A Unicorn by Any Other Name……
“Unicorn.” One of the first terms of the polyamorous lexicon that I encountered upon entering the non-monogamous world. Generally it is used to describe a single bisexual female willing to become sexually and/or romantically involved with a couple that is usually comprised of a heterosexual man and a bisexual woman. You need not be in the polyamorous community long to become aware that it is a hotly contested term with negative connotations. Just try posting in a polyamory group asking who identifies as a unicorn and you’re in for a bumpy ride. You also need not be in the polyamorous community long to become aware that there are many unicorn horror stories, many women who complain of the predatory-like tactics of “unicorn-hunters” (heterosexual couples looking for a bisexual woman to “complete their union”), many who lament the evils of couple-privilege, closed triads, and being a “third”.
I was initially tasked to write some of those stories. Even had a clever little title for my article. “Tales from the Unicorn Stable”. I posted on my page and in several groups asking if anyone who identifies as a unicorn would be willing to share their experience being such with me. I received quite a few responses from those who wished to participate, all of them being women which didn’t surprise me, but I was struck by a thought. Bisexual women aren’t the only ones with “unicorn” stories to tell and the fact that we don’t hear the stories of the other persons in the polyamorous community having “unicorn” experiences is disappointing.
The reality is that lesbian couples seek single lesbian women to form a triad. Gay men seek other single gay men to form triads. Lesbian couples comprised of two bisexual women often seek a single heterosexual man to join their unit as gay couples comprised of two bisexual men seek single heterosexual women to join them. Couples with a heterosexual woman and a bisexual man also seek a single bisexual man to join them. Couples with gender queer/gender non-conforming/gender non-binary persons who seek other single persons who identify as such to form triads with. Basically, if you can think it, it exists. While these instances aren’t as frequent, bisexual women aren’t the only ones subject to the phenomenon of being sought after by eager couples looking to “add to their relationship”.
I mentioned in a comment on one of my posts that I wished I could find a male “unicorn” to interview and a friend of mine who would be categorized by the classic definition of the term expressed what I perceived as a sort of ownership over the word. She replied that interchanging the word to include other persons besides single bisexual women was confusing. I understand her point but how then are these other people who are having these “unicorn-esque” experiences supposed to share their stories when there is no language for them to do so because the definition of unicorn is so narrow? She also expressed not wishing to be objectified by the term while another woman that I spoke to said that she loved being called a unicorn. To her, it has a mythical, magical quality that she enjoys being associated with herself.
Since I don’t technically fall into the original definition of the term, I am a little hesitant to prescribe this but I think the definition of “unicorn” should be expanded to describe the phenomenon of the two seeking the magical one to form the fully connected three. Many women who are categorized as unicorns balk at the term and being objectified as such but if the term were broadened to define a concept and not a specific type of individual, that objectification would lessen because it would include a variety of examples. I also think that the narrowness of the term allows for other types of couples who don’t fall into the classic description of “unicorn-hunters” to believe that they aren’t carrying out problematic behaviors in their search for their “third” because how can they be “unicorn-hunters” if they aren’t looking for a “unicorn”? They may not be looking for a single bisexual woman but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t committing many of the same faux pas that most unicorn-hunting couples commit like treating the new person as an add-on to the existing relationship, making rules and agreements for the new person before they even enter into the relationship, not allowing for the new partner to develop individual relationships with each party in the couple, wielding couple-privilege all over the place, etc.
As this community expands and evolves, so will its language and words. One of the things I love and loathe about language is its ability to adapt and to change. I think it’s time that we examine some of those terms and ask do they fit us anymore. Triads are not all heterosexual male/bisexual female/bisexual female. They come in many varieties and are made up of a multitude of genders and sexualities. And just like there are many different kinds of horses, I think there are many different kinds of “unicorns”. While the experience of a bisexual male in a couple would I’m sure be different from a bisexual woman’s, I’m also confident that they’d find a lot of commonalities in being the person entering into an already established relationship of two.
To quote Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and I believe a “unicorn” by any other definition, would still be as magical.