Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Medical Issues Concerning Polyamory

Autonomy to me is the right of an individual to make his or her own choices. Being polyamorous, being able to make my own choice of lifestyle was difficult. The term “polyamory” was first coined in 1991 by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. To be able to give a societal definition on polyamory, I consulted Wikipedia from the internet. They define it as “the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Polyamorous perspectives differ from monogamous perspectives, in that they respect a partner's wish to have second or further meaningful relationships and to accommodate these alongside their existing relationships.

The term polyamory is sometimes abbreviated to poly, especially as a form of self-description, and is sometimes described as consensual and/or responsible non-monogamy. Polyamory is usually taken as a description of a lifestyle or relational choice and philosophy, rather than of individuals' actual relationship status at a given moment. There is certain fluidity in its definition, to accommodate the different shades of meaning which might be covered.
Polyamorous relationships are themselves varied, reflecting the choices and philosophies of the individuals concerned. Polyamory is distinct from polygamy, being closer to a personal outlook than a predefined bonding system. It is grounded in such concepts as choice, trust, equality of freewill, and the more novel idea of compersion, rather than in cultural or religious tradition.” (Wikipedia Foundation, electronic version). To a practicing polyamorist like me, it means having more than one loving, but not necessarily sexual, relationship at a time that includes total honesty with open communication from all concerned, that does not in any way involve swinging.
A important concern with being polyamorous is sexual safety. Although
the only foolproof way to be safe is to abstain from sex,; in the poly community, there are ways to try to be safe. Most polyamorous families will have ‘Condom Contracts’ or ‘Bodily Fluid Exchange’ contracts. But as with any other type of relationship, there may not be full disclosure of activities. Humans are not infallible. That is why there are advocates for safe sex. Also, “a closed circle, whether of two or six or twenty, healthy trusted partners can make polyamory just as ‘safe’ as monogamy, perhaps more so since the couple who have sworn to be monogamous may be more likely to lie about outside affairs and less likely to frankly discuss their sexual histories with porspective lovers than those who are oply polyamorous.” (Anapol, 1997, 28). To get tested for any sexually transmitted diseases is the only reliable way to keep yourself safe. “Some polyamorous folk swear by them and get regular tests every six months or every year as a courtesy to their lovers, or they get them immediately upon getting a new regular lover and expect the same treatment in return.” (Kaldera, 2005,114).
The more important issue at hand for a polyamorist is finding a doctor who is, at least, nonjudgmental on our way of life. They do not have to believe that our relationships with others are good. They just need to practice their field of study. When looking for a doctor, one of the first things to be discussed would be my relationship dynamic. To be less than truthful, would be detrimental to my health, let alone to my personal sense of wellbeing. There is a perception within the polyamorous community, however, that doctors are not well-informed about our lifestyles and needs. This limits the extent to which polyamorous individuals feel that they have access to quality health services. Some polyamorous individuals report a reluctance to seek health care due to fear of bias. Others find it necessary to use expensive doctor visits to educate their doctors about what polyamory is, and to convince them that a polyamorous lifestyle in itself is no more unreasonable than a gay lifestyle. Textbooks about ‘normal family functioning’ do not include references to polyamorous lifestyles, and this contributes further to ignorance about polyamory on the part of mainstream therapists.

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