If you’ve been part of or adjacent to the polyamorous/consensually non-monogamous community for a while, chances are that you’re familiar with the Infinity Heart symbol. Some folks have it permanently marked on their skin or wear the symbol on jewellery, and a number of the previous polyamory flags have it as a significant part of their imagery.
But where did it come from? And it is actually a symbol for polyamory?
One of our great PolyamProud volunteers, Cassie Webb, said recently: “I keep seeing posts in polyamorous groups saying ‘The secret’s out; this jeweller has heart infinity pendants’. Polyam people think we're the only ones using the symbol and Christian / monogamous people think they're the only ones using the symbol.”
As you can see in the infographic below, both the heart symbol and the infinity symbol have quite the heritage: the heart was originally a stylised depiction of a leaf, and not associated with love until the 13th century. The infinity symbol grew out of another mathematical symbol known as the lemniscate, and eventually grew to represent not only mathematical infinity but also philosophical eternity.
And then there’s the combination of the two images. If you do an image search for ‘infinity heart’ you get an enormous variety of images, many of them tattoos, wall hangings, or jewellery. Search for ‘“infinity heart” polyamory’, on the other hand, and you get quite a different subset (one that can appear to be quite a bit more colourful!).
As it turns out, the infinity heart both is and isn’t a polyamorous symbol. In the mid-1990s Brian Crabtree put together a blue infinity sign with a red heart shape to make the classic image shown here, and placed it into the public domain. It, along with other variations on the infinity heart, slowly increased in popularity within polyam/CNM circles, and over the next decade or so it became familiar enough that it replaced the ‘poly parrot’ (which had originally been used on the alt.polyamory Usenet group).
Given those of us who identify as polyamorous / CNM know this as a symbol about us, it can get rather confusing - in both directions - when someone uses it with an entirely different intent and meaning. There are examples of being used in mother/daughter tattoos; to signify monogamous marriage; for friendship; and symbolise eternal love and commitment. The infinity symbol itself is often related to spiritual meanings, so some interpretations of the infinity heart also look at eternal commitment to another entity, rather than another human being.
So, will the new polyamory pride flag have the infinity heart symbol on it? It’s possible - after all, that’s up to the people who design our potential flags, the selection committee who whittle down the options, and to all of you who vote. But however the final design looks, we encourage you to please keep using the polyam symbols that you love!
Just remember that outside of polyamorous circles? They might be misinterpreted.