Millennials don’t do labels these days or do they? Some folks despise labels while others live and die by them. Today we describe labeling the holy trinity - Sexuality, Gender and Relationship Styles. We describe our experiences and difficulties with labeling our own individual selves and how those labels have changed or even evolved over time.
Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.
Our theme music is Forms I Know I Did by Josh and Anand.
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Dedeker Winston: I don't think it means it's like never use this to describe yourself.
Jase: I might go that far, to be honest.
Jase: Yes. I just can't think of any example when it's necessary.
Dedeker: Well, because I think for instance, if I'm talking about my access to privilege, I'm going to acknowledge I have privilege as a cisgender person.
Jase: Yes, sure.
Emily: If you're happy with the same old ways of dating-
Dedeker: If you enjoy sucking at communication-
Jase: -and you have no desire to improve your romantic life, then our podcast might not be for you.
Dedeker: -but, if you want some out of the box ideas deep is your current relationships-
Emily: Broaden your sexual horizons-
Dedeker: Develop a better understanding of yourself.
Emily: -or learn more about non-monogamy.
Jase: Then you've come to the right place. I'm Jase.
Emily: I'm Emily.
Dedeker: I'm Dedeker.
Jase: This is the Multiamory podcast.
On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about labels. Wait, we're millennials, we don't do labels.
Emily: You're almost not a millennial.
Jase: I'm almost not a millennial. Now, labels they're like frenemies or like the force. There's a dark side and a light side to them and there is a ton of way to use labels for evil or for good, but today, we're going to be talking about the holy trinity of labeling, which is labeling our sexuality, labeling our genders and labeling our relationship styles.
Dedeker: A holy trinity?
Emily: Did you just say the holy trinity?
Jase: I sure did. Passover episode.
Emily: You've been really getting way too into Jesus and stuff and we're not even there yet .
Dedeker: I don't know if I would call these three sections of one's identity the holy trinity because there's many, many ways in many, many labels that you can apply to many different facets of yourself.
Jase: I'm saying the holy trinity about these because these are the ones I feel like are debated a lot.
Dedeker: That is true.
Jase: Although, I will say at work the other day, we did have a very long debate at lunch about the difference between a nerd and a geek. [crosstalk] Most of the time though, people have more serious arguments and discussions about these sorts of labels than those sorts of labels.
Emily: I declared myself the only nerd at work today because I was the only one who watched the Game of Thrones. Everyone else was like, "Uh." I'm like, "Who are you, people? This is a cultural freaking phenomenon right now."
Dedeker: Okay. I would take umbrage with that and I would argue that that's not a good enough basis to call you a nerd because it is a cultural phenomenon.
Emily: Be that as it may--
Dedeker: I would so call you a nerd-
Emily: Yes, you would. Thank you.
Dedeker: -because you are into video games and nerdy stuff.
Emily: Yes. Many nerdy things.
Emily: I'm glad. Why would I be a geek?
Jase: Anyway, this is about the difference between nerd and geek. That's the thing, actually, we did find some science behind it, which was cool.
Emily: Well, what's the difference?
Jase: Well, see it's going to spark a whole thing.
Emily: All right, fine.
Jase: People, you all can go discuss it in the patron group, but basically, the essence of the distinction is that a nerd is about essentially like learning about a thing that you're into, whereas a geek is about doing the thing that you're into. You're going to hear some--
Dedeker: Where does the science come in?
Jase: The science was done based off of just analyzing how those words are used in social media, like collecting examples of them and then tabulating and making-
Dedeker: Based on actual usage.
Jase: -actually usage. Yes.
Emily: Is that with reading counts because you're learning about something? You're learning about Tolkien or whatever.
Jase: Again, it's based on how they're used, but the idea of being like-- What would it be? Like someone who is like-- I guess like, I don't know, maybe the difference would be like a Tolkien nerd is someone who reads a lot and likes to put together or learn about the genealogies and stuff like that, whereas a Tolkien geek would be someone who actually learns to speak Sylvan or Orcish or write one of the Tolkien languages or who will actually makes genealogies of the characters. You can be both, I think but you bleed into that, anyway.
Dedeker: I can buy that. We're all ready five minutes of the episode still talking about this stuff. If any of you are watching the YouTube video, there's a very large dog who's determined to be in our podcast today. You can tune in to YouTube if you want to get a little glimpse of this very large but very cute dog. Let's just dive right in and talk about our sexualities. How do y'all feel about that?
Jase: Sure yes, we want to start that as the first topic here.
Dedeker: I'm going to start us off real poetic, like.
Dedeker: If that's okay.
Emily: You do that.
Dedeker: There is this queer theorist named David Halperin. He's done a lot of writing on this kind of stuff and he has this great quote. "Sex has no history because it's grounded in the functioning of the body" and he distinguishes that sex itself, doesn't have a history, but what does have a history and therefore a lot of words and a lot of labels surrounding it is sexuality, which is something that's a product of culture. Like our whole concept of sexuality is just this collection of meanings that human beings have attributed to sex acts and to the people that do them over the course of centuries, millennia, however long human beings have been having sex and had the wherewithal to comment on it essentially.
Jase: That's interesting.
Dedeker: Which I think is interesting if you think about--
Emily: Probably at one or another- I was watching Deadwood, and it's an HBO show and there were various people on the show that sleep together that are not-- Like two women will sleep in the same bed together and my partner was like, "That used to just be called bedfellows." Like this is my bedfellow. Which didn't mean anything necessarily sexual, although potentially it could.
Dedeker: That was something that I remember came up and Carrie Jenkins book about before we labelled particular relationships as lesbian or before we attributed any form of homosexuality to women, that there are a lot of references within for instance, like Victorian-era literature and journals of women who are very affectionate with each other that we, with our modern day view, look at that and think of like, "There's some kind of same-sex attraction going."
Emily: They must be into each other.
Dedeker: Or they must be into each other. Maybe they were, maybe they weren't. The things is that there wasn't even a word. It wasn't even in the vernacular to even acknowledge it or talk about it.
Emily: The ancient Greeks didn't like the same thing. Isn't that the thing that people throw around all the time, like ancient Greeks would be interested in or not necessarily even interested in, but just sleep-
Jase: They would have sex, they would have orgies and stuff like that.
Emily: -and sleep with their apprentices or whatever.
Dedeker: Or your slaves.
Jase: Or your fellow soldiers or whatever.
Emily: Yes. Who were the same sex. Why is it scary to label oneself? We've talked about this, we were laughing about this earlier like what labels do we use in order to proclaim to the world what kind of people you prefer to have sex with? Which is?
Dedeker: It's really abstract.
Dedeker: -when you think about it that way.
Dedeker: I don't know. Do you think that there's different types of people? I feel like I'm definitely a type of person where I feel more scared by attributing labels to myself, but I think there's other types of people who feel much more affirmed or excited by the idea of labels and also I think that could change depending on what time of life you're in.
Emily: What time of life you're in?
Dedeker: I just think about, this is really ridiculous, but I think back to like middle school and high school when we're all trying to figure out our identity and who we are and what kind of person we are, that's all very much in a state of flux. I remember there were always like my friends who would just really cling to labels really quickly and even little silly labels like, "I'm a surfer, I'm a skater, I'm a punk rocker, I'm a goth" but were super excited by that because it was this idea of it's community and it's belonging and it's a way that I can project to the world and let the world know how they're supposed to treat me or how they're supposed to see me.
I was never that type of kid. I was much more like, I don't think I qualify for you seriously.
Emily: You never were like a nerd or something?
Dedeker: Sure. I was nerdy and I was into some punk rock stuff and maybe some goth stuff that maybe some- [crosstalk]
Emily: You were in punk rock stuff.
Dedeker: To get a very long circuitous answer to why is it scary to label oneself? I think going back to even when I was young, it was this idea of like if I adopt this label, that means I'm committed and I will have to live up to it, I'll have to dress for it, I'll have to like, I need to make sure that I'm living up to this label and not being sure that I could do that even if the label was maybe appealing to me.
Jase: It's interesting because I feel like I actually have come at it from a different side in my life where more of the fear of labeling myself is that I'm not necessarily sure I want to be involved with everything that's part of that label. If the other people using this label start doing these things, I don't necessarily want to be grouped in with them. It's almost the same thing but from the other side of like they're the ones fucking it up versus I'm the one who might fuck it up. I don't know.
Emily: What kind of labels falls under that?
Jase: Literally anything like we've talked about--
Dedeker: It's how I feel about polyamory many times.
Emily: You've talked about that. Yes.
Dedeker: That I found myself unconsciously at first, using that word to describe myself less and less even though I very much resonate with it and feel like it's actually probably the most appropriate label I have. I think because as media coverage of polyamory has expanded and I've just seen more of these like, Oh God, really embarrassing or not well-handled coverage or just really bad examples or just when I say the word polyamory and people are like, "What? Like sister wives?" I'm just like, "aaaaah. I don't want this label on me."
Emily: We're going to get into that a little bit later more. What, Jase?
Jase: I was just going to say with that label thing, I was interviewed recently by Kat Blaque for her YouTube show and the topic was relationship anarchy. She reached out to her audience through Twitter or whatever and said, "Hey, I'm going to have a guest on to talk about relationship anarchy. What kind of questions would you want to ask him?" She said one of the questions that came up or some variant of it came up quite a bit was, "Ask him why he's such an asshole." I was just like--
Dedeker: [chuckles] Jeez.
Emily: Wait, what?
Emily: What does that even mean?
Jase: What she explained to me based on her own experience and also the experience of a lot of her listeners who tend to be women, her audience is mostly women, that they've had the experience of men abusing the label of relationship anarchy to just be like, "I don't want to be accountable for anything or responsible for anything."
Dedeker: I've definitely encountered people that way.
Jase: We've talked about it before on this show long ago but people do the same thing with polyamory of like, "I can adopt this label but really it's just an excuse to do whatever the fuck I want and not really care about anyone else."
Dedeker: It's not even necessarily a conscious thing that they're doing that. I think sometimes it's the label goes through the shredder of someone else's interpretation. You know what it means sometimes.
Emily: Absolutely. Then also just the stigma that comes along with that label as well because again, I for a very, very long time was very scared of calling myself bisexual. Like you said, because of all the reasons why people will look at that and say, you're actually maybe just on one side of the fence or another. Or if I'm in a monogamous relationship with a male partner, then you're not actually bisexual. That idea or the-- With men when they are bisexual and proclaim to the world, "I am bisexual", oftentimes they will just hear, "No, actually you're gay or you're just waiting to come out as really gay. You're in this holding pattern or whatever until then."
It's really difficult to put yourself to be in that situation and instead of just be like, "I'm sexually fluid or I'm something else" because that is a little bit easier of a thing for people to swallow.
Dedeker: It's so interesting you bring that up. I feel like, at least in my experience of being on the Internet and in culture that I'm starting to see more people-- First of all, I feel like the concept of bi-erasure has been in the conversation recently. Now I'm starting to see more people talking about the facet of bi-erasure that is the erasure specifically of bi-people who are in a heterosexual seeming relationship and specifically especially women who are bisexual or pansexual, just basically non-straight women who are in a straight looking relationship and how do we talk about those people? How are those people talked about? How are those people handled? All those kind of things.
I think that's really interesting and really good that that started to become a topic of conversation of, this is just another level of erasure that happens is when someone who does say, yes, I'm bi or I'm pan or I'm non-straight in some kind of way, but it's like, yes, but you're in a relationship with someone who's-
Emily: I think it can feel threatening to a number of people for whatever reason. Even just the idea that, "I might get into a relationship with you and I am a straight male and you're a bisexual female but what does that mean for the potential of what you're going to be interested in?" I've definitely heard people throw that out there. I'm I always going to have to be looking around my shoulder of people, not just men but also women or also anyone else if you're pansexual or whatever, that just everyone's going to be my potential conversation.
Dedeker: It's like that meme that I saw floating around recently that takes pot shots at this idea that men and women can never be friends or you could never be friends with the gender that you're attracted to and of course, people being like, what about bisexual or pansexual people? Someone responded like-
Emily: Yes, they're not friends at all?
Dedeker: -"bisexual people don't have friends. They only have prey."
Emily: I take offense to that. That's fucking bullshit.
Dedeker: It was joking, jokingly said.
Emily: I know, yes, but--
Jase: This is how people look at it though.
Dedeker: It's true.
Emily: I think that they can, yes.
Jase: Because I think the whole question is like this thing of your sexuality of wanting to know whether someone else is gay or straight, that we often will ask that question of people even if we're not necessarily interested in them or we're not even at the point where we're wanting to flirt with this thing but it's just like we think, "If I know that, then I know how I should act toward them." Basically, it's like, "Are you someone who I think might have sex with me or not? Because I need to know that because it's going to change how I behave around you completely." That in itself is weird. That's buck wild.
Emily: It is. Just the audacity for people in general just to be like, bisexual people or pansexual people are just attracted to everyone because obviously, they're not going to be. Just that assumption outright that they can't be friends with anyone because they're just going to be attracted to everyone and therefore they can't truly be friends with them is bullshit.
Jase: Can I share some interesting states and stats to actually-- Emily, this was in one of the articles that you looked up in preparing for this one. This was from a couple studies surveys, you should call them really, by YouGov which, I don't know if-- Are you familiar with YouGov? They're the site that does surveys and stuff and they'd just do gazillions of them.
Emily: Is it a government thing?
Dedeker: Yes, I've been to the site before.
Emily: Why does it call itself YouGov then?
Jase: I don't know where the name comes from actually but they've been around for a long time. What they have going for them is they tend to get very big numbers for their surveys. They're not peer-reviewed. Anyone can put their thing up on there and pay money for them to get participants for it.
Emily: ...they get very large sample size responding?
Jase: They get you the sample sizes. Yes. They did these questions both in the UK and in the US where they were asking adults to rate their sexuality on the Kinsey scale which is from zero to six. Where zero is completely heterosexual, six is completely homosexual and then obviously in between that is somewhere in between. What was interesting about it is when you look at-- They broke it out by age group.
For example, in the US and in the UK, in the 65, 60 plus, they did slightly different age groups in each area so they're not a one-to-one match but only 7% identified as anything that wasn't completely zero or completely six.
Jase: Only 7% right? So, a very small number identified it--
Dedeker: Some of them identified totally on the extreme?
Jase: 7% were in the middle. 93% were one extreme or the other. These is people over 60, 65.
Dedeker: Okay, got it.
Jase: Then as you go down the 45, 40ish to 65 range, similar, it comes up to-- I guess in the US was eight and in the UK was 16% or somewhere in the middle but again, mostly polarized on the sides. Now if we jump down to the 18 to 24 in the UK, 43% identify somewhere in the middle, That's not totally all the way.
Dedeker: Close to half.
Jase: Close to half, exactly. What's interesting about that too is that that remaining number-- But I guess here they maybe had some people who didn't answer because these numbers don't add up to 100 but 52% were either completely gay or completely straight. Self-identified. This isn't even saying 52% straight. This is 52% gay or straight. 43% not quite 100% in the middle in how they self identify.
In the US interestingly, a lower percentage, we had only 29% who identified somewhere in the middle but the age range was 18 to 30 as opposed to 18 to 24 which I actually think I would bet that even skewed it a little further-
Dedeker: Yes, probably.
Jase: -and that we have more hangups here, Probably.
Emily: Yes, I was like, it's just a more puritanical society.
Dedeker: I think it is interesting that it's- clearly, there's a generational thing going on where we've seen, thankfully, a rise in acceptance of not only just not being straight but also not being either extreme, necessarily, and even putting them as extremes as though they're on the side of a scale and I don't even know if I really agree with that. Clearly, with more acceptance and with people feeling safer to acknowledge, yes, there is maybe a contradiction or just a multitude of ways that I feel in different situations toward different people as far as when it comes to things like sex or attraction or things like that that people are more, I guess, more able and willing to affirm that.
However, it feels like, language-wise and label-wise, we haven't caught up to that, necessarily.
Jase: But I think this study shows good evidence for why younger people are more hesitant to use labels than maybe people were in the past is because it's like, well, they also just don't apply as well.
It's just interesting though to see that even in a situation like this where you're not asking what percentage of people identify with labels because you could make the argument like, "Well, young people just don't like labels as much," but it's like, no, this is actually about their attraction and seeing that that's also coming toward the middle and it's that chicken or egg question of, "Are we less into labels because they just don't apply as well or because we're less into labels are we able to see more of this middle ground?"
Dedeker: Interesting. We're supposed to move on from this section but quick lightning round, if you had to use a label to describe your sexuality, what would it be?
Emily: I would be bisexual, for sure. I'm committed to that label now.
Dedeker: Okay. You're committed to it.
Jase: It's your final answer.
Emily: Yes. Even my mother, when one of the first openly bisexual Senators was elected in Arizona, she was all excited to tell me about it which I thought was super adorable and I was like, "Thank you for acknowledging me." It felt good.
Dedeker: I stayed with a couch surfer host in Rome and he was this great guy.
Emily: Was that before you went to Shanghai?
Dedeker: It was way before Shanghai. It was when I first left to travel. Great guy. He was so stereotypical Italian. Literally drove me around Rome at the back of his Vespa and had this really thick Italian accent and we had a great time. We had a wonderful time. We were talking about a lot of stuff and he talked about his ex-girlfriend and he was like, "Yes, my girlfriend was a B."
Dedeker: "We realized that maybe that could work out for their relationship." And I was like, I’m a bee? She was a bee?" And then he started to describe and it's like, "Oh, she was bi."
Emily: Was she black and yellow and with a singer?
Dedeker: I think about and I'm like, "Oh, you're a bee?" flitting around. Jase, your turn.
Jase: Gosh. Yes. When push comes to shove, I tend to go with pansexual. That's the one I've come to even though I will avoid using it at all costs to describe myself most of the time.
Dedeker: Yes. I'm the same. I definitely land, I feel like pretty firmly as far as if I have to choose a label, pretty firmly in the pansexual camp but I'm scared of it because the thing is that it's like the label is a Pandora's box for me. Is that to then explain the labels then I have to be, "My experience is mostly dating these kind of people but then I find myself really attracted to these kind of people," but then with these kind of people it's more of a demi-romantic, demi-sexual kind of thing then I thought that I was this way and then I saw this really hot person one day and I was like, "Well, I guess I'm attracted to this kind of person also."
So, for me, I've just used pansexual as the catch all of this is a much longer conversation and I'm still figuring it out and even at the age of 31, I'm still learning about my sexuality and it's scary but also exciting.
Emily: Can my sexuality would just be Eva Green?
Dedeker: Just Eva Green sexual.
Jase: Eva sexual, yes.
Dedeker: Green sexual.
Jase: There you go. Green sexual. See that, to me, invokes ideas of you're just really turned on by nature.
Dedeker: That's ecosexual. That's a thing.
Emily: I can be. Have you ever been out in nature on a walk. Yes, you guys have or you all, rather.
Dedeker: I'm going to just hop us straight back in with the hard-hitting questions again. We'll do this in reverse order. Let's talk about labeling gender. What do you all think about what label you would use for your own gender identity?
Jase: Why did you get all quiet when you asked it?
Dedeker: I was just trying intimate mood. I don't want to make this into a quiz show or something to hot drill like that or what the lest section was.
Emily: I would label myself she/her pronouns. Female.
Dedeker: As a woman, cisgender?
Emily: Yes. Cisgender.
Jase: Gosh. I want to ride in to the discussion. I use male pronouns and I use man, masculine whatever to define me. I do like to say that I like to hold on to those labels loosely as opposed to a lifeline.
Dedeker: [sings] Hold on loosely.
Emily: I love that song.
Jase: It was something that came up in conversation on Billy Procida's show when he had me on his show on The Manwhore Podcast. He was asking me about gender and my identity and stuff from a place as a guy being afraid of losing his labels of being heterosexual or being masculine or being a man or something of holding on to those tightly and being afraid. I didn't quite say this as simply than we talked about a little bit more but I want to be like, if you just loosen up your grip and all those things a bit, it's so freeing. I really recommend it. What about you, Dedeker?
Dedeker: Oh gosh. I think about this a lot, honestly.
Emily: This one in particular? Interesting.
Dedeker: I don't know. Honestly, when I think about it, I just start to spiral myself up unto this self-doubt. I think most of the time, I feel pretty good. I don't have a sense of dysphoria, necessarily. I don't have a sense of being frustrated with what was assigned to me at birth and there are definitely some days where I feel pretty affirmed and pretty good and like, "Yes, sure. Cisgender lady. That's me." But there are other times where I feel really drawn to the idea of being more fluid and a little more non-binary.
I think I've sometimes struggled with that and sometimes, again, I just spiral myself and I just have way too many thoughts about it because I think and I've also seen people online talking about this as well that sometimes I struggle under this idea of, "Well, to be non-binary, you got to change your whole look." Like I'm not nearly androgynous enough to identify as non-binary or to even flirt with that. I know that that's not true. It really doesn't matter. It matters for some people but I know, for me, I'm like, "Well, whatever."
I know that I can feel the way that I feel and I don't have to try to totally change the way that I dress or the hair that I have or the makeup that I do that I feel comfortable with now but that is just a weird thing that I tend to get hung up on is times that I feel like I would love to stray outside of feeling just so dang cisgender all the time because I don't know if it serves me 100% of the time but then I feel a little bit trapped sometimes. It feels like my avenues for that feel kind of all or nothing which may be just something that I'm projecting onto entirely. I don't know. That was a bunch of word vomit. That's the best way I could explain it. That's where I'm at.
Emily: I definitely haven't personally labeled myself as anything but she/her, cisgender, simply because I don't want to misrepresent what people who are non-binary go through and the challenges that they face regarding that because I think most people, when they look at me, when they look at me, will see me as, automatically like, "That's a person who is a woman." And I say that I am she/her.
Dedeker: There was a lady.
Emily: Exactly. The difference with me specifically, is that when I open my mouth, something else entirely happens and that's been the way that I've gone through life since I was 13 years old so much that I often, many times, get asked if I am transgender and in a much worse way, I've had men usually ask me if I was born male or if I am male but look like I'm not or whatever. Again, I don't want to put out there that that is a difficult thing because, honestly, it's not. It's a thing like, "No. This isn't the case."
You are incorrect person but it does put me in a situation of often being like I embrace the side of me that is, in many ways, like the masculine energy because I think that my mother, I grew up around my mother who has so much of both masculine and feminine energy and I think that's something that a lot of people tend to talk about more now but I think that there is a lot to be said for that.
In that way, I feel empowered sometimes in wearing a pantsuit and feeling really bad-ass in a way that maybe I wouldn't in a dress, for example. Other people might have the experience of feeling really empowered in a piece of clothing that they maybe didn't used to feel as though they could wear kind of thing. So, I don't know.
Dedeker: I do think it's interesting just in your experience just the way that your body is and your vocal chords are that it does--
Emily: They're very different.
Dedeker: It just forces you to confront that- confront people's perceptions more regularly and I think really serves as a reminder of like, "Wow, this is all based on these constructed perceptions."
Emily: Absolutely. Yes. I'm reading that Buddhist book as well that you had us read, I thought it was really interesting because life in general so many times is our perception and not reality. That goes for so many things. That goes for this question in general. We can never truly know, I think, unless we ask and there's a difference in asking rather than just automatically assuming and then being told that you're incorrect. I think that that's hopefully where the narrative is starting to go as opposed to just assuming being the first course of action.
Dedeker: Let me drop something else in there. Other questions that I've had around when I think about my own gender identity is sometimes I've also talked myself into some weird places of wondering do I have the desire to start leaning more masculine sometimes or more non-binary because that's how I feel or because it's appealing to think about getting access to more male privilege?
Emily: We can hear you.
Dedeker: Because I think that women already, especially cisgender women already get this message of like, you need to adopt male traits in order to be successful. Like assertiveness or aggressiveness or confidence or a lack of apologizing or whatever it is. It's like we're already told that and so sometimes I'm like, "Gosh, is that wrapped in that?" These are the kind of things where it's because I love and hate to think about these things so much that I end up in these weird places where I can never feel like I can land on solid ground as far as it relates to me.
Emily: Can I ask you something, Jase, because I've definitely heard of that exact same thing said from the other perspective?
Emily: Yes but like there's privilege and a lot of amazing things that come with being a woman that men don't automatically get just from being men. I don't know. That access to that in a way. I think that, Jase, we've had some conversations about this loosely. There are moments where I feel like I've heard you say like, "I want to be construed as pretty, or whatever, in this way." Women might automatically like that. It might be a trait that they are thought of perhaps, where as a guy, that might not be the first thing that comes to mind.
Dedeker: It's kind of what we got into a little bit on the episode where we talked with Cosmo Meens and Melissa Mango about receiving healthy objectification from your partner. That is something that women can receive a lot and men don't tend to receive very much at all.
Jase: I'm sure this is different for different men who feel that way but I feel like some of the desire I could also see for letting go of the male identity and envying what being female has is, I would almost say, more that there's, in some ways, more flexibility in how you're allowed to behave as opposed to men who tend to enforce upon each other a very strict limited set of what behavior is acceptable in certain ways.
Dedeker: Yes. There definitely is that. One of the benefits, I think, of all the different feminist movements has been expanding the channel and expanding the options of what you can be and also while you're also a woman and different ways of being female or feminine and that from, specifically, cisgender men, that's less of an option.
Jase: There hasn't been as much of a movement to broaden what being a man means, whereas, there has been a very concerted effort to try to broaden what being a woman means. I wanted to talk briefly about using cis when describing yourself. This is something that someone brought up for the same time in our patron group, in the Facebook group, I think, it was probably now a couple of years ago but bringing up that when people in their self introduction say, "I'm a cis man or a cis woman", they ask the question of why are you specifying cis?
Because what it seems like is you want to be sure everyone knows that you're really this and you're not one of those fake ones. They didn't say these words. They were much more diplomatic about this but I feel like that's what they were getting at was this idea of-- It was interesting because at the time I hadn't considered that way of looking at it and I saw it more like by acknowledging cisgender is--
Jase: Acknowledging privilege in a way?
Jase: Well, it's acknowledging the fact that there are other things and that this is a label worth knowing about, I guess, but, actually, after hearing that, I was like, no, actually, this makes a lot of sense for cisgender people to latch onto and use cisgender for themselves is in a way, trying to be like, "No, I want to hold on to this privilege." In itself, is, again, like othering people. It's like, "No. It doesn't matter if I'm cis or not, what matters is just what my gender and what pronouns I tell you to use."
Dedeker: I think it might depend on context in talking about these things.
Jase: Okay. How so?
Dedeker: I don't think it means as never use cis to describe yourself.
Jase: I might go that far to be honest.
Jase: Yes. I just can't think of an example when it's necessary.
Dedeker: I think, for instance, if I'm talking about my access to privilege, I'm going to acknowledge I have privilege as a cisgender person. I guess we'll see where that identity goes in the future but as for now, I have access to privilege as a cis person. But I understand also, in other contexts, I think that makes sense of being like, yes, I want to hang on to this and make sure the people know that I'm a "real" man or woman. I think it can also be something of, depending on the context, you can also be setting up an expectation of like, if I'm indicating that I'm cis, I'll expect a trans person to indicate that they're trans and that can be a problem depending on the situation.
Emily: I just wanted to acknowledge that language can be really challenging for those who want to start steering in the direction of being or having language be more non-gendered because we, in our, I think, just commonplace terms are thrown around like guys or like, "Hey, man," or "Dude" or whatever along those lines. I know for myself, those are things that I say on a regular basis and this show has actually been a really great place for us to work on taking that out of the equation because I think even if it's easy for us to just slip into that, it can minimize those who feel hurt or personally maybe attacked by those words.
Jase: Or who just feel left out by those words.
Emily: Yes. Absolutely. Any of the above. I know it's a teachable moment whenever we hear about it from people who listen to this podcast to remind us that that's a thing that we should at least be aware of but it's difficult for sure. It can be. That's something for me, absolutely to continue working on. Even just in my daily life to practice getting out of the habit of saying those words and those gendered things.
Jase: We were reading this article before this that was talking about tips for how to get more used to using different gender pronouns when a loved one tells you that- they tell you what their gender pronouns are and it's something different than what you've been used to or something different than what you've been using. One of the things that this article recommended was practicing with a friend which I thought was really interesting. It's saying, "Find another person who is a friend or another loved one of this person and just be really honest with each other about like let's practice talking about this person using the correct pronouns to just get in the habit of it."
I thought that one was really interesting. Another one that I thought was particularly good was it talked about learning to pause slightly before responding in conversation and as a little footnote, this was actually a good thing to just do in general.
Emily: Yes. Don't be reactive.
Jase: Then related to that was to be aware, "Are there certain phrases or situations where I tend to mess this up more often?" Often it will be things that are just stuff you're very used to saying or those times when you're not. When you're not thinking so much about what you're going to say and you're just blabbing it out.
Jase: That one I was like, "Yes, absolutely, 100%." It's like, I'll be great about someone's pronouns and then in that moment where I'm just like in the heat of conversation bam-bam-bam not pausing and actually thinking about what I say, that's when I'll fuck it up. I won't even realize it until later or until it gets pointed out to me and then I'm like, "Yes, you're right." In this case it recommended like if you can identify what those things are, practice those things.
Practice different phrases, different things. I think that comes from learning how to pause a little bit. That's something I know that we all have tried to do while we're recording this show at least, is to just have that little bit of mental pause to just evaluate like, "Am I saying guys," [chuckles] "Am I saying dude." or like, "Yes, man," when I don't mean to, to try to get better about that.
Emily: Do it in real life too.
Jase: It's definitely challenging. I like those tips.
Dedeker: I think we've shared this on the show before. A really great analogy that I read that helped me to really re-frame the appropriate way to respond when you do make a mistake with someone's pronouns is or someone pointed it out to you, "Oh, actually this person is this pronoun." It doesn't have to be pronouns. It could be, oh it's better to use this word rather than this word or this or whatever it is that it's like treat it as though a friend is like, "Hey you have something in your teeth, by the way." You are just like, "Oh, okay. I'll fix that." Then you fix it and then you're like, "Okay, let me get back to my day."
Jase: You say, "Thank you for telling me."
Dedeker: It's worse if you break down crying and you're super embarrassed. You're like, "Oh my God, Oh my God. I can't believe-" It's just worse for everyone.
Emily: Yes, and it's like, "Whoa, you're just making this about you right now."
Dedeker: Or if you get mad or if you deny that you are like, "No I don't have something on my teeth." Or like, are you with them, like, "no, no what are talking about? I don't have something on my teeth." I don't remember who I got that analogy from, but I do remember when I heard, I was like, "Oh, that makes so much sense." To just in the moment, you just roll with it, because it's like honestly, we all get stuff stuck on our teeth sometimes. [chuckles]
Emily: I like that very much.
Dedeker: Yes. You just got to roll with it.
Jase: Well, shall we move on to the last category here, which is labeling relationship styles.
Emily: Which we touched on a little bit before.
Jase: Yes, at the very beginning we talked about that a little bit about like, do you use the label relationship anarchist or polyamorous or monogamous or what.
Emily: We should go around at this point.
Jase: [chuckles] Well, Gosh.
Dedeker: Oh shoot. Dang it.
Jase: You didn't prepare an answer for this one?
Dedeker: Dang it. Okay.
Emily: We'll figure it out on the fly.
Jase: Yes. Emily do yo want to start?
Emily: Yes. Okay. I am currently monogamous. Yes, I'm in a monogamous relationship.
Jase: I think that's an interesting decision right there.
Dedeker: It is, yes.
Emily: I'm in a monogamous relationship and it's really hard to label [chuckles] just like thing because I've been polyamorous and I've been monogamous. I've been open. I've dated five people at once who were only vaguely aware of one another.
Jase: It's such an interesting question.
Dedeker: It's like we are converging back on the same thing as with sexuality, where it's becoming harder to just extrapolate, Oh your relationship "orientation" is just what you do. I feel because of the fact that we can have is this is where people are much more fluid or like the new hot term for that blog post that was going around was like ambiamorous. I think it is hard to just be like, I am monogamous person, I'm a non monogamous person.
Emily: Some people definitely do. A lot of people that we know will be like, "Well, I am inherently monogamous or I have inherent polyamorous or non-monogamous." I think it's just really hard for me to go either place, because I definitely-- I don't know what I am inherently am. I am the relationship structure that is going to be fulfilling for me at that point in time. I will say non-monogamy made me open my eyes to a vast wealth of possibilities that wasn't ever a thing that I would have been around before or interested in before.
Dedeker: I think that's the same thing is that again we're becoming more cognizant of all the wide variety of options that we can have for relationships that our language hasn't caught up to yet. Because we're still calling it non-monogamy for heaven sake.
Emily: Exactly. It's like, monogamy or not.
Dedeker: It drives me up the wall sometimes when I think about it. I'm like really this is the best we've got it's just calling it non-monogamy.
Jase: What is not.
Dedeker: Can we not come up with a better word that's not just polyamourous relationship or whatever anyway.
Emily: What about you all?
Jase: I mean I guess like with Dedeker's question before of like if I had to pick a label, the one I tend to gravitate toward more now is relationship anarchy. However, I will try very hard to never use that label just by itself. Because I don't think it stands up on its own. I think it's a label that you need to explain. At least I find I need to explain, because of all the stuff we talked about before, of either just a complete like, huh or just total misunderstanding of what it is by guessing from the words, which they're imagine more like pipe bombs and things like that, or this like I've had really bad experiences with assholes using this term and so.
It's like no matter which direction it goes it's not going to be accurate. I really only use it as a conversation starter, to be like, "Let's talk about relationships." The different ways those can look. You've come up with anything yet?
Dedeker: Gosh. The weird thing is that if I was under duress I'd be like, my relationship orientation is that I am in a relationship with Jase and with Alex. That's all I know. All I know is I am in a relationship with these two wonderful people and that's all I can tell you.
Emily: There you go.
Dedeker: I'm sorry, please stop asking me questions. [chuckles]
Emily: I mean, again, I don't know, because I definitely won't prescribe to the idea that which I think a lot of people well like their significant other is pretty much the most important person on the planet. I think that my significant other is an incredibly important person in my life, but I also think there are a lot of other people in my life that are incredibly important. One does not trump necessarily the others.
Dedeker: Okay, see that's interesting and I like using the term relationship anarchy, but again, I will do the same thing and very rarely use it on its own. I honestly, I mean really at the end of the day, I feel like my understanding of the label polyamory is more what resonates with me, but I tend to end up just giving this really long winded explanation of like, "well I'm non-monogamous and polyamorous, but with a relationship anarchy tendencies, but I don't know." Part of it is also because I don't feel like a relationship anarchist enough.
Emily: Exactly, that's on all of these though. It's like, but what's enough.
Dedeker: Of course, there is a question of do I even want to "relationship anarchist enough"? Whatever that means.
Dedeker: Again, I think myself into this tizzy where I end up just getting frustrated and just being like, "Can't I just have relationships that I want to have and no one asks me questions about what word I use for it and just people leave me alone and let me be happy, please?"
Jase: I've also found for me it's like, can I-- With with all of these I guess, can I give you answers where what you're really asking me and what I'm really saying doesn't just have to do with who I may or may not want to have sex with. That's the thing I've recently at least in my life, that's become the thing that's so tiring to me. It's like, how much of this conversation is really just coming down to--
Dedeker: Who do you bang?
Jase: Might you want to have sex with me? Yes or no? What about these other sets of people? Yes or no? What are the rules around that? Would you want to, but can't or can you? It's all about that, even though this is considered normal polite conversation for the workplace. When I started thinking about that way, I was like, this is fucked up, that we think these are acceptable questions and conversations to be having in that sort of a professional environment.
Emily: At the end of the day, it's none of anybody's business, unless we want to make it their business. I don't know.
Dedeker: It reminds me so-- Someone on Instagram-- You know the Nathan pile comics the one the strange world about the aliens in human situations?
Emily: I think so.
Jase: Yes, go on.
Dedeker: They have been super hot recently. Someone made a parody comic called the straight world, which is about this aliens and one of them is like-- There is these three aliens in the panel and two of them were holding hands and the one whose separate is like, "I see that you are holding hands with someone who appears to be of the same gender as you. You must explain to me how you copulate right now."
Emily: [chuckles] Exactly.
Dedeker: That's exactly what we do in these situations.
Jase: That's what we're saying, yes.
Emily: I've definitely heard people in various blogs say that they don't want to necessarily be associated with polyamory because a lot of people abuse that term, but then it's what is open? What is non-monogamous? What is whatever? Oh, gosh. This person at work that I saw the other day that was talking to me about the podcast, he was like, "I just realized right now that's what I am. I'm polyamorous."
He's like, "I have a relationship with my baby mama and then three other women and I take care of all of them. I pay for all of them and they're only with me." I'm like, "It's like a one penis policy kind of situation that you've got going on." I'm like, "I hope these people have autonomy from you and stuff." To me, that's not polyamory either.
Dedeker: Right, and then that starts to get into this uncomfortable conversation around what is gatekeeping and what is not.
Emily: I hear you.
Dedeker: No. I'm very much on the same page where I'm like it doesn't look like that's polyamory to me. I'm not comfortable associating with that. At the same times, some people I suppose do enter such a dynamic willingly in theory and everyone's super happy about it. I don't know. I just know that like in groups that are mostly populated by unicorn hunters the argument always is, "We just do polyamory different from you and so you need to not be so judgmental just because our polyamory is different from you."
Which is like, "Sure I get your point, but I have many other arguments to make." That's not what this is supposed to be about. Jase, please change the subject.
Jase: I actually want to pivot actually on that same question.
Emily: Okay, pivot or Nickelback.
Jase: No, pivot. Pivot on the same thing here. There's a question of I see other people doing this thing with a label, what's my response to it? One response and we've talked about this a little bit is, "Well, I'm going to not use that label anymore because I don't want to be associated with those people." The other side of it is, "I don't want to give up on this thing that was important to me at one time. Instead, I want to really work to help still make this a good thing."
Which is maybe, on the one hand, could be called gatekeeping but on the other hand, could be called, "Now I'm actually trying to keep the integrity of this thing that was important to me." To use an example from my own life totally not connected to non-monogamy is when I was in college and was Christian and was still thinking about going into the Seminary and becoming a pastor.
Emily: Whoa. How the mighty have fallen. Kidding.
Jase: [laughs] That for me at the time, my approach was, "I'm a Christian, but I see Christians out there doing terrible things and saying terrible things and being very exclusionary and being very hateful and what have you." My reaction was, I want to be a force toward making Christianity be a better thing.
Dedeker: How'd that work out for you?
Jase: I didn't end up doing it. Here I am.
Dedeker: Here you are a non-monogamy.
Emily: Also, a podcast about the Bible or we train-
Jase: Yes, I'll be a pastor yet. No. You know what I mean? My approach at that time was, "I want to be a force to make more people who use this label be more in line with what I think is the good sides of this and less of the bad sides of this.
Dedeker: That's fair.
Jase: With polyamory, I see a similar thing where it's, "Do I fight to try to make this thing better or do I abandon it as a label for myself entirely?" I don't know and that's it's an ongoing debate.
Dedeker: I have days where I'm much more on that side of things of, "No, I'm just going to invest in education and being out and talking about my experience and showing people this is the way that I practice and this is my identity. This is what it means to me." But then every couple weeks or so Google News feeds me some article about polyamory and I cringe preemptively.
Jase: I cringe literally every day from this feed I get from Google.
Dedeker: Preemptively cringy because it's like a 90% chance that what's in that article is not going to make me happy. It's not going to make me feel I'm so proud that I have this label and that these are the people I associate with. I'm like, no. That's sad. I don't want to feel cringy about that.
Emily: I think all three of us when we started this podcast really were like, "We are polyamorous, hear us roar."
Dedeker: We are polyamorous.
Emily: Yes. That was our thing. That was your thing on Utopia.
Dedeker: It was my thing to speak Hashtag.
Emily: Hashtag polyamorous.
Jase: You didn't choose it though. It was kind of assigned to you.
Dedeker: It was thrown at me.
Jase: Right, but still, yes.
Emily: I was amazed. I think you kind of still run with it for a little while afterwards.
Jase: We all did for a while.
Emily: I find it very interesting that as time goes on we are looking at, not bigger picture stuff per se, but like all avenues and that they've led us to let's start talking about things that are just like how do we do relationships better? How do we be better people? How do we not put ourselves in situation where we accidentally marginalize someone. Where we change our language and be better about that and be better advocates and kinder people.
I think that all is important in a way that maybe figuring out your label. Maybe it doesn't matter in the same way that that does. Not that it might not matter. It might definitely matter to some people and being out and proud and stuff is really important to a lot of people, but I appreciate that all of the above can be correct.
Jase: Dedeker, you were talking when we were getting ready to record about that Kimchi Cuddles.
Emily: Yes, strip that you saw. Say that again.
Dedeker: There's this wonderful strip and have to Google it. Kimchi Cuddles who's pretty well known for doing a lot of comics that are polyamory, non-monogamy focused. They put out this comic where in the first panel there's this person who has a sheet of paper that says label on it and they're like really mad. They're like, "Labels, who needs them? I don't need this. They're so restrictive."
They crumple up the sheet of paper and throw it over their shoulder. They walk out of frame and then a new person comes into frame sees the crumpled piece of paper on the ground, picks it up sees the label and is like, "Oh my goodness. I'm so glad that I found this." I think that's a really good way of highlighting again this light side and a dark side of labels that on the one hand, they can be restrictive.
They can cause things like gatekeeping. You can have all this anxiety around measuring up or meeting the label or whether or not you qualify for the label. On the other hand, it can also be a source of great affirmation and validation and give you access to community. At the end of the day, give you a linguistic shortcut to help convey who you are to people.
Emily: You're in a relationship with this dog right now.
Dedeker: Yes, this dog is all up in my business.
Jase: Also it's like for the people watching the YouTube video, Dedeker and I are sitting aways apart from each other at 90 degrees at this table. In my image, you can see the dog's tail wagging and in hers you can see the dog's head.
Dedeker: The dog's giant head.
Jase: This is a very, very large dog.
Emily: For our lovely Instagram followers I'll show you eventually on Instagram when it comes out.
Jase: We'll put some when those come out in our-
Emily: Patreon, yes.
Jase: -in our Patreon only Discord we have a whole channel that's just fur buddies or fur babies.
Dedeker: It's pretty -
Emily: Fur babies.
Jase: It's fur babies. It's just pictures of people's animals or people with their animals. It's pretty wonderful.
Emily: That's right.
Jase: I guess our takeaway for this is to be aware of these. That there is good uses of labels and not good uses of them and to explore what they are for you, but also be respectful of what they are for other people. You know what I mean? What those could mean for other people both in negative and positive ways.
Dedeker: We'll just reaffirm what we've always said in multiamory for a long time, which is that labels really if you're going to use them, they should serve you. It shouldn't feel the other way around like you have this pressure to live up to this particular label. They're there to be something that's useful for you that maybe makes your life a little bit easier.
Whether it makes it easier for you to find community or easier for you to explain to people you know how it is that you want to be treated or how it is that you want to be seen. Ultimately, at the end of the day, even if you use a label for your relationship or your gender or your sexual orientation, you're probably still going to have to have multiple conversations to explain that or to clarify that depending on the context and depending who you're talking to.
We want to hear all about labels from all of you and the best place to share your thoughts about this episode with other listeners is on this episode's discussion thread in our private Facebook group or Discord chat. You can get access to these groups and you can join our exclusive community by going to patreon.com/multiamory. In addition, you can share with us publicly on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
You can email us at email@example.com, you can leave us a voicemail at 678-MULTI-05 or you can leave us a voice message on Facebook. Multiamory is created and produced by Jase Lindgren, Emily Matlack and me Dedeker Winston. Our episodes are edited by Mauricio Bervanella. Our social media wizard is Will McMillan. Our production assistant is Nicole Samra. Our theme song is Forms I know I did by Josh and Anand from the fractal cave EP.