By Jamie Lee Arseneau
Illustration by Tajliya Jamal
To be a pansexual polyamorous woman in a predominantly hetero-normative monogamous world truly is a peculiar experience. Despite my orientation and lifestyle feeling natural to me, I am often perceived by others as peculiar (in a society that does not always celebrate peculiarity). And yet, I know with confidence that I am worth celebrating.
There is a tension in the air when you share with someone that you are polyamorous. It can feel as though you are letting them in on a dirty little secret, something taboo, nearly sinful even. This experience is even more so evident when you share that not only are you non-monogamous, but also that your secondary partner is a female. It is like outing yourself twice, in two different ways, each and every time, with each and every person you share this with. It is exhausting.
And I catch myself sometimes; I wonder if I am feeling this tension because the person on the other end of the conversation is judging me or if it’s my own (conscious or subconscious) shame rearing its ugly head. Either way, this is problematic. If others are judging me, is that because many LGBTQ+ and non-monogamous people are closeted, not yet normalized in society, and underrepresented in art and in the media? If it is my internal shame arising, is that because, in many ways, I am still closeted and trying to fit my lifestyle into a mold that it does not align with?
In my personal life, I live quite openly. My friends, my family, and even my social media contacts now know that my husband and I are polyamorous. They also know that I have had additional long-term, meaningful relationships with women. Yet professionally and publicly, there are lines that I still do not cross.
I have always been adamant in not being openly affectionate with past boyfriends and girlfriends when they have visited me at work. I have yet to ever ask my seventy-six year old grandmother to bring both of my partners with me to Christmas dinner. In some cases these small (yet impactful) decisions are made out of wanting to avoid disapproving, tense, or overly personal conversations. In other instances, these decisions are made out of our respect for others, and the desire to not upset or bother anyone. Despite why they are made though, the end result is the same—I show up as my half self.
The issue about showing up as your half self is that this breeds shame. After years of platonic visits at the office and Christmas dinners spent missing and texting my absentee partner, shame has bred secrecy, self-doubt, isolation, anger, and a full spectrum of emotions that do not contribute to my overall wellbeing.
Writing…Writing has been my solace.
On the hard days where I feel that I do not and cannot fully express myself to the world, I vibrantly paint myself with ink on the pages of my journal. On the days where I am passionate and motivated to speak my truth, I stop procrastinating and create another chapter in my book that will one day share my journey with the world. And eventually, it will be my ability to wield the written word that will allow me to help others, like me, who feel closeted, not yet normalized in society, and underrepresented in art and in the media.
Writing has kept me sane. Writing has allowed me to express my pride. And one day, writing will allow me to support others. As I sit here pondering my final comments, I reflect upon how cathartic even writing this piece has been. Compared to when I first began, I feel light-hearted and cleansed in a way. For this, I am grateful.
I truly believe that when we allow ourselves the time needed to create, and the space to express our true selves, we align with our higher purpose and selves. And from this state of being, we can then begin to attract our people and feel accepted, interconnected, and loved.
And love—love is what this polyamorous woman is seeking in her life.