For most students, “Polyamory Awareness Week” is just an event on the Ohio University LGBT Center calendar. But for freshman Emily Rupert, polyamory awareness has been her whole life.
The OU LGBT Center is hosting Polyamory Awareness Week. Polyamory is defined as the desire to be in a relationship with more than one partner, with the consent of all parties involved. The identification calls for the belief in open relationships, conscious management of jealousy and the rejection of the view that exclusivity is necessary for committed and long-term relationships. For Rupert, it boils down to one word: love.
Rupert grew up in Canton, Ohio. It’s a place that, in her eyes, wasn’t the most progressive, and she spent her high school days hiding her bisexuality and polyamorous identity because she knew people wouldn’t understand. She found sanctuary in the Students Learn International club, which focused on the betterment of students and helped with their creativity and leadership skills. As an officer, Rupert led a workshop about LGBT issues and was able to truly open up about who she is, which inspired other students to be true to themselves.
“It was cool to finally realize that I didn’t have to hide parts of myself and could just truly be me,” Rupert said.
Polyamory stems from the Greek word poly meaning “many” and the Latin word amor meaning “love.” Over time, the word has transitioned into an umbrella term for all different types of multi-partner relationships and even non-exclusive relationships.
The identification is sometimes confused with polygamy, but the difference is that polygamy focuses on one person having multiple partners, but they don’t interact with each other. Polyamory requires all parties of the relationship to interact and be together.
“Polygamy focuses a lot on religion,” Rupert said. “I think polygamist families don’t always treat their partners correctly, when in polyamory it’s about general companionship and loving one another, just between three or four people instead of two.”
The LGBT Center plans events of awareness for many different identifications, but polyamorous week is especially important.
“This week is very important to do for people to understand the true meaning of polyamory, and for polyamorous students to come together,” Rupert said. “It’s cool that they’re integrating popular culture into talking about polyamory and this week could work to end stereotypes regarding the identity.”
The first event was a “Dine-n-Discuss” touching on the topics of jealousy, possession and why there is so much focus on monogamy. The second event will be a screening of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, discussing a married couple and their mutual partner. Wednesday continues with a “crafternoon,“ and Thursday follows with Interfaith Inqueeries discussing polyamory and religion. The week will conclude with Transgressive TV discussing the redefining of relationships and romantic dynamics.
In addition to the events, on Thursday the relaunching of the Athens Poly Association is being held. The meeting is intended to assess interest and to provide information about future activities in relation to polyamory.
Director of the LGBT Center delfin bautista, who uses the lowercase spelling of their name, is very excited to bring this week to fruition.
“Part of it is just recognizing that there are different types of ways in being in a relationship and creating a space where we can honor and affirm it,” bautista said. “A person can have multiple partners and be in an open relationship, and that’s awesome and should be appreciated.”
This week is meant to show solidarity toward students, but Rupert said the reality is that polyamory still isn’t quite normalized in society. Polyamorous marriages aren’t recognized or protected by legal systems, and for someone like Rupert who sees herself having a family one day, that thought is especially scary. Though people are starting to understand the true meaning of polyamory and demolishing stereotypes surrounding it, there is still a long way to go until it’s normalized in society.
“As an education major, one thing I think about is whether or not I’ll be allowed to talk about my family at my job someday,” Rupert said. “Or maybe I won’t even get a job. The thing I think about the most regarding polyamory is how it will affect my career.”
Though Rupert’s mind will sometimes wander to the negative effects of her identity, she is hopeful for a future where the positives will outweigh them. She believes that one of the coolest parts of her identity is that it can be really beneficial to children. A typical family dynamic will include two incomes or one single-parent income, but the polyamorous structure provides more than two incomes to benefit the family financially. That also provides more than one or two parents to support the children in their lives.
“It’s a cool idea and a different way to structure a family that might be really beneficial,” Rupert said. “Parents often struggle to find time with their kids when they’re working so much, so more than one or two parents provides more advice, support and love for the children in the family.”
In Rupert’s eyes, Polyamory Awareness Week is about educating people and showing respect, which will hopefully lead to a more normalized sense of the identity.
“It’s easier to respect people if you understand their humanity,” Rupert said. “In general there’s a lot of wrong stereotypes regarding polyamory that leads people to have wrong perceptions. Highlighting people’s humanity and normalness makes it a lot easier to give them respect, and that’s all people really need.”