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Poster Child Polyamory

...and why it's a problem.

Do you ever feel like certain kinds of relationships are more visible, more accepted, or "easier to understand" for folks who aren't in them? Are there questions you get asked about your polyamory that make assumptions about how polyam relationships "must" work based on common media representation about polyamory that don't match your experience? Recently, I've heard these kinds of relationships (usually things like closed triads; "throuple" coverage in general in media, even if not closed, because of the mononormative reference back to coupledom and the focus on a monogamy+1 unit at the heart of a polycule; polyfidelitous units of any kind [keeping love as a scarce resource, just shared with more than 2 people]; representing polyam relationships as non-sexual or as desexualized for the comfort of a mainstream audience; coverage that focuses on otherwise privileged polycules [white, upper middle class, able to afford large homes to cohabit]) referred to as "poster child polyamory" in a reference back to the kind of sanitization of image that the queer community largely went through as the movement for marriage equality and gay rights marched forward over the last couple decades.

Many people's lives, loves, and expressions are excluded from the mainstream when the message is "we're just like you!" In fact the message should be "we aren't just like you, but we're equally valid and deserving of respect and rights!" I can see why that's a harder sell, but also how people end up continually marginalized when they aren't the image being put forward as the poster child for a movement. Just as non-white, non-monogamous, uninterested in having children queer people were largely marginalized from the messaging of the marriage equality movement, a focus on "But look at how closed cohabiting polyam units are just like you, monogamous people, and accept them" in media coverage leads to the exclusion of folks practicing network polyamory, solo polyamory, polyamory that chooses not to cohabit, polyamory that includes kink and friends with benefits, and polyamory that chooses to dismantle cishetmononormative systems (through an RA framework or otherwise), who, added together, are a majority of polyamorous people. We're not well-served by saying "please respect those of us who are the most like you."

Other people have said this better than me; it just sits very poorly with me that a community that comes out of a concept of "ethical slut"-hood, largely, that aims to deconstruct relationships and let people select which portions of them they wish to engage in with which partners, then wants to sweep massive sections of our relationships under the rug to make them "understandable" for folks who are CHOOSING NOT TO UNDERSTAND. The concepts of human relationships are not, independently, particularly hard to understand, and folks telling us we are absolutely wrong and there is no way our relationships can be valid, real, ethical, etc - are bigots. Just as surely as the people telling queer folks their relationships are invalid are bigots. Don't pander to bigots and make yourself and your community small for them. Take up the space you take up, proudly.


Some housekeeping: two upcoming digital classes, one in January and one in February, are open for registration. January 23 at 3pm ET (NYC) is Beyond the Kitchen Table, a class on building intentional relationships w/ your wider polycule based on understanding your and others' boundaries. February 22 at 8pm ET is Relationship Anarchy Applied: Play Partnerships, a class outlining the tenets of relationship anarchy and applying them to FWB and kink play partner relationships, as well as talking about common pitfalls if play partnerships are the only or first way you open an otherwise monogamous or monogamish relationship. I'll also be teaching in person in March at Tethered Together, a conference in Stamford CT. Registration for that is open now.

I appreciate very much everyone who has read my book so far; if you enjoyed it, please leave a review on Amazon. New podcast episodes will be up this week, catch up while you can!

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