Vanpoly History
(an ongoing story with many voices)


How we started

In September 1998, I attended a conference for bisexuals here in Vancouver. There were a few workshops on polyamory listed in the conference programme, and I signed up for them all -- I was desperate to connect with other people in the Vancouver area who, like me, had more than one sexual-loving relationship.

I discovered that many other people in those workshops felt the same way: they wanted to connect with others interested in the ideas surrounding the polyamorous lifestyle, but there wasn't an avenue for it. A handful of us started to play the "what if?" game, as in, "what if we just started our own group?", "what if we met for poly dinners?", "what if we gave poly parties?", "what if we had an email list?", and so on. The possibilities for support and community seemed endless.

We talked about it. The phrase sounds simple and easy. I don't think it was. I remember talking about it over a sushi lunch part way through the conference, during other conference workshops, and even at the Saturday night dance. I seem to recall some of us talked about it when we met for coffee after the conference, when we went out on dates, over email and over the phone. Eventually, we talked about it enough so that some work actually got done! kj set up the email list, Dana and Cynthia did some outreach, and presto! The Vanpoly meetings started to happen.

Since then the meetings have fluctuated in every way imaginable: frequency, location, number of people in attendance, dates, time, whether we sit in a circle around a table with herbal tea, or on bar stools over soda water, red wine, or scotch. We've had meetings with so many people in attendance you had to shout "hello" to the other end of the table, and meetings so empty I bet a certain person wished he'd brought a deck of cards for a rousing game of solitaire.

In the time since we've started, Vanpoly has given me glimpses into what community can do for someone trying to live life passionately, without restrictions on love. When our meetings have been empty, it's also given me glimpses into how difficult it is to live the passionate life when you feel you stand alone.

I suspect the waxing and waning of our membership and structure is a natural part of Vanpoly's growth and evolution -- whatever the case, the possibilities still seem endless.

Uncredited by author's request.
February 3, 2000

My Poly Story

Once upon a time, the good Malcolm (as opposed to the bad Malcolm, who is also good; there are 2 "Malcolms" in the group, and those are our nicknames) didn't feel so good. He thought he could never settle down with one person the way the whole world expected him to, and he felt ashamed about that.

In his heart of hearts, he could see himself making one person more important than all the others, possibly, but would never want to restrict his lover from making love with others, and never wanted to feel restricted that way either. At the same time, he couldn't understand the callous attitudes so many gay people seemed to have about this, and about their prospective lovers, and didn't want to keep secrets from his lover(s) either.

One day, a grocery store mini-mag about Gemini's (his sign) said that "yes, you can INDEED be in love with more than one person at once", and the good Malcolm all of a sudden woke up and asked himself why he was spending all this energy feeling guilty and ashamed for the genuine feelings he had on the topic.

Over the next few years, the good Malcolm concocted an entire philosophy around the topic, all on his own, and passionately shared it with other gay men often. They rarely trusted him at first, unless they were the type of guy who just wanted to find their next meat, so to speak. And then they just felt supported in their crusades...

It is important to say that the good Malcolm did not come up with this philosophy simply because he thought it would be cool. That it would be cool, he has no doubt. The real motivation for him to create this philosophy was to clarify to others who he was, and hopefully inspire them to be who they truly are.

Then one day, he received an email through an email distribution group at SFU, calling interested parties to participate in a discussion group on Polyamory, briefly describing what it was. Cautiously, he wondered what it was, and contacted Dana, the originator of the email.

Tentatively, he attended the 2nd meeting of Vanpoly in October 1998.

He was delighted to find a large number of friendly, ordinary people -- straight and bi -- who not only felt the same way he did, but made him drop his jaw a time or two at the beauty and intelligence of what he was hearing, and how so many of these strangers' words were worded so very similarly to his own!

He was even more delighted, over time, to develop many warm, trusted friendships and associations with many of these people.

The good Malcolm finds nothing but great opportunities to open people's minds in the gay community, and is ever passionate about doing so. He believes there are a lot more gay people out there who could use the intellectual and moral support of this casual and friendly atmosphere in being their true selves, and looks forward to the day when this group is graced by many more fags!

...not the end!

Orion.
February, 2000

I was typical white suburban heterosexual male

I was typical white suburban heterosexual male, married, lived in the 'burbs, house rich and mortgage poor. I'd been married for 10 years and was unconsciously going through life, putting more care and attention into my own wants and needs and the needs of my career, than those around me. 1996/1997 had been a tough year, my Mother was ill, first with pneumonia, then Chronic emphysema, the real estate market had started to slide, work was tough and I was trying to finish off my schooling.  My Wife and I had become distant, often at cross purposes and not spending a lot of time together. She was going out with the girls, often for weekends and I wound up spending most of my "off" time alone.

On August 12, 1997, I won my first, and last argument with my soon to be ex-wife. She announced that she wanted a divorce. She then moved to the spare bedroom.  I convinced her to go to counselling, but all we wound up doing was wasting another 3 months. She would show up for counselling, often late, go through the motions, then once home, argue that we couldn't fix our problems. . .. finally, in November, I acceded to her request and we started the lengthy trail and trial of separating out assets.

Prior to this, I had developed a friendship with two female co-workers, R and K, and during this difficult period in my life, they became solid friends whom I cared for, (and still care for). Their support during this period was something that I greatly needed. K was an interesting person, she first joined the company identifying as a lesbian, but later came to identify as bisexual. She met a wonderful man in 1996 and married... but he lived in the States and had lovers. . . and she had lovers.... and I was confused. She explained poly to me, and at the time, I understood, but really could not relate.

In February, 1998, I went to a house party at K's.... and a sexual dynamic that had been present for quite some time blossomed into a relationship. Finally, I could understand poly. . . even though at the time, I was still living monogamously, now solely involved with K, I still loved, (and still do) my ex-wife while loving K with all my heart. Surprise, surprise, while time may be finite, I learned that love was infinite. During my time with K, I also re-kindled my interest in BDSM, and wound up taking a sub.

I started attending poly meetings at Uncle Charlies in October of 1998, and while K and I have gone our separate ways, I have learned much over the past few years about the nature of love, life and sexuality. I have watched the group wax and wane . . . peopleís families change. . . listened to crisis and issues. . . listened to tales of success and joy. . .. dug deep into the meat of the poly philosophy. I've been a bit of a stranger through much of 1999, being away from Vancouver on business for much of the year, trying to build a loving open relationship with my current SO, whom I met through the Poly Group. . ..... sat beside her, hormones raging at a February meeting. . .then wound up dating after re-meeting at one of Dana, Chloe, and Sean's parties ... but I am back now and becoming a fixture again. We will see what happens when I meet an other-love. . . if my hard won lessons will allow me success.

Jay F.
February, 2000

Cyn's story

Hello peeps!

My name is Cynthia or Cyn (tee hee). I have been in the poly community since the formal beginning. A wee bit of history on myself: I am poly/bi female, 28. I work as a nurse at VGH and at an hiv/aids hospice. I am tattooed and pierced, sexy and funky. I am currently living with my best friend -- we are technically married but have settled into a loving bestfriendship, so guess that makes me single and hot on the dating circuit. LOL I have always been poly, I just never had a word for it, that is until about two years ago. I went to a bi conference. I remember it as tho' it was yesterday. We were at the dance, standing outside, I had a smoke (I no longer smoke -- yay!) but no light. I saw this yummy girl outside (Dana) and asked her for a light. I met Dana, Chloe, Sean and Malcolm T. They lived all together at the time as a poly family. For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel alone.

Up until the bi conference I always felt strange because here I was in a "marriage" and scoping out people to play with, and maybe start a relationship over time. I lost my best friend of 8 years because of the fact that I was poly and bi. She could not understand and thought I was a freak. Imagine having more than one loving relationship? I was a freak or evil. She became very jealous and then left me. But they say for every loss there is a gain and I have made some wonderful friends while being here in Vancouver. (I am originally from Kitchener, Ontario. I've been in Vancouver for 4 years and am loving every moment of it).

I am a very active girl, blading about 35 kms a day. I eat healthy and live healthy -- no drugs, smoking or drinking. I am far from a prude, tho', and never judge others because of their lifestyle choices.

As far as my definition of poly: myself, I don't believe that we can get everything we need out of one person. I know everything we need is inside us but we have to love others and carry on loving relationships with others. I hate the thought of having that much expectation for one person, altho' I have found that poly is very difficult at times. I have wanted to give up and live in that mono word on many occasions. I think being poly opens up your mind and spirit -- you learn to communicate like you never have before! I have learned so much about myself thru my own experiences and the experiences of others. These last few years I have been on a rollercoaster; I JUMPED OUT OF THE FUCKING CLOSET and said "here i am world!". Sometimes I fall and scratch my knee but this wonderful loving Vanpoly group is there when you need them to support you when you are down (and also to support you when you are UP!) I am enjoying life for the first time in years.

I am poly and I am proud, babies!

Cyn D.
February, 2000

Kenzie's poly history

I'm only just starting to realize that in previous relationships (before I really knew about poly) that with monogamy being some kind of high and crystalline pure goal, it was very hard to even talk about other possibilities. And I always felt I was letting the other party down by not being monogamous in my head (although I never physically "cheated"...).

I'm starting to realize that I was playing a lot of head games with myself along the lines of:

"If I really loved them, I wouldn't feel these attractions to other people."

"I wish they'd just cheat on me and get it over with so I don't have to feel so guilty."

And of course, the big one:

"If I loved them enough, I'd be content with being monogamous."

Because of course, I wasnít content with being monogamous. I never put it that way to myself. I mean, what else is there? Right? But I felt incomplete in a lot of ways.

I remember one relationship I sort of fell into which began because I was feeling flirtatious and I kissed a guy I was feeling a little flirtatious with. And he said, "So, are we monogamous now?" I felt so trapped! I wanted to say, "It was just a kiss! I don't have to promise my mortal life over for a kiss now, do I?" But I didn't. I just nodded. Mutely.

And I sometimes wonder why I didn't. But there's probably a couple reasons:

1. Even kisses have meaning. The meaning for that kiss was "Hey, you're here, I'm feeling flirtatious and a little attracted to you, and hey, it's springtime!" That kiss didn't mean "I'm really attracted to you and I want a relationship." Or at least it didn't mean that to me, but maybe it did to him.

2. I probably felt like kisses have consequences. i.e. You've had your fun, now pay the piper. Hardly puritanical at all, is it? :)

3. I didn't then have the concepts to explain how I was feeling. But even if I had those concepts...

4. I didn't have very good personal boundaries. I was no good at saying No.

I've come to realize that a "Yes" is meaningless if a "No" isn't possible. Actually, when I say I've come to realize that, I just realized that right now as I wrote it! Writing exercises are fun! :)

That seems like a very simple concept. But realizing you're in a situation in which a No is not possible for you is a very hard thing.

Part of poly, for me, is the kind of relationship where a yes and a no are probably, in the end, equally okay. Which doesn't mean that other parties don't wish for a different answer to questions than you're willing to give, but that they can accept the answer you do give. I guess that's respect, too.

And so, even though my current partner and I haven't actually had other relationships outside our relationship yet, the shift of the energy of our relationship from unwilling uncertain assumed monogamy to polyamory has been so freeing for me!

It almost sounds a little silly, but if other possibilities exist, I can be with him! If it doesn't rule out other possibilities, then sure, we can be a couple, that's cool.

Kenzie W.
February, 2003

The short version of Tillie's poly-ness:

After wondering why the human language was so limited in terms of love, and why the line between friend...lover...and significant other *had* to be so distinct, at age 15, I set out upon several years of interspersed monogamy and "random affection".

At 20, having happened upon the concept of poly through the BCBicon, queer studies, BDSM, etc, I decided..."this is it!"...and jumped in both feet first.

Now, at 24, I live in Burnaby with roommates, attend SFU, seem to have adopted a cat, have a handful of close friends and lovers, and am always busy. ;) I am in love, entwined, marveling at where I have ended up and where I haven't, and always touched and astounded at the connections I have made in the past couple years. I am still finding my ideal home and place in the world, but each passing season it gets clearer.

Tillie K.
February, 2003

Transitions

I sent a few lines in to the Vanpoly elist a few months back announcing I planned to stop co-moderating the elist and the monthly discussion meetings. In the time since, I havenít been completely out of the picture in terms of the group (somehow I ended up coordinating workshops for the June 2003 retreat, for example <grin>), but it has given me a chance to reflect on how much has changed since we started the group back in 1998. For example, of the four original co-founders:

One, having completely re-invented his relationship structure (i.e. is no longer with the folks he was with, and has gone on to others), and has recently gone to Hong Kong to research his Masterís thesis on action films and globalization.

A second co-parent, is planning to go to Prague by the end of 2003 to teach English for a year. She has also re-invented and re-structured her relationship life. She hopes to start a family soon.

The third co-parent moved to the North West Territories to live with his brother, work in a grocery store, and keep a detailed on-line diary. Like the other two co-parents of VP, heís also re-invented his romantic life. I hear a rumor that soon he plans to move to Winnipeg.

Which leaves me. What can I say about the last 5 years of my life? Lessee . . . when we started VP, I worked in a group home in a para-professional capacity, my kids were in the really fun part of late childhood, I was part of a "living together" FFMM poly-bi quad, and I was writing a play.

In the time since then, Iíve changed professions, attended and completed graduate school, watched my daughters grow from being fun kids to beautiful and accomplished teenage women, become a Reiki master, learned how to draw and paint, experienced a profound spiritual awakening that caused me to join an established religion, and discovered I have food allergies. Iíve ended two primary partnerships, started a third, and dated or had lover-type Ďminií-relationships with a few others. Currently I am the "hinge" in a MFM Ďveeí. I consider both of my loves primary life partners. I live with one, and not (yet) with the other. My friend and companion of longest standing (11 years), Mr. Patch, died of liver cancer. Iíve reared two new kittens to young adulthood. I have spent more than a few nights weeping alone in a darkened room. Iíve had at least twice as many curled in a sticky heap with one of my loves, listening to the sound of per heart beat and the throb of my own blood in my veins as I stand in awe of the mystery and passion of human love.

I donít know what comes next. I donít need to. The future of the community I helped create will unfold exactly as it needs to. I am grateful for the opportunity to help create something. Thank you. :)

Uncredited by author's request.
July 20, 2003

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