Being Black and Polyamorous: Love as Liberation

Growing up, I watched a lot of movies since we didn't have cable, and whenever we watched stories about love there was always the same general flow to the plot. Whatever it was — be it enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, etc. — the main couple were usually a straight man and a straight woman. The woman would be hopelessly in love despite his flaws and the man would do everything in his power to give her the world he thought she deserved. And their relationship always followed a certain trajectory: they meet, they date, they get married, maybe they have kids, they buy a house, they definitely get a dog, and sometimes they fight, but they love each other unconditionally — main point of conflict or clear lack of intimacy aside.

Receiving so much love and care from Black people (specifically gender-oppressed Black people; read: not men) opened my mind and heart to the joys one can get from Black love.

Two things about this always perplexed me: the idea that there was only one person made for you and the meet-cute would be magical, and that love was only to be between men and women. I never really saw queer relationships on screen or in real life until I got to high school, and even then the few kids who were out hardly made it very clear. Toss in almost 20 years in the church, where you're told sex is forbidden before marriage and being gay is seen as something that "isn't OK just because they made it legal," not to mention a total lack of comprehensive inclusive sex education, and it's a miracle I have become the person I am today.

If I had to choose one of the labels made up by those who feel the need to force our multitudes into a neat little box, I would say I am a queer human who practices polyamory. While it's tempting to understand polyamory as an excuse for someone to cheat on their partner, that is not the case at all. There are a few articles that explain polyamory at a level most people can understand, but here I want to share the way that I currently practice polyamory. I don't have any hierarchies in my relationships, rather each connection I have requires varying levels of romantic, sexual, and platonic elements.

My first relationship was open. I was dating someone I met while studying abroad in Ghana and I knew the way I wanted it to work was for that moment we would be monogamous, but once I came back to the United States we could date and sleep with other people. This arrangement was satisfactory to them, and although we ended up going our separate ways a few months after I came home, I still learned a lot from that connection.

It was through that experience that I found out that I had the capacity to love multiple people very deeply at the same time. When I was in Ghana, many of the Black people on my study abroad program were also queer and went to small liberal arts schools in New England that had done a lot of damage to us mentally and emotionally. Being Black and queer on a predominately white campus is never ideal when you want to be held by someone who knows exactly what it means to grow up as a Black person in the United States on top of your other intersecting identities. Getting to be in a community with so many beautiful and insightful beings as we all experienced Ghana together helped settle in my mind that love can be found in so many places, not just whomever you happen to be romantically dating at the time. Receiving so much love and care from Black people (specifically gender-oppressed Black people; read: not men) opened my mind and heart to the joys one can get from Black love.

Which leads me to my next point: the importance of being loved on by Black people. Being Black in the US is such a unique experience that Black people globally don't always get until they come here and live it themselves. It's unfortunate, but we do live in a world where not everyone cares about what happens to us in a country that was founded on stolen land and built with the labor of stolen people. The resilience and knowledge passed down through generations has kept us alive this long, so who am I to deny the security I feel in the arms of another Black person? Love from Black folks is something I will always be grateful for, and through polyamory I have been able to be my full authentic self in all of my relationships — romantic, sexual, and platonic alike.

Polyamory isn't for everyone, but whenever I see Black people I love and care for being happy, building bonds, and being in community with each other, my heart is full from the joy that a deep and meaningful love like that radiates. Today, and probably forever, I choose to have a community full of intentional relationships with Black people — the ones I dedicate my life work to.