Recently, National Organization for marriage ally and “ex-gay therapy” supporter Robert Gagnon reacted in horror to the suggestion that straight, Christian students should attend Gay Straight Alliance meetings, and compared GSAs to “Nazi skinheads,” a “women abusers advocacy society,” and–what else?–“polyamory appreciation groups.”
Obviously, the main issue with Gagnon’s statement is that it’s absurdly, disgustingly bigoted toward LGBTQ youth. But it’s kind of amusing to me the regularity with which polyamory is used by the right–along with things like Nazism and violence against women–as a more extreme form of depravity to compare to homosexuality. I remember when President Obama declared June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month,” the conservative Illinois Family Institute released a statement saying that if we were to consider a similar “polyamory appreciation day,” it would highlight the absurdity of the President’s declaration (a link to the statement no longer appears to be available). And if I had a dime for every time I read a phrase along the lines of “gay marriage will lead to things like bestiality, pedophilia, and polyamory,” I would be a wealthy woman (for one laughable example, see Glenn Beck’s lovely little visual explanation of “the slippery slope” from back in 2009).
These things would all be simply good for a laugh, if not for the fact that they genuinely do seem to fuel anti-poly sentiment even on the left. When same-sex marriage and gay rights advocates constantly hear polyamory tossed in with things like bestiality and incest as comparisons to same-sex relationships, too often they respond by lashing out against polyamory and reiterating why it is nothing at all like homosexuality. And while obviously there are tons of LGBTQ folks who support–and practice–polyamory, I’ve also seen plenty truly nasty anti-poly comments from gay and lesbian folks who are appalled by any comparison between LGBTQ rights and polyamory, even when those comparisons are coming from a favorable perspective.
It seems to me that a very uncomplicated place to draw the line in the “slippery slope” is at consent. Bestiality and pedophilia are, by their very nature, not consensual relationships between two (or more) adults. But if openness to same-sex marriage and a wider acceptance of same-sex relationships in general really does lead us to consider the possibility of recognizing and respecting other forms of relationships between humans who are able to give meaningful consent, is that really so horrifying? Or is that what real progress looks like?
One of these days, when polyamory is deployed as an “extreme” comparison to same-sex relationships, it would be nice to read some commentary that first calls out the bigotry, but also says “and while we’re at it, stop lumping polyamory in with things like Nazism/bestiality/whatever.” We should all be allies here, not letting the extreme right turn us into enemies.