The Black American Polyamorous Anthology Project

Chris N. Smith recently put out a call of submissions for his new project, The Black American Polyamorous Anthology. Check it out!

The Black American Polyamorous Anthology Project

While completing my academic article entitled Open to Love: Polyamory and the Black American (which will be published in The Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships in the winter 2017 edition) I realized that theory, research and the few personal narratives I complied alone are not sufficient to display the eminence of the Black American polyamorous experience. The people themselves need to share their experiences, hearts, minds, and thoughts through essays, poetry, dance, monologues, narratives, biographical stories, text conversations, social media posts, and whatever other avenue comfortable for the individual and/or collective.

The Black American polyamorous experience is a unique history and journey that coalesces beauty, struggle, intersectionality, love, and growth. However, its diverse voices are marginalized; its sagacious lessons are unuttered, and its perspicacious lenses are imperceptible. Suffocated by societal mores, the Black American polyamorous community may have never had an avenue to directly exhibit to the world its truth collectively. No path to show the world its value and express the day to day, year to year, and generation to generation narratives. The people themselves need to be heard…

The Black American Polyamorous Anthology Project is an avenue for self-identifying polyamorous Blacks/African Americans/Black Americans to express; through any form written, audio or video; their experiences. To be clear this project is meant to represent ALL self-identifying polyamorous Blacks/African Americans/Black Americans regardless of socio-economic class, age, sex, sexuality, gender, and polyamorous formation.

There is NO limit to what is expressed, this anthology seeks to show the totality of the Black American polyamorous experiences (the good, bad, happy, sad, celebratory, abusive, rehabilitory, cautionary, progressive, troublesome, sexual, nonsexual, affective, discriminatory, comfortable, uncomfortable, racial taboos etc…) and its intersections with our everyday lives (as pastors, clinicians, hostess, waste disposal professionals, CEO’s, accountants, artists, mothers, fathers, military members, it does not matter). The goal is to show a robust and true view of our lives.

The project has two elements:
1. Written anthology to be digitally released
2. Video/Audio anthology to be digitally released and presented at film festivals

The due date for submissions is July 16th, 2017

For more information about and the directions for participation in this project please email Christopher N Smith at tenabilitymovement@gmail.com expressing your interest.

 

About Christopher N Smith:

Christopher N. Smith is researcher focused on consensual non-monogamous relationship trends in current and historical contexts. His prior education includes doctoral studies in Sociology; a Master of Arts in Religious Studies with a concentration in Religion and Society; and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Anthropology form Howard University. He is in pursuit of a Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies with a concentration on Minority Serving Institutions. Mr. Smith has extensive experience publishing, working, teaching, presenting and conducting research studies within the education, sociology, human services and criminal justice sectors. Currently he is a Management Analyst for the District of Columbia & in the United States Air Force Reserves. He is an educator, community builder, father, relationship advocate and passionate about increasing awareness of and support for non-monogamous relationships structures in the United States.

Operation Get Michon to Austria to Present Intersectional Non-Monogamy

Hey folks, good news and a call for assistance. Our own Michon Neal had some wonderful news, but needs help to make it happen. Please give hir your support!

The Great News, Everyone!

I was accepted to do a workshop at the Nonmonogamies and Contemporary Intimacies conference in Austria. That’s rare, because people at my loci of intersections are usually erased in these conversations. Here’s my chance to make an impact with people from all over the world that I would never be able to access otherwise due to systemic barriers.

I created and developed the framework for intersectional non-monogamy, integrated feminism, and cocreated the inclusive approach of multi-linking – to say the least; I tend to create a lot. I was chosen to present on Intersectional Non-Monogamy, which would mean so much to me considering that the ill-named and remarkably noninclusive SoloPolyCon sought to discuss it – without crediting me or consulting me and without even grasping the irony of non-Black people handling issues of race. It’s not like they didn’t know that I was working on it, but I digress.

Why I need you

I have been erased, shoved out, and undergone such horrors in the past year, let alone my entire life. Help me help people do better. Give back by granting me bigger platforms so that the vulnerable and left out can actually be heard for once.

The conference is also a rarity for it’s accessibility: both the event and the hotel are kid-inclusive, meaning I don’t have to worry about my kids or leave them behind. They will assist me as best they can to ensure I can attend, but obviously I still need your help as a lifelong impoverished person. I need to get my children passports and need to pray that the TSA doesn’t molest me because I’ll need airfare and the like.

I am risking a lot being a Black queer femme single parent teaching what I teach and travelling to deliver a message no one else can give. You can help mitigate that risk for me. The more funds I raise, the more safety I can buy – because money and reparations can make living under oppression slightly easier.

What I need from you

I need your help to secure visas and passports for the kids (I already have mine), funds for airfare and hotel, and incidentals (because when you’re impoverished everything is an emergency).

Whether it’s your form of doing reparations, paying it forward, because you’ll be there and want to see me speak, or just because you’re a decent human being – I’ll appreciate it. When I say my effect on my corners of the world can be immense, it’s not hyperbole. You can look me up to see all I’ve done in spite of the awful things that have happened.

But, don’t just watch me struggle. I’m a human being. Make space. My dreams are just as worthy as yours. I’m doing my part. But with the world against me, I risk being fully erased. We’ve heard all the usual voices and seem to have learned nothing.

Try mine for a change.

The Polya Bystander: I Just Want to Be Left Alone

Updated version of the article first appearing on Postmodern Woman.

If there’s one thing that helps keep polya people from experiencing discrimination like other minorities, it’s that there’s often some sense of privacy.

For many people, they can practice their non-monogamy in relative peace. They can simply spend less time with any possible family that disapproves. They can’t be picked easily out of a crowd. And even when others discover they have multiple partners, most might simply assume it’s cheating but it’s not like they kill people over it.

Well, only so long as you aren’t already in an oppressed group or surrounded by a culture that closely monitors your sexuality. Polya people like to emphasize that’s it’s not all about the sex but we live on a world in which any sort of intimacy is likely to be sexualized. The vast majority of the world is romantic and sexual in some sense and it’s already difficult enough to understand aromanticism and asexuality.

That doesn’t even begin to cover all of the dynamics that serve to leave the world an extremely unfair place due to the ways we all rank on that arbitrary scale of normality.

In other words, it’s very easy to say you just want to be left alone, and for the most part actually be left alone, the closer to normal you fall. If you already fit into the dominant group and the only not-normal thing about you is that you have more than one sexual or romantic partner without lying or coercing anyone, then you can truly choose whether to be out or not.

There are some who choose to be out. But the only topic they can speak on is their polyamory or other form of non-monogamy. For the most part, they systems of control by normality remain in place. You can see this is in the evolution of the white polyamory movement in the last few decades, where it was (and still is) considered acceptable to exert couple privilege or other forms of hierarchy and controls by default.

Even today, the polya community is overwhelming full of white and well-off voices. There was also that article posted years ago lamenting the lack of diverse voices in what was originally a very queer and colored community (and which does exist, just not within “mainstream spaces”).  The fact that they keep writing stuff like that despite the work myself and others have been doing speaks volumes. I have noticed that many of the online groups, mostly run by white people, are asking about how they can make it a more welcoming space for people of color.

But this question is a red herring. Because the polya community in general – according to many personal stories, and the need for the formation of groups like Intersectional Non-Monogamy and The Creep Shame Hall of Fame – isn’t very welcoming to anyone but straight white men, it seems.

Many women or those who are perceived as female report and complain of creepy guys cruising the polya scene. Anyone can take on the polya label, and without a critical examination or process for ensuring some actual degree of ethical behavior, pretty much everyone is taking a huge risk.

This doesn’t even begin to include further marginalized groups like queer people, intersex people, atheists, and others.

There’s this deep divide between what people think ethical non-monogamy is and what it comes to look like in practice. They may put in the effort to treat their partners well but why should they care about anyone or anything else?

At times, the desire for privacy or for a world away from the world results in the reaction to my experience in an open relationship group over a year ago, where I am told to be quiet because my experience wasn’t “relevant” or was “too political”. Where people wanted to get back to talking about how awesome their polya experience was instead of addressing – or even acknowledging – the discomfort of people like me.

When the desire for privacy and freedom outweighs building a healthier culture or acknowledging the flaws in a system (especially what’s supposed to be a more ethical one), it simply ends up being another way the rest of us are locked out and silenced. In the end, it continues to perpetuate the larger abuse culture and its ills.

It is only recently – some of it from myself and a few others posting about certain issues and some of it from the changing world climate in general – that polya people are starting to realize that maybe it’s not so easy to keep polya a private matter, at least for other people.

Here in the U.S. people are behaving irrationally, spreading hatred, and generally making it an uncomfortable and unsafe place to live for anyone they don’t trust. There are comparisons to Nazi Germany. While I really cannot speak on whether it is or not, there are parallels and Nazis totally learned it from watching us. It is true that witch hunts are explosive and addictive.

There’s that saying that a person didn’t speak up until there were no more groups of people between them and annihilation. It is still true and valid today. You may think that your polyamory has nothing to do with Black people, or with intersex people, or with religious minorities. That’s not true at all.

You can freely practice your non-monogamy because the hounds are busy chasing the rest of us instead. You can live well because of the unpaid labor that my ancestors provided. You can learn about non-monogamy and attend conventions because you’re not trapped in the poverty cycle. You can plan when or if to have children because you aren’t disabled or poor. You can walk down the street holding hands with your loves because you won’t get shot for looking suspicious.

Even when you choose to speak up, you are likely much safer than I am. The more visible I become, the angrier it’ll make those who wished I didn’t exist. And the more likely they’ll respond powerfully (and negatively). I’m already being told that everything that happened to me is my fault, that my aromanticism is the result of shitty experiences, and that I’m exaggerating. How much longer until the threats and physical violence starts rolling in again?

You may think you have nothing to contribute. You may assume that you have nothing in common with us. You may not see the connections just yet.

But if you want to live a more responsible life, if you enjoy loving multiple people, and if you live in relative safety you can do so much to help make that more than a possibility for others.

Listen more. Join Intersectional Non-Monogamy. Check out resources for queer and Black people. Educate yourself.

Even if you fumble, even if you mess up, do your best to step beyond that self-contained bubble keeping you separated from the rest of the world. Your lives may or may not appear to change with the political or social climate. But my life does. And others’ lives do as well.

Be grateful for your privacy. Be in love with your freedom. I only ask that you keep those of us with less of each in mind. And maybe speak up for us and make room for us. And believe us!

Because at the end of the day, I’m sure we all value our freedom and privacy. We all want to be left in peace. Give us that chance.

Polyamory and Children: Legal Stuff

Minimal changes here. A few years ago I expanded this topic into a short series. Revised 4/13/17.

I wasn’t planning on tackling this topic for a while yet, but I’m afraid I can’t think of anything else to write on about polyam and children right now. Not because there isn’t much more to say, but because of my own life.

As I’ve mentioned before I was recently involved in a custody situation in which polyamory was made an issue. Largely on the basis of polyamory, the children were taken from me and their father (my ex) and given to their grandparents. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to appeal, and couldn’t get it in the time allowed. (I usually stay out of political stuff, just to jaded I guess, but the fact that if you can’t afford to spend several thousand dollars with less than a month’s notice means you can’t appeal, really gives well off folks a massive advantage in the civil ‘justice’ system, IMO.)

The laws regarding polyamory (and other forms of multi-linking) and children vary significantly from state to state, and country to country, but the general summary in the US is this:

With very rare exceptions, child protective services will not involve themselves unless there is clear evidence of neglect or abuse. Even if there are states whose laws allow the children to be taken away solely on the basis of lifestyle, CPS (or whatever name they go by in a given state) rarely cares, because they are overworked dealing with real cases of child abuse, abandonment and other horrors. So, living openly poly will not generally create any risk of losing your children.

If, however, you ever get involved in a custody battle, being polyamorous may put you at a disadvantage. If both parents have previously been involved in polyamorous relationships, and there is no third party, being poly really can’t have an effect (you’re objecting to your ex being in a type of relationship you’ve been in also? Don’t waste my time). If one parent is poly and the other has never been polyam, or if there is a third party involved, than polyamory can hurt you in a custody case. CAN. As PolyMom discussed in her blog several months ago, and I have experienced myself, it is fully possible for poly to brought up in a custody case and utterly ignored (“When I started as a judge back in 19XX, we called this kind of thing having extra resources. I don’t want to hear about it.”)

Being openly poly with children does not need to open you up to legal liabilities or create any risk of losing your children. However, if you do not explore polyamory until after you and your children’s other parent have separated or divorced, and the other parent is not involved in polyamory, you may put yourself at a disadvantage in custody cases. Your two options to avoid this risk are to either be a closet poly, or, if you think your ex may be open minded about poly, to go openly to them, discuss your desire to be polyamorous. If you are open about your lifestyle with them, and they don’t take issue with it immediately, than they will have a hard time trying to take issue with it in the future. Unfortunately, not exposing children to polyamory does not necessarily protect you. Even if your children have no knowledge of your lifestyle, never met any of your partners, etc etc; the fact that you engage in poly may still be seen as evidence that you are an unhealthy influence on your children do to your willingness to engage in polyamory.

The bottom line legally right now is that except in rare states that have specific laws regarding how non-conventional relationships should affect custody decisions, whether or not polyamory can hurt you in a custody case depends entirely on the judge and his or her personal take. If you have a judge who is prejudiced, or simply unaware of the reality of polyamory and the evidence that it is not harmful for children you can be in trouble. If you have a judge who is open minded and not against unconventional relationships, it may not effect the case at all.

(Originally posted January 2012)

Fiction Friday: Let’s Make a Deal

Trevor watched silently as Kasmir Teufel hurried—it wouldn’t quite do to say that he fled—the office. Filling Kasmir’s place in the government hierarchy would be difficult, but Trevor hadn’t even tried to convince him to stay.

Let the scared ones go, Wu had said, forcing them to work with you will only lead to problems.

So Kasmir would get a generous retirement bonus and a chance to escape.

After a few minutes, Wu escorted in Narges Khoroushi, the head bureaucrat for Arcane Persons and Artifacts.

She walked stiffly, her starburst earrings chiming with each step. Trevor examined the rest of her ensemble. She wore a simple white cap covering her head that contrasted with her dark brown skin and curled black hair. Her pants were dark with intricate floral embroidery climbing half way to the knees. A robed upper garment that fell to mid thigh and mimicked the embroidery around the cuffs. Together, her outfit gave an impression somewhere between an active or relaxed lifestyler. An impression Trevor knew was false. There was nothing ‘relaxed’ about her.

She stopped a few steps from his desk. “Fredrickson.”

Keep the evil ones close to you, had been the second part of Wu’s divination. ‘Evil,’ Trevor thought, was a flexible concept. But Wu said that in this case, it meant those who would cause or force division. Which fit Khoroushi to a T.

“Thanks for coming so promptly. Please, sit, have a snack.”

On cue, Wu returned with a tray of finger foods.

She glared at him. “There is no need for courtesy between us. Say your piece and have done with it.”

“I want you to step down from APA.”

She sniffed. “And if I don’t?”

“Then I can’t put you on the team that is going to be restructuring the World Peace Force.”

Her eyes widened.

Trevor leaned back in his chair and sighed. “You heard about Winehurst?”

She jerked her head.

“He was… typical of our so-called ‘peacekeepers.’ We need a military, with an emphasis on marines and space forces.” She opened her mouth but he rolled over her. “We don’t need a bunch of bullies and jackboots who use chemical weapons on protesters and demonstrations.”

Khoroushi pursed her lips. “You watched my speeches.”

“We were enemies.” He smiled. “I try to know my enemies.”

“We are enemies. And if I’d been more willing to support… harsh measures against your street mobs you might not be sitting in that chair right now.” She leaned in, anger glinting in her eyes. “And you know damn well that not all of your engineered protests were peaceful.”

“You and I both know your colleagues’ personal cowardice is the reason my butt is in this chair. The protests,” he waved out to windows, “helped me build grassroots support to take power without instant chaos or rebellions erupting. All the arrests, and beatings, and chemical attacks did was prove to my supporters that I was right. The World Government was a corrupt oligarchy in service of the elites. And don’t tell me you were democratically elected. When a full third of the world’s population couldn’t vote there was nothing democratic about it.”

“Monsters.” It was quietly stated, without the venom most people would imbue in the word, but no less hateful for that.

“No. People. My people. And one way or another, I am removing you from power over them. But I’d rather smoke the pipe with you than toss you out a window.” He smiled again. “If nothing else the repairs will get expensive after a while.”

“Ha!” She looked at him for the first time with interest. “So you’ll let me fix the problems with the peacekeepers if I buy into your revolution.”

“Not buy in. Just stop fighting me.”

She said nothing for a full two minutes. Trevor waited. Then she sat down across from him. “Tell me how this brainstorm of yours will work. And why you think we need a military at all.”

AMaP: How to Run an Online Workshop

Hey folks, a while back I shared information on the Accessible Multi-linking and Polyamory Virtual Conference (or AMaP for short). A number of people have told us that they are confused about how a virtual conference will work. To help give everyone an idea of what to expect, the rest of the AMaP team and I will be running events between now and November different aspects of the con.

Last week we ran a short workshop in Zoom, the video software will be using for con presentations and workshops. Our workshop was on “How to Run an Online Workshop”. If you are interested in either presenting or attending and want to see how online workshops and presentations can work, check it out here:

How to Run an Online Workshop

How To Empower Next Generation Media

Previously published on Postmodern Woman.

People don’t often learn best through classes, nonfiction, or lectures. And in a world in which education is becoming increasingly geared towards expanding entertainment, how do we ensure that our messages are getting through?

Plenty of marketers and advertisers will tell you to head for the heart. Many people don’t behave or think as rationally as they’d like to imagine they do. And regardless of my own proclivities, not many people enjoy researching and undergoing metanoia for fun. And while the goal of most media coming up now is to reap massive rewards by going commercial, I’ve never much been one for that path.

See, even though I regularly analyze all sorts of media my own medium right now is writing. While others imagine fame and fortune there will always be those few who instead concentrate on uplifting and expanding. Our entertainment can either give us the familiar dressed up in fancy packages or it can become a catalyst for allowing the sparks of life to shine bright. My stories are only the first medium that I plan to use to engage and awaken. They started off as writing but my goal is to bring them into reality. I have the way; it’s only a matter of time.

There are several ways to educate and entertain people, and they don’t always have to be separate. One of the most powerful ways that people have learned about better or different ways is through our artistic endeavors: our media. How many imaginations sparked, how many new possibilities realized, how many lives saved through art? We learn best by experience and by example. Yet our examples in media and entertainment are severely lacking.

I watched thousands of movies, read thousands of books, and listened to thousands of songs. Yet the things that would have most helped me, the things that would have most delighted me, the things that would have saved my life so much sooner were spread across different realms. I’d find a glimmer here, a peak there, a flash in the distance. And then I realized I wouldn’t find it all somewhere out there. No, like everything humanity requires most for its health, it is within that we find and process it.

So I sat down at age 12 and invented a new genre. One filled with absurdism and satire about all of the ideas that people took for granted like normality, amatonormativity, religion, mental states, physical capabilities, etc. Nothing is sacred in the cuilverse; I tore apart everything I came across, daring my imaginary future readers (likely simply variations of me) to question everything people believed was absolute.

Cuil fiction involves discussions of consent by those who span the scale of emotional intelligence. It involves non-monogamous configurations even the community has yet to acknowledge. It runs the gamut of the sexes, preferences, orientations, health, and races in intersectional ways that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It is cuil because, ironically, it depicts the variation and reality among humans that they deny or are ignorant of in real life.

There are no flat characters in the cuilverse; there are only dynamic people. The focus is on their relationships to themselves, others, and the world around them and not simply on how beautiful that plant in the corner is. They actually react to, change, and interact with the universe they inhabit. And while they do tend to break the fourth wall, you’ll find the science, philosophy, anatomy, and diversity is more real than people realize.

Our epic tales use to involve heroes who were extraordinary, who were unique, who were truly dynamic. But you can tell how much we’ve been swindled by the invention of the “everyman”. The myth of normal was invented and our media has been mostly mass-produced ever since. Even the artists who manage to create something unusual never follow it completely to its logical conclusion.

What I mean is that even when the world is completely different, that context rarely ever carries over to the characters who live in it. For the most part, the main character is a straight man, with rare exceptions for female or gay characters.

And even when supposedly diverse characters are used it is often a matter of tokenization or a tale of completely focused on that difference, rather than the inherent humanity or, you know, an adventure not based on their race, sex, gender, health status, etc.

And to date, there isn’t really any genre for non-monogamous people. Or rather, most poly books are nonfiction. There is some fiction that features polyamory and there are erotic pseudo-poly books. But none of these-the fiction or nonfiction-actually covers the full spectrum of humanity or non-monogamy. We’re left with promises of possibilities and only given the same examples over and over again, and with no in-depth awareness of the myriad intersections and experiences that exist. And they never get to the next step. As much as they talk about happily ever after everyone ends the story before it happens.

Sound familiar?

People keep decrying entertainment in general as being empty and geared towards consumption instead of integration and growth, the only options we’re given simply include more of the same. But complaining about it yet still paying for it just means you’re being a hypocrite.

We need to put the life back into art. And we need more diverse and realistic non-monogamous reflections in our media as well. As a member of the LGBT+ community, I can find a plethora of fiction and non-fiction books, movies, and music about people like me in that regard.

But as a non-monogamous person, as a person who values friendship and sensuality over romance, as someone who wants to see emotional intelligence, sapiosexuality, anatomically correct sex that doesn’t shy away from eroticsim and female agency and isn’t cheap and masturbatory either; as someone who wants things like rape, trauma, and vulnerability to be what they are instead of mere contrived fodder; as that person who craves a world that sees human before any other label; I see a gaping hole.

Each perspective I write is unique to whoever is currently having their experienceI know what it’s like to never be seen, to be constantly underestimated, misunderstood, marginalized, fetishized, and tokenized. I imbued my characters (alien and human alike) with more agency, honesty, freedom, and variation than many people ever grant themselves or others in real life.

That lack in real life needs to be changed if we are ever to move towards a fully consensual society. You see, consent requires knowledge, and when it comes to love, romance, sex, mental health, emotional intelligence, non-monogamy, and sexuality the majority of people are Jon fucking Snow (yes, even those who claim their non-monogamy is ethical still have a ways to go).The world needs media that isn’t just entertainment. We need transformative, immersive, integrated content. The world can be changed through art just as much as science. Art has been sorely lacking behind. Isn’t it about time we do something about it? Demand better, create better, acknowledge more, and embrace the unique.

For empowered content we need artists that are as focused on who their characters are as what they do. We need them to craft each person as carefully as they craft the rules of their universe. We need creators to show us heavens along with hells. No one at all is helped by saying, “At least we’re better than them. Thank goodness we don’t have their rotten luck!” We need maturity and self-worth in our icons more than we need pettiness and ignorance.

I mean, everyone keeps saying they want to make the world a better place. We want it be full of consent and diversity and healing. Isn’t it time our art actually showed us what that’s like?

Polyamory and Children: Research Update

List has been updated with more recent work by Dr. Elizabeth Sheff. I haven’t heard back from other researchers yet, but if I do I’ll add their newer work as well. A lot of the newer stuff is publicly available, so skip to the bottom if you want something you can read and don’t have access to academic journals. Updated April 6, 2017.

Being a bit lazy this week, though I hope this may be helpful to polyam parents. The Yahoo! PolyResearchers group recently compiled this list of studies covering polyamory/modern forms of non-monogamy and its impact on children. While it isn’t the easiest thing for a lay person to get access to academic journals (they tend to run expensive and not be carried in the local library), this list may be a resource for any professionals you deal with who are seeking to educated themselves on how your lifestyle may impact your children.

I have read very few of these myself, but the general discussion on the Yahoo! group indicated that no one there knew of any study which found any harm to children raised in ethically non-monogamous families.

Barker, Meg & Langdridge, Darren.  (2010).  Understanding Non-monogamies.  London: Routledge.

Pallotta-Chiarolli, Maria.  (2010).  Border Sexualities, Border Families in Schools.  Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Pallotta-Chiarolli, Maria (2006).  Polyparents Having Children, Raising Children, Schooling Children.  Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review, 7 (1), (March 2006), 48-53.

Pallotta-Chiarolli, Maria.  (2010).  To Pass, Border or Pollute: Polyfamilies Go to School.  In Meg Barker & Darren Langridge (Eds.), Understanding Non-Monogamies.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Pallotta-Chiarolli, Maria, Haydon, Peter; & Hunter, Anne.  (In press, 2012).  These Are Our Children: Polyamorous Parenting.  In Katherine Allen & Abbie Goldberg (Eds.), LGBT-Parent Families: Possibilities for New Research and Implications for Practice.  London: Springer.

Sheff, Elisabeth.  (2011).  Polyamorous Families, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Slippery Slope.  Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 40 (5), (October 2011), 487-520,

Sheff, Elisabeth.  (2010).  Strategies in Polyamorous Parenting.  In Meg Barker & Darren Langridge (Eds.), Understanding Non-Monogamies.  London: Routledge.

Older studies:

Constantine, Larry L., & Constantine, Joan M.  (1976).  Treasures of the Island: Children in Alternative Families.  Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Constantine, Larry L., & Constantine, Joan M.  Group Marriage: A Study of Contemporary Multilateral Marriage.  New York: Macmillan, 1973, pp. 148-162.

Constantine, Larry L.  (1977) Where are the kids? Children in Alternative Life Styles.  In Libby, Roger W., & Robert N. Whitehurst (Eds.), Marriage and Alternatives: Exploring Intimate Relationships (pp. 257-263).  Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman & Co.

Johnston, C., & R. Deisher.  (1973).  Contemporary communal child rearing: a first analysis.  Pediatrics, 52(3), (September 1973), 319-326.

Salsburg, Sheldon (1973).  Is group marriage viable?  Journal of Sex Research 9(4), (November 1973), 325-333.

Weisner, T.S.  (1986).  Implementing New Relationship Styles in Conventional and Nonconventional American Families.  In Hartup, W., & Z. Rubin (Eds.), Relationships and Development (pp. 185-206).  New Jersey: LEA Press.

Weisner, T. S., & H. Garnier.  (1992).  Nonconventional family lifestyles and school achievement: A 12-year longitudinal study.  American Educational Research Journal 29(3), 605-632.

(Originally posted January 2012)

New Studies and Articles

(Unlike the original list, not all of these are peer reviewed. The ones that aren’t peer reviewed are more like to be available to anyone, so use them to inform yourself and your friends. The peer reviewed are harder to access, but can be very useful when dealing with medical or legal professionals who need “proof”.)

2016 Sheff, Elisabeth. When Someone you Love is Polyamorous. Portland, OR: Thorntree Press.

2016 Sheff, Elisabeth. “Resilient Polyamorous Families” in Critical Dimensions of Sex & Gender Diversity: Clinical Perspectivesedited by Karian, Previn.

2015 Sheff, Elisbeth. “Polyamorous Parenting” in The Sage Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies edited by Goldberg, Abbie. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

2015 Sheff, Elisabeth (Editor). Stories from the Polycule: Real Life in Polyamorous Families. Portland, OR: Thorntree Press.

2014 Sheff, Elisabeth. The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple Partner Relationships and Families. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

2013 Goldfeder, Mark and Sheff, Elisabeth. “Children in Polyamorous Families: A First Empirical Look,” The Journal of Law and Social Deviance.  Volume 5, pages 150 – 243. http://www.lsd-journal.net/archives/Volume5/ChildrenOfPolyamorousFamilies.pdf

2012 Sheff, Elisabeth. “Polyamory and Divorce” in Cultural Sociology of Divorce, an Encyclopedia, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fiction Friday: Why Communication Is a Good Thing

First Entry          Previous Entry

In the silence only excellent soundproofing could create, the quiet rustle of reeds was stunningly loud.

Trevor watched as Wu passed the dried stalks from hand to hand. Zi placed them on the floor in from of zir, a few at a time. Then set a handful aside before picking up the rest to start again.

Stillness had never come naturally to Trevor, but he held himself as still as possible. Only his fingers moved, tapping out a soothing rhythm on the seam of his skirt.

Finally, zir placed the last handful aside and closed zir eyes.

He’d watched Wu cast zir reeds dozens of times over the years. He’d never completely shaken the edge of fear it brought him. And tonight, the night of their first great victory, the fear was worse than ever. He had good people behind him. But he couldn’t do this without Wu beside him.

Wu opened zir eyes and smiled. “We have danger, but also opportunity.”
Trevor sighed, tension running out of him. But he couldn’t stop himself from asking, “We?”

Wu bowed, zir shoulders drawing inward. “Forgive this presumptuous one. Your servant only meant— your servant would not lay claim to what is rightly yours.”
“What?” Shocked, Trevor knelt beside the dragon. “Oh, damnit, Wu, I didn’t mean…”

Wu looked at him, and Trevor could see the confusion and hurt in zir gaze.

“I’m afraid of losing you.” Trevor reached out and took Wu’s hand, rubbing a finger across the braided ring zi hadn’t removed in over 10 years. “When you gave yourself to me, you said…”

“Your servant said many things. Do you doubt them now?”

“No! No,” He took a deep breath. “But… I guess I just didn’t believe that I wouldn’t need to pay a price for winning today.”

“Trevor.” Wu’s hand cupped his cheek. “Talk sense or I’m going to put you to bed and call a healer.”

“Your first loyalty, you said, would always be to your ’path of heaven’ or whatever it is.”

“And you thought… what? That I would leave? Now?”

“If your Heavens called you, yes. Of course you would.”

Wu sat back and covered zir mouth. Zir eyes sparkled. And every once in a while a strangled laugh slipped through their fingers.

Trevor didn’t see the joke.

“That… That’s not how it works.” Wu said finally.

Trevor leaned forward and tapped Wu’s knee. “What’s not how it works?”

“The Heavens…” Wu took a deep breath and fought down zir laughter. “They aren’t like Deborah’s God, Trevor. They don’t issue commands or expect people to serve them. They… they are. Their path is the path of righteousness. Of right conduct. Not… whatever you have been thinking.”

For a moment, Trevor was completely still.“…you mean I’ve spent over a decade worrying that one day you’d up and leave on some kind of divine marching orders for nothing?”

“Apparently.” Zir lips quirked.

“Are you smirking at me?”

“No.”

Zi was most definitely smirking at him.

“Where in the world did you get that idea anyway?”

Trevor glared. “Wu, I conquered the world on the basis of a prophecy and a vision quest. Over half the magic workers and soothsayers in the world support me, a good majority of them because they got some kind of divine marching orders from whatever it is they follow. You have not once in over a decade talked about your beliefs or faith or whatever it is you follow except to say, on the day I took your oath, that your first loyalty was to this path of heaven… thing. What did you expect me to think?”

“Oh.” The humor drained from zir face.

“It was pretty obvious you didn’t want to talk about your culture or past, and I respected that. I didn’t go researching Chinese belief systems behind your back or digging into your family and background. I figured you’d tell me if you wanted to. But… damnit, Wu…”

“Oh.”

This time Wu gave him a full bow, face pressed to the floor, hands clasped behind zir back. “Your servant most humbly begs forgiveness for zir foolishness. Your servant has… reasons for not speaking of things past. But your servant owes you the knowledge you need to make full use of your servant. And… your servant regrets, bitterly, the pain zir foolishness caused.”

Trevor grabbed a fistful of Wu’s hair and pulled zir head up. A frisson of energy danced along his nerves, stronger because of the fear and frustration which had come before. He knew why he took such pleasure in control. Knew also how dangerous it was for a man who had set himself up as a dictator and tyrant. But he and Wu had shared this bond almost since the day they met. He wasn’t giving it up unless he had to.

“Let me be sure that this time I understand.

“Your path of heaven is a guide for your actions. A code of ethics or moral strictures.

“You have given yourself to me, and there is no person, entity, being or god that can make you leave me. But your path of heaven comes before your loyalty to me, and if I tell you to do something that violates your code, you will disobey.”

He gave Wu’s head a little shake. The dragon winced but remained passive under his hand.

“Do I have that right?”

“Yes, you are correct.”  Wu swallowed. When zi spoke, zir voice shook. “Only at your word will your servant leave.” Wu met his eyes for a moment, then looked down again.

“Wu…” he released the dragon’s hair and cupped zir chin. “Do you really think I would cast you off over this?”

“No.” Zi swallowed again. “No. But one day you will learn of your servant’s past. And I fear that day.”

Trevor’s fingers tapped on his thigh, but this time the rhythm didn’t sooth. “We will deal with that day when it comes. But I can’t imagine anything from the past that would change how I feel.” He’d killed a man today because Winehurst was no longer useful to him and couldn’t be trusted not to interfere. What in Wu’s past could be so horrible zi feared to tell Trevor?

Trevor pushed the question away. It was for the future, and this was now. He pulled Wu up and into a hug. “It’s okay. We’ll be okay.” They held each other for several minutes until Trevor said. “Now, tell me about your divination.”

Polyamory and Children: Introducting New SOs

There’s a fair bit of revision here. Partly to make the post inclusive of single parents and LGBT families. But a lot because my view on this has evolved over the years. My opinion at this point is decidedly non-standard, but my approach has worked well with my family and other’s I have known. Like so much else, treating romantic relationships like any other relationship makes your kids and SOs meeting a lot simpler. Reposted 4/6/17.

Much like a single parent entering the dating scene again, how children react and respond to new SOs is a major issue for polyam folk. Of course, it’s also a secondary issue. First, you need to decide if you will be introducing your SOs to the kids.

This is very much a ’use your own judgment’ rule, but in general, you want to keep your children’s lives (regardless of how old they are) as stable as possible. So it’s important to keep in mind the difference between introducing your SO and making your SO a part of your kids’ lives.

Most of the time when people ask about “introducing” an SO to their kids, they are conflating the two. As if you would never introduce someone to your kids unless that person was going to be a major and long-term part of their lives.

Why?

I mean, you introduce a babysitter to your kids, you and the kids both know they may never see the babysitter again. If your new co-worker stops by to drop off chicken soup when you are sick, do you tell them to sneak in the back door so your kid won’t see them or do you have them come to the front door and ring the bell? If your kid answers it just say, “Oh, this is Carla from work, Carla, this is my kid.” They say polite how-do-yous and that’s it. If your company does those company family picnic things, next time your kid will at least recognize one other person there.

If you are in the closet about being polyam, don’t introduce your SO to your kids. If you aren’t in the closet and you and your SO aren’t talking entwinement, then if SO and kid happen to be in the same place, introduce them. If not, don’t worry about it.

The key here is expectations. If you are open with your kids, it’s important that they understand that not everyone you date is a potential new parent. There is a presumption in monogamy that anyone who is dating is automatically looking for a spouse. Do your kids the favor of debunking this early. It will make it easier for them to accept your relationships and easier for them when THEY are figuring out what kind of relationships they want.

“Hey, kid, you know how I’m doing the polyamory thing, right? Well, sometimes my SOs will be coming by to pick me up. I want you to know now that I’m not trying any of them out for a new/another spouse and if you meet them it doesn’t mean this is some big deal. It’s like when I introduced you to my friend Carl—someone you may see around and I want you to know who they are so you have a name to go with the face.”

Then when enbyfriend gets the time mixed up and comes half an hour early, it’s easy to say, “Oh, kid, thanks for getting the door. This is enbyfriend. I’m gonna park them in the living room while I finish getting ready. Go do your thing, okay?”

See? Introductions don’t need to be a big deal.

Okay, but let’s assume you and your SO have been in a relationship for a while, and you want to be more involved in each other’s lives. That can mean anything from wanting to share holidays to talking about moving in together. If your kid hasn’t met your SO yet you may want a more in-depth introduction.

A lot will be depending on how your family handles things and what you and your SO are looking to change. For instance, our family holidays, especially big celebration holidays like Passover, we invite a whole bunch of friends and family over to celebrate with us. While we have special family time during holidays, the main celebration is a (for us) large get together that always has room for one more. For polyam families with similar holiday traditions, inviting an SO to join the Seder or Christmas dinner is a non-threatening first meeting. The children won’t need to interact with them beyond saying ’hello’ unless they want to, the SO’s presence won’t be an intrusion, and any awkwardness gets lost in the fun and insanity of a three hour meal that involves origami frogs hopping around the table, singing songs, and pelting each other with marshmallows (or whatever your holiday traditions might be).

For another family, whose holidays tend to be private affairs, inviting a new person to a holiday celebration would be a horrible way to introduce them. It all depends on how your family handles things.

It can also depend on the child. For some children, bring your SO to your home to introduce them will make the child more comfortable – they are on their home turf. For others, it will feel like their space is being invaded. In that case, a get together at a park, a diner, or some other neutral space is a better idea.

Personally, I like the idea of having some activity to help people break the ice. A museum trip, a sports outing, whatever. But again, for some kids, a better idea is just to have them meet in a quiet place where they can talk and ask questions.

What to Say

Here, a lot depends on the child(ren)’s age, but in general, keep it simple.

Before your child(ren) and SO meet, sit down with your kids and (if you live with them) your children’s other parent/your primary partner(s). Just tell them that you are going to be introducing them to X, that X is important to you, but that it is ok is they don’t like X. Explain how your relationship with X is changing and how it will affect your child(ren). “X and I want to be more part of each other’s lives, so they are going to be coming over sometimes to hang out with me or watch movies together. I’m also going to be inviting them to our family barbecues this summer. You don’t need to talk with them if you don’t want to, but I’d like you to meet them.” Answer any questions they may have. (By now you should long ago have had the ’we are/I am polyamorous’ discussion.)

Depending on how your child(ren) tends to handle things, you can have this discussion a couple of days beforehand so they can think about it, or right before meeting your SO. You know your children best.

When you introduce them, keep it simple again. ‘Child, this is X. X, this is Child.’ Younger children generally aren’t much interested in strange adults, so you may want to mention something they have in common to help young children see your SO as a person, rather than Random Adult 1.

Take it slow, and keep it easy, let the children set their own pace. Remember that even if they have known about polyamory from a young age, they have grown up in a monogamous culture. They may be jealous on their other parent’s behalf, may feel (and resent) that the SO is taking time and attention away from them. Basically (again) everything that a divorced or single parent can face introducing an SO to their children, you might run into as well.

Introducing an SO to your children can definitely be a major step, especially if you want your SO to be a part of your family life. But with some thought and care, you can tone down the stress and pressure, and make it easier for everyone involved.

This post is part of the raising children in a polyamorous family blog series.

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