Monday, April 18, 2011

A Shifting Sexual Identity Within Non-Monogamy

Polyamory creates one of the most unique and innovative opportunities for individuals to create their own way of relating to their gender, and the gender of others. A polyamorous individual has more opportunity and option to break out of the binary masculine/feminine gender norms of today's world and allows for a more dynamic, nuanced, and individual understanding of gender. As Richards (2010) identifies within Transgendered communities, Trans people are able to develop more dynamic and unique gender interactions that allow for a much larger range of gendered experiences for these individuals. I would argue Richards point a step further and say that non-monogamy allows space for traditional gender roles to cease applicability all together.
In a traditional monogamous dyad, it is almost intuitive to fall into dyadic binaries (male/female, masculine/feminine, career-oriented/family-oriented), especially since in many cases *someone* in the relationship still needs to cover one aspect of the binary. In polyamorous structures there allows for more variation on this. For example, as a man if I were in a triad relationship with another man and woman I would be able to, as a man, experience my sexuality in relation to another man AND/OR another woman. I would not be monogamously linked to a static concept of gendered interaction.
Expanding this example farther, if I was in a 5-person relationship (a pentad?) with two men and two women, and I was gender fluid I could experience my sexuality as either male or female, and match it to different experiences with different individuals. Expand on this even more and assume that everyone has the possibility for gender fluidity, just imagine the possible combinations that could exist, that could NOT exist in monogamous society.
Yet there's still the issue of social acceptance. Polyamory is clearly not accepted by the larger society, and transgendered is barely reaching acceptability. Richards identifies a dynamic between the individual and the culture as being self-reinforcing on identity issues. Richards puts this in context to the level of acceptance to fluid sexuality that polyamory provides for trans individuals. Richards also implies that this can be expanded (and reversed) to identify ways in which sexual fluidity is stifled in the larger society, as well as how that can create identity issues within trans individuals. It's easy to see how Richards assessments can be expanded to polyamory in general.
Richards, C. (2010). Trans and non-monogamy. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 120-133). New York, NY: Routledge.

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