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How This Colombian "Throuple" Made Social And Legal History

The throuple of three gay men married together has challenged the standard vision of a family in traditionally conservative Colombia.

Image of three men taking a selfie

The three husbands

Guadalupe Rivero

MEDELLÍN — In 1999, Colombians Manuel José Bermúdez Andrade and Alejandro Rodríguez Ramírez met and began a loving relationship. They barely imagined their soon-to-evolve couple would come to alter perspectives on what constitutes a family in their conservative homeland. In 2003, they met Álex Esneyder Zabala, and soon formed a ménage à trois.

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The arrangement was a working example of polyamory — a word unfamiliar to them in those years. In 2012, the trio became a quartet, as they opened their household to Víctor Hugo Prada Ardila. Sadly for them, Alex died a year later (or in 2014) of cancer, leaving again a family of three.

They recently spoke about their 20 years together in the Colombian city of Medellín. Manuel said that being older when he met Alejandro in 1999, he insisted from the start that he did not expect Alejandro "to deprive himself" of encounters.

Manuel says he has always been "very free in terms of sexuality... it seemed unfair he should deprive himself of the pleasures of the flesh" by being locked up in monogamy early in life. "Your body is yours, you can enjoy it, it's not my property. And if you meet someone and feel more than just desire, if it's love, we'll talk about it and see what happens," he says he told Alejandro.

They would have married in the year 2000, but this wasn't a legal possibility until 2016. They did sign an agreement on their patrimony (and matters of inheritance). Manuel's earlier words then proved to have been prophetic, as in 2003 Alejandro met and fell in love with Alex. "When I told him Manuel and I had an open relationship, he became curious and... began investigating," says Alejandro.

While Alejandro's relations with Alex were not secretive, this was a change that needed managing. Thankfully Manuel and Alex developed cordial ties, curiously over their shared love of Alejandro. Manuel says the three began entertaining the idea of "rethinking ourselves."

Image of three men taking a selfie

''They would have married in the year 2000, but this wasn't a legal possibility until 2016.''

Manuel José Bermúdez Andrade

Manuel, Alejandro and Víctor

None of us had thought of a three-way relationship, but some of our friends said, why not, if we had an open mind?" They would thus form a "family of three," says Manuel, adding, "we didn't know it was called polyamory or a threesome, but we were open to living it."

This was a challenge initially, both in terms of its social context and in managing emotions that are trained, socially, to feel that love is between two, not three people.

It was also good practice for the next development or Víctor's arrival. Initially, he was looking for "fun," not affection, but admits, "I gradually fell in love with each of the three men. I allowed myself to live this experience of being part of a polyamorous and diverse family, which is what I have now, 10 years on."

It is possible to love other people without fearing a collapse of the ideal.

For about 18 months they were four. Manuel says Víctor "accompanied us in Alex's death, and became a widower with us. We became a trio again." The three were formally married in 2017, which they say was a "historic break" with socio-cultural traditions. They share everything now, says Manuel, "as the law requires."

He qualifies this inclusive experience as "successful and marvelous, for me," with relations that became stronger, rather than strained. For this, he says, it needed three key ingredients: "lots of communication, we all have the same rights (without roles or hierarchy) and your body is yours and mine is mine (and that goes for passions, desires and eroticism)."

Víctor says he has learned "it is possible to love other people without fearing a collapse of the ideal," while Alejandro says this was a way of "creating other forms of loving... It's an option of creating ties differently, and understanding there's no property."

Breaking the mold

As ordinary folk who simply wanted to live their lives, the four men had no intention of challenging the state's laws in favor of greater gay, and essentially civil, rights. But they did. Manuel says they are pleased now by the attention they have generated, and "for having made jurisprudential history in Colombia with the mention of the words 'throuple' (trieja) and polyamory."

Regarding being paid Álex's pension after his death, he said, "there's nothing extraordinary beyond our rights to a pension. It was worth waiting all these years and starting the legal debate to win it, so that any type of family feels it is assured the respect and legal backing it deserves from the state."

Víctor handled the bureaucracy of legalizing the three-way marriage. This, he said, was a "landmark in a country that claims it isn't ready for many things. We're.. a precedent for advancing and taking a leap in areas that are still mythical or taboos, but do exist."

They had no intention of breaking the mold, he said, "but it happened and we accept it. We're within the law and the constitution, and inside everything that confirms our human rights."

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