The one thing you don't expect to see in any of the Bible Belt states (where most have amended their constitutions to define marriage between one man and one woman) is an organization promoting polyamory.
Last month at Atlanta's Pride Parade the group "Atlanta Polyamory Inc." did just that—and in the wide open light of day. The result was the shock, awe, and disgust of a mixed group.
Atlanta Polyamory Inc.’s purple-lettered banner read:"Polyamory: Having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals."
While many religious conservatives might argue that the legalization of same-gender marriage and shows like HBO’s "Big Love"—about a fictional polygamist Mormon family plant seeds to destroy the conventional family unit,—we have to ask ourselves is monogamy a natural instinct in us or is it a social construct which was obviously devised to protect and to regulate the institution of heterosexual marriage?
To be non-monogamous in this culture carries pejorative and judgmental connotations for both heterosexuals and LGBTQs. It assumes sexual promiscuity, a sex and love addiction as well as the inability to achieve emotional and sexual intimacy. But it also ignores the reality that some people really are polyamorous, and their ability to love more than one person at a time is not about a lust-fest for them.
Deepak Chopra, a renowned spiritual master and director for educational programs at the Chopra Center for Well Being in California states, “As far as monogamy is concerned, I honestly believe that human beings are not monogamous biologically; they were not created that way. However, it is certainly helpful in society and social structure...because of the family structure....with gay and lesbian relationships...you’re going to see families. You’re going to see children. So in the interest of family structure, we’ve evolved biologically to the point where we are social creatures.”
But the purported evolutionary benefits of monogamy have not panned out as expected. And the biggest benefit touted out in support of monogamy is that it's the best social and psychological arrangement for children. However, evidence has proven over and over again if couples are in a monogamous relationship solely for the kids, the children, too, suffer because they witness no love, compassion and sometimes respect between the parents.
Contrary to popular belief, sociologist Elisabeth Sheff forthcoming book "The Polyamorists Next Door" reveals that polyamory is a "legitimate relationship style that can be tremendously rewarding for adults and provide excellent nurturing for children."
"I'm more involved in their lives (referring to children) and more aware of their inner thoughts or aspirations; I'm more involved in their long-term happiness," Mark told CNN reporters. Mark who's a computer programmer and his wife's an electrical engineer have been married for over a decade. They have no children; however, they are actively engaged with the children from the two couples they have been sexually involved with for six years.
Societal condemnation of not being monogamous has halted many from taking the walk down the aisle, knowing the wedding vow to stay married until death cannot faithfully be upheld.
The evidence is the skyrocketing divorce rate among heterosexuals. Gay and lesbian couples are not immune, and as the number of states with marriage equality climbs, so will our divorce rate.
Many social scientists are recognizing that sexual fidelity to one person is a doom aspiration. This notion will soon evolve into an antiquated notion because as our human clock ticks longer than previous generations while our appetite and yearning to experience sexual variety—with people of same and opposite genders—will also expand.
Our polyamorous nature, many contest, is evident in our acts of serial monogamy, which speaks to our need to fulfill the impulse for variety. Once marriage shifted from its historical moorings of being solely economic and political arrangements to now romantic and consensual unions, sexual fidelity became the barometer of a successful relationship, marriage or true love for a person.
While sexual jealousy and possessiveness would appear unavoidable in polyamorous relationship there is also data revealing how having open relationships keeps these couples intact, and the love very much alive.
The practice of polyamory was once thought to be an absurd issue to explore as a relationship choice. But today's it's not. More and more organizations like "Atlanta Polyamory Inc." are popping up across the country. Their members are coming out of the closet. Perhaps this will be the new civil rights battle before us.
Whether someone is monogamous or polyamorous is solely a personal decision.
And let's remember same-sex marriage was once upon a time seemed as a preposterous proposition to argue as a civil right.
“Its not a lifestyle we are talking about, it is a life—our sonʼs (and many others).”
We need to concentrate not on our differences, but what we have in common, in our quest for a better world.
“Thatʼs the hardest thing Iʼve ever done!” That is how our 36 year old son describes saying, “Mom, Dad Iʼm gay”. One of eight children, he was 21 at the time. Unlike some parents who suspect their child is gay, or know it and wait for that child to tell them, we hadnʼt suspected. We were shocked. As parents, having a gay child was not a conscious thought. Yet the love we had for him never changed. This describes real ʻfamily valuesʼ.
The only knowledge we had, consisted of the inaccurate popular social beliefs. We didn’t begin to understand this “thing” that had invaded our lives. He gave us a copy of Beyond Acceptance and told us about PFLAG. The book was read but there was no way we’d walk into a PFLAG meeting! How I wish now we would have—immediately. Reading the book prompted us to learn more.
He showed a tremendous amount of patience with us during this learning process and invited any questions we had. Our reading was on facts which quickly facilitated our ability to dis-spell the rhetoric and mean-spirited beliefs that did, and still does, permeate our society. And we did ask him many questions!
Of Utmost Concern
OUR YOUTH - Gays* realize their sexual orientation at a variety of ages but the most predominant is the junior high and high school years. Through education you can learn that their realization is often profoundly traumatic within themselves (and “they say” it is a choice!). There is a great need to provide a school atmosphere that enhances their ability to receive an education and reach their potential. ALL students are entitled to a safe, productive, learning environment.
Our son never reached his potential in junior high, high school, or two years of tech school. He was too deep in his struggle with his sexuality, making sure no one penetrated that closet door or harmed him. Soon after coming out he enrolled in a two year police science course in a gay-friendly city. He loved school and graduated with excellent grades, then attended the Police Academy there and graduated at the top of his class. This testimonial should prove how the school atmosphere can affect an education.
Gay youth too often spend these years in isolation, fear, and tolerating harassment instead of enjoying what should be some of the best of their lives. Many develop self- destructive attitudes and turn to alcohol and/or drug abuse, promiscuity, do poorly in school or drop out. Some just give up on life. The estimate is that one-third of teen suicides are committed by gay youth.
EQUAL RIGHTS FOR GAYS—Not “gay rights”. That is one of many scare tactics used by anti-gay forces to spread their hollow ideas. It is equal rights. We feel our gay citizens, without hesitation; absolutely deserve the same rights as every other American citizen. We find this to be the most grievous form of discrimination.
This is because the people refusing to grant those rights are our elected local, state and federal officials who we feel should be knowledgeable. They set educational policies for all citizens but neglect self-education on sexual orientation, preferring to make decisions on misconceptions and false rhetoric. We take this very personally—how dare they judge our son as not deserving of this protection, they have never even met him!
Anti-gay forces say that gays have these rights under the
U.S. Constitution. If this is true why can they be fired from their employment, evicted from rental housing, or be denied credit for no other reason than, “You’re gay!”?
ANTI-GAY FORCES—These organizations, while using ʻreligiousʼ, ʻChristianʼ or ʻfamilyʼ in their names, perpetuate violence towards gays. Persons capable of violence are fed by their hateful and false messages and ad campaigns. These organizations, by spreading fear, generate millions of dollars, a portion of which is used to enable them to penetrate our political system.
There is also subtle but profound damage done by their activities. These messages are visible to all, including teenagers struggling with their own sexuality. Feeling the effects of this message, do they become another suicide statistic? They call themselves religious but where are their Christian attitudes?
These organizations promote conversion therapy. Their claims are hollow, at best, as there is no follow-up provided for the thousands they call converted to support those numbers. Such therapies not only are dismissed by almost all major U.S. psychiatric and psychological associations but also are known as able to cause ʻincalculableʼ harm. Could you change your sexual orientation? Why should gays change theirs, they are fine the way they are.
How You Can Help
1. Become enlightened regarding sexual orientation. It is not a choice. Who would choose to be a part of society that is treated so inhumanely? When did you choose to be heterosexual? In both straight and gay people, it just evolves within us.
2. Don’t trust stereotypes. Gays come in as many varieties as straights. Stereotypes inflict great damage to both. A masculine female or feminine male does not mean they are homosexual. These people suffer pointless unfair harassment due to hateful, slanderous attitudes toward gays.
3. Get to know some gay people, not just by name but really “know” them (we all know some, but are not aware they are gay). Don’t worry about an attempt to “recruit” you, another scare tactic. You will realize gays are people like you and I.
4. Educate yourselves with the facts instead of spreading the fiction. If people realized the silly, false things they say about homosexuality, they would be embarrassed. Like the term “Gay Lifestyle”. Can you explain that term? What is a straight lifestyle? When you describe one, you describe the other.
5. Prepare yourself. Homosexuality happens in any family, yours is not exempt. We don’t order children or grandchildren, brothers or sisters. We love and accept them with brown eyes or blue; right-handed or left; gay or straight. When we do not accept our gay family members, we lose.
6. When you hear or see the word homosexual, don’t let the word “sex” be your first thought. They are whole people. The only difference between homosexual and heterosexual is who they have emotional and physical natural attractions to. Sex is a viable aspect in any relationship. It plays the same role in any relationship, whether gay or straight.
7. Contact your elected officials—local, county, state or federal—to express your concern for the protection and rights for homosexuals and the discriminatory practices running rampant in society today.
8. Contact your local school officials and ask what policies/programs are in place to create a safe learning environment. Is there gay-friendly staff and are all students aware of who they are? Has the school provided sensitivity training to the staff? Provide them with contact information for organizations like PFLAG and GLSEN who have developed such programs for schools.
Where We Are Now
Unfortunately, we have all grown up in a homophobic society in America, steeped in unenlightened and judgmental attitudes. The most important thing to do is care enough to gain accurate information.
Through our son we have met so many warm, loving and genuine people—gays, their parents and families. We all share the same frustration seeing the violence, suffering and unfair treatment of our loved ones.
Personally, it makes us angry that there is a need for us to advocate for one of our eight children in the hopes that he can have identical civil rights as the others. Its just not fair! If gays do not receive equal civil rights, why should they be taxed to support a school, county, state or country which treats them so unfairly? This is unforgiveable discrimination and where the term “abomination” truly belongs when speaking of gays. It is important for people to work together to make our society a safe, equal environment for all citizens.
We had experienced a degree of homophobia within ourselves until homosexuality hit “our house”. That gave us an incentive to learn about it. Now we realize how much devastation and havoc can occur, and how many people can be so affected due to a lack of knowledge. We have applied this education to other aspects of our lives and feel very fortunate to have a gay son. Is it any wonder we are so proud of him?
Until he came out he reminded us of a rose bud—we knew there was something more in there but it was closed so tight. Gradually that bud started to unfold and now has come to a beautiful full bloom.
If you are a parent who suspects, or has just learned you have a gay child, you are not alone. Most importantly, continue loving your child, regardless of your feelings toward homosexuality. They are still the same person as before with only one difference. It may seem like a tremendous difference now, however, the more knowledge you receive, the smaller that difference becomes. You may have a rose trying to bloom too—one that needs nurturing, love and support.
Join a PFLAG group (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Trust me, it’s not as frightening as you probably think and confidentiality is the only criteria. There is much understanding and comfort waiting for you. PFLAG, 1726 M St. NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036; Phone (202)467-8180), e-mail:
. GLSEN Inc. (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, 121 W. 27th St., Ste. 804,NY, NY 10117-2218
Thank you, Rex and Carolyn Jones
* includes lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgendered SUGGESTED READING:
Straight Parents/Gay Children by Robert Bernstein Beyond Acceptance by Caroyn Welch Griffin, Marian
J. Wirth & Arthur G. Wirth Family Outing by Chastity Bono
A Stranger at the Gate by Dr. Mel White Friends & Family by Dan Woog
Free Your Mind by Ellen Bass & Kate Kaufman
Acclaimed performance artist Tim Miller brings back his one-man tour de
force, *Glory Box*, to CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids. *Glory Box* is a funny,
sexy and charged exploration of Tim’s journeys through the challenges of
love, marriage equality for gay Americans and much more.
Tim originally premiered the work at CSPS back in 1999. He returns with
this victory lap performance in celebration of the overturning of the
Defense of Marriage Act and his marriage to Australian Alistair McCartney.
From Miller’s hilarious grade school playground battles over wanting to
marry another boy to the harrowing travails of being in a bi-national
relationship with his Australian lover, *Glory Box* leads the audience on
an intense and humorous journey into the complexity of the human heart. *Glory
Box* (the term that Australians use for “hope chest”) conjures an
alternative site for the placing of memories, hopes and dreams of gay
people’s extraordinary potential for love.
CSPS is located at 1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids. Tickets are $16 in
advance and $20 at the door. For tickets and more info, call
Miller has received numerous grants from the National Endowment for the
Arts. In 1990, he was awarded a NEA Solo Performer Fellowship, which was
overturned under political pressure from the Bush White House because of
the gay themes of Miller’s work. Miller and three other artists, the
so-called “NEA 4,” successfully sued the federal government with the help
of the ACLU for violation of their First Amendment rights.
*Tim is doing a week-long storytelling workshop with Coe College students
beginning on Dec. 3 and culminating Dec. 7 with a 7:30 pm performance of
their collective performance work Body Maps. His CSPS performance is
co-sponsored by Coe College Department of Theatre Arts, with additional
funding assistance from the Coe GLBT Alliance and the Committee on