Jayne B Shea

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polyamory

Preparing for Hibernation: Not Being Out to Family for the Holidays

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It might seem odd that a bisexual advocate would not be 100% out to family and friends, but that's my truth. As I've said before, being out is a choice and a process you make every day, not a one-time, bam-you're-done, kind of thing. So for me, going "home for the holidays" means mentally preparing to be around people to whom I'm not out as bisexual and polyamorous.

Now, I've had people try to tell me that if I'm not 100% out, I shouldn't be living a queer lifestyle. Everyone from a straight ally to a fierce bisexual champion has held that hard line. Fuck that. Here's the thing: family is important. Community is important. Because I value my relationships with my family and my husband's family, and because my bisexuality and our polyamory are not a necessary part of those relationships, I am not out to most of them. And I'm okay with that. Sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner and saying what I'm grateful for doesn't need to include the amazing threesome I had last week. Yes, things would be different if we were in a serious long-term relationship with a third partner and wanted to bring her home for Christmas, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, not being out to most family members works for me, and for us.

That's my own story, and my point for you is this; being out is a personal decision. Don't let anyone (including me!) make it for you. If you're not out to your family, be comforted by the knowledge that there is an amazing community out there (whether it's in a support group, or on social media) who does know and love you for your queer identity. You may need to come out to them if not being out to your family is negatively impacting you or others, (as it has for me in the past - one of the reasons I fully came out to my parents.) Whether you're out to them or not, cherish your family and your relationships with them. Because in the end, that's what the holiday season is all about.

Internalized Bisexual Erasure

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Bisexual erasure becomes especially harmful when a bisexual person has internalized it. I'm going to get personal for a second and talk about the hardest breakup I've ever been through. After dating for several months, I was falling head over heels in love with a gorgeous young woman. Our male partner was as well. The three of us were great together! Then I went on a trip with my parents and started feeling all kinds of guilt that I wasn't fully out to them about my sexuality and polyamorous lifestyle. (More on my coming out experience later.) I was so happy with our girlfriend and sad that I couldn't share that happiness with my folks. Unfortunately, those feelings made me pull away from her a bit when I got home. I was also scared of being the first person in our triad to say "I love you" because I didn't want to scare her away.

Here comes the erasure part. We broke up. It was terrible. Then later we got to talking and it turned out she was in love too, but thought I was only committed to our relationship for my male partner's sake. Despite the fact that both she and I and the three of us had been having mind-blowing sex for six months, she thought I was just in it for him. This is bisexual erasure at its worst in a polyamorous relationship: the nagging idea that someone might be just a straight girl in it to please her man. This is something straight guys perpetuate every time they approach bisexual and lesbian women, hoping for a threesome. This is also perpetuated by anyone who tells a person "Oh hun, you're not bi, it's just a phase you're going through." (Yes, I personally heard this growing up from both queer and straight friends.) This is why I fight so hard for bisexual visibility and polyamory acceptance - so that we as a community can affect social change and erase these harmful internalized attitudes.