Children, Stigma, and Polyamorous Families
How do kids in poly families explain their home-life to peers and teachers?
Posted Oct 24, 2013
As with all sexual minorities, kids in poly families (or poly kids for short, even though I do not mean that the children themselves are polyamorous) are at risk of being hurt by the stigma attached to their parents’ romantic lives. The past 40 years of LGBT+ activism has made same-sex relationships socially recognizable: The majority of the people in the US either know someone who is gay or can at least recognize two women with their children and dogs as a same-sex family. Polyamory, however, remains comparatively obscure so that people are more likely to identify a woman with her two husbands as a couple with a friend/brother/employee instead of a poly triad or vee. This relative obscurity provides poly kids with the ability to pass as “normals” if they wish.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Blending in worked best when there were many other children, and the smaller the group the more likely it was that the poly kid would stand out simply because of the greater level of scrutiny possible in smaller groups.
Occasionally peers would ask poly kids about the adults that attended their sporting events or picked them up from school. In some cases the poly kid would evade the question by changing the subject, being silly, or refusing to answer. If the questioner was a trusted friend and they had enough privacy at the moment, the poly kid would often tell the truth. Sometimes poly kids would use filter questions, asking friends what they thought about same-sex marriage or some other issue pertaining to sexual minorities and gauging the safety of disclosing their poly family status on the basis of the friend’s reaction to the question.
The more social privileges someone has, the easier it is to get away with breaking rules because social privilege provides a buffer against some of the effects of stigma and discrimination. At the very least it can help to get a good lawyer. Studies show that mainstream polys (those who attend community functions, interact online, and participate in research) tend to be white, middle or upper middle class, and highly educated. While there are certainly people of color, working class, and poor people who are polyamorous, the majority of polys are pooling their already higher than average incomes and educational cache to give their families a boost.