Inclusive language for parties of three or more

From the Graphics Fairy
From the Graphics Fairy

And by “inclusive language” I speak of polyamory.


One of the challenges I face while working steadily at the Divorcing a Real Witch book is the one of inclusive language. While ostensibly for Wiccans – since I am Wiccan – other neopagans/Pagan religious practitioners may find the book useful. ((I hope.)) This leads to the dangerous bugaboo of using Pagan/Wiccan interchangeably when in fact the terms are not and should not be interchangeable. Since we have monotheist Wiccans out there and Pagan implies polytheism ((let’s take it down to the linguistics, and I daresay the dictionary definition of “not one of the big three” is wrong based on the entire world changing)) it’s less than perfect to simply just say “Wiccan” or just say “neopagan.” Besides, participants in my survey so far are not universally Wiccan.

The next tricky language I face is inclusive gender language. Again, English language is anchored in gender identity though not to the degree of French and Spanish, and while I wholly support gay marriage ((or anyone getting married if that’s what everyone directly involved really wants)) it’s at times difficult to write to all possible instances. So far it’s been easier than writing in such a way was a decade ago;  I think the movement toward transcending gender based thinking is starting to take, and the first place to look for that cultural transformation is among writers.

Finally, and here’s where I stumble the most: while most neopagan marriages stick to the traditional “no more than two” some of them don’t. I have no way of obtaining the actual statistics on Pagan-specific polyamorous marriages, especially since such marriages aren’t legal and we need to get past the gay marriage stumbling block before we can take on expanding the number of people in a marriage. I support people loving each other in whatever way works best for them as a group and as individuals; as a child of Eros I’m all about love in an ever-expanding universe, even though my own universe has got a few fences this lifetime. This doesn’t mean polyamorous marriages don’t happen, they’re just not legally recognized -which means polyamorous divorces also receive no recognition, although it is still possible to hire a lawyer or mediator when splitting up a household.

At the same time, the reflex when writing about divorce is to say “divorcing couple.” This is because, when writing about gender, you really only have to combine two or transcend both into neutrality. When writing about divorce with consideration for polyamory, you might end up having to say “triple,” “quadruple,” “quintuple,” “harem under investigation by the feds.”  There’s also A left, B and D stayed, C is still out of state…

It’s just hard to write about inclusively. In twenty years when culture adapts and expands again, it may prove easier. But right now I just don’t know if I can make everyone happy.

As it is, I write for the bastard child niche (Wicca) of a bastard child genre (New Age.) I guess I’m doing this more to finish than I am to win.


  1. Jill

    I think that if you stick with one way and describe your rationalization above for the reason why in the foreword, you should be OK. If you have enough to talk about to cover polyamorous relationships in an entire chapter, that might be good – and still talk about why you focused on two-person relationships throughout in your foreword.

    I thought that Kate Figes used a pretty good voice in her book Couples: The Truth ( that explained it well for both heterosexual and non-heterosexual couples. I’m still pretty proud that I convinced my library in St. Cloud to get a copy of it for their own collection. :) Keep in mind, though, that I am in a heterosexual relationship so I may have blinders that I am unaware of.

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