5 Tips for When Coming Out As Bi+ Goes Badly

This article was also featured by the Bisexual Resource Center for Bisexual Health Awareness Month 2017.

The first person I came out to as bisexual, my best friend at the time, said something along the lines of “Ew gross!” and never spoke to me again. It absolutely crushed 18 year old me who had just discovered her bisexuality. My best friend’s response sent me back into closet crying. At the time, I didn’t know any other bisexuals and my area didn’t have any bisexual social or support groups. I felt disgusting, dirty, wrong, and alone and had no one supporting me or telling me otherwise.

My other friends were wonderfully receptive to my coming out once I built up the courage to come out to them more than a year later, but my ultra conservative family was not. I grew up within an environment that was a constant barrage of hate towards everything gay and bisexual. I got the message that gays and bisexuals were sick, broken, wrong, and even deserved to die. I only came out to them once I was safely across the country from them in the hopes that learning their daughter was one of those bisexuals would change their viewpoint. It didn’t.

My family took my coming out as bisexual as a confession that I was sick and a sex addict. I didn’t have the resources or ability to explain through my shock and pain that bisexuality has nothing to do with promiscuity.

I came out four years ago and nothing has improved with my family since. I rarely see or speak to them because it feels like they only love and accept a part of me, while hating and condemning another. I have worked hard to accept who I am and refuse to go backwards. Right now, that means limited contact with my family. I hope someday that changes, but I am no longer waiting for their acceptance. What they think of me no longer has anything to do with the way I see myself.

On the whole, it has been a really difficult experience. It took me a few years to figure out how to cope with coming out going badly. Here are a few of the things I wish I knew at the beginning.

1. Educate Them If You Are Able

A lot of times intolerance comes from a place of ignorance; education can help people become more tolerant and empathetic to other’s struggles. Most people don’t understand bi+ identities. They see them as all the negative misconceptions surrounding them rather than what they are – valid and real sexual orientations.

While it is not your duty to educate others if you are neither willing nor able, providing resources such as this, this, and this can help people learn what bisexuality and other non-monosexual/romantic identities truly are, learn to be more understanding, and provide tips to help support the person coming out as bi+. Sometimes it is hard to get people to read the resources, but providing them can encourage people to educate themselves. Make sure the person you are coming out to knows it would mean a lot to you for them to learn more.

2. Give Them Time

Many people don’t respond well when people first come out as bisexual. Their knee- jerk reactions can range from strange to cruel. Thankfully, many of these people come around. They calm down enough to ask questions and try to learn and listen. Often, in the end, their love for the person coming out as bi+ makes them care enough to learn and do better, transforming their previous oppressive mindset.

Taking a step back from someone who doesn’t respond well to your coming out as bisexual is important for both of you. For them, it is important to process the information, learn about bisexuality, and not say something they will regret. For you, it is important to remove yourself from a possibly hurtful situation and get support from people who do support your sexual orientation in the meantime.

Not everyone comes around. I don’t want to provide false hope here. However, enough people do that it is worth giving someone a few weeks, sometimes months before accepting that they won’t be in your corner. I have even heard of people, usually parents, coming around after years of being bigoted and unsupportive. It is at least nice to imagine as a possibility.

3. Get Support Elsewhere

Having someone respond poorly to your coming out can be a really hard thing to process. For some of us, like me, it throws us back into the closet to hide from further rejection. It is important to seek support from someone else in these situations, whether it is family, friends, or a mental health professional who understands and supports bi+ people. If you have the access, seeking help from a mental professional is especially important if the person you are coming out to reacts in an abusive way.

4. Reach Out to the Bisexual Community

I have only met a lucky few bisexuals that have had amazing, wonderful responses from every single person to whom they have come out. Most people in the bi+ community have experienced the harsh rejection of our identities – to differing degrees. Therefore, most people in the bi+ community will understand what you are going through.

Being a part of the bi+ community after a bad coming out helps to make you feel like you aren’t going through a hard time alone. Being a part of the community also helps you remember that your sexual orientation is valid and that being bisexual does not mean there is anything wrong with you.

There are organizations, like PAVES, the Bisexual Resource Center, BiNet USA, and many local organizations, support groups, and online spaces where you can find educational resources, bi+ culture and history, and bi+ people from all walks of life to remind you that we exist, you’re okay just as you are, our issues matter, and our contributions to this world are important.

5. Move On

At a certain point, you have to move on. Accept that the person you came out to isn’t going to be positive or supportive of your sexual orientation anytime soon. You don’t have to give up hope that they someday will change or cut them out of your life completely, but you can’t wait around for them to be supportive forever.

Only you can decide what this means to you. Maybe you need to remove them from your life completely for your mental health. Maybe you can handle having someone in your life who doesn’t accept an important part of who you are. Either way, there comes a time when you can no longer wait for them to come around or you will be hurt over and over again. Remember, you can never rely on anyone’s opinion of you for your self- worth.

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5 Reasons Why Oversexualizing Bisexuality Is Not Supportive

(Content Warning: sexual assault, corrective rape)

This article was also featured by the Bisexual Resource Center for Bisexual Health Awareness Month 2017.

Bi+ people, especially bi+ women, are often oversexualized because of their sexual orientation. Just signing into a dating website as a bi+ woman for a few minutes proves this to be true. Immediately, we are bombarded by couples asking for threesomes and men demanding that we let them watch us hook up with women.

Bi+ people struggle with others not seeing our sexual orientation as real or legitimate. People also tend to believe bi+ people are more promiscuous, more likely to cheat, incapable of monogamy, and greedy. A lot of these problems and misconceptions arise from the pervasive oversexualization of bisexuals.

1. Bisexuals Are People, Not Objects

When people are reduced to their orientation, race, or gender with the sole purpose of using them to fulfill someone’s sexual desires, they are being treated as a sex toy – not a human being. Frankly, objectifying people is not and cannot be supportive. When people fail to see the entire person attached to an identity, they fail them. It is impossible to support someone while treating them as an object or need-fulfillment machine.

2. Double Standards Are Sexist

I often see women say things like, “My boyfriend is so supportive of my sexuality. He lets me do whatever I want with women as long as he can watch.” In reality, this isn’t supportive at all.

There are two reasons why this happens and both are unsavory. Firstly, he may allow her to have sexual interactions with another woman because it turns him on. Don’t be fooled. He isn’t doing her a service, as he may try to convince her; he is “allowing” this behavior for purely selfish reasons. He is thinking about his sexual gratification, not her well being.

Secondly, he may allow same sex interactions because he doesn’t see them as a real threat. In this case, he is proving he doesn’t think same-sex relationships are as valid or valuable as heterosexual relationships. That is a huge red flag proving he isn’t truly supportive. In both cases, selfishness and bigotry are at work rather than support, acceptance, and love.

3. Bisexual Identities Are Not A Sexual Tool

Many people think that sexualizing bi+ people means that they are supportive of our orientation. This is similar to when men oversexualize, for example, Asian or trans women then claim they aren’t actually racist or transphobic. (Hint: they are.) If a part of someone’s identity is only supported in sexual circumstances, it isn’t truly supported.

For example, there are many people that oversexualize transgender people, but who do not support their rights. They aren’t supporting transgender individuals; they are supporting transgender people to be used for their sexual gratification only. This leaves transgender people vulnerable to violence. The oversexualization of bi+ people perpetuates violence like this as well.

4. Increased Corrective Rape & Sexual Violence

Corrective rape is a problem for bi+ people. Corrective rape is when someone is raped due to their sexual orientation, in order to “correct” their behavior. These rapes often occur as an effort to conform to heterosexuality and common gender norms. Men are not the only ones who commit corrective rape, but they are the most common perpetrators. Bi+ women are more likely to spend time with or date men, end up in abusive relationships without a support network, and to experience social isolation. This means that bi+ people are especially at risk for corrective rape.

According to a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Study, “61% of bisexual women reported experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.” Comparatively, 17% of straight women and 13% of lesbians have experience one of the above. Likely, these terrifying statistics are at least due in part to the oversexualization of bi+ people.

Bi+ people are used and seen as sexual objects rather than human beings with choices and opinions. Too often when people can’t control bisexuals they use rape, violence, and intimidation. Because of bi+ antagonism and misconceptions that bi+ people are slutty, unreliable, selfish, indecisive, dishonest, and more likely to cheat, a lot of bisexuals don’t report these crimes. Sadly, when bisexuals do report crimes to the police, “they are three times more likely to experience police violence than people who are not bisexual,” according to the Movement Advancement Project. That likelihood is increased if they are also trans, a person of color, or disabled.

5. Bisexuality Gets Conflated With Sex

One of the biggest reasons people hate bi+ people is because they conflate bisexuality with sex. In reality, bisexuality has no more to do with sex than being straight or gay does.

However, with the way that people often respond to someone coming out as bi+, they might as well be graphically describing a threesome. We often hear comments like, “Keep your sex life private! I don’t want to hear about that!” when we have only mentioned our sexual orientation and nothing about sex. Gays, lesbians, and straight people are usually able to discuss their sexual orientation without these comments – bisexuals should be no different.

Being out as a bi+ person means explaining over and over again that bisexuality is not the same as promiscuity. No, we aren’t more likely to cheat. No, we aren’t greedy. No, I don’t want a threesome with you and your girlfriend. No, we aren’t more likely to have STIs. No, you cannot watch.
Even OKCupid, a popular dating website and app, flags only the term “bisexual” as possible inappropriate language. This just goes to show that the oversexualization of bi+ people is everywhere – individuals, companies, media, advertisements. This oversexualization of bi+ people that reaches far and wide certainly isn’t support. Supporting bisexuals means not seeing them as sexual objects, treating bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation, and not conflating bi+ identities with sex.

More Than Two: Chapter 6 & 7

Note: While this outline will give you some things to talk about actually reading More Than Two is probably going to be incredibly valuable. I have outlined and asked questions about the things I have found interesting and thought-provoking, but you may find different things more helpful to yourself.

This was made for use by The Denver Nontraditional Relationships Meetup. Feel free to use it for other groups or for your own use as long as you credit Poly Talk. Going through it with a partner or your polycule might be especially helpful!

If this tool has been helpful please consider donating to our group so I can create similar tools, hold discussions, and pay for Meetup fees. Google Wallet: polypretzels@gmail.com or Patreon: www.Patreon.com/PolyTalk

Chapter 6: Communication Pitfalls

Foundations of communication

  1. Trust
  2. Respect
  3. Understanding other’s needs

 

Fuzzy Language

This is why us discussing terms & semantics is a good thing.

Have you ever been in a situation where you applied different meanings to the same term and it caused a problem?

Does everyone in your discussion apply the same meaning to:

  • Sex
  • Love
  • Consent
  • Commitment
  • Relationship

Likely, these are different for different people.

How can we have a discussion in our relationships about what these terms mean to us to limit miscommunications?

 

Slippery Words

Words attached to baggage.

Ex: Everyone must respect the primary relationship.

Existing commitments come first.

Everything must be fair and equal.

Reasonable, Success, Rights, Healthy

Do you have any agreements or rules with terms like this? How can you clarify what you really mean better?

 

Dishonesty

Most common reason for dishonesty is a lack of emotional vulnerability. Reasons for dishonesty:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of ridicule
  • Fear of being wrong
  • Fear of hearing no
  • Fear of being found less desirable
  • Not wanting to hurt your partner
  • Incapable of being honest with self

Dishonesty by concealment often is a way to seeking to control information as a way to control their partner’s behavior.

Lead with hopes rather than fears. What are some times you have struggled with one of these barriers to honesty? Did you overcome them? How?

You are going to be wrong sometimes. Do you allow this or fight it? Can you admit it? When does the refusal to accept that you are wrong cause problems?

How can you make it easier for you partner(s) to talk to you despite these issues?

 

Passive Communication

Passive communication- communication through subtext.

EX: Saying “I want to go out for Thai food.” vs. “Hasn’t it been a long time since we went out to eat?”

Are you more of a direct or indirect communicator? Which one is/are your partner(s)? How has passive communication led to problems in your relationships?

Passive communication can easily turn into manipulation. Passive communicators often see subtext in a direct communicator’s language- even when there isn’t any. Has this been an issue in your relationships?

What can you do to become better at direct communication? How can you encourage partners that are passive communicators to be more direct?

 

Storytelling

We are likely to interpret other’s motivations as less favorable than our own. We are just reacting to a situation while they are exposing a flaw in their character.

How can you recognize this bias in yourself? Has this played a role in any arguments or judgments you’ve made about people?

 

Triangular Communication

When one person’s concern regarding another person doesn’t go addressed with that person, but with another third person.

Where is the line between venting to another person/ seeking validation and triangular communication begin?

Sometimes caused by one partner wanting to control the passage of information to another person.

Triangular communication leads to diffusion of responsibility (so is veto power.)

It is likely that you have been at every part of the triangle at some point. The person seeking a third person to talk to, the person in the middle, and the person who was not talked to directly. In each situation, what could you have done to better direct communication?

 

When We Don’t Want To Communicate

Communication is most difficult when it is most important. Assumptions, embarrassment, and vulnerability can lead us to not want to communicate.

“If you are afraid to say it, that means you need to say it.”

What is something you’ve been/ were afraid to say? Why? What was the outcome?

How can you be receptive so your partner feels more comfortable saying the hard stuff?

 

Coercive Communication

Coercion- when the stakes of saying no are so high that you can’t reasonably say no.

If we think our partners owe us something this can occur. If you think you are owed sex you might think you are just communicating your need for sex when you are really demanding it.

Respect boundaries even when you don’t understand them. They are not the same as rules.

How do you distinguish between boundaries and rules?

Sometimes boundaries can be used to control, in emotional blackmail people may withdraw to punish someone. How do you make sure that your motives for boundaries are healthy?

Active listening can prevent this. It is:

  • Genuine
  • No leading questions
  • Listening to understand, not to respond
  • Repeating back what is said for clarification

Be wary of shifting responsibility for one person’s emotional state to the other person. EX: Why would you have sex with someone else when you know how much it hurts me?

 

Chapter 7: Communication Strategies

Communication Toolbox

99% of us are ‘lousy communicators.’

Active Listening

  • Listening to understand, not to respond
  • Repeating back what is said in your own words for clarification

Direct Communication

  • Be direct in what you say
    • Without subtext, hidden meaning, or coded language
  • Assume directness in what others say
    • Don’t look for hidden meaning or buried messages

Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

Put aside assumptions about other’s motivations and look at your own emotional response. Have each person in your discussion group come up with a difficult situation they had trouble communicating through and go through each step together to determine what you would do if practicing NVC. Do not be judgemental about how they handled the situation, only encouraging about figuring out what could be done better from now on or next time.

  1. Observation- made without judgment or assumption
  2. Feeling- focus on what you felt (I statements)
  3. Need- share what you need
  4. Request- request for communication

Make sure NVC is not used as a tool for control.

 

You Me Her- Good or Bad for Polyamory?

Warning: Contains Season 1 Spoilers

You Me Her is a new show that tackles one couple’s stumble into a polyamorous relationship. Polyamorous people are thrilled to finally have a show focused on a triad rather than another love triangle. However, there are so many problems with the show that it might not be the best introduction to polyamory- unless you use it as a tool to learn what not to do.

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Most couples make many mistakes when they start polyamory and architect Emma and Counselor Jack from Portland are no different. The show opens on them at a doctor’s office and the therapist asks about how often they have sex as they are trying to get pregnant. They are obviously having a dry spell. One of Jack’s friends recommends an escort to spice up their marriage and Jack meets Izzy. Then Jack comes clean to Emma and Emma meets Izzy as well.

One of the problems people report with polyamory is that it is for rich, white people. You Me Her only reinforces this conception. Jack and Emma live in a rich, white suburb and are obviously well off. Izzy is a student and is a little less well off, but Jack and Emma are willing to pay quite the price for her services. Jack and Emma throw their money around in attempts to control Izzy. Basically, the stereotype that polyamory is for rich, white people is very much confirmed by You Me Her.

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Unicorn hunters are a couple looking for a bisexual woman (sometimes a man), unicorn, to join their relationship. Unicorn hunting can be done ethically but couples new to polyamory usually are selfish, insensitive, and unfair. They often expect the new addition to their relationship to always be second best, to fix their relationship, and to fall for both of them at the same rate. Jack and Emma are these unethical unicorn hunters- to a T.

Jack and Emma talk about their triad without Izzy almost exclusively, treat her as an object and only occasionally remember she is not, and make decisions about their relationship without Izzy. Izzy puts herself out there again and again, but Jack and Emma lead her on only to discard her harshly later. Jack and Emma are so profoundly terrible to Izzy that she gives up on school and is ready to move back to Colorado. Izzy is no way without blame, but she isn’t actively hurting Jack and Emma like they are to her throughout the first season.

You Me Her is a wonderful example of what not to do for unicorn hunters. Izzy is a great example of the hurt that can happen when unicorns get treated poorly and when unicorn hunting goes wrong. However, I worry that their unethical behavior is being romanticized rather than criticized.

Another theme that seems to prevail throughout the story is selfishness and being self-absorbed. Even the title sequence has “ME” large and in the middle while “YOU” and “HER” are smaller and being pushed out of the way.

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Their triad starts out as cheating- from both Emma and Jack. Polyamory is not cheating, but You Me Her blurs the line between cheating and polyamory that confuses too many people.

After one particularly frustrating scene where Izzy feels rejected, and rightfully so, Emma suggests minutes after Izzy has left sobbing that Emma and Jack should have a baby. Jack tries to shut down the relationship even though Emma and Izzy are happy. Izzy uses a guy who really likes her, Andy, only to make Jack and Emma jealous.

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While the characters are charming and there are a few adorable scenes, I was left with the feeling that Jack, Emma, and Izzy have a hard time seeing past their selves. I feel that is already a misconception about polyamory- that we are all selfish and using each other. However, the least selfish people I know are polyamorous. The majority of us care about other’s feelings and try to be better people. Only a bad few of us don’t learn from our mistakes and continue to use people. I am curious to find out if that will be the case for Jack, Emma, and Izzy.

There isn’t a single issue within the triad that couldn’t be solved by them all sitting down together and communicating what they feel. Instead, they guess and mislead each other. This is too often true of other issues people run into in polyamory; they just need to be talked through.

So is You Me Her a good representation of polyamory? Not exactly. However, it is a good representation of the mistakes that people new to polyamory make when they take it on on their own. What is sad is that there are so many resources to avoid the mistakes the triad in You Me Her made- especially in Portland which has a large, active polyamorous community.

 

More Than Two Chapters 4 & 5

Note: While this outline will give you some things to talk about actually reading More Than Two is probably going to be incredibly valuable. I have outlined and asked questions about the things I have found interesting and thought-provoking, but you may find different things more helpful to yourself.

This was made for use by The Denver Nontraditional Relationships Meetup. Feel free to use it for other groups or for your own use as long as you credit Poly Talk. Going through it with a partner or your polycule might be especially helpful!

If this tool has been helpful please consider donating to our group so I can create similar tools and pay for Meetup fees. Google Wallet: polypretzels@gmail.com or Patreon: www.Patreon.com/PolyTalk

Benefits of Polyamory

Poly is rewarding, but developing the skills you need is hard work.

Has polyamory been easier or harder than what you anticipated?

Has anyone got to the point where openness, honesty, and communication are more reflex than work?

Benefits you beyond the relationship. Skills will improve life independent of relationships you’re in.

There aren’t stages. You don’t suddenly reach a point where you are good enough to be poly. Has anyone felt like they aren’t good enough to be poly or haven’t reached certain levels?

Recommend psychologist for certain mental health issues- anxiety, depression, etc.

Necessary to question/ challenge yourself to know what you want from relationships. Without this, you end up with a relationship that reflects what the world thinks is right for you, not what is truly right for you

Self Awareness

Owning your self-awareness are key.

How/ with what have you had a hard time owning your shit? How do you look at yourself without getting defensive?

What are your relationship needs? How do you communicate these to others? How do you stay responsible for your needs when they aren’t being met?

When you are looking to have your needs met how do you keep from treating people like need fulfillment machines?

Personal Limitations

Ease in. Many of us are idealists and want our idea of our poly utopia NOW before we grow enough to be able to handle those situations.

Don’t feel like you have to be the perfect poly person without jealousy or insecurity. Knowing your limitations is necessary and makes you a better poly person.

What limitations have you encountered? How have you taken care of yourself when this has happened?

Don’t build walls around fear and jealousy.

Discrimination

May run into judgement and discrimination. What have you run into? How did you handle it? How did you keep from internalizing these issues others had with your relationship?

Saying “don’t give others the power to hurt you” can belittle the struggles of someone’s closest friends and family shaming them for who they are.

Self-Efficacy

How do you keep from turning the thought “I did something bad” from turning into “I am bad?” How do you feel worthy of love when you mess up?

Self efficacy- one example is remaining calm in new scary situations and believing you can do it

Small successes are important:

Such as staying home alone while your partner is on a date/ talk to your partner about the jealousy you’re feeling/ coming to a discussion to talk about poly and your feelings. How do you celebrate your small successes? What ones have you done? It helps you realize that you can do this?

Do you have a poly role model? How do they keep you positive that you can do this?

Being poly and developing the skills we need is a commitment in itself. It gets better. It gets easier. Courage is important.

How do you remain courageous through your relationship? What strategies do you use to not get hurt? Are they helping or hurting?

Polyamory has a way of illuminating weaknesses in ourselves and in relationships.

Security

Seeking security can lead to placing rules over your partner or to agree to the controls they place on us. Lasting sense of security comes from knowing your partner can leave but chooses to stay.

Insecurity is not something you are born with; it is not a personality trait. How does this insecurity hold you back?

Security is something we practice and get good at- whether it is practicing self doubt and becoming adept at insecurity or practicing confidence and self assurance and becoming adept at security. What thoughts and behaviors do you practice that contribute your security? Insecurity?

Guide to Being a Secure Person

  1. Understand you have a choice
  2. Act like someone who is self confident- even if you aren’t
  3. Practice feeling secure

Has polyamory helped you become more secure or shed a light on your insecurities?

This is a better exercise for when you are on your own: write a list about the good things about yourself.

Fear of Loss

Commitment and fear of losing your partner are only sometimes related. Often in monogamy feelings of loss come from fears of being alone more than loss of that specific partner. In reality, we do lose everything we love in our lives- through death or life. Be happy for what you have and focus about the now.

Beginning couples try to keep everything about their relationship from changing with rules. But polyamory will change them and their relationship. Accept that changes will come. Just communicate through them.

We can feel entitled to have partners experience new things with us.

Fear of being alone can lead us to be irrational. Do you practice being alone? Fear can lead us to resent our partners for doing things that make us scared to be alone. How do you stop yourself from being a part of this fear- resentment cycle?

Love Scarcity vs. Abundance

People who tend to think of love as scarce thing don’t see there as enough love to around. People who follow the abundance model see opportunities for love as endless. Do you tend to think of love as scarce or abundant? What we believe is self fulfilling. How do you remind yourself of the abundance of love?

Believing in love scarcity keeps us in relationships that aren’t good for us. Has this happened to you?

Confirmation bias- the tendency to notice things that confirm our already held beliefs and discard what does not fit into our beliefs.

Flexibility is key to lasting relationships. Must be willing to face discomfort. Discomfort is inevitable in self growth. Avoidance of discomfort in relationships can keep us from being ethical. It disempowers our partners.

Sometimes you have to make choices that are minimizing issues rather than maximizing gains. These decisions can be hard to make. Integrity is the best guide. How do you make these choices?

Compassion

  1. People in the relationship are more important than the relationship.
  2. Don’t treat people as things.

(1) can be hard for couples. How do you keep this in mind when deciding what is best for you both? Have you made decisions that favored the relationship first? How did that turn out?

Compassion is not something you are; is is something you practice. It is not kindness, politeness, or a lack of boundaries. Have you mixed up compassion and not having boundaries? Why is it actually more compassionate to have boundaries?

You don’t have to be a poly perfectionist. Have compassion towards yourself too. It’s normal to have insecurity and jealousy.

Expectations

Check them. Do they present themselves as an entitlement to other’s feelings? We cannot have expectations for others without their consent. For example, expecting your partner to tell you before they have sex with someone else but not discussing this with them- then getting upset is not fair.

Polyamory Survey Results- Part 1

General

In this survey, 172 polyamorous people were surveyed. In general, people were reached through Facebook support groups and through sharing with their friends. Obviously, there are limitations of a survey that only reaches 172 people, but the results are interesting to consider nonetheless.

Participants varied from 18 to 56 years old, but responses weren’t accepted from people younger than 18 due to the sexually explicit nature of some of the questions. The age with the most answers was 26 years old. Most responders to the survey were in their 20’s or 30’s.

If you would like to answer the survey and haven’t done so please do so here. This will be periodically updated with additional answers and will only get more illuminating and reliable.

Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

The polyamorous community seems to be far more diverse in many ways than the general population. Gender identity and sexual orientation make this clear. 96.6% of the general population considers themselves straight, but less than half of polyamorous people surveyed consider themselves straight. It is their turn to be the minority! 54.1%, the majority of the polyamorous community surveyed are polysexual, attracted to more than one gender. 23% of people have witnessed discrimination based on sexual orientation in the polyamorous community despite the diversity.

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In the polyamorous community surveyed, 82.5% are cisgendered and consider themselves strictly a  man or woman. Even with these large numbers or minority gender identities, 13 % people have witnessed some form of gender identity expression in the polyamory community.

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More people new to polyamory responded to the survey than people who had been polyamorous for a while. This could be due to where the participants were found, online support groups because people new to polyamory are more likely to seek out support. It could also be due to the fact that more responders to the survey were younger and therefore have been dating for less time.

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Some people consider polyamory to be choice while others consider it to be an orientation. People who see it as an orientation explain that polyamory is just a part of who they are, just like their sexual orientation. It was surprising to find that the majority of people who responded felt that polyamory was an ingrained part of who they are.

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Some people consider polyamory the best choice for them currently, but that they could be monogamous again in the future under the right circumstances. However, 58.7% of people who are polyamorous are unlikely to become monogamous in the future. Only 7.6% of people would definitely be in a monogamous relationship. Most seem to be here to stay.

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Frustratingly, many people incorrectly conflate polyamory and cheating. Most people who are polyamorous are not cheating and never have cheated. In fact, only 40% of polyamorous people have ever cheated. Some studies suggest that about 71% of the general married population have cheated. Cheating seems to be a hard statistic to measure as people are unlikely to admit they have cheated. The important thing to take away from this is that polyamorous people don’t seem to be more likely to be unfaithful like everyone assumes.

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Coming out, as anything not in line with the majority of people, can be difficult. Polyamory is no different. Only 15.1% of polyamorous people surveyed are out in every aspect of life. 5.2% of polyamorous people surveyed were not out to anyone- family, friends, work, or close friends. They are only out to their partners (god I hope so).

Participants who were out were far more likely to experience discrimination for being polyamorous.

Religion

A lot of polyamorous people have to deal with the assumption that polyamory is the same as polygamy that is associated with religion. Forget the idea that all the poly people are Mormons. Most polyamorous people, 85.5% in fact, are actually atheists or agnostic.

Sex

Safe sex is especially important when people are having sex with multiple partners. Experts suggest getting tested every 6 months. Our survey suggests that the polyamorous community could do a bit better on staying safe and healthy.

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BDSM & Kink

85%  of people surveyed are interested or actively into BDSM or kink. People surveyed reported discrimination within the community for both being into kink/ BDSM as well as being vanilla.

Polyamory Community Problems

The polyamorous community is great in many ways, but there are many things that can be improved upon. I think the first step to doing so is to listen to the problems people have encountered and attempt to improve upon them. For example, racism was reported by 20% of the people who answered the survey. Polyamory is often critiqued as being for rich, white people and I think this statistic confirms that we need to work harder to include minorities and consider racism.

There are some ways of doing polyamory that are inherently sexist. 41% of people reported encountering misogyny. Polyamory as a whole is weakened when it is used to oppress women instead of empower them.

I have written on ageism in the polyamorous community. 40% of people also reported this experience within the polyamorous community.

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.

I have also written about couple privilege and couple-centrism within the polyamorous community. The majority of people- 63% have encountered couple-centrism in their polyamorous community.

Discrimination

There is a National Coming Out Day on October 11. Many polyamorous people began to come out on this day. In response, they were chastised by the LGBTQIAA+ community. One argument was that polyamorous people were never discriminated against so taking their day was inappropriate. That is an argument for a different day, but I do want to address the claim that polyamorous people are not discriminated against. These survey responses gave many examples of proof otherwise.

There were multiple accounts of people saying they lost their jobs, friends, and even their children. People also reported being denied housing and being evicted. In fact, I have had the personal experience of being kicked out by a landlord because I am bisexual and polyamorous. Additionally, people from the survey reported discrimination and losing their family, friends, and significant others. If having their children taken away or being denied a place to live, specifically because they are polyamorous, isn’t discrimination I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

Relationship Anarchy

Definition

Relationship anarchy is one of the (roughly) four types of polyamory. It can also refer to a type of monogamy, but we are going to focus on the polyamorous relationship anarchy. Basically, relationship anarchy means that only the people within the relationship dictate what they want that relationship to look like. Societal norms for relationships are questioned and often discarded.

Philosophy

If this definition seems a bit vague- it is because it is. There aren’t rules or guidelines to follow; after all, it is anarchy. People within the relationships dictate how they want the relationships to look. Therefore, each and every RA relationship is going to look different. It wouldn’t be true to say “there is no wrong way to do relationship anarchy.” It would be wrong to not communicate about this being your relationship style or be honest throughout any and all relationships.

Couple Privilege

In nonmonogamous relationships, an existing marriage or relationship often is rewarded certain privileges. Often a lot of rules for dating focus on protecting the existing relationship at the expense of all other relationships and everyone else’s wellbeing. Read more about it here.

One of the focuses of many people’s relationship anarchy is eliminating couple privilege. Many of the rules that are created out of couple’s privilege dictate relationships outside their own. Because relationship anarchy is about only the people in the relationship dictating how they want their relationship to look these rules don’t really mesh with rules that come out of couple’s privilege.

Friendship & Platonic Relationships

In our society, there is a lot more emphasis and importance put on romantic relationships than friendships. One of the appeals of RA to many people is that friendships can be focused on and made as important as they want. Sex isn’t the end all be all to relationships. If the relationship anarchist wants to spend most of their time in their friendship or if they want their friendship to be the closest, most important relationship in their life they can choose that.

Practice

Not letting people outside of your relationship dictate your relationship doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be considerate towards our metamours. I strive to be considerate and think of my metamour’s feelings. However, I no longer enter into relationships with people who allow their other partners to make decisions for our relationship. I won’t date people who give their partners veto power, make rules about what their partner can feel, make rules about what their partner can do sexually, etc.

Dating only people who value their autonomy as much as I do means that my partner and I are the only people making decisions within our relationship and it really helps to uncomplicate things.

I currently have a nesting partner, live with partners, and have a few casual partners. None of them are my primaries or secondaries and none of my relationships look the same.

My nesting partner is also a relationship anarchist. He and I share a room because right now it is right for us and our relationship, both our financial situations, and with my disability. We spend the most time together and are the most serious, but we have discussed that we are both okay with our relationship changing and embracing the fluidity of our relationship. We’ve discussed that this might not always be the case.

It is hard to imagine or talk about our relationship ending because it is currently not what either of us wants. However, we also both agree that ending our romantic relationship would not necessarily be a failure of our relationship and that a breakup doesn’t have to devalue that relationship. This leaves room for both of us to date others with freedom, let those relationships grow organically, and allows our relationship to grow. It is what we prefer to placing limits on each other’s relationships.

I have a few undefined relationships with people who I don’t see often and still mean a lot to me. I think on average I value friendship and nonromantic parts of relationships more than most people. That is why relationship anarchy is perfect for me.