From Now On, I’m Saying “Polyam”

Several people from Polynesian backgrounds have said that “Poly” has been a way Polynesians id themselves and our use of it has been problematic and erasing. For those unfamiliar, Lily Stone gives a powerful explanation of ,a href=””>why the use of “poly” for polyamory has been actively harmful to Polynesians. In response, the polyam community has had recurring discussions about whether we should keep using “poly.”

My initial response focused on the specific harms Lily Stone writes about. My blog post titles, tagging, and etc, used the full word “polyamory” or “polyamorous” to avoid causing problems for Polynesians searching online for other Poly people. But it occurred to me that using “poly” as a shorthand within blog posts and books normalizes the use of “poly” for polyamory.

It does me no harm to type a few extra letters. The lack of those letters is doing harm to others. Put that way, it’s an easy decision to make. So from now on, I’ll be using “polyam.” I invite you to do the same.

(P.S. Do not comment to debate whether it is ‘right’ or ‘okay’ for Polynesians to be upset or ask this of us. Do not start the shtick about how Polynesian was originally a word used by colonizers. I’ve seen it all. All your well-thought, logical arguments why using “poly” for polyamory should be okay don’t mean shit to me when beside the fact that this practice is hurting people. So don’t waste my time or spoons.)

This post is part of the Etiquette in Polyamory series.

2 responses to “From Now On, I’m Saying “Polyam”

  1. Hi, I have read the Lily Stone article, and also one by Aida Manduley, and I was wondering if you have any other citations for places (not including reddit) where this conversation is taking place. I am a queer professor of LGBT Studies, and I have always taught my students to use the word poly for polyamorous, so I am now looking for what resources there are out there to deepen this conversation with them in regards to poly for Polynesian. I have been googling, but would appreciate any leads. Thanks!

    • I’m afraid I don’t have anything I can share publicly. I have seen this issue debated and discussed on private email lists and closed facebook groups, but little else has been public. And those conversations have almost exclusively involved polyamorous people.

      I can tell you that through those conversations I have learned that there is apparently some disagreement in the Polynesian community over whether or not “Polynesian” is an acceptable term, with some folks apparently preferring Islander, Tagalog, or reference to a specific Island culture instead of a term that orignated with colonizers. I have also learned that there are a few Polynesian people aside from the authors of these articles who have spoken up to say that they identify as “Polynesian” and “Poly”. Unfortunately the nature of these conversations has been such that I suspect even if they had happened publicly, many Polynesian-identifying people would not have been comfortable speaking up.

      I can direct you to the following links where Polynesians have used “poly” as a descriptor/identifier:
      ASB Polyfest 2017
      Poly-Bros Wear
      On twitter (May take some scrolling, use by Polynesians is mixed in with use for POlytech schools and polyamory)

      These are things that I don’t know if the originator is Polynesian or not, but are using “Poly” for Polynesian:

      And for whatever it may be worth, Wikipedia editors apparently felt “poly” was used for “Polynesian” often enough to be worth including in their disambiguation page:

      And search for “polynesian” is drowned under either commercialized or fetishized results, so I can understand why people who identify as Polynesian would want an alterntive online, whether or not they use that alternative off line. As a Jewish person, “Jumblr” was created as a tag on Tumblr for a similar reason–if we used “Jewish” or “Jew” our community building would get drowned out by all the other “stuff” that gets tagged that way. I don’t know if the lack of other posts/articles from Polynesian-identified folk is a result of this just not being something most of them care about, a result of attempts to talk about it being drowned out by Polyamory sites with a lot of Google-juice, or a result of Polynesian-identified folk who do think this is an issue choosing not to speak out for whatever reasons seem good to them.

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