Thursday, July 31, 2008

Loving More West in the Redwoods

I returned a few days ago from the Loving More West Coast Conference at Brooktrails Lodge in Willits, California. Above are some of the shining faces of the folks I spent time with. I had a really great time. I'd never been to that part of California before, and the redwoods are truly magnificent.

This was my first time attending the west coast conference, though I've attended and presented at the Loving More East Coast Conference many times. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and to say hello to several I hadn't seen in some years. And Brooktrails Lodge was a beautiful setting, quite comfortable with hotel-like sleeping rooms and two hot tubs.

Of course, it was great seeing Robyn and Chuy again and meeting Loving More's office manager, Amira, for the first time. These three people are the glue that keeps Loving More running, and they contribute a tremendous amount of time and effort to making the world a better place for polyamorists. Be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts by writing to .

I especially loved seeing Gypsy Jack and meeting his partner, Dee, shown here to the right. Jack played guitar for us at the conference, and he played at the first gathering of poly people I ever attended, at a private home in the Bronx - best I can figure it was about 1997, and I hadn't seen him since until now. It was lovely meeting Dee finally.

It was also great to see Bob McGarey (pictured here at left) and to meet his partner, Pam. Bob is a fabulous poly therapist and the roving poly therapist for the weekend. He really knows his stuff, and I highly recommend him to whomever is looking for such a resource. I hear he gives good phone.

I very much enjoyed the company of my traveling companion from San Francisco, fire spinner John, shown here at right, who is a heckuva nice guy and has actually made a living giving fire shows. Alas, due to forest fires in the region open flames were not permitted and we were unable to see his full show, but hopefully that opportunity will come along again some day.

Presentations at this event were every one top notch. Robyn, Amira, Bob, and several others shared their expertise and made it a weekend well worth the investment of time, money, and even gas. I really enjoyed the presentation put on by veteran poly presenters Dawn Davidson and Akien MacIain (left) - they really know their stuff.

Lastly, the Sensual Festival on Saturday night was a lot of fun. There were stations set up for everything from body painting to blindfolded enjoyment of the aroma of various sensual oils, to blindfolded yummy food tastings to blindfolded sensation play - and of course, we can't leave out the sensual massages, or Gypsy Jack's serenading us on the guitar. I really hope we'll be doing that again at Loving More East Coast Conference Retreat at Easton Mountain Retreat outside Albany, NY (Saratoga Spring, NY) September 5-7, 2008. A lot of people have already registered, and it promises to be another dynamite Loving More Retreat. Hope you will be joining us!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Jim David Adkissons of the World are Listening

I grew up in east Tennessee near Knoxville. Though I was raised a Southern Baptist, I was never drawn to that affiliation as an adult. When I was introduced to polyamory and got to know more and more polyamorists, I encountered many UU polys with whom I felt a real affinity - our values were very similar, so when Tim and I got together and he was looking for a new UU church, he and I happily signed the membership book together at Paint Branch UU, where today we are very active members.

When my mother was dying a couple of years ago, Tim and I visited the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. It was an oasis of tolerance, welcome and kindness during a very difficult time, and I was very grateful that there was a UU church in the area where we could spend a couple of hours in comfort with such an open and accepting group of people.

Imagine our shock and sorrow to hear the news from Knoxville that Jim David Adkisson, a man who says he hates liberals and gays, brought a shotgun in a guitar case into TVUUC on Sunday and killed an usher, Greg McKendry and a woman, Linda Kraeger and wounded seven others, five of whom remain in serious condition, before he was wrestled to the ground by members of the congregation. Had these heroes not acted quickly, many more would have died. Adkisson had almost 80 shotgun shells in the fanny pack he wore, and the letter he left in his truck parked outside said he intended to keep shooting until the police arrived and killed him. He is a troubled, out of work man filled with hate for liberals and gays who believes both are destroying our country.

Greg McKendry is the biggest hero of all - many of the witnesses saw him step right into the line of fire and take the first shot rather than have it kill several others nearby. Two more shots were fired before Adkisson was subdued and police arrived.

Sunday's service was a children's service where a production of an adaptation of Annie was just under way. Thankfully no children were hurt physically. All throughout the UU world we are mourning for all involved, but especially for the children who witnessed this horrible crime. We also mourn for the families of the dead and wounded, and for the TVUUC congregation as it tries to make sense of this and find its way back to worship and social action in their beautiful church, even knowing the horrors that just took place there.

I am grateful to all of the Knoxville congregations - Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim - who have rallied to TVUUC's side and denounced this violation of the sanctity we all cherish, no matter what our faith. Some of my very own east Tennessee family members have used hate speech in my presence, and I'm hoping this incident will persuade them to think again and monitor their words. The Jim David Adkissons of the world are listening.

I don't usually post here about non-poly-related events, and this may seem like one of the rare exceptions, but in a way it is consistent with the activism work I've been doing for many years now. I do my best to bring an attitude of tolerance and compassion to the most offensive online remarks made about polyamory, and certainly my UU values support me in that effort.

Fortunately the Unitarian Universalist Association has a very skilled trauma team. It along with UUA president Bill Sinkford headed to Knoxville immediately and are providing valuable services to the members of TVUUC and their loved ones. Now UU churches around the world, but especially in the US, are worrying about copycat killers and how to protect their congregations while remaining the open, welcoming and tolerant "sanctuary" they are. Our innocence has been stolen from us by hate, but we will respond with love and compassion. It is the UU way.

By the way, I am a candidate running unopposed for election to the Board of Trustees of Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness and will devote some of my activism time to increasing awareness of polyamory within the Unitarian Universalist Association. You might think that polyamory would be accepted as a matter of course in UU congregations, but some are uncomfortable being openly welcoming of polyamorists due to memories of how many relationships were disrupted or destroyed by the free love/human potential movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then people were indeed pretty much doing their thing without any skills to know how to make it work. Our job is to help them understand the differences between polyamory and free love in terms of knowledge and skills that preserve existing relationships - polyamory being Free Love 2.0, if you will.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Poly activist Birgitte Philippides on WE TV's "The Secret Lives of Women"

New York City polyamory activist and Poly Pride organizer Birgitte Philippides was one of the women featured in the most recent episode of the WE (Women's Entertainment) cable network program "The Secret Lives of Women" which aired last night. See video clip below (sorry that it begins with a @#%*! commercial!) Birgitte is such an eloquent spokesperson for polyamory. In this program she speaks from the heart about what her poly life and her poly partners mean to her and why for her a poly life is a fulfilling life.

I especially enjoyed the honesty with which she and WE addressed the subject. Her life is examined from several angles. Birgitte's mother, to whom Birgitte is clearly close but who strongly disapproves of Birgitte's poly life, tells her part of the story. We also see Birgitte and some of her poly partners together, both male and female, as well as her art which serves to express her emotions about her life and relationships. It was also fun to see some other people I know in the video, i.e. Cuddleparty founders Reid Mahalko and Marcia Baczynski.

WE turns out to be an excellent venue for exploring polyamory in women's lives. It describes itself as "the content destination where strong, confident women connect to fun, entertaining programming focused on pop culture, personal style and relationships." What more could we ask?

Strong women have been leading the way in speaking about their poly lives to the media and online for quite a few years now, and Birgitte's appearance on this program is the latest example. Kudos to Birgitte and the WE network!

CunningMinx's New Poly Intro Video

CunningMinx is the stalwart, entertaining creator and producer of the Polyamory Weekly Podcast. Her new "Introduction to Polyamory" YouTube video has just debuted and is excellent. I highly recommend it - check it out.

Much love and appreciation to Minx for all she does to educate people about polyamory - we love you Minx!

Loving More West Coast Retreat - The Good, The Great, and the Wonderful!

Today I'm preparing to go to northern California for my first ever Loving More West Coast Retreat. I've attended and presented programs at the East Coast Retreat many times, but this is my first Loving More California Conference.

The following is from Loving More Executive Director Robyn Trask. If you live in the region and can still make it to the retreat, there is some excellent news below - read on. Hope I'll see you there.

The Good, the Great, and the Wonderful…..

Concerns have been expressed regarding fires in Northern, CA and Mendocino County. We have been keeping an eye on the situation. Most fires are well to the North of Willits and the Loving More Conference location. The fires in Mendocino have been either put out, completely, contained or partially contained (the word is the county has the fires 95% contained as of Friday July 18). The temperatures have cooled and
the smoke has cleared from the pacific winds and fog so at this point Willits is not being affected by fires nor is it expected to be.

The Good - As we said the fires are mostly contained and not a threat to Willits or the conference location.

The Great – We still have room for those whose concerns had you undecided about coming to Loving More West.

The Wonderful – We are reducing the price for a limited time to the regular registration price of just $335 a savings of $40 off the usual late registration price of $375. This price includes wonderful meals, comfortable lodging and an awesome line up of presentations specifically geared to polyamorous relationships. This offer is available for registering online or at the door. If you plan to pay at the door, you must contact us directly for important conference guidelines, information and so we have a room for you.

Come and join us July 25-27 at Brooktrails Lodge for a magical retreat in the Redwoods. Relax, learn and connect with others of like mind. Don't forget to bring your ideas and creativity for Saturday night's poly-sensual festival where attendees have the chance to co-create a fun filled evening of fun and connection. (This is not a sex party but a fun space to socialize, play with body paint, sensual touch, dance and have fun.)

For complete retreat information and to register go to the Loving More Website or call Robyn at 303-543-7540.

Further discounts available when two or more register together, please call for details.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Kidman Urban Baby Name Inspired by Famous Australian Polyamorist

It's very interesting how celebrities past and present are coming out as or are being discovered to have been polyamorous. (See my post on Amelia Earhart and George Putnam.)

In Nashville on Monday academy award winning actress Nicole Kidman gave birth to a baby girl with her country music megastar husband Keith Urban by her side. They named the baby Sunday Rose Kidman Urban.

This week around the internet there has been a lot of curiosity and speculation about their inspiration for naming the baby Sunday. Apparently Nicole's father says he and his wife suggested the name. "There was a lady named Sunday Reed who was a prominent patron of the arts in Victoria [Australia]," Antony Kidman said. "The name Sunday struck me as being a nice name for a woman, so my wife and I mentioned it."

The patron of the arts in question was Sunday Reed (1905 - 1981). According to the website, Reed and her husband, John (pictured here with their son, Sweeney), engaged in a long-term menage a trois with artist Sidney Nolan, who came to regard Sunday Reed as his muse. Reed and her husband were also rumored to have had open affairs outside of their marriage with a variety of people.

I found the following quote on another website from a letter from John Reed to Nolan: "Within a year you came to live at Heide, your life and ours were inextricably interwoven in a pattern of complete mutuality and intimacy. Each made his own contribution to the life we all led together, and your paintings were part of your contribution, even though you said Sunday painted them as much as you did."

I'm sure Keith and Nicole didn't choose to name their daughter Sunday because of the poly aspect of her namesake, but it still pleases me enormously to find that yet another public figure of the past led a life not all that much different than my own. I am also a huge fan of (and yes, lust after) both Nicole and Keith. I saw him perform in concert in Baltimore in March, and he is an amazing guitarist and performer. I would have loved to have seen them together there but apparently Nic, as he calls her, wasn't present, though he did dedicate a song to her and said how happy he was to know he was to be a dad. Someone in the audience gave him a Baltimore Ravens onesie, a one piece outfit for babies, and he hung it on his microphone stand for the rest of the concert. I find the obvious love they share to be quite touching, and I'm so glad she found real happiness after having such a heartbreaking experience with the too-arrogant-for-his-own-good Tom Cruise. And it doesn't hurt that they have a home in and their baby was born in Tennessee where I grew up.

Book Review: Opening Up by Tristan Taormino

Tristan Taormino is an over-achiever, a multifaceted woman with an impressive breadth of expertise and talent. She broke ground as an expert and author on anal sex for women, is a long-time editor of anthologies of lesbian erotica, and takes a unique reality approach as a porn director and producer. In her spare time she writes a regular sex column for the Village Voice called Pucker Up, and co-produces a twice yearly event, Dark Odyssey, where open minded people gather to explore tantra, polyamory, intimate communications, BDSM, and alternative lifestyles. To this already impressive list of accomplishments, Tristan now adds her latest book, Opening Up – a Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. At almost 350 pages, it leaves nothing out.

As a not especially kinky person who, as a service to the community, occasionally presents poly educational programs at BDSM events, I recognized quite some time ago a clear need for reliable, comprehensive, immediately available, contemporary polyamory resources written in terms to which kinky and queer people can relate. Tristan has written just such a resource.

I had the pleasure of consulting with Tristan and assisted with finding people to be interviewed. She already knew many from the kink and GLBT communities herself. The result is a book of amazing diversity. In fact, about the only people who may not quickly recognize themselves are mainstreamers. Even then, the information is appropriate and her advice is excellent no matter what your societal sphere.

I am also impressed with how thoroughly researched this book is. Tristan references sources well known to the polyamory community like Dossie Easton, Deborah Anapol, Ryam Nearing, Ron Mazur and Oberon Zell Ravenheart, as well as sociologists and anthropologists like Pepper Schwartz and Helen Fisher, researchers like David Barash and Judith Eve Lipton, Dorothy Tennov and the Constantines, to communications skills authors Brad Blanton and Marshall B. Rosenberg.

Section 1 includes chapters on the history of open relationships, including the roles played by pre-internet key parties, sex clubs, gay bathhouses and lesbian collectives, myths about nonmonogamy, how to determine if an open relationship is right for you, and what makes an open relationship work. In Section 2 Tristan deftly sorts out all of the various styles of open relationships from swinging to polyfidelity.

With these as a foundation, the chapters in Section 3 cover advice on designing your open relationship, jealousy, compersion, common challenges, and coping with change, followed by chapters on coming out, finding community, raising children in poly families, safer sex practices, and legal and practical issues.

This book is far from a dry technical manual. Throughout the book Tristan includes compelling quotes from and the personal stories of many of the 126 people she interviewed. These lend a valuable perspective by which the reader can identify and connect with the information and advice offered. She includes checklists and useful questions for negotiating relationship terms, as well as language and terms to help people who are new to open relationships get a handle on what kind of open relationship they want and are prepared to handle.

Several chapters particularly impressed me as especially thorough and accurate. These are the chapters on what makes an open relationship work, designing your relationship, compersion (which is the most comprehensive I’ve seen on that topic), coming out, raising children in open relationships, safer sex (also excellent!) and legal and practical matters.

On raising children in poly families, despite having none herself to my knowledge, Tristan really nails it. She wisely consulted and quotes attorney Valerie White who has considerable expertise and experience on this subject. Parents with children who are engaged in or thinking of engaging in an open relationship will find this chapter alone worth the purchase price. The same is true for anyone seeking clear and concise information on STIs and safer sex practices, and anyone seeking guidelines for dealing with the legal issues that arise for alternative relationships and families.

If all this weren’t already enough, this book is thoroughly annotated and includes statistics about the age, locale, gender, sexual orientation, relationship style, race and ethnicity, occupations, etc., of the interviewees. There is a comprehensive and up-to-date resource guide that includes a lengthy book list, (I have the impression that she’s read everyone of them!), a list of conferences and events, GLBT/queer resources, local, regional and national and international organizations, online groups, listservs and communities, professional directories, resources on research and activism, spirituality resources, and so on.

In addition to Tristan’s original website, Pucker Up, she has established a second website specifically on open relationships, aptly named Opening Up. This new website includes the resource list referenced above and a book excerpt, message boards, info on her book tour, and what she calls the Open List made up of professionals (therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, consultants, relationship and life coaches, doctors, lawyers, etc.) who are experienced and knowledgeable about alternative sexuality and lifestyles, open relationships, polyamory, nonmonogamy, swinging, etc.

Opening Up is going to take its place alongside The Ethical Slut and Polyamory: the New Love Without Limits as essential reading on the bookshelf of anyone practicing polyamory or engaging in other kinds of open relationships.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Threesomes and Safe Sex - What Everyone Ought to Know

Being the sex-positive kinda polygirl I am, as well as someone who thinks safer sex is an integral part of responsible non-monogamy, I thought I'd share this video from the fabulous Dan and Jennifer of Enjoy! (And put it to good use ....)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Here's to the Freedom to Have Our Cake and Eat It, Too!

It's the 4th of July, and I've been thinking about freedom and independence from a variety of perspectives. One of them is that of someone who believes in the freedom to love more than one. It's a point of view that begins with an independent spirit, even in the face of much public condemnation.

Over the last month or so ever since Jenny Block's book came out, I've been doing a fair amount of responding to negative comments to her columns on open relationships on the Huffington Post and Tango websites. As is very commonly heard and read online wherever controversy over polyamory exists, her critics often accuse her of wanting to have her cake and eat it, too. This accusation is always made in a tone of snide consternation.

I am bemused when this happens. I understand that polyamory makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and why. Yet this one particular comment stands out to me every time it is made.

What I want to say in response, but feel it unwise to, is, "And your point is?" Sarcasm is a bad means of effective communication and usually makes things worse. But really, my point is, what's wrong with that?

Another accusation along the same lines is "You just want to have it both ways." Both these assertions are made in irritation, if not outright anger, and seem to come from a place that says, "The rest of us are playing by the rules. We'd like it that way, too, but it's wrong."

What's wrong with people sharing love and intimacy and building intentional families that provide love, support and other resources for both children and adults that would not otherwise be unavailable? The truth for more and more polyamorists every day is, nothing, nothing at all. As long as no one is discriminating against us and targeting us with words of hate - and if they are, that's a wrong for which they bear responsibility - we just want to be left to live our lives in a way that works better for us.

We polyamorists refuse to believe we can't have it both ways. We believe and know just the opposite is true. We are indeed HAVING OUR CAKE AND EATING IT, TOO. We are gleefully, joyfully having it both ways with no regrets. We invite all with the courage and vision to examine their societally programmed beliefs to do so. Maybe they'll decide monogamy is right for them regardless, and that's OK. Others are welcome to join us in exploring other valid and ethical ways of living a life of abundant joy and love.