Enlightening Polyamory

At church last night, I came out as polyamorous.

It was an endorphin rush. Before I'm told that coming out in a setting like this is really for me and not for anyone else, let me tell you that it was already somewhat apparent that I was poly. With the multiple names flying around -- Eric, Patricia, Eleanor, Mary, etc. -- it was apparent.

Coming out is hard, though. I am a layperson at church, and I have a very strong leadership role. It's a risk, and anyone who takes such a risk has my full appreciation. Anyone who can't has my understanding, and I devote compassion to them.

I remember having a phone conversation about my lifestyle with an ex of mine about four years back. I had recently picked up my life and moved 3,000 miles to Cal Poly Pomona, in hopes of finding a direction for my degree, and although dating was not in my plans, I figured it wouldn't hurt to find companionship. But finding companionship is difficult in college when you identify as poly, kinky, and gay on a campus of 1,500 students located in Northern Vermont.

One of the first things out of my ex's mouth was, "I didn't know this existed east of the Mississippi." She was active in learning about poly and kink, but the fact that I came fully loaded (I had picked up a pet project about kink at the campus pride center) and that I wanted to be more active caught her interest.

Fast-forward a few years and many moves later and I find myself immersed in a poly community in Vermont that I didn't know existed when I was in college. It was rumored, of course, in other relationships and by other people that this existed, but I could never really pinpoint where to look.

This past Saturday Vermont became even more poly-friendly with the first-ever Risk-Aware Polyamory shop (RAPshop). To be honest, RAPshop gave me some of the strength I needed to be "me" to my spiritual community.

Vermont Alternative Sexuality Education (VASE) has spent the past year promoting education and communication on BDSM and polyamory. Every month VASE brings RACKshops (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink shops) to Vermont, showcasing locally and nationally known presenters that have taught at other, larger conferences. They are responsible for the first kink conference, which took place in the fall and hosted 12 presenters and 15 workshops promoting communication, risk awareness, and a track devoted to rope play.

At Saturday's RAPshop I found myself surrounded by friends and former and present partners, in one of the more welcoming atmospheres for open loving. A reminder that open loving comes at a cost, we discussed not only dynamics but safer sex, which is practiced religiously in my region, and jealousy.

I've had conversations with monogamous friends about polyamory. I had a conversation that night at my church about being poly, which, to be honest, was a coming out in some sense, as I had realized on Saturday that being comfortable with myself requires being 100-percent honest with those whom I consider friends. Living alternative lifestyles can be nerve-wracking on occasion. Thrown into the mix is a nonprofit organization that brings workshops into a state where there is still a mix of conservative Christians and people on the wilder side. I am very proud of my communities, both the poly/kink and Unitarian Universalist, which have accepted me with open arms.

As I stood there last night, in the small group room, and afterwards with two of my closest friends from the group, I beamed. I was literally glowing. I was excited that not only had I come out, but following this revelation, we had had a conversation on pop culture, jealousy, and how I celebrate Valentine's Day. By the way, my brilliant idea this year, which I did not do, was to buy bulk chocolate hearts and give them to all my partners. This idea obviously did not get implemented, but it did make sense at the time!