BREAKING: Doug Jones Defeats Homophobe Roy Moore in Alabama

Democrat Doug Jones has pulled off a stunning upset of notorious homophobe Roy Moore in the race for U.S. senator from Alabama.

Jones was leading Moore, a Republican, by 49.7 percent to 48.7 percent when The New York Times and CNN called the race for him. Jones will serve the remainder of the Senate term of Republican Jeff Sessions, expiring in January 2021. Sessions left to become U.S. attorney general.

Jones will be Alabama’s first Democratic U.S. senator since the 1990s. The last Democrat the state elected to that office was Howell Heflin, to whom Jones was once an aide.

In the end, what derailed Moore was probably not his extreme-right views on LGBT rights, abortion, gun control, and more. During the Senate campaign Moore became the subject of allegations that he sexually abused teenage girls when he was in his early 30s, about 40 years ago. He was accused, among other things, of molesting a 14-year-old and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old. He denied all the allegations, but they likely cost him votes. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, there were about 21,000 write-in votes for other candidates — more than the difference between the totals for Jones and Moore. 

“On this day Alabama stood for victims. It stood for women. It stood for compassion,” John Archibald wrote on AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers. He noted, “Roy Moore and his supporters called [his accusers] liars and whiners. And some Alabamians joined in the disdain, calling them sluts and worse, insisting that it was once the Alabama way to find mates too young to drive, and that once upon a time, groping was an acceptable act. But Alabama, against the odds and conventional wisdom, stood and rejected that behavior.”

The former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore has long been known for his extremely anti-LGBT views, saying marriage equality will destroy the nation, that homosexual “activity” should be illegal, and that transgender people have no rights. He is also an abortion opponent and a gun rights absolutist. He once said that Keith Ellison shouldn’t be seated in Congress because he is a Muslim, and suggested that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. 

He was twice removed from the court for defying federal court orders — in 2003 for refusing to take down a Ten Commandments monument at the state courthouse, an unconstitutional establishment of religion, and in 2016 for ethics violations related to his efforts to block marriage equality in the state. (He appealed the latter decision to a special court, and it was upheld in 2017.) After the latest removal, he decided to run for Senate.

Jones, who has taken pro-LGBT stances, is a former U.S. attorney. After finishing law school in the late 1970s, he was staff counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Howell Heflin, the last Democrat Alabamians sent to the U.S. Senate.

Later, Jones worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. In 1997, President Clinton appointed him U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. In that capacity, he led the prosecution of two of the men who bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, killing four young girls and injuring 16 other people. Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry were both convicted of murder, in 2001 and 2002 respectively. They were two other suspects in the case — Robert Chambliss, who was convicted of murder in 1977, and Herman Frank Cash, who died in 1994, before he could be tried.

New 'Yass' Community Center Linked to Peter Thiel Money

A new LGBT community workspace called Yass debuts next year in San Francisco — if it can survive the backlash of having Peter Thiel as a backer.

Thiel is Silicon Valley’s best known Donald Trump supporter, and Yass would become a members-only community gathering place that costs up to $300 per month in dues. Its website calls it “A headquarters & hangout for today’s generation of queer people to bring out the best in each other.” How much you pay to join (what seems a lot like an LGBT center, which are usually free) depends on your industry.

The Guardian reported Thursday that Thiel’s venture capital firm is its only backer. There’s no word on how much Thiel’s firm has put behind the center; he reportedly gave $1.25 million to the Trump campaign. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Thiel’s association isn’t clear cut: “The investment in Yass, though it came from a Thiel-backed firm, was actually made by Cyan Banister, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur who told Wired in 2016 that she identifies as both a man and a woman and calls herself genderqueer. Banister is a partner at Founders Fund, the Presidio-based venture capital firm Peter Thiel co-founded in 2005.”

Still, even that much of a link comes with consequences. The Huffington Post reports that some on Twitter are pledging never to join. 

Thiel’s connection to the LGBT community is tentative. He famously sued Gawker into oblivion in retribution for outing him. He did it by secretly backing a number of unrelated lawsuits, with the Hulk Hogan case breaking the company.

After historian Jim Downs wrote a guest op-ed for The Advocate calling out Thiel for backing Trump, Thiel lashed out at all LGBT people, saying their “intolerance has taken on some bizarre forms. The Advocate, a magazine which once praised me as a ‘gay innovator,’ even published an article saying that as of now I am, and I quote, ‘not a gay man,’ because I don’t agree with their politics. The lie behind the buzzword of ‘diversity’ could not be made more clear: If you don’t conform, then you don’t count as ‘diverse,’ no matter what your personal background.”

Downs had written that, “By the logic of gay liberation, Thiel is an example of a man who has sex with other men, but not a gay man. Because he does not embrace the struggle of people to embrace their distinctive identity.”

Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention and proudly declared he’s gay, helping to drive home the notion that Trump would be a good choice for LGBT people. Trump went on as president to try banning transgender people from the military while rolling back inclusive guidelines for trans students. His Justice Department, led by Jeff Sessions, issued a “religious freedom” order that lets federal agencies and contractors turn away LGBT people without repercussions. Activists call it a “license to discriminate.” Most recently, Trump’s spokesperson said he believes religious freedom means businesses can post “No Gays Allowed” signs.

Having Thiel’s support these days isn’t what it once was. In November, Silicon Valley learned that famed incubator Y Combinator was no longer affiliated with Thiel. That’s according to a news release from 2015 when the company had announced it was welcoming Thiel. It’s now been revised.

Whether Yass can recover from the Thiel affiliation, it will still have to contend with criticism that its name further appropriates ball culture, and that its location is another example of the worst kinds of gentrification. Read more at about those issue from SFGate.com.

Kentucky Southern Baptists Consider Expelling LGBT-Affirming Churches

A Baptist group is considering whether to lift a ban on LGBT employees, putting it at odds with more conservative Baptists and putting some Kentucky churches in the middle.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which formed in the 1990s as an alternative to the ultraconservative Southern Baptist Convention, has formed a committee, the Illumination Project, to study the anti-LGBT policy and recommend changes, due in February, reports The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky.

But some Kentucky churches affiliated with the fellowship are also affiliated with the state’s Southern Baptist branch, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which is monitoring the fellowship’s actions and is open to expelling churches that don’t conform to the Southern Baptists’ anti-LGBT dogma. To hire “practicing homosexuals” would be “redefining sin,” Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, told The Courier-Journal. R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, added that “a church that endorses homosexuality is no longer cooperating with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The fellowship, a national group with about 1,900 congregations, began reconsidering the anti-LGBT policy after leaders offered a prayer for victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando last year. Some activists thought it was hypocritical in light of the fellowship’s homophobic policy and called for change.

Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, a volunteer who leads an LGBT ministry at the fellowship-affiliated Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, was one of those activists. But a problem with the Illumination Project is that it has no LGBT members, he told The Courier-Journal. “They’re discussing our inclusion without including us,” said Blanchard, who was also one of the plaintiffs in the Kentucky marriage equality case.

Chitwood said he doubts that many of the fellowship churches will OK hiring LGBT clergy or other employees. “I don’t think [the Illumination Project] will have a big impact,” he told the newspaper. 

Study: Straight Women/Gay Men Thirst for Wealthy, White, Worked-Out

TubeCrush

Submissions to TubeCrush.net

November 21 2017 4:50 PM EST

A new study suggests that even in an epicenter of diversity like London, tastes in men are curiously conforming.

The paper — authored by researchers Adrienne Evans and Sarah Riley at the University of Coverntry in the Feminist Media Studies journal — analyzed submissions to TubeCrush.net, a website where straight women and gay men upload covert snaps of men they found attractive on the London Underground.

The analysis showed trends in the submissions that received the highest ratings and engagement from visitors. In terms of clothing, the most remarked-upon men wore either markers of wealth, like a suit or an expensive watch, or gym gear. They also tended to be in peak physical fitness, with muscled arms or legs. They also tended to be white.

“We suggest that in TubeCrush, value is directed onto the bodies of particular men, creating a visual economy of post-feminist masculinity of whiteness, physical strength, and economic wealth,” the study noted in its abstract. “This celebration of masculine capital is achieved through humor and the knowing wink, but the outcome is a reaffirmation of urban hegemonic masculinity.”

TubeCrush was founded in 2011 by accountant Steve Motion, who sought to “pay ‘Homage to the Hommes’ on our infamous transportation infrastructure.” It has built a large social media following, with around 11,000 fans on Facebook and 10,000 on Twitter.

The captions also focused on masculine physical features and high-end apparel.

In an interview with Business Insider, Evans called the behavior of commenters “ahistorical,” because it shifts the role of the objectified party from women to men.

“It’s transformative, but also at the same time it shows we’re still very much fitting into the same boxes and conventions when it comes to beauty and attraction,” Evans said.

TRUMP REVERSES PROGRESS, BANS TRANS PEOPLE IN MILITARY

Donald Trump  showed his willingness to turn back civil rights progress and banned transgender people from military service, he announced today. 

The decision will likely lead to discharge for the many transgender people who had come out of the closet when President Obama’s administration announced a repeal of the previous ban. And it will only further encourage a wave of anti-trans sentiment that is spreading across the country, putting transgender people even outside the military in danger.

Transgender people in the military were able to serve openly and have access to insurance coverage for transition-related medical procedures since last year, under a policy announced by Ash Carter, Defense secretary under President Obama. Previously, trans people were barred from serving, although many did — in the closet and without the coverage. Now the country will return to those days, except that so many trans people had already come out of the closet. They will presumably now be discharged. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates there are 15,000 transgender Americans now serving.

Enrollment of new trans recruits was supposed to begin July 1 of this year, but the current Defense secretary, James Mattis, decided to delay that by six months. Mattis actually opposes military service by all LGBT people, including gays and lesbians. In a book published in 2016, long after repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy by the Obama administration, Mattis and his fellow editors said they “fear that an uninformed public is permitting political leaders to impose an accretion of social conventions that are diminishing the combat power of our military.” Mattis coedited the book, Warriors & Citizens: American Views of Our Military, with a policy adviser from the failed McCain-Palin campaign.

Foreign Policy magazine reported on Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence had been working to undo advances made by the Obama administration. His spokesman had denied the report. Meanwhile, a push to ban medical coverage for transgender military service members had just been turned back. The House of Representatives on July 13 narrowly voted down an amendment to a Defense spending bill put forth by Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri.

One day before Trump announced his military ban, senators in Texas voted to ban transgender people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity whenever they’re in a state building or at a public school. The ban, which still must be approved by the House, would have an immediate impact on thousands of kids in schools. That follows on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolling back guidance from the Obama administration that had asked schools to acknowledge transgender people exist by always recognizing them by their gender identity.

While running for president, candidate Trump repeatedly claimed to be an ally to LGBT people — an even better ally than Hillary Clinton, he’d said. While LGBT people themselves were largely not fooled by the rhetoric, some family and friends were. This latest action by the Trump administration is further evidence that Trump opposed to LGBT rights, activists say.

“His administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government – even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD. “Today further exposed President Trump’s overall goal to erase LGBTQ Americans from this nation. Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn’t make that any more clear.”

Trudy Ring contributed to this report.

A Queer Takeover at the Southern Baptist Convention

“Love him for me.”

That was what a Southern Baptist pastor’s wife said about her gay son to Stan Mitchell, senior pastor of the LGBT-accepting GracePointe Church in Franklin, Tenn., when she encountered Mitchell at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in mid-June.

Mitchell was part of a group of volunteers organized by Faith in America and partner groups who went to Phoenix for the Southern Baptist confab with the goal of engaging attendees on LGBT issues as part of the “Save yOur Kids” campaign. By deeming it a sin to be LGBT, the denomination — the largest Protestant body in the U.S. — is hurting children and teens, Faith in America officials say.

(PHOTOS: Faith in America Takes a Stand for Equality)

Mitchell, who’s also Faith in America’s national director of religion, learned that the woman’s son had recently come out to her and her husband. They did not disown him, but they told him that by being gay, he was not living according to God’s plan.

“She wept and said, ‘He is the best of our four children, and we have failed him,’” Mitchell says. Since he’s going to school in Nashville, she suggested that he attend services at nearby GracePointe, a Christian congregation that has made a declaration of full LGBT inclusion and equality.

“We had a lot of those kinds of encounters,” Mitchell continues. He doesn’t know if the conversations will make a difference immediately, “but some seeds were planted,” he says. He notes that he didn’t always come from a place of acceptance, but he evolved. “I know that there are pastors out there like me,” he says.

The Faith in America volunteers were, for the most part, unable to get inside the meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. Faith in America cofounder Mitchell Gold, cochair Robert Hoffman, and a few others got into the venue and were asked to leave. But mostly the volunteers they spoke with attendees outside and handed out pamphlets detailing the harm that religious condemnation does to LGBT young people — heightening their risk of homelessness and suicide.

The activity felt similar to one familiar to fundamentalist Christians, says Stan Mitchell, who comes from that background. “I swore I’d never do street evangelism again, but here I was, doing street evangelism,” he says.

The “evangelists” included not only many LGBT people but straight and cisgender allies like Mitchell and Jane Clementi, whose gay son Tyler committed suicide in 2010 after a fellow student at Rutgers University used a webcam to spy on Tyler having a romantic encounter with another man.

“My voice was the voice of a mother,” says Clementi, who has gone on to found the Tyler Clementi Foundation (with her husband, Joseph) to fight bullying. “I was using my voice in sharing Tyler’s story and our story.”

Tyler had come out to the family shortly before starting school at Rutgers, and he apparently found the response lacking. “I was most upset that he did not think he could be a Christian and be gay,” his mother recalls, noting that at the time the family attended a church that was not accepting. “He viewed that statement as judgmental, I think.”

Jane Clementi, who has another gay son, James, has become a strong advocate of acceptance and inclusivity in religion. “We need to stop teaching that someone is broken or worthless” because of being LGBT, she says.

“I believe that God’s will is to become open and affirming,” she adds. “When Jesus was on earth, it was all about being open and welcoming.”

Most of the attendees she spoke with were “cordial,” although “entrenched in their beliefs,” she says. But like Mitchell, she notes, “Hopefully, some seeds were planted.” For changing hearts and minds, she says, “I believe it takes a personal encounter with someone and hearing their stories,” and that’s exactly what the volunteers set out to provide.

“I actually feel we do a great service to these communities,” says Hoffman. “We model loving, even Christlike behavior for these people of faith.”

Liz Owen, director of communications for PFLAG National, attended the Phoenix event and says it confirmed that LGBT acceptance is a value that religious people can embrace. “PFLAG’s work in faith communities across the country continues to reinforce what we know: that to be a person who is LGBTQ or a supportive ally, and a person of faith, are not mutually exclusive,” she says. “My week in Phoenix bore this out, as I watched volunteers — many of them people of faith — engage in meaningful dialogue in a truly PFLAG way, meeting attendees where they were and finding our common bond in our concern for all children, moving everyone closer to acceptance and affirmation by sharing personal stories. We look forward to our continued work with Faith in America.”

Gold says one of the most compelling encounters he had during the meeting was with a white Southern Baptist pastor who had adopted African-American children. “He has become more sensitive to the prejudices of his denomination,” Gold says. (The denomination even originated as a pro-slavery one, splitting off from antislavery Baptists in the northern U.S.; the Southern Baptist Convention has apologized for its support of slavery.) At the Phoenix event, some of the church’s leaders didn’t want to present a resolution denouncing white supremacy, and although the resolution was eventually presented and approved, some attendees opposed it. In speaking with the pastor about various types of prejudice, “you could see his wheels turning,” Gold says.

Gold, now head of the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture company and a member of what he calls the “be nice to people” faith, comes from a Reform Jewish family. Reform Judaism has evolved into one of the most LGBT-affirming religions anywhere, but Gold recalls that as a gay youth, “I grew up believing that homosexuality was a sin. I grew up believing I was broken. No teenage kid should have to believe that about themselves.”

In addition to sharing stories, another factor that may make religions more accepting is generational change, according to some of the Faith in America volunteers. “I think the demographic change ultimately will change most groups,” says Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist who attended to provide scientific evidence that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a mental illness — something mental health professionals recognized decades ago. He notes that younger people are significantly more LGBT-friendly than older generations. “It won’t happen overnight, but I believe change is inevitable,” he says.

Hoffman agrees. “Part of [change] is seeing some of the baby boomers age out and some of the millennials assume greater roles of responsibility,” he says.

However, there’s also the possibility that those accepting millennials might just leave less-than-accepting faiths, and at any rate, Faith in America and groups like it don’t intend to just wait around for change to happen. “We’re going to do more of this, going to more anti-LGBT religious groups,” Gold says.

The volunteers hoped to get a meeting with members of the Southern Baptist hierarchy; they didn’t during the Phoenix meeting, but a group of them do intend to visit the denomination’s leaders in August, Hoffman says. They also plan to have a presence at a large Catholic convention in August.

For a long time, Gold notes, LGBT advocates shied away from talking about religion, but it’s actually incumbent on them to do so. “We not only can do it but have to do it,” he says.

Faith in America’s partners in the Phoenix event were the Trevor Project, Nomad Partnerships, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Tyler Clementi Foundation, Soulforce, the Reformation Project, Campus Pride, Equality California, Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Auburn Seminary, PFLAG, and two Phoenix churches, Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church and First Congregational United Church of Christ. Find out more about Faith in America here and about the “Save yOur Kids” campaign here.

What’s it like to be in a polyamorous relationship?

A small but growing community, in India and around the world, is challenging a foundational construct of society: that a monogamous marriage is the only way to have a fulfilling long-term relationship. Their experiences, which loosely fall under the umbrella term “polyamory”, have a lot to teach us about honesty, jealousy, acceptance, and love itself.

A 30 May Mint report on the extramarital online dating service Gleeden said that the website already had over 100,000 subscribers in India (up to 180,000 at the time of going to press). The numbers indicate the existence of, at the very least, a willingness by married Indian men and women to explore extramarital dating. But polyamory is different—it involves having more than one intimate relationship with the knowledge and consent of all those involved. This makes polyamory a form of ethical non-monogamy, as opposed to infidelity.

Infidelity is the more common way of responding to the strictures of monogamy. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, getting accurate numbers for the rate of infidelity in India is hard. Consider the 2014 survey conducted by Canadian online extramarital dating service Ashley Madison. According to reports in the media, of the 75,321 respondents from 10 Indian cities, 76% of the women and 61% of the men didn’t consider infidelity a sin. In contrast, a survey conducted in 2013-14 by the US-based research organization Pew Research Center, with 2,464 respondents, reported 27% of Indians as saying that extramarital affairs are either “morally acceptable” or “not a moral issue”. The numbers for consensually non-monogamous individuals are even harder to estimate, but may be as high as 10-12 million people in the US alone, according to a 2014 Atlantic article.

The numbers are hard to estimate in part because of the stigma around polyamory. Society, when it is not being hostile or outright abusive, tends to dismiss polyamorous or poly people as either sex-crazed or frivolous and incapable of commitment. On the contrary, I found poly individuals like Rishika Anchalia and Aparna Dauria, who agreed to be interviewed for this piece, to be engaging more seriously and thoughtfully with relationships than some of those who unquestioningly follow the norm.

What polyamory asks is, “Why does non-monogamy have to involve lies and deceit?” The main idea is that relationships need not follow templates. Consenting adults—two or more—can write their own rules. It is this focus on what love is, rather than what it is supposed to be, that pierces the veil of myths and conditioning surrounding this queen of all emotions.

Illustration by Jayachandran/MintIllustration by Jayachandran/Mint

Ethical loving

When Vidya (who asked that only her first name be used), an entrepreneur from Bengaluru, first acted on an attraction she felt towards a person other than her partner of five years, she was thrown into a maelstrom of confusion and guilt. As she struggled to make sense of what she was feeling, her primary relationship with her partner became strained.

Seven years later, Vidya, now in her mid-30s, successful, intelligent and well-read, brings to our conversation the independence of mind that I have frequently encountered in the poly community. Many friends advised her to forget all about it and move on, without telling her partner. This did not sit well with her. “Did my cheating mean I was no longer in love with my partner? Absolutely not, I still adored him. But still, if I believed in honesty and faithfulness, what was I doing? And then I realized that sharing love and sex with someone else didn’t feel wrong. The lying and deceit did.”

She discussed the episode with her partner, but he was not ready to open up the relationship. Vidya might have chosen to deny the part of herself that connected intimately with other people, and stayed with her partner. But if dishonesty towards her partner was reprehensible for Vidya, dishonesty towards herself was even more so. They parted amicably, and she has identified as poly ever since.

Honesty is important to the poly community, which means individuals cheating on their spouses are not welcome. Even relationships that have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule—where people agree to date others, but want to be kept in the dark—are frowned upon. The idea is that a barrier to communication implies an issue in the existing relationship that cannot be resolved by getting into another one.

It is this attention to ethics that complicates the assumption that polyamorous people are simply promiscuous. While the poly community is sex-positive—that is, it regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable—and does not look down upon casual sexual relationships, promiscuity implies being less discerning in one’s choice of partner. The poly emphasis on honesty and communication often makes this community more discerning, not less.

Obsessed with sex?

The misrepresentation of polyamory as being only about sex is worsened by its portrayal in the media, with variations of the image of three pairs of feet poking out from under a blanket.

In a February interview to The Chronicle Review, Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, mentions her experience being interviewed by the Cosmopolitan UK magazine, where she distinguished between polyamory and promiscuity. The text of the story was fine, she said, but she was not prepared for the image that accompanied it—a spread depicting an orgy: “Not a small orgy. Like maybe 25 people.”

Closer home, this reduction of polyamory to sex is mirrored in a July 2016 Scroll.in article on polyamory. The article establishes that “getting enough of, or chasing, sex may not be a marker of success, happiness or liberalism.” The problem with this is the author’s assumption that polyamory is merely about “chasing sex” in order to portray oneself as “liberal”.

As K, who is in her late 20s, and works in social media advertising in Bengaluru, says, “Once you are poly, you are single.” K identifies as queer, and has found that monogamy holds sway even in the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others) community in India. “To meet someone who understands poly is hard. Your dating pool reduces drastically.”

The reason for this is that poly people are upfront about their orientation, and the number of people who have overcome the societal norm of monogamy sufficiently to accept a poly partner is small. And as for sex itself, K says: “Poly relationships are all about communication. My friends always joke about how I am talking more and having less sex.”

The emphasis on sex also does a disservice to all forms of love that have not been consummated. For instance, Dauria, a Mumbai-based singer, composer and songwriter who runs the Egalitarian Non-Monogamy support group on Facebook, says, “I am engaged in three intimate relationships at the moment, two of which are platonic.” The poly community argues that platonic love can be as intense, as caring and as giving as any love involving sex. It is also evident that asexual people can have deep romantic attachments. We are all very aware of loveless sex. Why, then, is it so hard to embrace the concept of sexless love?

For G, who works as a biologist in Bengaluru, sex has repeatedly been a decisive factor in his relationships. “Romance, sexual attraction, platonic connections flow in their own way, and the issue of monogamy does not come up. But having sex is a different story. Sex tends to force a definition on to a relationship.” It is because our culture is obsessed with sex that it cannot see polyamory as anything but sexual. This prejudice can be an active annoyance. As K says: “Some of my friends refuse to take my capacity for loving more than one person seriously. They call me ‘greedy’, ‘a glorified player’, or dismiss my orientation as a ‘fad’.”

Poly communities tend to have a more enlightened view of sex too. Since sex is discussed openly, polyamory promotes healthy ideas of sex, including safe sex, and full and enthusiastic consent. Polyamory is also accepting of the entire bouquet of sexual activities between consenting participants, and poly communities do not find it difficult to celebrate sexless love.

Who’s afraid of whom?

Comments by monogamous people about polyamory can be paranoid and aggressive. Women, in particular, are targets of violence. Prof. Jenkins writes in Aeon, a digital magazine, about the trolls who started accosting her when she began writing about being polyamorous. “I have been called a ‘c**-dumpster’, a ‘degenerate herpes-infested w****’, and many other colourful names.” The false idea that polyamory is anti-monogamy seems to give some people a licence to be abusive.

The trolls seem to struggle to imagine life without a norm. This is why they see polyamory as threatening to become the “new norm”. But for the poly community, the problem is not monogamy, but, rather, the societal norm of compulsory monogamy. Compulsory monogamy propagates the myth that it is something everyone must aspire, and limit themselves, to.

G is very logical in his approach. “I just do not see why one relationship style needs to be held up as the only valid choice. What normative monogamy does is it makes people count out options when they don’t have to.”

The damaging regime of compulsory monogamy is propped up by existing Indian laws. Danish Sheikh, a Delhi-based lawyer and writer who works in the field of queer rights, says: “The law has a very rigid definition of what a non-marriage intimate partnership constitutes. As a result, crucial remedies such as those under the Domestic Violence Act are not available to women in polyamorous relationships.” From a legal point of view, unmarried partners face problems in renting apartments, and are not recognized as family in the case of medical or other emergencies. “Marriage provides many forms of legal protection, which are denied to alternative modes of being together. The institution of marriage needs to be challenged not just in terms of its heterosexuality, but also in terms of its definition as the intimate union of two individuals to the exclusion of all else.”

The perils of normative monogamy are many. And these perils are more present in India than we acknowledge. Let us conduct a thought experiment. Count the number of people you know who are stuck in unhappy marriages (but are afraid of the social stigma of divorce)—with abusive partners, cheating partners, or partners who are sexually or temperamentally incompatible. Add to this the people who are separated or divorced and face social condemnation, and those who are unhappily unmarried. Chances are that in spite of all the secrecy that shrouds failed marriages in India, you may know of more than a handful.

Now consider what these individuals go through. They are constantly exposed to opinions and judgements by a society that sees them as failures and their lives as somehow incomplete. The choice seems to be between the normative, monogamous marriage—and nothing. In response, polyamory is not propagating any norm.

It is important to distinguish between polyamory and polygamy. Polygamy is often an equally oppressive institution, where one person, usually the man, has more than one spouse (polygyny). Polyandry, where one woman has many husbands, is a comparatively rarer form.

One thing is for certain: Polyamory is not for everyone. Many poly people, in fact, are quick to acknowledge this. Vidya says, “I have respect for consensual, thoughtful monogamy. Some people prefer to cover the complete depth of intimacy with one partner rather than the breadth of multiple partnerships. Also, some who may be inclined towards polyamory may not have the fight in them to face the societal taboo around non-monogamous relationships. Either of these are valid choices.”

Normative monogamy is not usually as generous. Instead of recognizing the validity of multiple ways of living and loving, it, like a brutal conqueror, tends to force several separate ideas to merge into “the only one”, the only legitimate option. It lumps together love, sex, exclusivity, and throws in cohabitation and coparenting.

In fact, as Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel mentions in her popular TED talk, “Rethinking Infidelity”, the norm of monogamy has become even stricter, because it is only recently that marriage has been linked to love—and love is something everyone wants to succeed at. “The fact is that monogamy had nothing to do with love,” Perel says. “Men relied on women’s fidelity in order to know whose children these are, and who gets the cows when I die.” She goes on to note that, ironically, adultery was where people sought pure love in the past.

For those who are polyamorous by nature, the norm of monogamy can make them feel extremely guilty and ashamed of feelings of desire and love. It can result in them suppressing their feelings till these erupt in unsafe behaviours, including ill-considered sexual escapades, or in them feeling trapped in a monogamous relationship and resenting their partners. The norm of monogamy can also separate them from their families, with parents often being unable to accept that their child is polyamorous.

It is possible for some lucky individuals to find in one person an emotional partner, a sexual partner, a partner in the household who does their fair share of the work, as well as a responsible and involved parent—but is this the only aim society must promote? Or can there be other ways of finding love, running a household and raising a family?

Standing in the way of any other approach is the chief concern of monogamous people with respect to sharing their partners—“How will I overcome the torment of jealousy?”

The heart of jealousy

Poly people are often asked how they manage jealousy. It appears that most poly people do not experience jealousy in the way society expects them to. “I’ve never been particularly jealous or possessive, not the typical girlfriend that is depicted in the media. I enjoyed hearing stories of my partners’ sexual experiences with others, whether past experiences or current attractions,” says Vidya. K adds: “I wouldn’t hang on to my partner at a party, I wouldn’t care if my partner had a crush. I hate how the world advertises jealousy, and people just mimic it.”

It is telling that we have so many words for the negative feelings that arise from sharing our partners—words like jealousy, possessiveness, cheating, infidelity and betrayal. But, as Anchalia, an advertising professional in her mid-20s who lives in Mumbai, says: “We’re already sharing our partners! With their friends, family, work and hobbies…. In fact, isn’t it common to say a partner’s work is their ‘mistress’?”

So much of love lies in taking pleasure in your partner’s happiness, even if it is inspired by something outside the relationship. But though we have all felt it—think of a time when your partner achieved a career milestone, or became fascinated with a new hobby—we needed the poly community’s open-minded attentiveness to give the feeling a name. That name is compersion. The question then ceases to be “What is making me jealous?” and becomes “What is preventing me from feeling compersion, which is such a warm and thrilling emotion?”

Anchalia says polyamory helped them see jealousy for what it really was (Anchalia identifies as genderqueer and prefers “they” and “them” as first-person singular pronouns). “When I was younger, I believed in the idea that my partner is supposed to be my everything. I would get jealous when my partner would hang out with his best friend!” Monogamy fuels jealousy in ways that make us believe we are experiencing it because of a third person in our partner’s life. “As I explored polyamory, I realized jealousy was not about the third person, but about my needs not being met… needs that I expected or hoped the relationship would fulfil.”

Vidya clarifies: “Polyamory does not mean an automatic absence of jealousy. Many poly-identified folk consider jealousy a healthy and natural emotion, often pointing them to their own deep-seated insecurities or fears.” And such emotions can arise in any relationship and at any time. She adds: “I learnt over time that ‘jealous’ is not a blanket adjective for a person. Each of us may have different triggers for jealousy—specific experiences of feeling excluded, or feeling threatened. My partner may be great friends with one of my lovers, but deeply jealous of another.”

In the poly approach to jealousy, people are encouraged to discover the fear that is at the source of their jealousy. Next, they must find ways, with the help of their partner, to feel reassured and manage their anxiety. “This is an ongoing process, involving lots of honest and loving communication between partners,” says Vidya. Compare this to the resentment, rage and desire for revenge that popular culture tells us is the natural response to feeling jealous.

What does overcoming jealousy look and feel like? Vidya reminisces about the time she spent with two of her partners. “I have vivid memories of how fulfilled I felt, hanging with both of them, feeling just…love all around,” she says. “We would do extended family-type dinners, with our core friend circle and our other lovers. It made me very proud that through all the usual relationship ups and downs, we could reach there.”

Deep soul work

“Polyamory made me more comfortable with myself,” Anchalia says. Jealousy is not the only internal emotion that poly-thought helps one to manage. It encourages us to be honest with ourselves, over and above fitting into a societal template. This honesty reveals more emotions that we would have otherwise neglected or denied. It is harder to suppress a part of you that you have already acknowledged exists.

As Dauria puts it: “What my experiences have taught me is to be mindful of myself. Taking the time to observe my emotions, and acknowledging their origins, has always led me to the awareness that the true source of my struggles is in my beliefs and expectations. This perspective reminds me that holding my partners responsible is futile—the true answers lie within. As a result, potential arguments turn into respectful, open-hearted dialogues about our fears and insecurities, which actually end up deepening our bond.”

This “deep soul work”, as Dauria terms it, is a progressive acceptance of the self, even those parts that society claims are “wrong”. Love leads one to accept the self in the face of societal sanction because love is the very force that has constantly broken down social barriers. Stories of transgressive love abound in all cultures, even in Bollywood’s depictions of interfaith, intercaste and interclass love. It is this irrepressibility of love that gave the LGBTQ+ community the strength to assert their existence in a society that attempted to criminalize and invisibilize them.

“We are talking about something called love,” Dauria says, “which is an incredible, transcendental force. What the societal norm of compulsory monogamy attempts to do is enforce rules and regulations on something genuinely profound. But that is impossible. Love is beyond any strategy we create to control it.”

***

Poly gets screen time

A handful of TV series and films that depict polyamorous relationships

A still from ‘House Of Cards’.A still from ‘House Of Cards’.

House Of Cards (Netflix)

While Frank and Claire Underwood are downright diabolical, their relationship often provides a soft counterpoint to their ruthlessness. In the early part of the series, Frank, Claire and Edward Meechum get entangled romantically, and later, Claire’s relationship with the writer Tom Yates receives Frank’s support and encouragement. Scenes with the three of them having breakfast together at the White House portray a healthy and familial equation.

A still from ‘I Love Dick’.A still from ‘I Love Dick’.

I Love Dick (Amazon Prime Video)

The Amazon series, created by Jill Soloway (‘Transparent’), is based on the eponymous Chris Kraus novel. To reduce ‘I Love Dick’ to polyamory or polyamory to ‘I Love Dick’ would do them both a disservice, but this witty comedy about a married couple’s mutual obsession with an artist has some poly resonances.

A still from ‘You Me Her’.A still from ‘You Me Her’.

You Me Her (Netflix, outside USA and Canada)

While the series is big on drama and outlandish coincidences, it does depict a “throuple”—a polyamorous triad—and brings up many of the questions and issues that individuals face when in an unconventional relationship.

A still from ‘Unicornland’. A still from ‘Unicornland’.

Unicornland (Unicornlandseries.com)

This Web series follows the experiences of a ‘Unicorn’—a bisexual woman who is willing to date couples. Unicorn is a word informally used in the poly community to refer to bisexual men and women, because they tend to be the rare and magical creatures couples look for when opening up their relationship. The series alternates between the Unicorn’s bad dates and her encounters with more caring couples.

A still from ‘Professor Marston & The Wonder Women’.A still from ‘Professor Marston & The Wonder Women’.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

Releasing in theatres on 27 October, this indie biopic tells the true story of the poly family that created Wonder Woman, which received a blockbuster film debut earlier this year. The Harvard psychologist W.M. Marston created Wonder Woman along with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway, and their partner, a former student of his named Olive Byrne. The three lived and raised children together. When Marston died in his early 50s, the two women continued as partners for the rest of their lives.

Partho Chakrabartty is a writer from Mumbai, currently pursuing his master of fine arts degree in fiction from Temple University in Philadelphia.

First Published: Sat, Jul 08 2017. 08 34 AM IST

How My Father Taught Me to Be a Man

By October of 1991, I was 14 and permanently living with my father. He was on a mission to convert me to full-blown manhood. In Washington State, my mother encouraged me to be my unconventional self, so when I arrived in Philadelphia, I had long curly hair that I’d attempted to dye blond but had ended up a strange orange color. Quickly, my father took me to the barber shop and cut off all my hair. I held back crying in the chair while he stared, ready to rage if a single tear dropped. I was very effeminate, and he was dedicated to purging the femme out of me.

Whenever I made an effeminate movement or sound, he snapped his fingers, like a master training his dog. “Every time I snap, it means you’re acting like a girl,” he explained. His snaps made me jump, causing endless anxiety as I prayed to go a day without hearing a snap. If I talked, walked, or moved against his standard of masculinity after several snaps, he would rage on me: “Stop acting like a faggot! Stop it! You keep acting like this, you’re going to grow up and get fucked by men! Is that what you want?” I was absorbing the performance of masculinity. I needed to act. It didn’t matter if it was real; the purpose was to convince others of my manhood before it was questioned.

I became seriously introverted. I was afraid to speak or move too suddenly and was in a state of constant nervousness. There was no space to be myself. I was labeled a “nervous child,” but no one understood that my father kept me on a choking, hypermasculine leash. I’d practice masculinity in the mirror. Trying to move my hands the “right” way, pacing my steps so I wasn’t “swishing”; studying masculinity was my survival technique to endure the mental abuse from my father.

By the time I was in high school, my father wanted to see a girlfriend in his 15-year-old son’s life. When I finally landed a girlfriend, he said, “If your girlfriend wants to stay the night, she can. She can say she’s staying with one of her friends. I won’t tell her mother. Ain’t nothing wrong with you having a girl in your bed.” My father was so consumed with my sexuality that he was willing to allow a 14-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy to sleep in the same bed to hopefully rescue my heterosexuality. My girlfriend never stayed the night, but we spent several days after school alone in my bedroom, with my father in the living room, probably praying her vagina would convert me.

This is an excerpt from Live Through This, Clay Cane’s brilliant new collection of personal essays on race, class, gender, sexuality, and faith. A journalist, TV personality, and filmmaker behind Holler if You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church, Cane calls the book “a direct response to Trump-era politics.” We couldn’t agree more.

Tickets are live!

ticket stack photoTickets are live! Be sure to get yours while the early bird sale lasts. This is sure to be a fun time of craziness and strange ideas in an open-minded and loving environment! We hope to see you there.

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And the wheels are spinning

Things are getting up to full steam here at Weird Kink HQ. The website is humming along. Our venue is confirmed. Our ticket sales are live. This is a crazy dream come to life. And it IS a little crazy.

Weird Kink is about facilitating and producing happenings with offbeat, oddball, and creative kinky themes. We serve a variety of communities and hope to build bridges with folks from across the spectrum.

And getting back to the crazy part, our first main event is Mean Stuffies, a 1-day mini-conference. The theme is using teddy bears, stuffed animals, and other plush toys in sadistic play, mind games, and similarly “weird” crossovers.

And it is happening. We are pressing forward with a secured venue and a lot of strange ideas. Come join us for this one time special event!