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 Tilde, roughly transcribed and then lightly edited (so maintains the first person voice). It is posted here with their permission.
Tell me a little about yourself
My name is Tilde, I use they/them pronouns, I’m an artist, activist, and engineer. I live in SF.
What drives you?
I want to leave the world a little better than I found it. Motivated by helping people, by trying to create joy and connection.
What is your relationship style?
I’m practicing nonhierarchical nonmonogamy. Trendy thing is to call it “relationship anarchy” but I think some people are using that term incorrectly. Anarchy is a political philosophy, and relationship anarchy would be applying that to relationships as well. While I identify with anarchism, I don’t feel like I’m conversant enough in political theory to confidently call myself an anarchist, so I probably shouldn’t call myself relationship anarchist either.
What I do is let every relationship find its own level, and don’t make agreements unless everyone impacted by the agreement is able to negotiate.
Who did you come out to?
I first tried nonmonogamy at age 18. I heard about it on usenet, and it made sense to me intuitively. How much I like one person doesn’t have anything to do with how much I like this other person. About a year into my first relationship, my girlfriend wanted to bring home another girl and I was like “awesome” and we ended up in a triad. I came out and got some major side eye from people I worked with at a grocery store but went with it anyway.
We broke up and people responded really negatively, “you couldn’t possibly have thought that would work.” I internalized that, and it took me a few years to give nonmonogamy another try. Now it’s a big part of my identity, values, and life.
Recently I feel like I’ve come out a second time. Although my relationship style is nonhierarchical, for the past 11 years I had one partner that I was clearly closer to than all others, which made it easier to pass as monogamous. But now I have 3 people who are really important to me. Figuring out how to talk about that to make it legible without giving too much detail or making people think I’m hitting on them has been tricky. I used to lead with “this might be weird but…” but that magnified the awkwardness. Now I try to be casual (“my partners and I went to the beach this weekend” and just trust myself to read the room.
Anyone you want to come out to but haven’t yet?
Don’t think so – I’m out to everyone who’s super important to me. Biggest one was my dad. I came out to him maybe 5 years ago, but didn’t feel like he got it. More recently I told him I wanted to share more details about my partners, but I wasn’t sure he was comfortable with that. It was a very good conversation. He said he had some bias against nonmonogamy because he’s less familiar with it, but that the most important thing to him was my happiness, and he wanted to hear more about my partners.
I’m out on the internet, because people can unfollow me if they don’t want to hear about it.
Anything from this relationship style that applies to the rest of life?
The ability to hold multiple viewpoints in my head, negotiate, mediate conflicts, and calendar things, are very useful in a business context. I feel like I could write a whole blog post about how nonmonogamy skills have boosted my career.
Practicing nonmonogamy helped me become a secure person. Sustainable nonmonogamy requires trusting that my partners are with me because they want to be. It took a lot of work to develop that trust, and the belief that I deserve love. This work might have happened otherwise, but nonmonogamy sped the process along.
Anything else you want to talk about?
I don’t think nonmonogamy is for everyone, I’m not a polyamory evangelist. My hope for the future is that more relationship styles will be normalized, and we’ll have more tools for support for people who want to try out alternative relationship styles. At the end of the day, I want more options, freedom and acceptance for everyone.
Polenesian people have asked polyamorous people to spell out “polyamorous,” so please do that for the blog and URL.