Last month, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) began hanging posters for their “safe and positive spaces” campaign. The content of these advertisements for equity were washroom stick figures in love. Entitled “Love has no gender,” the poster sports the rainbow of possible couplings: male stick figures with female stick figures, male sticks with male sticks, female sticks with female sticks. Two couplings are triplets of bathroom signifiers: one female figure with two male figures and two male figures with one female.
The posters have drawn the ire of angry parents and organizations who claim the posters endorse polygamy. The TDSB denies this, with spokesman Ryan Bird claiming that “all it is trying to depict is that a person can love either gender.” Though such a limited response smoothed few raised hackles, the outrage to the poster was relatively well-contained and the Board was free to focus on the impending temporary collapse of education.
Try to guess what the posters’ designers may have been getting at with the juxtaposition of love, the emphasis on gender and the double inclusion of triplets. Polygamy? Heavens no, we’ve graduated to far more sophisticated terms. Polyamory? Likely. The practice of loving a number of people at one time has been around since the Stone Age and it is an appropriately Paleolithic practice.
You don’t have to look far to find justifications from sexual diversity studies departments on the many advantages of this lifestyle. Paper needs to get inked somehow. The intellectual development that polyamory seems to represent to some theorists — a concrete emotional improvement that does away with the worst parts of that catch-all term for ignorant straight practices, “heteronormativity” — is worthy of a round dismissal.
I am a frequent user of GRIDNR, a social application designed for homosexuals that asks each client to submit a picture and some basic information. Nothing is mandatory in your profile but once created, you are sent to a mosaic of small picture boxes where you can view the profiles of other users, and they yours. A green dot will tell you if the individual is online, and an illuminated outline whether or not you’ve spoken to someone that day. You speak to these faces with bodily statistics.
The conversations go unmoderated, but you are given the option of blocking another user should a talk go south. You can send more pictures within the chat box or your location. The purpose of the application varies person to person. Its most frequent use, in practice, is finding sex, but people tend to claim they use GRINDR to make friends. While I’m sure that occurs, the ability on GRINDR to tell other people your exact place and distance from where they sit indicates that some immediacy is involved in the application’s intended function..
And it works. Every day us gays who’ve added this application to our mobile devices at U of T and around Toronto hook up with other gays. Everyone has a different way of fishing, and they change their flies depending on the catch they’re trying to attract. As with fishing in most Canadian wildlife parks, what is caught must be thrown back. My guess is that few successful relationships originate on GRINDR, and those that do must always carry the burden of telling people they met on a mobile sex site — not everyone’s dream.
The purpose of this diversion into GRINDR is to illustrate a development that appropriately reflects the truths of polyamory. It is a sex-based practice that fulfills the libido and satisfies the heart about as much as a mirage. I make no exceptions to this claim. If the polyamrous can demonstrate that they can stay with their people, raise many children, and show that this arrangement is capable of making useful contributions to society as a long-term effort, then showing the next generation TDSB’s “love has no gender” poster will be perfectly appropriate. Until then it is irresponsible for the School Board to promote a lifestyle that has its advocates in the classroom but none as living examples of the success of multi-party stable relationships.
They should give love with the heart the value of two and stay well out of the bedroom guest list.