For the past year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ Board of Directors and Proclaim Community have been engaging in conversation around the topic of polyamory. For many in our midst, polyamory is a blessing and is something through which they have received great spiritual and personal fulfillment. There are also many in our midst for whom the topic of polyamory is quite different from their experience and understanding of healthy relationships. We recognize this tension within our community and encourage more conversation and understanding.
What follows is a reflection written by a polyamorous Proclaim member. It is not ELM’s intention to make a public statement about polyamory with this blog post so much as to continue the conversation and to share a personal reflection.
Content Warning: strong language and sexual imagery
“My boyfriend’s boyfriend is a pussy stunt artist.” There’s a lot to unpack there, but I’ll start with myself. I’m a seminarian who identifies as queer and uses various pronouns. I appear male/masculine and identify as AMAB (assigned male at birth). My boyfriend identifies as a FTM trans man. We’re in a polyamourous relationship. Aside from being highly involved in the queer/trans community where we live, he’s also a CODA (Child Of a Deaf Adult) and makes his living as a sign language interpreter. He had been dating his boyfriend for multiple months before I joined the mix. My boyfriend’s boyfriend is a performer who uses their pussy to do stunts on stage for money. They identify as genderqueer and use they/them/their pronouns.
Had someone told me that I would be in love with a trans man, on the verge of going on internship, I would have laughed in their face. As I started seminary, I didn’t hold much hope in finding someone to fulfill my romantic needs. Dating a graduate student is hard, let alone one who is studying to become a pastor. Plus, to love me is asking a lot. I have baggage, an uncertain future, and I’m essentially taking a vow of poverty. These kinds of things aren’t the most marketable prospects in the dating scene. But with my boyfriend, it works.
Monogamy puts a lot of pressure on me. I start to panic once I realize that I might not meet the needs of my potential romantic partner but I’ve never had to worry about that with my boyfriend. I know that he’s capable of meeting his needs with other people, and that he’s not just settling for me. I don’t have the anxiety that I’m not willing and able to do everything that he wants in the bedroom (or living room, or hallway, or backyard, or streets of a major city). For the first time, I’ve been able to grow with my partner into something together. I think what clinched our relationship for us, is that we can just be ourselves around each other. We went from talking about important social justice issues around intersectional identities to a complete and utter giggle fit half an hour later. My boyfriend connects my heart, head, spirit and body in a way no one else has every come close to. This is a freedom I’ve never known before entering into this kind of relationship.
My pastoral care classes didn’t teach me how to navigate the dynamics when my boyfriend and his boyfriend broke up. How do I support my boyfriend in this difficult time without triangulating with his other boyfriend? How do I support his boyfriend through this as well? And what does the break up do to mine and his boyfriend’s relationship? We were never romantically involved yet I still care for them and want the best in their life. What do I do with my feelings of happiness that I can spend more time with my boyfriend now? Where do I put my joy now that we’re connected closer than ever?
Documents within the denomination place primacy on heterosexual monogamous marriages. As a seminarian, I never fully understood why the church and my candidacy committee had stake in what I did in my bedroom (or kitchen, or car, or darkened alley). Saying that monogamous relationships are the only relationships that foster trust and deep spiritual connection is patently false. My monogamous relationships have been my least trusting relationships. But there comes a time in my life that I need to be authentically myself and willingly break with doctrine and tradition.
Finally going all-in and joining a polyamorous relationship made me understand myself in a new way. It is like an affirmation of baptism for me. Baptisms have a revelatory function– wherein the newly baptized are joined into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. The ritual signifies a new dedication, a breaking of old ways and an invitation into a larger group. Not only do the newly baptized pledge to renounce sin, but the assembly gathered invest themselves in the formation, growth, and wellbeing of their new family member. Why can’t relationships be like this? Why can’t joining a romantic relationship be a holy act that connects us to the divinely infinite? Jesus is a bit of a slut; he loves everyone (we can’t even put a number on the people that he’s been inside). I would never expect him to turn his back on others just for my sake. Plainly put, Jesus loves infinitely, so why shouldn’t I?