Straight-Passing Privilege and Polyamory at Work

May 4 '2022, 11:54 AM | By Chris

In many ways, passing as straight and monogamous is a blessing in disguise. At best, this freedom can help you avoid painfully awkward conversations or unjustified termination at worst.

Unfortunately, most states in the US don’t provide legal protection to polyamorists, no matter their relationship arrangement. This means ethically non-monogamous employees can get fired or denied housing and insurance due to their unconventional familial structures.

Less serious—but equally emotionally and mentally damaging—consequences of coming out at work are being ostracized by coworkers and being perceived through a prejudiced lens without ever getting to tell your story.

Should you keep your poly status a secret?

To be fair, every workplace is different. Some are incredibly supportive and open-minded, while others are as conservative and hostile as they come. To answer the question of whether or not to come out in the workplace as poly, my advice is to weigh your risks.

What is your workplace culture like?

Not everyone is lucky enough to work in a progressive, inclusive environment. The best that many polyamorous folks can hope for is tolerant coworkers and employers who don’t insist on prying into their personal lives.

When you’re deciding if, when, or how to come out in your workplace, your company culture is a huge factor. Some industries are breeding grounds for gossip, and even if you disclose your identity to just one person, your entire team may become privy to your life story.

On the other hand, there are workplaces that are actively building an accepting work culture. These organizations instill the value of trust, inclusivity, and diversity. In this environment, you may feel safe sharing more personal details with colleagues.

Do you have a high chance of being fired if you come out?

If your answer is yes, the most practical course of action is to remain ambiguous or straight-passing. Many poly folks refer to their significant others as “partner” so as not to let it slip that they may have a spouse and a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner.

Being fired is most likely your biggest concern when deciding whether or not to come out as polyamorous. It’s an injustice, and it shouldn’t be a factor in your coming out story, but it is the reality for many people.

Risks of coming out as polyamorous at work

People who identify as LGBTQIADP+ carry an emotional burden when they live and work in places that are not sympathetic to non-normative individuals.

● Being terminated from your position

● Gossip behind your back

● Being seen in a negative light

● Being passed over for career advancements and discrimination

Benefits of coming out as polyamorous at work

On the bright side, representing your full self can bring about positive changes for you and others.

● Living your truth

● Educating others

● Emotional release from concealing a large part of your identity

● Gain support from colleagues

● Encourage others who are closeted

● Build an inclusive company culture

The pros and cons are not mutually exclusive, and you may find that your coming out at work is a rollercoaster of emotions and social maneuvering. In the end though, if you decide to come out, you’ll be living with your whole identity on display—a freeing feeling, indeed.

However, you do not have to share your personal life or relationship status with anyone (especially at work)  if you do not want to. Your coming out is your choice, and you do not have to put your employment and financial stability in jeopardy to feel like you are being a poly ally or doing your part in breaking down polyamory stereotypes.

Polyamorous Celebrities

By contrast, many celebrities come out as LGBTDIADP+ to utilize their large and public platform. They put their relative privilege to use and mobilize allies to bring polyamory to the mainstream, including the workplace for the average person.

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith

This is perhaps the most famous couple who is open about their non-monogamous relationship. Their daughter, Willow Smith, also came out as polyamorous in 2021. Willow is regarded as a Gen Z idol, partly thanks to her frank and outspoken personality, so it’s no surprise that she’s very vocal about this aspect of her identity.

Indya Moore

Indya is an American model-actor known for her role as Angel in the TV series Pose, a drama that explores the LGBTQ subculture ballroom scene in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Indya is trans, non-binary, and polyamorous, but most of all, she’s a shining example of what it means to be your genuine self.

Bella Thorne

Bella got her start in the entertainment industry on The Disney Channel in 2010, and she came out as bisexual in 2016. In 2019, she announced that she identifies as pansexual and has since been an open book about her poly experiences.

Baron Vaughn

Baron is an actor-comedian with a long list of noteworthy works, including a supporting role in the comedy series Grace and Frankie. He’s also been a guest on podcast, radio show, and YouTube show episodes that discuss polyamory.

Deciding whether to come out to colleagues or not

Not being out as a polyamorist can feel like lying by omission. Beyond that, it can create some painful situations where one partner is out and the other is not, making the out partner feel like an immoral secret.

The bottom line is this: you choose what to share with coworkers and when, if ever. You are under no obligation to be anything more than cordial workmates, especially if your livelihood is at risk around the topic of polyamory. 

Until then, we can create changes in other ways like gently correcting coworkers when they express a blatant misconception about poly culture or sending reassuring messages to polyamorists online who have no support system. In the end, the only approval and acceptance you need is the one that comes from you.

Published By: Sister Wives 

Matchmakers Inc


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