Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Response Re: Polyamory Rights, Proposition 8, and the ACLU

This is my response to the letter from Anthony Romero (see this post), Executive Director of the ACLU, regarding support for California Proposition 8 on election day, November 4, 2008:

Hi Anthony -

You wrote of your mother, "She knew that treating gay and lesbian people like second class citizens -- people who may be worthy of "tolerance, " as Sarah Palin asserts, but not of equality -- was and still is the last socially-acceptable prejudice." I hear your pain in that sentence. Correction - I hear OUR pain, and I hear a lack of awareness in that statement. Socially-acceptable prejudice is thriving against the polyamory community, as well as against other sexual minority groups,

In her keynote address at the October 4, 2008 polyamory pride rally in Central Park, queer and sex-positive activist Tristan Taormino said the following:

"Some gays and lesbians have responded to the charge of the “slippery slope” by calling it ridiculous, but others have defended gay marriage by denouncing polyamory. What about those of us who are queer and poly? Queers and polyfolk have a lot in common, and we need to recognize the ways we can help each other. Queer people must stand up and say we believe in the rights of everyone to love, commit to, and marry whomever they want. We must not throw polyamory under the bus in favor of advancing queer marriage rights."

Considering that, as Tristan points out, a sizeable segment of GLBTs also live a poly life, I am reminded of the quote from the venerable cartoon Pogo, "We have met the enemy... and he is us"

The wider polyamory community is well aware that those who've worked so hard for GLBT rights and marriage equality are paving the way for acceptance and equality for polyamorists and other sexual minorities, and we are grateful, even though some of the marriage equality leaders have denied our existence and that our issues exist and are equally legitimate. I get that doing otherwise is believed to place marriage equality in jeopardy thanks to Stanley Kurtz's slippery slope messaging, but it hurts nevertheless to see those who should surely recognize the injustice in that strategy adopt it nevertheless.

We polyamorists certainly have work to do to eradicate anti-poly bias, and we are doing it. Today polyamory is being mainstreamed, largely through strong interest from print, broadcast and electronic media. As polyamory awareness is increased, more and more people oppose what we do. More and more poly people experience discrimination on the job, in family courts where child custody is at stake, and by their friends, family and religious institution. Our heartbreaking experience of discrimination is the same as yours and so many other GLBTs. I hope that as time passes and dyadic marriage equality is made a reality, those who have fought for it will respond to the support we polyfolk have given at crucial times like the upcoming vote on Proposition 8 by proclaiming their support for our rights and our equality.

Thanks for considering!

Polyamory Rights, Proposition 8, and the ACLU

DEAR READERS: Below is a moving story from Anthony Romero, a gay man who is Executive Director of the ACLU. He is requesting support for the defeat of Proposition 8 in California that will take away marriage equality, to which I will next post my e-mailed response to him.

It is indeed important that poly people in California vote no on Proposition 8. Some same-sex couples also live a polyamorous life, and we are all in this together. Defeat of Prop 8 is very important because first, it's a social justice issue that deserves all our support, and second, Stanley Kurtz is right about the existence of the slippery slope as multi-partner marriage is concerned. The difference in our point of view is that we know that isn't a bad thing and that his viral handwringing is a waste of time, whereas he believes that the marital sky is falling. - Anita

Dear ACLU Supporter,

I'm angry and heartsick about what may happen in California on November 4th.

In the most personal way possible, I'm writing to ask you for a favor: help us ensure that gay couples all across California keep their fundamental right to marriage -- the basic right to be treated just like anybody else.

I hope you will forgive the indulgence when I speak from the heart and tell you my personal story.

You see, I grew up in a loving and supportive household, where my family believed I could be anything I chose -- anything except being an openly gay man. Neither of my parents finished high school, and yet, they believed I could accomplish all I set out to do as I went off to Princeton University and Stanford Law School.

They got me through the toughest of times, scrimped and saved, and always believed that failure wasn't in the cards for me. They had more faith in me than I often had in myself. Whenever my parents visited me at Princeton, my Dad would slip a $20 bill in my pocket when my Mom wasn't looking. I never had the courage to tell him that the $20 wouldn't go very far towards my bills, books and tuition. But, it was his support and belief in me that sustained me more than the tens of thousands of dollars I received in scholarships.

When I finished college, they were hugely proud of my -- and their -- accomplishments. That was until I told them I was gay and wanted to live life as an openly gay man.

Though I always knew I was gay, I didn't come out to them for many years, as I was afraid of losing the love and support that had allowed me to succeed against all odds. When I did tell them, they cried and even shouted. I ended up leaving their home that night to spend a sleepless night on a friend's sofa. We were all heartbroken.

When my Mom and I spoke later, my Mom said, "But, Antonio (that's the name she uses with me), hasn't your life been hard enough? People will hurt you and hate you because of this." She, of course, was right -- as gay and lesbian people didn't only suffer discrimination from working class, Puerto Rican Catholics, but from the broader society. She felt that I had escaped the public housing projects in the Bronx, only to suffer another prejudice -- one that might be harder to beat -- as the law wasn't on my side. At the time, it felt like her own homophobia. Now I see there was also a mother's love and a real desire to protect her son. She was not wrong at a very fundamental level. She knew that treating gay and lesbian people like second class citizens -- people who may be worthy of "tolerance, " as Sarah Palin asserts, but not of equality -- was and still is the last socially-acceptable prejudice.

Even before I came out to them, I struggled to accept myself as a gay man. I didn't want to lose the love of my family, and I wanted a family of my own -- however I defined it. I ultimately chose to find my own way in life as a gay man. This wasn't as easy as it sounds even though it was the mid-1980s. I watched loved ones and friends die of AIDS. I was convinced I would never see my 40th birthday, much less find a partner whom I could marry.

As years passed, my Mom, Dad and I came to a peace, and they came to love and respect me for who I am. They even came to defend my right to live with equality and dignity -- often fighting against the homophobia they heard among their family and friends and in church.

The right to be equal citizens and to marry whomever we wish -- unimaginable to me when I first came out -- is now ours to lose in California unless we stand up for what's right. All of us must fight against what's wrong. In my 43 short years of life, I have seen gay and lesbian people go from pariahs and objects of legally-sanctioned discrimination to being on the cusp of full equality. The unimaginable comes true in our America if we make it happen. But, it requires effort and struggle.

One of the things I love about the ACLU is that it's an organization that understands we are all in this together. We recognize that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Given what's at stake in the outcome of this election, I am personally appealing to you for help to fight the forces of intolerance from carrying the day in California next Tuesday.

If you have friends and family in California, please contact them right now, and ask them to vote NO on Proposition 8. You can send them a message here.

We need to make sure people keep in mind that gay people are part of every family and every community -- that like everyone else, gay people want the same rights to commit to their partners, to take care of each other and to take responsibility for each other. We shouldn’t deny that, and we shouldn’t write discrimination into any constitution in any state. Certainly, we can't let that happen in California after the highest court in the state granted gay and lesbian people their full equality.

Unfortunately, due to a vicious, deceitful $30 million advertising blitz, the supporters of Prop 8 may be within days of taking that fundamental right away.

To stop the forces of discrimination from succeeding, we have to win over conflicted voters who aren't sure they're ready for gay marriage but who are also uncomfortable going into a voting booth and stripping away people's rights. With the ACLU contributing time, energy and millions of dollars to the effort, we're working hard to reach those key voters before next Tuesday.

If you have friends and family in California, please contact them right now, and ask them to vote NO on Proposition 8. Share this email with them. Call them. Direct them to our website for more information.

Don't let other young people grow up to be afraid to be who they are because of the discrimination and prejudice they might face. Let them see a future that the generation before them couldn't even dream of -- a future as full and equal citizens of the greatest democracy on earth.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." As we strive to defeat Prop 8 and the injustice it represents, the ACLU is trying to make that arc a little shorter.

On behalf of my Mom and family, and on behalf of all the people who will never face legally-sanctioned discrimination, I thank you for being part of this struggle and for doing everything you can to help.

It is a privilege and honor to have you as allies in this fight for dignity and equality.

With enormous appreciation,

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

P.S. All the polls show that the vote on Prop 8 could go either way. By making just a few calls or sending just a few emails, you could help make the difference. Please, don’t let this fundamental right be taken away. Send an eCard to everyone you know in California.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Poly Values and Poly Bashing in the Illinois Review

The Illinois Review is a blog that describes itself as "the crossroads of the conservative community." Laurie Higgins, Director, Division of School Advocacy, Illinois Family Institute, posted a handwringing oppositional blog post regarding Chicago's proposed LGBT high school.

Note: The Illinois Family Institute is closely affiliated with Concerned Women for America and other religious extremist group with a long history of directly interfering with the rights of sexual minority groups. Most notably they threatened to prompt their religious conservative followers to boycott Chicago area hotels as a way of pressuring hotel owners to cancel legal contracts with organizers of conventions that serve sexual minorities.

In her post, where Higgins attempts to demonstrate that establishing an LGBT high school is a bad idea, she draws a hypothetical comparison to a high school for polyamorous students, and she writes...

" least for now, society largely holds the moral conviction that polyamory is immoral ..."

Of course, I couldn't let this stand without comment. I began by referencing remarks made by polyamory author Tristan Taormino on October 4, 2008 at polyamory pride rally in NYC's Central Park:

"....what is scariest of all to our enemies: we practice what they preach. We have values. We have many of the exact same values that they claim over and over we don’t. Values is such a loaded term, it has become laced with religion and morality and the conservative right wing has tried to equate values, like family values, with a heterosexual, 2-parent, married, nuclear family. We need to reclaim the word values. We need to rip it out of the hands of pundits and bigots and stand up to defend OUR polyamorous values."

As the number of polyamorists continues to increase and greater awareness of what polyamory is and is not is achieved, that goal will be accomplished.

Polyamorists love their partners, their children, and value their intentional families just as much as monogamists value theirs. In our sex-sick culture, where sex is openly feared and denigrated while billions are spent behind closed doors on viewing pornography, it is not a surprise that it is the sexual aspect of polyamorous relationships on which sex-obsessed opponents choose to fixate. Polyamorists value healthy adult sexuality in a much more positive way than much of the rest of society, but we are no more sex-focused than monogamists.

It is downright bizarre to see how in other instances our opponents sensationalize our sex lives when in reality we are regular people who focus on sex no more, and possibly even less, than our opponents. Contrary to what some gutter-minded opponents say about us, we are no more likely to sexually abuse our children or expose them to inappropriate sexual activities than anyone else - keep in mind also that this happens at an alarming rate in so-called traditional families. Yet we are frequently referred to by our opponents in the same breath with pedophilia and bestiality. No one segment of society singles out monogamous sex lives for degradation. Multiple partners notwithstanding, polyamorists' sex lives are just as normal, and focusing on them is just as unwelcome, intrusive, and inappropriate.

Polyamorous values include openness and honesty with one's partners and reject outright as unethical and immoral the societal status quo of sneaking around and having secret affairs. Check the statistics on cheating in mainstream society - it is rampant.

The claim that society largely holds the conviction that polyamory is immoral is true only to the extent that it is blind to its own hypocricy. With that in mind, can anyone say with a straight face that the status quo of traditional marriage is more moral than polyamorous relationships? Clearly not.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Compersion for Beginners on

There's a good article on compersion on the women's sex and love webzine I love that this subject - something most people have never heard of or even imagined - is being explored on a women's mainstream venue. Too cool. It concludes with the following words:

These women are unapologetically happy with their non-monogamous relationships, and compersion appears to be a cherished benefit of this lifestyle. For these women, love is not a zero-sum game; it can be shared and enjoyed across multiple people in non-traditional formats.

It's great to be one of those women!

Speeches at Poly Pride Rally

Several of the speakers at the Poly Pride Rally in New York City on October 3, 2008, on the Great Hill in Central Park have posted their remarks online: keynoter and poly author Tristan Taormino (pictured here) who inspired us all, author Jenny Block, who spoke on communication and her experiences since her book was published a few months ago, Polyamory-in-the-News blogger Alan M. with a cautionary message, anthropologist Leanna Wolfe on polyamory culture, and my remarks on the mainstreaming of polyamory.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Miss Polyamory on Poly Pride Weekend

This is a short post to introduce my readers to Beki Rosenthal, a/k/a Miss Polyamory. Beki and I have been on-line friends for a while, but the Poly Pride event gave us an opportunity to meet face to face for the first time, and it was truly a pleasure. She is doing great things for polyamory in South Florida. She's also conducting poly relationships skills workshops and coaching via conference call so check her out at the link above.

Beki posted on Youtube a video account of her experiences in NYC for Poly Pride Weekend. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dan Savage Slams Poly Pride Event

Dan Savage is an asshole. I know that's not news, but his latest "slog" post in the Seattle Stranger demonstrates his common tendency to crap all over people and events just for the misanthropic fun of it.

It doesn't matter that he is generally pro poly. His is the last opinion I'd value on that question. What does matter is that his toxic, scornful cynicism leads him to step on his own dick while at the same time slandering others and poisoning the minds of his readers against them:

But What If I Like The Way My Assumptions About Men and Women Are Framed? posted by Dan Savage on October 14 at 11:35 AM

"I’m not a big proponent of monogamy, as most everyone is certainly aware by this point, and I’m generally pro-polyamory, even if “many loves” aren’t for me. I had a hard enough time conning one dude into putting up with my shit; I can’t imagine that I could possibly con two or three dudes."

Anita: No surprise there!

"But at the risk of sounding polyphobic, I have to say that this event sounds like hell on earth:"

Quoting an article on

Sure, it doesn’t have the turnout of the annual Gay Pride Parade in New York City but the Poly Pride Weekend made its way to The Big Apple and just celebrated its 8th annual event.

To kick off the celebration, there was a Super Massive Cuddle Party that allowed registrants a discounted opportunity to engage in multi-person, multi-gender activity and was '…a place for people to rediscover non-sexual touch and affection, a space to reframe assumptions about men and women, and a great networking event to meet new friends, roommates, business partners and significant others.'

Dan continues:

"Uh… yeah. That’s where I want to meet my new business partners and roommates—in a pile of folks copping feels in Central Park. Another reason to miss the Super Massive Cuddle Party—youth pastors!"

The article continues:

An article in the NYT gives a sneak peak into the life of Diana Adams, a Cornell-educated attorney and the VP of Polyamourous NYC. Adams, who use to be a youth minister in a Christian church and is now involved with both men and women on a regular basis.

Oh, where to begin? First, no one said cuddle parties are for everyone. Heck, they're not even for me really. I'm an affectionate person toward people once I've had enough time to get to know and like them, but I've tried cuddle parties and FOR ME it takes a bit more time to feel comfortable than the situation allows. I'm not particularly interested in cuddling with strangers.

That doesn't mean cuddle parties aren't great experiences and phenominal events for many others. They offer exercises in emotional growth, boundary setting, and just plain fun and healing. It's a way for people who don't have enough touch in their lives to get it in a non-sexually charged atmosphere, and there's nothing unhealthy or, God forbid, sex-negative about it. Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baszynski, the Cuddle Party founders, are great community leaders and savvy poly practitioners who are also valuable role models. Dan Savage would be lucky to count them as friends. I know I am.

As for his slam on Diana Adams because she USED TO BE a youth minister, Diana is yet another valuable community leader and role model who at last month's Loving More East Coast Conference in Greenwich, NY, gave a keynote speech during which she said that her goal is to make sure that every student on college campuses knows that they have options in how they organize their intimate relationships. She is bright, energetic, ambitious, and serves the polyamory community in many ways, not the least of which is her crusade to provide legal assistance to polyamorists who are victims of bias and discrimination on the job and in the family courts when child custody is challenged. Again, I am glad to be able to count her as a friend.

Together Reid, Marcia and Diana have done more good for more people than Dan Savage ever will, at least until he does some serious work on that dissocial personality of his.

Yes, Dan pissed me off, and yes, I'm biased. I have no regrets about that particular bias, since I consider it entirely reasonable to favor people who actually do great things to serve their community instead of sitting around shooting their mouth off and denigrating others who do.

And as if all that weren't enough, I found the smug comment of Dawgson to reflect very poorly on the Seattle poly community, which I know to be vibrant and full of positive, welcoming energy. I have many friends there. Dawgson wrote, "Am I the only one that's shocked the Poly Pride Parade isn't being hosted here in Seattle?"

Maybe Dawgson needs to get up off his behind and make it happen like the amazing group of people who get the credit for bringing the dynamic Poly Pride Rally and related events into being.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Poly Pride Celebration in NYC

Polyamorous NYC's polyamory pride weekend happened this past weekend, and I'm still flying high on the incredible energy that typified every single experience I had there. I have to say right up front what a fantastic job Polyamorous NYC did in organizing and producing this event. Producer Lyndell Moore (in picture to the right, second from the left) deserves big props, as does Poly NYC president Birgitte Philippides (far left), under whose capable and dedicated leadership this event spread its wings and soared, along with the support of founder Justen Michael Bennett-Maccubbin (3rd from the left) and all of the committee members who together created a weekend I'll always remember.

The event spawned press coverage both in the New York Times and the New York Post , plus interest from others like a free-lance film maker who gathered footage to support a poly documentary pitch to HBO and who interviewed many speakers and attendees at the Saturday afternoon rally and picnic.

Polyamory Weekly podcaster Cunningminx was also there, and it was a great pleasure to both meet her (finally!) and once again be interviewed for the podcast. (See picture of Minx and me above.) You can hear Minx's podcast coverage part one of two of the event and my interview (28 minutes in) here. And of course, Alan M. of Polyamory in the News was also there documenting the day's events.

I also had the honor of introducing to one another two of this year's new poly book authors, Tristan Taormino and Jenny Block, with me at left. Also it was the first time Jenny and I have met, though we've been on-line friends and collaborators for many months now.

Here's a picture of me (taken by Minx - thanks, Minx!) on the podium where I spoke about The Mainstreaming of Polyamory.

Entertainment at the rally was outstanding. I especially enjoyed America's Got Talent competitors the Glamazons - four sassy big women pictured here who are the stuff of many a wet dream - and the Raven Schecter trio who were both polished and hilarious. Here's a piece of their performance also recorded by Minx.

You can find a complete list of the speakers and performers here, and, not surprisingly, Tristan Taormino's keynote address was both entertaining and inspiring. I especially appreciated her call for the Same-Sex Marriage Movement to stop "throwing polyamory under the bus." What she is referring to is the ill-advised distancing from polyamory the SSM leadership does - primarily its leader, Evan Wolfson - in order to avoid any confirmation that Stanley Kurtz's slippery slope actually exists - which it does as multi-partner marriage is concerned. Politically expedient or not, that practice is unethical and discriminatory.

OK, down off my soap box and on with Poly Pride events review.

And that, so far, is just what I had to tell you regarding the picnic and rally, which was the feature event of the weekend. In addition to that, there was a Friday night cuddle party, the largest held anywhere ever, with over 110 people in attendance.

On Saturday night there was an awesome after party held in a classy loft space overlooking the Hudson River. There was a great DJ and a steady stream of performers from the vamping drag performers the Pixie Harlots to talented burlesque performer Nasty Canasta

And as if all that weren't enough, Sunday morning brought us a fabulous poly book authors reading and signing event where nine authors read from their works. It was held at the Blue Stockings radical book store in the east Village, and the room was packed - clearly the late partiers didn't let anything stop them from soaking up all that poly wisdom.

Lastly, 34 poly leaders, activists and community organizers gathered for a well-facilitated summit on polyamory activism during which there was a great exchange of ideas that sparked synergy that I look forward to sharing and building on in the days, weeks and months ahead. The next poly leadership summit will be held on Monday, March 2, 2009, following the Poly Living conference to be held the previous weekend, February 27 to March 1 in the Philadelphia suburbs. Poly Living is put on by the Loving More organization, which was well represented at poly pride weekend by Loving More Managing Director Robyn Trask and her partner Jesus Garcia. (Pictured here with Tristan Taormino and myself.) One of the biggest benefits to the polyamory community of this poly pride weekend is that many of the priorities recognized at the leadership summit are also priorities Loving More has already been pursuing. There was so much enthusiasm from those gathered for helping Loving More to move those projects along that Loving More will benefit and so will the polyamory community.

Whew! Once again, I can't thank Poly-NYC enough for all their hard work in putting on this historic polyamory pride event. Years from now it will be seen as a time when polyamory in all its colors and shapes and sizes took a big step forward toward becoming the legitimate, vibrant and gratifying choice in intimate relationship structure that it truly is.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Juliet Huddy is No Fan of Mine ....

It's unfortunate that Blogger for some reason failed to send me for publishing a strongly-worded comment from Mornings with Mike and Juliet show host Juliet Huddy when she sent it to me on September 26. She is definitely not happy with me and my assessment of the outcome of the September 25 segment of the show on open marriage that featured author Jenny Block.

In Ms. Huddy's comment, which I posted today as soon as I received it, she certainly gave me the full force of her opinion, to wit:

As the host of the show you just maligned, I'd like to respond to your accusations. Suggesting my colleagues are inserting their political leanings into the content of our show is not only offensive, it's wrong. Suggesting they lack integrity is also offensive, and WRONG.

The 'missing segment' you're referring to was a mistake made by a young webmaster, it's as simple as that. There was no strategy to eliminate your "side"; there was no conspiracy. It was an oversight and it was corrected immediately.

Our producers came up with this topic because they felt it was worthy of discussion. They worked hours trying to find a fair balance, and they achieved that goal. Mike and I both agree it's a fantastic, interesting, worthy subject to discuss.

The only one who lacks integrity...

Well, let's just say it's easy to buy into stereotypes ("Of course, this is Fox we're talking about here"). It's also real simple pick up a phone and get the facts. Your sneering comments about Fox and our fantastic, fair producers are inane. Fox gave you an outlet to air your side, which Jenny did quite eloquently. Do your homework and quit insulting my colleagues.

I went back and read my original post, and though I can see why it may not please her, I'm having a hard time seeing myself through her eyes. Yes, I made a couple of assumptions that turn out to be incorrect, but as you will see below, I believe they were reasonable ones based on the facts at hand in the moment. So, by and large, after mulling it all over I really must stand by what I said. Here is my response to Ms. Huddy:

Ms. Huddy, I can understand your anger and your desire to defend your producers. Perhaps in your pique you did not notice that the same day the open marriage segment aired I added an amendment to the very top of the post that says that when asked to make the entire segment available instead of only the anti-open marriage portion of it, your producers agreed to do so. There was no reason for me to believe that the duties as to what goes up on your website would be left in the hands of someone who was not up to the task. Impressions count for a lot, and for whatever reason, the failure to include both sides of the story gave a very poor one.

Also, unfortunately for you and your show, Fox has a well-established reputation for leaning to the right. My perception is founded in reality and not on stereotype. There is plenty of data to illustrate that Fox has a vested interest in not offending the conservative base that represents the majority of its viewers. When one then factors in that anything other than life-long, heterosexual, one man/one woman marriage is considered contemptible by social conservatives, there is absolutely no reason for me to believe that your show is somehow exempt. You may not like being judged by the company you keep, but it is a fact of life. That said, based on the information you have provided I am willing to accept that it is possible that not all Fox programming is the same. I’m happy for the update and your defense of your producers, but in truth what is unknown here is to what extent your programming is controlled by Fox executives.

Fox’s intentions would have been a lot more clear had Dr. Kirschner not been given the last word. Many psychologists think they know all there is to know about open relationships and are only too happy to speak on the subject for pay, lack of knowledge notwithstanding. In fact, there exists amongst untrained therapists an inexperience-based bias against open relationships because all they see are people for whom it isn't working. People for whom it is working don’t seek them out, so their "knowledge" is based on a flawed and incomplete perspective. It is entirely untrue that failure is inevitable in open relationships. I know many, many couples for whom it works and works well, and as they learn and implement the relationship skills required, there are more of those all the time. Your show ended by giving quite a different impression without asking Jenny Block or any other person for their response. As such, I stand by my criticism of that aspect of the show.

I appreciate that there was interest in the subject, and should that interest continue, I'd be happy to assist your producers to be sure that any future treatment of it achieves their goal of being genuinely fair and complete.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Where's the Poly Pride Update?", you ask. Also, Poly in NY Times and NY Post

Several of you have written saying you're waiting for me to post about the Poly Pride weekend celebration in NYC this past weekend. I hope to get that up later today. The delay is attributable to a very late arrival home Sunday, being jammed at work Monday and Tuesday, a root canal last night, and to top it off, scheduling time off work and pre-surgical testing in anticipation of knee surgery on October 17. And of course, there was the presidential debate last night. But never fear, I've got a lot of juicy stuff to post and you'll have it soon.

In the interim, here are links to the articles in the NY Times and the New York Post that coincided with the Poly Pride event. (You may have to log in or create a membership to see the articles.) Note that the NY Post article includes a great picture of the fabulous folks who put together all the way cool Poly Pride events that happened over the course of this past weekend.

I got a laugh out of The Agitator's morning links today, which includes a reference to the Agitator's very clever parody, Careless Whispers, posted in 2004, on Stanley Kurtz's same-sex marriage, um, issues,

Polyamory hits the New York Times, Stanley Kurtz’s head a’splodes.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Open Marriage on Tyra Banks

Today Tyra Banks dedicated her show on the Fox network to open marriage. She first featured Kamala and Michael, a polyamorous married couple. Tyra asked Kamala and Michael about their rules for conducting other relationships. Kamala said they have four rules, but Tyra let the discussion move on before Kamala got to finish the questions. However, the two that were included were important, i.e. open, honest communication as #1, and safer sex practices as #2.

It was very beneficial that Kamala’s girlfriend of 12 years, Sarah, was also a guest. A fair amount of time was spent establishing the chronology of Kamala and Sarah and Michael’s relationships with each other, and a lovely example resulted of how open relationships can work and work well over the long term, even as new partners come into the picture. As other members of what I’ll call their intimate network were introduce and referred to, it was interesting to see the shocked looks on some of the audience members’ faces. I realize this kind of family structure is unthinkable to some people, and I don’t mean to belittle their naiveté, but I did find it rather exciting to see an intimate network of people demonstrate how it is done and done successfully.

A couple of standard questions were asked and answered well by Kamala - she's a great spokesperson, by the way. Tyra remarked that Kamala, Michael and family all had long hair and asked whether there was a way poly people recognize each other. Kamala used that as a segue to debunk the stereotyping of poly people as eccentric hippie sorts of people. I'm very tired of that old assumption. Even if it's historically correct, it's no longer the case. Kamala stepped up and adeptly fielded that question. Happily, all of the people in open marriages who appeared on this program looked very good and were people mainstreamers can relate to, which is extremely important in presenting polyamory in a way that people can understand.

Happily, the expert on today's program was Jenny Block, author of Open: Life, Sex and Love in an Open Marriage. In only a couple of minutes Jenny very effectively backed up what Kamala and Michael and company made clear, that these relationships are about much more than sex and that they are deeply loving and familial. As experts go, Jenny was a huge improvement over these shows looking to so-called experts like Diana Kirschner.

Also in the audience was Polyamorous-NYC's president Birgitte Philippides. Birgitte spoke compellingly about the importance of not worrying about what others think and instead living a life authentic to who we are - I think that will resonate with a lot of viewers.

But, Tyra and producers clearly elected to focus on the guests on the couch whose relationships were the focus of the show, which was OK, because none of them were disastrous, and they mostly spoke to their individual situations very well.

An audience member asked in a very hostile tone where Kamala and Michael's 18 month old baby is during all their “carrying on” or some such reference. Kamala explained that her and Michael’s partners have "aunty and uncle" relationships with their baby. Framing the answer this way effectively neutralized the implied accusation that children are exposed to inappropriate activities when their parents have an open marriage.

Another audience member said she found the whole idea of open marriage disgusting due to risk of STIs - these are usually people who have zero tolerance for these risks and likely come from a very sex-negative, sex-is-dirty, perspective.

I didn’t like the way they blindsided Melissa, the best friend of Monique who was present with her husband, Keith, by bring Melissa out and asking her on camera with no advance warning whether she'd be interested in being intimate with Monique and Keith. Before bringing Melissa out, Monique and Keith both spoke very well about Monique's desire to have some of the same kinds of sexual experiences as Keith has had before they got together. Melissa's reaction was total shock. When Tyra pushed her for an answer, to her credit she said she wanted to think about it and wasn't ruling it out but that the three of them needed to talk together later before she would give them an answer. That was exactly the right decision on her part, and the fact that she didn't go all Jerry Springer on them and say "hell no" lent even more credibility to the whole open marriage concept. It also demonstrated the strength of her friendship with Melissa and Keith.

One audience member was very critical of Monique and asked her how she could jeopardize her long-time friendship with Melissa this way. Melissa’s response was to re-emphasize that they are already very close and love each other as dear friends and that she was only asking the question, not trying to coerce Melissa into saying yes. Her response sounded entirely sensible and is another example of how reason was able to debunk misconception.

Even Kelly, a guest with her husband (whose name I didn't get) who was the example of someone who had but no longer wants an open relationship was fair-minded and said when asked what she saw when she looked at Kamala and Michael and their other three partners that she saw a complicated situation that nevertheless seemed to be a happy one for those involved.

Near the end of the program Tara took off in a rather weird direction, i.e. trying to link the guests' parents' divorces to their choosing to be non-monogamous. I don't think I've ever heard anyone try to draw that parallel before. Only one of the guests on the couch said his parents are still married. The rest denied that there is any connection, and they had Katie-Couric-interviewing-Sarah-Palin looks on their faces, i.e. "what the heck is she talking about?"

The bottom line here is that there were no train wrecks here and I don't think we could have asked for this one to have turned out any better.

Since the program aired there have been quite a few very negative comments posted by viewers on the show's website, many posted even before they actually saw the show (if they actually ever did.) It's pretty clear that such comments are going to be routine when TV focuses on polyamory. Our goal should be to look forward to the day when that doesn't happen, because it will prove that we'll have been so successful at raising consciousness that no one thinks twice about it. That's a pretty tall order, though, considering the culture war over marriage, specifically same-sex marriage, but progress is being made there, and our time will come as well.