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Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013

Have a Poly, Poly Christmas

Navigating the holidays when you (or a loved one) is polyamorous

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The holiday season can be both the best of times and the worst of times, especially if the way you love falls outside our very narrow socially prescribed norms. If you are kinky, queer or polyamorous, you may have created a “chosen family” of supportive, like-minded people who understand you and affirm your identity, and these are the people that you spend your time with most of the year. Around the holidays, though, you may see a lot more of your family of origin, co-workers or others who are ignorant of or actively hostile towards the way you live.

I asked Lyndzi, co-facilitator of the Young Milwaukee Poly Group, if she had any tips to share to make social obligations less stressful for everyone involved. Young Milwaukee Poly will celebrate its five-year anniversary in January 2014, and every year of its existence, the topic of how to deal with the holidays has come up.

LAS: What specific issues do people in polyamorous relationships regularly face during the holidays?

Lyndzi: One of the biggest issues with poly folks around the holidays is time management (although this seems to be an issue for almost everyone). Going to multiple holiday get-togethers is becoming more and more normal with fractured family structures like divorced parents. The average American nowadays has at least two parties to go to around Christmas, if not three or four. The issue that most poly people face is who to bring. Depending on each person's family, bringing your wife and girlfriend or two boyfriends may not be acceptable, though some poly folks get lucky. I am personally open to my mother and could bring both of my boyfriends home for Christmas, though I choose to not bring them both to my father’s traditional Catholic Christmas for obvious reasons. 

LAS: What advice do you have for non-poly people who will be seeing poly family members soon?

Lyndzi: If you have poly people in your family and will be seeing them this holiday season, here are a few common-sense tips to live by.

Don’t ask them about their sex life. Is that appropriate to ask of your monogamous or married family members? Probably not. So don’t treat the poly ones any different. If there’s something you are dying to know, email them later; they can respond when and with what they are comfortable sharing, without feeling like they’ve been put on the spot in front of an audience. 

Leave the whispers and gossiping until you get in the car on your way home, even if you’re not talking about them. Your poly family members are probably already so nervous that they want to leave. Don’t be the straw that breaks that camel’s back. 

Be welcoming and supportive. You may be meeting new members of their poly family. They should be treated as your family and as you would like to be treated. 

LAS: What strategies have members of Young Milwaukee Poly shared to help cope with less-than-supportive family members?

Lyndzi: Unfortunately, many people in the poly community cope with being poly around the holidays by simply lying. It is a sad but true fact that most people do not feel comfortable being out to their families and would rather pretend to be something they are not. Many poly people deal with this around the holidays by having their own poly family party, comprised of friends and loved ones who they choose to be in their life, not the ones they were born into.

LAS: Many of these tips also apply if you are queer, kinky or otherwise outside the “norm.” If seeing your family is difficult, please remember that there are people out there who love and understand you.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

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