This talk was presented at Queer Stories in August. Queer Stories is a monthly queer story-telling event held at Giant Dwarf in Redfern, Sydney every month. The event is really great, and I encourage everyone to head along. You can get tickets to the next event here.
“I have two boyfriends actually,” I said to the man who was flirting rather aggressively with me on Grindr.
“Oh, I couldn’t do that” he replies. “I would never be willing to share you.”
He meant it to be sweet. As if having a random wanting to possess me would make me flock into his arms. It was, however, not sweet at all.
“Don’t worry” I replied “I’m never going to be yours to share.”
While this chat ended, these comments from gay men so common from gay men it’s not funny. When it comes to my relationships many like to judge, seeing that my and my partners sex lives make us ‘too queer’ to fit in anymore.
I first met James over 11 years ago. And yes, for those of you who looking at my youthful features, that was a week after I turned 18. For those who weren’t thinking that, fuck you, I’m beautiful.
This night – a Monday during O-week – was rather, let’s say, “extra”. Highlights included being asked to stop making out as we were blocking the bar, James trying to impress me by sliding down bannister of the stairs, and then James hitting on another previous fling before he left. But the piece de resistance was James sending a text after we left simply stating “why aren’t you following me?”
Despite this dodgy start we quickly fell for each other.
From the very beginning he wanted our relationship to be ‘open’ — that we could have sex with other people. At first I found this challenging. I admit, having just turned 18, and, as highlighted by James and my first encounter, obviously being willing to fuck anything that moved, I liked the possibilities. It was a new world. I was however also quick to get anxious when it happened the other way around, panicking when I saw James with someone else.
But at the same time I had little to lose, and so I gave it a shot, soon becoming more comfortable with the idea that either of us having sex with someone else did not have to be a big deal.
Things intensified when we moved to Brisbane years later. Hanging out with some more radical queers both James and I started to feel more comfortable with polyamory. I’m sure Joh Bjelke-Peterson is looking down on us today, proud of what his state has achieved.
Then we traveled to Edinburgh, and met Martyn.
James and Martyn had been friends on Tumblr for years — and no, not the way that most of us use Tumblr these days.
They were both into roller derby, joining a growing community of lesbians, feminists and social misfits who weren’t given entry to any other sport. In the UK for the derby world cup the three of us got a drink.
Martyn and I hit it off, and about a week after we first met, hooked up after a night out. On a side note, on this night I also encourage Martyn to give his number to a cute barman. You guys may think that’s weird, but in a poly world that’s totally romantic.
When we got back to Australia Martyn and I chatted every day, James teasing me constantly, calling Martyn my ‘Scottish boyfriend’. A month later, on ANZAC Day to be exact, Martyn and I started properly dating.
I bet Joh Bjelke is really proud of his polyamorous state where ANZAC Day now symbolises the freedom to start dating a second boyfriend without fear of repression. God bless Australia.
That was a few years ago. Now the three of us live together in Canberra in what to us has become a sense of normality.
Our house is just like any other, really. We do the shopping, divvy up the housework, and have the occasional fight. Our Christmas trip to the coast this year was marred by a bug that swept through all of us, with the sound of violent vomiting replacing the peaceful tones of the ocean waves.
At night we watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race, shouting ‘yassssss kweeen’ at the top of our lungs, covering up the fact that none of us will ever be as sickening as Sasha Velour, Katya, or Trixie Mattel.
But amongst all of this normality there are still, at least according to our society, some radical ideas. Ideas that love does not have to be limited to just one person. Ideas that we should be able to enjoy sex and not feel guilty about it. That in fact that sex can be healthy, and good fucking fun. And most of all a radical idea that if we can be open and honest about our desires and needs in our relationships and that we will be all the more healthy for it.
This is where I come back to those gays on Grindr. Because, while my straight friends have largely been blasé about my relationships, I’ve had multiple gays tell me that through my so-called promiscuous ways, I’m giving us all a bad name. One even told me that polyamory hurts children — spoken with the same confidence and lack of evidence as those conservatives who say the same things about gay parents.
Writing for SBS Sexuality, the columnist Carrington Brigham — you can just tell he lives in Vaucluse based on his name alone — summarised the argument I often hear. He said:
“Most Australians view throuples as an experiment unlikely to pass the tests of time. They see it for what it is: sexual gratification and hedonism.”
I know these responses are a reaction against decades of queers being told that our sex is disgusting. They’re a reaction to being told the only way we’ll be accepted is to stop having and talking about sex, and to join in the bonds of holy matrimony. Given that I can’t hate the people who respond this way.
But at the same time we cannot stand for it either.
Because if we really believe that “love is love” that has to include all love. It cannot just extend to the love that happens between two white, monogamous gays, all occurring with the hope that the next time they have sex it will be legitimised by the state and that the wedding rings will have to be taken off before the fingering begins.
But even if my relationships have nothing to do with love, and are just about ‘sexual gratification and hedonism’ – and trust me, if you’d seen James, Martyn and I organise our shopping for the week you’d know they’re not – then what is wrong with that?
I figure that if you’re criticising something as being ‘just about sexual gratification’ you’ve probably never really enjoyed good sex. There is a lot worth doing for good sex.
Sex, to me, is integral to queerness. It forms a core part of what makes us different, and what makes us special. It’s core to our culture. It is something that is healthy, and should be enjoyed and celebrated. It is just great fucking fun. Our right to sex is something we should defend, even if – in fact, directly in spite of – the conservatives who attack us over it.
I love James and Martyn, and our relationships are good. I love good sex too. As queers diversity in relationships, and in our sex lives, is something we should be celebrating, not attacking.