PQ 25.4 — If I am thinking about staying closeted, how will I feel about concealing my important relationships from people who are close to me?
“You know,” I say to Seth. “I’ve been thinking I want to come out as polyamorous. On Facebook.”
Seth frowns. “Why? Why would you want to do that? It’s not like it’s anybody’s business.”
“Well, I say plenty on Facebook that isn’t anybody’s business, for one.”
“But I dunno. I don’t feel good about hiding it. It’s a big part of my life right now. And I’m just pretending like it doesn’t exist. Like the people I’m seeing aren’t important to me. It doesn’t feel right.”
He tells me he doesn’t think anyone really cares. That it’s probably an okay thing to hide. Not something I need to tell people.
I talk again about growing up bisexual and semi-closeted as a kid. Bullied for the queer parts of my sexual and romantic life that had a way of inevitably spilling out into the light. Especially after a lover would start rumors that I was gay. Looking back, I think it was a preemptive form of defense. Worried that I’d out them eventually, they decided to undermine my potential credibility by outing me first. It happened over and over again. And while I couldn’t trace the leak directly back to the lover in question (after all, it’s possible that they confided in someone else, who in turn told others), often their behavior would make me deeply suspicious. As would the fact that they themselves weren’t eventually outed.
I was often the only one out there in the light. Exposed. Being called a dyke. Pushed. Having my lunch stolen from my hands and thrown in the trash. The kinds of offenses that are easy to perpetrate quickly before an adult catches on. And which leave little evidence.
It’s a story I’ve told Seth before. From a time when I was vulnerable, alone, confused, afraid. It’s a story that means a lot to me, but Seth receives it as he always does: As though it’s extremely boring and has nothing to do with him. To him, my bisexuality is a sexy advantageous feature. Something fun that he occasionally benefits from, in that we’ve been able to watch lesbian porn together and have a threesome every once in a while.
He’s simply not interested in knowing what it cost me to grow up that way, the developmental angst and emotional strain. The way it affected all of my early social relationships. He doesn’t want to hear about the cost I paid because if he really took the time to understand what I went through, he might end up having to pay one himself via empathy. So he completely tunes out of this discussion. Again.
Later, he blames his inattentiveness on his ADD, as he always does. Tells me he’s incapable of focusing on things that don’t directly interest him (in his case, this means the conversations he remembers best are mostly about video games, existential philosophy, and certain films). And that if I’m not an ableist and a bigot that I should be able to accept this about him. That I knew what I was getting into when we started dating.
I’m frustrated, but I don’t want to be a bigot. Not liking the implication that pushing further might raise about me, I drop it. Again.
Instead, I say, “”Well if no one really cares, I should just come out, I think.”
“No!” he says. He’s upset.
Now I have his attention. We talk for an hour, all of his focus on me. He implores me not to come out. There’s fear here. Since my coming out means that he will be outed, too, by association. As we talk over the issue, he leaves a series of dots but never connects them and resists my doing so.
But after the conversation is over, I leave with the impression that he desperately doesn’t want his Facebook friends, especially his parents, to know that we’ve been seeing other people for a while now (sometimes together, sometimes separately). That we’re polyamorous.
And so I don’t post anything publicly.
And it’s not until over a year later, when we’re going through marital separation on our way to a divorce (precipitated chiefly by myriad differences in our personal values and the way that we viewed and handled money) that I finally come out on Facebook. By this point, I’ve told practically everyone I know — including my own parents, socially conservative people who I don’t have the greatest relationship with to begin with.
In a way, Seth is right. Nothing fundamentally changes. I’ve been telling people in person for two years, at that point pretty much the entire time I’ve been actively polyamorous. I grew up in a closet about my bisexuality and I hated it there. Now that I’m an adult, I spend as little time as possible in closets, if I can help it.
I don’t talk about being polyamorous or bisexual at work, really, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t normally have pictures of loved ones on my work desk. I talk about work at work. And then I go home. I basically never become friends with coworkers or see them outside of work (and don’t friend them on social media). And I’ve always kept those parts of myself very separate (I suspect that’s because I haven’t wanted to deal with any conflict over my sexual orientation, which has been a prominent feature of my psyche for as long as I can remember and certainly long before I joined the work force).
But I do come out on social media in a comprehensive way. I begin to talk about kink, too. And the odd series of events that took me across the country. Landed me briefly in a house where I lived with husband, my boyfriend and girlfriend (changing their kids’ diapers), and dating another guy across town. A truly odd life that was hard for some people to understand but to me made perfect sense and suited me well.
Or, as my dear friend John once said, “You’re like a woman from the future. You’re living by different rules. And you don’t need anyone to understand,” citing it as one of his favorite things about me. (Confession: Of everything I miss from my time in Maine, John probably tops the list.)
So I come out. And nothing happens. Which means Seth was right about that. Well, half-right anyway. Because one thing does change: I feel better instantly. Like I’m not keeping a secret.
Seth and I don’t talk much during the divorce. It’s legally simpler that way. But once the case is settled, we do begin to chat a bit online, trading Maine news with Ohio news and vice versa.
And as we chat, Seth tells me the most astonishing thing: He had been incredibly apprehensive about his parents finding out that we were polyamorous. What would they think? What would happen? They were the chief reason he hadn’t wanted to come out.
But hilariously, he tells me, his parents now have a mutual girlfriend. They’re living as a triad. Seth is going to Disney World with them.
We muse about this. Turn to other news.
But it sticks with me for a long time after this conversation. Seth was so scared to come out to folks… who were actually also polyamorous themselves.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.