Every geeky, awkward kid in the world has experienced the awful moment on the school playing fields, as the class lines up, the team captains are selected and in turns they pick their team. One by one the line gets smaller, you wait to hear your name called, heart beating, stomach churning, knowing you will be amongst the last to be picked. You try to look indifferent, heart sinking, as the line becomes a cluster, a group and then just you, as the names are called. Eventually you are last, and one of the captains, sighing in reluctance, calls your name. You walk over shame-faced to your “team”, feeling rejected, unwanted and totally unwilling to play the game anymore. You question why people don’t want you, what qualities the others had that you don’t have, and try your hardest to get people to like you, to want you, anything to pick you.
Recently, I’ve felt this feeling again. Except instead of being stood on the school playing fields, I’m doing it in my everyday life. Instead of my classmates, the people doing the picking are my family, friends, love interests, lovers and metamours. Even after all this time, the sting of being unwanted pricks me to the core. The feeling in my stomach of being unwanted, excluded, unloved. The desire to reject those who rejected me, and to flee, to hide, to lick my wounded pride in privacy. I want to be recognised for who I am to people, and I want to feel wanted, included, valued and with a sense of belonging to something important.
Coming out as poly to our families was something my primary partner (and now husband) and I decided to do fairly early on, once we knew this lifestyle was right for us, and once we had formed proper partners outside our relationship. We came out as poly for a variety of reasons, but they essentially boiled down to wanting to be honest about our lifestyle, and to have our lifestyle and partners recognised for who they were. We were getting married a few months after we came out, and were both adamant that our partners would not be forced to act like platonic friends at our wedding. They were going to act like they normally do, and be recognised as such: our partners. One of my favourite wedding photos is of my husband, myself and our girlfriend. She was recognised on the day as being someone we both loved, and is permanently recognised in our wedding album and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Coming out as polyamorous was not an easy thing to do, and the road to acceptance is long, hard and rocky. We are not at the end of it yet. We have had countless debates with people who are hostile to it, numerous examples of having to correct massive misinterpretations of the truth and ongoing battles to get our friends and family to accept and respect our way of life. We have lost old friends who cannot accept how we want to live, and we have, to some extent, alienated our families who can only accept or discuss our loves in varying degrees. We find ourselves turning more and more to our kinky, poly, queer communities for support, as our friends and family are unable or unwilling to offer support. As hard as coming out was, it was the right decision to do. We wanted recognition for our lifestyle. We wanted our partners to be recognised as our partners, and to have them belong to our extended or chosen family.
Part of recognition is declaration; privately to the person(s) concerned and most importantly in public. My marriage to my husband is a very public recognition of my love for him, and my pledge to him and our relationship, and seeking the world’s recognition of this. The ring on my left ring finger declares to the world that I am married, people recognise it instantly, and know I “belong” to someone. The prefix of “Mrs” on my identification, letters and legal documents also recognise my married state, my relationship and my belonging within a union of two, belonging to the group of married people, belonging to the normal relationship mould.
Whilst I can not (and do not want to) offer anyone else that same level of commitment, belonging and recognition, I can offer my other relationships a degree of the same. All of my significant relationships are listed on my profile of several social media sites, including the more vanilla ones. Here I can offer my loves as much recognition of our relationship and belonging to something important as is possible, by declaring it publicly and hence seeking recognition of the fact. I introduce them to friends, family and loves as being someone I care about, someone important to me, or someone I love. I demand that my friends and family treat them with the proper respect they deserve as my partners, and will not tolerate rudeness or ignorance of them. I actively involve and include them in events and the general day to day minutiae of life.
As much as I am honest and out about who I am and the lifestyle I lead, that hasn’t always been the case. Sometimes a partner isn’t out about being kinky or poly, and so that aspect must be kept secret. Sometimes they aren’t out about anything, and the entire relationship is kept a secret, other than in our respective communities. I’ve been someone’s invisible, hidden partner, unknown to friends and family, insignificant to the outside world. I’ve been someone’s dirty secret, unknown to me at the time, because they were playing two women at the same time. I’ve been in love with someone who never introduced me to their family or friends, I’ve been involved with someone who told everyone I was just a friend to them.
All of those things made me deeply unhappy, and resulted in all but one of the relationships ending. I will never, ever let myself be in those situations again. I will never date someone who is not out about poly, or who is not prepared to introduce me as their partner (ostensibly monogamous if need be). I will never be someone’s dirty little secret. I will never allow myself to be hidden, like something shameful, something unworthy of recognition and who will never belong. If a recognition and belonging of me and the relationship is not forthcoming, the relationship will fail.
I wish to be recognised for what I am, and what groups or communities I belong to. If people want to be in my life, I want them to be proud of that fact, and to publicly declare it. I want to be included, wanted, appreciated and loved. I wish to be recognised for who I am to my loves, and I wish to belong. Part of that is public declaration of the fact. Part of it is being actively and continuously included within that group. Without them I can’t help but feel I am just a spare part, a tiresome extra, an unwanted hassle that doesn’t fit into the neat, tidy group.
Actions speak louder than words. Make yours count. Recognise those you love, and give them a sense of belonging to something important, vital and alive. If you don’t, you may find you lose them.