I had an interesting discussion with someone at BiCon (sadly I cannot remember their name, if you’re reading and feel like identifying yourself, please feel free!) They pointed out that, just by existing, my relationship is a political statement. That by merely practising it, acknowledging it and talking about it, I’m an activist by definition.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, and have been musing about it in my head ever since, and now I feel coherent enough to discuss here my thoughts on this subject.
I did not, to be clear, become polyamorous as a by-product of any deeply-held ideology or political identity. I didn’t set out to rebel against a patriarchal, heteronormative culture or to overturn the institution of marriage. I simply fell in love, and figured out the best ways to express that love, and then fell in love again. And again. I’m poly because, if there’s one thing in the world I am good at, it is falling in love. Quickly, deeply and repeatedly.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that – while it was not my intention – being polyamorous does, to an extent, do these things by default. (Well, maybe not the “overturning the institution of marriage” bit, but apparently the gays are doing pretty well with that!) (</immense sarcasm.>) By choosing a different path and an alternative lovestyle, one automatically rebels against patriarchy, against heteronormativity, against mononormativity… heck, against Western cultural normativity of any kind. This is particularly true if you choose to speak out publicly in defence of your choices (in which I include things like being open with your friends and family, not just appearing in newspapers or on national television!) It creates a level of visibility for practices that many people don’t even know exist. It offers an alternative option. It says, hey, guess what? The Disney-style hetero mono one-person-forever-and-ever-or-you-failed that our society feeds us isn’t the only choice!
I think choosing to do anything, particularly something as personal as your relationships, primarily for the statement it makes is unlikely to make you happy. It’s like trying to choose to be gay (or straight, or whatever) to make a point… it’s not going to work, because you are you who are. But you know what? In the culture we presently live in, simply having the courage to come out and say this is who we are, and we will not apologise is a massively important statement. Simply living a life apart from the roles we’re forcibly pushed into almost from the day we’re born is an act of incredible significance. The personal is political in this sense, and the smallest bits of activism can make all the difference.
Think about it. To you, living your lovestyle openly and honestly might seem like the most natural thing in the world. To somebody else, unhappy in these narrowly prescribed roles society gives us, but afraid to rebel against them, seeing you doing so joyfully and unapologetically might be all the push they need to realise there are other choices available to them.
And how cool is that?