by: David Chastity
Like everyone else, I was so pleased to read Anderson Cooper’s coming out letter when Nico posted it on Facebook about an hour after it went live. I felt such empathy for the way Anderson has guarded his privacy; I’ve written before about the reasons I remain closeted. I’ve been trying something new recently, though. Something that feels kind of like what Anderson was talking about.
I started a new job a few months ago. I have only two co-workers, one of whom is one of my dearest friends and knows most of my secrets. The other, our boss, is a Canadian Quaker who looks like Tom Cruise, a likeness we are not allowed to mention, because “Tom Cruise is just such a bad person.” So, basically, I work for the most polite person you have ever met. It’s a friendly office, and sometimes we talk about our feelings in staff meetings, because that’s just how we are.
So, I’ve been trying something new. It used to be that I was either super-closeted about being polyamorous, or I had one of those big Coming Out moments, when I’d sit someone down and say “so I’m poly” and draw a chart of all my partners and theirs and answer all those questions that people inevitably have. But I’ve gotten tired of feeling like I have to have a Big Talk with people just to provide context for whose adorable dog is living in my house. Instead, I’m trying that thing that straight monogamous people do when they talk about their partners. I just talk about them. I mention someone either by name or drop in the title “boyfriend,” and then tell whatever story I was going to tell. (At a recent happy hour, for unrelated reasons, my boss raised a toast to “polyamory and stuff.” He’s clearly gonna be fine with whatever he learns.)
So far, it’s been subtle. I haven’t felt a burning need to tell people who don’t already know about going to karaoke with my boyfriend and his wife. Thing Two went and moved in with me the other week, and I kind of mentioned that to my boss when talking about my weekend. He didn’t really notice or ask further questions. Folks who have tread the line about coming out know that feeling, when you get away with a mention without making a Big Deal of it, and then you kind of want to make a Big Deal about how chill that whole situation is.
Work is one of the last frontiers for me to come out at. I came out at seminary in a slightly bigger way. On our very first day of orientation, we all sat in a big circle and went around to talk about where we were from and who was waiting at home for us. I hadn’t decided yet what I would do, but when it came around to me, I just said it. Said “I’m polyamorous” and then described Thing One and his family and how they’re my family, too. When I met Thing Two a few months later, my seminary friends were some of the people I got to gush to. When Thing One married his second wife, I put a picture on my seminary Facebook group, right along with the pictures of my classmates’ weddings. I talked openly about my relationship structure in Sexuality class, and people thanked me for my honesty and the diversity it’s brought.
I’ve never gotten any flack for coming out as poly. I’m careful, of course, and only disclose to people I assume will react well. A few people express concern, probably because they’re imagining something more like traditional polygamy and less like an open, ethical, equal relationship structure. So I get to educate those people and promise that I’m being treated well and my needs are met, and that everyone is really wonderful and we’re going to be fine.
I haven’t come out to my parents, or any of my extended bio-family. Thing One and I have been dating for almost two years at this point, and I mentioned that I was dating him to my parents a few months into the relationship. They’ve asked no questions about him, not even an age or an occupation or any sort of innocuous detail. When I went on vacation with him and his wives and children, I simply told my parents I was going with his family. They asked nothing even then. I have brought Thing One to none of the family gatherings that happen just 45 minutes from where we live, even though my cousins regularly bring partners. No one has yet asked me to make an excuse for his absence.
I’m having a little fun with my parents’ WASP-y refusal to pry now that Thing Two has moved in with me. I’ve mentioned Thing Two by name, but with no other description, a few times. Once when I visited him in the town he used to live in, my mom remarked that it was strange that I was going to see him when he’d been in my town so recently. I gave her no further information. And so now she knows that he lives with me, and that he likes her taste in mugs and is also taking my allergy pills, and I’m waiting to see if my parents ever work up the nerve to ask a question about him. I should be waiting a while.
Back before I was so poly that I needed to consult nine people to plan a date night, I identified pretty openly as polyamorous to anyone who asked. I felt no qualms about publicly disparaging monogamy (ah, the know-it-all tendencies of youth), nor did I feel that anyone would ever stop me from doing anything for my poly identity. These days, I walk a line between wanting to protect myself and to protect my poly family. I worry about being kicked out of church work for failing to live up to someone else’s family values. But I still have some of that snotty teenager in me. I think about telling the Bishop I’m not interested in ordination because the life of a pastor isn’t compatible with my family.
Ultimately, I want to be out the way I am at work. I’m tired of the Big Talk, and I’m tired of feeling like I can’t mention the people who matter to me. I want to put a couple photos up and say what I’ve been doing honestly and easily, in passing. Here’s to hoping that’s how it goes. If not, I’ll just steal Anderson’s letter and change the words to be about me.
David Chastity is some girl who lives in a city on the East Coast and likes kissing. She also really enjoys doing the Onion A.V. Club crossword puzzle, drinking good beer and finding the secret sexual meanings in popular music. She’s working on her MDiv and convincing Jesus to marry her.