Katie, 33, and Luis Simbala, 36, have been married for 13 years after meeting at the church where they both performed as musicians. Then Katie met Raquel Martinez, 26, in 2012 – and their connection was instant. The two women soon became inseparable friends – dating for three years before entering a polyamorous relationship with Luis in 2017. The three now live together as a ‘throuple’ with their four-year-old son, Lukas. However, their unconventional relationship has been scandalised amongst their religious community. Raquel told Barcroft TV: “We have all shared backlash from the conservative folk – we are church kids.” But disapproval didn’t only come from within the church, as Katie and Raquel’s families judged their relationship harshly. “Our families are fundamental Christian and our relationship is seen as an abomination to God,” explained Raquel.
Katie and Luis met in 2002, and to their congregation, they seemed like the ultimate conventional couple. Katie said: “Luis and I didn’t have sex before marriage, we courted for months and only held hands until we kissed. “He’s the only man I’ve ever loved and the only man who has ever loved me.” Although, Luis had married Katie knowing she was bisexual. “I never explored it out of fear of not having God on my side,” explained Katie.
Luis, however, was open to Katie exploring her sexuality, as long as there were boundaries. Luis explained: “I’m in the kind of notion that if it is truly meant for you, if a person is truly meant for you, then they are going to be in your life.” This was put to the test when Katie met Raquel at a baby shower where she was working as a photographer. Katie told Barcroft TV: “I look around and the first person I see is Raquel, she just had this big beautiful smile and I gravitated towards her.” Raquel added: “We both felt the instant connection.”
After a platonic friendship that lasted two years, Katie and Raquel had their first kiss at Raquel’s 21st birthday party, which Katie and Luis threw for her. After this, their connection was undeniable and although Katie and Luis’s marriage entered new territory, their relationship remained strong. Luis explained: “In the beginning, I was so sure in Katie and our relationship was so sure and solid that I didn’t feel threatened at all.” On Katie and Raquel’s one-year anniversary, Lukas was born – Katie and Luis’s biological son. Katie said: “We had not been able to get pregnant for ten years and it didn’t happen until we found a third – God has a sense of humour.”
Two years after Lukas’s birth, Katie, Luis and Raquel organically became a throuple, after finding it difficult to keep the two relationships separate. Katie said about Lukas, “He has no other reality; he knows he has two mamas.” Each step of the relationship – no matter how happy they are – has been faced with criticism, predominantly due to their religion. “My faith journey shifted and my perception of who God is started to shift.” Katie explained.
For Raquel, her hardship comes from her family refusing to acknowledge her relationship. “My family don’t want to step foot in our home, they want to live in a false reality,” Raquel said. “To my family I am still a 26-year-old single woman who is not bisexual.” When Katie, Raquel and Luis decided to be open about their relationship with the Pentecostal church, they faced fresh backlash. Katie said: “The pastor was very cordial – he was in shock and didn’t know how to take it and encouraged me to find a LGBT church instead.” “This was the typical reaction for the majority of the people we came out to.”
Katie, Luis and Raquel went in search of a church that would accept their relationship. They found this in the Lutheran community. Leila Ortiz, Bishop of the Metro D.C. Synod and a colleague of Katie, admitted her shock when she first learned of the polyamorous dynamic. “I definitely felt my eyes getting wider,” said Leila. “Many people would be scandalised by them and would even be scandalised by my acceptance of them.” But for Leila, she was open and understanding, giving them a much-needed space for their faith. She explained: “How do you judge, point fingers and condemn people who don’t know any other way of being? “People have been in polyamorous relationships for decades but it’s been kept private – we are in a space now where it’s public.”
For Raquel, Katie and Luis, being open with their relationship has been liberating. “God made us all different – there’s a lot of communication involved but we’re happy where we’re at,” said Luis. Raquel added: “It works for us, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”