First came traditional marriage. Then, gay marriage. Now, there's a movement combining both—simultaneously.
Abby Ellin visits the next frontier of nuptials: the "triad."
Less than 18 months ago, Sasha Lessin and Janet Kira Lessin gathered before their friends near their home in Maui, and proclaimed their love for one another. Nothing unusual about that—Sasha, 68, and Janet, 55—were legally married in 2000. Rather, this public commitment ceremony was designed to also bind them to Shivaya, their new 60-something "husband." Says Sasha: “I want to walk down the street hand in hand in hand in hand and live together openly and proclaim our relationship. But also to have all those survivor and visitation rights and tax breaks and everything like that.”
“I want to walk down the street hand in hand in hand in hand and live together openly and proclaim our relationship,” says Sasha Lessin. “But also to have all those survivor and visitation rights and tax breaks and everything like that.”
Maine this week became the fifth state, and the fourth in New England, to legalize gay marriage, provoking yet another national debate about same-sex unions. The Lessins' advocacy group, the Maui-based World Polyamory Association, is pushing for the next frontier of less-traditional codified relationships. This community has even come up with a name for what the rest of the world generally would call a committed threesome: the "triad."
Unlike open marriages and the swinger days of the 1960s and 1970s, these unions are not about sex with multiple outside partners. Nor are they relationships where one person is involved with two others, who are not involved with each other, a la actress Tilda Swinton. That's closer to bigamy. Instead, triads—"triangular triads," to use precise polyamorous jargon—demand that all three parties have full relationships, including sexual, with each other. In the Lessins case, that can be varying pairs but, as Sasha, a psychologist, puts it, "Janet loves it when she gets a double decker." In a triad, there would be no doubt in Elizabeth Edwards’ mind whether her husband fathered a baby out of wedlock; she likely would have participated in it.
There are no statistics or studies out there, but according to Robyn Trask, the executive director of Loving More, a nonprofit organization in Loveland (yes, really), Colorado, dedicated to poly-education and support, about 25 percent of the estimated 50,000 self-identified polyamorists in the U.S. live together in semi-wedded bliss. A disproportionate number of them are baby boomers. (Paging Timothy Leary: Janet Lessin claims on her Web site that she's able to travel astrally.)