Franklin Veaux is a long-time polyamory writer and commentator. He’s still working on a book about polyamory. I encourage you to poke him to finish the damn thing! I wanna promote it here, dammit.
First things first: Basic stats. Who are you *grin*, what got you into polyamory and how long have you been poly?
Hmm. “Who am I” sounds like a philosophical question. I could say “the future ruler of all mankind,” but I’ve recently discovered I’m actually much too much of an optimist to be a proper evil overlord.
I can’t say that anything ever “got” me into polyamory, so much as it’s the way I’ve always been. I remember even as a kid thinking that the idea of one and only one partner didn’t make very much sense. Why should the fairy-tale princess need to pick one of her two suitors?
Princesses live in castles; everyone knows this. A castle has plenty of room for both of them, right?
My first relationships were always non-monogamous, even though I didn’t have the word “polyamory” back then. I took two people to my high school senior prom, and I lost my virginity to my best friend’s girlfriend, with his knowledge. Looking back, the three of us were struggling toward what would now be called a “V” relationship, though at the time we didn’t really have the language or the models to put to it.
That was actually something of an ongoing problem while I was trying to learn how to navigate around this relationship stuff–I knew that the normal way of doing relationships didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I didn’t have any models for what I was trying to do, and didn’t know anyone else who was trying to do the same things. As a result, I ended up making quite an astonishing number of very basic mistakes. Experience is a good teacher, but the tuition tends to be very high. Had anything like a poly community existed back then, I might still have some folks in my life today who are not part of my life any more.
My GOODNESS you’ve got a big… website *wink*. When did you get started with it and what caused you to start writing it?
The first iteration of the poly Web site went up in August of 1999.
The Web site originally didn’t start out to be poly-related at all. A former business partner and I had founded a small-press magazine called Xero magazine, and in 1996 we set up a Web site for the magazine, hosted on his brother’s server. The site gradually started to expand past its intended function; in 1998 I added my own personal section to it, which had a gallery of black and white photography, and in 1999 I added sections on BDSM and polyamory.
It’s kind of spread out a bit since then. I’ve been adding new sections to it ever since; the last new page in the poly section went up two weeks ago. It’s the Web equivalent of the city of Atlanta–the result of years of unrestrained urban sprawl. Not as many pot holes as Atlanta, but a lot more typos.
My original goal in writing it was to provide the kind of information I wished I’d had access to when I first started trying to make non- monogamy work. That’s still the goal–to provide a practical, hands- on toolkit for getting multiple relationships to succeed, without the paganism, New Age spirituality, or Tantric sex mysticism I tend to see on other poly-related sites. (That’s not a criticism of any of those things, mind; it’s just that they have nothing directly to do with polyamory.)
I think that when a person becomes deeply involved in two or more subcultures, there can be a tendency to conflate them; a person who is pagan and also polyamorous might see the two as being connected when really they’re not. A person can be polyamorous without being pagan, or pagan without being polyamorous. My site has a lot of information on a wide range of different things–BDSM, transhumanism, and so forth–but these things aren’t related to polyamory, and a person who’s interested in polyamory doesn’t have to be interested in them as well.
Two of the sections of the site were originally created for presentations that Cherie ve Ard and I did at the Florida Poly Retreat a while back.
You’re quite publicly involved with the polyamory community. What got you started with it and why?
For many years, I was married to a woman who did (and still does) identify as “monogamous.” This presented some unique challenges on top of the challenges of being polyamorous in a culture where polyamory is not the norm, and of trying to figure out how to make things work without having anyone else in a similar situation to talk to.
After we’d moved to Tampa, I got an email inviting me to a meeting of a group called PolyTampa. One of the founders of PolyTampa had seen my Web site and noticed we were fellow Tampa residents.
PolyTampa is, to my knowledge, one of the oldest poly groups in the country. It ad originally been founded as a gay and lesbian poly support group; the original founders were active in the gay and lesbian community.
The first meeting of PolyTampa we attended was also attended by someone I’d known peripherally from the science fiction fandom community, but never been formally introduced to. That’s really what kept me going (and she and her family are still close friends of mine as a result, to this very day).
PolyTampa has gone through several iterations since then. As the gay and lesbian community became less hostile to polyamory, the original “core group” of people gradually fell away, and it became a support group for poly folks of all stripes. For several years, I was one of the regular hosts for the group, which at the time tended to meet in members’ homes. More recently, as people have found it easier to connect with other poly folks in online forums, PolyTampa has become less of a support group, and today it’s more of a social group. I moved away from Tampa a couple years ago, but PolyTampa is still active.
I met a number of my current friends through PolyTampa including Cherie; she and her partners at the time were highly involved in poly activism, and in one way or another have been instrumental in the formation of a number of poly groups and events. Getting involved as an active part of the poly community seemed like a natural extension of the Web site.
If there’s just one thing that you think a poly person should grok and practice, what would that be?
“Just because I feel bad doesn’t mean someone else did something wrong.”
Seriously. If there were one rule of life with even greater power for good than the Golden Rule, that’d be it.
In any relationship of any type, polyamorous or not, shit happens.
There will be times when folks feel threatened or insecure; there will be things that happen that make folks feel bad. One thing that tends to happen when someone feels threatened or insecure or otherwise experiences negative emotions is that it becomes easy to point to other people and say “You did this! You caused me to feel this way! You have wronged me!”
A lot of people in the poly community will say that feelings are always valid. I’m something of a heretic; I don’t believe that’s true. You feel what you feel, and trying to force yourself to feel something different doesn’t work…but that doesn’t mean that the feeling is “valid.”
What I mean by that is that sometimes, the things we feel aren’t telling us the truth. We may feel threatened by things that are not really a threat; we may feel unloved or unwanted when in reality we are loved and cherished. When you’re in the grip of some negative emotion, it can be very, very difficult indeed to tell yourself that the things you’re feeling aren’t necessarily based in fact, and you’re not necessarily feeling these things because someone has wronged you. But keeping those ideas in mind can help you to deal with the negative feelings in positive and constructive ways, and work toward resolving whatever is lying at their root, rather than lashing out that the people around you or trying to control their behavior to steer them around your own emotional triggers.