#HERCollective Contributor: Alicia Bunyan – Sampson
Diary Of A Polyamorous Black Girl
This has taken me a long time to write. I guess because I haven’t quite figured it out yet, and what it all means for my life. But I suppose that’s the point, to figure things out. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall of sorts in this polyamorous Black girl journey, so bear with me as I try to figure things out.
This is going to be complicated.
Alright, so many of my friends and family members have begun to shape their lives in really meaningful ways by having children and getting married or making lifelong commitments. I’ve been thrust into this space that has forced me to think a lot about my own life, Blackness and polyamory. I’ve probably said it several times in my other entries, but if you haven’t been paying attention, I want to make it clear that I LOVE Black men. Anytime I think about my future and the men I want to be with, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be Black men standing next to me. I’ve realized though, especially since coming out so publicly about being polyamorous that this fantastically wonderful picture of Black polyamorous love that I have envisioned in my mind, may be a lot more difficult to create in real time, and it makes me really upset.
In polyamorous spaces when I speak of my frustration of not meeting any Black polyamorous men, I am met with this really annoying shock and dismay. “Oh whatever do you mean?”, “maybe you should go out more”, “have you met my friend Rainbow?”. They offer suggestions on facebook groups I should join, or events I should attend, but by and large there is no real acknowledgment of the truth. The reality that Black men, or rather the socially conscious, pro Black men that I want to be with, do not at all embrace polyamory. More specifically though, I find they actually reject polyamory in an almost violent way.
For example, I hung out with an ex partner a few weeks back and we got into the subject of polyamory. He had never heard of the term or knew that people even lived that way. He seemed to be very intrigued while I was breaking everything down, but when I finished speaking he said something to me that really shook my shit up.
“Well Alicia, you’ve always been a slut”.
Now, keep in mind this was a remarkably abusive relationship so I was not a stranger to being called a slut or other disparaging names by him. But considering the context of the conversation, I realized at this point he was calling me a slut simply because I was polyamorous. That was uncomfortable for me because in his own special way, he too was polyamorous but somehow I was different.
So I said, “I guess you’ve always been a slut too”. I really wanted to remind him that we were no different and it was completely unfair for him to discard and dismiss me because I desire multiple relationships (sexual or otherwise), openly and unapologetically, in the exact way he does.
He smiled. Then very calmly broke things down for me. He told me that that’s not how things worked. He let me know that we were not the same, and things were not equal. That it is his nature to be with multiple women. I also felt that he was suggesting that it was almost owed to him, as a Black man. In rage I very quickly changed the subject and moved on to other things. I’ve learned since arguing with people on the internet, that one should never waste their divine energy on communicating with certain people, on certain topics.
Now as much as I want to dismiss that entire exchange and just chalk it up to abusive man mumbo jumbo, I can honestly say I wasn’t shocked by any of the things he said. I thought back to conversations with my mother about polyamory, and how she flat out told me that I could probably meet a Black man that would enjoy the idea of him being able to “sleep” with other women, but he would never allow me to be with another man. “Black men don’t like to share” she said. I argued with her about this for weeks, and she just maintained her position. Similarly to the sentiments of my ex-partner, she told me that there was nothing necessarily wrong with my desires, but she wanted me to understand that what I wanted for my life was just not acceptable in the eyes of the world, and that I would not be able to find a Black man that would value me and be happy with such an arrangement.
I was furious at my ex and at her, but I also couldn’t ignore the super uncomfortable truth in what they both were telling me. Because in fact, as a pro-Black polyamorous Black woman, my experiences had me in bizarre agreement with them – I wasn’t really sure if the majority of Black men were at all interested or capable of polyamory.
And that is something I have to talk about. That is something I have to face. Is it true? Or isn’t it? Or is this just another box the world has decided to place Black men inside. Maybe I wasn’t meeting the right people? Or going to the right places? Or.. maybe pro-Black, Black men are just not polyamorous. Can that even be a thing though?
Every time the topic would come up I got migraines and the fiercest anxiety in the world. My emotional mind and my academic mind standing toe to toe, battling each other. I felt guilty for thinking something that comes so naturally to me is something Black men, who I love so deeply, were not capable of. But intellectually, I can point to very specific things in history that would explain the why and the how of all of this being so difficult. Is that a reach though? Is that something that I have just been trained to do? Was I reducing Black men and Black people into a case study? Using the legacy of slavery to explain away things? Maybe I was the problem… Maybe I am just not desirable to Black men in any relationship style?
(pause for loud screaming into the cracks of my keyboard)
When I first started writing about being a polyamorous Black girl, it was my initial contention that polyamory was a privilege. That Black people collectively have had such limited access to just about everything, that it was reasonable that a relationship style such as polyamory, so far from what our society deems acceptable for anyone would be such a difficult idea for Black people to embrace.
However, what I learned very quickly after my first article went live and my inbox exploded with messages from Black woman from different cities across the world, was that polyamory was in their hearts. That they have been quietly and secretly working through their feelings and desires for a fuller way of loving. That they too were polyamorous but did not know what to do or where to go with what they really wanted. And there I was, puzzled again wondering what to do with this new information and what it meant for my deep feelings of frustration with being Black and poly. It was easier in a way for me to not have a partner or a social circle that included other Black polyamorous people if I could explain it all away by talking about how polyamory is inaccessible to Black people.
But if polyamorous Black people existed (which is what the messages proved), then what exactly was the problem in my life? I stopped writing for a while and really evaluated my own lens on polyamory because I was not expecting to hear from anyone. It was hard, but I knew I was missing something. It couldn’t be that simple? It didn’t take long though, for me to realize the key thing I had missed. I was looking at things all wrong. All the barrage of messages in my inbox had proven was that there were a myriad of Black polyamorous women who shared my desire for Black, polyamorous relationships. Unfortunately, I neglected to really notice or examine the fact that there was a severe absence of messages or any real interaction with Black men who shared those same sentiments. In fact, I can comfortably place the messages and all digital interaction with Black men regarding polyamory into two very distinct categories.
The first being incredibly hostile Black men who immediately shared their lifelong dedication to uplifting Black Kings and Queens while disparaging me for my whorish ways and my dangerous influence on young Black women. These men felt as though polyamory was a tool of the white man, and that by me writing about it in a positive way I was contributing to the destruction of the Black family and subsequently the Black community. They encouraged me to explore Polygamy – Black twitter refers to these men as Hoteps.
I actually had a very public exchange with one of these Black men when the first entry of Diary Of A Polyamorous Black Girl was published. He was the author and designer of a series of comic books (or something) that were meant to uplift Black people. He shamed me for writing the article and sharing it in a Black Community Group. He questioned me on how exactly I was protecting myself from the myriad of STIs I was apparently exposing myself to, and cautioned me against pregnancy. He was furious I even existed.
The second is slightly different, but equally as annoying to me. This group of men were warm and loving and shared their shock that I was a Black woman who was polyamorous, and also so nice. They explained that they primarily dated non-Black woman because they found interactions with Black women to be “difficult” for no reason. They said they would love to be with a Black woman, but it just never seemed to work out. Diversity is the collective favourite word with this group.
I meet these men often, at polyamorous events, with their white wives. Most recently I got into a series of very passionate exchanges with a polyamorous Black man about my frustration with polyamory and the absence of Blackness, to which he agreed until his white wife stepped into the space. It was almost as if everything we had discussed previously was imaginary and he reverted to a disposition that would not upset her lily white sensibilities.
And before you say it ( I really hope you’re not thinking it)
NO I do not think of these men as options at all for me.
NO I do not think that these are just bizarre isolated incidents.
I don’t want to be with Black men who think polyamory is a tool of the white man. I don’t want to be with Black men who see Black woman as difficult or challenging. I don’t want to be with Black men who see themselves as a free beings but see me as property. I don’t want to be with Black men who are pro-Black only if white people aren’t in the room.
I want to be with Black men who love Black woman and Black people and believe in agency. I want to be with Black men. That is what I want, that is what I deserve, and what I know is possible.
What I have seen and heard from a lot Black men for most of my life are various justifications for cheating in monogamous relationships that fall under this pathetic idea that it is the nature of the male to be with more than one person, but not the nature of the female. I have seen and heard of men discarding their partner without hesitation for her “spreading her legs” for another man, even though he has done the same with women. I have seen and heard Black men vehemently defend their commitment to relationships with white woman and non-Black women through this popular lie that Black women are just too difficult.
And then there is the moon.
Remember the moon I wrote about before? The moon is a Black man. The moon is polyamorous. The moon doesn’t think Black women are difficult. The moon doesn’t date white women. The moon gives me hope.
But.. is the moon the only one? Is the moon an anomaly? An apparition? Did I dream him? Is he real?
I’ve been polyamorous my whole life and at twenty eight, the moon is the first Black man I’ve met that embraces polyamory. Who does not think I’m a slut. The moon is the only Black man I’ve known to be willing to do the work. Who is committed to the emotional labour required within polyamory.
What does that mean?
Does it mean that my desires for a Black and polyamorous life are ridiculous? That I was simply just lucky to meet the moon and nobody else like him exists?
I don’t know. I feel like I don’t know anything.
Perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps that’s what I’m intended to figure out. That I don’t know anything.
If I were to intellectualize all of this, I suppose I could say that this is simply about whiteness and its unbelievable power to construct the centre, and place itself in it. While attempting to exist we consistently juxtapose almost everything against whiteness, this white standard, this white picture of the world. As a Black woman though, I have always been placed in the margins and made aware that I will never be in the centre. I recognize and understand that this is not a bad thing. In a complicated traumatic way, Black women never being welcomed by whiteness enables us to see things exactly as they are. Our awareness, our clear lens, has allowed Black women the ability to reject whiteness, and its inherent violence in a way Black men often can not. I’ve often felt as though that when it comes to Black men, because of their maleness and the privilege that comes with it, they are pushed closer to the centre.
Whiteness lives in the centre, and Blackness exists in the margins. So if Black men are pushed to the centre, they begin to construct themselves and Black women in this space of whiteness. And within a space of whiteness, Black women are not at all a viable relationship option. Black women have no social currency, we can not push Black men closer to the centre – especially, if we have any type of agency. And as I said before, polyamory is rich with agency.
What if because of the legacy of slavery, and the ways in which we can see that Black men are consistently trying to reclaim what has been taken from them, that they have been mimicking a white male gaze on Black woman? What if to most Black men, I am essentially worthless if I have too much agency? Too much say on how I want to be loved? That I provide nothing as a partner already because I am a Black woman, but i diminish myself further by being unapologetic in knowing I have a right to choice?
What if patriarchy mixed with white supremacy has just fucked it up for me? What if my expectations and desires are unrealistic? What If I am just a slut?
Or what if I am just to write. And by writing, the Black men that I desire will find me.
I just don’t know.
Alicia Bunyan – Sampson is a writer, director, editor, and a self-proclaimed angry black woman based out of the GTA. Her work primarily focuses on her identity as a black woman living in the Americas and an exploration of trauma and love. You can connect with her via Twitter here and get to know her more via her website here.
Read the last Diary of Polyamorous Black Girl entry here.