Trapped in the Closet (by Discrimination): Why I’m Not Publicly Out About Being Poly

by: David Chastity

I have a confession. David Chastity isn’t my real name. I know, shocking. Feel free to take a moment to process.

I blog under a pseudonym. Forty years after Harvey Milk encouraged gay people to come out to end homophobia, I still live more or less in the closet. Not about my attraction to owners of both penises and vaginas or my rejection of silly ideas like a gender binary, because those are pretty safe things for a white lady with a feminine body to profess, and there are a lot of people and legal organizations with pretty good funding and clout that I could run to if I got into trouble for those elements of my identity.

That whole polyamorous thing, though, not so easy to be out and open about all the time. Don’t get me wrong: all my friends know. Everyone I go to seminary with, too; I’ve even brought it up in class postings, and so some of my professors also know. I told my co-workers. Once I get to know people and feel like they know me and are generally decent people, I usually feel okay telling them. (Except for my parents, but we don’t really tell each other stuff in my family, and that’s a whole different story.)

I’m not yet okay letting random strangers know, though. Or worse, casual acquaintances. Business relations. I’ve gotten to the point that I’ll feel okay letting a boss know my boyfriend has kids, because monogamous people have partners with children sometimes, too, but I still couldn’t say “my boyfriend’s wife” to someone who had professional authority over me. I’m not willing to take that risk. I’m definitely not willing to let someone googling my name while trying to decide if they should hire me find the word “slut” in the results, no matter how much I’m willing to identify as a slut in my free time.

Non-monogamous people still live in a world where our relationships can get us in professional trouble. It happened on Sister Wives. It happened to sex blogger Kendra Holliday. I’m not going to pretend monogamous queers don’t still run into career problems living openly, but there’s an awful lot more support networks and anti-discrimination laws in place to protect them.

I mentioned up there earlier that I’m a seminarian. I’m United Methodist by birth, and active in the pro-inclusion-of-queers Reconciling Ministries Network. We’re fighting this year to remove UMC language that bars gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from being ordained, and condones denying church membership to such people. It’s a really important fight, and one that I’m so proud to be part of, and will go a long way toward healing a lot of hurts the church has caused over the years. If every single one of RMN’s stated goals get achieved, though, I’ll still have no hope of being ordained. ‘Cause monogamy is so universally assumed to be the only moral option that it’s unthinkable that any God-fearing person would seriously attempt to live in any other way.

I don’t really think I want to be ordained anyway. But I’m not really sure where I’m going with my life. I haven’t told the church I’m doing an internship with that I’m poly yet. They’re really good, radical, queer-accepting folks, and I’m not worried about them throwing me out for it.  I just haven’t made that moment happen yet. I doubt I’d ever tell them about how much I enjoy one-night stands.

There’s more to this story than my own fears. When you’re poly, your life is tangled up with so many other people’s lives. When I come out, I out at least 8 other people. Now no one in my poly family is living any more closeted than I am, but none of us are shouting anything from the rooftops. Remember how my boyfriend has kids? The parents of the other kids at their school certainly don’t know the real nature of our family structure. And that gives us a degree of safety. We’re pretty sure no one can actually call Child Protective Services on us, but we don’t really know, and we’d rather not piss off the wrong person and find out.

Two months ago, Dan Savage asked happily non-monogamous couples to send him their stories. I’m really grateful for this project of his, and for the general positive light he and other openly open relationships shed. I’m not ready to be there, though. So I’m writing to ask you, monogamous queers of the world, for your support and solidarity. Sometimes, in an effort to make queer lives palatable to homophobes, the message gets a little too heavy on the “queers are good at monogamy and want to fall in love and get married and be faithful forever just like straight people!” That’s great for people who do want it, and I am so in support of gay marriage I always get surprised that I live in a country where it’s still mostly illegal. But I’d like the happily monogamous queers to return the favor.

Don’t put up with the bullshit argument that legalizing gay marriage will lead to legalizing polygamy, and don’t argue against it by saying that polygamy is awful and terrible and no one would ever want that. Child marriage is awful and terrible. Treating humans like property is awful and terrible. Just because visible polygamous cults or countries where polygamy is legal also love making underage girls get married and generally treating women like property doesn’t mean polygamy causes that. Monogamous marriage used to support those terrible things pretty well, too, and we fixed that, didn’t we?

Queers are generally better at supporting sluttiness than straight people. Hell, no one can do a sex club like gay men can. So, can I ask you all to be poly allies? There are a lot of us and many of us are masquerading as nice, boring straight people because we’re really afraid to come out of the closet. But if you, people who are already openly living on the edge of sexuality and gender, start also voicing that monogamy isn’t the only or always-best option, you’ll start helping us poly folk feel a little safer. If we ever find time on our packed-with-date-nights Google Calendars and decide to hold a rally for our rights or something, I hope you’ll show up in solidarity.

Thanks.

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.

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9 responses to “Trapped in the Closet (by Discrimination): Why I’m Not Publicly Out About Being Poly

  1. There is a right place and time to come out,and it should be determined by the person in the closet to do so. However, if you can not tell your friends or family… then it’s time to move on and out. I know I had choices, yet I knew I had a life to live and I am glad that I made the right choices at an early age. I quit high school because back in the early 1950s in Chicago,my hometown I had those tendencies, and it was taboo just to know someone queer, let alone be gay. In 1960 I moved to San Francisco to be myself… and did not fear being seen in a gay bar or neighborhood. That’s what I recommend to you.
    By moving, you can make new friends and be out at the same time. I always had a good mix of friends gay and straight, and did not hide them from each other. I think that is important… the world is not all gay or straight. I outed myself nationally when I created the ANITA BRYANT”S HUSBAND IS A HOMO-SAPIEN! T-shirt in 1977, at a time it was not yet fashionable to be openly gay,even in San Francisco! I also counted Harvey Milk as a friend.

  2. Thanks for your comments and support, Jerry! I actually have, completely by accident, ended up in a city with a pretty sizeable poly community. Plus that part where I’m pretty out to my friends has led a lot of them to feel safe confiding their less-than-perfectly-monogamous tendencies. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the kind of public, activism-inclined clusters of poly folks pretty much anywhere that are analogous to San Fran in the 60s. I chalk most of this up to the fact that poly folks are too busy juggling our partners and families to have time for activism! But it’s also one of the things that’s keeping us in this dangerous spot, and I’m really appreciative of the more public folks who have started picking up the poly-is-a-moral-option-too rallying cry.

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