As a Black, Fat, Disabled Person in Love, My Monogamy Feels Radical

I met my current partner at the height of hot girl summer. June 2019 was a completely different world. I was 21 and hungry for love. I grew up relatively sheltered, and before that summer, I’d never dated much, but my hunger was something I had known my entire life.

As Black disabled people, we are consistently taught that we are not worthy of love. Before hot girl summer, I went through what felt like an inescapable series of lesbian “almosts.” I locked lips with girls while “Linger” by the Cranberries played in the background. I had 14-hour first dates. I kissed a girl in her black pickup truck while Frank Ocean played in the background, and the waitress at my birthday brunch even gave me her number. Each of these moments felt like they were meant to be so special. They felt like signs from the universe that something was finally about to happen for me, and each time, they just faded to nothingness.

And all those false starts began to take a toll. I felt like I was someone who just wasn’t meant to have a love story. I felt like the world was divided into people who date and experience romance and have that real, great big love and those who don’t. I was among the latter, and that was the way of the world — there’s not exactly an endless well of romances featuring fat, Black disabled folks.

Body as a bargaining tool: tired, coded, heavy, bug bite-ridden.
You could say that I am emotionally detached, teaching my emotions that they must function as a kitchen sink — something easy to turn on and off on command. I’m so used to disappointment that it cannot penetrate me anymore. I won’t let it. I will not leak anymore.

– July 2019

But then I met her — my current partner — and my world opened up in a brand new way. She had this big, blonde afro and wore skinny jeans and Converse. She lit up the entire stage every time she performed. When she told me she liked me, she kissed me on the forehead. I had never known sweetness like that. We would lie on my bedroom floor and have these big, vibrant conversations about what it meant to be together as Black disabled people. I thought to myself, this is everything I’ve been waiting for. For the first time in my life, I saw the possibility of being understood deeply by someone. But things were far from simple — she already had two partners.

The full moon is in Aquarius and it’s Leo season. Your hair is a soft blonde mane that I want tangled up in mine, and of course, you are an Aquarius. I forgot about the full moon as we danced. I haven’t unpacked my lunar calendar since moving. You are my full moon girl. Tell me again how you don’t know anything about your Venus sign. Let me keep faking a doctorate in Astrology. You spill vodka cranberry on my sweater and a part of me never wants to wash the stain out so I can proudly wear your sweetness when I’m on the lightrail. This isn’t a love poem quite yet, but the way your gaze is burned into my memory could have fooled me. I’m still learning to say sorry less. I’m still bruising my knees whenever I hit the dance floor. I’m still learning not to be the first to look away when we’re staring at each other. But I feel held by you. I am held by you. I will be held by you.
-August 2019

Polyamory and ethical non-monogamy have always been presented to me as a deeply radical act, an intentional rejection of the status quo and a declaration that love is not meant to be limited. I was an impressionable and hungry almost-girl. I borrowed my friend’s copies of The Ethical Slut. I tried reading Pleasure Activism. I desperately wanted to understand “the politics of feeling good” and whatever the hell that meant for me and my life. Everyone told me that it was unrealistic to expect one person to be able to fulfill all of your needs.

Conceptually, I understood this, but I grappled with this idea’s execution. I looked my dream girl straight in the eyes and decided at that moment that if she were already seeing other people, then I ought to as well. I felt proud of my decision, like I was catching up with the rest of the world. All the friends I met that summer were also polyamorous and were trying to teach me the ways of that world, and I felt like this approach decreased the probability of me ending up alone. But something was gnawing at me.

I kept having these intrusive thoughts about what it meant to be the only Black face on my dream girl’s roster.

One of my friends once told me that they can’t date someone with white partners, and I instantly understood. Non-monogamy is not a white thing, and for many queer people of color, polyamory feels like a return home to themselves. But for me, navigating polyamorous dynamics with white people is inherently taxing and painful as a Black person. “Ethical non-monogamy” stopped feeling liberating for me when it meant sharing the experience of my Black love with white outside parties. I constantly questioned my bond with my partner. Knowing that there were white folks out there who thought they knew my partner as well or better than me made me sick. Polyamorous friends told me that I could date my partner without dating other people myself, and this didn’t make me feel better either. The way I hunger wasn’t built for this.

Call me your sweetness.
Today I allow myself to be your almost girl.
I no longer need to be what I once was, a hungry, not quite bastard stripping meat from bone while breaking the rib in the process.
I’m starting to believe you’ll never starve me.
I’m starting to believe you’ll never starve me.
I (will) believe you’ll never starve me.
Tell me, have you ever hungered too?
Have you ever cracked open a rib to suck it’s marrow,
Knowing there’s a chance you could choke?
Can you smell the blood in my belly?
Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and no longer be afraid of being prey.
In the moments where I am beside you I no longer feel like prey.
Soon, I will rest beside you.
Soon, I will rest besides you without wondering where the carving knife is hiding.

-September 2019

I have always been someone who struggles to hide their dissatisfaction. I spent months working up the courage to spend time with my polycule and acknowledge my metamours. I thought that my resistance towards the entire ordeal would cause me to miss out on my great big love. There was a part of me that deeply cared about my metas because I knew they mattered to my partner. I would never have asked her to give them up. I knew what I was subjecting myself to, the feelings of insecurity and discontentment, and I chose them anyway. I still thought I could find liberation somewhere in this dynamic the way so many of my peers had. But as committed to the polycule I was, I still journaled and cried and prayed for a change in my circumstances. The day my partner came to me and said, “I would drop everything for you and only you,” it felt like I’d relearned how to breathe.

Realizing I struggled with polyamory felt like failing at something important, and I still sometimes question if interpersonal revolutionary politics have a place for me and my monogamy. I look to other Black people who practice ethical non-monogamy and I question why my circumstances felt so different. For me — a person living at the intersections of fatness, Blackness and disability — polyamory was not conducive to my happiness because of the ways desirability politics have burned me. I am not ashamed to admit this. There are moments when I’m still questioning everything, but I’m not ashamed to have failed. My monogamous relationship still feels radical. It is a radical act for two Black disabled people to find one another in a world that isn’t built for our survival. It is radical to have built this monogamous relationship from the scraps we were given. It is radical to recognize that you need to build a new foundation.


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Teighlor McGee

Teighlor has written 1 article for us.

18 Comments

  1. Teighlor, thank you so much for this. As someone who has been burned by attempts at polyamory (and by the framing of polyamory as inherently queerer/hotter/better in lots of spaces) for very different reasons than you, I found your perspective really thought provoking. I hope we get to see more of your writing!!

  2. I relate so much to a lot of this. The first girl I actually got to be dating in my Adult, Post College Life On My Own was polyamorous, and when she revealed this to me (in a way I did not quite feel to be fair – after we’d already decided to turn a friendship romantic and been on a date or two) I was heartbroken but already had fallen for her. I hadn’t gotten a real relationship yet, so why not date someone polyamorous – what else was I doing, after all? I’d felt so alone before, and tired of looking for someone. She wasn’t actually seeing anyone else at the time but would talk about her unrequited feelings for another girl to me, which also stung. During this time i met another girl who was also polyamorous, and the polyam scene she was in really skewed straight (with queer relationships seeming to be “on the side”). Especially since I was a few years younger than all the polyamorous people I was interacting with, I felt that I was constantly being treated as though my preference for monogamy was naive and I simply didn’t know what I wanted yet or wasn’t radical enough.

    Anyway, it turned out the first girl was an abusive jerk, and the second (mentioned in this comment) was extremely kind and sweet and devoted to me, and we did become monogamous and live happily ever after. It’s funny because I couldn’t ever tell anyone my story and say they should expect the same thing to happen to them – but then it does seem like a lot of us meet our forever person not in a formal courtship but in the Hot Girl Summers of our lives.

  3. I don’t believe that anyone is required to retrofit their real feelings/needs/preferences to someone else’s idea of what their relationship structure ‘should’ be. Happy for you for being true to yourself. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. This is a really important and valuable perspective. I am polyamorous but I always try to push back on the idea that this way of dating is somehow “better”, or “more natural” or “more queer”. For me it’s just something that makes me happy but I think it’s important to acknowledge that it doesn’t make everyone happy! And that’s totally ok. We can, and should, celebrate any relationship that brings joy.

    • Thank you for this! I’m not monogomous but I’m asian and bisexual and feel the hunger and bloodlust you wrote about, too! I honestly question my need to people please and my healing has slowed down my furious polyamory research, the outrage that anyone deserves to know me while I struggled knowing myself. So yeah, radical self healing is so much more important than an radical sexual anarchy. Thanks.

  5. I am so proud of you!

    I’m not monogamous, but/and I also see clearly how much gaslighting there is in many poly communities. The Ethical Slut reifies avoidance and pathologizes normal attachment needs– I believe that book has done a great deal of harm.

    It takes enormous strength to break through gaslighting and honor what you need and deserve. You are awesome.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Teighlor.

    One thing that I hope comes out of the huge surge of polyamory that we’re seeing is that people choose whatever style of relating works best for them in a conscious manner, the way you write so beautifully about here.

    For many people who spend their lives feeling bad about their wants and desires, discovering polyamory is life-altering. So many don’t even realize it’s an option because monoamory and monogamy are so thoroughly ingrained and culturally compulsory. It’s the latter, compulsory part that is the problem, not the mono part, and as you and a couple of people noted above, the urge in polyam circles to cast non-monogamous relating as some more evolved style, while understandable, is not helpful when in the end what we all want is to be able to love and be loved in ways that uplift each of our unique souls.

  7. I feel the exact same way, as a working class disabled person married to a trans woman who sees the push for poly in progressive circles as a decidedly middle class, often ableist thing – people get to pick you up for fun, then drop you at their own convenience and not have to deal with the reality of the mutual care required in a full on live-in relationship. Is it radical to be monogamous in a culture where poly has become the norm? It sure is, so I don’t understand the types who criticize monogamous queer people for “wanting to fit in” – exactly what are we fitting in with? We’re the ones who are being pressured to fall in with what is becoming the norm in our subculture, and it’s not like the wider culture at large pats us on the back any for “being like them” because fact is, they still see us as alien.

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