I’ve been fairly candid from the beginning in this forum that I’m queer. I am attracted to and make emotional connections with people who run the gender gamut, so the binary nature of “bisexual” isn’t a good fit for my wiring. I will use it, though, on occasions to help define my attractions to people who really don’t understand what I’m saying.
When I volunteered at the university Women’s (Womyn’s?) Centre during my undergrad years (’96? maybe ’97?), I took part in a training session around bi-phobia. One of the other women in the session mentioned the stereotype of the bisexual person being a ravenous slut, incapable of monogamy and who would never be satisfied with just one partner, and how frustrated she was with this stereotype because of how untrue it was.
To which I replied, as gently as I could, “I think you’re right that stereotypes can be hurtful and way off the mark for many. I think it’s also really important to acknowledge that there can be a grain of truth in some stereotypes, and to entirely discount the validity of that which is different from us makes us guilty of exactly what we’ve just complained about.”
I suggested that perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing to not be entirely happy with the notion of putting all of one’s eggs in one basket, that “slutty” was hardly an insult, and that when it was practiced ethically and with kindness, non-monogamy was just as valid a relationship option as ethical and kind one-partnered thinking. Essentially, I came out to that room of women as bisexual, and as a slut, and I did so unapologetically.
I’m doing it again, almost 15 years later, on the internet (to my 30 regular readers, and anyone else who randomly stumbles in): I am queer, and I am polyamorous.
What that means is that I am open to the possibility that people can form intense emotional and physical connections with more than one person at a time. I don’t think it’s easy; in fact, if anything, choosing to live non-monogamously in an ethical way involves an unbelievable amount of talking, negotiating, and compromise. Very little can be taken for granted, and even people in healthy relationships deal with frustration and jealousy.
I’ve been pretty quiet about where I fit on that particular spectrum for a long time, and mostly because I haven’t really wanted to deal with explaining it. When I came out as queer, I had to deal with a lot of questions and disbelief. The most prevailing myth I battled was that behaviour dictates identity. You are only queer if a) you’ve had sex with someone of the same gender, and/or b) are currently actively involved with someone of the same gender. Well, the last time I checked, people are not born without a sexuality. It’s taken for granted that people who are predominantly attracted to those of the “opposite” gender are heterosexual without having to prove it through behaviour. No one says, “You can’t know you’re straight. You’ve never had sex, so you can’t be sure.”
Imagine one has a history of dating one person at a time, and suddenly says, “You know what? While I can date one person and be pretty content, I’m open to the idea that there are other options.” And then imagine that person decides to figure out what those options might be. Has that person chosen to explore non-monogamy? Or is that person single and dating? I think that may depend on the perspective of the individual. Perhaps it’s just a difference in semantics. But then imagine if that person strongly identified with “poly” as a descriptor, and had to deal with the myth of behaviour dictating identity. It stands to reason that someone may want to avoid a repeat of that conversation. Eventually, though, it all comes out. And so do I. Again.