different experiences on there.

 

Bi/Poly or Bi and Poly? September 8, 2008

So we told some of H’s family and got a pretty good response. This time, he did the talking, which I think was a good idea given that he’s the reason they’d be interested in the first place and because, by talking about it, he takes some amount of ownership of it. Even though he’s not interested in finding or forming other relationships, polyamory is something that we made a decision about together and something that we are still exploring and expanding together. Neither of us would be where we are if it weren’t for the other.

I also realize that I need to stop using bisexuality as a reason for being poly. It came up when H told his family about A and someone asked, ‘If she’s doing this because she wants to be with women, what’s with the boyfriend?’ Given how we’d framed the whole situation, I think that was a reasonable enough question. I honestly am no longer sure what I said at the time because I’ve since talked it over with several people, but I’ve basically concluded that while bisexuality was the avenue through which I learned about polyamory, it isn’t the reason I’m polyamorous. I am increasingly sure that even if I weren’t bisexual, I would be polyamorous and that I am both is a coincidence, if an extremely convenient one.

 

Make That Nine August 20, 2008

Filed under: Coming out — Araliya @ 12:46 am
Tags:

Nine people who know, that is. I didn’t end up emailing that friend of mine but I caught her a little earlier than when we were supposed to meet and filled her in. I’d only just told her when our other friend joined us so I leapt up to greet her while friend 1 attempted to digest what I’d said. Friend 2 assisted her and, after the requisite questions, we moved on to other things. I was fairly confident that things were ok, but I knew for sure when they spotted an opportunity to tease me about it all and pounced on it, proceeding to be gloriously mean and catty to me. *sigh* Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a heaping helping of well crafted sarcasm, and the craftsmanship these girls are capable of is superb.

 

Twice more, with feeling August 18, 2008

Filed under: Bisexuality,Coming out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 1:38 pm
Tags: , ,

Two more coming out stories, and neatly labeled too.

1: In which being blindsided turns out to be less unpleasant than one would expect

A week or so ago I told a friend of mine about being poly and bi. She’s very queer-friendly so I wasn’t worried about her reaction to my being bisexual, but from past conversations I’d gathered that she might not be terrible approving of the whole poly thing and I’d had some concerns about how she might react. She, along with a few other friends, have a tendency to use H and me as a sort of benchmark for relationships because apparently we’re ‘just so perfect’. I know they mean to be complimentary, but that sort of thing makes me feel stifled. Pedestals don’t really allow for much wiggle room, you know? Just because H and I have a great relationship doesn’t mean we didn’t or don’t have to work at it , nor does it mean that we don’t have a lot to learn and a lot further to go yet. (Plus I’ve never been able to shake that cheery little line from Oedipus at Colonus: “Count no man happy until he is dead.”)

Anyway, I decided to tell her about being bisexual first because I figured that would be the easy one. It was. I wrote a story a while ago that involved a very mild sex scene between two women and she said she’d had her suspicions since then. No big deal. Then she asked what I intended to do about it, why I wanted to come out, etc., so that allowed me to segue nicely into polyamory and my own current arrangement. That got a tiny reaction, but only a tiny one – as usual, the mention of other partners led into the usual series of questions:

  • is H seeing anyone? How does he feel about your other partners?
  • How do you get/manage time?
  • Who are these people and how involved are you with them?
  • Are you happy?

I’m actually a little surprised that I haven’t got set answers yet. Perhaps that’s because at the moment I’m still telling people I care about and so want to tailor my responses to what they need to hear most or first. They all end up with the same information in the end, really – they just get it in whatever order suits them.

The upshot was the standard, “if you’re happy, I’m happy for you.” And then she threw me a curve ball. She asked where on the sexuality spectrum I would place myself, to which I responded – and this is something I’ve been working out slowly over the past few months – that I am mainly attracted to and interested in women but willing to make exceptions for some men. “Hm,” she said. “Me too.”

What the…?

And then I wasn’t all that shocked. It’s weird when, in the face of new information that at first blush seems like it should be surprising, you find that no, actually, you’re not that surprised at all, and that, in fact, things suddenly seem to have slipped into sharper focus. Anyway, the rest of it is her story so I won’t share that here, but we both left that conversation a lot lighter and a lot closer.

2: In which I effectively turn ten years on their head

Yesterday, I was chatting with a friend I haven’t seen in ages but who, like quite a few people I haven’t seen in ages, means a lot to me. I hadn’t had a conversation with her for a while and I knew she’d had a lot on her plate, so I’d left off the revelations for the time being. Now that we were talking, and since she’d asked how things, including my marriage, were going, I thought I’d come out with it.

Before I get further into this, a bit of background: We’ve known each other since college, and have always had a very close but also very antagonistic relationship. I’ve always disagreed with the concept of marriage, have never wanted children, have been unwilling to compromise myself or my future for the sake of a relationship, etc. Now she’s never disagreed, exactly, but she’s always questioned whether it was possible to ‘be like that’ and survive. My getting married was her biggest ‘victory’, proof that ‘my way’ was untenable, etc. But for all her crowing, she’s always been genuinely concerned about how the hell I was going to deal with being married since she knew I hadn’t actually changed my mind about marriage. I will also point out that she has technically turned out the be an even better example of ‘my way’ than I have. I also trust her completely – we’ve kept each other’s secrets for ten years now and I fully expect that to continue, regardless of how close or distant our relationship gets.

So you can understand why she’d ask about ‘the marriage’ and you can understand why I’d tell her. For her, I started out by telling her I had a girlfriend and that H was cool with it. As it happened, she’d been researching polyamory because a mutual friend had been involved with someone who cried poly whenever she wanted to get more serious (but that’s a rant for another day), so I didn’t have to explain much. What got her was the bisexuality because she said that while she thought I might be ‘open to experimentation’, that she’d always considered me absolutely hetero. Given my track record – and my silence – that isn’t terribly shocking. Still, she was very supportive and accepting and, when I said that I’d been a bit afraid she wouldn’t approve, demanded, in her tongue-in-cheek manner, exactly which judgmental friend I had her confused with. Hmph.

She’ll come back with more questions as it sinks in, I think, because while she’s taken the poly side of things in her stride, there’s about ten years’ worth of stuff that my coming out as bi and my admission that I have pretty much always been more attracted to women than to men might re-color. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get too negative.

3: A conclusion that isn’t

So that’s 8 people at last count. Eight people I care about who know that I am bi and poly after years of assuming that I was straight and monogamous. And so far, all of them have responded with kindness, with acceptance and with some degree of curiosity about poly. And, with any luck, it’ll be nine tomorrow evening. I’m not too sure how to handle this one because normally I’ve spoken to people one on one. This time, I’ll be out with two friends, one of whom I came out to a while ago. I would have told the other friend earlier, but it seemed a bit weird to do it over email and the last time I saw her was with an even bigger group. Still, it’s important to me that she know, because, even though it makes no material difference to her life, she’s someone who generally understands where I’m coming from – or at least makes an effort to – and I think this is too big a part of who I am to leave out. It’s funny too because I thought I would have told her before I told our other friend, but that’s lousy scheduling for you. Maybe I’ll have to resort to email after all. If, that is, I want her to know before I see her, which is beginning to feel increasingly important.