Poly-Pan Panoply

Jun 14, 2019 | 2019 Summer - Nonbinary x2 (and more), Articles

By Talitha Milroy

I was raised in a strictly Christian household. It was a narrow world, singular. One God, one path, one truth. One body in Christ. One man and one woman.

Needless to say, I wasn’t a tidy fit.

I’ve never been good at settling for just one option. Why have one of anything when you could have them all?

As a little girl, when given the choice between custard and ice-cream, I would always request a bit of both. At restaurants, I’d ask my sister to order something different from me, so we could swap halfway and try more options. When the time eventually came for me to apply to university, unable to decide between a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science, I applied for a double degree so that I could do both.

Around the same time that I started university, I stopped being a Christian, and around the same time as all that, I realised I wasn’t straight.

All of a sudden, there were so many possibilities.  

In the time since then, I’ve discovered a lot more things about myself. I’m pansexual, panromantic, and non-binary. When it comes to kink, I’m a switch. I’m also polyamorous. In terms of spirituality, I would call myself both pantheist and polytheist.

I’m a poly-pan panoply. A cornucopia of contradictions.

Genders, sexualities, sexual roles, partners, pronouns, deities, degrees . . . the more the merrier. ¿Por qué no los dos?

It’s a lot of labels to be walking around with, and honestly, I’m not that keen on labels. They can feel a bit too much like boxes. They do, however, allow me to find my people, and they help me to explain myself, which is something I find myself doing an awful lot.

A lot of people out there are passionately certain that kink and polyamory must never be included in the alphabet soup of the LGBTQIA+ community. Other people out there are equally certain that it must be included and have started to use LGBTQIAPK. I’m not going to open that can of worms right now, but I will say that for me personally my memberships of these different sexual minority communities are very much related. My queerness, my kinkiness, and my polyamory are different expressions of the same traits: a taste for novelty, a love of variety, a passion for diversity. I’m miserable in boxes, uneasy with categories, and at home on the fringes of the socially sanctioned. I’m a being of thresholds and edges. I like to stand with one foot on land and one foot in the ocean, amphibious, ambidextrous. I prefer to dual-wield my identities.

I’m not indecisive, but I hate forced choices.

In addition to all this, I’m also a witch. While perhaps less obviously so, witchhood is also an identity that I would call non-binary. Historically, the role of the witch has been the intermediary between this world and the other, the spiritual and the material, the rational and the transrational, the civilized and the wild. Neither one thing or the other, but both, and neither.

For me, magic and witchcraft are also the perfect arena for expressing all my other non-binary-ness. I use ritual to experiment with shifting between genders, sexualities, and roles. I love to see how many different shapes I can bend my mind into.

Have you watched Avatar: The Last Airbender? The protagonist must master the energies of all four classical elements before he can claim his destiny. He must be an air-bender, water-bender, earth-bender, and fire-bender. It’s heart-warming watching him come to terms with all the parts of himself that he wasnt’ aware of and learn to use each to its full potential.

I like to imagine my genders, roles and sexualities as different elements I can learn to connect with and control. It makes the process more fun and less arduous.

And as an added bonus, “gender-bender” is a lot of fun to say.

My journey from one to many has not been an easy one. My culture shies away from things that disrupt neatly boxed up categories. There are a lot of pointy words and phrases that get thrown at someone like me: greedy bisexual, Hell-bound whore. Slut, sinner, fence-sitter, freak-show. Confused, fickle, indecisive, unfaithful. Party-lesbian. Pervert. You don’t know what you want. It’s only a phase. Do bisexual people even exist?

That last one is a kicker. Internalised bi-erasure has led me to spend an unreasonable amount of time wondering if I’m imaginary.

When you grow up in the church, it takes a whole lot of work to undo the training that tells you that your plurality is perverted, pernicious, or nothing but a youthful delusion. I won’t pretend I haven’t had moments of wishing I were more straight-forward. Or just more straight. It’s hard to love yourself when your family believes everything you are is a one-way ticket to eternal damnation. I’ve struggled with mental health issues for most of my life, and the stigma directed at queer people has been a huge contributor to those issues.

Fortunately, love that’s hard won is all the fiercer for the fight. It’s taken years of pushing, fighting, learning, and growing, but I’ve finally reached a place where I’m (almost always) truly glad of everything I am, even if it makes life complicated. I’m working on coming out of all my intersecting closets, getting more involved in LGBTQIA+ communities, and trying to be there for other people like me.

So, this is a message to anyone else out there who’s a little like me:

You’re not alone. Your psychedelic rainbow of identities is valid and beautiful. Keep on burning bright and being you. Keep on breaking binaries, deconstructing dichotomies, and splitting light into a thousand different colours. The world is fuller and more fascinating for your presence in it.

Talitha is a queer witch, budding sexologist, and aspiring writer. Talitha lives in Western Australia with two partners and two cats.

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