By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
This was an issue that came to light back in the late '90s, when MTV featured a polyamorous family from Tennessee who outed themselves on a televised special. The courts intervened, and granted guardianship of a child to her grandmother and step-grandfather.
Potential scrutiny aside, starting a poly family has other factors that parents-to-be need to think about.
"In my first triad, what prompted us to decide that Mark was no longer a boyfriend but a husband was because I really wanted to have kids," Carrie says. "This was about five or six years ago, and I had that strong instinct to start a family. So we went to a lawyer to discuss what papers would need to be drawn up to give him custody rights of the children if something happened to me. No matter who was the father, the children would be my legal husband's. Ultimately we decided not to have kids, but a lot of families have similar situations."
Despite the potential issues and setbacks the triad has experienced over the years, Carrie believes that poly has come a long way in terms of being accepted across the Twin Cities.
"I remember once in the gay-marriage movement several years ago there was an opinion piece written in another local publication. The right-wing groups and talking heads were all saying things like, 'We can't support gay marriage because the next thing will be polyamorous marriages.' I thought that was interesting because I had never heard polyamory mentioned in the media before," she recalls. "So anyways, this publication wrote an op-ed piece where they said, 'You don't have to worry about polyamorous marriage because polyamory doesn't exist.' That really upset a lot of us because we felt like we were being marginalized."
The group took a stand, organizing a letter-writing campaign (remember letters?) and creating more awareness for the poly community. The results are still being seen today.
"It's a lot different now that we have organized groups, and I think because people have become so much more accepting of the GLBT community and other types of relationships, I think our group and our community is going to continue to grow," Carrie says optimistically. "I think that we are the next equal rights movement, and that poly is going to continue to become increasingly accepted in the future."
Jami is 31 years old and lives in St. Louis Park. She has been a practicing poly for approximately one year, and finally feels like herself.
"I hated being monogamous," she laughs. "I think my friends were sick of me being monogamous too, or at least talking about how much I didn't like the various mono relationships I was in."
Jami is also a member of MN Poly and likewise requested a pseudonym, but she lives a very different poly lifestyle than Carrie, Rick, and Mark. She's dating a few different people, both married and in relationships, and lives with a completely "vanilla, straight-laced, monogamous roommate."
"She and I have lived together for a couple of years," she says. "She was the first person I came out to. She was totally supportive and has been that way ever since."
Jami represents a younger generation of practicing polys, who have had more exposure to the idea of simultaneous relationships. While she's had the opportunity to meet other people with similar interests through online and community groups, Jami has found her way thanks to the media's most important invention: reality television.
"Back in college, I saw an MTV True Life special that was all about polyamory, and I was like, 'This is interesting,'" she explains. "Then I watched the show Big Love that was all about polygamy, and that got me thinking a lot more about my own life, even though it's a little different."
Eventually, Jami recognized what was missing, but the truth is that she had known for quite some time.
"I used to talk about how I wanted to just move to California and live in one big, open house full of people who were all open and cared about each other," she laughs. "I guess I should have known all along."
This past summer, polyamory got even more mainstream exposure when Showtime began airing a reality series called Polyamory: Married and Dating, which follows the lives of polyamorous people at various stages of their relationships.
Just like any other piece of top-notch and totally not misrepresentative reality entertainment, the show features its fair share of sex, fighting, and jealousy.
"Happy relationships don't make great television," Jami laughs.
A fan of the show and a self-proclaimed "social media junkie," Jami quickly did some digging and began following the program's many stars over Twitter, which is where she got the real story.
"They all appear to be really great, stable people," she explains. "They all understand the reality of reality television, and they admit that what you're seeing on the screen is merely one moment in their lives. Obviously it's not representative of their everyday."
While the perception of sex and fighting may be cranked up for the cameras, Jami can attest that jealousy is still a very real emotion that she and other poly folks struggle with.
But really, just think about what polyamory is going to do to Country Music. Songs like "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "It's a shame to belong to someone else when the right one comes along" and "he was her man, but he done her wrong" pretty much go away. I suppose you get some new flavors of drama to write about, but is it worth losing "jealousy" as easy subject matter?
I thought the article did a good job. I would like to say, though, that the having-children-and-being-poly situation may not be as dire as the folks interviewed indicated. As long as the grandparents are tolerant, they aren't going to try and take the kids away in court. And there has been at least one third-parent adoption in this state (and a couple in other states that I'm aware of), so nonbiological poly parents can get legal parental rights in some cases.
Welcome to 1978, swingers have been around for quite a while. Giving them a cute new name "poly"
Way to ride this trend about seven years past its crest...but I guess you people need something to do in your igloos besides hibernate and watch the Vikings lose for the next eight months.
@jt_olsen Oh please. Polyamory IS a "lifestyle" choice. No one is born polyamorous. This is another red herring. @mnformarriage #VoteNO
Thanks Patrick Strait for treating this subject respectfully, for demonstrating that such families aren't as uncommon as some might imagine, and for giving your readers a much more accurate view of them than those who oppose them ever do. Great job!
@LeathrHeartClan I'm proud of what we've done with the community here it's a great place to be poly.
@szvan There was a case in Pennsylvania where that happened - it was overturned #polyamory http://t.co/7jefkxCU
@CinBlueland : Poly and Swingers are totally different. While as a "swinger" you aren't really in a relationship except with the person you came there with, and you "swing" with other couples in a non-relationship just sex thing. Poly peoples, couples, etc usually are in multiple relationships (key word relationships).
So, yeah it's cute.
Sorry to you.
Probably. Being straight doesn't disqualify writers from covering the subject. Interesting point, though. :)