Profiles In Polyamory [Part I]
Posted by Rachel Krantz on June 23, 2009 at 10:06am
A new generation of gay youth is emerging; a generation coming of age not during the Stonewall Riots or Harvey Milk's assassination, but instead in a world where Will and Grace reruns and news of Prop 8's passage air on the same evening. It is a generation filled with contradictions and young people looking for new models of what’s considered normal.
One such alternative is known as polyamory, and although it is defined in many different ways, it has one basic principle: that you can be in love and in a relationship with more than one person at once. Although poly and gay rights activists will be quick to tell you their causes are separate, their movements are simultaneously interconnected and at odds with one another.
This is a profile of two young women (whose last names we have omited to leave them some semblance of privacy) who are trying to mitigate those two worlds.
"Jealousy is all the fun you think they had." -Erica Jong
"I keep asking myself: was it poly that ruined it? Was it the distance? What was it that ruined this relationship?"
Nicolette still isn’t sure. She made the decision to break up with Sarah a couple months after they had agreed to become polyamorous in order to maintain their bi-coastal relationship.
Sarah and Nicolette met in high school before Sarah was even out. An on-again-off again couple of six years, they've been known to switch between declarations of love and hate depending on the week. After an almost two year hiatus, Sarah moved to Portland to be with Nicolette over the summer. Living together for the first time, the intensity of their relationship reached levels they hadn't seen since they were sixteen.
"That summer we focused on each other in way most new couples would", Nicolette remembers. "Because it had been so long, it felt like Sarah was a whole new person. We were like newlyweds."
When Sarah had to go back to New York, polyamory seemed like the best way to keep their relationship going, knowing they wouldn't live in the same city again potentially for years. Sarah had been slow to come around to the idea of opening up their relationship, which made it all the more shocking for Nicolette when Sarah was the one who started dating other people first.
"I think in my mind's ideal imagination, I hadn't visualized that at great length. At first it was great to hear about the new people Sarah was seeing because I got to see her giddy in a way that gets lost in a long term relationship. It was a vicarious thrill. But then you realize there's only so much you can know about this person while living in a different state. You realize it's not something you're ever going to be involved in."
When Sarah started getting serious with one girl in particular, Nicolette said it was the feeling of being left out that got to her more than anything else.
"Honestly, I was like you're not gonna have time to talk tonight? Great! Now I have three hours to myself! That to me really was a relief. But then I started thinking ‘Wait, they’re going to have the memory of Coney Island and I’m not?’ And that made me crazy...Soon, I realized I didn't really want to know what was going on between them and was having a lot of trouble talking to Sarah. I realized we were growing apart."
Shortly thereafter, Nicolette broke up with Sarah. Still, Nicolette believes in polyamory as a lifestyle, a choice she feels has put her at odds with a lot of the lesbian community.
"A lot of gay men have to fight for their right to be monogamous and likewise a lot of women have to fight for their right to have non-monogamous relationships. By nature of being poly I feel like I'm instantly assumed to be bisexual, just because it’s so un-lesbian."
Nicolette does in fact sleep with men as well, but she identifies as lesbian, since when she's with men she rarely forms emotional attachments. Maybe because of this sexual fluidity, Nicolette holds the controversial belief that one's sexual lifestyle and orientation is a choice.
"I might be able to be straight if it was the right person, but in all likelihood I’ll be gay, and part of that is that I like having a non-normative lifestyle. In the same respect, I would like to choose not to be a compulsory monogamist. I think one's love-style is a choice, but I think that choice for many people is made out of fear and jealousy. Poly, if I can live through it (and I may kill myself trying) seems like the best way to have a giving, understanding relationship, not a relationship based on jealousy or possessiveness."
LGBT Spotlight Week Monday- State of the Unions
Tuesday- Profiles in Polyamory [Part I] : a new generation of gay youth emerges, and challenges the notion of "normal".
Wednesday- The High Cost of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": a harrowing story of abuse in the military.
Thursday- Gay Music Icons and Profiles in Polyamory [Part II]
Friday- An Interview with Anthony Woods, Congressional Candidate and Gay Vet