Ignacio Rivera (Hutiá Xieti)
Hometown New York, NY
Place of Residence Baltimore, MD
Occupation Sex educator, performance artist, writer, activist, organizer, experimental filmmaker. All around the subject matter of gender and sexuality
Ignacio has identified as polyamorous for about 20 years. They use the term 'independent polyamorous' to describe their relationship identity. They also identify as trans, two-spirit, gender-fluid, a switch, a survivor, sober, a mother, a person of color and as a spiritual person.
Ignacio: To me, independent polyamorous is the same way I describe being an independent parent, not a single parent. I'm quite content in my individuality so I use independent polyamorous to describe that I have no desire or do not want to participate in the relationship escalator. Like once you get into a relationship there's kind of a formula of what is supposed to happen next, what are you supposed to do, what's acceptable: move in together, possibly get married, the terminology used. I'm not really interested in that so for me, I say my polyamory... I say my primary relationship is either to myself or to my daughter.
Ignacio at their person's home in Brooklyn, NY
Ignacio: My polyamory: I think I always like to say it's either this circular kind of thing or this wonderful hub at the root of a tree, that's my chosen family. So they're a part of that. My chosen family, with them I have a lot of emotional relationships, some are spiritual relationships, some cross over into occasional sexual intimacies or interactions, but my chosen family is really my core. Those are the people I connect with, go to, am held accountable with or I hold them accountable, we struggle together, all of that. Currently I have three very significant relationships. One is with a person that I say is my ‘person,’ that's the kind of terminology I use– I go back and forth about language– she's “my person” and we've been together for well over a decade. She identifies as a bisexual cis woman and she's black. That's also another theme for my relationships, I prefer to have relationships with other people of color. My other relationship is with a black trans man and we, I use “boyfriend” to describe him and he also has another person in his life and he uses “partner” to describe the both of us and I'm not anti-that or against it, I think we all have certain relationships to certain language so I say boyfriend. We've been together for about three or four years, I'm losing count [laughter]. And then I have a D/s dynamic with a black femme queer woman and we've been together for two years now. I'm the dominant in this scenario and she's the submissive and we also have a very, very intense and beautiful spiritual relationship
Ignacio at their person's home with their dog in Brooklyn, NY
Ignacio giving the keynote talk at Poly Dallas conference
Ignacio: I'm also thinking about like polyamory, non-monogamy for people who have children. I have an adult daughter now, but I remember what it was like for me as an independent mother, a lesbian, and someone who was on welfare. What it meant to be an out lesbian and an out poly person and what that meant for, fear around my daughter as if I was going to be seen as an unfit mother; and also just how society viewed me, and how they viewed me was that I was a whore and I was a slut. I say this story over and over because I want people to realize that how we kind of box certain people in in terms of what relationships should look like and how relationships are legitimate or if someone is seen as worthy. I wasn't seen as that. I was seen as a person that needed to just concentrate on my daughter. If you're a mother, you know, you're a saint. You're not a whore.
So I think about that, because it's not just about people being... People limiting themselves in terms of what kind of relationships we have, but also limiting ourselves in like who gets to have these relationships, right? Because currently, I really do believe that sex and sexuality and pleasure and desire is a privilege. It should be a given. It should be something that we all have. But it is a privilege. I have privilege over many other people, and there are many other people who have privilege over me. As a poor, lesbian and what people call “the single mom,” I did not have the privilege to have my desires met. I did not. I had a role to play in life
In the backyard, Brooklyn, NY
Ignacio on a walk, Brooklyn, NY
Ignacio: Being a survivor [of sexual assault], being poly and being kinky have been very important tools for my survivorship and my healing. Because I get to navigate different feelings and different things with different people. It's not a secret, there's no shame in it, so one of my biggest life's work is to undo shame and undo secrecy which was a big part of my young life because I am a survivor of child sexual abuse and rape as a teenager. So being honest, truthful and not holding shame for my desires is super important. So being a survivor and then being able to intentionally be loving or nasty or [laughing] whatever it is I want to be. Also within my D/s dynamic it's also another way I get to heal from my trauma as a young person, as a child really. Because D/s makes a lot of sense to me.
Ignacio: I really wish that we lived in a world that would acknowledge choices. That we wouldn't live in a world that only acknowledges monogamy as the sole and right way of being in relationships. I want to live in a world where there is a spectrum and a part of that spectrum is monogamy, but there's also non-monogamy, there's polyamory, there's whatever else people want that is agreed upon. No one is forced into something, but it is consensual. I think it's important. It would be different from having it the way it currently is, that monogamy is the way to go and polyamory is what these crazy, kinky, underground people kind of do because if we had it on this spectrum, let's say, I know it would shift the way that people almost exist in misery because they don't fit into the narrative of popular love and relationships. I see it all the time.
I see people trying to... it's like putting a square into a circle, like this is the way it's supposed to be and I don't have it, so something is wrong with me. Right? And that can be for a variety of reasons. I think it could be, all these things are connected, oppression and all of that, right? So it could be that someone is trans, someone is a person with a disability, someone is fat, we could name a whole slew of things that don't fit into the narrative of beautiful people or heterosexual people who meet, have this wonderful falling in love story, get married, have children, right?
Walking the dogs, Brooklyn, NY
Ignacio: I feel like if we were able to start to thinking about relationships as, here's a plug, a workshop I do called Relationship Builders, if we look at relationships as structures that we get to build ourselves, we really open up the possibilities of what love, community and happiness looks like. I think it would just shift so many things. I feel like I just see so many people that are miserable because they can't find “The One and when people are in relationships they're like this is it, this is The One, we put all of our energy into this person, we're hoping, because we're told to look for that one. And for many people, that's not ever going to be the case. We're never going to find The One. Some people will find five different The One's, right, but when we limit our hearts and our spirits and our thinking that way, we actually create a system where we all fail, constantly. We constantly fail at love, we are no good, something is wrong with us, it fucks with our self-esteem, it fucks with everything. Just everything.
Ignacio: I do think that it is a privilege in the sense that when you're dating multiple people, you're thinking about what does a date look like? Where are we going? Are we going places or are we dating in the sense that we just see each other at our home or in our neighborhood. That shifts a lot for a lot of different people. I know for me, while being on welfare and actually or just getting off of welfare, and dating the woman that I'm dating now, my person, one of the first things I wanted to do was have a conversation about money. I was just going to be straight out with it. I was like, “I'm poor. I don't have money. You are a woman that does not have children, has her own place, makes some good money and you ask me if I can go to these places with you. I would like to go to these places, but that's not how I can contribute.” So we had to have a conversation about money and what that meant and how I contribute to the relationship that might not be monetary, it's a different way. Because I felt uncomfortable. I never wanted someone to think that I was using them. Because I'm coming with me and my child, you know [laughter]. And I don't know if a lot of people have that, the language. A couple of years prior to that I would never have even thought about having that conversation with someone.
When you think about poverty and polyamory. The priorities for most people who are struggling are within that struggle. Therein lies the privilege because we're thinking as poor people– we're thinking about living, eating, rent.
The cat in Ignacio's person's backyard
Ignacio at a panel discussion during Poly Dallas