Monday, August 29, 2011

Different strokes for different folks and then some

I've been on several camping trips this summer but the big event around here was  a  large group camping trip (9 days) ambitiously planned by representatives of the many poly groups we have in the Victoria area. Vancouver Island has become a hot spot for poly people and fabulous regular events. There were many spur of the moment camping trips by each of the groups.  Polycamp Too (4 days) had been running for several years and was a project of the VanIsle Poly group which is a more social and networking group often first contact for those moving to the area. Long term members tend to be the over 35 age group with growing families. Victoria Poly 101 is a discussion group with a social component and tends to appeal to those under 35 or without families. Poly 101 on Campus is an approved club of the University of Victoria for students.  Poly Women's Group is a discussion and support group attended by women of all ages who identify as poly, swing, bdsm and poly friendly. There is also the a Poly Pub Night group and a Victoria Poly Group Dating group (say that three times quickly). There are also two different groups who host occasional "play" (poly/swing/bdsm) parties as well . People will attend one of these poly groups, several of them or all of them depending on their availability and the choice of discussion topic. There is a lot of interaction in attendance between the poly, swing and bdsm communities and some really creative event planning in our town. We are very lucky to have such devoted and talented people in our midst.

Different variations on the theme of multi-partnered relationships are practiced within the greater community of poly people. There are definitely tribes or clusters of friends within the community. Polycamp Vancouver Island 2011 was a merging of groups to create one event for the greater community to come together and get to know one another. Good in theory but not so much in practice. Mixing families and polyfi tribes with a group of singles wanting a "burn" experience in retrospect was much more complex and required much more communication prior and during then was anticipated. Having never been to a "burn" (as they are generally held in a desert and I'm not much for heat and sand), I did not realize that until I read a posting by the effervescent Reid Mihalco (Thanks again, my friend.) after the camp was over.

It occurs to me that we as a poly community should have "relationship agreement conversations" when we bring together groups from different variations on the poly theme or from different areas where their variations are unknown to us. People do not like surprises.  It was suggested that some form of this be a part of the registration process for future "burn" camping.  Good idea except that many people registered onsite or had someone else preregister for them. 

For the most part, poly people in our area are very inclusive and accepting of the variations people choose in their philosophies of lifestyle and sexual/gender expression. Likely more inclusive than I've seen elsewhere in my life. Camping in a group does not allow for much privacy and really I may support your right to choose but I don't really want to sit and watch. Compersion has its limits and tighter ones for complete strangers. That coupled with a very poor decision to not post nor enforce any rules with regards to behaviour in communal areas and clean up procedures made for a experience that could have been more divisive than the intended merging event.

Yup. Another F***ing Growth Experience as we poly folk are prone to say. An online follow up feedback survey was created to give attendees a place to express themselves and it had a surprisingly large response rate. It was also a goldmine of wonderful advice and support. Poly people rock.

Next year, the "burn" folks will go off and have Polycamp Vancouver Island 2012 with an adult only attendance. PolyFamilyCampBC will be its own event for families and those who wish a more structured experience with workshops and events for all ages running concurrently as well as inter-generational gathering times. There are planning groups on Facebook for both.  They are separate events held at different times so that adults may choose to attend both.

We saw clearly in the feedback that while we have a blossoming greater poly community on Vancouver Island, there are definitely communities within that which would like to vacation separately. We are still one big family. Mom just doesn't do fishing trips and Dad just hates shopping runs to the US.

The workshop sesssions that we did have at camp this year were well received and that was noted as one of the strong points of the event. I facilitated one updating on the BC court case (Polygamy Law reference) and assisted Leo Young (Results Canada)in another on Advocacy letter writing which was followed by another brainstorming on ways to help the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association develop advocacy teams.

As a follow up to those sessions I have set up a Facebook group called Friends of CPAA Advocacy Team and a google group of the same name. I will be posting training information to them on how to write letters to the editor in response to articles; how to write letters, make phone calls and visit politicians and bureaucrats; and how to prepare a 3 minute laser talk or elevator speech for when the topic comes up amongst friends/co-workers etc. We will post information from which you can draw suggestions for letter content. We will post media alerts to target articles and encourage responses. We will also post names and contact info for those who can facilitate social change for polyamorists. There will be in person meetings in our area and the hope is that other local groups will form and skype in for contact occasionally.

Google group email:
web address:

Friends of CPAA Advocacy Team -

I also coached a session for writer's at camp where we critiqued each other's work and did some exercises meant to push out the cobwebs and get our muses humming. I had an encore session later in the week and have opened a Facebook group called Poly Writer's Bootcamp to continue that and add a self-marketing training program. We will have in person meetings as well. Skype in is an option for these meetings as well.

Poly Writer's Bootcamp -

I look forward to working with these groups and draw great inspiration from the wonderful contacts made this summer.  New faces and faces that I'd seen but now know so much better.  A good summer for refocusing and pondering new horizons.