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Polyamory In The LGBTQ+ Community

A small look at the increase in polyamorous relationships in queer spaces

by Hayden
In this colorful, vibrant artwork, a diverse group of individuals is depicted forming a circle, holding hands.

Polyamory has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years—statistical data released in 2021 claims approximately 5% of the American populace engage in poly-amorous relationships, not far behind the roughly 7% of the population that’s LGBTQ+. And, as is always the case with queer census data, there is a considerable margin of error due to the closet. Polyamory—the engagement of multiple, consensual romantic relationships with all partners involved at the same time—fosters deep connections and love between multiple partners based on open communication and mutual consent. It is safe to say, just from a mathematical standpoint, that there is some overlap between the two communities.

As the world’s understanding love and relationships have undergone profound transformations, the LGBTQ+ community’s struggles have been something of a trailblazer for redefining and challenging what it means to love and be loved. And as with the LGBTQ+ community, polyamory has it’s own misconceptions and struggles that it fights against.

What Is Polyamory?

A polyamorous relationship is based on the idea that love and intimacy aren’t finite resources. In contrast to conventional monogamy, where exclusivity rules, polyamory embraces the idea that people can be with many couples simultaneously, all with open and informed consent.

Polyamory fosters meaningful, consensual, and ethical relationships, prioritizing transparency, communication, and mutual respect. In the LGBTQ+ community, where diverse love stories flourish, it’s a path to love that challenges societal norms. The only way we can appreciate polyamory’s impact on those who embrace it is by dismantling misconceptions and exploring its history.

Polyamory and Open-Relationships

Perhaps the biggest misconception about polyamorous relationships is that everyone involved has a lot of sex. It may or may not be true, but “open relationships” and polyamorous relationships are different things. Open relationships allow more sexual fluidity with partners, but they don’t have that aspect of love for multiple people. In open relationships, the emphasis is not on cultivating romantic connections with multiple partners. 

Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Non-Monogamous Relationships

Across cultures and eras, non-monogamous relationships have existed, shaped by cultural, social, and economic factors. Older societies, like Indigenous American cultures, practiced polygyny (multiple female partners) long before it was recognized today. These relationships were often based on communal living, shared childcare, and a deep sense of connection. Polyamory wasn’t demonized until European colonization took place.

Native American polyamory reflected communal values and served as a way to foster connections and alliances with neighboring tribes. Leaders of Native American tribes, like tribal chiefs and elders, often practiced polygyny. Diplomatic and socio-cultural considerations drove this practice, not just personal desires.

Image depicting multiple individuals lying together in bed, embracing a consensual and intimate moment, illustrating the concept of polyamory and ethical non-monogamous relationships.

Polyamorous relationships bring just as much warmth and intimacy as any other.

Non-monogamous ideals have been advocated throughout history by influential figures and philosophical movements. Free love movements in the early 20th century challenged traditional monogamy, promoting the idea that love shouldn’t be exclusive.

Common Misconceptions About Polyamory

There are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding polyamory. Understanding polyamorous dynamics, especially within the LGBTQ+ community, requires addressing these misconceptions:

Promiscuity and Hedonism: One of the biggest misconceptions about polyamory is that it’s synonymous with promiscuity or hedonism. Polyamorous relationships are built on emotional connections and consensual agreements, emphasizing love and commitment over casual contact.

Lack of Commitment: Some think polyamorous people can’t commit to a single partner. In polyamory, commitment can take many forms, including emotional and romantic commitments.

Uncontrolled Jealousy: Another myth is that polyamorous relationships are rife with jealousy. While jealousy can happen, polyamorists work hard to constructively manage and overcome such feelings through communication and emotional self-awareness.

Relationship Anarchy: Polyamorous relationships aren’t all “relationship anarchy,” where no rules or boundaries exist.

Benefits of Polyamory

Just to counteract a list of negatives, its important to know how and why someone might be attracted to Polyamory. There’s numerous reasons one might love to love more than one:

Increased Support Networks: Polyamory often leads to larger support networks. Having multiple partners can create a strong community and mutual support.

Diverse Perspectives: Polyamorous relationships can involve partners with different backgrounds, experiences, and worldviews. 

Flexibility and Growth: Polyamory allows individuals to freely explore their identities and desires. 

Polyamory In the LGBTQ+ Community

A journey to self-discovery and acceptance often involves challenging societal norms and redefining traditional relationships. Non-monogamy offers a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals to build relationships based on their authentic selves, fostering inclusion and liberation.

Related: Why Does the AIDS Epidemic Still Permeate So Much of Today’s LGBTQ+ Projects?

Polyamory challenges monogamous boundaries by recognizing that love and attraction aren’t one size fits all. Validating the diverse spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities within the community allows people to explore their unique desires and connections—and in that light, does polyamory not have a common ally with the LGBTQ+ community?

There’s one constant in human existence: the journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance. The path of the polyamorous LGBTQ+ person is, of course, not without its thorns. Many polyamorous LGBTQ+ people find themselves coming out multiple times, not just to family and friends but to a world that clings to the status quo. LGBTQ+ people are still in peril around the world, facing discrimination, persecution, and even violence for loving who they love.

The Pillars of Ethical Non-Monogamy

Consensual and informed consent are the cornerstone of polyamory and ethical non-monogamy. A polyamorous relationship requires explicit, ongoing agreement from all parties, unlike traditional monogamous relationships. In other words, everyone agrees to the relationship’s boundaries, rules, and expectations. It’s a commitment to open dialogue where partners communicate their desires, concerns, and any changes to their boundaries constantly. As a result of this level of transparency and mutual agreement, everyone’s needs and feelings are respected throughout the polyamorous journey.

Maintaining healthy relationships in polyamory means managing jealousy and insecurity. The root causes of these emotions can be addressed through self-reflection. Individuals in polyamorous relationships can strengthen their emotional bonds and build trust by constructively acknowledging and working through these issues. Individuals and dynamics change, and so do desires and comfort zones.

Building Healthy Polyamorous Relationships

Building trust isn’t just important, it’s a continuous process. Partners must communicate openly and honestly, sharing their desires, boundaries, and vulnerabilities. It’s about creating a safe space where everyone feels valued and secure, knowing their needs will be met. As partners keep their commitments and maintain transparency, trust grows. 

Image featuring two men and a woman lying together, representing a polyamorous relationship based on mutual consent and affection among multiple partners.

In this polyamorous relationship, the group share a close bond built on trust, respect, and the freedom to explore diverse connections.

Keeping multiple partners happy is a delicate art in polyamory. It takes consideration, organization, and honesty. Maintaining this balance makes sure no one feels neglected or unimportant. Time allocation must be discussed and set proactively, considering individual needs and wants. 

Regular check-ins and open, honest communication within your polyamorous circle can help prevent conflicts and reassure partners. Dialogue and understanding can strengthen bonds and create a safe space for everyone—queer, or otherwise. And as history has shown time and time again, connection is the strongest shelter for the marginalized.

Sources: IFLSCIENCE.com, JSTOR Daily, ThoughtCo.com, Vogue.com, GQ India, InStyle

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