Polyamory and the LGBTQ community

My question is this, why are most polyamory relationships associated with the gay, or lesbian society. I’m not prejudice[d] against anyone’s sexual preferences.
Currently, I am on house arrest. Because of a situation I put myself in. Since my first marriage I’ve had a belief that a man can love more than one woman.
I’m currently dating a woman of 52 years of age. We have known one another for almost 20 years. And have always been able talk and express our feelings to one another. We’ve always enjoyed a great sexual relationship also.
Right now, we see each other when we can. I love her very much, I’m not at all jealous of her seeing other men. And she feels the same way about me.
I guess what I want to know is why do you hear more about polyamory in the LGBT than you do with the heterosexual society?

Quite often in my column I say that polyamory can be a postcode lottery, meaning that the type of community that you find locally can be a lottery. Sometimes it’s very open minded and welcoming — sometimes not. While I wouldn’t say that I have experienced polyamory being more prevalent or discussed in the LGBTQ community, and in fact I’ve left quite a lot of online polyamory spaces because they were homophobic, biphobic and transphobic places, I do think that there probably is a trend where LGBTQ people are more open to the concept of polyamory.

There are a lot of reasons for this. I think socially as a whole if there is an aspect of your identity which you can’t change which is marginalised, you’re more likely to question the power structures that society puts into place, including the rules society places on how one should behave. To put it in a more simpler term, if the way you love another grown and consenting human being naturally is seen as ‘deviant’, then you’re going to question a lot about the society that has decided there is something wrong with other forms of love between consenting adults.

Furthermore, I think you also find this among people who are hypersexualised in society. If your baseline sexuality is seen as ‘too sexual’ then you might find that you’re more free to challenge some of the sex negative concepts the society hypersexualising you throws back at you. If you’re already on the margins and derided by society when you are harming no one, it gives you a better way of looking at other practices which aren’t harming anyone.

There’s also the pure and simple fact that LGBTQ people have a long history of not having the privilege to practice monogamy in the way society says one should practice it. Specifically in the US, queer people growing up the same time you did would face permanent disowning not just by their parents but also society. In many states in the US when you grew up, it was perfectly legal to arrest consenting people for having queer sex which would be sometimes called a ‘crime against nature’. In some places, if you were arrested for a ‘crime against nature’ you could have your name and picture printed in a newspaper and be forbidden from getting any form of job or license. Some queer people were lobotomised, castrated or given drugs that simulated waterboarding as a form of adverse conditioning to ‘cure’ them of being queer. Have a Google of the Atescodero State Mental Hospital which was known as ‘the Dachau for queers’.

And this isn’t isolated to the US. Many countries have a long history of either conversion therapy or execution for LGBTQ people daring to live their lives in the open. Alan Turing in the UK was condemned to chemical castration for homosexuality despite saving over 2 million lives through his contributions against the Nazis in WW2. Queer people were a target of Nazi Germany and, even after the concentration camps were liberated, many of the queer people in the concentration camps for being queer were immediately sent to jail and not liberated. The infamous picture of the Nazis burning books is actually a photo of them burning the books of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexuality which was making pioneering efforts of its time in transgender medical care.

So, suffice to say, many LGBTQ people did not have the option to marry and settle down with an individual, even if they wanted to, in a monogamous partnership for many years. This is a struggle that many people of colour had with interracial marriage in the US and in other places. And that’s not to say this struggle is over either. I know in the UK in particular, individuals fleeing countries where they would be murdered for being gay struggle to ‘prove’ their gayness to the Home Office to claim asylum. One person I met felt she had to submit a pornographic video of her and her partner in order to effectively claim asylum.

For many LGBTQ people, having a long term monogamous partnership wasn’t a realistic possibility. ‘Hooking up’ in semi public places like parks or closed down buildings was the only option a lot of people had for any form of sexual or romantic partnership. And I think the history of that has meant that over time many LGBTQ people have either been forced into a situation where their relationships had to be ‘open’ in the case of needing to marry or present a straight front to the world in order to prevent themselves from complete ruin or they just haven’t seen monogamy as something realistic and therefore have had a more open approach to relationships.

Still, while there is this history, I wouldn’t say that LGBTQ people are any more likely to be polyamorous or have open relationships than straight people. And in general, there are physically more straight people and therefore more likely to be straight polyamorous people than queer polyamorous people. But, to sum up the idea, it’s a lot more easy to see the validity of other lifestyles that harm absolutely no one when they involve consenting adults and not immediately dismiss it if you’re also immediately dismissed by society.

I want to add one last comment regarding your situation, even though you didn’t ask about it. You’re not required to stay in a monogamous relationship if that’s not what you want and you most certainly shouldn’t feel your current relationship is holding you literal hostage. It is possible to find people your age who are interested in polyamory and if that’s what you want to do, that’s what you should do.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Comments from the therapist

In my experience to date, most of the LGBT+ folks I encounter in the polyamorous world are bisexual/pansexual, not gay or lesbian. Some of the early leaders of polyamory, like Deborah Anapol who I believe coined the term polyamory, identified as bisexual. Someone who is sexually and romantically drawn to more than one gender may well have a higher innate interest in open relationships so they can satisfy a broader range of their interests and desires. Now this is not to say that all or even most bisexual or pansexual folks aren’t monogamous. Many are.

When I attended a polyamory conference in Ohio a couple of years ago, most of the dyads present were heterosexual pairings and yet most “polycules” (their extended network of relationships) contained at least one “queer” dyad as well. That seems to be a pretty common demographic breakdown here in the Midwest.

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