Is polyamory a social justice issue? August 21, 2012Posted by Shaun McGonigal in Polyamory.
Tags: atheist, atheistplus, social justice
In reading about this new Atheist+ issue generated by Jen and others around her (especially Greta), I have seen various social issues included in the list of causes that people want to support. Women’s issues, POC issues, trans issues, LGBT issues, neuro-atypicality issues, etc have been enumerated, for good reason, but I have seen no mention of issues related to polyamory.
So here is my question; am I being irrational in thinking that polyamory should be included in such lists, or are many people behind in not including this as a social justice issue?
As a quick note for those that don’t know; I live in a house with 4 other polyamorous people. One is my wife, another my girlfriend, and the other two are my girlfriend’s husband and his girlfriend. So these questions are not merely academic for me; they are real questions with potential serious significance.
There are real-world fears around being polyamorous. Coming out at poly has consequences similar to coming out as gay, for example. Parental rights can get complicated with polyamorous families. Visitation and end-of-life rights, afforded to legal spouses, becomes problematic when you have more than one serious long-term partner. In short, all of the rights that one gets as a spouse cannot easily be extended to other partners, which can create problems.
The foundation of this problem is the cultural lack of familiarity with what polyamory is about. We are not the same as swingers (although there are often overlaps). We do experience some forms of social discrimination, stereotyping, etc. I have been told that I have chosen this lifestyle, but I cannot choose how many people I love any more than I can choose what genders I love. I have discussed my view on the issue of choice, or orientation, in terms of polyamory here, but I will briefly sum it up in saying that I do not choose my desires and my feelings, but I can choose to act on them or not.
And why would I repress my actual desires? Would I do so for the sake of cultural norms which make no sense? No.
I am not aware of large scale cultural campaigns to react against polyamory comparable to reactions against ‘the gay agenda’. There are not common stories of poly people being beaten, fired, or killed. There is a persistent social stigma against it, and it is presented as the conclusion of the slippery-slope for things like gay marriage (” if you allow anyone to marry, the next thing that will happen is 3 people getting married!” The horror!), and there are the many legal issues briefly mentioned above.
And I will briefly mention that advocating for polyamorous rights and protected status in society is made more complicated in context with polygamy and its relationship to fundamentalist Mormons, Islam, and the patterns of abuse against women, and young girls, in those communities. So it is a complicated issue, but I do think it is a social justice issue.
I think that we need to keep that in mind during these discussions about adding social justice issues to our atheist activism.