I believe that for some people, polyamory can be a choice: that through self-work, introspection, and education, they can become someone who is happy and fulfilled in a polyamorous relationship. But this is not who they are, it is something they do. I believe that for other people, polyamory is an identity: an innate part of who they are and how they experience themselves.
How you experience your polyamory has a lot to do with who you are, how you were introduced to polyamory, how much self-work it took you to be okay with polyamory, your experiences with polyamory and monogamy, and how your polyamorous relationships (or lack thereof) impacts your life.
Even though polyamory can be an identity, it is not a sexual orientation, because it is not about who you are sexually attracted to. Many people refer to it as a relationship orientation. Or just an orientation.
The main Poly Advice post about this is here: Is polyamory an orientation?
And I have been asked about & discussed this issue in other posts:
- Follow up on why this debate does or does not matter
- Is polyamory a behavior or an orientation?
- Do you choose to be poly, or does it ‘happen’ to you?
- Are you born poly, or is it a choice?
I think the important part here is to not let this become an issue that divides our community. Some people experience polyamory as a deeply felt part of who they are. These people identify as polyamorous even when they’re single, and their polyamory may influence their spirituality, their non-romantic relationships, etc. And it’s important to respect those people, to honor their identities and not attack them.
Some people experience polyamory as a choice, a behavior they engage in sometimes but isn’t a core part of what makes them them. That’s okay too, and it’s important to respect those people, to honor their choices and not attack them. If the community can’t make room for both types of experience, if we can’t co-exist with people whose conception of what it means to them to be poly, then everyone will lose out.
Other posts out there on this topic:
By linking these, I am not claiming that everything in these posts is accurate, or that I agree with them. This is just more reading on the topic from other writers and thinkers!
- Poly in the Media: an overview of the debate kicked off by Dan Savage
- Practical Polyamory: What we do or who we are?
- Franklin Veaux’s discussion on the topic
- Slate: Is polyamory a choice?
- Kimchi Cuddles: An orientation or a lifestyle choice?
- Poly Skeptic: Getting oriented
- Love Outside The Box: Some thoughts on poly as identity
- Poly Means Many: An orientation or a choice?
- Dan Q: Polyamory as an identity
- The Radical Poly Agenda: Orientation or lifestyle choice?
- Ann Tweedy: Polyamory as a sexual orientation