June 2022 was celebrated as the ‘52nd International Pride Month’. While the pride month is a celebration of us being our authentic queer selves, it’s also a remembrance of those who paved the way for us to be able to spread our wings with less fear and more pride.
To commemorate this month with our fraternity of not just queer people and activists but also queer-friendly sexual health, mental health and legal aid service providers, Varta Trust organized a series of webinars on topics that are important both socially and emotionally.
When we were discussing as to which of the webinars should come first, it was also important that we got the right people on board. We decided to embark with something a lot of people practice, few talk about, but everyone wants to know more of. Thus, was born the first webinar of the month ‘It Is My Kind of Love: Polyamory and Going beyond Monogamous Love in Relationships’.
For the webinar, we had with us Kajori Sen, Associate Professor & Assistant Dean (Career Development), School of Journalism and Communication, O. P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat; Paromita Vohra, Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer, teacher and founder of Parodevi Pictures and Agents of Ishq; and Srabasti Mazumdar, Kolkata-based psychological counsellor and gender and sexuality rights activist.
Polyamory Day is celebrated on November 23, but it’s an integral part of pride celebrations as well. When I took on the task of moderating the webinar, being queer and in an open marriage myself, it felt nice to be able to speak about something that we don’t often acknowledge beyond the virtual walls of dating apps like Grindr or Tinder. Yet, never has there been a stronger need to question the concept of polyamory and understand it. The terminologies around gender and sexuality are constantly evolving and expanding, and it’s no different in the case of polyamory.
Our world is obsessed with finding ‘the one’, the ‘soul mate’. All around us are tropes that push the ‘one love’, the ‘love of my life’ aspect. This isn’t limited to the heterosexual world. Even feminist and queer movements have long dictated ‘the ways to be queer’, one which replicates heterosexual equations. Thus, given the heteronormative world we live in, different forms of love such as polyamory are often ignored as they aren’t mainstream.
Polyamory in many ways is a challenge to the norm since it forces people to think differently about relationships. However, as it was pointed out in the webinar discussion, it isn’t quite a rebuttal to patriarchy. Polyamorous relationships can also have their fair share of patriarchal afflictions.
Being shrouded from the mainstream, polyamory is often stigmatised and seen as cheating. But cheating involves breaking set boundaries, which isn’t the case in a polyamorous relationship. At the same time, it comes with all the human insecurities that plague all of us. How to deal with jealousy that comes along with there being more than two people in a relationship? How to engage with notions of consent in a polyamorous relationship?
What’s interesting is that despite several cinematic and literary tropes in India of the ‘other’ coming into relationships, seldom is it portrayed in a way where it is polyamorous. Creators are hesitant to touch on the subject as it might upset the mainstream viewers and readers. When mainstream culture is still hesitant to explore polyamory, how does one have conversations about it? When society at large has generally put monogamy (and marriage) on a pedestal, it becomes difficult to have a meaningful conversation openly.
When people do embark on polyamorous relationships despite societal reservations, they don’t always know how to have conversations about consent. What do consent, fidelity and faithfulness mean in polyamorous relationships? When is one moving away from a safe, consensual, multilateral relationship to a space where the relationships are getting toxic or exploitative? These questions came up multiple times during the webinar.
One aspect about the younger generations that was mentioned in the webinar was that they aren’t talking just about monogamous relationships and marriage. They’re also talking about sharing time and space together. This gives rise to multiple possibilities of relationship patterns. Relationships today are more about creating safer spaces for one’s partner(s) and at the same time to live one’s life as authentically as possible within the relationship.
The discussion gave rise to numerous questions about our own lives, loves and the way we navigate our matters of the heart. What was beautiful about this discussion is that we had, albeit virtually, created a safer space, if only just for one hour. That hour allowed us to explore with each other the endless possibilities of love, longing and desire.
At the end of the day, all relationships, no matter how many people are in it, are stronger with trust, dignity, compassion, compersion and consent.
With pride month over, we must remember that each day that we live our lives on our own terms, we celebrate pride. It isn’t for an hour, a week or a month. It’s our entire lives. As the corporates lower the pride flag, we need to carry on flying it at full mast.
About the quote in the main graphic: Courtesy Quotes Gram. Graphic artwork credit: Pawan Dhall