[Edit: as of 2019, Franklin Veaux is the subject of multiple reports of harmful behaviour. I’ve left my article up as a recognition of my own complicity in this matter.]
In November 2014 I sat down to talk to Franklin Veaux about his forthcoming book, The Game Changer. The full interview can be downloaded here.
Today Franklin Veaux is a leader and advocate in the polyamorous community; but over ten years ago Franklin Veaux was not a man whose word was respected.
He was not the man whose articles about agency and consent have been shared thousands of times across the internet. And if his site was popular, it was only because it caused such controversy and such upset in the polyamorous community that it was – like others issue like abortion – highly divisive.
On one hand you have those who believe beyond all doubt that killing an unborn child is murder. They fight against it tooth and nail. On the other, you have those who believe that forcing a woman to give birth is a travesty of human rights.
Whilst polyamory is not about ‘murder’, it nevertheless has two extreme positions which divide even the polyamorous community. Those who believe that the married/primary partnership should be preserved above all things (especially where kids are involved), using hierarchy and veto. Then there are those who believe that the importance of becoming the best person that you can possibly be – even if it means leaving your marriage or long term relationship – is the very essence of why we are here on this earth.
There was a time in our recent past that so-called secondary partners were treated like second class citizens. It was the natural way of things; and everyone, including ‘secondary partners’ agreed. But at some point, other individuals stand up for what they believe to be human rights and say ‘No’. Just because it might have ‘always been done like this’, doesn’t mean it’s right. These people are the game changers and each movement has them. People who speak for their oppressed minorities, who are usually made into ‘villains’ but who ultimately change the way we think.
Shelly is the ‘game-changer’. Someone who altered the course of Franklin’s life. Their legacy for the polyamorous community has been far-reaching. It has changed the landscape of multiple relationships today and has led in many cases to a far more egalitarian less ‘abuse prone’ structure.
But back in 2004, there were many who said Franklin was murdering their ideals, betraying the image of the community as a whole and destroying the way of life as it had been predominantly established at the time.
At the time many claimed that there was something very, very wrong with Franklin Veaux. He left an 18 year long marriage to pursue a relationship with his girlfriend (at the time his secondary partner) – someone who was deemed a homewrecker, a scarlet woman, and a villain by the community, but who as it turned out was someone who simply asked like other game changers before her, to be treated like a person.
‘I started to get hate mail. We were attacked by the community.’ said Franklin. ‘But Amber had only asked for a voice in her relationship and a place at the negotiating table. So we sat down and wrote the ‘secondary’s bill of rights’ which asked for such outrageous demands as ~
- I have the right to be treated with honesty, integrity, compassion, and sensitivity to my needs.
- I have the right to be a part of discussions about decisions that affect me, wherever possible and practical.
- I have the right, and responsibility, to clearly understand the rules of a relationship.
When we published that page, the mail just kept on coming. Responses from the community ranged from
“Well, a secondary should be grateful for whatever they get because they’re getting something that they really shouldn’t have anyway.”
Or, said Franklin, the big one over and over again was ~
“If secondaries want to have these rights, if they want a say in a relationship, they should find a primary of their own.”
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. The pain and the process of change experienced by Franklin, his ex-wife and Amber is the subject of Franklin’s forthcoming memoir.
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.’
‘And that person was you.’ I said.
‘Yes,’ he said simply. And we were quiet for minute.
We all live out our human conditions with different issues and different needs. Love doesn’t always conquer all and the pain of the mistakes we make leaves a lasting impact on us and on those we care about. It’s why relationship education is arguably more important than history, mathematics and really, more than anything we learn about in school.