I know a few polyamorous people who are absolutely ‘out’ in pretty much all aspects of their life. A very few. The ones I can name without thinking very hard about it, I’m pretty sure the number is in single digits. They’re out to families, friends, work, neighbours and the world in general – they’re not hiding it from anyone. Those people are either very lucky, or very brave – probably both. If you are one, I both envy and applaud you.
For lots of us, and I’d even venture to say most of us, we’re closeted at least somewhere in our lives. This might be through choice, or through necessity – or a combination. Personally I consider myself to be fairly out – my friends, parents, housemates, people from uni all know. I’ve been on national TV talking about it. (For that story, see previous post – ‘OMG, That Was a Bad Idea.’) I write this – a completely unlocked polyamory blog, under my real first name. But I am not completely out of the closet.
My employers, for example, do not know. This isn’t a case of ‘none of their business,’ but a case of me actively hiding it. I don’t know how they’d react if they were to find out, and whether I’d find myself minus a job if they did (the type of work I do means it’s conmpletely at their discretion to keep me or not.) But a combination of religious views and working with children means it’s just not worth the risk. Okay, this job isn’t exactly my dream career, but it’s helping me pay my way through uni so quite a bit is at stake. Is it even possible to be out as poly and work with kids? Strikes me as an absolute minefield.
The promise I’ve made to myself is that in my next job, as long as it’s not working with children, I’ll be open about being poly.
My extended family do not know. That is, anyone beyond my parents (and possibly my brother, I’m unsure how much he knows but sure he wouldn’t care at all.) This is partly at my parents’ request but, to be honest, I don’t think I’d have come out to the rest of the family anyway. It’s so far out of the realm of anything they probably know – especially for my grandparents and the older generations. They’d be confused, worried and probably strongly morally opposed to it. It’s simply kinder not to tell them. They knew me and A as a monogamous couple for years, and now believe I’m single. Which works. For now.
But I have to be so careful, and listen to multiple warnings from my parents each time I visit, just in case I forget and let something slip. Which I wouldn’t, because I’m on my guard all the time. This makes trips home or family events rather stressful for me.
It hurts to have to hide such a huge side of myself, of course. And part of me often wonders what would happen if it did all come out, somehow. I mean, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of keeping it from my parents, but one moment of spite from one person and my cover was blown wide open. (I’m sure I’ll share that story on here at some point, too.) And the longer this continues, the more I could lose if it does come out someday. I’m lying every day to people who love me without knowing such a huge part of me. I’m living two lives, and hoping they never collide.
Just a few days ago, I was hanging out in a social context with my partner, metamour and some people we’re not out to. Now, I don’t mind this, exactly, and I completely respect my partners’ and metamours’ choices to be out, or not out, to whoever they choose. But it can be an extra level of stress because I’m always worrying about what happens if I forget? What if I hug or kiss my partner without thinking, as I do frequently when we’re together? What if I slip and casually call him ‘Love’ in conversation? I have to be really, really careful and I always wonder who’s noticed what. These are smart people, after all, and I’ve been told more than once that it’s obvious how much I love Nomad, even from the other end of a room.
It can be a dangerous game, living a double life. It involves a lot of self-censorship, sometimes out-and-out lying, checking and re-checking security of things you post online, and a mass of ‘if the worst happens’ contingency plans.
Maybe one day we won’t have to hide. Maybe one day we poly folks won’t always have to worry about the consequences if the wrong people find out about something as fundamental as who we choose to love.
In the meantime, we cope with it in the ways we need to.
What about YOU, lovely readers? I’d love to hear some of your experiences of parts of your life where, for whatever reason, you cannot be out as poly, and how you might deal with it!