Polyamory, like every alternative lifestyle, includes the “coming out” step. What would we call it? The walk-in closet (cause there's room for more than two)? All jokes aside, coming out can be difficult and, understandably, a lot of people choose not to do it. Or, if they do come out, it's only to a few select people. I'm not worried about losing my job due to religious or sexual practices, so I don't particularly care who at my workplace is aware of my unique circumstances. My family is slightly different; I know some of them suspect, but at this point none of them have come forward with their questions. If they asked, I would be honest. My grandmother knows that Kitten is a friend, and that we spend a lot of time together, but she doesn't know that our relationship has far passed the friendship line. My dad and my sister know the whole story. So, I am out at different levels, but I'm also not hiding anything. I hold Kitten's hand when we walk, I stand close to her and touch her affectionately when we are out in public. To anyone watching, it would be clear that we are either *very* close friends or that we're lovers. If anyone asked, I would tell them the truth, but I don't offer up my personal information on a whim. This is true of most things about me. I just don't share unless I feel the need to do so.
It wasn't always this open for us, though. Since I work with the public and I met Kitten at my workplace when she was a customer, everyone knew who she was. Kitten is very recognizable, even after just seeing her a couple of times, and she was often in our workplace more than once a day. Early on, I was subjected to some playful teasing by my coworkers as it became clear that she was flirting with me. I didn't know how to react at first, because although I had noticed her and I was interested in getting to know her, I had no idea how to even begin. I'm really quite shy and at the time I thought I could be monogamous. I'll even go so far as to say that I didn't believe she was actually interested in me. (Ah, naivety.)
Once we did become closer than just friends, Kitten made it clear that she didn't want me talking to people about it. She wanted our relationship to be kept under wraps because “It's none of their business.” It was increasingly difficult not to show signs of NRE at work, as we grew closer and I grew more and more excited because I had a girlfriend. People's questions grew more pointed and I did my best to deflect them without telling any outright lies. More often than not, I would blush and smile and have to walk away from the person I was talking to before I giggled away my cover.
She was right, though, about it not being anybody's business, I mean. I recently had a conversation with someone about coming out and he said that he had a real problem with it. “Why do people feel the need to come out?” And I understand the question. Why do we feel it is necessary to tell people who or what we sleep with? For me, it's more than that. I want to be able to wrap an arm around Kitten's waist while we're shopping, or give her a peck on the cheek, or something that you would do to your partner in public (and not be arrested for doing). I don't *need* to do these things, and I don't *need* to call her my girlfriend, but I want to. So, after discussion, and after we grew more comfortable with one another, we eased up on the closet door and decided to leave it ajar… open, but pulled to, so if someone wanted to peek inside, they could.
I'm interested to hear what people in all sorts of open relationships have to say about coming out. Do you shout it out loud? Is your closet empty? Or do you still have the door locked?