You have heard me talk before about poly people looking for other poly people for dating, socializing, or even networking. Despite a fairly large and growing poly community where I live it seems like people still have a hard time finding other poly people. Social groups are popular and grow quickly. Online poly sites seem to be gaining in popularity. At poly group meetings I often find myself sharing information about poly dating sites or how to find poly people. I recently even wrote an article about finding the poly community in your area.
For quite a long time I have enjoyed the diversity and challenge of finding other poly folks. It has led me on a journey I will never forget. I've seen the Swing community from the inside, the Gay community fairly up close. I've done some exploring in the BDSM community and talked with those building self-sustaining communities. I've learned what it means to be pagan, becoming interested in theology along the way. I've helped start festivals, social and support groups, internet sites, and even a winery. I've written blogs, opinions, reviews, and given quite a few interviews. With everything one of the biggest pleasures, if not the biggest, has been meeting a variety of people.
Recently I've had cause to ponder the exclusion of some people from my (I mean My personally) poly community.
A portion of my community is growing so quickly that it is becoming unmanageable. I won't bore you with the details, nor do I want to provide specifics in the event those from the community may read this, but the problem centers on a social group that has grown drastically in the past few months. In talking with a friend who has been involved in the group with me we came to discuss options for keeping the group of a manageable size. Before long we were talking about specific people in the community, and not long after that I realized we were talking about excluding people. Essentially we were figuring out which people from the group didn't fit with the majority and could be excluded. We were talking about the guy who seems to be interested mainly in finding sex partners and whom we have heard has been "too friendly" without invitation in the past. We were talking about a couple of people who can't seem to give a short answer to any question and dominate conversation with their own agenda. We talked about the people that could be called "fringe", with maybe more of a Swinger attitude than a Poly attitude. Then came the drama lovers and whiners.
The entire time I was thinking that I didn't like the idea of being exclusive when I've spent so much time trying to build an inclusive community. I pondered things a bit more and think I came to the root cause. When we try to build community, whether that means expanding our list of friends or more, inclusion is natural. Without a full social plate people tend to let most anyone into their social circle or community. Once that community is built a bit and has more members you begin to feel like you can pick and choose a bit more. And if it grows larger than you expected outright pruning becomes an option. It changes from being all-inclusive to somewhat exclusive. You begin to be picky.
It was at that point I realized I didn't like how I was thinking. At the next gathering of the group a few people must have been feeling the same way and started pushing the idea of making the group private as well as limiting membership. Having just been contemplating those same things the topic didn't surprise me much when it came up. While some of the concerns about privacy are valid, I think more than a few have to do with keeping the group smaller, more intimate, and with providing the ability to choose who will be included. In my mind, choosing who to include is the same as being exclusive. This is something I'm going to push back against pretty hard. My feeling is that the group wouldn't be growing as big as it is if it wasn't needed in the community. I felt it was needed which is the reason I run the group. To shift into an exclusive model would put the community back into the same position it was before which would mean I had accomplished nothing.
I have seen this happen before with festivals and even web sites so I'm not entirely surprised it happened with the group I've mentioned. What has surprised me is how fast it took place. Fortunately I have had some plans in mind for a while now and it will only be a matter of dusting them off and refining them a bit. Overall, my hope is to keep building an inclusive community. Just like pruning in my yard, I don't enjoy pruning much in my community.
So how about you? Is your poly world all-inclusive at this point or are you starting to think more exclusively? Or are you already pruning? What do you think of the scenario I presented? Would you take steps toward being exclusive or even private, or would you continue to include most anyone?