Polyamory Is Queer, Too: The FAQ
"Why can't they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?"
--Lucy Westenra, _Dracula_ by Bram Stoker (1897)

1: What does "polyamorous" mean?
2: Isn't it a psychological disorder of some kind?
3: Aren't polyamorous people just cheating on their partners?
4: Isn't polyamory an "unnatural" human invention?
: Do polyamorous people consider themselves to be part of the queer community?
5: Is there a precedent for including polyamory in queer organizations and events?
6: I don't think we should bother specifying polyamororous stuff, because aren't all or most polyamorous people bi?
7: But lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people are born that way. Are polyamorous people born poly, or do they choose to have "alternative relationships?"
: Is violence a real issue for the poly community?
Can you think of more questions? Send them to me!

Q: What does "polyamorous" mean?

A: As the Poly Ring homepage says, "Polys believe we can deeply, richly and ethically love two or more partners at once with knowledge and consent of all."
Polyamory is sometimes known as "responsible non-monogamy." But it's not just dating more than one person at once, or having several serious relationships; it's also having three people all dating each other at once (a triad), or having two serious partners who know and like and maybe date each other (a V), or even just knowing that you tend to love more than one person at once even though you're currently single. The Oregon-based Group Marriage Alliance states that "There many reasons why people have become involved in polyfidelity. Most people in this society live in larger communities away from their extended families. Many people find polyfidelity a way to build an extended family and a community that is scaled better to the needs of the human individual." Polyfidelity recognizes that love does not have to be limited. "

Q: Isn't it a psychological disorder of some kind?

A: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, third edition revised, published in 1980, lists some polyamory-related activities as "disorderly," but this is not the same as being considered a disease or a disorder. The DSM-III also lists a diagnostic entity for being unhappy at work, for example. Furthermore, the disorders listed in the DSM are not diagnosed unless one is unhappy about participating in the behavior described.

Q: Aren't polyamorous people just cheating on their partners?

A: According to Stef Jones, a polyactivist, "I think the key in defining polyamory is *openness*, that is, having multiple relationships with the knowledge and consent of your partner(s) rather than by deceit. (How much openness, how many details are shared, of course varies widely.) A great many people have secret affairs while they're in a supposedly monogamous relationship. I think those people might have the potential to be polyamorous, but I do not think they are practicing polyamory. Another key in defining polyamory, IMO, is that it need not involve sex (although it often does)."

Q. Isn't polyamory an "unnatural" human invention?

A. This is just one example, but check out the bonobos - they're a species of ape. They're all bisexual, and they all have polyamorous relationships and sex with everyone all the time. They don't fight because whenever they try to start fighting they end up having sex. Not only did we not invent any of this, but they're way better at it! Anyway, as one alt.polyamory poster pointed out, "Trying to extrapolate from other species to humans is pointless -- we're not birds or bees or bonobos, we're humans."

Q: Do polyamorous people consider themselves to be part of the queer community?

A: The online signature of one alt.polyamory poster reads "Androgynous poly kinky vanilla queer het," showing that even some heterosexual polys do identify as queer because of their polyamory.
It seems like a higher percentage of poly folks are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered than people in society at large. Not everyone identifies as queer simply because they are poly, but a lot of otherwise straight people find themselves a part of queerdom because their lovers or their lovers' lovers are queer, or because they recognize the loving queerness of polyamory.
Polyamorous people are also perceived as automatically being part of the queer community by people who are not well informed about sexuality. Conservative far-right groups, in particular, tend to paint all gay and bi people as being sexually promiscuous; when they see a triad or other poly relationship, especially when so many of them have multiple genders involved, they lump poly culture in with all the other queer groups they condemn.
a 1995 article about polyamory in "The Stranger" explained, "Another problem, and the main reason everyone in the interview wanted fake names, was outside intolerance. 'We get targeted by the religious right just like any other sexual minority,' Scott added. "We sometimes call it `dysphilia,' the inability to love or the fear of love.'" Polyamorous people face many of the same problems that other queer groups do, for the same reasons: they cannot marry unless they deny their polyamory and act as a monogamous heterosexual couple; they must often remain closeted at work and to their friends and families; they are unable to take part in domestic partnership benefits in many cases because benefit systems are set up for monogamous couples.

Q. Is there a precedent for including polyamory in queer organizations and events?

A. Yes, there is. RainbowQuery, a queer search engine on the World Wide Web, includes links to specifically polyamorous sites like Loving More magazine and the alt.polyamory Frequently Asked Questions list.
There is also a mailing list (listserv) called SPAM, for "dykes who do not fit in," which they define as "bisexual women, women married to men until the children are grown, leatherdykes, transsexuals, sex workers, polyfidelitous/polyamorous dykes, swingers, vampires, etc., AND THEIR ALLIES." (To subscribe send the single word "subscribe" to spam-request@dnaco.net.)
PlanetOut is welcoming polys now; their announcement is listed at the bottom of this FAQ.
Another poly mailing list, "OPEN - for women in open relationships" is run off of bi.org's server.
A variety of personal pages online combine the issues, including
LGBT and Poly Issues
Le Pink Cabaret, Gender Bender Heaven
Eroscan Index: Communities, Orientation and Gender
Nick Smith
Bearpaw MacDonald's Page O' Links
Net Chick
Robert Chesnavich's Columns particularly In defense of polyamory
Linda's Sexuality Page
Cambridge University Students' Union LesBiGay Society
Derien particularly Love In Its Infinite Diversity

Q. I don't think we should bother specifying polyamororous stuff, because aren't all/most polyamorous people bi?

A. As the alt.polyamory FAQ explains, "There are many polyamorous people who are also bisexual, and many who are monosexual (i.e. relating only to one gender as potential or actual sexual/romantic partners; straight or gay/lesbian). There are also lots of folks who don't do sexual preference/orientation labels at all. One doesn't always know until one asks, as with so many other things. Avoiding assumptions is usually worth the exercise."

Q. But lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people are born that way. Are polyamorous people born poly, or do they choose to have "alternative relationships?"

A. Just as in the rest of the queer community, there are different schools of thought about this. The "gay gene" is still just an allele affecting your sexuality, not solely determining it, and many people have pointed out that it shouldn't matter whether it's a choice or not, since there's nothing wrong with being queer in the first place. Similarly, someone polyamorous will come in for the same flak from their loved ones and society in general as someone bi or trans, and feel the same pain from trying to live differently. Some have speculated that one is born polyamorous, since there are people who never have poly relationships and those who feel that it's a necessary part of their love lives, as well as folks in between. Others suggest that there are no poly or monogamous people, just poly or monogamous relationships. In the end, why does it really matter?

Q: Is violence a real issue for the poly community?

A: Yes, although physical violence doesn't seem to be quite as bad in the poly community as in other parts of the queer world.

Sun, 14 Dec 1997 12:01:31   soc.women.lesbian-and-bi        Thread   23 of
Lines 55                  PlanetOut goes Poly! :-)          No responses
pnojamie@aol.com                            PNO Jamie at AOL

Hi everyone!

This is to annouce PlanetOut's brand spankin' new Polyamory Topic Chat. Planetout is a worldwide online community for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trangendered people but this chat is open to everyone. I'm hoping that all of you who are AOL members and interested in polyamory will give this a try because building a Polyamory Community Area on PNO/AOL is important to me and I'll never be able to justify using resources if attendance is low (I have to prove interest :-) ). Oh, and if this chat goes well, I'll also be hosting one on PNO on the web (http://www.planetout.com). Information on the chat follows:

The Polyamory topic chat will be held every Wednesday (starting this coming Wednesday -- December 17, 1997) from 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm Eastern time (which is 7:00 - 8:00 pm Pacific time) in the PlanetOut Topic Chat room on America Online and is open to anyone interested in learning about and discussing polyamory in theory and practice. Some of the scheduled discussion topics will be (not necessarily in this order):

  coming out Poly
  negotiating safer sex
  poly families/parenting
  long distance relationships
  and anything else people suggest...
This chat will be hosted by none other than myself,
PNO Jamie! Because this chat is sponsored by PlanetOut, you can expect it to have a Queer consciousness -- if this bothers you or offends you, don't even bother to show up. Homophobic, biphobic, heterophobic, and transphobic discussion (as well as all the 'isms') is not acceptable as this chat should be a safe place for all Poly folks, not just people of a particular gender, color, age, or sexuality. PNO TOS will apply, as in all other PNO chats.

The AOL homepage for this chat can be found at keyword: aol://4344:921.chtppoly.1021581.566461401 or keyword: PNO Chats (then click on the Topic Chat menu)

The WWW homepage for this chat can be found at: http://members.aol.com/pnojamie/polychat.html

Any comments, questions, or angry remarks about this being posted on USENET? Please e-mail me.

Jamie --

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