Bitter Butch Column “Parking Lot” posts: How do I come out as Poly at Work?

Hey, folks! For various reasons, some of the answers I write to people can’t run in Bitter Butch — either the audience is quite small, or they are too graphic, or they just don’t fit the tone of the blog. I’ve gotten permission from my gracious editors to sometimes run letters here that aren’t quite right for them. I’m going to call these posts “Parking Lot” posts — conversations that you keep having even when everyone has gone out to the parking lot to go home, that matter, even if they aren’t in the official discussion spot.

Here’s my first one!

Poly-Viewing-cast-sillyDear Bitter Butch,

Bisexual/queer, poly woman here. I just started a new job in IT and am faced with the age old debate of how to come out at work. We have a pretty visible LGBT group at work and I literally flag with a rainbow badge, so coming out queer is not as much of an issue as coming out poly.

I have two committed partners (who aren’t romantically involved with each other, if it makes a difference), so it’s more important to me to be out than if I just had one primary and some side action. In my last job, I tried to talk about my partners casually without spelling it out, but eventually ended up with some people thinking I had just a girlfriend, some people thinking I just had a boyfriend, and only a few realizing my actual relationship situation!

It feels weird to me to just say it, but I also feel weird being seen as monogamous and having to tip toe around the subject of one of my partners because people haven’t gotten the hint. Ideas on good ways to be clear that I’m poly while not feeling like I’m oversharing?

Dear BQPW,

First, I have a question for you: do you think your co-workers worry about ‘oversharing’ when they mention their opposite-sex spouses, or their kids, stepgrandmothers, half-brothers, or stepkids? No. Their families can be just as complex as ours, but they don’t feel the need to hide any of themselves.

I resent that society has made us feel as if we are oversharing or overstepping or ‘looking for attention’ when we are just sharing our lives in the same way everyone else does.

That said, because you are a sexual minority twice over, you are going to have to do some explaining.

Because, while it is sometimes necessary to stay there, being in the closet SUCKS. You feel dishonest, like you’re betraying the people you love most, and accidental exposure. You fear losing your job. Your family.

Don’t let people’s obliviousness shove you into that horrible, dark place.

Now: a few concrete suggestions.

A new job is a great chance to bring this up organically: put photos in your cube of everyone. When people ask, just say matter-of-factly: that’s me and my girlfriend, and that’s me and my boyfriend.

Wear a poly symbol pin on your lapel next to that rainbow flag and explain about it when people ask. Answer honestly if people ask what your plans are for the weekend, even and especially when the answer is: “Poly game night!”

Whenever you have the urge to mention one or the other of them as it comes up in conversation, DON’T bite your tongue. Say it. Even use the word polyamory if it makes sense. People who care and are interested will ask for more info.

Don’t let the monogamy-obsessed, heteronormative culture we live in make you feel like you’re being a bother to other people just by being yourself. Fuck that shit. Be you. Let ’em figure it out, or not. But never bite back your truth.

You can catch the rest of my advice column at, and send questions to Thanks, folks!


Listen to Your Mother Reading: Wednesday, April 22, Subtext Books

9780399169854_large_Listen_to_Your_Mother-200x300Hey, folks! I’ll be reading with a local group of wonderful writers from the new anthology Listen to Your Mother at Subtext Books, 165 Western Avenue North, in Saint Paul from 7-9. These are essays from our performances in the “Listen to Your Mother” series of performances, and there are some WONDERFUL readers. We talk about being poor and queer and adopted and crippled but mainly about being mothers. I really like my fellow readers– they are terrific folks. I hope you’ll come out and listen!

You have no idea what you are talking about: men and street harrassment

06252014-hashtagDear Cis Men,
If a young woman of your acquaintance describes street harassment to you, please keep in mind that it is categorically impossible for you to have any idea whatsoever what she felt like in that situation.

Whatever advice you want to give her about being strong and straightforward, or nicer and more understanding, is NOT HELPFUL.

Don’t add shame and second-guessing to her injury. Tell her you are sorry that someone did this to her and that men are not entitled to women’s time, bodies, or phone numbers. If you feel a desperate need to give someone advice rather than support, pull aside a young man and talk to him about listening to women and respecting our boundaries.

You’re fucking welcome,

PS if you are a woman who wants to reply to a story like this with “You should have. . . .” or “I would have. . . . ,” pretending that you have the perfect answer in every situation that gets you respect and autonomy and that you have never felt gut-churning fear and paralysis in that situation, you are a liar who feels powerful stepping on other women’s backs. Knock it the fuck off. Be a friend. Put the blame where it actually lies.