The Polyamorous Devils of “Couple to Throuple” Are Ready to Blow Up Gender Norms

Peacock’s polyamorous dating show Couple to Throuple got two things right: Ash and Maximo.

Introduced in the later half of the season, our pansexual, non-binary duo crashed into the Panamanian resort to much fanfare, confusion, sex, and drama.

In their introduction, voguing extrovert Maximo said he’d mostly dated cis men before dating Ash. And Ash, exuding quiet top energy, had mostly dated women. Their relationship threw gender and sexuality norms in the trash. And their foray into polyamory stirred up some much needed chaos among the RuPaul’s Best Friend’s Race energy of the other couples.

After meeting them at the official Couple to Throuple finale party at Rocco’s West Hollywood last week, I sat down to ask the show’s little devils from Brooklyn some spicy questions about their very queer meet cute, fighting with the other gays, joining a legendary ballroom house, and exploring their gender presentations while on a TV show where everyone at home can judge… everything about you. (Fun!)

Gabe: It’s been awhile since the show filmed, so what do you both identify as now?

Maximo: I still identify as nonbinary and pansexual. Now, we both identify as polyamorous.

Ash: For me now, there’s a bit more confidence within my transness as well. And I think at the same time with being polyamorous, we now are a part of a really great group called Sucia that allows me to produce different play party events for queers. That community alone is a very polyamorous, very selfless, very healing kind of community. Growing that has been a really great way for us to expand what polyamory means to us.

Maximo: Sex positive, all about decolonizing gender, and race, and sex.

Ash: I think it’s really cool to have a support group of the people who are following along with this journey of mine. Naturally, polyamory is a very expansive word. And that concept to us has been very much aligned with our values and how we express ourselves, and how we’re building community here in New York.

Maximo: Yeah, and I feel like it’s really showing both of us how beautiful our relationship is, and how valuable it is for people to experience it. We open up people’s minds on the daily when they meet us, and especially in these intimate spaces where they can really see our love and get to know us. It starts to get people questioning, and even like rearranging and thinking, “Oh, why am I telling myself I can’t do this?”

Gabe: Well, that’s the thing about representation, that’s what’s great about it.

Ash: That part. I feel like even after the show, and having it be what? A year or so since then? We just still feel all that joy of seeing how it’s resonating with people in a way that we wish we could’ve had when we were younger. You know, that type of thing! That type of world!

Gabe: Ash, you were talking to me at the finale party about seeing yourself on the show with long hair and in a group setting where “these are the guys” and “these are the girls.” I had a similar experience being very visible on Buzzfeed as a woman to now being a trans guy. How has your transness evolved since you shot the show?

Ash: Great question. I think at the time when we were shooting, it was really confusing. Like things were coming up naturally with us having an experiment of something very new. We were bringing in different types of people. I felt like it was kind of hard to get a grasp of what I was even feeling at the time.

So I did have kind of a breakdown moment where it got overwhelming, and I felt like there wasn’t anyone there that could kind of relate with that. So, me trying to articulate anything, and telling Maxi, “Just hear me out. I don’t know what I’m saying, but just hear it out.” Maxi’s like, “Okay?” but being very great.

You know, I always thought in my head every day at least 10 times a day, “Am I trans? Am I valid to say that, to think that?”

Because at the time, I’m not thinking about physically, or trying to transition in any way, but feeling so much of my nonbinaryness. I felt like it was just a very different kind of transness that I didn’t get to really relate with anyone about yet. And so it was hard. I kept questioning it, and then I think after knowing “okay, maybe it’s not a question anymore,” I did come into a pretty dark period where I was having a lot of insecurities, a lot of fears of the unknown. And also trying to be okay with potentially letting go of family if this is something that I am gonna be very sure about.

I credit a lot of being able to get through those times to Maxi being so patient with me. But I think more recently now, probably in like the last few months, it’s been really great to kind of come out of that. And now that I see this show, and how it’s documented, I find it very endearing to be like, I wanna love my younger selves, like the journey of it. And now I have something that I can look at, and I can see, and I can be proud of, and be like, “That is still me, that’s still a part of me.” But I can be even more sure of my transness because I’m kind of annoyed that I’m not seeing what I wanna see. That also tells me, “Okay bitch, don’t question it anymore, I think you’re on the right path.” And it just makes me more fueled with energy to be like, “Yeah, this is what I wanna do for myself next.” And it would be really cool to show people, and bring them along on that journey. ‘Cause I think it’s really hard to see the questioning phases, kinda like the uncertainty of it all. But I think that’s what I really needed to hear more of at the time, to be like, okay this is natural, like it’s not just me. So I think for me now, it’s just like being okay with sharing the unsure journey part of all of it.

Gabe: The nonbinary-phobia of like, “Well if you are presenting more femme then aren’t you choosing a gender?” “Well if you’re not gonna buzz your head, if you’re not gonna go on T, if you’re not gonna… then what’s the point?” And it’s like, “Well the point is that it’s an identity that doesn’t choose. It’s all of it!” And it’s also like, “Let me take some slow steps. Jesus.”

Ash: Yes, yeah. I think there was a really great moment on the show too with Junior, who at the time you know, I now say that I identify as trans nonbinary. And the morning after our first night with Junior, I was like, “Oh, I have to take my birth control,” and they were like, “Wait, what?” And he said, “I thought you were trans,” and I’m like, “Oh, okay, I see why you think that.”

Gabe: Isn’t that the best when you just confuse the shit out of people?

Ash: He was like, “Wait, like when we were in the shower, I was wondering, I was like, did you get surgery, or were you tucking?”

Gabe: Is that the sort of a fun thing where you’re like, “Yeah, that feels good, that feels affirming?”

Ash: It’s such a fun conversation for me. I thought it was really cool that at the time, I was confident enough to explain my transness, like, “trans doesn’t mean transitioning. It’s just like, I don’t identify with how I was on my birth certificate.” But if I don’t decide to do any type of medical transition, like if I don’t do T, if I don’t do top surgery, you know people are… But the coolest part was Junior being like, “Oh yeah, yeah that’s cool.”

Gabe: Okay so you guys walk into the resort late. Had they let you know they were saving you for last?

Maximo: They told us we would be coming in later, more of like, we’re the surprise couple. The couple grenade.

Gabe: The bombshell, as Love Island calls it. Did you think everyone was gonna be queer like you, or what did you think other people were gonna be?

Maximo: I feel like, how we rationalized it in a way was maybe with such a new concept, like polyamory entering mainstream media, they also wanna have it a bit more digestible at the beginning. And perhaps we were a bit… well, very much super queer. That was one thought. Another was like, “Oh bitch we’re so fab, we get a special entrance.”

Ash: I definitely assumed we were going to bring a unique dynamic, because we’re very used to people being like, “What the fuck?” Like, people are so fascinated by our relationship, how it works, do they believe it? They invalidate it, like there’s so much that people—

Gabe: Oh, people think you’re bearding for each other?

Ash: Since day one.

Maximo: Since day one. Probably the first year was the hardest, and especially when going out to like gay spaces and queer spaces. ‘Cause our own community can be the worst. They’re the ones who are like literally talking to me, hitting on me in front of my partner. Saying, blah blah blah blah blah. I remember like when I was bi. I remember those days. Or like, you know stuff like that. And it’s just like, okay?

Ash: But now we have actually really opened up people’s minds, ’cause as they get to know us, spend time with us, they’re like, “Oh wait, the love here is actually very real, and I understand both of your expressions and how you can love each other.” And that’s okay. They just weren’t used to it. But we weren’t either, so I always understand people that are coming from a place of like they just can’t accept or get it. ‘Cause it took us a long time to not be friend-zoning each other ’cause we were so insecure about actually being able to like each other.

Maximo: ‘Cause I’m like, “Oh I’m just like the gay best friend!” You know maybe this is like what gay best friends do. Like, I don’t know if she at the time is really into me, you know? And for me too, one of my fears when I came out as pansexual, I came out when I was 21, because I was very aware that I was attracted to both women and men, and like really anybody now at this point. And so, coming out in middle school or high school was like, “Oh, there is no bi. That’s just a cover up for being gay.”

Gabe: Yeah, I was gonna ask how you guys met. ‘Cause we got a little bit of that story on the show, but how did you guys go like, “Oh shit, I’m interested in this person who might read as gay, and this person who might read as a lesbian.”

Ash: So…

Maximo: Take it away.

Ash: I had a friend who I knew for a bit before I actually moved to New York. It was like, “Oh, I would love to see you. I’ve moved to New York.” And they’re like, “Oh, we’re actually at this bar really close to you.” It’s called The Tipsy Dog and was actually down the street from me in Bushwick. And they’re like, “Oh, a few of our other friends are coming, I want you to meet them.” So I’m like, “Yay, friends. I’m gonna go.” Then I go, and my friend introduces me to Maximo. And Maximo—

Maximo: The Grindr hookup date at the time.

Ash: It’s a Grindr hookup, yes. And I’m like, “Oh hi Maximo.” And we’re about to now go to my place, which is really close to keep hanging out. And Maximo goes to the bathroom, and everyone’s about to leave, going like, “Oh, we’re gonna go to Ashley’s place.” And then I’m like, “Wait, but like, what about Maximo? “We gotta wait for Maximo.”

Maximo: Everyone just paid me dust and Ash is waiting for me in the bathroom.

Gabe: Wow. The sad Grindr hookup left in the bathroom.

Ash: So we go back, and we’re just having a great time getting to know each other, but then we keep hanging out, and eventually like we hang out a lot. Eventually I actually went on a trip for 10 days, and that’s when I feel like we realized kinda you know we had feelings for each other.

Maximo: Which at the time was the longest we’d been apart since we met. You know what though, even before that, it had been a couple months since—

Ash: 3 Dollar Bill bathroom.

Maximo: And the 3 Dollar Bill, infamous—

Gabe: Classic place, yes.

Ash: Absolutely. And you know those bathrooms. Anywho, I thought that was the perfect place to be like, “I’m gonna ask Maximo to get some.”

Gabe: In the bathroom at 3 Dollar Bill?

Ash: Yeah.

Gabe: What a beautiful fairytale.

Ash: But I did, right? And then Maximo starts laughing, and I’m like, wow.

Maximo: And I just kinda giggled like “haha,” but also in my mind I’m like, “Oh my god, they’re not into me! I’m just the gay best friend, like I guess this is what gay best friends do?” And Ash was throwing me mad signals, and I’m like missing all of them. And then Ash goes to Hawaii.

Ash: Yeah, I go for 10 days. And then we catch some feelings. We’re like, “Oh it’s been a minute. Heart grew fonder.” And eventually, as soon as I come back, Maxi’s like, “Oh I’m gonna come over, let’s hang out.” I’m like, “Absolutely.” And then we’re in my room, I’m unpacking, and then I go like, “Maxi sit down, sit on the side of my bed.” And I’m like, I just have to say something. I feel the universe saying I need to speak. I was like, “I don’t care what you think but I just gotta say it so you know. I really like you, like actually like you.” And what did you say?

Maximo: Then I’m like, “I was gonna say that first, like I literally came over here to tell you.” And then we’re like, “Okay cool, so we both like each other?”

Ash: And then we’re like, “What does that mean though?”

Maximo: And then I’m like, “So, does that mean we can now move into maybe exploring physical intimacy?”

Ash: It did.

Maximo: And then you know like, “Yeah,” and we’re like, “Cool, cool. I like that. I like that.” And then we go to the couch hanging out like normal, only now it’s not normal.

Gabe: Right, now it’s on high alert.

Maximo: Watching Netflix, probably watch like three movies until we finally got the courage and—

Ash: And like whoa, we’re so like—

Maximo: And we kissed.

Ash: So lesbian right now.

Gabe: It really is. 1) you speaking first over Maximo is giving very top energy, Ash. Then going to the couch, and just being like, “Anyway, should we watch… I don’t know, Portrait of a Lady on Fire five times before we sort of make this official?”

Ash: Yeah, basically. Basically!

Gabe: That’s so wild. Was it because you had said, at least on the show, you hadn’t ever dated anyone other than cis gay men?

Maximo: Well, so they kind of got that wrong.

Gabe: Simplified?

Maximo: I had been primarily dating men before meeting Ash after coming out, and kinda more exploring that. But my entire life I’ve had girlfriends from elementary school, ya know?

Ash: Playa!

Maximo: I moved to New York with my ex-girlfriend, after we graduated together, and then we broke up a couple months later. Then from there I was in New York, and at the time, identified as pansexual and heteroromantic. I told myself I didn’t actually like guys, I just liked to suck dick, you know what I mean? It’s hard to explore intimacy with men, and giving myself space to do that, and cuddle with guys, and go on dates, and like get to know people beyond just like the NSA hookup on like Grindr down low, ya know? So that was really cool, and then I found I had the capacity to love everyone. And had experiences with all kinds of different gender presentations. So it’s really not about boys or girls, nonbinary, trans, it’s just a person. ‘Cause sexually, you know I’m very sex positive, very high sex energy, but there is no preference, like I need a vibe first.

Gabe: I think you two are a pretty cool testament against biphobia.

Okay, this wasn’t on my list of questions because it’s not about the show, but I have to know: Maximo, you’re in the House of Xtravaganza? How did that happen?

Maximo: Yeah! So moving to New York, I started going into the underground ballroom scene, I guess not so underground anymore. And I was connecting with voguing. I was taking a lot of voguing classes. For me moving to New York, I really wanted to find my community, my people, and watching things like Pose and Paris is Burning, I was like, “Oh my god, does that still exist? Is that real? Can I find that world?”

And so finally figuring out how to go to a ball, where the balls are at, just going and meeting people, meeting different members from different houses. And you know, asking like, “How does one get in a house? Like how does that just happen?” They’re like, “Oh it’s kinda just natural.” You’ll find it when you find the people or people give you bids. And then some people asked me to join their houses, but I didn’t really connect with everybody. Not that there was any negativity, but I didn’t want it to just be like an agency, like I’m going here to like now be a part of this collective and compete in this name so I’m a fab girl. I really wanted to find my family.

And when I met the House of Xtravaganza, I met Mike Xtravaganza first, he took me to my first big ball, and he took me to the Xtravaganza table, and introduced me to everyone. And the rest was history, those were then my people, hanging around them. Jose Xtravaganza became my gay father, Giselle Xtravaganza also became my gay mother. I had so many fab and inspiring big brothers, big sisters, trans, nonbinary, like gay people that I was inspired by and able to learn from and be encouraged by.

Gabe: Wow.

Maximo: Those are my people.

Gabe: That is so cool.

Maximo: I have an Xtravaganza ring tattoo, like a wedding ring. It’s on my wedding finger so.

Gabe: Married to your family.

Maximo: I’m married to Xtravaganza.

Gabe: I don’t know how much you guys can talk about the behind the scenes of the show, but how did you feel about the format? I don’t know that it allowed for true depictions of polyamory. Like I thought it was very interesting when Darrien said, “Well what if I dated Max and Ash and also Brittne and Sean?” In the real world, she could.

Maximo: It was actually funny because Becca also proposed like, “We could just do a quadruple with Jonathan.” ‘Cause we were thinking about it. We’re like, “Absolutely, but the format…”

Gabe: Producers won’t let that happen.

Maximo: And I get it. It’s a lot to take in with polyamory already for a lotta people in America, so to confuse it more with a polycule or anything else, maybe that’s too much. But at the same time, we’re also like, “This could work out really well if we didn’t have to limit this to just threes.” It was annoying.

Ash: Yeah, I feel like at the same time, it did provide in a way a somewhat safety-ness from the full mess of the real world. Or all of that drama that you’re gonna get into.

Gabe: Controlled environment.

Ash: This was our first step into polyamory. And it might have been a little too much for us at first. ‘Cause we were still figuring out if we like this. It gave us a little pillow. But it also provided our first experience with dealing with tension and multiple dynamics, because of having that selection process, and having that format.

Maximo: You know, we got into it with some other couples. There was some tension there. And then how to go about communicating that, and how to go about what makes you comfortable. But then at the end of the day, this is our first time experiencing this. And Ash and I are just like, “Well what do we want?” Right? Like this is our experience, so like what is gonna make us grow after this the most, or help us find our perfect throuple.

Gabe: I also loved the gay moments I didn’t get to put in my recaps. When Rehman and Ashmal were pissed at you, and they were like, “We can talk about voguing or whatever, but that’s it!” About no longer being friends. Just little funny, gay moments.

Ash: So funny.

Maximo: Of all the things.

Ash: But then like, I wish they showed maybe then a clip of you actually voguing.

Maximo: Yeah I was voguing, I mean I vogue every day and I’m gonna dance away stress, like I keep up my body. Ash was like, “I hope they show me working out with Frank.”

Ash: Yeah, with the guys!

Gabe: I was like, of course it’s the two gay couples who were friends for about five minutes, and then came for each other’s throats.

Ash: Just had to be like that.

Maximo: But also, what I really loved watching back those episodes, is I just love that this situation can bring Rehman and Ashmal closer and bring all the couples closer. They were all on the same page against us. And I was like, “That’s kind of nice to see.” I love that they’re all really keen now, ya know?

Gabe: A couple likes nothing more than a common enemy.

Maximo: Right.

Gabe: That could fuel three more months of the relationship. You could run just on that.

Maximo: Oh, three?

Gabe: Yeah just three, then you gotta find a new enemy I guess.

Ash: Oh my god.

Gabe: I know we talked about representation a bit, but what are some of your favorite reactions from people reaching out to you guys as a couple?

Ash: The first thing coming to mind is when people are so happy to see Maxi just being confidently queer, and someone with a penis being with someone like me and also being feminine. And him having so much love for me. But seeing them just talking about it in a way where they now feel comfortable expressing themselves in that way. I think that just hits. ‘Cause I know you, Maximo, and I know the things you had to go through growing up, and how you express yourself. That’s so important.

Maximo: Yeah, yeah, I mean there’s so many. Just the general feeling that so many people are happy that they see a love that is outside of the norm. And it kinda validates that they can also love in these ways, or that they are free to love in whatever way that they want. That’s what’s important. We know all of these familiar structures of what relationships look like, and what kinda people go with what kinda people. We put ourselves in those boxes but we have the capacity to break that down. And what I love, is seeing people really just connecting with the nonbinary-ness of our relationship, ya know?

Gabe: I was saying to someone the other day, my absolute favorite thing is when it’s a stud on TikTok being like, “There’s this twinky guy that I see around and I think he’s so hot and I’m just gonna go for him.” Or like, there was one where it was this very effeminate guy who was like, “Why am I in love with the security guard at my building?” And it’s a butch lesbian. There’s so many more expansive ideas of not just sexuality, but gender.

Maximo: Yes, the positivity, and the way people are reacting is great. But there is a side of me that also appreciates… I’m used to making people uncomfortable, and our love bringing out a lot of feelings of people, whether they’re positive or they’re negative, you have an opinion.

Gabe: Love me or hate me.

Maximo: Being able to write back to people, and just share with them my perspective, and my love. Ya know seeing some people who are like, “Y’all are a fake relationship.” And I go, “Actually da da da da da da da.” And “I hope we can open your eyes to more.” And then they reply back, like, “Wow, I never knew that” and “that’s awesome.”

Ash: [slightly sarcastic] Best of luck to y’all.

Gabe: Oh my god.

Maximo: Ya know, best of luck. Maybe I just opened their mind a little bit more. Maybe I just changed their ideas. As many people that are commenting, there’s even more people who aren’t or who are just thinking because they’re having their own reality tested in a sense.

Gabe: Well, thank you so much. Is there anything else you would like to say?

Maximo: We love you, we love your writing.

Ash: We love your writing.

Gabe: Perfect.

See more of Ash and Maximo in Couple to Throuple now streaming on Peacock

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Gabe Dunn

Gabe (he/him) is a queer, trans writer and director whose most recent film GRINDR BABY was selected for Frameline Festival’s 2023 Voices. He is a best-selling author thrice-over, host of the podcasts The Knew Guys, Just Between Us and Bad With Money. As a TV writer, he has sold over a dozen TV shows to networks like FX, Freeform, and Netflix. His young adult sci-fi drama Apocalypse Untreated was released by Audible Originals in 2020. His latest TV project The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams is in development at Universal with Gabe set to write and produce.

Gabe has written 16 articles for us.


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