Among the queer-identified community, many people opt in for polyamory. Yet many lesbians do not. Forget the U-haul jokes here, it’s just that it’s simply not commonplace for women to even consider it as a viable option.
I see the identification of polyamory, or non-monogamy, like I see the identities of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. Honestly, I believe some people are born poly, while a number of others may “choose” this path for relationships. That’s certainly not to say LGBTQ people choose their identities, but there is a certain coming out process where folks choose to be out or not in particular capacities with themselves and with others.
Poly folks are widely misunderstood, even among the LGBTQ population. In the era of where fighting for marriage equality is a cornerstone issue for lesbians and gays, polyamorous options usually get pushed to the wayside in favor of monogamy as a civil right. But I argue that acceptance and celebration of poly relationships fit the queer civil rights agenda.
By the time of this past Valentine’s Day, I found myself navigating several relationships and, in the process, myself. It has been an emotional and deeply fulfilling path, and it’s still no less important to my at-home partner and me.
I came out as polyamorous when I was 20 and, like virtually everyone poly or monogamous, it’s been a bumpy road finding balance and happiness. When I came out as bisexual, people told me I was just a sexual person, like that was the only reason I liked boys and gals. Well, I am not afraid to claim myself as a sexual person and a proud ethical slut. But my orientation and gender have little to do with how much intimacy and sex I desire.
My first poly relationship at 21 was sticky, especially since at the time I presented as male and wanted to be very fair, ethical, and feminist in my desires. This queer woman and I decided together to open up our once monogamous relationship, but rarely acted upon it. We kissed other people, we flirted, and we even had some joint, ahem, hook-ups, but we never crossed the threshold of either of us dating other people. And then there was the last month of our relationship.
I was really smitten with this other woman. We had hooked up before, a couple years ago. She went off to college, dropped out, hung out in California until breaking up with her boyfriend, and then there we were in the same town again.
My girlfriend didn’t want me to have sex with this other woman. We came to an impasse. I was about to move, I did not want to leave her, but it felt so important to be with this other woman at least for one night. One night together before I left.
Looking back on it, it wasn’t fair to my girlfriend at the time. We stayed together through it. We both regret how it went down. I also felt a little over my head navigating things where I really should have moved on.
And I did. I came to Chicago, left her, and have found many other relationships, big and small, with several people and have ended up living with my partner of a year and a half.
I’ve been also struggling to find how my relationships have changed since the beginning of my transition and coming out as a trans woman. I’m finding new attention on me, this new desirability from different queer people to be with me. It feels really great, validating, and humbling, but also strange. I feel like men in hetero relationships just don’t get the same flirtatious attention that women give each other. It’s special.
I still get butterflies in my stomach when I meet someone new that I really like. I feel happy that they show such tender affection toward me, and that I have a beautifully intimate support system that has webbed itself together.
I get really happy when I hear my at-home partner met someone new, got a phone number while we’re at a bar, or has a date coming up. It made me blush with happiness to see her at her birthday kiss a girl she’s been dating for a little while. I whispered to our friends, “that’s so hot!”
I’ve worked very hard to feel secure with myself, my independence, and my commitments to my partners. I love communicating. You really have to in order to be polyamorous.
Polyamory is certainly not perfect. Someone usually feels neglected at some point in time. Jealousy happens, even when you remind yourself how much that person loves you. Envy—feeling the pure frustration of someone else who seems to have people crawling all over them. And then the unfortunate reality that you have to prioritize people in your life, and it sucks feeling like number two or three. I’ve been on both sides of the equation.
But to me, monogamy seems to have the same problems twice fold. It’s the feeling of guilt of checking out others, a tired resignation of being with one person for the rest of your life, or the secrecy of emotions and desires where you can never be truly and wholly honest with your partner or spouse.
I know I do not take this for granted. I do not know of any polyamorous person who does. It is a wonderful tangle, an exchange, and something exciting.
So what did I do for Valentine’s? I sent a few messages to some partners and spent the whole day with my at-home partner and sweetie, Rosy.
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Dee is a transgender woman, queer dyke, and political activist who lives in the Andersonville neighborhood. She has worked at Early to Bed as a sex educator, and is a writer who performs at All the Writers I Know, a monthly queer literary event. She loves movement-building and organizing for civil liberties, accessible education, queer liberation, and against U.S. wars. One day she hopes to bring home a hairless cat to live with her and her girlfriend.