This week’s ASK ARI: Gay Polygamy … What Mormons Don’t Want Homosexuals to Know About the Possibilities of Sexual Freedom and Romantic Fulfillment.
After debuting my new ASK ARI Love Guyd column, I thought the richest topic about relationships would be a discussion about monogamy—and polygamy. I know advocates of marriage equality (myself being one of them) might not be too keen on me bringing up the idea of gay polygamy; they’ll say I’m setting back the progress we’re fighting for. But I’ve always thought we were fighting, not just for marriage equality, but for all humankind to be free and equal. Having equal rights does not mean we should be bound by heteronormativity (yes, I studied queer theory in college and I still like that word!).
The debate as to whether monogamy is possible for human nature in this modern age is not one I’m interested in having here. In the urban gay cosmopolitan cosmos that is NYC, there is a vast array of hot types in all shapes, colors, and sizes who come with their own dynamics and even bring out different parts of myself. If I lived in a town that only had vanilla or chocolate, I’d be perfectly happy with my preferred vanilla. But in a city where they create basil ginger flavored hazelnut crème pie ice cream (I just made that up, but it could be yummy!), it would be very difficult to eat only vanilla—even if my partner provided me with some extra toppings and hot fudge to go with his vanilla bean. But I’m not opposed to choosing monogamy with my partner, for at least a time, for a whole slew of possible reasons (that’s for another column).
My biggest issue with monogamy is when monogamy apologists make it seem as though somehow the choice to be monogamous is a better, more moral one than the choice not to be monogamous—kind of like those straight Right Wing religious zealots who claim the only relationship that should be legal is one between a man and a woman.
We know the hypocrisy that goes on in many of those “sacred unions.” People often confuse monogamy with loyalty, and they are not the same thing. I often find a great deal of hypocrisy in people who insist monogamy is the only kind of relationship they will have. All too often the insistence on monogamy comes with jealousy, dishonesty, pettiness, cattiness, suspicion, and betrayal.
Personally, I don’t want to have a monogamous relationship with one guy for the rest of my life. Hopefully, this doesn’t upset some my fans who know me to be an incurable romantic in my music. I am still deeply romantic, but just like in my songwriting, I’ve evolved, expanded, and in some ways refined my definition of romance. What I have come to know, at least for myself, is that what really matters in a relationship is whether there is trust, respectful boundaries, and honest communication—without which no relationship can work. Monogamy hardly guarantees these vital relationship requirements.
In fact, what I find so liberating about “open relationships” is the idea that you take cheating out of the equation. I don’t want to be in a relationship where one false step, one human error, one mistake is reason to end all the efforts made building trust and a life together.
I never understood the attitude that once a partner “cheats” the relationship is immediately over. If you’ve made a commitment to someone and made sure that all your friends and family bare witness to this union, aren’t you obligated to then work things through when one person makes a mistake or has sex outside the relationship? A far greater breach of trust is not telling your partner that you had sex outside the relationship because of an agreement of fidelity.
Long-term intimate relationships can only work when both partners want to continuously work through their issues and human frailties. It makes no difference what the rules of the relationship are; both parties have to continuously want the relationship to work. The relationship must be an ever growing, ever evolving, never static entity—just like each individual in the relationship. That’s why ideas around trust and commitment need to always be on the table for open discussion and negotiation. Those things don’t just magically become set once you sign the papers to get gay married.
Now that I’ve been able to come clean about my ideas of relationships and monogamy I would like to push the queer boundaries further. While we need to continue the good fight to achieve the same rights as heterosexuals, I believe we must also in tandem show the world that there are other ways of forming, negotiating, and experiencing relationships and sex. Our many unconventional bonds, rituals, and modalities of dating are already changing the heterosexual landscape, whether we, or they, like it or not—especially with technologies handwriting on our personalized screen wall.
Let’s get back to my original agency of provocation: Can we and should we have polygamy as one of the ways we choose to define marriage. Had Alanis Morissette defined “irony” by pointing out the protesting of same-sex marriage by Mormon groups when they have the far more radical tradition of polygamy. The good thing about gay polygamy versus Mormon polygamy is that gays and lesbians aren’t playing into a fixed patriarchal system of gender. It’s no longer always one man with multiple wives, but one man with many husbands or one woman with multiple wives. LGBT people have the opportunity to make polygamy a more equal opportunity practice.
Polygamy problemetizes the concept of “cheating” in even more interesting ways than non-monogamy. I am almost seeing polygamy as a more honest way of having relationships because it recognizes that we are in multiple relationships at one time, some sexual, some not, some romantic, some not. It poses some very challenging questions about love. Can we share deep romantic and sexual bonds with a few people simultaneously? And the real zinger: Can our busy lives afford us the space, attention, and energy that any primary relationship deserves to more than one person?
Just like non-monogamy, I imagine that gay polygamy would look very different case to case. In some instances, it may look like a threesome, where all three parties are in a relationship with each other. But in other cases, maybe each partner has a separate partner that is not in relationship with each other. What new kinships might emerge from these kinds of commitments? What legal issues may we bump into that we could resolve to make this possible and make our lives less bound by law and more bound by the strength of our bonds? Is there still a realm that would be considered “cheating” while married to multiple partners? Would we be better off taking the “it takes a village” approach to parenting? What traumas are taking place and what limits are we putting in front of our children by only giving them a binary parental model? Is there something to be learned from the success (or failures) that Mormons have gone through in practicing polygamy? What a radical idea: to investigate the history and practices of a group that has been more often at the forefront of taking away our rights in order to achieve greater equality, freedom and acceptance!
This is an investigation. An exploration. If we can quickly get past reductive, thoughtless, and unimaginative internet hateration, maybe in asking these questions, proposing other alternatives to the ones we’ve been so focused on fighting for, perhaps we can find out more about who we are as gay people and in turn find out more about our human nature in general. I welcome and encourage anyone to express their feelings about these ideas but also urge you to go beyond feeling and imagine a world where love in as many consensual forms is available. If there’s one thing my orthodox Jewish upbringing taught me is that it is never a bad thing to ask the questions; it’s where freedom begins.
Be back next time and hope you give me some juicy responses and even any off topic questions or concerns regarding matters of the mind, body, and heart. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have five husbands who are anxiously waiting for my attention.
Sir Ari will be DJing at The Cock Friday, March 22nd on Black Party Weekend NYC and also spinning for the Bronx LGBT Center Benefit, Saturday March 23rd. For tickets: http://valentinesvamp.eventbrite.com/ He will be asking more questions next week at the Passover Seder.
Ari’s latest Maxi-single, “Play My F**kn Record” is OUT NOW on iTunes and you can follow him on Twitter/SirAriGold and www.arigold.com
Top Photo: T Jay Nelson. Bottom: Aaron Cobbett
Got a question for Sir Ari? Contact him at Ari@Arigold.com.