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The defunct'ness of the polyamory movement: Why we need legislative change

When I was promoting my "Let's Get Stuff Done" Con, one of my friends took my promo copy and forwarded it to a couple of local lists.  Apparently drama ensued as some of the people balked at the notion of developing "leaders" within polyamory groups, or within the movement at large.  On another list that I'm involved with, a similar story unfolded where someone who was a role model within her own community shunned the label of "leader". I'm interested in knowing why that is, especially since I strongly believe that poly people need to have community leaders if we're going to take our "movement" to the next level. This led me to start writing down my thoughts on how changing the status quo would benefit poly people as a whole, even though most poly people choose not to participate. I also started thinking about the current organizing efforts, and why progression towards our goals as a movement have been so damn slow. P.S.: If you are easily offended by anything that challenges or criticizes the status-quo, please come back around August 30th. At that time, I will post the finale of this series, which outlines recommended steps on how to be a better leader. Additional Disclaimer: This series is the result of conversations that I've had with fellow poly leaders, mixed with my own thoughts, experiences, and observations. While it seems that a lot of us have similar experiences and thoughts, these writings do not represent the beliefs of poly leaders as a whole.  These writings are not meant to target specific individuals or organizations, but instead show how "the system" is defunct and needs a lot of TLC and fixing.

Why poly people need social change

A lot of the current social policies benefit people that are single or coupled.  If you have relationships with multiple people, even if you consider more than one of those people to be "primaries", the law will not provide them with the same legal protections as a spouse or domestic partner. One of the local groups that I support is Project 515, whose mission is to support equal rights for same-sex families in Minnesota.  They published a report showing the 515 different rights that a married couple has that a domestic partnership doesn't, based on Minnesota law. Why should poly people be interested in this?  With the exception of the partner that you married (if you chose to do that), these are also 515 rights that your partners don't possess. You can provide some legal protection to your partners when it comes to ownership of assets, or being able to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.  This requires that you have an intentional estate plan drafted for you.  These documents are created by an attorney, and can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of your situation. What about protecting the rights of those who can't afford an estate plan, or whose needs for legal protection go beyond the transfer of assets or bestowing decision-making rights? One example that I'll provide (which is relevant to current issues) is that of employer-sponsored health insurance.  Some of us are fortunate to work for companies that cover the majority of our health insurance premiums (trust me, the deduction on your paycheck is only a fraction of the true cost).  Typically, this coverage only extends to a spouse (married partner) and the children of that marriage.  Only a minority of companies offer domestic partner coverage, allowing a partner that the employee isn't married to (same sex or different sex) and the family that they have together to be covered in the plan.  Even then, what about the health insurance needs of any additional partners, in the case where they are either unemployed or work in a job that may not provide health insurance benefits?  What about the children in a family that has multiple adults, where neither of the biological parents have their own health insurance? As a side tangent - How the current health care health insurance debate will end is still unknown.  However, if an insurance company is able to create health insurance programs for multi-partnered households, and make it fairly priced while still allowing the company to be able to pay out on claims and stay solvent, they would have a competitive edge against their peers.

Beyond partnership rights - making discrimination illegal

To take this a step further, those that practice different forms of ethical nonmonogamy currently don't have any legal protections against discrimination. This means that, on the grounds of them being polyamorous, someone can lose their children to social services (rare) or through family court due to a disgruntled ex-partner or relative (expensive and not as rare).   In addition, while it may not be explicitly stated, someone can lose their current job or be turned down for another job or promotion because they are polyamorous. This is why most poly people choose to remain in the closet about their relationship status - because of the devastating effects that it can  have on their family or career.  The people that we know of who are publicly polyamorous, where being "out" hasn't affected them, tend to be in positions where their other social privileges protect them. It's awesome that Tilda Swinton, Will Smith, and Warren Buffet are known poly people - that doesn't help my poly friends keep their kids and jobs.  
Teaser material...
Tomorrow I will talk about the non-legislative aspect of poly activism, and what perceptions need to be changed externally and internally for us to make progress. Wednesday I will explain how a large organization ends up having only a small percentage that actively participate, and how an even smaller percentage do the majority of the work for the group. Thursday I will delve even further into the misconception that being a poly leader means doing most of the work for the group, and theorize on the self-talk that drives us to overextend ourselves.  ;) Friday I will review the traditional definition of "community" and discuss criteria for determining whether a poly group is a "community" or an "organization" (with a smaller community built within). Saturday, I will apply everything that I have brought up in the week prior to show how, if the dysfunctions I've identified are left unchanged, trying to push community organizing to a larger, national level may lead to drama and small amounts of actual change. Sunday, I will offer an alternative way to develop poly leaders, strengthen poly communities, and make current efforts towards local and national organizing a LOT more effective.

Apollo (not verified) wrote:

Sun, 08/23/2009 - 23:18 Comment #: 1

Regarding "why progression towards our goals as a movement have been so damn slow" - I don't think this is necessarily true - we've just been very parochial in our goals.  Most of the goals in poly communities have been low-level - support each other in understanding polyamory, provide acceptance for each other, and have a place to meet and share resources.  In short, the goals of what you might call the "first stage polyamory movement" has been the establishment of the poly community itself.  I think we've been very successful at this goal.
That isn't to suggest we shouldn't raise our sights - political activism such as you suggest is highly worthwhile.  It's still not really my goal as a poly person, though.  It's something I support, something I'd vote for or contribute to, but it's not a big deal to me.  The community aspect is.

metropoly (not verified) wrote:

Sun, 08/23/2009 - 23:43 Comment #: 2

When I mention "why progression towards our goals as a movement have been so damn slow", I am referring to the multiple past and present efforts to try and organize on a national level in order to bring about change. I actually touch upon that topic a bit more deeply in part #6. Parts 2-5 outline various potential problems, issues, and misconceptions that could not only impact local poly groups but also affect larger-scale organizing. There, I gave spoilers for the rest of the series ;p.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on the differences between a polyamory "community" and a polyamory "group" or "organization", as well as how to create the former from the latter. One of the concerns that I have (which I talk about more in part 5 of this series) is that I question whether or not a large group that shares a superficial sense of camaraderie - of which a small percentage are more actively engaged with each other on a personal level - counts as a community, and if not, types of steps could be taken to bring the organization into a greater sense of community.

The defunct’ness of the polyamory movement: Shifting Cultura (not verified) wrote:

Mon, 08/24/2009 - 23:05 Comment #: 3

[...] I just mentioned, there’s 3 changes on the legal front that could aid poly people.  These changes could allow [...]

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