Author’s Note: Set aside your judgments and preconceived notions before you read this piece, as it is my personal understanding and journey with polyamory. I’ve been trying to explore it consciously by becoming more aware of my emotions towards something which is outside contemporary understanding of relationships, even though societal notions continue to hold me back with ideas of compulsory monogamy (the catch is that I’ve not been in a relationship for a long time now).
I think I always knew what I identify as but never had the language to put it across. I always knew that there is something which is beyond my power but the question of morality and cheating has, more often than not, struck it down. Currently, in my immediate headspace, I am able to process some of these feelings where jealousy comes into the picture and love for more than one person feels overwhelming, but I am relatively happier for it. However, the social implications, a persistent fear of being judged and an under-developed ability to handle having strong feelings for more than one person at a time, makes things hard for me since handling relationships is not my natural forte.
At first thought, it strikes me as strange how polyamory is an intrinsic behaviour rather than a lifestyle choice for many. I find it equally confusing as to why I feel inclined toward it, maybe because it’s not something I have control over, while it is also something I don’t feel capable of, emotionally. I realise that today, I am in control of my surroundings and my emotional state is definitely better off than before; but how do you take control of what happens in your body and mind?
I identify as a bisexual cis woman but i came out as polyamorous not very long ago, after a lot of struggle with myself; this is my first attempt to go public with this piece of information. Not that it will make a difference to anyone but it will change a lot of things for me. I find myself hesitant to share it with my friends and expect to be very uncomfortable with putting it out to family members that I am out to as well. There is a lot of internalised stigma that continues to exist and it is always a challenge to fight your own fears. I came in terms with myself as a polyamorous person almost a year ago in the middle of the pandemic and the terminology was introduced to me by a support group I was part of. Imagine, not even aware of the word that you identify with; it keeps on tugging at your heart, bringing up multiple questions all your life.
To give myself a non-judgemental space, I attended a workshop by The Alternative Story on Polyamory. That helped clear my head and build some critical understanding of my own location as a queer person living in Delhi on her own. I learnt about the nuances of polyamory and how the experiences vary from person to person. I realised that even if I wanted to date everyone I like, I am not socially and mentally equipped to do so; for instance, when I am refused a relationship when I share that I am likely to fall for more than one person at a time. I never wanted to box or define myself as per the societal normative paradigm even when it leads me to trouble. I am still figuring out for myself as to what it means for me to identify as queer polyamorous person.
In my experience and to the best of my knowledge, the dominant ideas of polyamory are rather masculine in nature and there are certain biases when it comes to women and femme people practicing it. I have also understood that it is not a new concept, but that it is often observed in the context of class and religion, such as when people of a certain social class or religion are legally sanctioned to practice polygamy, but it is rarely discussed as a practice of relating outside the institution of marriage. Marriage remains an important condition that regulates polyamory even in the present day and age.
Polyamory is a privilege to exercise; it is socially acceptable (even desirable) for cis-het-men to see multiple people at the same time, but there is stigma of ‘loose’ morals attached to people of other genders & sexualities who do the same. Polyamory requires social acceptance for people to practice it if they choose to.
I am also in the process of exploring whether being polyamorous means being queer? I am currently of the view that straight people are polyamorous too so does it mean they are experiencing marginalisation due to their practicing it? There are certain parts of India where its practice by cis-het-men is socially accepted; does it marginalises them as well? If yes, how? These are the questions that come up for me when I think consider polyamory as part of the queer spectrum.
My personal style of practicing polyamory seems to be different from the other experiences that I have heard of. It is beyond being in a relationship; it is also about not having a primary partner, feeling possessive about all the people that I like, an inability to devote time to those relationships due to my own mental health. Hence, it is highly complex for me and the people around me.
With this, I do not mean to imply that polyamory is only a difficult, painful and mentally draining experience for me, a cis-bisexual polyamorous woman, but I am desperately looking for answers as to what it means to others, especially queer and trans people who are marginalized for practicing it.