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Holy crap, I’m married! May 22, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
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Like, for real.  Like, marriage license, wedding, reception, and all the rest that goes with it.

Damn, why do I always stand so awkwardly?

So, Ginny is more into things like traditions, cultural rituals, etc than I am.  In fact, she would pretty much have to be.  But on the whole, the day was pretty normal, at first glance.  There was a guy standing between us saying some words, there was a bridal party, and we stood there looking at each other all lovingly and crap.  You know, like a wedding.

But the guy standing there (my friend Staks) said some non-traditional things.  The nod to gay marriage (we were at a gay community center in downtown Philadelphia, after all), references to Doctor Who, and stuff like that.  He also included some traditional words that one finds in a marriage ceremony, but no references to any sky-fairies or zombie Jews, so that’s a bit abnormal, I guess.

Also, my girlfriend, the hilarious and talented Gina who readers here will all know as the very serious scientist who pisses off reddit with her analysis of comic book science, brought some people with instruments to play some rocking tunes.  (And yes, Arcati Crisis does indeed rock).  So, yes, girlfriend at my wedding.  Happy poly time!

There were speeches, including one quite sappy and teary one which was forced out through sobs (oh, right…that was me).  There was food, drinks, after parties, and crashing of other wedding parties.  Also, dancing to said rocking tunes.

People visited from out of town, mimosas were had with brunch, and people left to go back home.  Now back to real life, right?

This does not change much in our lives.  We are still polyamorous; marriage and commitment do not change that.  I am looking forward to the future, living in the present, and remembering the past few days with a smile, but also knowing that we can’t always have the people we enjoy being with around.

It was great seeing friends from Atlanta, Illinois, Virginia, etc for a couple of days.  It’s a shame that we can’t all hang out on a Saturday night, in a hotel room, with drinks and ginormous pizzas every week.  It’s a shame that everyone had to go home.

But many of them remain, and I am glad for that.

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Marriage, commitment, and polyamory August 15, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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Awwww....

So, Ginny and I are engaged.  That’s right folks, marriage! That ancient institution of property-arrangement designed to let everyone know that this woman is mine.  If you want her, too bad; I have obviously paid her father some bride price (or she has paid me some dowry) and so she is spoken for.

Oh, wait, that’s right! The concept of marriage has changed.  Those valued ancient traditions that defined our culture and gave the sacred institution of marriage meaning have been radicalized and re-defined by social progressives (probably feminists and socialists) in an attempt to destroy the traditional concept of marriage.  And as a result, women are no longer property by which men can get their jollies and also continue their genetic line (the legitimate ones, anyway).

Now, marriage has come to mean the willing entrance into a committed and potentially life-long relationship by 2 or more adults.  It’s an arrangement which gives each adult who has entered into it certain legal rights concerning decisions for and access to their spouse(s).  It has changed from being a property arrangement not unlike owning a cow to being a decision to bind one’s life to other adults in emotional, financial, and legal ways.

Oh, wait, I got ahead of myself.  We are still somewhere between that traditional marriage and what actually makes sense to emotionally mature and intelligent adults.  We still live in a culture where the idea of marriage has not yet evolved past the transitional stage of a civic union between one man and one woman.  We live in a culture with such a bad sense of history, genuine adult relationships, and full of conservative fear that we still think that commitment is defined by an arrangement between two people who have no obligations of love, intimacy, or time to other people.

I keep forgetting that the vision of actual human emotional achievement and popular maturity only exists in my head.

*sigh*

What is commitment?

Commitment is not the same thing as exclusivity.  To be committed to something is not to eschew consideration to other things completely.  It does not mean that comparable relationships are forgotten.  Go ahead, look up the term.  There is nothing about commitment that necessarily implies that to commit yourself to a person (or to a cause or idea) means that you give up any effort towards others.

And yet, if you hear someone say that they are in a committed relationship, it is understood to mean that they are unavailable for romantic and/or sexual relationships with people other than the person to whom they are committed.  It does not imply that perhaps that relationship is of mere primary (or at least very high) importance to them.  It does not, in ‘polite’ society, mean that any further arrangement of relationships must consider the impact to that existing relationship.  It does not mean that that relationship is something of great importance to their life, and that perhaps, if things work out, you may be able to share some of that importance with others as well.

That would be silly.  Except that it wouldn’t be silly at all.  It would be pretty awesome, actually.

I am committed to Ginny.  I intend to keep her as a primary part of my life, and to grow and love her as long as I am able to do so.  All decisions that effect my life will have to consider her and how it may affect her.  All further relationships, whether with Gina or anyone else, will have to be weighed in terms of their implications for my relationship with Ginny.  And since Ginny and Gina get along so well, it means that the continued existence of my relationship with Gina (which is young but relatively strong considering its youth) is preferable for all involved.  So, not only does my relationship with Gina not threaten my relationship with Ginny, it may actually complement my commitment to Ginny.  It may actually add value to that other relationship.  Isn’t that awesome?

This is a concept that I think more people in our culture need to understand.  In the same way that many friendships can complement other friendships, romantic relationships can also add to the ones we have already.  Jealousy, resentment, and pain are not the only result of your lovers knowing about each other.  There are also wonderful things, like friendship (and occasional new lovers) that can be derived from this.  If you love someone, the qualities that you love just might be noticed by the other people you love.  Crazy, I know!

What is the meaning of Marriage, if it does not mean commitment?…oh, wait….

Are you getting it yet? In the same way that being committed to one-another does not have to imply romantic and sexual exclusivity (although it can also mean that, if the people involved desire that for whatever reason), marriage does not have to imply exclusivity either.

But further, in the same way that 3 (or more) people could possibly find a way to arrange commitment and share each other emotionally, sexually, etc, there are times when those same 3 (or more) people can find themselves all ready to commit their lives to each other in ways that walks, sounds, and acts like marriage.  What sense is it to have (for example) 3 people living together, sharing a bed, finances, and activities together and say that this could not be considered potential marriage for more than 2 people?  How does polyamorous marriage not make sense for those for whom such arrangements are desirable?

But much more basically (and more personally relevant to me right now), how is my marrying a woman who I love, despite the fact that I love another woman (openly and unashamedly), not marriage?  How does my being in another relationship de-legitimize any meaningful use of the term ‘marriage’? Well, frankly, it doesn’t.  But many people seem to think that it does, and I think that this is an obvious point of needed re-consideration by our culture generally.  We, as a society, need to re-evaluate our values about relationships, marriage, and commitment.

Gay and polyamorous marriage are really about the same thing

I believe that those who were once considered liberal and open-minded, the radicals of the past, are in some ways tomorrow’s conservatives.  We, as humans, get so caught up in the definitions and causes that our cultural ancestors fought for that we forget that it is the continued struggle for freedom and choice that is the fight, not the updated definitions of things like marriage.  Less than 50 years ago I, as a US citizen, marrying a black woman would have been illegal.   Those who now take that for granted have now accepted the new conservative definition of marriage which is problematic for both gay couples and polyamorous groups who desire the same rights.

Granted, there are issues related to the abusive treatment of women in polygamist religious groups, such as the FLDS organizations and Moslem societies which support such things, and I do not want these women to keep experiencing this abuse, when it is abusive.  I want marriage to be a consensual and informed decision among adults, not one controlled by religious ideology in an abusive and patriarchal culture.  Marriage, at bottom, is NOT a religious institution, but rather a civic one.  Religion cannot tell us what marriage is any more than it can tell us what morality is.  They have not earned the right to have an authoritative position on such things.

In conclusion (a message of loves)

I love you Ginny, and I look forward to a life of sharing how wonderful you are with other people, because to do otherwise would be taking too much away from the world.  You are brilliant, beautiful, and as authentic a person as I could hope for.  And Gina, I love you too. You are talented, you make me laugh, and seeing you happy brings joy to my days.  I hope that our relationship will continue to grow into something meaningful and enduring.

Take that, convention!

Destruction of Traditional Values Should be Legal, Safe, and Rare April 27, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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It is my proposal for discussion that social progress must, necessarily, destroy some traditional values. It is my hope that this destruction will only take place where those traditional values are themselves causing destruction, hopefully unintentionally.

Is there anything wrong with being homosexual or bisexual? Is there anything wrong with being polyamorous? Is there anything wrong with being an atheist? Is there anything wrong with these things in themselves?

Is there anything wrong with a society that accepts homosexuals on equal terms? Is there anything wrong with a culture that accepts non-monogamy on equal terms with monogamy? Is there anything wrong with a world that does not care if a person does not believe in spurious metaphysical claims?

Society will change as the individuals that make it up change. And as we see the principles of moral behavior projected onto these new personal behaviors of people, we would be remiss…no, we would be hypocritical…not to apply the same values of fairness and justice upon the similar social structures.

Marriage, through most of history, has been defined as being between the opposing sexes. The reasons make sense, as in order to raise children it is the minimal requirement that one man and one woman get together and make babies. And as society began to complicate and settle, allowing people to explore more complicated relationships, it should be of no surprise that some would create situations, both unintended and eventually intended, that would forgo the status quo of what was done usually.

Question #1:

Is it the case that, purely on an interpersonal level, that relationships can be made to work between two people of the same sex, three people, and can people live fulfilling lives without religion or faith? More generally, can people live happy, productive, and moral lives not following the normal paths? Does eschewing traditional worldviews and values necessitate that life will become difficult, perverse, etc?

I think that the answer is quite clearly that casting off traditional values and lifestyles can often have its difficulties, but that it is very possible to live fulfilling lives. The success of the attempts will vary depending on other social considerations.

Question #2:

Is it reasonable to expect that individuals living their lives according to their values will not be noticed by, inspire, and inform other people of alternative possibilities of life? That is, even if these non-traditional people never write a blog, protest, try to pass legislation, run for office, etc in order to support their non-traditional lifestyle, will they simply go unnoticed?

I think the answer to this question is a mixed bag. I think that their are many things that people do that go unnoticed. The reasons are varied, but it is clear that there are many things that remain unseen, unspoken of at work or at parties (at least mixed parties), and so go largely unnoticed. I think that eventually the general awareness of such things happening is nearly impossible to contain, even if the specific people and places are not known.

Question#3:

When non-traditional ideas spread to so-called “mainstream” culture, what happens? That is, when the cat is out of the bag what do people say? Again mixed bag. Depending on how close to home, emotionally, religiously, and morally (yes, all of these things are related) these non-traditional ideas are. Thus things that challenge “normal” views which people have close emotional associations with such as religion, sexuality, family, etc, the more likely the challenge will be taken personally and thus cause a defensive reaction.

This means that the issue becomes of social consequence, but only because it is a strongly personal issue that challenge ideas of society.

Question#4

Does it make any sense to believe that changes at the personal level, things that individuals do, should not often change society eventually?

Any change that happens on the personal level has the potential to eventually transform social norms. Why? Personal transformations are the building blocks of social change. Thus as interpersonal relationships change in nature, it is only natural that those people will begin to redefine concepts which their relationships use. Concepts like ‘family,’ ‘marriage,’ and ‘even ‘love’ will take on different meanings in the context of their new experiences.

Atheists have been around for thousands of years. We didn’t always call ourselves that, but we were around. For most of human history, religion, politics, and economics were tied together in ways that they are not any longer in much of the world. One of the many factors of this change is the concept of separation of church and state, which was a radical change in the US Constitution but which was probably inevitable to happen. Thus, the personal changes of small numbers of people that didn’t believe in gods were able, eventually, to demand political representation that would have been nonsensical in prior eras.

Same sex marriage would have been a concept that made no sense hundreds of years ago. Even in times and places where gay sex was acceptable even if it was generally done behind closed doors, the concept of marriage had a meaning surrounded by family and property, and not so much with love, tax breaks, sharing of medical benefits, or simple interpersonal bonding as it does not for many people.

But as these concepts began to be associated with marriage, the institution itself began to change. This was not an intentional effort to change what marriage is, it is just part of the process of history and culture. Thus, when men who wanted to cohabit, adopt children, or just declare to the world their love for one another were able to say so in the open without excessive fear of social reprisal, of course they want to the same legal rights as straight people. It just followed by simply application of human rights to what the concept of marriage had become.

That is, it was not the homosexuals and lesbians that redefined marriage, it was the changing culture that had already done so through changes in women’s rights, economic shifts, and changes to sexual culture in general, and gays simply saw that it naturally applied to them because they were doing exactly what many straight couples were doing.

The fact that certain elements of society had not realized that this change had occurred, realized and disagreed with the changing tides of said change, or simply don’t want people not like them to have the same rights for simple bigotry is an unfortunate aspect of this slow social change.

There will inevitably be some people who are operating under a different set of assumptions, value different and sometimes older concepts, or for whom the older ideas are so important that to see them challenges is a personal, cultural, and possibly theological affront.

But the cultural change is not an attack against them. Rather, the reactionary elements of culture are an attack of a change already in process. And while the change that happens will actually destroy their values in many ways, it is not done in order to achieve this end.

It is somewhat like what happens when a man who has spent a lifetime collecting and adoring vinyl records finds that music is no longer produced in this form. It affects him personally and his offense is understood and we feel for his loss, but the world has moved on. He will still be able to find others who share this love, old stores that still have some left-over copies of a favorite album, but the time has passed. He can try to prevent it, but it is likely in vain.

And certainly there will be true losses, true beautiful tragedies in the loss of certain constraints, values, and of lost traditions, but this is part of the human condition. I lament these looses, but at the same time I celebrate the process of culture, as I hope it will lead to greater personal freedoms and move away from bigotry and fear that are often the result of clinging to traditions, even if said traditions contain their own beauty as well.

Within the lives of people who hold more traditional views are great points of beauty, love, and genuine humanity in its greatest forms. But sometimes to hold onto such ideas, despite their beauty, is to cause unseen and unintended harm that made necessary the change that threatens them.

Traditional concepts of marriage was not originally intended to discriminate against people, but it does. Traditional values of meaning, morality, and society was not, I don’t think, originally intended to create social and cultural difficulties for atheists, but they do. These institutions, with all of their beauty, were not intended to have the consequences they have, but they have those consequences.

By being socially conservative about many things, one is trying to hold onto to beautiful and meaningful things. These are things that define large segments of society in ways that may not be replaced easily, if at all. But as we pull back and look at the affects of traditional policies, definitions, and values, we find that they have consequences that many, and I would hope most, of social conservatives would not want to impose upon people if they understood the affects.

I will continue to hope that the intention behind people is to preserve what is important to them, and not to destroy what is important to others.

I say that because as a social liberal, I do not intend to destroy the values of conservatives, I must admit that this is an unintentional result of the struggle for fairness, liberty, and positive social change. We do not wish to destroy traditional values except where those values threaten greater liberty for all.

I do not challenge tradition blindly. I challenge it because tradition sometimes challenges my freedoms, as well as the freedoms of many others. I encourage people to keep all challenges in check, just in case we overstep our bounds. But I do believe that many traditions will have to be destroyed to make room for improved traditions that cannot live alongside the ones being protected by conservatives.

Gay Marriage and New Traditions April 24, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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I’m not bisexual. I’m not homosexual. How do I know this?

I’ve tried.

And so when I find some insecure guy who will call me “faggot” or anything similar because I am comfortable with my sexuality, I simply respond that I know I’m not gay because I have tried to be with men and found it less than stimulating. How does he know he’s not gay if he simply calls people names? Sound like, perhaps, he doth protest too much…

But I digress…

There is a stigma in many sectors of our western society against homosexuality. The recent debacle over the Miss America pageant, where miss California was asked about gay marriage and answered honestly that she thinks that marriage is between a man and a woman, is an indicator of how real this issue still is for many people. And while I applaud her willingness to be honest, I think her opinion is disgusting.

One of the arguments that is used against gay marriage is that if we start allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, then we will have to allow other “redefinitions” of marriage to become legal as well. If we allow gay marriage, some say, we will have to allow three people to get married!

Oh noes!

I find this slippery slope argument to be a little offensive, and not only because it isn’t true. I understand why many in the gay community want to back away from defending polyamorous marriage, but I think that this is short-sighted. In the long run the issue of polyamorous marriage will come to the front as well, and once gay marriage becomes more accepted, then the new “traditional” definition of marriage will be thrown down; “marriage is a contract between two people, if you allow three people to marry then we will have to allow people to marry imaginary friends or your dog!” people may say. How fickle tradition is.

I’ll only point out, in light of that, that nuns, all of them, are supposedly married to Jesus. If that’s not a polyamorous marriage with an imaginary friend, I don’t know what is.

The fact that something is traditional and therefore good, is not a good argument to keep it unchanged in itself. Marriage is a cultural institution and has already changed and will inevitably do so again. Culture, like language, evolves and changes.

It is no longer a property arrangement as it used to be, nor is it illegal for people of different races to get married anymore as it used to be. At every step of cultural process towards greater individual and social freedoms, the cultural conservatives, represented here and now by the waning Religious Right predominantly, will fight to keep the most recent definition of “tradition” alive. The irony about this is that their traditions would be considered liberal by their great-grandparents. Their inability to recognize this is part of the problem.

The Bible and the Koran (among other scripture) are full of old rules, laws, and prohibitions. And whether there are contradictions of any of these rules is not relevant here, because all I have to bring up the fact that the Bible says that you should not eat certain fish (cf Lev. 11:9-12, Deut. 14:9-10) or wear mixed fibers (Deut. 22:11). And for those of you who would argue that Jesus made the Old Testament obsolete, I give you Matthew 5:18

Matt 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

So why do some people focus on the comments about homosexuality (the ones that do not appear in the New Testament at all either) and then say that the ones that talk about homosexuality still matter but the ones that talk about shrimp do not? Hypocrisy?

There are a number of possible explanations, but I think that insecurity and fear are prime candidates. In our culture, being gay is something that most people have to come to acceptance of over years, especially if they are raised in an environment of conservative “traditional” values. If you happen to be bisexual, at least you are able to express part of your sexuality, but those feelings of attraction for others of the same sex will still exist but will be repressed.

And repression, is, of course, healthy.

spoing

Sorry, that was my sarcasm meter exploding.

I think that the opinions against gay marriage are the result of many factors, but I think that the fear and insecurity of people’s own sexual preferences plays a part. The presence of homosexuality within the evangelical Christian community, especially among those that proclaim (loudly) of its ‘sinfulness,’ is obvious. Except that Ted Haggard is how completely heterosexual. He doth protest too much….

These conservative voices are an oppressive and repressive force on us. Their martyr syndrome, the feeling of being persecuted while having sway over a large segment of society (mostly because the more moderate voices can’t challenge them without exposing their own weaknesses of trying to shelter their own faith), is illusory. The irony of their being the oppressive force in society while screaming oppression is truly a beautiful farce of epic proportions.

Oh, the irony, it hurts!

Oh, the irony, it hurts!

But I am really heterosexual. I would not mind being bisexual (I’m sure my girlfriends would not mind, either). In fact, I might even prefer it. But alas I am probably a ‘1’ (at most) on the Kinsey scale, which is just fine with me. But being heterosexual I fully and apologetically support gay marriage.

In fact, I support the right for anyone to get married to anyone, so long as each party is competent and willing to make that decision. I don’t see how the government should be able to have a say in this at all, whatsoever, in stating that marriage is defined according to any particular religious or non-religious view. Government should, like with all matters of conscience and religion, remain neutral.

And if certain churches don’t want to perform the ceremony, then they should not be forced to; they will be allowed their bigotry so long as they don’t try to enforce it on other groups. I’m sure that there will be other churches, temples, synagogues, fields, houses, and other places with open-minded people that will be happy to watch Adam and Steve, Adam, Eve, Steve, and Lilith, etc to join together in love (or whatever people get married for).

Seriously, how do some OTHER people getting married make your marriage less meaningful? That makes no sense.

Social conservatives, get over yourselves and stop being assholes.