Christin Milloy:

Rise up and seize equality

The Perils of the Plus-One: A How-To for Poly-Friendly Event Organizers


I’m polyamorous or “poly.” I have two romantic partners at the moment, and I’ve had as many as four at one time. I love each partner in different ways, and they in turn show me different sides of the same wonderful universe. For me, the magic of love and romance has been multiplied and I’m probably never going back to being monogamous or “mono.”

But how do we divide our love fairly? We don’t have to. The human heart is like a radio transceiver; It can operate on many different frequencies, and that’s exactly how poly works for me. Anyone who’s ever changed radio stations (or switched between tabs in a web browser) can understand that concept, right?

Several paper doll chains.

Not all families look the same.

We are immune to #monoproblems. Cheating? Can’t happen as long as we all remain honest with each other. Jealousy? Not as such, google “compersion” if you’d like to learn more about how that works.

In fact, just about the only problems poly people have (over mono people) are logistical in nature; There is a meme in poly communities regarding the use of Google Calendar that is somewhat akin to Lesbians’ supposed affinity for the services of U-Haul.

However, not even careful scheduling can possibly prevent the pesky poly plus-one problem.

By offering a plus-one invitation to your event, whether you realize it or not, you are providing a specific accommodation to monogamous people (who form the majority of society). Specifically, you’re ensuring that every monogamous person has the option of having 100% of their romantic partners included to participate. In my house, however, every plus-one invitation turns into an ordeal of arguments and disappointment, because no matter what, somebody(ies) are inevitably left out. And you know what, that’s actually really unfair.

To knowingly force that situation on anyone is very disrespectful, because while it favours and honours monogamous partner relationships, it denies the legitimacy of polyamourous personal relationships, by showing they are unworthy of the same consideration and inclusion. Even if the disrespect is not malicious or intentional, the deleterious effect is still the same. That makes the traditional plus-one an example of “adverse-effect discrimination.”

There is one simple and obvious solution to this problem: Instead of saying “bring your plus-one,” change your invitations to say “bring your partner(s) or plus-one.” In one fell swoop, you can end discrimination against non-monogamous people (at least as far as event attendance is concerned). Will you?

I’ve encountered a litany of excuses that seek to justify continuing this form of discrimination.

“The plus-one rule is the same for everyone, so it’s fair.” No, actually it’s creating an extra barrier and negative consequences for a specific identifiable minority of your guests, so it’s obviously not fair. Check out “adverse-effect discrimination.”

“It’s a cost control issue.” Well… very few people are poly, so you’re really not going to break the bank on this. It’s also not the first time in the world that providing equitable, fair accommodation to a minority group cost a few extra bucks, so it’s not the end of the world.

“Ask around and get someone else who was going alone to register them as their plus-one.” This is really sneaky and kind of gross, and it imposes an unfair additional burden of effort in a discriminatory way. After all, you wouldn’t ask or expect a friend or employee who is gay to pretend to be straight at your event by having a female third-party escort his boyfriend. Or if you would, you’re terrible. Don’t be terrible.

“If we let you bring two people, everyone will want to bring all their friends.” Well, tell them they can’t. These two people are my partners, not my friends. The guest invitations should be for “your Partner(s), or plus-one of your choice.” Nobody is getting to bring more than one friend. That’s equitable, and fair to everyone.

“Other people will lie and abuse it.” Okay, this is almost certainly not true, but even if it did happen, that person choosing to be a dick is not the fault of the polyamourous community. Also, this is the exact same fear-mongering excuse used by North Carolina lawmakers seeking to ban transgender people from using public restrooms, and it’s invalid here for the exact same reason: The potential for bad acts by persons outside a minority group does not serve as justification for denying human rights accommodations to that group.

So, if you have an event coming up, consider changing your “plus-one partner or friend” policy to a “partner(s) or plus-one friend” arrangement. You’d be doing the right thing, and showing love to us poly folk— As well as saving us a lot of stress and drama in our home life, something even mono people can identify with.

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Christin Milloy