judgmentcatTurns out that many argued against tolerance in the community, so let’s revisit poly policing other people’s right to self-identify

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download the mp3 directly

1:00 Announcements and Host Chat

Poly movie review: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

7:30 Topic: It’s not about you, or everyone is doing poly wrong redux

A number of listeners commented and wrote in to argue that sure, tolerance is great—until you disagree with someone else’s definition of poly or self identity. So we brought in the big guns to reiterate the point: LustyGuy! Y’all wrote in with quite a few objections and instances in which you REALLY wanted to dispute someone else’s self-identity, including:

  1. But Minx, _____ isn’t the RIGHT definition of poly
  2. But Minx, if we don’t have one common definition of poly, we can’t communicate
  3. But Minx, the cheaters who call themselves poly hurt our cause
  4. But Minx, the cheaters who call themselves poly insult my hard-won ethical relationship

31:15 Happy Poly Moment

  • SH shares a happy poly moment of encouraging a friend to pursue the same woman
  • Em shares a happy poly moment of her two partners meeting up secretly to sign a birthday card for her

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? 🙂 Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!


Commenting area

  1. Squirrel April 1, 2014 at 12:14 pm · ·

    Hey Lusty guy? Could you please not use the word “tranny,” as you did in this podcast? A lot of us trans people have had the word used towards us as a slur, and I personally winced as being referenced as a tranny by you. Thanks. (Trans is a less hurtful word to use.)

    • Lustyguy April 4, 2014 at 12:16 pm · ·

      Yes, I will stop using the word, “tranny.” My apologies, please consider it a reflection of a speaker who is older than the current accepted uses of the word rather than of a speaker who harbors any ill will to the transgendered. Apologies for any hurt feelings I caused with my mistake. 🙂

  2. Cornelioid April 3, 2014 at 9:10 am · ·

    I’m glad Squirrel took on the point they did, and i’d like to bring up a related one. The listener who wrote in a happy poly moment, who referred to their friend (i think) as “they”, may not have been using “they” as a placeholder for “he or she” but perhaps for “he or she or other pronouns” (for instance if their friend might have been neither man nor woman) or even as the proper pronoun for their friend. A metamour of mine uses they rather than he or she, and, in more or less the same way that it’s unfruitful to challenge someone’s identity as poly, it’d be to no benefit to anyone for me to push my metamour to adopt gender-associated pronouns in place of they when they resonates with them.

    Thanks for the discussion as well. I’m glad that you brought up monogamy…my impression has been that a lot of the same people who disqualify relationships that involve (or have involved) cheating as “polyamorous” also describe ostensibly monogamous relationships as “monogamous” whether cheating is involved or not. (Conveniently, this allows us to disparage monogamy as rampant with cheating.) Maybe people are more careful than this. I do have a problem with this…and i recognize that what it’s sort of the mirror image of what you railed against—saying that my definition (in which poly practiced poorly is still poly) is “right”. Maybe even internal inconsistency (like self-identification) is nothing i should be demanding of others in their personal definitions?

    • Cornelioid–

      I’ll admit that I have issues with using the grammatically incorrect “they” to refer to a single person. However, I do cringe and comply if a person specifically requests that I do so. (Although I often slip up, but I do try!) This is a case where my grammar nerd often wins out over my sense of political correctness.

      • The grammarian in me used to cringe using “they” to refer to just one person. Then I realized that it’s not a failing of non-gender conforming people but a failing of the English language for not having an appropriate genderless pronoun. Helps me not to cringe. 🙂

      • Consider this: “A person goes to the store. In the store they find everything they were looking for.” It’s a way of avoiding the constant use of “he/she” as in “In the store he/she found everything he/she was looking for,” and totally acceptable and common in English used for a singular person with unknown gender. So from there it’s not that far of a stretch to say “Maria went to the store. They found everything they were looking for.” It actually makes sense to me to use “they” for people who are non-binary in their gender definition, if that’s the pronoun they prefer.. Still feels a bit strange, but doesn’t take that long to get used to it.

        • Cunning Minx May 1, 2014 at 2:15 pm · ·


          First, we will be covering pronouns on a future episode! Second, your first example is not grammatically correct according to any of the current style guides. A single antecedent “person” requires a singular pronoun, which in English is currently either “he” or “she.” So while vernacular usage does accept use of “they” to refer to a singular person, it is still incorrect for any official writing.

          That being said, many have adapted the use of “they” to refer to a singular antecedent, and even Grammar Girl (my hero!) mentions that in informal writing, it’s generally considered acceptable. However, if I were writing a piece for the New York Times, it would be considered an error and corrected. The language is changing, but I’ll admit that the anal retentive copy editor in me won’t change my writing until it’s sanctioned by style guides.

          That being said, most of us don’t write for the NYT, and it’s perfectly OK for anyone to write the sentence you used above and be understood. I’m just a bit of a stickler and can’t do that, myself. I go with what we taught the last generation of writers: either change the subject to match the pronoun or alternate he/she.

          For example, “People go into the store. In the store, they find everything they were looking for.” Grammatically correct according to all current style guides because both antecedent and pronoun are plural. Or, alternatively, “A person goes into the store. In the store, she finds everything she was looking for. A customer might complain. When he does, staff is available to help.” Grammatically correct, and I (sort of) got around sexism by alternating male and female pronouns.

          That being said, if someone approaches me and asks to be addressed as “they,” of course I will do it, both verbally and in writing, with a disclaimer that the person requested the plural pronoun. Make sense?

      • I used to also have grammar objections to a singular “they” pronoun. But I realized a couple things. First of all, how are my objections more important than someone else’s comfort, or even equally important? Second, singular “they” is, and has been for centuries, grammatically correct.


        Just because it hasn’t formerly been common doesn’t make it wrong, and we need to adjust our comfort zones a bit so that we stop policing and wounding people with marginalized identities. It’s like a lot of privelege issues: which is more important, my comfort/being right, or someone else’s right to not be wounded?

  3. Icewraith April 4, 2014 at 7:10 pm · ·

    Sorry, I still disagree on the cheaters. I would suggest that this is akin to someone who frequents clubs to drug woman and assault them while they’re helpless calling themselves a “ladies man” or “pick up artist”. Why would they self-identify as such? Probably because rapist sounds unpleasant. As (to a lesser degree) does cheater. I see way too many self-identifying polys who started out cheating use the term as a “get out of jail free” card. Again, analogous to “Hey, if I’m a ladies man, I don’t have to serve time for rape, right?” Too many partners suddenly have a philandering partner who sees polyamory as a way to avoid repaired what they’ve harmed.

    Sadly, what I liked about polyamory was that it allowed for the freedom of being in multiple relationships without the catastrophic damage of cheating. There was a distinct difference. Now, it sounds like “Hey, cheating is an acceptable form of poly!” I’ve been cheated on by “newly poly” Wife. It WAS NOT OKAY.

  4. Nicely done podcast. 🙂

    However, I do agree with Icewraith.
    Self-identify should not take priority over everything else.
    You could call yourself a “peace keeper”, but killing off every one that is a threat to peace.
    You could call yourself a “child lover” when you have sexual intercourse with under-aged teens.
    You could call yourself a “spiritual” person when you burn whiches at stakes.
    You could call yourself an “animal lover” when you bread dogs for dogfights.
    You could call yourself “The doctor” when you kill off Daeleks and Cyberman.

    The problem is when you allow people to associate “good” words with “bad” meanings then the “good words become bad over time. And then people have to invent a new word.

    Second remark.
    Polyamory activists are needed. Not to force people to covert to polyamory, but to give information to the world about polyamory. Make people aware that it exists.
    Without the activists, no poly blogs, no poly entries in wikipedia, no forums for polies, no events for polies. Polies would probably live a life that includes cheating because they are not aware that there is another way.

    I am happy that polyamory activists exists, because I discovered polyamory by accident. On word./ One word “polyamory” and my whole life changes. That one word explained my internal relationship model and finally my relationships made sense. One word that made it easy to transmit how I am to the rest of he world: “Polyamory”

  5. I think Minx really loves us, because we are naughty again and not agree with everything automatically. :-p

    Agreeing with everything your parter tells you makes boring relationships. 🙂

  6. This one was a difficult one to swallow for me. I’m all for the freedom to self-identify as one wishes…but, uhm… If “everything” is now suddenly “poly” just because someone says so, then every word suddenly loses its meaning. I’m a computer now, because the way my brain works sometimes may be similar to the way a computer works… uhmm…. NO !

    Cheating != polyamory, as part of the definition (!) of poly is that there is knowledge and consent. Now, if we remove the definition of poly, yeah, sure… but what’s the point of doing that? We invent/use words/labels to distinguish one concept from the next.

    So I would say…well, Lustyguy kind of mentioned it, briefly, while still focusing mostly on the right to self-identify as one wishes…that the other person has just as much of a “right” to call someone out on their bullshit, from that person’s point of view. You guys (Minx and Lusty) basically said something like you can say “well, that’s not akin to MY definition of poly, but tell me more.” I think that’s just beating around the bush, though. I think one can say “that’s really against the definition of poly, so I don’t think that’s really poly (if you’re basically cheating), but maybe you’d like to change that?” … We have to be able to separate the actual definition of poly from the “personal” definition of poly, and align our statements to what poly actually means. It’s a very simple concept, actually, and a lot of different relationship styles may fit into the poly label. AS LONG AS it’s done with knowledge and consent. Otherwise, it simply is not polyamory, right? Then at least let’s call it non-monogamy (if someone is cheating or what have you). Knowledge and consent doesn’t necessarily mean that “don’t ask don’t tell” doesn’t fit into the poly definition, as there’s an agreement(!) that you do your thing, I do mine, and we don’t talk about it… Doing stuff without such an agreement cannot be called “poly,” imo…

    There’s a big difference between respect for self-identification and simply accepting that people are plain wrong about something… North-Americans are so afraid of “offending” someone that things are staring to go a little bit TOO far to the other side sometimes… (I’m European, living in Canada).

    • There is one situation where polyamory starts from a cheating point of view.
      A lot of people tend to cheat first before they discover polyamory.
      A lot of these people fell in love with someone else, but also do not want to cheat at all and not leave their partner. That is why they end up discovering polyamory. They want a way out of it and not have to cheat.

      However, from my point of view. If you want to call yourself polyamory, then you must have the tendency to resolve the cheating part and start making all parties involved to know about each others existence and give consent within reasonable time.

      • Olaf, thanks for the comments. I see your point. Maybe one can separate “being” poly (i.e. feeling that way, wanting to live that way, having a poly “orientation” etc.) and actually LIVING polyamorously, if you will. “Being” poly goes for every single poly person out there too, as they _are_ poly, but not actually engaging in poly “behavior” and relationship(s) at the specific time when they’re single.

        And yes, going from cheating to polyamory does mean that one has to come clean and resolve things with one’s partner/spouse, and find an arrangement where poly can become a reality. Or just break up with them, and find someone who wants the same thing.

  7. Nice to see the replies and interaction. I did have my mind changed – or at least open to reexamining – about a few things, so well done.

  8. Where to buy wholesale Vikings cheap jerseys usa online

  9. I see a lot of interesting content on your page.
    You have to spend a lot of time writing, i know
    how to save you a lot of time, there is a tool that
    creates unique, google friendly posts in couple of minutes,
    just type in google – laranita’s free content source

  10. Super late comment, but anyhow, I feel as though the conflation between a term of self identification and a term in regards to a community or a lifestyle was almost clarified, but not quite. Actions or behavior are separate from internal sensations. You can consider yourself fundamentally poly and be single, or in a closed relationship with one person: being poly is different from living a poly lifestyle. Yes, objections can absolutely be made if someone who is cheating claims to be living a poly lifestyle. However, they can identify as poly if they feel that way. As an analogous example, I identify as genderfluid, yet I present and live mostly as my biological sex. I am not living a genderqueer life, and thus do not have the right to claim that lifestyle, yet it doesn’t invalidate my identity. I am just starting the process of coming out after years of feeling this way. Just as someone who is gay can live for years in heterosexual relationships before coming out, the same thing can be said for poly people.

    I do however feel that once you start to claim the identity you identify with in a vocal, outspoken manner, you should be educated about it and work towards living in the lifestyle implicated by virtue of that identity. So constructive and suggestive criticism of lifestyle could be acceptable, while doubting a persons self identification would be invalidating. (On the same note in the comments, I’d say a similar thing about they/them pronouns. Or ze/hir, ne/nem/nir, etc. If they ask for that use, use them. It’s their identity; insisting on calling someone by something else is invalidating and hurtful) If the person is in the process of working towards that identity, help them out instead of discrediting them. Lastly, if you don’t identify as what they are claiming as their identity, I don’t think you have any grounds to criticize or object.

Trackbacks for this post

Comments are now closed for this article.