I’m Suffocating in This Closet!

I’m going to break an unwritten rule – one that I set for myself when I started blogging. I’m going to talk about something that happened at my Day Job.

Now, I love a lot of things about my day job. I work with nice people at an organisation whose mission I care about. I am paid fairly and generally treated respectfully. But Day Job and this life, the life I live when I’m writing this blog, are separate. There is DayName, and there is Amy Norton, and never the two shall meet. I never even tweet as Amy while on work time, though my office is chill about reasonable personal phone and social media use. I am that careful.

At work I am quiet. I keep my head down and I don’t say much. I am friendly, of course, but in that enigmatic way where no-one really knows an awful lot about me. The superficial stuff, sure, but nothing real.

Today my co-worker said they’d watched the new Louis Theroux documentary about polyamory. (Though they called it “polygamy”.) My ears pricked up and I listened to the ensuing conversation, though added nothing to it myself except that it is forbidden to be legally married to more than one person in the vast majority of the world and therefore it was not really “polygamy” in the true sense. Sadly, the ensuing conversation was dripping with judgement. Words like “gross” and “freaky” abounded. Vomiting noises were made at the idea of group sex. I believe somebody even made a comment along the lines of “there’s something really wrong with you if you can’t be satisfied with one person.”

What I felt, in that moment, was shame. I felt that wave of doubt that comes from hearing that something is wrong with me. You’d think by now I would be good at batting away shaming comments about how I choose to love, but every one still hurts.

Of course, no-one knew they were talking about me. No-one knew that the quiet girl across the desk from them is going to see her boyfriend (who is not the same person as the partner she lives with) after work tonight, or that she had a threesome with her partner and an amazing woman they both adore at the weekend, or that the thought of the sex party she’s going to in a couple of weeks is getting her though as much as her incessant supply of coffee.

I guess what I’m saying is… be careful in your judgement. When you throw around blanket condemnation of something you do not understand, there might be someone across the desk from you who now feels a little less safe to be themselves, a little more sure they’ll never come out. If my self-protective closet had physical walls, they’d have grown an extra few inches thick today.

Would they have reacted differently if they’d known they were talking about the lifestyle of someone who sat four feet away? Am I actually causing more harm than good by choosing to stay in the closet? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. Would it humanise the concept if I’d said “hey, actually I’m polyam and it’s really not all that freaky! We go on ice-cream dates and have sex and do laundry and walk the dog and argue about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher, just like you!“?

Should I have put myself out there, taken the personal risk in the name of sex positivity and fighting the good fight? Maybe. But I didn’t. I felt shame, and I said nothing. I felt judged, and I did not feel able to defend myself because they didn’t know it was me they were judging.  And I felt like a failure to the cause for not speaking up. This is what the closet does to you.

Not being out is a choice I make to protect myself from (at best) intrusive questions and weird judgements, and (at worst) from ridicule, loss of professional respect and possibly risking my job. Today I burrowed a little deeper into my closet.

Did you enjoy this or do you just want to help me get through this week? Buy me a coffee! Oh, and please – no advice. Thank you. 

5 thoughts on “I’m Suffocating in This Closet!

  1. Hi! long time lurker, first post. I totally understand and I’m so sorry you had to witness that. I am a cislesbian, and my partner of 27 years is a pre-everything transwoman.

    When I hear about how trans people are treated, and these discussions are in my hearing, I want to SCREAM at t hem and make them know that their words are hurtful and that trans people are PEOPLE.

    My wife and I have not gotten into polyamory, but are VERY interested in starting. your blogs are great and I hope to post more often

  2. I am definitely not judging you for staying silent. It’s not always the right time to be open about your life choices, especially not at work. But what I have found in situations like this is that I can still make opposing and supportive comments, much in the vein of when someone makes a racist or homophobic joke. It’s not always worth it to try to change other people’s minds, because you never know what causes their outrage (maybe they are in fact curious, but ashamed!). But I like to think I can sow a seed of tolerance, at the very least. A good thing to say might be: “If it doesn’t directly harm you, why are you so upset about it? People are different and at the end of the day it’s none of your business how others live.”

  3. Very sad to read about the narrow mindedness of your colleagues and its effect upon you. Even if people disagree with something you would hope for a more a more balanced and thoughtful conversation but I am afraid that might be wishful thinking on my part.

  4. Oh no, I’m so sorry this happened to you. I watched the same documentary and was wondering when I would experience the same….! But I don’t believe you’re a failure to the cause for not speaking up. I don’t think you’re required to put your personal reputation/ professional image/job on the line every time there’s a battle to be fought. I think there are other ways to fight the good fight and blogging/awareness raising is 100% one of them. xx

  5. One of the first poly people I met told me about her job, and freely admitted that it wasn’t interesting (and, to be fair, it didn’t sound interesting).

    But, as she told me, her lifestyle was important to her, and she wanted to have the time to spend with her four partners, and the money to be able to travel around London to do so. Her job, which was stable, was a way to facilitate her to do that, and the regular hours meant that she knew when she was free.

    We don’t all have that luxury – both my girlfriend and I work shifts, so sometimes we have very little time together, but we will make do. I don’t have a lifestyle I wish to hide (sex blogging notwithstanding!), so I’m not overly careful about what I say at work, but I still take the same philosophy of my poly friend. Do the job, enjoy the money and cherish the free time to do what you want, with who you want.

    I’m sorry that you had to go and visit Mr. Tumnus in order to avoid all the judgemental questions you may have had to face. Often it’s the fear of the unknown that’s worse than the consequences itself, but I’m willing to bet that even the bravest of us would dare find out what might happen. Painful as it may sound, I think that you did the right thing, in the circumstances.

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