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-   -   National Poly Coming Out Day (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=147)

River 04-09-2009 02:25 PM

National Poly Coming Out Day
Something extraordinary has begun to happen. Here in the U.S. there have been a couple of Polyamory Leadership Summits, which has lead to the formation of a Polyamory Leadership Network. I do not as yet know a great deal about either of these, but what I have learned is that the Polyamory Leadership Network has established a number of "project action groups" at their Summit, including (among others) a youth outreach group, a media group, a research-collaboration group, a coordination/follow-up group, and (yes) a National Poly Coming Out Day group.

As soon as I had discovered the Poly- Leadership Summits and the associated Network I randomly picked someone within the network to toss my idea of a National Poly Coming Out Day at, to see how she'd respond. By chance that person, Anita Wagner, was the Network's "point person" for a campaign to create just such an event! Synchronicity strikes again!

The bottom line of this story is that a ball is rolling toward creating an event which will be extraordinary, and which will educate and inform the public as well as help to change social attitudes toward ethical and responsibile non-monogamous lifeways. I believe that this event will both happen and will be very successful. It is in an early stage of organization, and I believe the organizers can benefit from the thoughts and ideas of non-organizers who are supportive of this project. For this reason, and because I like the format of www.polyamory.com much better than Yahoo Groups (etc.), I'd like to steer much of the open and public conversation on the National (or International?!) Polyamory Coming Out Day into this forum.

Those who want to know some of the background discussion on this topic should join the Expansive Loving Yahoo Group--
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ExpansiveLoving/ -- and read recent posts on the Coming Out Day.

There already exists an international "National Coming Out Day" in support of the GLBT community, and the poly Coming Out Day would resemble this other in numerous ways--and would serve similar social and political purposes.


I hope very much that www.polyamory.com can assist this project by providing a conversational networking hub on this subject.

River 04-09-2009 02:55 PM

In order to encourage discussion here I want to throw out some questions. Pick any question you find interesting enough to respond.

Why might an international or national "coming out day" be useful to the polyamory community?

What are the advantages of "coming out of the closet"?

What are some legitimate fears or concerns "coming out of the closet" may trigger?

Why might it be easier to "come out" on a day when potentially millions of others are coming out?

Will Oprah Winfrey and other major media shows cover this?

What advantages might come of a major media event?

What problems may come of it?

Olivier 04-09-2009 07:21 PM


Originally Posted by JRiverMartin (Post 405)
Why might an international or national "coming out day" be useful to the polyamory community?

Global recognition that it exists, with many people currently in the unknown about the concept having an epiphany.

Originally Posted by JRiverMartin (Post 405)
What are the advantages of "coming out of the closet"?

Showing others that it's ok to do so + get in touch with fellow polyamorists.

Originally Posted by JRiverMartin (Post 405)
What are some legitimate fears or concerns "coming out of the closet" may trigger?

Many questions, comments and possible negativity by people who do not understand or do not want to understand out of fear for what it might do to their relationship. You might loose some friends, but will probably tighten other friendships.

Originally Posted by JRiverMartin (Post 405)
Why might it be easier to "come out" on a day when potentially millions of others are coming out?

Because you will have the full support of the others, which will give you enough confidence to move forward. I also suggest we promote forming local groups of polyamorous people so they can support eachother in the process.

Originally Posted by JRiverMartin (Post 405)
Will Oprah Winfrey and other major media shows cover this?

Probably, the question is - HOW will they cover it? Positive, negative,...? I've seen coverage thats good and coverage that's really biased. We need to make sure we provide ample information with positive reports from polyamourous people. This includes making this site come up high on search engines and having enough info on it that promotes posivity around the whole concept.

Originally Posted by JRiverMartin (Post 405)
What advantages might come of a major media event?

Same as question #1, it will probably reach others that are not reachable with #1

Originally Posted by JRiverMartin (Post 405)
What problems may come of it?

Biased and people not understanding creating negativity. That's why it's very important to create the right information on the internet.

AutumnalTone 04-11-2009 01:45 PM

I think that being out would be useful if it involves simply treating poly relationships like mono ties. By that, I mean that one isn't trying to foist off on unsuspecting mono folk the fact that you're poly and have eight partners, but that one simply mentions relationship obligations in the same manner mono folk mention having to do something for/with a husband or wife.

I'm all for letting people know I'm poly in that fashion. It's part of my life and I mention it the same as I mention I'm married. It provides an air of normality to the whole equation and lets newly exposed mono folk digest it on their terms.

I doubt I'd ever be interested in a poly equivalent to Act Up or parades or the like. The parades and such cloak everything in carnival dress, to where the monos can take the approach of "let's go see the freaks!" I don't think that's a good way to garner a reputation for being reasonable people who engage in relationships just a bit differently. If one acts like a freak, then one should expect to be treated like a freak. Conversely, if one acts like a reasonable person, then one can expect to be treated like a reasonable person.

So, media events that are simply informative I think are good. Any media event that presents poly folk in a carnival atmosphere I think would be bad. And expecting most poly folk to line up to announce to their communities involves a carnival atmosphere--do mono married folk all line up to broadcast far and wide the fact that they're married?

Finding examplars of the poly community willing to share their stories is good. Offering up a examples of professionals, white collar workers, and blue collar workers, triads, vees, small networks, and large networks to highlight the diversity of poly people and arrangements is good. Moving beyond using only examples and expecting all poly folk to put on horse and pony shows is not.

I also fear that such a day would involve far too many attention whores in the community who relish trying to shock "mundanes" showing up looking and acting as freakish as possible, which would only work to associate polyamory with groups on the fringes of society. That's diametrically opposed to gaining acceptance as something that perfectly normal neighbors might be involved in. The greater the spectacle organizers try to create, the greater the danger of the spectacle turning against their aims.

River 04-11-2009 06:00 PM


Originally Posted by SeventhCrow (Post 424)
"And expecting most poly folk to line up to announce to their communities involves a carnival atmosphere--do mono married folk all line up to broadcast far and wide the fact that they're married?"


There is much in what you have said with which I am in basic agreement, and all of it deserves to be heard and considered, but the remark I have put in quotes here seems to me rather ridiculous. Married mono folk are not intensely stigmatized (and fundamentally misunderstood) by our socity and are therefore not challenged in those ways which cause many people to prefer living in a closet to being openly and hontestly themselves in social and public life. They have no need to organize a coming out day or "broadcast" their relationship modality, because they are doing and being what society expects, even demands, them to do and be.

The "demand" I speak of is generally not so much a legal one as a matter of taboo. So one is legally free in our socity to practice polyamory while not being at the same time fully socially free to do so. There have been and there remain signicant social consequences for breaking the taboo in question.

Many polyamorists I have spoken with agree with me that polyamorists can benefit from a national or international "coming out day" because (a) there is a presently unmet need for public education about polyamory as a lovestyle option, and (b) because many polyamorists live, to some degree, in The Polyamory Closet and might choose to come out of that closet in the atmosphere of mutual support and solidarity which a national/international coming out day would generate.

I agree with you, however, about the risks and dangers of a "carnival atmosphere" and of "parades" and suchlike. This isn't necessary and probably will not be helpful. I also agree with you about the risk and danger of attention-hungry parade and carnival lovers who want to push the public buttons only to create flashy sparks or a public spectacle--or maybe to act out their woundedness by poking at the "uptight". These are legitimate concerns. But they are not reason enough to pooh-pooh the desire of social change activists to publically challenge our society's stigmatization of EVERY sort of nonmonogamous lovestyle.

Yes, there are risks and dangers in organizing a national or international poly coming out day, but I am among those of our persuasion who think those risks aught to be taken for the potential liberation which only such risk might catalyze and facilitate. This is mainly due to the potential of a feeling of solidarity which is almost certain to arise on such a Day, and not only among polyfolk, but also between polyfolk and our many allies and supporters.

In any case, I do believe that the monogomy-centered (or whatever to call them?) much prefer that we polyfolk stay in our closets, where we "belong" (as they would have it). They wanted gay/queer folk to stay in their closets, as well. And gay folk broke out of that closet because of the solidarity they felt with one another and because closets are notoriously painful places to live. Their rally cry was "Out of the closet and into the streets!". They knew they needed to be bold. I think we should be as well. We have NOTHING to be ashamed of, so why should we be so relatively invisible. And why should folks in these forums frequently report that they are "out with" their "close freinds" but not with their co-workers or with their families? This is not at all uncommon, and this divided way of living DOES create emotional pain and suffering as well as psychological challenges and problems.

Enough, already! Out of the closet and into the streets!

AutumnalTone 04-11-2009 10:35 PM

The point I was trying to convey is this: "Normal" people don't broadcast their relationships far and wide. If we want to be seen as essentially "normal"--meaning that it's no big deal that we have multiple relationships--then we are probably better served by acting in "normal" fashion, which means not going out of our way to broadcast our relationships.

That doesn't mean hiding them. It means treating them as mono folk treat theirs. Nothing more or less.

My close friends know we're poly. The coworkers I spent the most time with know it. Some of my family members know it. The rest don't because it's never come up in conversation--and for no other reason. Some may think I'm married because I've mentioned a wife. Others may think I'm single because they've not heard me mention a wife, though they have heard me mention a girlfriend.

I've never treated having a wife and girlfriend as a big deal, because it's normal for me--and I treat it as a normal thing when speaking to anybody else. If we treat it as normal, somebody newly exposed is more likely to treat it as normal. If we offer it up as spectacle, then they're more likely to treat it as something weird.

Only some mono folk want us out of sight. Most don't care. I prefer to treat the discomfort of the former as something weird and as a spectacle; I do not treat my relationships that way. I fear a large-scale coming out day offers our relationships up as a spectacle--and NOT as a rebuttal to or rebuke of the extreme mono folk.

River 04-11-2009 11:21 PM


Originally Posted by SeventhCrow (Post 432)
If we treat it as normal, somebody newly exposed is more likely to treat it as normal. If we offer it up as spectacle, then they're more likely to treat it as something weird.


I fear a large-scale coming out day offers our relationships up as a spectacle--and NOT as a rebuttal to or rebuke of the extreme mono folk.


I am a little surprised at how sympathetic to your point of view on this matter I have become. So much so that it almost takes the wind out of my sails, or the enthusiasm out of the atmosphere around the idea.

I have made a comparison, and it is worth the effort to examine whether and to what degree my comparison is valid. I have compared polyamorists of today to pre-Stonewall gay people. That's a rather large claim to be making. As a queer man, I'm very aware of the extreme challenge many guys have faced when contemplating "coming out", and am well aware of the psychological/emotional issues we queer guys have to deal with as a result of living in a heterosexist and homophobic society/culture. I have had intimate freinds, people I love deeply, tell me that this challenge included fantasies and even attempts of suicide. While I never seriously contemplated suicide myself, I simply could not so much as have imagined "coming out" untill I was well into my twenties -- while heterosexual folks don't have to deal with hiding--or feeling the need to hide--their sexual orientation at all! Now I'm in my forties, but I'm still in recovery from the damage done to me because I am a queer man living in a homophobic and heterosexist cuture.

However --- !!!! ---, however, things are much, much, much, MUCH better than they were for us queers AFTER Stonewall than before. And, as I said, the rally cry of Stonewall and the gay movement which followed in its wake was "Out of the closets and into the streets!" In other words, the very motto of that movement was about visibility, outwardness with the truth, the ending of hiding and pretending.... That was healing balm for all of us queers.

Was it a spectacle? Damn right it was! IT HAD TO BE! What could be less "normal" in those times, times when people like me were given labotomies--ice picks in the brain--or shock treatment, considered mentally ill and in need of such "treatment"..., in need of "fixing", "cure"... times when good people lived with excruciating shame and fear..., were driven underground, in fact DID become emotionally ill ... not because they were bad people but because of society's "normal" -- to which they were expected to conform, demanded to conform.

I do not think that my comparison is quite apt by matter of degree--degree of pain and suffering--, but I DO think it is apt as a matter of kind.

Closets inevitably cause avoidable suffering.

I see that in your hope that polyamorists can be accepted as "normal" that you also are wanting to avoid unnecessary suffering, and I cannot say that you are wrong in your point of view on the topic. I may be wrong. The coming out day may be a bad idea looking like a good one. But the idea is thought by many in the poly "community" to be quite timely and good. Some think the event should already have happened. Neither you nor I can control this seed which is already planted in the poly discourse.

Tell me. If you could push the big red button which would put a stop to this idea, would you do it? Would you really?

River 04-11-2009 11:40 PM

It may be worth saying that much of what I say relates to my own approach to polyamory, which differs significantly from those who, say, have a wife or a husband and a girlfriend which they conceive of as "on the side".

I've been with my partner, Kevin, for 12 years. We've both identified as poly for pretty much the duration of our relationship. Neither of us has any other lovers right now, though both of us have had brief relationships with others. Both of us have even been in love with another during this time; and both of us have been disappointed in that love--though neather of us regrets those experiences.

Anyway, I notice that no small number of polyfolk speak in terms of "primary" and "secondary" loves. This is probably especially true among the married polyfolk. I think it is fine for those people to arrange their lives in this way, but I cannot and will not. And this makes a whole heap of difference.

I am in all essential respects (but not the legal one) married to my partner, Kevin, but if I should take another lover, that person will NEVER be something I've got going "on the side". Nor would I., could I, speak of that person or otherwise treat that person as "secondary"! Ugh! I'd certainly not like ... or want... to be anybody's "secondary".

So I cannot and will not live with one foot in the polyamory closet. No, I must feel and live the full discomfort of the issues involved. Some don't have to feel that heat because they have a husband or a wife and their other partner/s is/are a "secondary" and they don't even have to mention them to their families, friends, co-workers.... NO! I will not leave anyone in the cold like that. If that works for others, fine. Let them do that. Maybe there's no "cold" to be left in for these. That's not my problem. My problem is that, for me, there is a coldness in the whole notion of "secondaries". Ick!

AutumnalTone 04-12-2009 01:51 AM

There are a bunch of us who don't have anybody "on the side." Were we able to marry freely, we would, and all of our partners would have the same legal status. I have a wife and had a girlfriend because I'm married to the one and got involved with other later; were it possible to add to our marriage, we would have been planning for that after a suitable engagement.

Nothing I've said on the matter has been predicated on any specific type of relationship. If we treat our relationships as matters-of-fact and nothing spectacular in any fashion, then others are more likely to do the same. Whether you consider all partners primary or have primary, secondary, and tertiary partners matters not.

And remember that one can be quietly out of the closet. As I said, some people heard about my wife and others heard about my girlfriend and others heard about both--all as the vagaries of conversation brought them up. I am convinced that exactly that sort of approach is the most effective at opening most mono people up to the notion that poly is OK and nothing about which they should be concerned.

If folks don't find us threatening, nor the way we act threatening, then they're much less likely to find the notion of polyamory threatening. Tossing it in their faces makes it threatening.

Geoff 04-12-2009 03:54 AM

I posted this on Expansive Loving Yahoo Group
For me the choice of polyamory as a life style is more about freedom from control by others, Polyamorist's included! I don't see, in my world view, polyamory as an alternative to monogamy but rather a freer model of human relationships than is currently practiced by the majority. I see polyamory in the same light as I see Naturism, freedom from the control of clothing. While my view may appear idealistic given the current world social/cultural model it is nevertheless possible to achieve.

From my perspective I am not a supporter of "coming out" of Polyamorists for a number of reasons:
  • "Coming out" as a group immediately acknowledges there is a need to "come out." Surely there is a need for control groups, like monogamists to "come in." Naturists for example are already out :). Clothing optional is their mantra when faced by control group's pressure.
  • "Coming out" as a Polyamorist group supports the current social/cultural model of duality (Them & us) and will lead to classical conflict between the competing interests. Why compete? Why not cooperate and lead by example?
  • Polyamory by its current definition is about loving more. Loving more is not something that demands others to love less. Monogamists see polyamory as an attack on their values and thus a call to arms to "defeat" the enemy. Is that what we hope to achieve by wanting to love more?
  • My personal world view defines polyamory as choosing to love anyone free from the fear of control by that person or any other group of persons.
  • Politicizing a cause, that is what organizing group action is, is subscribing to the current control model of "the many by the few" and I want no part of that.
My view is that the prevailing Western influenced monogamy/heterosexual marriage law needs repealing. Not to allow different classes of individuals to legally commit to marriage but to remove the need for marriage in the first place. Let natural law prevail as it will in any case (Witness the divorce rate).
I have many other reasons but they are probably off topic so I will leave my views as above.

Love & peace,


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