An anonymous media request re: "stigma" and "oppression"

Hi there. I'm a writer for a lifestyle site called MEL Magazine, and I'm working on a piece about how the poly community portrays the stigma against it. While I agree that anti-poly stigma exists, there's a troubling trend of some poly people likening it to homophobia, racism, and other prejudices people may think of as incomparable. Do you see polyamorous people as literally being denied civil rights or oppressed by state power? Or are a few individuals playing the victim?

Okay, I wasn't originally going to even answer this, because I find it obnoxious for a number of reasons. It seems very odd for a magazine writer to reach out to me with an anonymous tumblr message rather than an email - I've done media requests and interviews and given quotes before, but generally, the journalist contacts me through email and we can chat back and forth, answer questions, clarify, etc. But in order to answer you, I have to post this publicly and anonymously.  Despite this, I decided to answer it, so here you go:

You've got both a strawman and a false dichotomy in your question.

First off, you cite a "troubling trend of some poly people" saying something, but you don't actually cite any examples. I'm active in the polyamorous community, both online and in a very polyam-friendly area, and I do not hear this. Ever. Something you heard someone say, or something you saw floating around tumblr, is not enough to put words in an entire community's mouth. You're making up a position to respond to that just doesn't exist, which is called straw-manning and is a fallacious, irresponsible way to start out.

I googled "polyamory stigma" and the first page is full of results where people have realistic, even-handed discussions of the problems and stigma that polyamorous people do face, without needing to make spurious comparisons to other types of oppression. It is true that polyamorous people face rejection from families and friends as well as a lack of access to healthcare, financial security, legal protections, hospital visitation, and child custody issues. It is also true that there is not a history of institutional violence against polyam people the way there has been against women, people of color, and LGBT people. Those facts can co-exist.

Someone's struggle can be real and valid without needing to compare it to other, different struggles. And that's the second issue: you have a false dichotomy in your question. You're trying to put words in my mouth and force me to either say something ridiculous and critiquable - that polyam people are "literally being denied civil rights" on the scale of Jim Crow or somesuch - or to turn me against other (alleged) people in my community and make me dismissively accuse them of "playing the victim." I will not be quoted saying either, despite your attempt to force me into this unfair either-or.

If you want me to respond to a genuine position someone else is taking, then cite and quote it. But it should be a legitimate source, not something someone told you once. People are out there saying all kinds of ridiculous things, I'm sure - but being part of a minority group doesn't obligate me to speak for, or defend, everything everyone else is saying. I'm not responsible for managing the entire discourse around polyamory and oppression, and it's disingenuous of you to try and make me out to be.

I'd be happy to speak with you about specific issues I've faced in my career, family, community, and healthcare as a result of my polyamory - but you'd need to ask me more clearly and responsibly.

Here is some reading you can do to get a better sense of what this "troubling trend" really looks like:

Do you have any book recs, fic recs, or show recs that are polyamory positive? I’d prefer it if the main character has two or more partners, but those partners aren’t romantically involved with each other. I loved the captain america fanfic: Known Associates by thingswithwings.

I answered a similar question a few weeks ago: you can see my answer here! After I published that, I got this message from @scutellatebooted:

For the anon looking for good polyships in media, Leverage has one! It is confirmed by the creators but the show was canceled before they fully developed it. That being said, the interactions between the characters involved are loving, healthy, and supportive - they totally read as romantic even though only two of the three are officially “dating.” In fact, all the relationships are fantastic. There’s no shame for divorced or promiscuous individuals and family is more than blood relatives.

I personally love the show Steven Universe for its depiction of all the different types of love. Greg can be a great dad to Steven even though he can’t raise him in the traditional sense; Pearl and Garnet and Amethyst are all united by their love for Steven and Rose and are co-parenting him and co-habiting; Pearl learns to manage her complicated feelings about and connections to Greg; etc.

I also loved the book The Color Purple for the way it depicted deep love between multiple people - again, not overtly or explicitly polyamorous, but I wrote a paper for one of my classes in college that was a close-reading of the book through a polyamorous lens, and I definitely feel that it’s an exploration of poly themes.

In addition to the lists in my answer previously linked, here are some other collections of resources:

Hi! I’m pretty young, I’ve never been in a relationship before, and I think I’m probably poly. If I do get into a relationship, how would I ask if the other person is comfortable with that and, like, if they would be interested in forming a triad? Also, do you know of any places online to meet other poly people? And do you know of any books/TV shows/movies with a poly main character? Thanks!

How would you ask? By asking! There’s no special trick to that - you just gotta take a deep breath and make the words come out. “Hey, the way I prefer to be in relationships looks like XYZ - how do you feel about that?” Have that conversation early on, and be upbeat but honest about what you need. Make space for them to ask questions and share their thoughts.

I have a whole FAQ page about finding poly people to date! If you’re young enough that you’re looking into colleges, consider a more liberal college known for being LGBTQ+ friendly and not sexually conservative!

Unfortunately, I have had a hell of a time finding positive, accurate representations of polyamory in fiction. (I initially thought Parks and Rec was doing it with April and her boyfriends, but they whiffed on that one pretty hard.) Your best bet for finding media with poly characters is Poly In The Media, a really well curated blog. Here is a Goodreads list of books and an IMDB list of movies with poly relationships, but I can’t vouch for any of them in particular.