Franklin Veaux has had more influence on polyamory than probably anyone else in the last decade — first with his popular intro-to-poly website
and his prolific blogging, and then with More Than Two
, published a year ago with Eve Rickert as its co-creator and deepener of ideas.
Franklin's stamp on the movement has been to spread recognition that poly relationships succeed when they put certain principles of ethics and autonomy dead center, even when this means sidelining couple privilege, one-sided rule-making, and efforts to maintain the "safety" of a primary couple at the expense of others.
Short version: ethics
in relationships can be defined pretty exactly — as equal respect for everyone's agency and right to informed consent; setting your boundaries clearly and strictly in terms of your own self; and "Don't treat people as things,"
as items to be used. Not even the people you don't know yet.
That last surely comes from Granny Weatherwax and her definition of sin in the Terry Pratchett novels: "And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things."1
The poly movement wasn't always as receptive to these severe insights as it is now. When Franklin faced up to a moral crisis and published the Proposed Secondary's Bill of Rights
in 2003, the fury it aroused in the poly world was horrific. Twelve years later it's taken as received poly wisdom.
How did Franklin get to that key turning point in 2003?
Today is the publication date for his autobiography, The Game Changer: A memoir of disruptive love
. If you assumed that the Game Changer is supposed to be Franklin, no, it's his wise partner "Amber" (not her real name): a fellow giraffe, who set him on his redirected path. No relationship, poly or otherwise, is proof against a game changer, nor should it try to be.
Franklin has started a 10-day book tour of the West Coast, then he and Eve will do a joint book tour in Europe for The Game Changer
and More Than Two.
I've already posted Meg John Barker's (long) review
of The Game Changer.
Here are some more:
● In The Frisky, by Katie Klabusich (Sept. 14, 2015):
...A great read for anyone who’s ever felt slightly “off” or out of place — either with my brand of vague insecurity, or with an assuredness that more closely matches Veaux’s own determined approach to life and love. For me, it’s been more than just a pleasure read; when his More Than Two co-author and publicist Eve Rickert reached out to me this spring, I was navigating my first on-purpose poly relationship and getting the chance to figure out for real what I want and who I am. Being able to experience Veaux’s journey, missteps, early assumptions, and adjustments to how he approaches relationships has been invaluable.
“Amber was my giraffe. She was the first person I ever knew who really got me, understood me, saw me on a deep level,” Veaux writes. “Amber saw me. It’s impossible to express how transformative that was.
“The thing was, I was a giraffe too. And I had never believed there were other giraffes out there. Like Amber, I felt like I was living in a world of alligators. Meeting another giraffe … well, that was a very heady thing.”
...Poly people are definitely not the book’s sole audience; Veaux has plenty to offer monogamous folks as well. The emphasis on communication and consent in poly circles isn’t just for scheduling and logistics — both make relationships stronger and happier. I know, shocker, right?...
Read the whole review
● By Louisa Leontiades:
Sometimes something happens in your life which upsets the world as you know it. For many of us in the polyamorous community, the first realisation that you can love many without cheating and in a long-term stable relationship, is such a revelation.
But one of the reasons polyamory is so powerful is that it not only upsets the biggest social norm of our time, but that it is a gift that keeps on surprising… pain, jealousy, break-ups and yes, the joy of loving many sends us on a never-ending journey of exploration of our innermost depths. Weaknesses and insecurities which may otherwise have remained hidden are exposed, and sometimes if we aren’t careful, exploited. The ‘secondary’s bill of rights’ sent the community reeling …and changed our lives....
Leaders in the polyamorous community today are those who demonstrate compassion, courage and integrity. But these things are born out of experience which – much of the time – we have to go through ourselves.
‘I hope we can learn from others’ experience.’ said Franklin. ‘Because whilst experience might be the best teacher, the price is really high. Someone has to make the mistakes, but not every single person does.’
(November 24, 2014).
● Powerful story by Rebecca Hiles: The Game Changer, AKA I Hate Franklin Veaux
...I hate Franklin Veaux because he made me cry. Not just cry, he made me weep.
When Jon and I first started dating, I told him pretty explicitly that I wasn’t very good at monogamy. I told him all the things that could happen. All the ways I was going to break his heart. He was still good with it.... When we opened the relationship up, we didn’t have many rules. The basics of using protection and STI testing were our most important... but we only had one rule beyond that. Jon was my spouse, and I wouldn’t have any other spouse besides him.
But everything changed when I got [cancer].
I needed Kai, and I needed Jon and I needed them both to be equal and both to be my points of contact in case something went wrong. Kai was, for all intents and purposes, my second spouse. They were equal. Some people found it strange, or horrifying. They didn’t understand that even though I had been together with Kai longer, that I married Jon. They didn’t understand that my relationship with Jon (as a marriage) was no more or less important than my relationship with Kai.
I’m telling you this, because I need you to know where my brain is coming from when I am writing this review.... Sometimes you have to realize that breaking the rules of your relationships is what is going to save them....
If you are a person who believes strongly in hierarchy, this book is likely going to make you uncomfortable. It might even make you a little angry. I strongly suggest you keep reading. I strongly suggest that you find growth through the pain.... If this book makes you uncomfortable, makes you a little afraid I really, strongly suggest that you reflect on why that is....
Which brings me to how Franklin made me cry. In the book he wrote a sentence that resonated with me in a way that nothing else has in quite some time.
[Y]ou do not always get to have a comfortable relationship when you are in love with a dragonslayer.
With that quote, I was completely broken into a billion pieces because I identified so strongly with it. [The cancer-patient community often calls cancer "the dragon." —Ed.] I identified with being the dragonslayer. I immediately understood the heartbreak of being the dragonslayer, and watching someone love you, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s uncomfortable.
After reading that, I closed the book and threw it across the room. I was furious at Franklin for making me feel these feelings. I was angry at him for saying something that struck me that way. Angry at someone who has been an idol for me saying something that was so real and true and hit me in such a raw way. I was angry in much the same way that the people who were angry about the Secondary’s Bill of Rights were. But then I realized that I wasn’t angry, I was scared....
Read the whole article
● By Elisabeth Sheff:
Reading The Game Changer was so thought provoking that it felt like having a deep and roving conversation with a very witty person about what it means to be truly authentic — only without the pressure to be clever yourself because half of it is happening inside your own head. This is a great read for anyone who has questioned the status quo or wondered what intriguing adventures wait on the road less traveled. Daring souls will appreciate Veaux’s frank wit and searing self-critique in this fascinating memoir of unruly love.
The whole review
● By Jessica Burde of Polyamory on Purpose
You know that “watching a train wreck in slow motion” feeling? I lost count of how often I got that reading this book. As someone whose been (more or less) involved in poly for over a decade now, I’ve made most of the easy mistakes. Franklin would start a new section with something like “and we decided this, and had no idea how we were setting ourselves up for disaster.” And I would already be mentally tracing the lines of disaster, shaking my head and thinking “Yup, I remember being that (naive/foolish/culturally brainwashed/oblivious).”
...In spite of the almost complete lack of surprise in any of the major “plot twists,” I had trouble putting the book down. As usual, Franklin has an engaging writing style, a way of working humor, self awareness, and bulls-eye insight into his narrative that makes for an engrossing read.
It seems that we, as a culture, understand that if we leave kids to teach themselves math or history or literature, few people will end up being good at those things. So we have developed formal systems of education to teach people, to help them become productive members of society. But we don’t teach them communication, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, or many other skills we need to become fully formed human beings. We leave kids to figure that stuff out on their own. The results are about what we might expect if we left them, say, to deduce the laws of algebra by themselves. The difference is that most of us need interpersonal skills a lot more than we need algebra.
Perhaps the most important thing I took away from The Game Changer is a new perspective on the poly approach to honesty and communication:
Self awareness is a prerequisite for open and honest communication. We can’t tell others the truth of our feelings and needs if we refuse to face them and admit them to ourselves.
The whole review
● A review in Russian
. Good luck using Google Translate — the book's title comes out as Mixing cards: memories of a devastating love.
● Franklin's February 2010 LiveJournal post that may have introduced the concept: Some thoughts on game-changers
1. The full passage, from Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum. Granny says,
'. . . And that's what your holy men discuss, is it?'
'Not usually. There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example.'
'And what do they think? Against it, are they?'
'It's not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of grey.'
'There's no greys, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is.'
'It's a lot more complicated than that—'
'No. It ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts.'
'Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes—'
'But they starts with thinking about people as things...'
Labels: books, Franklin Veaux