If 2020 hasn't given us much, but what we can all agree on is this has been a year of reflection. It's the beginning of a new decade and we are already releasing narratives, systems, and beliefs that do not make space for equality and equity. So what better time than now to take a deeper look into some of the taboo topics within the black community.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting down ( via zoom) with a reader to talk about her experiences with polyamory as a black woman. Check it out below👇🏾🔞
Question: How old were you when you first began thinking about polyamory?
Inayah: I believe I was twenty three.
Q: And when did you realize that polyamory was a fit for you?
Inayah: Believe it or not, it was probably after my first polyamorous relationship. I felt like I was trying to find my footing. Like most of us do when we first start a relationship of any sort...trying to learn more about the community. So I would say after my first polyamorous relationship, honestly.
Q: Was there something specific about that relationship where you were like, ‘yup, this is for me’?
Inayah: I would have to say the openness, I think, because when you get into something like this, there's this potential idea that the outside interests part of it may strike a nerve... and having thoughts like ‘Can I really do this?’
But when you start delving into the idea of the multiple partners on either end and it's something that's just so accepted and talked about so openly...that's what made me say, ‘yeah, I like this’.
Q: As a black woman, what are some of the challenges you face being polyamorous?
Inayah: So with most things just on a general basis, when it's
(something that is ) not understood, when there's a much smaller population of people who potentially may be in the community...it tends to have a negative connotation to it. And then you add on top of that being black and then it gets an even further negative connotation.
And then when you're a woman and it's even further. So trying to explain polyamory to someone was always met with this automatic assumption that you're just a ho’, you know, you're a black woman talking about loving multiple people and they love you. It’s just met with “well you are just a ho’ “...definitely that's a challenge. I'm trying to find other people who are of that culture in the lifestyle. When you first start out, I feel like it's not as many black people. So it did make me a little apprehensive in the beginning.
I took a moment to address discrimination and mysgnoir with Inayah. We talked about how black women are constantly being policed especially when they are confident in themselves as sexual beings. We started to discuss how society creates boxes for us without considering our perspectives and desires, and if/how those boxes may be beneficial if you are a black woman.
Q: What's your opinion on monogamy? Do you think it's something that black women benefit from? Do you ever see yourself considering a monogamous relationship at some point in your life?
Inayah: I don't think there's anything wrong with it (monogamy). I'm currently in a monogamous relationship. The idea that somewhere later that it could evolve into a polyamorous relationship is something that we've had open discussions about plenty of times. As far as monogamy being beneficial, I think that's situational because for some people who have a certain personality type or ability that allows them to be in a monogamous relationship-however that looks to them-then sure, it's definitely beneficial.
(However) I don't think it would be a bad thing for more black women to explore polyamory. I don't think it would set them back in any way, shape or form.
Q: So what are some necessary boundaries that you have in your polyamorous relationships?
Inayah: Definitely personal space. This is a boundary that I'm actually just learning to make space for.
And I say that because...if you're in a polyamorous relationship, you are kind of always in someone's presence. And I think it's important to set out boundaries in real time, because even though you may be loving several people, you need to remember that you have to have your own love space for yourself- whatever that may look like- whether it's a mental space or just being outside...
Boundaries for communication too. And I say that in terms of respecting when either one or many of your partners are not ready to talk about something that he/she/they may be going through, but also remembering that having the ability to have that communication is also important. So giving people time to communicate what their needs are.
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Q: What's the greatest misconception about polyamory?
Inayah: Oh, that it's just a bunch of people just having an orgy all the time. There is this assumption that being polyamorous is being a polygamist or just being promiscuous- and if you are it’s s totally up to you- But don't confuse that with something that it is not.
...this idea that if you're polyamorous, you must not love yourself or you must have some serious connection issues. And again, that's also not true because in my opinion, you probably have to go through a lot of internal understanding to be in a polyamorous relationship.
Not to say that you don't have to do that (if you are a monogamist)... but you have to do it for polyamorous relationships as well.
There's also this idea that if you are poly and there's a relationship with multiple people, that it's not a suitable environment for family life.
I don't have children. And the couple that I was with didn't have children.
...But it's a horrible assumption to believe that having more people to raise a child is a bad thing. I mean, we all heard the cliche term. It takes a village. So why assume that a community of people who genuinely love each other and want each other to be happy and successful would be a harm to a child?
Q: So what's an appropriate way to introduce polyamory into your relationship if you are considering transitioning?
Inayah: I can't stress this enough-communication! If it's something that strikes you as interesting and you're in a relationship… I definitely think communication is key.
And if you're not in a relationship. I think trying to find people who are part of the community or have gone through poly relationships are definitely great resources to go to- to help introduce you into the life.
Q: So aside from communication, do you have any advice about what someone should do? I know we've mentioned a lot of self discovery has to be the foundation of having a successful polyamorous relationship just because of all of the nuances that come with it. do you have any advice for someone who might be considering a polyamorous lifestyle?
Inayah: Oh, take your time. As with anything. For the first time, you really need to allow yourself to be open to every thing you may come across, because initially it always seems like it’s not possible. Explore your willingness and capacity to be able to discuss it. Explore what parts of the relationship you want to be open and take your time.
Do you think there any clear signs that maybe polyamory is not something you should try? And I say this because I know a lot of times, women may feel pressured to do certain things for their relationships... And sometimes those transitions work out. But then sometimes they don't. So do you think there are any clear signs that polyamory is absolutely not for you?
Inayah: if you don't want to change. I think if you are able to discern for yourself whether it be in the beginning or halfway through a relationship, if you are seeing signs of problems or even if you're just not 100 percent in it...If you question if there's something in you that doesn't want to change in order to adapt to a polyamorous lifestyle. Because for some people, you know, let's say, for instance, your issue is trust….
...and, you realize I have to learn to trust these people because I care for them and they haven't given me a reason to not trust them or whatever. Like, if I am unable to change that part of me. Is this something I really can do? Or if the communication part, if I really have a hard time communicating. Is this something I can give to my partners? Can I do that? Am I willing to change or be able to do that? And I think if you say no, then I think maybe this may not be right for you or maybe you may not be ready to do it right now. And you don't want to block it out totally. But definitely if you decide this is not for me, that’s fine too.