Friday, May 25, 2007

Polyamory from a Lesbian Point of View

I found a blog post today that I found quite thought provoking. In GLBT . . . P? Do Polyamorists and Lesbians Mix? Kevyn describes her newly formed lesbian group's encounter with a woman who identifies as polyamorous and whose husband(!) showed up. (I can just imagine how unpopular bringing him was, and I can't say I blame them. ) Kevyn has questions about lesbian polyamory but not much experience with or knowledge of it.

The most successful media piece on the subject is a documentary film that got a lot of play at documentary and GLBT film festivals in 2005 - award winning filmmaker Karen Everett's Women in Love distributed by Outcast Films, which is described as follows: "While examining the human ability to redefine ourselves and reshape what we think "love" means, Everett .... draw[s] on her own experience and that of her circle of lesbian, bisexual and polyamorous friends and lovers. Everett blends her own personal trials with intimate, raw and emotional moments of sexual pleasure and heart-wrenching loneliness." I saw this film and recommend it.

There are also two books specifically about lesbian polyamory:

The Lesbian Polyamory Reader: Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Casual Sex by Marcia Munson and Judith P. Stelboum


Lesbian Polyfidelity: A Pleasure Guide for the Woman Whose Heart Is Open to Multiple, Concurrent Sexualoves, or How to Keep Non-Monogamy Safe, Sane, by Celeste West

So to all our lesbian sisters who are thinking of exploring polyamory, I hope these resources will give the desired perspective on the subject. And good luck!


Tom Paine said...

The variability of the human condition is quite remarkable, and labels often get in the way of who we are. Found you from Sugasm, please drop by, as the title of our blog suggests we have things in common.

Anita Wagner Illig said...

Thanks, Tom, I'll look you up. - Best, Anita

poonam srivastava said...

i'm a lesbian. and i am happy for any resources. there are so few.
so, thanks.
there just seem to be so many men everywhere in the bits of the poly world i have seen.
i dunno.
i'd be happy to learn more. i'm on the east coast, nyc. poly seems to be more west coast as well.

Anita Wagner Illig said...

You might try polyamorous-NYC, which was created for queer poly community. There will be a big poly pride celebration in two weeks that they are coordingating - I'll be speaking at the rally. To find out more go to

Hope to see you there! Please come up and introduce yourself if you decide to join us!

I am called Ni! said...

I am looking for information for the secondary partners. I am in a poly relationship with two other lesbians. BUT, I am only partnered with one of them. (think sister wives) my issue is this I am feeling VERY secondary. They are domestic partners, they have a child (I have my own I am bringing into the mix), and they have mixed finances and etc. Who am I but the live in mistress really? I am completely in love with my partner and she is with me as well. How do I deal with this growing resentment about feeling so separate?

Anita Wagner Illig said...

Niccole, have you spoken to your partner and told her how you are feeling? It sounds to me like you could use some clarity on how you fit into the family. Do you feel welcome by your sister wife? One thing to think about is to accept that it's not possible to be *the same* as your sister wife, i.e. you can't "catch up" with her as far as time together goes. What you CAN do is focus on creating a family history that includes you as time passes and is meaningful to you and your partner and sisterwife. It will also help to build great memories of things you do together as a family. Also, enlist their help in creatively thinking of ways you can feel more a part of things. I'm sure the mortgage company will be only too happy to add you if you have good credit. As to parenting, if you are all going to be participating in parenting each others' children, I suggest a lot of communication about how that will look, parenting philosophies, etc. And I also recommend creating whatever kind of ceremony or ritual that would be meaningful to all of you that welcomes you as an equal partner into the family. You could invite other friends and family and make it a kind of commitment ceremony. So think creatively!

Otherwise my best advice is to check out my links to secondary partner resources. See the link to that page in the upper left column of this blog. Hope it helps!


I am called Ni! said...

Anita, Thank you so much. And yes the same day I commented on your blog I spoke with my partner. That is exactly what I needed to do. Our relationship is built on honesty and trust. I let myself spin away from being open with her for a bit and it began to sink me. So, I told her of my concerns and how I was feeling. She was very understanding and said how she had already thought of these things. She told me how she hoped I would fit in. She explained the plans for future financial inclusion and what her and my sister wife had already discussed. My sister wife and I are at the beginnings of building a relationship/friendship. I want to be able to talk with her about these things as well someday. And my hope is that someday we COULD all have a commitment ceremony. I haven't brought that up yet... but I have thought about it.
Again... thank you so much and reading your response helped even more.

Anita Wagner Illig said...

My pleasure, Niccole, glad it helped and that you are feeling more grounded in your relationship. Happiness to you all!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've been in a lesbian relationship for quite some time now. My significant other has an addtional "special person" in her life. This "other" lover was on deployment and since initially being gone I have come into the picture. There is an understanding that both partners are needed for different reasons, but equally, due to some personal issues. I dont so much have a problem with this, being I'm very open emotionally and sexually. However, I see it being awkward frequently for both of them. I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Do you think I'm missing something?

Anita Wagner Illig said...

I think this falls under the heading of "Don't borrow trouble." That said, the best thing you can do is talk to your SO and share your concerns with her. Hopefully she will be able to share with you how she and her partner have prepared for this. That would be a big step in the right direction, but I will also say that it is very difficult to anticipate how we will feel in a situation we've never experienced before. So taking one step at a time and doing a lot of communicating along the way will be very helpful. Also, if you and she haven't met yet, meeting and getting to know each other should be a priority. It's not as easy to demonize someone we really know if we're feeling threatened.

There may indeed be some awkwardness in the beginning, especially if they are new at this. If everyone concerned is willing to take the time to find a comfort level for all concerned, this should pass, but being able to withstand discomfort for a reasonable period of time, especially in the beginning when we are new at polyamory, is an important skill to develop.

If I were you, what I'd be looking for is an indication of the health of their relationship. I'd also strongly prefer that they had enough time together before the deployment to establish a solid, trusting relationship. Do you know what the personal issues are you mentioned? How is communication between them? Does everyone involved realize this is a package deal, and acting like another partner doesn't exist isn't a workable strategy? I'm not saying this is the case, but it's also far from unusual.

Sometimes opening the relationship can be healthy, but often it isn't if there are serious issues around trust, fear of abandonment, etc. So be wise, observe them together, and verify what you are being told if you can. Be friendly, and assure the OSO of your intention to be a positive presence and not to do anything that will undermine their relationship (assuming you can say this honestly.) If the OSO seems open to you, treats you nicely and welcomes you to her family, then there's a good chance this will all work out just fine.

Thanks for writing, I have been interested in learning how people in the military might find open relationships a legitimate option for dealing with deployments. I hear of this happening more and more, and as it happens, I'm an Army mom, so it's personal for me, even though my daughter and son-in-law prefer monogamy.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

i'm so glad to have found this site. i've been a monogamous lesbian my whole life. i know ppl who r poly and never had an issue w/it, but for me, i've never been able to separate sex and love. when i'm with someone, i'm not interested in anyone else. till my current relshp.

my partner of 7 yrs, whom i love very much, does not want sex. we haven't had sex in 5 years. i am a very sexual and kinky person; she isn't. i thought maybe i could get this need met elsewhere, and we could call our relshp what it is: a celibate partnership of deep love and interdependence.

we r talking openly abt what needs r getting met in our relshp and which aren't, for both of us. we want to stay some sort of family, but i want to see about finding sex and/or bdsm outside the relshp. she said it's OK w/her for me to gather info.

i have multiple disabilities, am rural, and can't drive, so I'm pretty much limited to the web and videos for info or networking (i have a print disability, so can't read the books u suggested unless they're on tape). aside from the movie above. R there chats or BBs?

i'm willing to learn from anyone of any gender, however i'm only attracted to butch women (amybe transmen, not sure), which narrows things further. i have no idea if i'll be able to do this -- practically, emotionally, or in terms of maintaining my primary relshp. I don't want any other relshps, I just want play/fun. have u heard of such arrangements working out?

thank you so much for your time, and any suggestions or info.

Anita Wagner Illig said...

Hi there, thanks for commenting, I'm happy to help. There is a terrific women's poly group on Facebook. I know for a fact that there are poly lesbians there, I think one of them established the group, though it's a mixture of all sorts of women. It's definitely a safe place to ask questions and get feedback. You can find it at If you have any problem with the URL, write to me at And good luck!