November 12th, 2015


Coming out

I missed National (nation of internet?) Coming Out Day, partly because I was busy, and partly because it wasn't the right time to make this post.

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So with that preamble, I too, a much lesser writer than Penny or Monroe, have something to tell you: I am polyamorous. That is to say, I'm currently in romantic relationships with several different people, all of whom know about eachother and are completely happy and supportive. I don't think this is likely to be a surprise to most of my readers; I've not been making huge efforts to keep it a secret, and I'm sure many of you whom I haven't told directly will have found it easy enough to read between the lines. But this is the first time I've actually said the sentence, I'm poly, on my public blog. And part of why I'm saying it now is that it's not only a fact about my philosophy of relationship, and I'm not even sure it's a fact about my identity at all, poly is more a thing I do than who I am. It's also a fact about my life and the people who are important to me.

A year ago I became part of a quad, four people who are in relationships with eachother in various combinations. And it's been a completely wonderful year, full of new experiences, and we're all really hopeful that this can be a long-term, potentially a committed thing. When I was poly in the sense that I had various shapes of romantic-ish connections alongside my primary relationship, it didn't matter so much, partly because I don't identify as poly as such. People knew who I loved and who I was close to, and that was great, and it wasn't really anybody's business but the people involved exactly what form those loving relationships took. Now that I'm part of a quad, it feels like a different situation. Unlike with being bi, it's not that people need to know this fact about me and who I am, it's that I want people to know whom I love and the relationship structure I'm in. Every time in the past year I've referred to, or even introduced, my partners as "my friend" instead of "my partner" I've cringed internally; it's like going back 20 years and playing the pronoun game because I wasn't sure how safe it was to come out.

The thing about coming out about relationship structures rather than identities is that you're telling other people's secrets. The other three people in the quad needed to be free to make their own decisions about when and what to tell their respective parents. I told my own parents as soon as I was reasonably confident that the relationship was stable and not just a passing fling, and as when I told them I was dating a woman, they said supportive things and didn't entirely understand what I meant and have been slowly coming to terms with the idea that I'm in this multi-person relationship network instead of the dyad they expected when I got married. But, well, four people have a lot of parents between them, and part of why I missed National Coming Out Day was I didn't want to put anything on the internet until all the parents had been informed directly.

And even now I've made this post, I haven't just flipped the switch to being Out instead of Closeted. It's not that hard to connect this journal to my wallet name if you go digging, but I hope that a cursory web search on my wallet name isn't going to find this pseudonymous blog. I'm not out at work and I have no immediate plans to be; I'll carry on saying "spending some time with... friends" when people ask me about my plans for the weekend. And I'm not fully out within the Jewish community (though I'm out to individual Jewish people including obviously my parents), and both those things mean that I'm not likely any time soon to mention poly on Facebook.

In some ways being out about poly feels more scary than telling people I'm bi. That's partly because I've been lucky that I've experienced relatively little homophobia or biphobia. And I generally hang out with liberal tolerant types who at worst accept the culturally prevalent idea that gay people are just like "us" except that they happen to be attracted to the same gender. Poly in that sense is less "normal"; there are many people who generally see themselves as non-judgemental but have no paradigm at all for multiple or multi-person relationships other than having affairs and deceiving or cheating on one's (singular) partner. Even some LGBT campaigners and activists are so fixated on the assimilationist paradigm of "just like heteronormative dyadic relationships" that they are eager to distance themselves from any kind of poly or open relationship situation. But at the same time, although it's harder to tell people about my relationships with several people than it is to tell them about my (past) relationships with women, it still feels like it's my choices that are being disapproved of, not that I'm being oppressed because of something I just can't change about myself.

Anyway, I'm very happy and in love, that's the other thing I wanted to say, aside from all this political and angsty stuff. It's been a wonderful amazing year, in so many ways.

Please feel free to ask questions; I personally don't mind being a resource if you've not had much exposure to poly relationships before now. As you can see from this post, I'm being a bit cagey about the actual identities of my partners, but if you ask me general questions that I can answer without disrupting anyone else's privacy, I'll do my best.

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