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Monday, July 26, 2010

Poly out?

Although there are differing opinions and disagreements about the popularity and acceptance of Polyamory in society today it is still a somewhat misunderstood lifestyle by many people. For those reasons Poly is often lumped into the Alternative Lifestyle category right next to GLBT, Swing, and even repetitive cheating. I'm not trying to categorize or discriminate against anyone here, just providing perspective for the rest of this article.

Let's agree for a moment that Polyamory is still an Alternative Lifestyle. Like other relationship designs in that category there is generally a certain amount of assumption and discrimination against the lifestyle. This causes many people to stay "in the closet" about their true lifestyle.

Reasons for staying in the closet include; poor treatment from family or friends over the lifestyle, possible discrimination at work, difficulty acquiring work or loss of professional relationships, and even discrimination in everyday life activities.

My question here is; when do you come out of the closet?

Most polyfolk I speak with are selectively open about their lifestyle. That is to say their family might know but co-workers don't. Or maybe co-workers and friends know but their family doesn't. Maybe their online life shows their lifestyle whereas their real daily life doesn't. The combination of people who know vs. those who don't seems to be almost endless. And as with the combinations, the reasons vary widely as well.

Personally I don't go to great lengths to hide my lifestyle. I also don't advertise it either. At the same time, I often don't answer questions. For example my friends may have seen me at parties and events with one of my loves and may now see me with another. Many won't say a word about it and I won't volunteer an explanation. Others will ask, "Did you and Lucy break up?" And I simply reply "No". If they let it go, great. If they don't and imply I'm cheating on Lucy I say only "Lucy knows Ethel is here with me", and let it go. I don't avoid the question but I won't volunteer more information than I think someone needs to know.

Part of my behavior is based on a very simple belief; My personal life is my own and nobody, again NOBODY, has a right to know or judge my personal life but myself and my partners. With that in mind it becomes much easier to respond to questions in a manner with which I am comfortable.

The equation becomes a bit more difficult in my opinion when children are involved. With friends you can exercise a right to privacy and let them decide what to believe. They are adults and will probably make up their own mind anyway. When children are involved, and you are in a parenting role, it becomes more difficult. Do you want to lie to your kids about your lifestyle? And if you do what kind of message does that send to them as a parent? Nobody wants to emotionally damage their children but when they are being taught monogamy in school and it is represented as the "proper" lifestyle choice in everyday life how and when do you present your poly lifestyle without creating confusion. Add to that the resiliency of most children and their blanket acceptance of things their parents tell them (with younger children) and the question becomes even more confusing. Does your 5 yr old actually need to know technically how Poly works?

What I'm curious about here is how "out" you are. Who are you out to and why? Or maybe your lifestyle has always been public and you have never needed to come out. Have you made mistakes being open about your lifestyle? What would you do differently about coming out if you could go back and do it again? Or do you think your private life is private and feel no need to come out to people? Are there situations where you always hide your lifestyle no matter what?

Tell me what you think!!

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