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Dallas Symposium Puts Polyamory On Center Stage

Marla Stewart speaks to attendees about polyamorous relationships during PolyDallas Millennium.EXPAND
Marla Stewart speaks to attendees about polyamorous relationships during PolyDallas Millennium.
Paige Skinner
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During Marla Stewart’s presentation of “Being Black, Poly and Kinky: Navigating Power, Equity and Anarchy in Alternative Relationship Modalities,” she encouraged members of the audience to think about their polyamorous relationships. The lecture was just one part of the third annual, three-day PolyDallas Millennium this weekend at the Crowne Plaza Hotel off Interstate 35.

According to Merriam-Webster, polyamorous means "the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time." Therapist Ruby Johnson founded the symposium three years ago when she realized there was no training for polyamory in Dallas.

“My thoughts were and are ... maybe we can have some de-mythification," she says. "It's not so much deviance and it's going to break down the fabric of America.”

Attendance at the conference is growing. The inaugural event hosted about 30 people during one day. The second year, it expanded to a day and a half, and this year, it took place over three days. About 80 to 100 people attended, Johnson says, and she suspects about 10 percent were not in a polyamorous relationship but simply curious about the lifestyle.

Iris Muscarella attended with her girlfriend and boyfriend. She spoke several times during Stewart’s lecture, explaining that she has been in a nonmonogamous relationship since she was 16.

“It was the first place someone didn’t tell me to be less,” Muscarella told the crowd and Stewart. “Well I made them feel less, but they loved it.” The crowd laughed.

Muscarella’s girlfriend, Jessica Hoffman, says she enjoys PolyDallas because there is no matchmaking overtone. “A lot of other events where you can get to know each other, it might be a little bit more like get to know each other with the end result of maybe finding someone, but here that’s, like, super back burner,” she says. “It’s more about education, being yourself and personal journey, but also building a community.”

Muscarella, Hoffman and Muscarella’s boyfriend, Sean Sparks, say coming out as polyamorous in Dallas hasn’t been that difficult, although there are some misconceptions. “I think Dallas has a lot of conservative pockets,” Muscarella says. “If you’re trying to date outside of the poly community, it can turn into this whole thing of, 'You’re just slutty and you don’t want any kind of meaning in your relationship.'”

Johnson says there are many misconceptions about polyamory. One is that it’s “polyfuckery,” in which people just go out and have sex. Instead, she says, it’s about many loves and being open to loving people. Johnson also says it’s not just an excuse to cheat, and it’s not just about couples.

"There's all kinds of structures,” she says. “There’s people who are solo-poly, which is they are by themselves; there's individuals who are in quads, who are in polyamorous families.”

Often people think polyamory is simply an open relationship, but the difference between the two is identity, says Johnson, who identifies as polyamorous. “[Polyamory is] liberating not only in my intimate relationships, but it's liberating in my relationships with friends,” she says. “It's liberating in my relationship with my family. It's liberating in my relationship with my job because I'm not so territorial. I have freed myself.”

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