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This subject has an article on LGBTQIA+ Wiki for informational purposes as terminology relevant to learning more about the LGBTQIA+ community, rather than being an identity that is part of it. Polyamorous people may or may not be LGBTQIA+ due to other identifiers.

A polyamorous relationship is one in which one or more of the participants are involved romantically or sexually with more than one individual at a time. Each person involved in the relationship consents to the situation and is aware of the non-monogamous nature.[2] The concept of polyamory as a queer identity is controversial on the basis of polyamory alone rather than other aspects of identity, such as sexual orientation. Being polyamorous is not specific to LGBTQIA+ people; cisgender and heterosexual people can be polyamorous, and LGBTQIA+ people are not necessarily polyamorous.[3]

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'Poly' comes from the Greek word meaning "many", and "amory" comes from the Latin word meaning "love". The combination of Greek and Latin roots, which is against traditional language rules, emphasizes how polyamory relationships go against typical romantic and sexual norms. Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart, who was a member of Oberon Zell's Church of All Worlds, coined the word "polyamory" in print in the late 1980s.[4]


The first symbol for the polyamory community was the poly parrot, created by Ray Dillinger in 1997, which was the familiar logo for the alt.polyamory Usenet group. He called the image the "Parrot Club Mascot" and said he created the image specifically for use on polyamory sites.[5] The infinity heart as a symbol for polyamory arose in the mid-1990s and was first created by Brian Crabtree. As new versions appeared throughout the 2000s and 2010s, the popularity of the poly parrot faded out.[6]


19th Century[]

The roots for modern-day polyamory can be traced all the way back to the 1840s. From the 1840s to the 1870s, Oneida Community, a Christian commune in upstate New York, practiced what was referred to as 'complex marriage'.[7] In this practice, everyone in the community was considered married to each other, and abandoning traditional marriage was seen as the way to avoid sin. Although the community had its shortcomings, Oneida was so far ahead of its time that it has continued to be a model for polyamorous innovators today.[4]

1960s and 1970s[]

In the 1960s and 1970s, a second wave of polyamory occurred among hippies in what is known as the 'free love movement'. In this time, fringe groups around the country experimented with non-monogamy in what was termed 'group marriage'.[7]

At the same time as these intentional communities came to exist, support groups and publications positively portraying polyamorous relationships began to crop up. Some of these were short-lived, and others lasted long enough to have an impact on the form of modern polyamory. One, inspired by Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land, was Oberon Zell’s Church of All Worlds. A member of this group, Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart, coined the word polyamory in print for the first time in the late 1980s.[4]


During the 1990s, the Internet sparked a third wave of polyamory, after AIDS had driven it underground during the 1980s. A Usenet newsgroup called alt.polyamory helped build a community.[7]


The original polyamorous flag was created by Jim Evans in 1995.[8][9] He made it in Microsoft Paint using websafe colors.[10] This flag displays stripes of blue to represent openness and honesty, red to represent love and passion, and black to show solidarity with those who must hide their polyamorous relationships from the outside world.[11]

There have been many interpretations for what the pi symbol represents. Some people think the pi symbol represents polyamorous people having "infinite love", as pi has infinite decimal places.[11] Others say the pi symbol references how "polyamory" also starts with "p".[9] It is also possible it was chosen in part because it was one of the few symbols available to Evans in Microsoft Paint.[10] However, its gold color is widely accepted to represent the value that we place on the emotional attachment to others, be the relationship friendly or romantic in nature, as opposed to merely primarily physical relationships.[6]

As time went on and it peaked in the summer of 2020, the flag was recognized by many in the community as undesirable.[12] People wanted to move away from the garish colors of the original and use symbology that was easier to comprehend.[10]

Tricolor Polyamory Pride Flag

A community chosen polyamorous flag by Red Howell

On November 23, 2022, Polyamory Day, the PolyamProud committee announced that Red Howell had created the winning design in a community vote to choose a new polyamorous flag design. Over 30,000 people participated in the vote.[13]

The symbolism of the flag design includes:

  • White chevron: flowing outward to depict the non-monogamous community's growth and possibility, asymmetric position to reflect non-traditional relationships[13]
  • Gold heart: heart represents that all forms of love are the core of non-monogamy, in gold to represent the energy and perseverance of the community[13]
  • Red stripe: love and attraction[13]
  • Blue stripe: openness and honesty[13]
  • Purple stripe: a united non-monogamous community[13]

The intention behind this design was to create a simple, bold tricolor, with a contemporary approach to traditional vexillological (relating to the study of flags) elements from the original "Pi" flag.

It takes the best of the original flag, including its color symbolism, and improves on those elements of the Pi flag which alienated viewers.

Red Howell, polyamproud


Although polyamory challenges social norms related to monogamy, polyamorous relationships do not necessarily challenge other sexual or gender norms. A cisgender straight man in relationships with multiple women upholds patriarchal and cisheteronormative beliefs that it is "natural" for men to want multiple sexual partners and for those partners to be women. Polyamory does not necessarily include relationships between people of the same gender. It thus is not generally viewed as a societally oppressed group identity or a marginalized identity comparable to being LGBTQIA+.[3]

Polyamorous is often an identity term, but whether or not polyamory is a sexual orientation has been debated. Some polyamorous people regard it as a choice or lifestyle that they may not practice throughout their lifetime. Others regard polyamory as an innate desire that they have experienced throughout their lifetime and are unable to change, comparable to the mainstream understanding of sexual orientation, or identify their sexual orientation as polyamorous.[14][15] Some have proposed defining polyamory as a "relationship orientation".[14]

Perceptions and discrimination[]

Some polyamorous people have experienced discriminatory treatment on the basis of their polyamory. Since polyamorous relationships are not legally protected in most Western jurisdictions, they may be discriminated against in employment, housing,[14][15] and child custody.[15] In the United States, state laws regarding bigamy prevent marriage between more than two people, while zoning laws can restrict the number of unmarried adults who can share a home. The push for legal recognition of polyamory has sometimes been accused of co-opting the language of gay liberation.[14] Despite this, some jurisdictions have begun allowing greater legal freedoms for those in polyamorous partnerships.[1]





  1. 1.0 1.1 "Ethical non-monogamy: the rise of multi-partner relationships" by Klein, Jessica on <>. Published 2021-03-26 by BBC. (no backup information provided)
  2. "What It Means to Be Polyamorous" by Lockett, Eleesha on Healthline. Published 2022-10-20. (Archived on 2024-05-11)
  3. 3.0 3.1 The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze by Morgan Lev Edward Holleb. Published 2019 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 9781784506636. "Being allegedly marginalized for a sexual preference—while also being straight and cis—is apparently appealing. 'Cishet' is not a very nuanced term to describe gender and sexuality, and many cishet people are quick to suggest that being polyamorous or into kink is comparably marginalized to being queer—or that being polyamorous or into kink means they too are queer."
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners by Anapol, Deborah. Published 2010 by Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442200234.
  5. "A List of Poly Symbols" on <>(no backup information provided)
  6. 6.0 6.1 "The polyamory flag is a grim, confusing failure. Let's do better." on <>(no backup information provided)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "The surprisingly woman-friendly roots of modern polyamory" by Libby Copeland on <>(no backup information provided)
  8. "Who made the polyamorous flag & why does the internet dislike it?" on LGBTQ Nation. Published 2022-03-11. (Archived on 2023-09-26)
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Pride Flag Guide: Polyamory" on Library.LGBT (Archived on 2023-12-09)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "New Polyamory Pride Flag" (original link down) by Molly W. on <>. (Archived on 2023-06-05)
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Polyamory: What Is It and Why Does the Flag Have the Pi Symbol on It?" (original link down) by Lauren Pineda on <>. (Archived on 2022-12-06)
  12. "Polyamorous Flag" (original link down) on <>. (Archived on 2023-09-28)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 "30,827 polyamorous people voted for a new flag. this is the design they chose." on <>. Published by polyamproud. (no backup information provided)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "Why People Are Fighting to Get Polyamory Recognized as a Sexual Orientation" by McArthur, Neil on Vice. Published 2016-08-17. (Archived on 2022-02-03)
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "Is Polyamory a Form of Sexual Orientation?" by Sheff, Elisabeth on Psychology Today. Published 2016-10-04. (Archive link)
  16. Caprica, season 1 episode 2: "Rebirth"
  17. "Willow Smith opens up about being polyamorous" on BBC Newsbeat. Published 2021-04-29. (no backup information provided)