Confessions of a Libertarian Polygamist

by Anonymous

I'm a libertarian activist, not hugely well-known, but a decent number of people know my name. I'll tell you in a couple of minutes why I didn't sign my name to this article, but for now I will just say that attitudes like Cathy Young's and David Boaz's are part of the reason.

Reason published a piece by Ms. Young that did a lot of hand wringing about gay marriage being expanded to polygamy. A lot of what she said about polygamy sounds lifted straight out of the mainstream, Bible-belt news, not libertarian at all. Then she brought out the Cato Institute big gun, David Boaz, who said, "Two people seems like a good number for a marriage." Well, thanks for your tolerance David, and minding your own business!

To see supposed libertarians saying that polygamy is bad and, well, just too much freedom, is disappointing. Watching all the news over that Fresno guy is sickening, because that's all people see, that's all they think of, when they think of polygamy. It isn't all like that. Not even close.

I know because I'm part of a polygamous family. Actually, because none of us is married in the legal sense (no church or state papers, just our own personal ceremonies), we use the term polyamory, which means "many loves." My family is a triad, one woman and two men. None of us is gay, so its really more like she has two husbands, but we're all very good friends. We also have some kids. (Yes, we all know which man is the dad of which kid.)

Our family looks a lot like any family you'd like to have as your neighbors. We're quiet, decent people, and we mind our own business. We don't party, our kids are all well behaved, and even if you tried, you wouldn't catch either of us so much as holding our wife's hand outside. We're not wild sex swingers and we're not horny kids. Our sex lives are private - even from each other as much as we can. In the town where we live we look as dull and normal as much as possible. My libertarian stuff is all on-line, under a different name than the one my neighbors know. The only difference between our family and others is that we have an "Uncle Steve" that lives with us.

Yes, one of us pretends to be our wife's brother so that we can all live together and be left alone. Some of the kids pretend that their dad is really "Uncle Steve" when they're out in public. This isn't all that important because we all raise the children equally, and treat them all like they are our own kids. Because they are - all of us are one family.

We love each other, we respect each other, and we try, like all married people, to talk things through and keep small problems from snowballing into big ones. Mostly we make it work. Without any pieces of paper, our marriage probably works better than most of the marriages in this country - because we want it to work and we do what it takes to make it work.

Why don't you hear about people like us? We're out there. There are a lot of poly situations around. There are lots of reasons why, unless people like me decide to talk, you don't hear about us.

First, our story isn't nearly as exciting as Mormon polygamists that forcibly take child brides. I mean, how can a happy suburban life compete with stuff like that in a society that loves their news as sick as they can get it? Just like the newspapers don't tell the stories about crimes being stopped because somebody pulled a gun, they aren't interested in stories about poly families that work. It doesn't fit the stereotypes.

Second, how many of you have heard of April Divilbiss? She was on an MTV show in 1998 talking about her poly family (like ours, but with less kids - you can see a report), and after it, her daughter's grandmother got the government involved. She ended up losing her daughter permanently. April's situation wasn't the best, but the daughter wasn't being hurt and the state decided to take her away anyway.

That's why I'm not putting my name on this article. If my family was identified, the state could steal our kids and force our family to breakup just because some people think what we're doing is wrong. They do it to "normal" families for less reasons everyday. Even some libertarians like Young and Boaz apparently think it's okay for the state to do that to families like mine. We'd like to be more public about our life but our family is way more important than being a good example.

Third, it's nobody else's business. Our marriage was chosen by each of us because it's the relationship that works for us. We've been together for over ten years because we keep choosing to be together. In a lot of ways we're just like any family, except that ours has one more dad. So our kids get more time and attention from grownups that love them. We're a lot better off financially, because of the extra adult that gives us all more time for stuff we need or want to do. Who has the right to tell us that what we're doing is sick, or less moral than some of the crap we see nonpoly kids go through, with divorce, after divorce, after divorce?

Fourth, everybody thinks these relationships are all about sex, when they're not. Yes, sex happens, but the basis for our polyamory relationship is love, not hormones. (Swingers are the ones that trade spouses just for the sake of sex with somebody different. Some polys do this, just the same as some supposedly monogamous couples do.) We don't want cameras in our bedrooms or anywhere else in our lives.

Jealousy and sexual temptation and all that stuff happens to a lot of people, not just polys. I think it happens more in married couples because our culture teaches unrealistic ideas about love and sex. American society is, in a lot of ways, psychologically sick, because of a lot of those ideas. We believe very strongly that a healthy intact family is very important in raising healthy kids. None of us took our marriage vows lightly; we thought and talked and made contracts to spell out how the relationships would work and how they'd end, if they end. It works for us.

And that's what really matters. Monogamous marriage seems to work for a lot of people. For some people, it doesn't. As a freedom loving libertarian, I respect other people's choices to live their lives. It's very sad to see that some libertarians can't do the same for me.

 published at Endervidualism on  March 23, 2004