This weekend, I walked in the Boston Dyke March as an ally. It was a wonderful, powerful atmosphere. And one, literally, of pride; of thousands of people being able to go out and say "no, I'm not ashamed to be a lesbian, and why the hell should I be?" Women held hands and kissed in public, because people are allowed to hold hands and kiss in public.
I had no trouble supporting this in public, because I feel like it's a totally legitimate and worthy cause; there's no doubt in my mind that women who have relationships with other women are doing something that's Okay, that's Allowed, and I wish the world at large would acknowledge this.
But when it comes to my own relationship--to polyamory, specifically--I am ashamed. I'm fine talking about it on the Internet or in Kinkland, but when it comes to real life and hostile places, to family and coworkers and society at large, I can't say "I'm here, I'm dating a dude who's dating another chick but it's not like cheating it's actually cool with everyone, get over it." Except for my parents and one coworker I trust, I'm closeted. And when I have come out to people who weren't "cool," I wasn't a warrior. I was embarrassed, even apologetic. Explaining my relationship to, for example, my doctor didn't make me feel like I was spreading awareness. It made me feel like I was disclosing a secret disgusting perversion, a naughty peccadillo, a dirty and decadent habit.
The problem is that on some level, I don't feel like my own relationship is Okay and Allowed. I feel as if it's a thing we're getting away with, not a thing we damn well should get away with. Some part of me has internalized the belief that polyamory is a shameful sexual habit, rather than a completely legitimate relationship style. Or I feel like it's not important, not a Real Big Deal, not worth getting all mouthy about, even though it actually has a huge impact on my life.
I don't want to draw too much of an equivalence with the Dyke March, because I can be happy in a monogamous relationship, and many of the people at the Dyke March couldn't be happy in a heterosexual one. And poly people may be underground but we don't face violence and discrimination on anywhere near the level gay people do. Nonetheless, I do think that the model of going from shame to pride, of changing people's perspective from "that's a perversion" to "that's a relationship" could be a valuable one for polyamory. And not just for outsiders. For poly people ourselves.
I hope someday polyamory can come more into the light, that it will become understood as a legitimate lifestyle, just another way for people to love each other. I suspect the poly community couldn't field as many people as a the gay one, but I hope someday those people who are with us won't be afraid or ashamed to admit it. I hope someday I can say "my boyfriend's other girlfriend" outside kink circles and not only will other people be comfortable with it, I'll be comfortable with it.