Many people ask “How can I talk about polyamory to the person I like?” and I know the answer is communication. The problem is that I am 17 and kids my age aren’t very open minded. How can I tell a guy/girl what I like without being bullied?

I work with teens, and I can confirm that while they do tend to rebel against the status quo in many ways, teenagers actually do tend to be more conservative when it comes to things like gender roles, homophobia, etc. Online, you may find many young people who have very open minds, but the average teenager right now tends to have pretty rigid attitudes about how relationships should be.

There is no surefire way to prevent people from bullying you, and there is no guarantee that you can explain polyamory to a peer of yours and have them understand. Dating polyamorously in a culture that is hostile to it - whether it’s due to age, politics, religion, or another demographic - can be very difficult.

My advice to you is to read up on polyamory and develop a strong sense of yourself as a young poly person, so you are prepared to explain and perhaps defend yourself when people ask you questions. You may want to have some quick definitions and examples ready to pull out, and some “Poly 101″ resources to share with people who are more interested.

As a student, you can also use that to your advantage - if an assignment permits, you may be able to do research on healthy nonmonogamy and present it to your classmates! You could also see if there is an LGBTQ+ club on your campus that you could partner with to raise awareness about polyamory and host events for any student interested in “alternative” (as much as I hate that term) relationships.

When you like someone, it’s okay to be clear about what you’re interested in - “I want to date you, but also be able to date other people. It’s called polyamory, and I’m happy to answer your questions about it!” They might say they’re not okay with it, which is their right. But hopefully anyone worthy of your affection isn’t someone who will turn around and bully you over that. And if people do, keep your head up and know that as soon as you get into your late teens and early twenties, your world will open up to include a lot more people familiar with, and down for, polyamorous relationships.