[thoughts]

So, yesterday we watched Zombies of Mass Destruction, which was streaming on Netflix. It takes place on an island in Washington state, and features as the zombie-fighting heroes the following:
  • A gay couple.
  • An Iranian girl who’s constantly mistaken for an Iraqi.
  • A feminist environmentalist.
Basically, the premise is that these “threats” to America fight the zombies successfully. It’s a kind of cool little flick; my main beef is that the line delivery seemed stilted and slightly self-conscious. For all I know, it could’ve been poor editing or a badly scored soundtrack. Overall, the dialogue was witty and funny — enough so that it detracted from the sometimes-poor delivery — and the special effects were gruesomely awesome. It was a neat film, and I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of zombie flicks or horror films. It’s streaming on Netflix at the moment.
Anyway, there was a running theme that got me thinking early on in the film. The gay couple, Tom and Lance (played by Doug Fahl and Cooper Hopkins) had flown out from the East Coast to visit Tom’s mom. While in town, Tom was planning on coming out to his family and friends. It was made pretty clear that this was something Tom and Lance had discussed in depth and planned over a long period of time, and that Tom was really scared of doing it because his hometown was a small, religious place. Tom mentioned that his high-school crush had been shipped away to straight camp. The fact that Lance had come out to his family already was referenced, along with his dad’s negative reaction. Tom and Lance are obviously a committed, loving couple, but this issue (of Tom’s reluctance to come out) is causing some tension in their relationship.
That whole situation right there is something that has always infuriated me. Not at the couples like Tom and Lance; at society as a whole. For a long time, there was a stigma — still propagated by folks like those at N.O.M. — that those who identify as LGBT cannot have loving, committed relationships. They point to the sexual revolution (driven by gays!) or to the lack of historically recorded LGBT committed relationships as proof. I always feel like screaming when I hear this few — thankfully, we’re hearing it far less as the irrefutable evidence of loving, committed LGBT couples piles up.
This mindset, though, seems to completely ignore the effect that discrimination can have on a relationship. Can you imagine how that would feel, to love someone and share all your most intimate secrets and hopes and dreams — yet this person is unwilling to introduce you as their partner? Can you imagine how hurt and dismissed and unloved you would feel every time your partner told their friends and family that you were a “roommate” or that you guys were “old friends from school,” or worse, never told them anything about you at all?
It’s the same with any counter-culture relationship, though. Imagine a married polyamorous couple who has long-term secondaries outside of their relationship. Those secondaries are not brought to family gatherings, introduced to the parents or in-laws, or otherwise acknowledged in general society. Imagine how that would feel — you’d essentially feel like the dirty little secret, the hidden mistress/ mister. I mean, let’s pretend that “Susan” and “Robert” are the polyamorous married couple. Robert has a long-term someone on the side — for the sake of this, Robert is bisexual and his someone on the side is “Pat,” who’s gay — and Susan also has a long-term partner on the side. There are generally two mindsets among polyamorous people:
  • Your sex life is your business; you don’t need to tell friends and family who would judge negatively or wouldn’t understand.
  • Be honest about being polyamorous, but don’t force people to deal with it.

Both of those mindsets mean that non-poly-friendly family and friends of polyamorous couples never have to deal with the polyamory. Take, for instance, Robert and Pat. Pat would be what is sometimes called in polyamorous circles a “secondary.” Robert may go out with Pat to dates and dinners, may spend the night at Pat’s place, may even meet Pat’s family and friends. But Robert does not introduce Pat to his family or friends. He doesn’t take Pat out in his town. If Susan or any of Robert’s family needs him (or Susan’s family), Robert will break a date with Pat in a heartbeat. Susan treats her boyfriend the same way, always placing him second to other life importances.

And that’s why people call polyamorous couples selfish. They’re not trying to be, when you think about it. The polyamorous people I know are generally very honest and clear about the relationship parameters for secondaries — but the problem is that the secondaries are not equal in the relationship. In Western society, we’re raised with a very clear ideal of entering equal, loving relationships where both partners contribute fully to the psychological, emotional, and lifestyle health and comfort of the other. We’re raised with an ideal of communication, respect, and love. That ideal of equality simply cannot exist in a polyamorous relationship in our current society. There are legal issues, ranging from hospital visitation rights to how to incorporate a committed secondary into your children’s lives without having CPS called on you (that’s a real issue, that is debated and discussed in poly forums). There are the issues of society as a whole not accepting it. There are issues of in-laws and extra in-laws and possible children.
I don’t think polyamory can really exist properly in our society at this point in time, to be honest. The way the Western world responds to it, and the way every polyamorous relationship structure I’ve seen works, there’s the primary, socially recognized couple, and there are secondaries who are not able to fully participate in their partner’s life and relationships. The secondaries are, basically, not equals in the relationship.
There are already so many difficulties to overcome, so much work inherent in a socially-condoned relationship. There are financial issues, sexual compatibility, lifestyle differences, parenting disagreements, etc. etc. To throw in one partner pretending another doesn’t exist to their friends and family . . . that just seems devastatingly cruel.
I think the LGBT couples who have dealt with that sort of pain with their partners, yet managed to stay together, are probably the strongest, most loving relationships there are. Because to overcome the rejection and pain of having your partner disavow you to their nearest and dearest takes a lot of love and trust.
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