Poly Roundup

Note: I won’t be having Poly Roundups as the Gentle Butch anymore — I will answer these questions individually and with the loving attention they deserve.

I am a 49-year-old bisexual cisman who has been partnered for more than ten years with two older het-married women. One of them is polyamorous; the other is not. So when I say I have two partners, I don’t mean I have two sex partners.

Both of my long-time partners are more than ten years older than me, and lately both of them have been encouraging me to find a new partner who can accompany me in my pursuit of activities such as urban exploratory bicycling for pleasure (established) and backpacking (new ambition).


As a middle aged kinky poly fat bi dyke leaning towards butch who is also disabled to boot, I thought dating was hard six years ago when I was single. With all of the above still true but now also being married and with pre-schoolers, I’m finding dating entirely impossible. My current theory is that polyamory frequently ages into de facto monogamy when all but one of your relationships end for whatever reason, leaving you and the one you are parenting with are busy picking a kindergarten and figuring out whose turn it is to run your adored yet time consuming offspring to lessons.

Tl;dr- I would like to meet new interesting people and do old interesting things with them, but this whole being a middle aged parent of small kids thing is getting in the way. How does one meet people? How does one meet toppy poly people who like your kids and your spouse?

P.S. Feel free to forward along any emails you get from people who read this and think I sound delightful.

Dear Poly Seekers,

You guys. All the poly people are on OkCupid. You can even select ‘nonmonogamous’ from the drop-down. It’s easy. There’s tons of poly folks there. Even middle-aged ones who like to bicycle and have preschoolers and stuff. Go sign up for that!

I hope I do not sound flippant. I know that finding partners can sometimes seem like a difficult thing for non-monogamous people, as though non-monogamy were some terrible strike against you. We live in a world that tells us:

  • You will not find anyone unless you conform to what everyone else is doing.
  • You are damaged if you want or need something else.
  • You will be rejected and weird and you deserve it and no one wants you.

Bullshit! All of the above are a bonus. You don’t want to control whom your partners sleep with! You are both bi and therefore better in bed than monosexuals!* Other poly/non-monogamous people are looking for YOU!

Some specific things: Bike dude! Did you notice that you wrote to a columnist without actually telling her what the problem was? You just sort of presented me with your situation passively. I know this is a small sampling of your work, but if this is indicative of the effort you are willing to put into things, I think you’re going to have to go more out on a limb if you want to find some other people to bike and bounce booties with.

Middle-aged kinky parent: I already told you about OkCupid, but I also want to tell you this: I know that middle age makes us feel as if life is so so so much shorter than we used to think it would be and that we are old. And yes – kids are exhausting. But middle age is only the middle (if we’re lucky), and we’ve still got a lot of living left to do. Kids are also funny and interesting and make for great stories that someone is bound to enjoy hearing from you. Don’t be afraid to at least go out and try.

*do not argue with me, people. Bi and Pansexuals are better in bed. This is just science. I never just make stuff up that may or may not make me look good.


One of my partners is married with two young kids. I go over almost every other Saturday to help watch them, and have recently given up a free weeknight to have dinner with them regularly. This is a rather big deal to me since I’m working on being an author and need alone time to write. I agreed to this after he communicated to me that he felt like my other partners get to see me a lot more often. This is true, mostly because neither of them have kids, and thus have a lot more free time.

Here’s the issue: he consistently says his wife won’t “let” him have time for a date with me. Kid things take priority, or she needs him home, or she plans things, or whatever. It’s been months since we had a date. I’m pretty attached to him, so I’m very reluctant to distance myself. I also like his wife a lot.

I feel like it’s time to have a sit-down with them both and hash things out, find out what’s actually happening, and try to get to a more equitable situation. I need advice on what’s reasonable, as I’m so frustrated with the situation I’m not sure I can be objective. Help?

Your problem is not with this couple. Your problem is with your partner.

Sure, he says that his wife will not ‘let’ him have a date with you. But you already know how ridiculous this is – you put the word ‘let’ in quotes. So you already know what I’m going to say: a grown man does not need permission from someone else to do something. He either does it or he doesn’t. And he takes responsibility for that.

He does not blame his wife as if he is a passive helpless creature in this world upon whom other people act. He says: “I would rather spend time with my wife than with you. I would rather earn points with her and hang out with my kids than tell her that I need alone-time with you.”

He is the one you need to speak with. Not her. He is the problem.

Not only will he not make time for you one-on-one yet happily takes your help in childcare, he has the gall to demand MORE of your time without offering you any such consideration in return. And then he blames it on his wife.

Maybe when you call him on it, he’ll step up. What you’ve told me so far does not convince me that he is a particularly brave or forthright or stand-up guy for you. But maybe.

I’m gonna recommend OkCupid for you, too. You deserve someone who values your time as much as he values his own (and his wife’s). It is not okay to treat someone outside of the already existing couple as if her time and her needs are nothing compared to the couple’s. That is straight-up bullshit. I also suggest you read this wonderful piece on secondary polyamory, and how solo poly folk deserve to be treated with care and love and basic human understanding: Five Things Your Secondary Wants You To Know.

You deserve better. As I mentioned to the other two letter-writers, someone out there is going to think you are amazing and perfect and want to treat you like the wonderful find that you are. If this guy cannot step up, no matter how attached you are to him, go find someone who will.

These letters appeared originally in bitterempire.com on November 19, 2015.

How Can I Convince My Four-Year-Old That Gender Binaries Are Artificial?

My four-year-old child persists in thinking that certain things are okay for girls and not okay for boys, despite numerous attempts on my part to clear this up for her. The voice of her friends is stronger than evidence I have displayed to the contrary or me just flat-out disputing her claims. How can I convince her to understand this? How worried should I be about this?

Dear Good Parent (because you are),

It is so vitally important for us to raise children who can challenge the Patriarchy, and although I think it’s important for all genders I can see how it can feel even more pressing when you’re raising a girl.

But here’s the thing: four-year-olds are ASSHOLES.

I mean I’m sure your daughter is lovely and brilliant and cute and blah blah blah but deep down inside, developmentally, I mean: she is an oppositional, cranky, defiant little demon who can only see the world in extremes and black-and-whites. This is part of how we grow our brains for some unpleasant reason.

It was not long ago that people were just hairy blobs that fed her or didn’t, you know?

So kids are learning how to distinguish between types of people in all sorts of ways, some of which are on a spectrum and/or artificial: tall/short, old/young, strong/weak. And one of those things is male/female — an artificial binary to begin with. And our culture heaps a bunch of stuff onto this artificial binary that is, as you note, factually incorrect if not damaging bullshit.

So I guess my answer is: I think we should be concerned about this — very concerned about it — globally, but in this particular instance? Flat-out contradicting her is just going to feed her oppositional need to push against you and say yes it is TOO only okay for girls to wear pink!

You’ve got her whole life to show her through your actions (and through the narratives you teach her in stories, books, etc.) that this is a bullshit lesson.But maybe wait ’till she’s five to try again?

I do give you permission to laugh at her and keep putting books in front of her like Jacob’s New Dress in the meantime. And maybe roll your eyes now and then.

This letter originally appeared in bitterempire.com on November 12, 2015.

How Do I Protect My Bisexual Teen Daughter?

My delightful, amazing, young teen daughter is bi. Her friends know and her immediate family knows, but she hasn’t discussed her sexuality with the extended family.

She doesn’t want to talk to them about it, but she’s a pretty open person, so they are likely to know sooner or later (probably sooner, thanks to social media). Can she let it become obvious over time, or is it like pregnancy and you have to tell people close to you or they’ll be insulted to have been left out? I feel like having a big talk is basically asking for approval, and I would prefer she weren’t in that position. But I’m sure some people will feel they need to tell her their judgment anyhow.

If there’s one path that’s likely to be easier for her over another, I’d love to know.She’s too young to have to deal with adult family member’s fear and prejudice, but I don’t know how anyone’s going to react, so I don’t know how to protect her.

Is it necessary in 2015 to sit people down and tell them their grandchild/niece/cousin isn’t straight?


Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,

Let’s dispense with one thing immediately: no. It is not necessary in 2015 to sit people down and tell them their grandchild/niece/cousin isn’t straight.Furthermore, it is not your job to give a flying fuck about whether or not some random relative is offended that they weren’t some of the first ‘in the know’ about your daughter’s bisexuality. If someone in your family feels they have the right to know deeply personal and central information about your daughter’s identity, perhaps they should have put more effort into having a closer relationship with her. Screw anyone who gets all huffy when they find out and tries to make it about them. It isn’t. A good line to use with someone who decides to take umbrage at finding out some time other than the time they thought they should have is: “This is not about you.” And no more discussion, excuses, or explanations.

That was the easy part.

Well, this is easy, too: being queer is not like being pregnant. There is no timeline during which people need to help prepare for the coming of the queerness. There is no shower. And it only becomes other people’s business when and if the queer person decides to make it their business. Another thing that makes it different from pregnancy: being bi is really no big deal.Because it’s just a part of her like having blond hair or brown, freckles or not, there is no need for a Big Grand Announcement. She just is who she is. The proper response to discovering that your grandchild/niece/cousin isn’t straight is: oooh! I wonder if she’d like to meet my friend Susan’s daughter?Or even: huh. Didn’t know that. That’s it.

But as you and I both know, too many damn people do not understand the proper response. And yes — it is true that your daughter, as a queer person, is going to experience more prejudice than she would as a straight person.And I know that you want to protect her. I get it. I really get it.

But our job as parents is more than protecting. Our job as parents is also empowering. It’s standing back and trusting our kids to know themselves enough that they can handle themselves. It’s fighting for a world in which queer kids don’t have to be afraid, without trying to shield your own kid from the world she deserves to live in and participate in fully.

It sounds like you already know this. You haven’t told her to hide who she’s dating or if she belongs to the GSA at her school (she does, right? She needs to belong to the GSA). You haven’t asked her to closet herself with relatives like so many well-meaning parents do. As a matter of fact, you seem a little uncomfortable with her keeping this to herself for the time being. You want her to be proud of who she is. I applaud this.

But she needs to pick when and how she reveals herself to others, in her own time and at her own pace.

And when she does, you can pull out all the stops on the protecting. You can tell any bigoted relative that if they have a problem with your daughter, they have a problem with you. You can join PFLAG (have you? I think you should. I think it would really help to talk to other parents of queer kids.)

You can march into the school if she has trouble with peers or asshole administrators and you can fight for her. You can speak up every damn time you see someone say something biphobic or homophobic with the full force of your Mamma-Bearness.

But until that’s needed, you can trust your kid. And you can tell her how much you love her and support her and how glad you are that you were one of the ones she felt safe speaking to about her sexuality. You’ve proved your trustworthiness to her. Now let her show you that you can trust in her ability to ride this out.

You say she is too young to deal with the family’s prejudices. She seems to agree with you right now, which is why she hasn’t spoken up. But when she is old enough, you can stand right next to her and show your extended family that if they want to pick on someone, it’s going to be someone their own size.

This letter originally appeared in bitterempire.com on November 5, 2015.