Polyamory – PolyLove documentary

men and women explore polyamory in Polylove documentary

PolyLove is a new investigative documentary that explores polyamory, non-monogamy and the journey to redefine a ‘relationship’.  Brace yourself, because we are going to a place where bravery and honesty are essential.  A place where loving someone enough to set them free isn’t just a trite metaphor – it’s essential to your personal and relationship growth.  

Single    Married    It’s Complicated

In North America, 48% of marriages end in divorce.*  In business, if your product is failing for half of your customers, then you need to fix it or offer something better.    * SOURCE  ‘Divorce demography’ Stats Canada 2013

Non-monogamy and polyamory demand radical rethinking of our societal constructs.  It’s not about breaking what’s unbroken.  It’s about examining why ‘cheating’ is more socially forgivable than discussing the option of non-monogamy or polyamory with those we love. 

More and more people are experimenting with monogamish and polyamorous relationships. We commit to each other, but have a porous boundary around our relationship, meaning we’ve agreed that it’s OK for either of us to express romantic feelings toward other people or to be physically intimate with other people, so long as we’re honest and transparent about our intentions with one another.

Men and women in relationship groupings.  Three sets of feet stick out from the end of a bed depicting polyamory.

The thought is that these things don’t diminish the integrity of a relationship. Rather, they may deepen the understanding of each other’s wants and desires, and give us the space to grow independently, without growing apart.  There’s even a new word for the emotion of feeling happy for a loved one’s bliss in another relationship.  Goodbye jealousy, hello ‘compersion’. 

So why non-monogamy and polyamory now?

Well, people haven’t changed much, but their environment has. Just think: Monogamy established itself thousands of years ago, when society was ruled by scarcity of resources and potential mates were in limited supply.

We’re now living in a period of great (though unequally distributed) abundance where our basic needs are sufficiently met, and reproduction is a choice. As a result, the reasons to be with a single mate for life are less urgent.  With the rising ambivalence toward commitment, statistically most millennials will put off marriage indefinitely. In place of monogamous pairings, hookup culture flourishes and “open relationships” are commonplace. These are merely rational economic responses to excess inventory and changing expectations of romance. Viewed in this context, conventional monogamy is getting long in the tooth.

But just because more young people are choosing to say, “I don’t” than “I do” doesn’t mean monogamy is irrelevant.  It just means that there’s now more than one option for building meaningful and satisfying relationships. 

DIVE DEEPER:   If you’re interested to learn more about polyamory, watch the PolyLove documentary and check out the Mating Season episode of Shadowlands where three men explore an unconventional relationship in the 1950s.  

shadows of three men against a tent in the TV series Shadowlands where polyamory is explored.
The threesome scene in the Mating Season episode of Shadowlands

Some great reading materials include the non-monogamy intro reader classic, The Ethical Slut by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton.  For my personal favourite on the topic try What Love Is: And What It Could Be by Carrie Jenkins.  

If you enjoy audiobooks you may wish to try USA Today Bestselling author Ella Frank’s four audiobook series that explores polyamory in Confessions. 
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Gender Reassignment

Gender Reassignment - Tiana

“My gender reassignment is not about my balls. What I wasn’t comfortable with was living as a man”.  

Tiana is fierce and speaks her mind unapologetically. Somehow, there is this assumption that trans people’s ultimate transformation is to match their gender identification with their physical genitals.  For some trans people, this might be the case. Danica is a perfect example. For her, matching her gender to her genitals was a very important part of the process. In Danica’s words, “I hate to say it, but it’s the icing on the cake!”
 
Society at large is obsessed with trans people’s genitals.  You are either male or female and nothing in-between.  Tiana, like so many other trans people, keep proving society wrong and insist that gender, biological sex and sexuality are on a spectrum.  Tiana loves her balls and penis, and quite rightly so as she considers herself a “top” (a person who engages in the penetrative role during sexual activity).  

The world is not black and white but ever-changing shades of gray.  The trans experience, is a diversity of experience.  That is why we cannot pigeon-hole Tiana OR Danica. Though they refer to themselves as trans women, their individual stories are unique, powerful and ultimately transcend convenient labelling. 
 
Though Tiana has had some plastic surgery, she is not currently on (nor has she ever been on) hormone therapy. Unlike Danica, Tiana is unwilling to take large doses of estrogen and change the chemical makeup of her body.  In her own words, “I want to save my liver.”  There are many side effects to being on estrogen hormone therapy.  These might include: deep vein thrombosis, the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein, pulmonary embolism, the blockage of an artery in the lungs, gallbladder disease and some forms of cancer.

Tiana’s natural body type (even before transitioning) is long and lean.  For Tiana, being an ectomorph was a blessing in disguise. Through plastic surgery, she was interested in “feminizing” her face, but not her body.  She continues to visit a  cosmetic clinic for general upkeep with botox and facial fillers.
 
“I view my body as feminine, even though I have balls.  My balls are not on public display.  Unless you are going to sleep with me, you really don’t know what’s going on down there”.

I am so impressed with Tiana’s honesty.  It’s refreshing and inspiring.  She is living her life the exact way she wants to live it.  Who could ask for anything more than a life lived to its fullest? 

Gender Reassignment vs Gender Confirmation

I recently had a conversation with my producing partner, Charlie David, about the use of words to empower minorities, particularly in the case of trans people.  We discussed the importance of using a vocabulary that is positive, helpful and more accurate. Instead of saying gender reassignment surgery, perhaps we should instead say gender “confirmation” surgery.  It is important to consider this etymology as it validates a person in gender transition.  “Gender Reassignment” suggests that a person is making a choice to switch genders. It’s not about choice; it’s about using surgery as a therapeutic tool to help trans people to be more comfortable with their gendered, chosen self; to reaffirm and confirm their true self.

 ~Nico Stagias, director Balls documentary

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Drag Queens teach the art of Tucking

Donnarama

Tucking is the art of making your testicles “miraculously” disappear.  But just how does a drag queen make that happen?  Where do they go?

Drag queens and butch lesbians were at the forefront of the gay liberation movement at Stonewall.  Their queer visibility made them conscripted soldiers for a movement in which the majority of its citizenry were invisible/voiceless gay men and women who were mostly in the closet.  Who would have thought that sissies and bull dykes would come to our community’s rescue?  Our militant forefathers and foremothers had serious balls.  And quite frankly, it’s the visible and vocal queers of today that continue to challenge gender, sexuality and sex as our modern day queer warriors.

And that’s exactly what drag artist Barbie Jo Bontemps says in our documentary Balls, ”It takes a lot of balls to be a drag queen!” In the bigger picture, she is certainly echoing our queer herstory, but at that very moment she is specifically referring to the physical, testicular pains that drag queens must undergo to realize their gender illusion.  Tucking your balls is common practice for many a modern drag artist. Whether you are using tight underwear, a gaffe (pulling all your junk back with a sock) or duck tape for tucking, the end result is the same; your testicles “miraculously” disappear.  
 ucking BarbieJoBontemps
To make one’s testicles disappear, you are essentially pushing your balls back into your body’s natural cavities.  It’s kinda uncomfortable, but not overly painful.  Unlike Barbie, Donnarama is not overly enthusiastic about tucking, “I hate 3 things.  I hate shaving my face, shaving my back and TUCKING”!  It’s not easy being gorgeous, but sometimes a girl’s got to do, what a girl’s got to do. Interestingly, this idea of tucking, like wearing high heels or make-up, speaks to the discomfort that many women often endure to also realize the illusion of gender that has been imposed on them by the heterosexual cis-male gaze.
 Tucking 1
Back in my salad days, I used to do a lot of what I would call “clown” drag.  My goal was to look fun and vaguely girly.  For me, drag was a multi-layered tool to play with gender and gender expectations.  That said, I never tucked or gaffed, in fact, sometimes I wouldn’t even shave.  I liked to both shock and amuse my immediate audience. I was never trying to “pass” as a “real” woman.  Some drag queens refer to this as “fishy”, a term that I’m not particularly comfortable with. Part of this discomfort stems from an inherent misogyny of cis-men playing with female gender without any real ownership or consequence.  If things get too “real”, the drag queen can assume the privilege of being a cis-male, whereas women are systematically compromised without any escape.  They suffer physically, emotionally and economically because of their gender.  Perhaps it is women who have the “real” balls after all.
 Tucking Donnarama
Barbie and Donnarama offer a great counterpoint and levity in our documentary Balls.  Their playful, off-the-cuff banter help bridge the conversations around testicular health and men’s health in general, both physical and emotional. Because of how men are generally socialized, they are not having open, honest and vulnerable discussions about their own personal health and how to ask for help.  In its own small ways I hope Balls, with the help of Barbie and Donnarama, opens that door.

~ Nico Stagias, Director of Photography at Border2Border Entertainment

Grab your Balls and hold on!  Let’s discover everything you never knew about your nuts.

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