Publicly Poly

Note: This is what I do now, full-time. I’m completely committed to changing the face of clinic access in this country. If you can, consider supporting my work so I can do more of it by clicking HERE and making a one-time or recurring (just click the box) contribution. All the funding goes to equipment, travel to other conferences/clinics/meetings with pro-choice legislators/training new escort programs and supplies. Thank you!

If you don’t already know, I’m the social media and activism director for The Best of the Left Podcast. I love this gig. I’d known Jay!, the producer/director for several years before working with him, which means I wasn’t surprised to discover he’s great to collaborate with. I find the work really satisfying for a slate of reasons; at the top of the list is the voicemail and commentary section at the end of the show. The regular listeners are smart and engaged and know their shit. Sometimes when less empathetic, tolerant people stumble upon the show, our listeners will handle it and do some regulating based on their personal experiences and educational backgrounds.

Recently, polyamory came up in an analogy on the show. A caller predictably conflated — if not outright confused — it with polygamy, prompting additional conversation. So for the first time, I paused and called in to comment. I’ve been asked a bunch since starting to talk publicly about my non-heteronormativity publicly to write about it. This won’t be the last time; it’s simply a good intro to the topic here and a little groundwork for further posts.

I’m including all of the voicemails and Jay!’s words from the episode with my call. If you want to catch the start, check out the final segment of Best of the Left Podcast, episode #824 “Investing in a green future (Climate)” and the final segments of the episodes that follow.

You’ll discover why I really like Jay! when you get to his closing. He describes my favorite type of allyship — the “accidental/just try not to be an asshole type.” If you dig it and find yourself listening to the rest of the episode, you can subscribe to BOTL for free.

Easy stream, clip only:

Text of my response:

Hi, this is Katie Klabusich, BOTL’s social media and activism director pausing for a moment to respond as a listener and weigh in on the polyamory discussion.

I myself identify as polyamorous — a label it took me 15 years and a heteronormative lifestyle attempt-induced anxiety disorder to discover. I do not ID as queer for many of the reasons discussed over the past several months on the show; I am a cis, straight female and have a lived experience as such. But I do connect to the queer community and find the most acceptance there because of the reasons explained by Melissa from NY as she described her stance on terminology and identification. I, too, bristle at the conflation of polyamory and polygamy that Raul from Hawaii made (twice now) as it is made ALL THE TIME. Condemning something without having any knowledge of what the word or term means is distasteful and ignorant at best. Thank you to Matt from Michigan for pointing out that polygamy and polyamory are simply separate. Full stop. I also recommend Christoper Ryan’s Ted Talk “We are Designed to be Sexual Omnivores.”

Of all the topics that have been discussed on the show, this one made me pause for comment because of my personal life experience. People typically make assumptions about my character, my life and my relationships rather than asking “Oh, what does that mean for you?” when I mention polyamory. I have had to sit down and explain what my dating and relationship style means individually to almost everyone in my circle. I’m part of a tiny minority. A tiny, tiny minority. I suppose that is what makes it easy for folks like Nathan from Vancouver to think that I “don’t have a different sexuality” using a talking point long ago hushed, but quite longstanding about same-sex marriage: “people will do it for sinister reasons,” i.e. his robbing a bank example. While simultaneously describing polyamorous relationships and possible marriages as too complicated for paperwork to be feasible, he conjectures that people will just dive on into it for base, culturally dangerous reasons. That seems intellectually dishonest, but common as most people simply don’t think through the lived experiences of others.

Melissa made the excellent point that quote unquote “regular marriages” are hardly simple. I agree. Polyamorous relationships aren’t simple either and they require a LOT of communication. First dates sound similar to those in the queer community where you have to discuss what you’re looking for. In detail. In fact, there’s a joke in the poly community that everyone thinks we’re having sex constantly, but we actually do far more talking and communicating than people in standard, monogamous relationships. That’s the part I connect with; I like how up front and honest and respectful and adult the poly community typically is — one big reason I don’t appreciate its conflation with polygamy’s mysogynistic/patriarchal reputation.

I don’t know if I came to be polyamorous because of my environment, my genes or a combination of both. Frankly, that’s pretty irrelevant. It’s who I am, how I relate to other people and what fulfills me as a human being. You don’t have to understand it; you don’t have to like it; you don’t actually have to have feelings about it at all as it doesn’t affect you. I would make a request: before assuming things about an entire group of people, perhaps take the time to listen to a few of them. If that interests you when it comes to non monogamy, the two best sex educators — Tristan Taormino and Reid Mihalko explain it in a frank and human and story-telling style way on Tristan’s podcast “Sex Out Loud” — the Sept 14, 2012 episode. Tristan and Reid are super responsive on social media (as am I), so if this whole things has left you incredulous or curious or some combination of the two, there are resources for learning more before making assumptions based on our heteronormative culture.

Thanks; be well.

Enhanced audio to stream and download: BOTL Podcast 05/16/14: polyamory

Subscribe to get all my appearances with Hal, Dangerous Conversation and anywhere else I can grab the audio through iTunes at Katie Speak Live Archives.

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2 replies

  1. I appreciate the talking and communicating part, but in general I feel a little like there’s a lot I don’t understand still.. but there are other resources.

  2. I think we humans are often too judgmental about each other. I am sorry that you have been misunderstood and judged and criticized. Even though I doubt I really know or understand what your life is like through your eyes, the truth is I cannot really be anyone but me, and I cannot see life through another’s eyes to really know and feel what it’s like to be that other person. However, I can and do try to listen and learn, to at least make that effort. This world needs a whole lot more compassion, kindness and peace and whole lot less hatred, meanness and fighting. Life is just too short. I am proud of you, Katie, for speaking out and saying what is true for you!

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