Simon Copland was 16 when he came out as gay. Now – with two partners – he faces a much more difficult coming out
by Simon Copland
This is my coming out story. My second one. When I was 16 years old, I first came out as gay.
Coming out then was hard but this time is much harder. This revelation is something I am more fearful about, but I have to come out.
I am polyamorous.
I am dating two people at the same time – James and Martyn. They are both fully aware of and happy with the arrangement and are able to follow suit by dating or having sex with other people if they wish (as am I).
My partner James and I have been together for nine years. We met on a drunken night during my first week at university. James was in his third year and I had turned 18 the week before.
Straight off the bat James suggested we should be in an open relationship, meaning we’d be allowed to have sex with other people if we wanted. At first I didn’t like it but I agreed. At the time I felt I had little to lose.
James and I moved in together a year later and for many years we rarely acted on our agreement – there was only the occasional hookup. But the arrangement was always there. It was an acknowledgement that we could be sexually attracted to other people and act on that, yet still love and be in a relationship with one another.
Over time I grew more comfortable about it and slowly we developed our understanding of these ideas. When we moved to Brisbane a few years ago we became friends with others in polyamorous relationships. We each developed crushes and realised, in practice, that we could have feelings for other people yet still love each other.
Then came Martyn. James’s friend first, Martyn lives in Edinburgh – they met through roller derby circles and connected on Tumblr.
When visiting Edinburgh last year James, Martyn and I caught up for a drink. By the time James and I got home to Brisbane, Martyn and I were chatting on Facebook and Skype on a regular basis.
Soon James was calling him my “Scottish boyfriend” and not long later Martyn and I made that official. Martyn visited us in Australia and now I am spending the year in Edinburgh living with him.
Over the past year I have faced the same anxiety and fears as I did as a nervous gay teen. But coming out as poly has required vastly more explanation – not only have I faced the fear of people reacting badly, I have faced a barrage of questions about “how it works”. So here is the simple explanation:
My relationships are based on a simple philosophy – there is no limit to the amount of love we can feel for other people. Loving someone does not diminish the love we have for others. Just because I love vanilla ice cream doesn’t mean I can’t love chocolate ice cream as well. ...
There was the time when, 19 and naïve, I was guilt-tripped into entirely unwanted physical intimacies with a much older married man. And the time, three or four years later, when I went to visit an on-and-off long-distance boyfriend and quickly realized that it was over for me—but he assumed we were still on, and I didn’t have the nerve to say no to sex. And the time I told a man, “Look, I’m not going to sleep with you,” and it was taken as “try again in a couple of hours.”
When they happened, my view of these encounters ranged from “a mistake” to “it’s complicated.” It still does—even though, these days, we are encouraged to reinterpret such experiences as sexual violations. To many feminists, stories like these are evidence of a pervasive, misogynistic rape culture. “Kids see movies where there’s an aggressor who gets pushed away, but keeps trying until the girl relents,” writes advocate, author, and filmmaker Kelly Kend. “This is a rape dynamic that has been played off countless times as just how it works.” Canadian feminist author Anne Theriault laments “the still-pervasive and very flawed idea that if she doesn’t say no, it’s not rape”—clearly referring not just to attacks involving violence or incapacitation (for which few would demand a verbal “no” as proof of rape), but encounters in which a woman yields to unwanted overtures.
To me, this crusade against “rape culture” over-simplifies the vast complexity of human sexual interaction, conflating criminal sexual acts like coercion by physical force, threat or incapacitation—which should obviously be prosecuted and punished whenever possible—with bad behavior.
Was I a victim? Even in the first incident, in which the man knowingly pressured me into something I didn’t want, I could have safely said no. Consent for bad reasons is still consent; despicable behavior is not always criminal. (Getting guilt-tripped into giving money to a freeloading friend is not robbery.) In the second instance, it would be an infantilizing insult to deny my responsibility for a mutual misunderstanding. In the third, what happened was not only consensual but wanted; my initial “no” was sincere, but it was mainly an attempt to stop myself from acting on an attraction against my better judgment.
Besides, I know that sometimes the roles were reversed. There was the ex-boyfriend I thought I was seducing in the hope of getting him back—only to realize, the one time he finally said no harshly enough, that it had been more pressure than seduction. There was the man who told me it was too soon for us to get involved, and said, “we shouldn’t be doing this” more than once the evening we first went to bed. If I were to claim victimhood, I would either have to admit to being a perpetrator as well, or fall back on a blatantly sexist double standard.
Forty years ago, feminist reformers successfully challenged the discriminatory treatment of rape complainants, from the requirement of physical resistance to attacks on a woman’s “unchaste character.” Feminist advocacy also deserves credit for clarifying that forced sex is always rape, even in a relationship. (I am talking here about being forced by physical violence, restraint or threats, or subjected to sexual acts while physically helpless.) But the anti-rape activism that emerged in the 1990s and has surged on college campuses and on the Internet in recent years goes far beyond that. Today, it not only embraces an absolutist version of “no means no” in which any hint of reluctance must halt further attempts at sexual intimacy. The movement also insists that only a clear (and probably sober) “yes” means yes.
Sometimes, the movement’s supporters claim that the new rules amount to little more than common sense: don’t have sex with someone who isn’t a willing partner. (In practice, a male student at California’s Occidental College was recently expelled over sex with a partner who was willing and enthusiastic, but apparently too intoxicated to think clearly.) ...
A study released last week presented evidence that prehistoric men and women lived in relative equality. But is the truth even further from the nuclear narrative?
by Simon Copland
Last week, scientists from University College London released a paper presenting evidence that men and women in early society lived in relative equality. The paper challenges much of our understanding of human history, a fact not lost on the scientists. Mark Dyble, the study’s lead author, stated “sexual equality is one of the important changes that distinguishes humans. It hasn’t really been highlighted before.”
Despite Dyble’s comments, however, this paper isn’t the first foray into the issue. In fact, it represents another shot fired in a debate between scientific and anthropological communities that has been raging for centuries. It’s a debate that asks some fundamental questions: who are we, and how did we become the society we are today?
Our modern picture of prehistoric societies, or what we can call the “standard narrative of prehistory” looks a lot like The Flintstones. The narrative goes that we have always lived in nuclear families. Men have always gone out to work or hunt, while women stayed at home to look after the house and the children. The nuclear family and the patriarchy are as old as society itself.
The narrative is multifaceted, but has strong roots in biological science, which can probably be traced back to Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. Darwin’s premise was that due to their need to carry and nurture a child women have a greater investment in offspring than men. Women are therefore significantly more hesitant to participate in sexual activity, creating conflicting sexual agendas between the two genders.
This creates a rather awkward situation. With women producing such “unusually helpless and dependent offspring”, they require a mate who not only has good genes, but is able to provide goods and services (i.e. shelter, meat and protection) to the woman and her child. However, men are unwilling to provide women with the support they require unless they have certainty the children are theirs — otherwise they are providing support to the genes of another man. In turn men demand fidelity; an assurance their genetic line is being maintained.
Helen Fisher calls this ‘The Sex Contract’, but the authors of Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, are a little more cutting in their analysis: “the standard narrative of heterosexual interaction boils down to prostitution: a woman exchanges her sexual services for access to resources … Darwin says your mother’s a whore. Simple as that.”
Herein, so some scientists say, lie the roots of our nuclear family and the patriarchy. Our gendered hierarchy is based on an innate biological need for women to be supported by men. The very capacity for women to give birth to children places them in a lower position within society. ...
Last month, the three-member Baltimore City Liquor Board refused to grant the owners of the Baltimore Eagle a liquor license transfer, claiming that the work on renovations was not completed within the required 180 days. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been invested by Charles and Ian Parrish in renovations, permits and other expenditures in an effort to reopen the bar on the corner of Charles and 21st Streets that had been a popular venue for the leather community since 1991. “We disagree with the decision of the Liquor Board,” says a message on the bar’s website, TheBaltimoreEagle.com. “We believe that the City should honor its promise to us. Although their stated reason for extinguishing our license is that The Eagle has been closed for renovations for more than 180 days, they’ve set aside the 180-day guideline dozens of times for other bars. And although there is no penalty in law that requires the Liquor Board to revoke our license, they concocted the harshest punishment available. Why are they selectively penalizing The Eagle?”
Despite the Liquor Board’s decision, which many believe was unjust, capricious and even discriminatory, the ownership group and supporters have devised a three-pronged strategy to bring the Baltimore Eagle back. That strategy to recover The Eagle’s license will include pressuring elected officials, filing a reconsideration or appeal and launching an all-out grassroots campaign. That endeavor has already begun. A group called Friends of the Baltimore Eagle, which is not affiliated with the Baltimore Eagle LLC, has distributed fliers mostly through social media urging members of the community and allies to support the effort. The flier, titled “PLEASE HELP US SAVE THIS LANDMARK TAVERN,” explains what transpired and claims the Liquor Board’s decision was tainted by a biased member. Accordingly, Friends of the Baltimore Eagle is urging the community to write the governor, mayor and City Council requesting that they overturn the board’s decision. The Eagle’s website provides a simple form to use that includes a sample message of support.
The origins of San Francisco's legendary Folsom Street Fair may be much different than you think.
When someone talks about Folsom Street Fair in 2015, the leather and fetish elements of the historic outdoor celebration of sexual diversity are likely what come to mind. However, this event is also rooted in a very specific issue that queers and other marginalized groups have dealt with for decades: gentrification.
"Folsom Forever" is a new film from director Mike Skiff that takes a look at the historic legacy of Folsom Street Fair and how this festival was birthed from San Francisco's narrative of gentrification surrounding the HIV/AIDs panic.
"If you've attended the Folsom Street Fair in the last 30 of its 40 years, it would seem this outdoor kinky celebration has always been a Leather-oriented event," Skiff told The Huffington Post. "Making this film gave me the opportunity to, among things, correct that misconception. The fair was actually born in ’84 out of South of Market neighborhood's need for survival, as developers sought to bulldoze buildings and sex businesses -- like the bathhouses -- being closed by the city in misguided AIDS hysteria. What Folsom Street Fair always has been is an expression of human rights, be it the right to low-cost housing or to willingly be flogged without fear of arrest."
Skiff also added that the 1970s in San Francisco was a very specific time -- one in which members of the LGBT community were given the space to explore the spectrum of their sexuality and queerness. ...
Before we eat, Ruban Nielson’s son, Moe, leads us in a blessing. “For trees so tall and skies so blue, for friends and food we thank you,” he sings, in angelic unison with his younger sister, Iris. It’s Moe’s sixth birthday, an occasion for which he’s requested only French fries from a drive-in near the family’s home just outside Portland, Oregon. To round out his dinner, his parents picked up cheeseburgers and cookies as well. “Six,” Nielson says, marveling at his son as he disassembles his food, layer by greasy layer. “I can’t believe it. I remember when I could hold you in my hand. Isn’t that crazy?”
Moe giggles. This disarmingly clear March day is spent as a family, with Nielson—the 35-year-old voice and mind behind Unknown Mortal Orchestra—helping his wife, Jenny, carefully piece together Moe’s gift, a small geodesic dome. As they watch it take shape in the backyard, the kids chase each other in the grass and hang from a tire swing sueded in moss. Iris picks dandelions and Moe sings to himself while banging on parts that have yet to be raised. It's a scene and moment that Nielson—profoundly groggy in an oversized black sweatshirt and rumpled black pants—might normally miss.
“Ever since we’ve been together, he’s stayed up weird hours—dinner is more like Ruban’s lunch or breakfast,” says Jenny. “Usually it’s fine, but sometimes it’s hard if you want to do something with these guys,” she adds, running her hand through Iris’ brown hair. Yesterday, after working through the night in his home studio, Nielson woke up at five in the evening, long after the kids returned home from school. Today, he made it out of bed around noon. “They think I sit in my basement and play guitar all night by myself for a living,” he says of his kids. “But I’ve been more normal since finishing the album.”
While Multi-Love, UMO’s third full-length, marks a thrilling departure from the bedroom psychedelia that has earned Nielson an unexpected following, it’s also an album whose backstory speaks to the manner in which he views his art, his life, and the connection between the two—a leap of faith and a leap forward. It teems with lush synths and futurist textures, hallucinogenic funk and R&B, but emotionally and lyrically, Nielson needed a light. “I wanted my kids to be an influence again,” he says. “The way Moe made me feel—that optimism of having a kid—was a big part of my first record, but the next album was impacted by the guilt of wondering if I was going to be a good dad in the long-term. I needed something outside of myself.”
That something came, but in a surprising and complex form. After touring behind his first two albums for nearly three years, Nielson arranged to take a year off, so that he could write, record, and spend more time at home with his family. But as work on Multi-Love began in earnest last year, Nielson and his wife found themselves reconsidering the outlines of their relationship. As we eat and laugh at their tiny wooden dinner table, I’m sitting in a seat that, up until very recently, was occupied by someone else, someone whose absence is palpable and whose influence can be felt throughout the record she helped shape. “It’s not that this song is about her,” Nielson sings in the album’s hypnotic title cut. “Most songs are about her.”
“I’d never heard of polyamory before and I wasn’t interested in the idea of it,” Nielson tells me after dinner, during a long walk through his neighborhood. “I just wanted to pretend that no one had ever thought of it before, to stumble into it blindly.” He scratches nervously at his chest, over a tattoo of an open eye etched between his collarbones. “I feel like I’m gonna spend the rest of my life trying to live last year down. It was such a beautiful time.” ...
A leader of the anti-gay organization Concerned Women for America has admitted her testimony to the Texas Senate over a bill that would shield clergy and churches from same-sex weddings was not true.
The Civil Rights Movement
by DAVID BADASH
Last week lawmakers on a Texas Senate committee heard testimony on SB 2065, a bill designed to shield clergy members and churches from performing same-sex weddings. While the First Amendment already provides this protection, this bill would allow clergy members who are employed by the state as justices of the peace or county clerks to refuse to marry same-sex couples. Texas lawmakers are engrossed in a battle against their LGBT constituents, and this month over two dozen anti-gay bills before them, including one that would literally defund same-sex marriage in the Lone Star State.
On Monday, May 4, Beverly Roberts, an Area Director for Concerned Women for America, delivered testimony before Texas Senators. Concerned Women for America (CWA) is a right wing religious anti-gay, anti-abortion activist group that opposes same-sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, the teaching of evolution in schools, feminism, pornography, stem cell research, and advocates for school prayer.
"The mission of CWA is to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens — first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society — thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation," its website states.
"I have a question for you," Roberts, in red in the photo above and video below, told the Texas Senators as she began her testimony. "Is it necessary for a couple to be married by a minister to be legally married?," she asked.
"If not, why are homosexual couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal, demanding that ministers perform their marriage ceremonies?"
"Should we not consider these to be hate crimes?," Roberts continued. "Are these not instances of targeted bigotry? Are these couples not engaging in the same bullying tactics they profess to deplore? Why are they attacking a minister when they don't even need him to perform their marriage? So again I ask you, who are the bullies, the bigots and the haters?"
The New Civil Rights Movement reached out to Roberts via email on Monday, asking her to point us to "the story or stories you testified about," as – to our knowledge – there are no actual instances in reputable news reports of same-sex couples demanding that ministers perform their marriage ceremonies.
In an email response received Monday night, Roberts effectively admitted that her testimony was false.
"My testimony did not relate to a specific instance," Roberts told NCRM in her email, adding it was "to put a law into place ahead of a possible Supreme Court Ruling requiring all states to perform same-sex 'marriages.'"
"We know that, given the tactics of the LGBT community, it would not be long before they started suing churches and ministers who decline to do their ceremonies," Roberts wrote. "They just move incrementally as they force their agenda on the rest of us and we have begun to fight back." ...