You Say You Want a Revolution – Is Your Polyamory Political?

Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me so you can see

Oh, what’s going on…

–Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On”

Hey, my kinky, poly peeps! I hope everyone enjoyed their Superb Owl Party (Sorry, NFL, I’m not getting sued!). Panda and I decided to keep it quiet and just watch the game together while sharing a batch of buffalo chicken dip. It’s also Valentine’s Day week, so I wanted to take a moment to remind my readers that Valentine’s Day was created as a joint venture between The Hallmark Corporation and America’s candy manufacturers to make you feel guilty about your relationships. If you’re alone this week, don’t feel bad because all that extra chocolate the grocery stores stocked up on will be half-price starting on Tuesday.

So, I was a little reluctant to write this entry because one quick way to lose your audience is to discuss politics, and I’d like to think that my message has value regardless of where you land on the political spectrum. I don’t want someone to think “He’s a filthy Liberal!” or “He’s a dirty Conservative”, and then not read what I have to say, which could probably help them in the future. Still, politics is nothing more than applied morality. How we vote is a reflection of what we value the most, so at some point politics has to enter the conversation.

The purpose of this blog entry is not to change your political views and or get you to lean more to the right or the left, but rather, encourage you to ponder what polyamory and ethical non-mongamy mean to you, and in turn how your views then impact how you vote and how you want both government and society to interpret those views. When I ask the question “Is your polyamory political?”, I’m asking “Do you practice polyamory in a way that advocates social change?”. I want to point out that if the answer is “No”, that ‘s perfectly fine. Some people are able to practice ENM comfortably within our current political and social structure. For others, the way in which they want to express their love will require radical changes to our laws.

So, before I go any further, let me do the obligatory shout-out and resource share. Thank you to fellow TikTok content creators Poly Pages and Andrea Peters for the inspiration for this post. I also pulled information from this 2018 Rolling Stone article, this 2018 article from Quartz, and this 2021 interview with Dan Savage, host of the “Savage Love Podcast”

The first week of March 2020, when America was just beginning to realize that Covid was a much bigger deal than anyone had expected, I was preparing for my usual Tuesday date night with my ex. The state of Pennsylvania hadn’t issued any stay at home orders yet, however, the Governor had reccomended that we limit social interaction to family and the essentials (grocery shopping, gas, etc.). I put on my jacket and shoes and went for the door and Panda asked me what I was doing. I told her I was going to see my partner and she reminded me that the Governor was reccomending we only leave the house to visit family. I looked at Panda and said “She is my family” and walked out the door.

Now, I know what Panda was trying to tell me, and I know what the intentions of the Governor’s recommendations were, and this is a perfect example of the consequences of living in monoganormative society. With a virus spreading across the country, one which is closing in on claiming one million American lives over the last two years and, at the time, we had very little knowledge about, let alone a vaccine, the plan was to only interact with those closest to you. However, when you’re polyamorous, those who are closest to you are more likely more numerous and live in more households than do for mono folk. Polyamory has redefined the word “family” for me. The Governor’s orders never intended to keep two lovers apart, however, when you have four different lovers that live in four different households, suddenly we’ve created some unintended consequences.

A major problem of living in a country with a two-party system is that all of politics eventually boils down to a binary choice. Here in America, you’re either pro-life, pro-gun, anti-taxes and pro-Christianity, or you’re pro-choice, anti-gun, pro-taxes, and pro-secularlism. If you’re a gay Christian who loves guns and abortion, you’re basically a man without a country. So how do we resolve this? Well, we recognize that we have to make difficult choices and we vote with the party that we share one or two of those key values.

Prior to the 2016 election, my parents and I were discussing the results of the 2008 race and they were shocked to hear I voted for Obama over McCain since they had raised me in a Conservative household. While they never told me who to vote for, it was always expected I would follow in their Conservative footsteps. I had never before voted anything but straight Republican, and as this was the time in my life where my circle of friends was beginning to include an increasing number of members of the LGBTQ+ community, I informed her that, while I liked both Obama and McCain, Obama’s stance on equal marriage was the clincher. McCain had publicly stated equal marriage should be a state issue, and I saw that as unjust. My mother looked at me, eyes wide and mouth agape. I asked why she voted for McCain and she screamed at me in disbelief: “The economy, stupid!!!”

I relay this story because I believe most people are basically one-issue voters. By that, I mean that they don’t always vote for a candidate based on their stance on one specific issue, but they absolutely have one or two major issues that they will give preference to when deciding who to vote for. For my parents, it’s the economy (despite the fact that the President has very little power over the economy and evidence from both the Senate and the Federal Reserve state that, since World War II, there is no statisitically significant data that the GDP or the stock market has grown faster under Republican presidents than Democratic ones, but that’s a story for another day). For some people, it’s abortion. For other’s it’s immigration. For me, it’s social justice issues. The fact that we are the richest country on Earth and one in five children still goes to bed hungry blows my mind, so I’m almost always going to vote for the candidate who I believe has the best policies to address those problems. Again, I’m not making a judgement statement on who people vote for, merely pointing out that we as citizens vote because there are objectives that are personal to us that we would like to see come to fruition.

Having read both “Atlas Shrugged” and “Anthem”, I would like to think I’ve read enough Ayn Rand to get a decent understanding of Objectivism to cirtique her philosophy. I will say that while I disagree with much of what she writes, I do agree that there is a difference between selfishness and self-interest. Where Rand falls short is that a lot of what she defines as self-interest is in fact selfishness.

Self-interest is defined as acting in one’s own best interest while simultaneously not acting against the interest of others. Putting your oxygen mask on before putting on the oxygen mask of a child while a plane is crashing is acting in self-interest. You can’t help others if you are incapacitated. Volunteer work can be viewed as self-interest. People who engage in volunteer work do so to satisfy a desire to help others, but it’s not selfishness because their actions are beneficial to society. Voting is no different. We vote in a way that we believe will satisfy our self-interests with ideally minimal or no negative impact on our fellow citizens. There’s nothing wrong with advocating for your personal beliefs.

To treat one’s polyamory as political is to promote your self-interests in a way that could alter our laws and society so that, while hopefully it doesn’t create a negative impact for others, still radically changes the way we live our lives. It’s a process of rethinking the conventional. It’s not taking anything for granted and asking “Why are things the way that they are?”

If you’ve been following my Facebook page, you’ll notice that this week I was over at Poly Mom’s house for a needle topping session. Poly Mom’s living situation is quite unique in that she lives in a “Poly House” with her partner, her ex-partner, her former-meta, plus up to three kids at any given time. Because none of the four adults are married to each other, for tax purposes, there are up to four different households living under one roof. As I sat down to dinner (because no good mom lets you leave their house drained of your blood without first putting some protein and carbs back in you), I asked her “How do you file your taxes?”

As someone who’s worked in the field of financial planning, I’m trained to look at everyday events from the angle of how it will impact my clients both legally and financially. For most of us, we will usually only file as single or married throughout our lives. Because of their housing situation, three of the four adults file as “Head of Household” while the fourth files as single. Now, given current tax rates and the median income in America, I suspect as a household they’re probably paying less taxes than, say, two married couples sharing a home, but they are losing out on things such as survivorship benefits, social security benefits, healthcare benefits, and potentially other tax benefits exclusively available to married couples.

I remember in my twenties when I was studying for my Certified Financial Planner designation, I would see my friends in committed relationships talk about how marriage was old-fashioned and they didn’t need it. It would always make my skin bristle just a bit. I like to say there are two wolves inside me. One of them believes love is love and a sheet of paper won’t change that. The other knows that society offers huge privileges to committed couples and by not taking advantage of that, you’re putting yourself in a really tough spot financially and socially. When Panda found herself incapacitated in the hospital during our honeymoon, it’s a damn good thing we had gotten married just three days earlier because that little piece of paper gave me the authority to make medical decisions on her behalf. Without that, she would have been stranded on the otherside of the country with her parents, the only people who could speak for her, 2,200 miles away.

Get back to cleaning those buffers, Lieutenant!

When we look at the needs of polyamorous people, it’s fortunate in that, in order to make the world more accessible to them, we don’t need to tear down the rights of monogamous people. It does, however, as I mentioned earlier, require the rethinking of some traditional concepts. In their New York Times best-selling book on psychology and choice architecture, “Nudge”, Nobel PrIze winning economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein propose an interesting solution to the Equal Marriage debate (the book was released in 2008, seven years before the Defense of Marriage Act was repealed making equal marriage the law in all fifty states). Since the states couldn’t agree on how to define marriage, they simply shouldn’t. In other words, as far as the government is concerned, marriage isn’t real.

It’s a novel concept that I doubt would gather many supporters, and if you think about it, it does make everyone happy. Churches and communities could still hold religious and civil commitment ceremonies as they saw fit, and as far as the local, state, and federal governments were concerned, everybody was single. Everyone would file taxes as single, everyone would have the same access to government financial and healthcare benefits, everyone would play by the same rules when it comes to transitioning their assets after they passed, everyone would be on the same level playing field. Those worried about protecting the “sanctity of marriage” wouldn’t have to worry since the government no longer let anyone get married in the legal sense, and those looking for equal rights would finally have them.

To make your polyamory political is to advocate for these types of policies. It’s to say “while there’s nothing wrong with monogamy, it should no longer be treated not just as the default, but the system in which everyone needs to work within and around.” I mentioned earlier that polyamory has forced me to redefine the word “family”. If Bunny or Vixen is sick in the hospital, will I not be able to visit them because they’re not my spouse? If Penguin wants to name me as a beneficiary of her retirement account, will I have to pay additional income taxes because I’m not her next of kin? If Foxy loses their health insurance, will they be forced to buy an over-priced single-person policy because my employer and the law says I can’t put their name on mine?

While I’m doing my best not to shame anyone for their political beliefs (because there’s nothing wrong with self-interest), I do recognize that monogamous poeple and those that can pass as monogamous in the ENM community live in a place of privilege that openly polyamorous people do not. We live under a system that was built for monogamy, benefits those who are monogamous, but most importantly, openly harms those that do not fit that mold. If you were to ask me “Does my polyamory have to be political?” I would like to think the answer is “no, but maybe it should be?” If you’re a member of the ENM community and our political environment is working well for you, cool. I can respect why you would be okay keeping things they way they are. However, it’s said that the mark of a civilized society is when people begin to care about things that do not directly affect them. Tearing down mononormative customs requires a lot of work and very little payoff to monogamous-passing people, however, it can mean the world to someone who has a different definition of “family”.

Until next time, stay kinky, my friends…

–The Bratty Cat

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