Help! I fell in love with someone whose partner isn't cut out for polyamory!

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I fell in love with someone whose partner doesn't seem cut out for polyamory. The partner has been very much up for an open relationship, but now that he's encountered his own jealousy he forbids his partner (my lover) to let feelings enter the equation. He also doesn't talk about his problems with his partner or anyone else. We're in love but this guy is his life partner and neither of us wants to upset him. How can I get along with my metamour?

Oh friend, dear one, I’m not going to have good news for you. Brace yourself? Trigger warning? Whatever modern social construct of “beware” you choose to subscribe to. Here are some solid poly “rules of thumb” specific to your situation:

When in a “V” formation, the pre-existing couple needs to be prioritized. Right now, your lover is at the bottom of the “V”; you and his life partner are the two “tips”, and, in short, the relationship between him and his life partner needs to be 100% solid before he enters into another physical and/or emotional relationship with a third party. There’s the “he was there first” camp,  but in my opinion, your relationship with your lover doesn’t stand a chance at success or sustainability until he can get on grounded footing with his pre existing partner.

When in ANY poly configuration with more than two folks, it’s a good idea to move as slowly as the person who is having the most difficulty adjusting...within reason. Otherwise, said person runs the risk of feeling rushed, backed into a corner, and/or like their feelings are no longer a priority. That being said, it’s a good idea to initiate a “family meeting” early on to determine exactly how long this purgatory-adjustment period is going to last. You don’t want to put the ball entirely into one person’s court, and then find yourselves still stuck in the same predicament ten months down the road. Schedule check-ins either every two weeks or once a month, and try to reach a mutually-consenting agreement to allow for a bit of relationship progress/evolution after each check-in - while still letting the struggling person largely lead the discussion. It can be a slow process, but the payoff is in the unparalleled trust and connectivity that will be built throughout; again, lending to the success and sustainability of your relationship with your lover.

Whether or not you and your lover end up together, he needs to learn from this. It’s never a good idea to enter into non-monogamy when one half of the OG monogamous equation is hesitant, reluctant, in a period of destabilization, etc. Now, it is possible that your lover’s boyfriend THOUGHT he could handle non-monogamy, and “sold” his viewpoints to your lover as such before doing a complete 180 after experiencing jealousy for the first time. Possible, but not likely. A more likely scenario is that your lover was privy to “warning signs” from his partner that he chose to ignore because you were so shiny and new and attractive to him, and he just decided to “hope for the best”. Alos, poly isn’t just something that you hold your breath and plunge into. When done ethically and intentionally, it involves a massive amount of conversation, negotiation, education (books, lectures, podcasts), and exposure to non-monog communities (hanging out with non-monog friends, finding discussion groups, going to non-sexual meet-ups), all BEFORE taking on additional partners. It’s a lot of labor! If your lover and his partner didn’t initiate and follow through with that labor prior to your introduction, then it’s no wonder the partner is backpedaling!

“Feelings” rules never fucking work and I hate them and they should die. Sorry, I’m beginning to unravel a bit in the wee hours of the morning - bear with me! I’m fully aware that some people are going to disagree with me on this, and that’s perfectly fine. This column is a literal platform for my opinion, after all. With that, it’s my opinion that while physical intimacy can be finite, emotional intimacy can not. Emotions are unpredictable, and are almost impossible to stymie when you’re constantly connecting physically. That’s just the way in which most hearts and minds work. To allow your partner a physical connection with someone while forbidding them from developing an emotional connection is to literally set everyone involved up for failure. It’s an unreasonable expectation, plain and simple, and your lover should have never agreed to it in the first place, PARTICULARLY in the earliest stages of “trying on” non-monogamy.

So, reader, in conclusion: Show this column to your lover, then take a step back and allow your lover the space and time to reassure and re-prioritize his partner (this includes digital space and time in addition to the physical). If I were them, I’d rewind back to before you came into the picture. I’d find a non-monogamy-savvy therapist and schedule 3-6 sessions to help them reconnect and to facilitate honest and open communication between them. I’d also initiate the “education” and “exposure” components of familiarizing themselves with polyamory community and practices. After a few months of this, if things are genuinely going well, your lover can reopen the lines of communication between you two, and you can start building a happier, healthier relationship. Best of luck!

Is it possible for me to establish a relationship with a sex worker that's part customer, part friend/lover?

I do my best to be a SWer ally. I know and love several SWer friends, regularly holding space. I often volunteer at ________. I'm also very lonely and very horny. I love women. I'm lucky if I make love twice a year, and I only lost my virginity at ___ a couple years ago. I've never been good at talking to people but I've gotten much better in the last few years.

Hiring a SWer for me seems like the only way out...but I feel like I'm betraying the trust of those SWer friends at ____which I do not want to do. They all talk about how much they detest most of their customers. What is wrong with me? Can I be an ally and a customer? Can I be more? Is there some point between customer and friend/lover?*

*Some information above has been redacted in order to protect the identity of the author.

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I hate to tell you, reader, but if you’re inserting yourself in a community predominantly for selfish intentions - such as hoping to land a partner within that community - then you cannot rightfully call yourself an ally.

This is a situation that sex workers offering direct-client services face all too often: Bad boundaries and unrealistic expectations. A lonely client may be initially attracted to a provider’s advertisement based on looks and/or offered services, but although the relationship begins with both parties consenting to the transactional nature of it, it soon becomes clear that the client is looking for something “more”. This is often exhibited by increased communication breaking the sex worker’s previously-stated protocols (blowing up the worker via texts, emails, social media friend requests, phone calls, etc), and can unfortunately escalate severely. I know sex workers who have been stalked, outed/doxxed, threatened, etc. by clients after turning down their romantic advances.

Why do men do this? Ego fragility, for one thing. But also because they know, deep down, that society doesn’t hold sex workers in the same regard as it does non-sex workers. That we’re frequently seen as shameful and disposable. They know that they’re unlikely to face any threat of law enforcement, and that empowers them.

This is all to say: Do us a favor, and if you hire us, please ensure that you have a firm grasp on reality and already see your sex worker as a business professional, not as a date. We sell fantasies, and we’re damn good at it. But never allow yourself to forget that fantasies can be - and often are - substantially different from reality. Do you think your sex worker is REALLY flirting with you? Was it that wink she gave, that seemingly-authentic moan that escaped her lips, or how nice it was of her to offer to help you pick out sex toys? Mark my words: That’s. Her. Job.

To address your second concern - that if you hire a sex worker, your sex worker friends and comrades at the organization you volunteer at won’t like or respect you anymore, and/or you have a fear that because of all of the dirt your friends dish about THEIR clients, that means YOUR sex worker will be “faking" her behavior towards you - well, it’s a little more complicated.

I’m going to say something potentially controversial here: I don’t have much respect for sex workers who shit all over their clients (figuratively, that is!), UNLESS they’re “survival” sex workers.

What makes a survival sex worker? That’s typically a person who feels pressured into the work they do to some extent, usually because they don’t feel like they have any other options. Survival sex workers are disproportionately PoC and transgender because our society still stigmatizes them and puts challenges and barriers in front of them to ensure that they don’t obtain “lawful employment”. They’re usually street workers, folks who can’t afford beautiful online advertisements or luxurious incall spacious. If these workers need to talk smack on their clients as catharsis - something to ensure they can make it through each day - I’m all for it.

However, I get hella pissy when I hear non-survival sex workers shitting on a client who hasn’t actually done anything wrong to them (i.e. stiffing them money, no-showing, pushing boundaries, assaulting them, etc).

To steal Donald Glover’s character’s words in Magic Mike XXL (oh yeah, I went there): “...These girls have to deal with men in their lives everyday who...they don’t listen to them, they don’t ask them what they want. They don’t even ask them what they want. All we have to do is ask them what they want. And when they tell you, it’s a beautiful thing, man. It’s like...we’re like healers or something.”

Dishing about clients with other sex workers can feel cathartic to any of us, especially if we don’t have non-SWer friends/family/partners that we can disclose work information and experiences to. However, there’s a difference between “dishing” and ripping them apart. I’ve heard sex workers complain about how “fat” or “ugly” their clients were, how “disgusting” their fetishes are, how “pathetic” they come off as. I’ve watched sex workers imitate their clients in buffoonish ways, or disclose - gleefully - how they manipulated a lovely client out of more money than they could afford. I do consider myself a healer, I love my work, and I feel protective of my clients. I can’t empathize with workers who don’t. But sadly, not everyone is like me, and it’s impossible to know “who” your hired fantasy really is in their off-the-clock hours. But trust me - I know WAY more SWers who feel as I do about the work, and way LESS who feel negatively. Hire us. Please hire us! We’re generally really fucking awesome, and no matter what society tells you, there’s no shame in hiring a sex worker. If you want to email me privately with details of what you’re looking for, I may even be able to play matchmaker!

So. Can you be an ally and a customer? Abso-fucking-lutely. Those are the best kind of clients! Many of my clients routinely read my writing, follow my educational endeavors, and champion my activism, and I love them for it.

Can you be “more”? i.e. Something “in between” a customer and lover? Absolutely not. And I recommend that until you’ve fully accepted that fact, you not only abstain from hiring a sex worker, but abstain from volunteering at that organization. Trust me - sex workers can sniff out ulterior motives a mile away, and it might be the only act you can take to preserve some of the friendships you’ve made there.

How does one go traveling with multiple partners while keeping the trip enjoyable for everyone?

Hey there! I have a primary and a secondary partner who I love very dearly. I see them actively multiple times a week, and I live with my primary full time. My birthday is coming up soon, and I would love to plan a weekend trip that involves all of us going somewhere. We have regular family dinners and coffee dates, so we're used to hanging out together in the same space. So my question is: How does one go traveling with multiple partners while keeping the trip enjoyable for everyone?

Thanks,

Many Loves in Minneapolis

1. Discuss your individual travel styles ASAP. In my personal life I’m rarely alone, so part of what I typically enjoy about traveling are the opportunities for solace and isolation. I also have a much lower tolerance for organizational errors - like a hotel accidentally giving me the wrong room - than I do for food-related errors, like a server accidentally delivering undercooked meat. I need at least seven hours of sleep a night to function, and I don’t do well around large, condensed groups of people, like you’d find at a festival or concert. It’s really important for my partners to have all this information about me, and I encourage them to tell me everything and anything they can think of around how they like to travel.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate. You want to simultaneously make sure that everyone’s wants and needs are being addressed while also tasking each individual with responsibilities based on their strengths. Trust me; as a Type A personality, I often try to take care of ALL of the logistics of an impending trip myself. As a woman, I also can fall into the role of “emotional baggage handler” all too easily, and to my detriment. To avoid any one individual feeling stretched thin, burned out, or underappreciated, task task task! Is one person fluent in the language of the foreign country you’re visiting? Make them the translator. Does one individual have a better sense of orientation? Make them in charge of maps and directions. Is one person in the group a definitively better driver? Put them in charge of booking and piloting any rental vehicles. That way everyone feels important, as well as confident in their ability to carry out their task(s).

3. Make extensive emergency contingency plans specific to the location(s) you’re visiting. First, make a comprehensive list of everyone’s allergies, illnesses, medications, chronic pain needs, etc. Then map where the closest hospitals, police stations, pharmacies, veterinary clinics, and/or embassies are to wherever you will all be staying. Finally, talk out plans for specific hypothetical occurrences. What do you all do if someone gets food poisoning? If the dog runs away? If someone loses their passport? The more prepared you all feel as a unified group for potential crisis, the more confident and relaxed you’ll be.

4. Let the budget of the lowest-income partner be your guide. More likely than not, the folks in your polycule have differing incomes, and budgeting a trip with people from different socioeconomic classes can be a challenge. One partner may be feeling financially secure and is suggesting you stay in a five star hotel, while another may have just lost their job and is feeling like they can’t contribute; you want to make your experiences feel as accessible and non-judgmental as possible. Finally, create a daily budget for the group.  The daily budget should cover food, lodgings, travel, and group excursions; it should NOT cover optional expenses such as any souvenirs one or more people want to purchase. Even if you go a little over the daily budget sometimes, having a set spending amount as a goal will significantly increase the chances that you don’t spend more than you were planning to.

5. Negotiate sleeping arrangements BEFORE booking your lodgings. Who is sharing whose bed? Is anyone an insomniac? How will you re-negotiate shared space if two or more folks want to be intimate with each other? Also, make sure to agree on protocol should one person in the unit have an intense day and desire company when none is scheduled. For example, if Beth was supposed to sleep with Charles tonight, but Travis just received word that his grandmother died and could use some bed company, is that a “legitimate” reason for the sleeping order to be rearranged?

6. If possible, “test drive” your travel ahead of time. Are you gearing up for a big cross-country roadtrip with your whole polycule next month? If you all aren’t already accustomed to traveling with one another, plan a short weekend getaway for all of you PRIOR to the bigger trip. That way you can work out the kinks in a low pressure environment where the end is easily in sight. Christmas with the family? Not an ideal first trip away. Neither is a destination wedding where you’re all invited or an extensive international backpacking adventure. Try two or three nights at a bed and breakfast, rent an AirBnB by the beach, or jump on a flight to Vegas and try your hands at the slots together!

7. Try and pack comparably. As a unit, you want to try and proactively eliminate any opportunity for resentment to flourish. For example, if three folks in your flight party have restricted themselves to carry-on luggage only, and you all are forced to spend an extra hour at the airport after you’ve landed to accommodate the retrieval of your fourth person’s checked baggage, there may be some hostility around perceived “wasted time”.

8. Get on the same page about how you'll be introducing yourselves to new people. Depending on where you're traveling to, some destinations are more accepting of non-monogamous configurations than others. If you unanimously decide on a "cover story", make sure you each have it down pat!

9. If you haven’t already, cultivate the ability to compromise. Traveling with one other person means that you’ll each be making a few sacrifices to ensure the other’s happiness, so adding MORE folks to the equation means even more sacrifice. Go into the trip in question knowing that you’ll be trying new things - some of which you hadn’t planned on trying - and accept the fact that you will sometimes be uncomfortable for the benefit of others. Staunch stances, rigid routines, and superficial preferences disguised as “needs” can all become problematic.  

10. Take care of your bodies while you travel. This tip isn’t necessarily poly-specific, but it’s still important. Often when we’re going on vacation, we give ourselves permission to “go crazy!”, and that can extend to how we treat our bodies, and THAT can extend to how we treat those around us. For example, if I generally eat healthily, drink a lot of water, and exercise 3-4 times per week, and then I leave for a two-week trip where I’m eating copious amounts of junk food, going to bed drunk every night, and barely moving my body, I’m probably going to feel like shit after a while. And if I feel like shit, I’ll be less inclined to enjoy myself, be interested in my surroundings, or be pleasant company for my partners. My recommendation? Allow yourself some small “cheats”, but don’t pull a complete 180 on your routine.

11. Make sure every person in your travel unit schedules themselves regular alone time. No matter how much you care for one another, or how copacetic you are as travel companions, you WILL need time away from one another. Think about how you most like to spend time alone - listening to podcasts, exercising, reading, exploring a new place solo, etc - and know that you don’t need anyone’s permission but your own to take a mental health break.

12. Make a list of “controversial” topics that are off limits for the duration of the trip. Identify recurring arguments in your polycule and commit to setting them to the side temporarily. For instance, if Mike is a heavy snorer, and his snoring is famously obnoxious and disruptive in your polycule, AND you know that being privy to Mike’s snoring during your trip is unavoidable, you may want to set a boundary where discussion of said snoring is off limits for the duration of the trip. Set yourselves up for success.

13. Take ALL THE PICTURES. Seriously. I say this as someone who hates taking photos, and therefore has made many amazing memories that sadly have gone undocumented. I’m sure I’ll regret saying this, but selfie sticks are kind of amazing. Whether one person in the group wants to take charge of the photography, or whether you switch back and forth depending on the day or excursion, photos are the simplest way to secure heartfelt, financially-accessible souvenirs from your trip. That being said, moderation is key, so you’ll also want to....

14...Have a code/safe word within the group that means “disconnect from your device, STAT!”. We’ve all traveled with the person who is WAY more wrapped up in how their trip LOOKS - to their Facebook friends, Instagram followers, etc - than how it FEELS. It can be frustrating to find yourself wanting to engage and/or connect with your travel partners only to have to physically tear their phone out of their hands to do so. Now, the next time your girlfriend pulls her tablet out at the Argentinian restaurant you’ve all been dying to try, all you have to say is, “Sheep testicle!”, and away goes the device!

15. Don’t forget that you love one another. Go out on dates while traveling, reestablish connection with nonverbal affection like hand-holding, shoulder-rubbing, and cuddling, and for the love of everything holy, don’t forget to FUCK!

How responsible am I for my ex's healing process when we're cohabitating?

My bi male/gay male/bi fem (I'm the fem) triad of two years (the works: cohabitation/king bed/meeting ALL the parents) just ended amicably. I'm still living with my ex who is a gay male. We're not continuing intimacy together but we support each other a lot. He is way more upset about the breakup than I and I'm having trouble with how swiftly I want to move on. How do I take steps to start dating again when he's still miserable? There's never been a road map for our relationship, but right now I'm feeling so lost...

First of all, reader, my condolences for the end of your triad, and congratulations on navigating the transition with some semblance of grace, compassion, and mutual respect. Transitioning out of a relationship with a single individual is hard enough, but transitioning out of a multi-person poly configuration is, well, akin to splitting up a family. My heart goes out to you and yours’.

I feel like I need more information about how your triad worked - the dynamics within it - before I give you my best ruling. Were you all single when you decided to date, or did one individual join a preexisting couple? How much experience with open relationships did you all have before getting together? Who initiated the break-up, and what were the circumstances? etc.

That being said, the three pieces of advice that I feel confident giving are as follows:

1. *This first point is based on an assumption I made with the information at hand. Move past it if it doesn't apply.* Keep in mind that connections between folks who were assigned the same gender at birth are often more emotionally intense than folks who were assigned different genders at birth, which in turn can make the ending of those relationships more challenging. There are multiple camps of thought on why this is the case, but in my opinion it’s because we have so many shared experiences built in from the get-go. When you date someone who already has a context for so much of your life...it forges a bond that can feel more complex and powerful in a way that is difficult to articulate. I’m not quite sure how much of your gay male ex’s sorrow is over the loss of the bi male partner versus how much of it is over the loss of the triad as a whole - and it doesn’t sound like conjuring up empathy for your ex is the problem - but this may put his grief in perspective. Also, perhaps past experience is partly to blame. If you and/or your bi male ex have more experience with non-monogamy than your gay male ex, it would make sense as to why he's taking the separation harder than you.

2. Consider ending cohabitation with the gay male ex, even if it’s just temporary. If I were you - and if it’s financially accessible to you - I’d sublet my room out for a few months and live elsewhere to give both you and your ex some breathing room and time to heal. It certainly doesn’t mean that you have to stop seeing one another or supporting one another once you’re no longer sharing a space, but it will release you from much of your sense of obligation for his healing process, and will work to ensure that you’re able to remain in each other’s lives in a healthy and meaningful way in the future.

3. “There is nothing wrong with me for moving on.” Have that sentence looping in your mind on the regular. Your lingering guilt about moving on while your ex continues to grieve is a direct result of your socialization as a fem. I give a lot of lip service to feminine emotional labor, but only because we as fems need to - and deserve to - be reminded, frequently. Folks of feminine experience are trained both subtly and overtly to elevate, nurture, care for, and serve the whims of masculine folks so that they may never be uncomfortable and never feel unappreciated whilst reaching their full potential. Meanwhile, all of our needs get de-prioritized. These socialization strategies are being triggered by your witnessing of your ex’s pain. You may care about your ex deeply, but you are no longer responsible for him or his emotions - truthfully, you never were! - and right now the guilt you are experiencing is stifling your own healing process. Your ex needs to seek out other sources of support that aren’t you if he hasn’t already; friends, family, other past exes, etc. He needs to distract himself, either with work, hobbies, travel, a passion project, Tinder, etc. Perhaps he needs to find a professional, sex positive, poly-savvy therapist. It doesn’t sound like he is consciously trying to manipulate you or place a monopoly on your time or attention, but that’s what he’s doing, and you need to free yourself before you get stuck.

As a woman in a polyamorous marriage, how do I flirt with women while wearing my wedding ring?

"I have recently gotten to know myself well enough to accept that I am a bi woman. At the same time, my husband and I decided to try polyamory. What recommendations do you have for flirting with women (something I've never intentionally done before) while wearing a wedding ring?"

I've been taking my ho prowess all around the country this month! First to the annual Naughty in Nawlins swingers' convention in NOLA, and now to Portland, OR, where I'm shooting content for Yanks.com, stripping it all off at Devil's Point, and teaching people how to do the sex at She Bop. In fact, this week's question comes from one of my awesome She Bop workshop attendees!*

*Note: I specifically requested that said attendee submit this query to my column. I didn't feel qualified to answer it on the spot, as I've never been married, so I opened the question up to my beloved community of polyamory experts. I've combined the best of the [paraphrased] responses with my own observations and opinions. A major "thank you" to everyone who contributed their labor!

In my flirtation classes and coaching, I often speak to something I call "leading with awkward". This is the practice of identifying what we are feeling insecure, shy, self-conscious, or uncomfortable with pertaining to ourselves, then naming it out loud in order to ensure that we retain power over it.

Here's a non-sexual example: Imagine that you're running late for a party being thrown in your honor because you've been desperately trying to cover that enormous, erupting pimple on your forehead (hey, adult acne is a bitch!). Your imagination is already churning with folks' horrified reactions to it. If you arrive at the party and spend the entire time wringing your hands and avoiding eye contact, terrified that someone is going to point out your blemish, you're disempowering yourself (and robbing yourself of a perfectly good party!). Instead, if you stride confidently into the party and immediately snag the arm of a friend, rolling your eyes while gesturing to your forehead and loudly lamenting, "Can you believe the timing of this monstrosity? The nerve!", you've immediately put the ball in your court.

In your specific situation, your wedding ring - as well as your new sexual orientation as a bisexual woman - are your "pimples", although that doesn't mean you need roll both of them out at the same time. I would recommend using the wedding ring first as a lead-in to talk about polyamory. Make eye contact with a hot woman, make a gentle but pointed approach, and - assuming you're in a bar-type setting - offer to buy her a drink.

I'm recommending being more bold as a way to set yourself up for success. I happen to know - from meeting you - that you identify on the more feminine side of the spectrum. There is a nationwide epidemic of feminine women having difficulty hitting on other feminine women, largely because of how AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) people are socialized. We're told to accept advances, not initiate them. We're taught that we're the vessels, the passive ones; that we get partners by being demure, not forward. As such, I've attended sex parties that were exclusive to femmes, and I've watched a dozen or so gorgeous women sit around in a painfully-quiet circle fidgeting with their hair and asking each other where they got their shoes from. It's fucking maddening.

The point of me saying this is that oftentimes hitting on femmes AS a femme is incredibly confusing and challenging, and not just for the noobs, so be kind to yourself. By crossing the room to make that initial approach yourself, you're already making an impression and setting yourself apart. Here are two possible ways of elongating the interaction:

After introductions, tell an anecdote or make an observation about the venue that makes her laugh and/or relate to you. Admit that that's your cliche and inexperienced way of flirting with women, and explain that you're new to the scene because you and your husband recently opened up your relationship. Wait for her to react or respond, then lightheartedly offer her the opportunity to decline if that sounds like more than what she was bargaining for. Follow up with, "But if you ARE interested in some company while you drink, I'd be interested in getting to know you more."

After introductions, tell an anecdote or make an observation about the venue that makes her laugh and/or relate to you. Then throw something out there like, "Boy, it feels weird to be flirting with a wedding ring on!", or "I bet this gay bar doesn't see a whole lot of women with wedding rings in it!", or something less flippant and more vulnerable, like, "Oof, can I admit something to you? This is my first time out cruising with my wedding ring on, and it's totally tripping me out!" Then segue into discussing non-monogamy. 

If she's interested, let her take the lead in the conversation, and make sure you clarify any boundaries or intentions that would be pertinent for her to know, i.e. if you're looking for casual sex only, if you're looking for a committed female partnership, etc.
 

Other recommendations...

"I'd start with a reminder that queers can get married too, and even when it wasn't legal we've been having ceremonies and wearing rings. So on the surface a ring doesn't say anything about the gender of your partner. On top of that, it's true that queers are less familiar with wedding rings, but that also means very few people scan your hand for a wedding ring or make assumptions about what it means if they see one. I wore a wedding ring for about a decade and only ever had someone notice and mention it maybe 3 or 4 times -- and never when I'm flirting with someone."

"Definitely find a group of like-minded people, whether that’s an explicitly queer space or an explicitly non-monogamous one. If you can’t find any, consider starting your own! It's easier if you get to make some friends. I would rarely try flirting with a woman if I didn't know she was either gay or bi and somewhere on the non-monogamy spectrum. Meetups, munches, these are all good gatherings for building relationships. But take your time. I flirt a lot. All the time! And I'm not convinced the signals quite work the same way with women."

"If she's interested in dating lesbians, I'd tell her she may want to prep for a little burn. Right or wrong, a lot of gay women could have strong negative reactions to being hit on by a bi-woman who is married to a man. One time I was on a first tinder date, and she found out that I had been married to a man before, and she reacted pretty strongly... she went on a tirade about how so many bi-women expect you to pick up all the tabs and do all the work in bed (My tinder profile didn't explicitly say bi at the time so she was surprised). I was patient with her concerns, so it turned out fine. It's good to have perspective on what people might have been through or why they might be suspicious of married bi women."

Facebook Owes "Real Names" Crusader Dottie Lux a Whole Lotta Dough

In September 2014, hundreds of LGBTQ people, Native Americans, survivors of domestic and sexual violence, political dissidents, and other sexual, ethnic, or cultural minorities found their Facebook profiles unceremoniously reported as “fake” and subsequently removed from the site or blocked, while others had their profiles changed to their legal names without their consent. Users soon learned that this was the result of a new “real names” policy, and it didn’t take long for marginalized communities to come together and advocate for the reformation of this dangerous and discriminatory policy via the #MyNameIs campaign.

This spawned meetings with local officials and protests at Facebook's San Francisco Headquarters, most notably at San Francisco Pride in 2015, and The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club even awarded the #MyNameIs campaign with the Hank Wilson Activist Award at their 39th Annual Dinner and Gayla in July 2015. The groups' work garnered an apology from the company’s Chief Product Office Chris Cox; unfortunately, his promise to "do better" turned out to be empty, as Facebook has resisted significant changes to either its policy or enforcement procedures. Today, despite years of consistent uprising, petitioning, pleading, and resisting, Facebook maintains that that the policy "keeps people safe", and scores of our most vulnerable community members continue to be directly - and detrimentally - affected.

Enter formidable Bay Area femme Dottie Lux.

Dottie is a bonafied force to be reckoned with. She proudly produces San Francisco’s longest running weekly burlesque show, Red Hots Burlesque. She is also a performer and instructor that has been seen in the New York Times, Museum of Sex, SF Chronicle, NBC, KOFY TV, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Bard and Mills College, NYU, and many more publications, festivals and venues. Dottie is known for the absurdity she brings to burlesque and her ability to rule a room with a microphone or sway of her hips. She is a worker-owner at newly co-op run The Stud, the historical first gay venue in SF, and Facebook's "real names" policy makes her see red and spit fire. A key organizer and influencer in the past #MyNameIs campaign, Dottie has once again picked up the cause, manually assisting overturning hundreds of her comrades suspensions, blocks, and nonconsensual outings, all without recognition or compensation. I recently sat down with Dottie to lavish her with praise and dissect her genius.

So Dottie, have you yourself been struck down by Facebook’s “real name” policy? If so, what was your experience like?

About three years ago there was a first wave of name reporting, and I was victim to that. My name was forced to be changed from “Dottie Lux”, and I chose to add the name “Smith” after “Lux” to “legitimize” it. What’s hilarious to me is that “Lux” is the part of the name that I was flagged for - as it seemed “fake” or out-of-the-ordinary - and yet it’s the only part of my name that I was actually born with.

It’s violating when your name is taken. It doesn’t feel consensual, and it feels as though your identity is stripped from you. It is not a comfortable feeling at all.

In your experience, which populations are made the most vulnerable by this policy, and why?

Any name that sounds outside the ordinary is at risk of being flagged, and Facebook does all of its policing through user reports of content. Instead of staffing employees to proactively observe and investigate potential violations, they let routine Facebook users determine what should and shouldn’t be deemed “acceptable”. What that does is give Internet bullies and trolls yet another tool to utilize as a means of harassment, intimidation, or worse. It gives folks who are looking to dox or harm other people a reasonably effective way to do that; it creates a hierarchy of power on a platform that shouldn’t have one. Those who are most vulnerable to this oppression are transgender youth, indigenous people, and survivors of domestic abuse. There are also the performers, which is the demographic that I have the most access to and influence within.

What about the real name policy motivated you to take further action?

A few years ago, myself and a couple other community leaders were given direct access to Facebook because of certain protests and meetings that we generated and were involved in around combatting the Real Name Policy (RNP). I only decided recently to help people independently; previously, I’d been forwarding those who inquired after how to reactivate their accounts to Lil Miss Hot Mess, an influential drag performer and activist who splits their time between NYC and San Francisco. She’s basically dedicated her entire scholastic career to this topic. But a few weeks ago, I got fed up. I’d been continuing to see users’ names get taken down. Our direct dialogue with Facebook didn’t seem to be having any influence, yet they continued to solicit that core group of us for “feedback”. We were doing the job of consultants - at the very least, we were doing the job of an organized focus group - yet we were never reimbursed for our labor, and the RNP continued to wreak havoc. So I finally decided, enough with the free labor. I’m going to help people, and Facebook is going to pay me to do it.

After all, I’ve paid them hundreds of dollars a month to advertise the shows that I produce and the venue that I run, all while continuing to receive zero compensation for the hard work I was doing on their behalf. So I turned my attention to helping people restore their “real names”, because the only thing that should determine whether a name is “real” is whether or not the person in question consented to being called by it.

To be honest, this kind of power, I’m not even comfortable with it - I don’t even believe we should have it. But both Lil Miss Hot Mess and I were motivated by the desire to help all of those whose stories resonated with our own: those who wouldn’t, or couldn’t, conform.

Have you seen similarly problematic policies on other social media platforms?

To this day, Facebook is the only social media platform I’m aware of that requires your government identification to join. I understand that they had well-intentioned motivation for originally implementing this policy: they actually wanted to avoid bullying and encourage genuine interactions between real people. They figured if people are using their government names, that they’ll be less likely to bully people online; that it would create accountability. What they didn’t realize - and refuse to acknowledge - is that the policy actually enables folks to put others at danger by simply filing a report. The issue is equating one’s government name with legitimacy and authenticity. By default, doing so implies that utilizing a chosen name is illegitimate and inauthentic, and it makes the critical needs of many marginalized populations invisible. Facebook even refers to non-government names as “aliases”, a word that conjures up notions of deception and insidious intent. These minority demographics, who often are already experiencing a lack of access and resources, are then put in the risky, stressful, and time-consuming position of having to defend their identities as they’re called into question; that is, if their identities aren’t eradicated altogether.

To this day, how many people have you successfully assisted in allowing them to be identified by their preferred name on Facebook? Can you estimate how many unpaid hours per week you’ve been donating to this cause?

As of now, I’ve successfully assisted with 206 names, and I’ve never searched anyone out to help them. They’ve all come to me. A little while back I posted a simple Facebook status to my networks that asked, “Is this Real Name Policy working for you? Who is still being affected?” One time, that’s it. And the response was overwhelming.

I’ve sent two invoices for my work to Facebook - which have gone unanswered - and have two more prepared to submit. Each invoice is for less than ten hours, but when you combine that with a work week like mine - where I’m typically working 60+ hours already - it doesn’t allow for much breathing room.

The million-dollar question: How are you doing it?

So Facebook’s theory is that anyone can do this. They claim that you are able to provide several varieties of identification, some of which - like magazine subscriptions - can be acquired under any name of your choosing. Other people have used credit cards, proclamations from the city, etc to submit and “prove” their identity. But the information on how to do so is difficult to find on Facebook’s page, and most people affected by the RNP simply don’t know how, or are too intimidated by the process to try. They feel both violated and “caught”, as though they committed a crime of some kind by not providing their government ID. They can experience unwarranted feelings of guilt and shame. Throughout all of this, I’m continuing to send feedback to Facebook. I submit personal flagged user testimonies, screenshots of the messages that flagged users are sent by the platform, and then some form of aforementioned identification - if the flagged user has it, that is.

Can folks contact you for help in getting their preferred name back on Facebook? If so, how should they reach you?

Yes, I’d hope that people would continue to contact me, and I can be reached at dottielux@gmail.com. It’s helpful if the email address they’re using to contact me contains their preferred name and if the body of the email illustrates that this is the name they are referred to “in real life”. Facebook does not consider names used for business or names used for personal safety to be “real names”; only names that are used in your everyday life. Finally, if you can attach any documentation containing your preferred name to the email, that’s also incredibly useful. The clearer and more concise the information you provide is, the easier the process will be!

To be frank, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be doing this work unpaid. It’s exhausting and tedious. I never wanted to be a Customer Service Representative, but that’s the position I ended up in. Why? Because Facebook has no Customer Service Representatives. They don’t offer an accessible way of dialoguing with those that utilize and consume their product. Instead, they have paid employees to review flagged profiles and place lightning-fast judgment on whether or not a name is illegitimate, and these employees are largely not familiar with or trained in our sensitive communities. They don’t understand that native people may have names that sound unfamiliar and “unlikely” to them. They don’t understand that a woman may be using a preferred name to protect herself and her children from a dangerously persistent abuser, or that a popular performer may use a preferred name to hide from a stalker. They don’t understand how transgender folks may move through several different names depending on their individual journeys, all of them valid (not to mention that they are disproportionately targeted with violence, particularly transgender women of color). They don’t understand us.

All we want - all we’ve EVER wanted - is for Facebook to remove the “fake name” reporting option, to stop asking for ID, and to create an accessible and user-friendly appeals process.

I’m not a saint. I’m just one tiny nearly-naked showgirl going up against a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate. At the risk of sounding defeatist, I’ve thrown my hands up before; it’s only a matter of time before I throw my hands up again.

I've been in a mono-poly relationship for three months and it's already rocky. Is this incompatability doomed to fail?

This week’s column catches my poly family and I returning from an absolutely dreamy vacation in Cancun, Mexico, to celebrate my 29th birthday. As such, I took the opportunity - as I will occasionally do - to cull a variety of opinions on this week’s question, all while stuffing our faces full of mediocre food in a suspiciously desolate airport terminal in Phoenix, AZ. Enjoy!

 

Your poly pundits for today:

Geoff: A 37-year-old queer white cis disabled veteran and activist, Geoff is the reigning “Mr. San Francisco Leather 2017” and recently won runner-up at the International Mr Leather (IML) Competition in Chicago.

Jack: A 31-year-old biracial trans man who steadfastly identifies as “straight”, he is nevertheless happily married to Geoff and spends most of his time working at Mr. S Leather, performing in a popular drag troupe, and recording episodes of his new podcast, “Dicks With Clits”.

Danielle: A 27-year-old queer cis female engineer, motorcycle junkie, catch wrestler, and notorious bootblack, Danielle’s current goal is to cultivate an IRL Themyscira populated by badass muscle babes.

& of course, yours’ truly!

I'm currently in a mono-poly relationship. My primary partner is mono and has no interested in being with other people. We've know each other for 2 years and have been dating for 3 months.
 
I was already dating my current girlfriend when he and I started dating, and I have also ended a relationship with a boyfriend while we've been together. He says his biggest fear is when I will meet someone new and fall for them, since that hasn't happened - but I know it will and I'm afraid of it happening. How do I stop freaking out about hurting my amazing partner while still being my autonomous poly self?
 
He says all the mono-poly resources he has found say that they are too hard and don't work out. But we love each - we are each other’s soul bird - and we want to put everything into making this last.

Geoff: In my opinion, this is a dealbreaker-type incompatibility situation. Her partner entered the relationship fully aware of what he was “getting into”, i.e. non-monogamy. She was actively dating two other people at the time, and it sounds like he agreed to the arrangement relatively readily. At this point it’s his responsibility to either bite the bullet, do the work and stick it out, OR be brutally honest about having made a mistake and not being up for the challenges inherent in polyamorous relationships after all. Also, keep in mind that you’re at the 90-day mark. Regardless of what kind of relationship structure you’re operating within, it’s pretty typical for the energy to take either a subtle or dramatic shift around this time. The new relationship energy (NRE) may be starting to wear off, and you’re beginning to be a bit more critical of the sustainability of the relationship. So if it makes you feel better, just rest easier knowing that this kind of “evaluation process” - individual circumstances notwithstanding - is something that most people have to slough through.

Jack: I agree with Geoff in that there is a level of “you knew this going in” with this particular situation. If uncomfortable feelings arose, it was - and is - his responsibility to proactively address them, which fortunately it sounds like he’s trying to do. Kudos to him!  My advice to him would be to try not to get overwhelmed by fear of the unknown. Letting your mind run away with you can so easily lead to a self-sabotaging of the relationship before there’s even anything to worry about. Breathe through it, take everything really slowly, and lean on your supportive friends and family members so that you have an outlet for your concerns, questions, and discomfort that ISN’T your partner. I say this all from personal experience, as I identified strongly as monogamous until meeting Andre four years ago. It’s still difficult sometimes, as I’m definitely the least “active” of all of us in terms of dating and playing with outsiders, but it does get easier and better.
 
Danielle: It sounds like this is the time to have a constructive conflict - emphasis on the “constructive”. I’d initiate a serious sit-down dialogue ASAP, with the “goal” being to make a concrete plan for moving forward, whether that’s separately or together. During this talk, be sure to write everything down, whether digital or analog, and keep it in a secure yet easily-accessed place so that you can both refer to it whenever you wish. It’s crucial to make a record of any negotiations, boundaries, compromises, and/or agreements you and your partner come to. As time passes, our previously-sharp memories become fuzzy, even around topics we hold dear. This way you can both return to this document - to re-emphasize a point, check something off the list, or add something you may have forgotten - organically, and without concern that the other person’s memory is faulty. I’d then schedule regular follow-up conversations, perhaps on a bi-monthly basis, to check in with one another, review your original agreements, and see if there are any updates or changes to be made. Throughout all of it, don’t forget to stay true to yourself and what you REALLY want.

Andre: I actually find your situation quite curious, reader! In my [personal and anecdotal] experience, navigating jealousy around a partner having other lovers is made significantly simpler when the partner in question already has multiple other partners at the onset of the relationship. I find that it’s when two people get together monogamously - or even monogamishly - and then attempt to open the relationship up more dramatically down the road that intense feelings arise. Considering that you already had two partners when you began seeing your primary, AND considering that it only took three months of dating for the arrangement to become unbearable for him? My honest advice would be to cut the cord and move on.

You’re doing the right thing by checking in now as opposed to later; the longer this discord goes on, the more emotionally entangled you’ll become with one another, and the harder it will be to separate. Also, I’d encourage you to take advantage of having another supportive partner at your side. Trust me, it will be easier for you to end things with your primary if you’re feeling the love, comfort, and stability of your girlfriend at the same time. You’ll be less concerned with being left lonely/unsupported/undesired.

Finally, I know I’ve been a naysayer thus far, so here’s a glimmer of hope: It seems like the only two options you and your partner have entertained are “stay together” or “break up”, but what if he simply moved down the hierarchy from a primary partner to a secondary or tertiary partner, either permanently or temporarily? Perhaps you’re just not compatible as primary partners, but could cultivate another dynamic that felt just as satisfying while putting less pressure on both of you to compromise your core relationship needs and beliefs.