I asked my local poly group how they would raise awareness and acceptance of polyamory in our society. Two major themes came forward:
- Be a good role-model for friends and family.
- Raise positive exposure in the media.
I like both of those approaches.
I must consider the LGBT community as a role model because of the leaps and bounds they have managed to achieve in my lifetime alone. As a child, I never met any openly LGBT person. Images of them in media tended to be as freaks, outsiders or as comic relief. Now, groups like t.A.T.u. pretend to be lesbian to gain extra cool appeal. There are homosexual relationships in mainstream soap operas that are treated totally normally. I can tell someone I just met that I was a girl and the only reaction is surprise at what cosmetic surgery can achieve these days.
These are huge strides forward in just a couple of decades. The fight is not over yet by a long way, but I take my hat off to them. What has been reached is not to be underestimated.
To borrow their model, as far as I understand it:
- Open up. It’s much harder to demonize someone you know personally. It provides familiarity and shows that although different, it’s nothing freaky.
- Engage. Provide support networks and take to the streets. Have pride and show yourselves. Be a minority, but be an active, loud minority.
- Challenge. Fight cultural stereotypes. Show them to be false, satirize or just go all-out flamboyant. Criticize derogatory portrayals in media. Be open to show positive examples in their place.
I think we have a lot in common, but have it easier. We are fighting in an environment where internet is rife, where openness and acceptance and a liberal ideal of live and let live is much stronger. We are not persecuted to the same degree. Even open displays of polyamorous love can be easily mistaken for a playboy, slut or group of swingers.
Nevertheless, there are also some additional difficulties. Everyone can understand homosexuality, bisexuality or transsexuality just by hearing those words. Polyamory on the other hand is a blanket term for so many different relationship styles that only share one thing in common: None of them are exclusive monogamy. In this way, it’s more like describing yourself as an atheist. It only really tells people one thing that you don’t believe in. Like atheism though, there is a general expectation of what that means. Unlike atheism, most people haven’t heard of it. I’m getting bored of telling people the same thing over and over again. I’m getting bored of answering the same tired old questions.
That’s it. We’re not exposed enough. Point one: Open up. It’s time to come out of the closet. It’s time to proudly tell your friends and family what you feel or what you’re trying out because you’re not sure yourself. Mainstream media is already starting to help. There are poly groups all over the world, easily found over the internet. What people are still lacking are neighbours, friends and family that can act as their own personal example and ambassador. Estimates are that 5% in America are living polyamorously. Do you know more than 20 people? Is any one of them openly poly? You may be surprised that the fear of opening up is probably far greater than the reality.