An Army of Lovers – Transcending Boundaries 2014 Presentation

Panel description
Army of Lovers is an informal facilitated discussion aimed at ungentrifying* our language. Specifically I’d like to discuss how we find, talk, and support the relationships (lovers, friends, etc) in our lives. Places to cover include: hidden assumptions of monogamy & heteropatriarchy, examining how intimacy is created, scarcity vs abundance, decolonization, configurations and assumptions, finding ways to do internal psychological healing to get to a whole state, and brainstorming!

*(h/t Sarah Schulman)

Intro

Before I begin I want to apologize to y’all about something. The description as printed is incorrect, mostly due to some shiftgin in my thinking. So, this panel will unfortunately not cover decolonization and is instead looking at the issue more from an antiracism lens. Also, due to the complexity involved it will be less of a facilitated discussion than I had hoped.

Gentrification and Antigentrification are huge topics. They encompass not only changes in housing, neighborhood mix, and livelihoods, but also the kinds of places that our culture happens, and affect the very range of things our culture produces. Smashing this process together with nonmonogamy is an ambitious endeavor that I hope to do justice to.

My first topic is non-monogamy and polyamory.

[The privilege of being able to access the mindset of polyamory.]

*How do you define nonmonogamy?* – ask the audience

Nonmonogamy is an umbrella label describing having more than one sexual / romantic relationship at one time. This label covers many different subcultures including open relationships, polyamory, cheating, swinging, and polyfidelity.

Nonmonogamy is in some form or another* present in most monogamous settings. Most folks who engage in non-monogamy however don’t approach it with the support or attention to detail that the relatively recent subculture of polyamory does.

*http://pepperminty.com/writing/cheating.pdf

Lets now move onto polyamory.

Would someone like to define polyamory? -ask the audience

For our purposes today, we’ll call polyamory one of many subcultures of nonmonogamy and sexual practice.

Polyamory, as I see it, especially as a self-actualized practice requires a certain amount of privilege. You need some economic security, time, and general access to physical, social, and internal resources plus a level of exposure.

That opportunity cost means that thinking about polyamory rarely touches the political context within which we find ourselves. While the culture of polyamory may teach how to deal with jealously, it certainly doesn’t discuss the ways in which your jealously is internalized heteronormativity, internalized racial superiority, and classism. It doesn’t address how these structural forces combine in your own life to create jealousy and intimacy issues.

This silence is also present in the self help genre that polyamory tends to rely on. This problem is so pervasive that many folks who are not so privileged (me included) have a hard time healing using these tools. Whether its due to heterosexism / homophobia, religiosity, transphobia, racism, or sexism, they are literally not made for us.

Because of the ways in which access to resources and the sheer privilege of having time to figure out yourself, I would say that polyamory is as much affected by gentrification and assimilationism as it is by a culture of monogamy.

My conclusion
To build a truly supportive society that throws none of us away, we need to learn how to not only check our oppressions, kill the cops inside each one of us, but also how to allow each other to be vulnerable and intimate without internalized oppression.

To be truly supportive we need to not fuck each other over by releasing our survival instincts. This requires removing competition for housing, jobs, and economic mobility.

Gentrification and White Supremacy

*What is gentrification?* – ask the audience

Juliana Stricklen puts it this way:

“Gentrification, to me, is when the people who were the main characters are suddenly left out of the forming stories in the neighborhood. It is not the process by which poverty and crime are eliminated, but the process by which people are displaced without acknowledgment of the racial history of wealth. It is the process by which people with voices do not become but are perceived as voiceless.” http://sacmakersandmotivations.com/2013/06/11/juliana-stricklen-gentrification-whiteness-and-my-new-orleans-identity/
Simply put, gentrification is the way in which we use the segregated placement of people to make money and in so doing perpetuate our unjust system of racist capitalism.

*How would you define antigentrification?* -ask the audience

Yvahn Martin frames Anti Gentrification as this question:

“How can we build progressive, thriving communities for people of all socio-economic backgrounds? By bringing everyone in the community to the table when decisions about that community are made. By providing space for people to continue their pursuit of happiness as much as they can while they can still afford to be there. By acknowledging the privileges we each hold based on our skin color, gender, education, earnings and abilities, and by responding to the people we encounter daily in an empathetic way. We can take a legitimate interest in what is going on around us and know that we can either make it better or worse by our contribution. “
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yvahn-martin/antigentrification-build-_b_4934160.html

However that doesn’t talk about the ways in which Gentrification is intimately connected to the neoliberal cooptation, assimilation, and repression of those of us at the margins: poor communities, people of color, and queer communities. We are pitted against each other to obtain the things we need.

This is especially true following the aids crisis wherein us queers lost a great many. We’re still suffering from the collective trauma of AIDS in the form of heteronormative marriages, HRC gala’s, and “gay” bar owners that aggressively buy up properties in majority POC neighborhoods and then market to the assimilated white gay male community (eg. Paulie’s in new orleans). We are played off of one another in an “inevitable process” that is far from inevitable.

The cycle of disinvestment and reinvestment that happens within our segregated society is a product of the merging of racism and capitalism. Despite what you may think, its business as usual.

To resist gentrification is not just a policy fight but also is part of a bigger picture. Its not only a process of recovering from white supremacy* and capitalism. Its also about building a new world and becoming whole. It means not only learning how to understand the world through anothers’ eyes but also learning how to undo all the poison from this world that you’ve internalized.

*http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2014/03/were_either_suffering_or_recov.html

As Juliana says:
“The problem with gentrification lies within a larger context of segregated dichotomies between white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods which still correlate to access to resources needed to gain or sustain wealth from positions that are far from equal.” http://sacmakersandmotivations.com/2013/06/11/juliana-stricklen-gentrification-whiteness-and-my-new-orleans-identity/

Undoing that requires changing how we live our lives and how we perceive the humanity in others.

Final words

“Society is not made up of Individuals. It is made up of Interactions.

People keep throwing up the ‘Society is made up of individuals’ argument in response to any sort of commentary about the sociological landscape, culture, inculcation, etc. But it’s a bad argument. Society is not simple a sum of the individuals that live in it. Within an individual, there is no society, though the -effects- of society persist. There is only an individual.

Society is the complex emergent system that arises through the interactions of many, many people. To think it’s merely the sum of a number of discrete entities, each one an island onto themselves, is to miss the forest for the trees.”

-Nyah Wynne 2014

If a change is to occur there is a need for you to think about antiracism, antigentrification, and the ways in which our imperialistic structure of white supremacy inform your life. Until you’ve engaged with that and incorporate it into how you live, you are unable to contribute to our collective liberation.

Done properly, polyamory tugs at the heartstrings of your experiences with structural oppression. Done improperly, it merely is a tool to repackage everything that keeps us from each other.

Takeaway questions:

Does your nonmonogamy practice challenge the world you live in? In what ways are you complicit?

Connecting deeply is a radical act. How do you connect deeply? What keeps you from vulnerability? What kinds of intimacies do you close yourself off from?

What bad poly practices have you seen in your community? How do you think you could change them?

How are bad poly practices connected to racism? How are they connected to our collective trauma?

What contributes to the participation of white queers in gentrification? What would it take to undo this?

How can scarcity and abundance be reframed to create a life of resistance? And what would that resistance look like?

Write a vision of the world as you want it to be using everything we talked about today.

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