Polyamory is a relatively new term that has emerged mostly within queer communities. But the non-monogamous practice of relationship models has always existed whether we had a name for it or not. Is polyamory just a relationship model that anyone is free to practice without political implications in a society that is overwhelmingly monogamous?
Queer movements all over the world have emphasized on including non-conforming sexual practices within the fold of queerness. We haven’t really given a thought to how “deviant relationships” run parallel to the emancipatory practices situated at the heart of the queer movement- safe housing, loving community, financial stability, and overall, ease of living in our identities.
Indian families reproduce the heterosexual social order in the image of the perfect brahmin family. What doesn’t conform to that imagination is violently discarded, ostracized, and punished. Coming from a Dalit household my first experience of caste has been of being too much and taking too much space. It manifested when savarna kids debated if reservations should be allowed and I felt that I already have enough; accessing reservations would mean I am being ungrateful and selfish. This constant reminder of being too much played out when I gained weight because of antidepressants. I was tired of the look the shopkeepers would give me when I asked them for a particular dress in my size. It was almost as if wanting a dress that would fit me and feel good, was asking for too much. When I was diagnosed with Borderline personality at the age of 17, my relationships were falling apart and I felt so much guilt for needing “extra care”.
Being queer is to reject all the normative ways we are taught to love and have sex. In the literal sense, polyamory may just be a relationship style so one might question where does it fall within queerness? Queerness ends up exposing the heterosexual illusion. heterosexual becomes heteronormative by othering the queer and dictating who we can love and who we cannot. To be kind and to love has the power to dismantle structures by showing them we do not need it.
Polyamory helped me realize that there was plenty of love to go around. I cannot be too much because love isn’t finite or quantifiable. We contribute whatever we can without the pressure of having to be everything for each other. When I told myself I didn’t deserve all this love, my friend reminded me that the word deserve operates in the same way as the word merit and that my sense of self can grow beyond either of those words. When we manifest from a place of opulence instead of scarcity, the inner voice telling me “I am too much” gets quieter.
Most of the queer people who are outed to their parents lose their home and safety. I come from a very dysfunctional family and my childhood was riddled with hostility between my parents. My mother carried the brahmanical idea of fair-skinned feminine beauty and well, I was far from it. My dark skin reminded her of my father and she detested all association with him and me along with it. For the longest time, I felt unlovable but desirable only if I’m sexually available in ways savarna women were not.
Most of the queer people I have known in my life have been abused by their families. As a borderline person it is hard to unlearn patterns of abuse being repeated in the familiar shadow of a biological family. The brahmanical model of a family that aligns with the exploitative nature of capitalism is built on endogamous marriage. The burden of maintaining caste purity fell on upper caste women where sexual exclusivity became the norm. Queerness is too profound and our hearts are too full to ever be adequately contained within this model.
How do we find a resemblance of home and safety? Brahmanical structures create a refusal to accept diverse gender and sexual identities. Can building our own family become a way to unlearn the Brahmanical model of a family? Can polyamorous love be an emancipatory practice of overhauling the casteist cisgender heteronormative monogamous institution as we restructure all our relationships?
When I came in terms with my queer and polyamorous identity, it helped me balance my sexual and emotional boundaries. I would not settle for the bare minimum anymore. Polyamory offers an erotic and emotional fulfilment that is denied to anyone who does not conform to Brahmanical cisheteronormatice structures. Being queer eventually leads us to develop our own script that best reflects our sexual expression.
During the Covid 19 pandemic, all my friends and partners had become a network to hold and support each other to the best of our abilities. I also realized I had ADHD and Bipolar. To fully embrace my neurodivergence I had to embrace its demands, and neurodivergence primarily demands rest and to work at our own pace. I believe rest is radical and it is resistance in face of capitalism. Queer love held me accountable to self care.
I wish more than anything that me and my friends can have safe housing away from abuse. This also reminds me of the popular meme that went around – ” Monogamy, in this economy?” As we step into an uncertain future in a country that is increasingly violent on the marginalized; family is what we turn to. Late stage capitalism reminds us every day that market doesn’t accommodate Dalit, Adivasi, Tribal, muslim, backward caste, poor and disabled people. It is queer love that affirms us that the value of our labor does not have to be a simultaneous devaluation of our self.
Polyamory can become an emancipatory practice against gendered oppression and familial violence. Queer polyamorous love is holistic in a way that it not only compensates for the lack of care from our biological families but also offers us a hope of what a safe and loving family could look like and that it is worth living and fighting for. I believe that polyamory does not have to be limited to a relationship pattern. It is powerful enough to push for a more expansive definition of family that is a queer-inclusive community.