I’m packing to move – again – (this is a life ever on the move, it seems, nomadic in so many ways) and as I put my books in milkcrates borrowed from a friend, I keep a small stack aside. I’m assembling the list of books that I own that have shaped my understanding of open relationships. Essays, chapbooks, sex books from the sixties, stuff by Carol Queen and Pat Califia and Tristan Taormino; a bibliography of polyamory. It’s a nice little stack, although the titles, I think are not ones which generally grace the bibliography of an academic paper.
But then, it’s not often that I write about the deeply personal parts of my identity in an academic paper. I’m used to being the representative queer trans guy, and that’s fine, and I attempt to approach my papers from a queer perspective whenever possible. But the poly stuff: that’s deeper into my identity, personal in a way that talking about gender isn’t. And it concerns other people; the people I relate to or have some kind of intimate relationship with, however casual it may be.
So I get cagey around talking about this in an academic setting. I’m already the queer queer; that nerdy, slightly awkward guy that people sometimes slip pronouns on. I’m weird, but in the bounds of normal. Unless I start talking my love life and all that attaches to that… so I don’t. And that’s okay – in fact, that’s great, because I don’t want to have to explain that the way I do open relationships is not representative of the ways everyone else does open relationships, and that yes, I’m single, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see people and that they don’t mean something to me.
But however a person seeks to cover parts of their identity, it will come up in funny ways. This term, it’s through this class where I write about my life experience and tie it to academic theory for college credit. I could write my papers divulging this about myself, but it would be leaving a big chunk of my identity in the cold and a large bit of my personal experience.
And it would be a lie. I would be silencing myself out of shame for what other people might think about me. So I’m writing about practicing open relationships because this is my truth, and as I manifest myself into the person I want to be, it is a person that is not ashamed of who they are.
Which got me to thinking, as I pulled these books from my shelf to prove I’d done some reading (as that is how we prove we know things in academia) about polyamory – it got me to thinking about the ways in which us non-normative folk see ourselves reflected. Because this part of my identity certainly isn’t in the mainstream consciousness as anything but perverse… but my first exposure to non-monogamous relationships wasn’t through this stack of academic books and essays. It was in fantasy and science fiction. Mercedes Lackey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Guy Gavriel Kay were my teachers, hinting at ways to live and love outside of a monogamous pairing, and how to do it with honor, consideration and compassion. It was in fantasy that I first saw my role models for my reality.