Poli em Portugal (ou o que eu vi disso)

This article is adapted from something I wrote for the alreadyrefered Krake zine from Gwendo (polylogo@gmx.de). I dont claim everything to be correct. I am giving a report of my six months I spent here paying special attention to poly visibility and oganising meetings.

Comments and questions welcome!

A very personal view on the poly scene (as it let itself be perceived) in Portugal

I started writing this with the thought of making a cold, uncommented and distanced description of what I was able to see from the polyamory culture in Portugal, in the 6 months I spend back in my motherland. But right in middle of writing it I came to the conclusion it was impossible for me to do so, that I had to bring here some of my personal background and emotions.

Maybe I would try to explain why I landed in poly first of all. I will try to be brief. The idea dawned in my mind more or less without external influence. I was finishing my studies, which is something that makes one think about the future, and got very disappointed by the relationships I saw around me. Either they were powered by an idea of love as submited to rules and regulations, oriented to a very long distance future, or were romantic passion driven. I have also seen schizofrenic cases of relations that try to follow both models, to my bewilderment.

The romantic passion is something that burns the house. Lives the moment, it is obsessed, it is exalted, it is pure pyrotechnic virtuosismo. Kills individuality, burns the future, raises inflated expectations. Ok, the outcoming poetry of it all is just great, and probably plays some role on the basis of Western Literature and Art, but you cannot expect to live long in such exalted state. One becomes first the mirror of The Loved One and then The Loved One's living picture. You become her. Of course I know that one cannot choose if passion knocks loudly at the front door. But already then I had the suspicion that many people seek this state desperately as an objective in itself, even more important than finding the eventual Unique Loved One.

I have difficulties in speaking impartially about the other model for which I even lack a decent name, but I will do my best. It is regulated by the idea that a relationship is successful only if it is long and it "works" in everyday life. It is "pass/fail" evaluated. Like, if the love of today is the token that it will work tomorrow, and tomorrow, and after, for years to come, no matter how much the people develop and their views change. In this model, strict rules are to be followed, and I have the suspicion that not only your actions and habits are to be regulated, but also what you should think and feel. In short, I suspect that also love suffers an attempted regulation (and "kindly explain me how can love be regulated?", is my eternal question to these people).

Without going too biographical, I was more than a decade in theoretical contemplation of some idea of poli and occasionally reaping some stoms and arguments with people because of some shy attemps at it. I recall from those years the sense of defeat and the isolation, the feeling I was not being understood by people around me. After some time I resolved this and settled my life in a more constructive way. Praxis began. For good and lasting. I had support of a lot of same minded people I found meanwhile in the german city I was living in.

Because I was aware how the very existence of these people did so much for me, and I was so thankful to have had this support, I decided I had to do the same in Portugal. In our days, there is so much you can do remotely over internet, and I was going to spend half an year there anyway, that I dived into the idea of founding and/or consolidating a poly discussion and support group in Portugal.

I did some research and found quickly that something already existed. There is a quite complete internet site, in portuguese, spanish and english, www.poliamor.pt.to, and a mailing list for discussion and support poly_portugal. The list is around 1-2 years old and hosts around 25 members, most of them just readers. It has not been growing and is not very active. Most of the people in it feel a sympathy for the poly ideas but never really had real life experience. Because of this, the "more experienced" others are shy about sharing their real-life poly experiences. I've been trying and making contacts with them individually outside the list just to feel the pulse and motivations. The huge majority of the list lives in Lisbon, 300 km from Porto, where I am sitting, so it is difficult to organise any type of events (discussion tables, parties, dinners,..), a couple of members live in Aveiro, others in the US. Some of the people are also in contact with the poly scene in Spain and UK. The list seems at first sight hetero and men dominated, but recently I start to think it might be a different story. Don't judge a group by its loudest voices.

There was a get-to-know dinner from the Lisbon group in January but then I was too tired to travel. No more events in Lisbon to this day. Because of not having been there, I cannot give a very complete picture about the situation in Lisbon (where like mentioned, the majority of the list lives), simply because I don't have it myself.

I don’t have any illusions that to consolidate a group takes time, that it takes other people, it takes time and that it takes some luck, that the right people come into contact. Also, some words on the social environment: I perceive me and my fellow portuguese as individualists. I don’t mean egoists. I just mean we are not group oriented as in northern cultures. We rely on ourselves, our creativity and wits, and have a tendency to find groups and associations an inefficient waste of time. Activism is regarded with suspicion, and the few who don’t feel this way, tend to engage in activism with fervor and exageration that shuns more moderate people. Off course this is just a model, but helpful to explain the apparent contradiction that I have heard and met stories of people who live or have lived in a poly way, but don’t consider useful to join a discussion group, to network, simply to become in some way "visible" or even "political" (everything you do that others see is political) about it. As a side comment, all this paragraph can be extrapolated to GLBT activism in fact, but that is another quite long laundry list.

What I have been doing for the moment is just agitating the waters in certain scenes. I started a blog to write about polyamory in portuguese in this blog to stimulate the discussion. Fliers have been written and distributed. Inside the GLBT groups I have been involved with, I started publishing translated articles I find good, or my own articles (and collecting the questions and comments they raise). I have privileged the politically engaged lesbian and the incipient bi communities as target groups. There has been some reaction, but not that much until now. The same holds for all the attempts of creating a regular discussion table. But as the weather gets better people are getting more social and I feel the interest steadily growing.

As a way of conclusion, just some words on some comments I got about Portugal typically being perceived from outside as conservative, and therefore poly unfriendly. Well, usually I like saying that there is an enormous variety of backgrounds here, from someone who has studied engineering but writes poetry to the illiterate and poor who still finds resources to feed a blind cat in an alley, so all the possible reactions that can exist, are all the possible reactions you will definetely get. Another point is, relationships and emotions are very important in Portugal, it is something that takes a lot of time and energy in everybody's mind and heart, so people tend to dwell not too long on the logic side of the argument, jumping quickly to gentle understanding of the idea of poly you are trying to explain, or a quick flaming of it. I had heard very unpleasant comments about my ways, but on the overall people were quite receptive and thankful that I shared that with them. Often I heard them saying that they knew similar stories from someone else they knew. I see a future here, and until now it was great fun to engage in all this.

Thanks for reading,


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