For someone who identifies as femme non-binary and queer, the notion of relationships has always been something I’ve struggled with. The dating scene is treacherous and full of fetishizing and absurd patriarchal sexualization.
However, in an embarrassing Carrie Bradshaw-style epiphany, I recently couldn’t help but wonder: Why do I still abide by strict monogamous rules when it comes to dating, when I’m someone who, throughout my life, has rejected and reformed my own boundaries when it comes to gender and sexuality?
Polyamory, like many words and identities within the LGBTQIA+ community, comes with a large amount of baggage and stereotypes that can influence and alter the ways in which people within and outside the community interpret and see it. For me, I’ve realized that all of these words are self-determined and are open to constant interpretation.
After meeting a fellow non-binary person who, in an incredibly millennial manner, slid into my DMs on Instagram, I opened my eyes, brain, and emotions to the concept of romantic and sexual polyamory, and I’m never looking back.
At its core, the concept means not putting romantic and/or sexual relationships on a pedestal or giving them a hierarchy, and seeing them all on an even playing field. It’s being honest with yourself, and with the people around you, and realizing that though you may have different levels of relations with certain people, each relationship you have with each person doesn’t negate the other, no matter how intimate, sexual or emotional it is. The pressure to know what’s happening between two people in terms of labels is eradicated, and the actual significant connection between the two people is what matters. The fact that I can have a loving and caring connection (although new) with someone, and know that they’re also able to give that level of care, attention, and desire to someone else is actually a comfort rather than an insecurity. We don’t just have love to give one person, and that’s what it comes down to for me.
In America, the poly life is actually more common than you think. According to a study completed in 2016, more than 1 in 5 Americans have said that they engage in what is known as consensual non-monogamy – basically polyamory. This fluidity when it comes to the ways in which people are dating and forming connections is what’s so exciting to me. The traditional monogamist society that we live in is changing and it’s so refreshing and shows that people of all ages, especially within the LGBTQIA+ community, are sharing their love with the world, and that’s only ever a beautiful thing.
But it’s just code for swinging, isn’t it?
Absolutely not. This is where the self-definitive aspect of all our identities comes into play. If you and your partner want to explore other people and the relationships you both may have with each other, and that is something you want to both do sexually, then go for it. But this doesn’t mean that’s what all people who engage in consensual non-monogamous relationships want. For example, as a non-binary femme person, sexualization and fetishizing of my body is something that is a daily occurrence, so the desire for me to have a polyamorous relationship with someone just for the sexual exploration is not what I need or desire. I want to be able to escape that and explore meaningful and emotional connections with people. Whether that be one person for now or more people in the future, that’s for me to decide – and only mine and the person I’m experiencing that with’s business.
If you’re thinking about exploring or approaching polyamory and you’re in a conventionally monogamous relationship now, it can be hard to broach this topic with your partner, and that’s OK. The most important thing that I’ve found in my early awakening to this path is that communication and honesty are the most important things you need to have, be aware of, and be able to give and take. If you’re not honest about the things you’re feeling, and the people you’re seeing, with the people around you that it concerns, that’s when you’re going to fall into danger. Not only is communication and honesty important with others, but it’s equally important to be as raw with yourself. Knowing your own limits and being aware of the new experiences you’re having is incredibly important.
For me, having someone tell me that they cared about me, and thought I was worthy of feelings of love and admiration, was new, exciting, scary, and intense. Because we’d laid down the honest communication right from the beginning, I felt able to talk about this with them. We were also able to talk about the logistics of polyamory, their other partners, their relationships with them, and then have open dialogue about how that makes us feel. It was also important to be able to look at this and discuss it from the angle of me, a single person, entering a new polyamorous world, and communication allows the unanswered questions to be answered, and to not be treated as taboo. It’s an absolutely perfect situation.
I think the most important thing is to not rush into anything. Even if you think it’s right for you, you need to be able to know your own boundaries. Just because you think polyamory might be right for you doesn’t mean that you should jump straight onto Grindr and find someone to hook up with, or go for a date with, because you want to know what it feels like. Explore the concept within yourself first, and then you’ll know when it’s the right time to move on to bringing real polyamorous life choices into your world.
If you’re in relationship now, make sure you know yourself and your feelings before you sit your partner down and explain it to them. Be responsive and responsible for your actions. But more importantly, have fun. Know you’re only able to share the love and feelings from within if you’re full up yourself. That’s when mutual love, respect, and happiness will ensue.
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