Breaking Bi Barriers
By: CHRISTOPHER MURRAY
EROS: A JOURNEY OF MULTIPLE LOVESBy Serena Anderlini-D'OnofrioHarrington Park Press$29.95; 223 pages
BY CHRISTOPHER MURRAY
Nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in the new bisexual category, Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio's new book, "Eros: A Journey of Multiple Loves," speaks passionately and frankly about her experiences on the erotic and sexual frontiers.
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY: This may sound dumb, but what's a bisexual to you?
SERENA ANDERLINI-D'ONOFRIO: A bisexual person is to me a person with the inclination and ability to love, sexually and otherwise, persons of all genders, women, men, and anything in between.
CM: Okay, so what's polyamorousness?
SA: Polyamory is to me the inclination and conscious ability to love, sexually and otherwise, more than one person at a time.
CM: You've written a fictionalized memoir about these topics. What does the fictionalized part mean?
SA: It means that I had the plot and I had to make a good story out of it. With memoirs you have to stick to the plot that your life gives you. You cannot make up things and or use people in ways they're not willing. That's the challenge. The fictionalization is that gentle veil you put over it to offer people a way to say, "I don't know this person, that's not me."But people are not always ready to see themselves as you see them. They might see the project as a way for you to get even. In my case, the intention was always healing. I consulted everybody and gave them plenty of time to get back to me. Many did.
CM: How do you think bisexual identities are changing within the greater queer community? SA: Bis came out and found ourselves as a group in the throes of the AIDS scare. We were the fence sitters that spied between the two separate groups. The stigma catalyzed self-awareness and unity. Today, at least nominally, there is inclusiveness. It's all LGBT.But then, sometimes it's lip service, because nobody wants to see the difference. I see myself as a bit of a one-of-a-kind. So the word queer suits me. I teach at the University of Puerto Rico. Last year my campus hosted the first conference on sexual diversity on the island. We called it Del Otro La'o, "from the other side." We did not use the word queer. The challenge is to have forms of queer theory that are applicable to the lives of real, concrete people.
CM: As someone who has lived all over the world, do different cultures understand polyamorous relationships differently.
SA: As the practice of honestly and responsibly loving more than one person at once, polyamory can manifest in many forms. Islamic polygamy can host forms of genuine polyamorousness within it. When the co-wives love each other, care for each other's children, that is certainly more polyamorous than the conventional wife and mistress who are at each other's throats. Some extended families include exes too.My ex has three daughters, each from a different wife. They love each other more than many full sisters do. And the two exes plus the current one get along, too. We've cooperated on co-parenting. It's not sexual polyamory, but of the soul and spirit. It's also transnational, since they live in Italy.My favorite form of polyamory is a bit utopian; it is based on polyandry, where a woman has several male partners. But in my utopia, the male partners are amorous with each other too, and so are the women.
CM: What kinds of relationships are you drawn to now?
SA: My happiness is proportional to the measure in which I am in love and at peace with all the people who are important and intimate in my life. Also, of course, on having at least one current partner with whom to exchange fluids, possibly exclusively, and a number of lovers-at-large with whom to share leisure time, intimacy, closeness, and sometimes highly explorative erotic experiences. I have all this right now. But I work at it and my partners do too. It does not happen easily.
CM: You talk about a "different, queer world" where things would work better. What things, and how better?
SA: Everything. A world where people are willing to share resources is a world where scarcity turns into abundance. And love is one of these resources, perhaps the most needed. If we turn selfish/exclusive love into shared/selfless love, we can resolve the multiple crises our little planet is in. To multiply the love, the world needs to become more queer. We need to learn the arts of loving and healing at the school of erotic expression, body ecology, and queer theory.
CM: You've spoken to many student groups around the country about non-traditional relationships. Do you find the younger generation significantly different?
SA: The only constant thing about tradition is that it changes. I teach a course on love in the Western tradition. It includes Plato's "Symposium," where Socrates is desired by two young and handsome male disciples, and Sappho, who watches her beloved being amorously kissed by her groom. It includes Phaedra, who commits suicide because her stepson does not reciprocate her feelings, and Casanova, who makes love to two willing and eager sisters, one 11 the other 13, plus their transgendered pretend castrato older sibling. Also, a nun in baroque attire whose other lover is a high prelate, and whose best friend, another nun, shares Casanova with her. That's tradition!The younger generation has as much potential for love as any. They need the freedom to learn what love is - in its infinite forms. They need to get past the mode of fear set off by the AIDS scare. They need space to experiment with practices of love that are ecologically sustainable and healing. They need education on non-reproductive pleasures that can be shared. Relationships are good, but I would not get stuck on that concept, it's pop-psychology and restrictive.
CM: How did it feel to have been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award?
SA: Very exciting. I believe in literature and I am happy that so many good writers are queer. I feel fortunate that the bi category was open this year and I'm happy that many bi and poly friends were at the awards too. I am also grateful to my publisher, Harrington Park Press for its pioneering work with bi books.