Maybe it’s more important than you think
So, in what I very much doubt will be a surprise to any reader, I’m a bit queer. My primary relationship is with three people.
Recently, my psychotherapist, whom I presume to be straight and monogamous, told me that they thought that my sexuality appears to be a very fundamental part of my personality and conception of self. And yes, I suppose it is, but I very much doubt that this is as unusual as they implied.
The straight monogamous assumption exists for a reason, I know that. The majority of people are straight and monogamous. Fine. Go for it. Have your straight monogamous fun. My parents are straight and monogamous, and it’s from their example that I learned so many of the relationship skills that I now use daily with my partners to build and maintain our lifelong commitment.
If you’re straight and monogamous, then trying to NOT be straight and monogamous probably isn’t going to work that well for you.
I’m not either of those things though, and thus neither of them worked particularly well for me. As it happens, I have a whole worldwide community of people I can look at, most of whom are in straight monogamous relationships, that show me that even though the straight monogamous model doesn’t work for me, it evidently does work for other people. So, not my relationship, not my problem. I can just sit on the sidelines and watch your wonderful love, and be happy seeing how happy y’all are with your straight monogamous partners.
I just wish you’d extend the same courtesy my way.
Because straight monogamous people get to talk about and celebrate their relationships all the time. There’s the initial teenaged explorations, often euphemistically referred to as ‘spreading wild oats’ or ‘growing up to be a lovely young lady’. There’s the high of a new relationship, telling friends, family and colleagues about this fantastic new person you’ve met. Sharing photos and stories. Receiving congratulations and being wished well for the future. The first meeting with each other’s parents, and the various embarrassing comments from people who are glad you ‘finally got laid’, or are thinking of ‘settling down’. Moving in together. Making them your emergency contact at work or in your medical records. Getting married. Having children. The process of growing together so that it no longer seems like you have very many friends who belong to either one of you alone, but all are shared.
For straight monogamous people, these life events are almost always shared and universally celebrated.
How about me?
Last week I got a haircut, and the hairdresser asked me if I was up to anything interesting that weekend. I answered, honestly, that I had a date the next day, where my new lover was coming over for dinner to meet my husband and one of my boyfriends. The woman who was cutting my hair checked that I had actually said what she thought I’d said, and then did a kind of ‘some people juggle geese’ shrug. The man at the front desk though, who had prior to this come over to chat politics quite a bit, blatantly checked out the third finger of my left hand, made a face like I was the dogshit on the sole of his shoe, and then conspicuously ignored me until I left.
This is not unusual. I am used to these reactions. I didn’t make a fuss because I just wanted to get my damn hair cut, and at least the person who actually had their hands on my head didn’t appear to think I was the Antichrist. At any given time, I can probably tell you an anecdote like that about something that has happened in the last month.
It takes it’s toll. And it can make you a bit defensive.
So yeah, my identity and sense of self do feature quite prominently the fact that I am not straight and that I am not monogamous. I don’t, for example, spend an awful lot of time thinking about the fact that I’m white, because I’m white in a predominantly white country in a predominantly white city where most of my friends are white. My whiteness is not routinely challenged. It’s not something I often have to think about. It just is.
(In fact, my colour-blindness is something that I was made aware of (although I now can’t recall how) about a year ago, and I’ve since made a conscious effort to follow more non-white people on twitter to help mitigate my lack of IRL contact with people outside my own ethnic group. Also hopefully learn some shit, and be less of an asshole white feminist. Can you believe that once upon a time I didn’t even know that it was black women who invented intersectionality? I have been proper schooled over the last year on this one.)
We tend not to notice the things about us that are least challenged. I know I’m white, but it’s never been made into any kind of a deal to me, so it’s never been made to be important. I’m into maths. That’s just a thing about me. It’s not the first thing I’d think of if I had to describe myself to a stranger, but I’d definitely miss it if it were gone.
And I get the feeling that if you take anyone and attack the most important relationships in their lives, submitting them to the routine scrutiny, disbelief and dismissal that I experience around mine, then they might suddenly discover that their relationships and sexuality are actually a whole lot more important and fundamental to their personality and sense of self than they previously realised.