Franklin has written in the past about being out, and about how he has been out his entire life.
I haven’t been.
Until very recently, I was still halfway in the closet. In the five years since I’d started living polyamorously, I had come out to nearly all of my friends and family members up to about the level of first cousin, and I had long ago stopped explicitly trying to hide the fact that I’m poly. Generally speaking, I quietly did what I wanted and relied on others’ confirmation bias: in my experience, people who don’t already know I’m poly tend to overlook signs that I am. But I still found myself censoring myself in many situations, my blog was anonymous, and all of the poly-related thoughts and photos that I shared on social media were limited to carefully controlled privacy lists. My husband has been (and still largely is) very closeted in his work and family life. We had never come out to the family we own a split-level duplex with in Vancouver—though we kind of figured after seven years, they’d worked it out on their own.
That all changed about a month ago. Franklin and I discussed the option of my writing the book under a pseudonym, and I considered it. (I even thought of one, Emma Pearl, which Franklin maintained sounded too much like a porn name.) Finally, over dinner with my husband and my mother (and with my husband’s consent), I decided I had to use my own real name.
Lots of people have very good reasons to be closeted about being poly. If you’re at risk of losing custody of your kids, for example, or if you live in a small, conservative town where you’ll be ostracized (or fired from your job) for your lifestyle, it’s reasonable to want to keep it a secret. But I have a hard time being patient with people who are closeted mainly for reasons of convenience. That is, people who won’t lose their jobs, home, or key family relationships, but choose to keep some of their partners secret because they want to avoid awkward conversations, keep the societal benefits that come with being part of a supposedly monogamous couple, or just fit in.
I dislike this strategy for two main reasons. One is that it’s pretty disrespectful to the people you’re keeping a secret. A year into my relationship with my (married) now-ex-boyfriend, I asked if I would ever be able to meet his mother, who was a very important part of his life and who, he admitted, would be just fine with him being poly. His argument was that he didn’t feel like he needed to discuss his private sex life with his parents.
Did you see what happened there? That decision made me not a partner, but part of his private sex life. Despite what he told me about how much he loved and cared about me, what an important part of his life I was, when it came to his family, his relationship with me was not worth having an awkward conversation with his parents over. There was also an element of couple privilege and hierarchy at work: his wife liked the position of The Wife, and my boyfriend coming out to his parents and introducing them to his other partners would jeopardize that image.
The other reason the closeted-for-convenience position bugs me is because of those people I mentioned earlier, the ones for whom being poly really does present real and serious risks. It presents those risks precisely because so damn many of the rest of us are still in the closet when we don’t have to be. To paraphrase Dan Savage, it won’t be safe for us to come out of the closet until we start coming out of the closet. If non-monogamous people really do make up seven per cent of the population, to quote one statistic I’ve heard, where the hell are we all? I think that those of us who can afford to come out have a responsibility to do so, if only to make it just a tiny bit safer for those people who can’t come out yet to just live their lives without risking their families, homes or livelihoods.
So yeah, if I’m going to write a book about polyamory with Frankin Veaux, and if we’re going to make much this same argument about being out, is using a pen name the choice with the most integrity? Not so much. I can afford to be out. I own my own business, I live in a big city, my family is supportive, or at least tolerant. There was that little matter of coming out to our housemates, of course, and my husband faces much greater risks than I do—which is why I wouldn’t have done it without his consent.
So in early July, we launched the More Than Two blog, and my real name was on it, along with a photo of me and a link to my business website. I unceremoniously stopped using my privacy filters and began tweeting and Facebooking publicly about the More Than Two project.
So I’m out now, and there’s no going back. It’s been relatively painless so far. I haven’t received any horrified emails from distant family members. Our housemates haven’t announced an intention to buy us out (and yeah, they knew). The book project makes it pretty easy to be out early on in casual conversation: “I’m writing a book.” “Oh, what about?” I’ve gotten a lot of interest, but relatively little judgement—but I’m lucky. I live in Vancouver, Canada.
Still, I’m not sure I’m really prepared for all the implications. After all, this wasn’t just coming out. I’m not just a poly person now, I’m a Poly Author (and activist). Franklin gets a lot of hate mail, we’ve discussed the fact that I need to be ready for the same. And in less than six weeks, my bio page on this site has reached number five in the search results for my name, and is in danger of moving ahead of my bio on the Talk Science to Me site. I would prefer to be seen as an editor and entrepreneur first, and a poly author second, but it’s not clear to me if that will be my choice any longer.
So here we go. I’m on an adventure. I’m lucky to have such amazing people on it with me. And I hope that my choice makes it a little easier for others.