I’ve had a great time talking with folks at InfinityCon, and it’s made me think a lot about how we label relationships. Is “polyamorous” all that different from “open relationship” or “swinger”? That depends on why you want to label your relationship … or more importantly, why someone needs to apply a label to yours.
I was part of the “THE SPECTRUM OF ETHICAL NON-MONOGAMY” panel at InfinityCon 2016, and we talked a lot about labels. Find a label to fit something you’re feeling can be powerful, because it shows someone else has the same feelings. It’s useful for having a common vocabulary to start a conversation. The problems come up when a label is used to define other people rather than define yourself.
One example comes from the world of fancy wines.
The term ‘Champagne’ refers to a specific type of sparkling wine. Not all sparkling wine is Champagne. ‘Champagne’ has to come from a specific region of France. Everything else is just sparkling wine. In the end it’s an exclusive term, not inclusive, designed to protect a specific group of people.
I identify as polyamorous. It’s a term I’m comfortable using. I don’t let others define me as a ‘sinner’ or ‘cheater’. Other people I date may or may not identify as polyamorous, and that doesn’t really matter to me. I let others define how they want to be labeled without letting their words define me … of course I’ve always been the weird kid, so that comes to me more naturally than others.
I have friends who identify as nerds, and I don’t get to define why they use that term. I have friends who used to identify as male and now identify as female, and I don’t get to dictate why they made that change. I am not their gatekeeper, and if I try to do that then they will identify me as an asshole.
It’s cool to have a common vocabulary, but make sure you define ‘you’ on your own terms.