Loving Labels

adapted from "announcing love" by Somaya Langley

There are many reasons to wear a label—perhaps one for every reason not to.

I had a lively blog-debate this week when asked why I call myself polyamorous—why I label myself at all. Why not just 'be?' As a society should we move past labels? Are they limiting? Do they set us up as targets? If a poly family, especially one with children, called Mary 'just a roommate' instead of 'our mutual wife,' it might keep misguided nosy-bodies and therefore CAS off their back.

Labels can be limiting. Even by giving us concepts to latch onto, they distance us from others. As much as labels can limit, however, they can also honour. When I introduce Paul to someone as 'my good friend Paul', it says something. It says to them that Paul is more than just a person I know. He is a friend. I trust him.

When in love, the gesture is even more compelling. Do you remember the first time someone introduced you as their boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner? Why would we deny anyone that warm, fuzzy feeling of being publicly acknowledged? The label conveys not only that this is Mary, a person I know; but that this is Mary, a person I love and who loves me back, and that I share my life with her. Relationship labels let people around you know, pretty closely, how you see each other and where you see yourselves, and that you are out and proud about your relationship.

They also save us the time that endless conversation might occupy. Imagine a social occasion, unrelated to poly, where a triad of partners might attend. Even if they don't hint that they are romantically involved, within minutes the customary line of questioning begins: "How do you know each other?" People are eager to pry, not out of malice but of our natural curiosity about one another. Odds are, people will notice anyway, and it can be best to get it out in the open before people begin to suspect some deceitful infidelity.

As curious social creatures we crave validation and explanation. It is a beauty of language that one word can convey, and accomplish, so much.

You might say that it's none of anyone's business (and you might be right). But when you are in love, you want everyone to know—and why shouldn't they? Why shouldn't you be able to be openly happy with your family without worrying about appearing platonic? You should be as free as anyone to hold hands or flirt with the ones you love, and even to take for granted that you can.

As a childless adult, I feel that it is my civic duty to share my lifestyle openly in order to desensitize a public that thought swinging was as open as it gets. The reason I'm so adamant is that I know some beautiful families—with children—who must take pains to hide their love, for fear of being separated from their children. Many live in isolated fear of a fearful public, and it is for them that I do what I do. I take for granted the ability to admit freely that I identify with polyamorous philosophy, despite the scoffs of people around me. I have nothing to lose but their respect.

Why not just call myself non-monogamous? It is to me an incomplete reflection of what I am. 'Non-monogamous' conveys the sexual freedom, but 'polyamory' talks about love—and life—not just sex. And I want to promote a public that is familiar with the term, rather than offer up endless explanations of the nature of my relationship. I want a public to whom I can sum it up in a word, and polyamorous should do nicely.

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About the Author

Daniela Aum - - Active Contributor

Daniela Aum is a writer, artist and activist from Toronto, Ontario. She authored For The Love Of Self, Creating Cozy: Food & Magic For Crafting Comfort and Liam's Magic Rocket. Daniela is currently employed as a business developer in a green tech industry and is also the Creative Director of DUENDE Art Productions. Daniela is married and collaborates creatively with musician Glenn Aum. They both resonate deeply with polyamorous philosophy.