I’ve been navigating coming out as poly to my nuclear family and to my workplace for the past few years. I think we’re in a moment similar to the LGBT coming out, and I wanted a snapshot of how people are experiencing coming out as poly to different people in their lives. I think this is important to build solidarity and visibility. It’s not to tell anyone how to do anything, but I hope you find it useful in your journeys.
This is an interview with Noah, roughly transcribed and then lightly edited (so maintains the first person voice). It is posted here with his permission.
Tell me a little about yourself
About to turn 47. Straight white cis dude. Spent the first 25 and change years in Portland, the next 20 or so in Seattle. Married for 6.5 years in a house with my wife, some housemates, and cats. I’ve been with my girlfriend, who is married with 2 kids, for 13.5 years. I have another girlfriend of 7.5 years, she’s married with one kid and recently gave birth to a surrogate baby.
What drives you?
I like other people to have good experiences. Informed my career as a user experience designer. Realized in my early 20s I spent most of my life critiquing designs and systems thinking “why did they make that hard?” spend a lot of time thinking about how things can be better or more easily used to make people happier.
What is your relationship style?
I have less distaste for the term “polyamory” than I did 10 years ago. Representatives of polyamory 18 years ago were a lot more prostheletizey and nerdy. I refer to myself as “open” or “nonmonogamous,” but no longer correct people. The first edition of The Ethical Slut turned a lot of people off because it was so proscriptive and holier than thou. At its core, most of it was about understanding your own needs and communicating them.
My wife and I have romantic and physical relationships with more people than each other. From friends we snuggle with, to party makeouts (although no one goes to parties or makes out with strangers anymore). Boyfriends and girlfriends we have relationships with.
Who have you come out to?
Have a friend group with lots of nonmonogamous people in it, I’ve been out with friends for a long time. I formally claimed the lable in the early 2000s, maybe 2003, although I had shrug-why-not tendencies before that. Not really jealous or possessive in my life before that.
Came out to my parents in a formal way in about 2010. Rest of family formally on our engagement announcement. Came out online, on the Twitter I use professionally in 2012. That counts as everybody, right?
Anyone you want to come out to but haven’t yet?
Marginally less cavalier in professional environments. Will tell coworkers, though not everyone all at once. For instance, if someone is asking why I was in Iceland, I’ll tell them I was there with my girlfriend, that it’s ok that you know, ok that you tell others. Telling one or two rather than broadcast. Tell them how long I’ve been out.
No one I’m specifically not telling. There are folk who may have not yet heard. But been with my girlfriend 13 years, so…
In short, there are some coworkers who haven’t heard yet.
Anything from this relationship style that applies to the rest of life?
Mostly try to be an intentional communicator, which I now only screw up sometimes. In my increasing age and awareness, becoming even more aware of consent and power dynamics in all things. Trying to remain cognizant and intentional about those issues.
Anything else you want to talk about?
Repeat an observation that many people have had: conversations nonmonogamous people have had about consent and risks of spending time with people have come in handy this year. What is my risk profile and risk profile of those around me? Seems like an unexpected benefit right now.