I mentioned in last week’s column that there are legitimate reasons why one might want to keep one’s romantic life quite private. A poly person in the military or any other profession where witchhunts for sexual deviance are likely is probably either gonna want to change careers and be out or keep her mouth shut about it.
I have stated before that I think it’s safer for the poly family to make sure they live somewhere where nothing they’re doing is illegal and to be “out”1. I stand by that. Notice, I say that I think it’s safer. Not more moral. Not more noble. Not “better”. I personally think that transparency is safer in the long run.
But, ya know, that’s easy for me to say. It really is. My financial status is enhanced by being a weirdo and being quirky. I have no exes who would care to try to draw me into a lawsuit or custody battle. I’m not important enough to “go after”. I’ve made some very specific and solid choices in my life to ensure that this is so. Now, if we have A Handmaid’s Tale style government takeover, I will be considerably less safe and I know it. But given our present circumstances, I’ve made choices that make it pretty safe for me to be a weirdo publicly.
Those choices aren’t noble. I think that’s really what I want to get across. They’re just choices with a price just like any other choice people make. Other people might choose not to be out about poly. Those choices are just as valid and no less noble that one’s choice to be out.
I remember many years ago there was a big discussion on one of the larger internet polyamory discussion groups where people who found being “out” valuable were commenting with some self-pride that they could never date someone who wasn’t “out”. Know what? I’d be unlikely to, as well. That doesn’t make me a better person. It was the undercurrent of virtue that got to me at the time, the idea that one might have compelling reasons not to be out was an inferior way to live. That it was somehow hypocritical. I don’t think it’s necessarily hypocritical to keep quiet about one’s love life.
Now, if you make a career out of chasing down and punishing alternative lifestylers, but you, yourself are a practitioner, I’ve neither sympathy nor mercy towards you. If you’re participating in punishing people for being poly and you’re poly yourself, and if I find out about it, I won’t keep my mouth shut.
But that’s not what I’m talking about when I say that choosing not to be out can be a very valid choice.
I’m talking about the elementary school teacher, the people that don’t want to sacrifice other parts of their lives that they value to be poly. I’m talking about people who don’t want to be activists. You don’t owe the world activism. I don’t flatter myself that I’m sticking my neck out for you. ‘Cause frankly, my neck is in no damn danger and I lack the necessary arrogance to give myself airs that it is. You people who are activists, don’t be trying to put the claim on the people you’re ostensibly trying to serve, either!
You own you, each of you, and you own your choices. Don’t let anyone try to guilt you into doing something different.
If you’re on the fence, though, about whether or not to be out, examine it. Why do you want to? What do you hope to gain? What might you lose? Face up to it and make your own choice. Then you can feel good about what you’ve done because you’ve made the choice with your eyes wide open. I made the choice to be out mostly ’cause I’m chicken. I felt like being transparent was safer for me. But you might not feel that’s the best way for you and your relationships to go.
My father used to tell me “There’s a price for everything.” It’s true. In or out, there is a price attached. The important thing is to think clearly, don’t evade the fact that no matter what you choose, you’re gonna have that price attached and do it with a clear understanding. When you do that, you will face up to the ups and downs of being poly a lot better.
1Being “out” and “waving the poly flag” are two entirely different things. If you’re out there freakin’ the ‘danes, stop being a show-off and a jerk. You look like an idiot. Says the woman who has been an idiot before.
2 thoughts on “Closets”
I’m “out” too, but I’m one of those rare people who’s willing to live openly even with something to lose. I’m a mother of two kids and I share custody with my very socially conservative ex-husband. I teach at a public university in the Deep South. Even my therapist thinks I’m an idiot to be “out.” But you know what, it’s OK. I lost a few friends and I pay a good lawyer a lot of money but I do all right. The emotional benefits outweigh the drawbacks. I’m not advocating that people be reckless, because depending on one’s individual situation you can be pretty vulnerable and I know what that feels like every day. But I get lonely. None of the people I date is willing to be “out.” I know people with discreetly open marriages, but none of them is willing to talk about it. And I don’t mind waving the poly flag a little either, even though it does make me look like a jerk, because it’s the only way anything’s going to change. There’s worse things than looking like a jerk. Living a lie is one of them.
Yeah, it can be a little dodgy when people get a wee too vociferous about how “out” they think other people should be.
This kind of person should not be confused with the person who says “well, you’re not ‘out’ and that’s what’s causing you to have this problem.”
The first sort of person’s a twonk, but the second sort is just laying out some facts.