Is Solo Polyamory Ableist?

I can’t imagine a world where what I am about to say isn’t controversial, but it is time to get this off my chest. Solo polyamory is often inaccessible and ableist. For those of you who don’t know, ableism is the discrimination of people who are not able- bodied. It is rampant in our society and even more so in some groups.

I’m an extremely independent person, so when I figured out polyamory was a thing and I wasn’t alone I looked into solo poly online groups. I was upset to find that by many solo poly people’s definitions I could never be one of them.

If you ask solo polyamorous people what solo poly looks like to them, the answer obviously varies. Some of the answers include not marrying, not raising kids together, not sharing finances, and almost always- living alone. I have never been able to live alone and I never will. I frequently faint and have high risk of a blood clot and stroke so it is too dangerous for me to live alone. Doctors regularly tell me I can’t live alone. And don’t try to suggest one of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up buttons” as you usually have to be conscious to press a button.

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To so many solo poly people living alone is a big part of their solo poly identity. I am so envious when they share pictures of their single apartment talking about how they are having alone time. I’m envious that they have a space that is theirs and only theirs. They throw it around, and like so many ableist actions, they have no idea what a privilege they have in living alone. They don’t know how lucky they are and it hurts.

After so many posts and so many discussions about living alone and how living alone is essential to their freedom I came to the conclusion: Many people’s version of solo polyamory is simply inaccessible to disabled people like me.

I later noticed the posts on not sharing finances. So many people also considered this a cornerstone of their solo poly identity. But what about the people who can’t work because they are disabled? Disability pays out far less than you think. Medical bills are the most common reason for bankruptcy in the US. On my own, many months I have to choose between food and my medication or my medication and rent.

If I combine finances with someone I love it creates a buffer between me and starvation, between me and homelessness. The tables are stacked against me and I fight so hard- but I can’t do it alone. I need help. It is the sad reality of living in a country that doesn’t believe healthcare is a human right.

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Their take on what solo polyamory means to them is accessible to anyone and not ableist- way to go Kimchi Cuddles!

I am about to get kicked off my parent’s insurance and my best option for getting health insurance is to marry my partner who gets it through his job. In addition, if something ever happens to me (which is more likely with my conditions) having a spouse rather than a partner means a lot in medical decisions and visitations. I never saw myself getting married and now find myself rushed towards it due to circumstance. I love my partner, but I never felt like I needed or wanted a piece of paper declaring that.

So is solo polyamory on the whole ableist? No, but too much of the discussions and attitudes are. Not everyone can afford to or safely live alone. Not everyone can be financially independent. Not everyone can stay unwed. Putting so much emphasis on living alone, independent finances, and not getting married as a part of solo polyamory means excluding people with disabilities and other marginalized groups. It means that not everyone who wants to be solo poly is able to.

While there is not necessarily explicit solo poly gatekeeping, I couldn’t help but get the message from solo poly groups- this world isn’t meant for you. Discussions of solo polyamory don’t include people like you. You don’t belong here.

And that is why I consider myself a relationship anarchist.

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5 thoughts on “Is Solo Polyamory Ableist?

  1. […] Ableism and inaccessibility are things that able-bodied people often forget in communities. 11% of people have witnessed ableism and 13% reported inaccessibility at events within the polyamorous community. It is important for people who plan events in the polyamorous community to consider accessibility and make it a priority. The community is stronger when you include everyone. […]

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  2. Hey, hey. I have a disability that makes it extremely hard to live with people. I have extreme sensitivies, including photosensitivity and scents. My windows are boarded to keep lights from other people’s tvs shinging thru their open windows out. I cannot look at tvs or computers; I’m using a phone with it dimmed down at the lowest setting with a night-filter on.

    I get irritated when other people open their phones, because that costs spoons. Even if the phone is in the other room, if my brain can detect the light, it’ll affect me. They’re in the room around the corner with the door shut? Too bad, the light seeps thru the cracks. While light itself goes straight, the brain via the eyes picks it up and affects it. It’s a lot more minor than if they were lying next to me with the phone.

    I’m also sensitive to smells. My cleaning products are water, because everything else makes me high. I hate getting a bit high over my goddamn shampoo. Naturally O distaste perfume, except when I WANT to be high.

    I also have a skin allergy to an extremely common ingredient in cleaning products: coconut. Coconut is to cleaning/hygiene products as corn is to food products. It’s in most things. I once had a lover who came back from the tub. I touched him and started burning, in a bad way. Apparently he thought he could apply soap in the tub and call himself clean (No, you have to shower the soap off! It’s just on your skin otherwise!) I had to immediately go into the shower and try to wipe off as much of the product off as I could.

    If I lived with someone, they wouldn’t be allowed to watch tv, use the computer, or use their phone. Their products would also have to be heavily monitored. That is an unhealthy amount of control, and it’s highly unlikely I’ll find someone who happens to align with my needs.

    I am also a relationship anarchist, but it’s *because* of my disability that I would best have a solo-poly-like lifestyle.

    Solo poly isn’t ableist. It’s just that your disability prevents you from living that lifestyle. Solo poly isn’t any more ableist than a treadmill is. Just because some people can’t use a treadmill doesn’t make the treadmill inherently wrong. It just means it’s a bad fit for you.

    And if you’re looking to live with someone, then asking a solo-poly person to live with you is obviously a bad fit. Relationship Anarchy is anti-control. It is about respecting that other people have different needs from your own.

    They are a bad fit for you in living together. That is all.

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    • I’m getting really sick (haha) of this statement people keep making. “That can’t be ableist, or treadmills/rock climbing/etc. is ableist too!”One is a sporting event and the other is how we treat fellow humans- how are those comparable?

      There are always going to be things that are off the table for people with disabilities- at least for now. We just haven’t gotten to the point in innovation to make everything accessible to everyone. However, there are so many things we can easily change to make more accessible to more people. Such as relationships, how we speak, and how we treat one another.

      When we don’t attempt to make something accessible that could be easily made accessible- that is ableist. So like in the case of solo poly- stop gatekeeping the label just because someone else’s solo poly is different from yours. Stop excluding people from being solo poly just because they can’t live alone. Solo poly doesn’t have to look a certain way. It is more about how you see relationships, yourself, and independence than following a certain one size fits all (live alone, don’t combine finances, never marry, no kids, etc.) recipe that excludes people with disabilities.

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