This week we're talking with Kevin Patterson, creator of the Poly Role Models blog and author of the upcoming book Love Is Not Colorblind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities. If you're interested in creating a polyamory discussion group, meet-up, or other inclusive event, this is required reading! You can find more of Kevin's work on Twitter and Instagram at @polyrolemodels or by visiting polyrolemodels.tumblr.com.
If you want to support our show, the best way is to become one of our patrons at www.patreon.com/multiamory. In addition to helping us continue to create new content and new projects, you also get extra rewards and exclusive content and discussions.
You can order Dedeker's book, The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory: Everything You Need to Know about Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Alternative Love by clicking here.
This week's sponsor is Quip. If you want to give one of their electric toothbrushes a try, plus get a free refill, check them out at tryquip.com/Multiamory.
Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.
Our theme music is Forms I Know I Did by Josh and Anand.
Please send us your feedback and questions to email@example.com, find us on Instagram @Multiamory_Podcast, tweet at us @Multiamory, check out our Facebook Page, visit our website Multiamory.com, or you can leave us a voicemail at 678-MULTI-05. We love to hear from our listeners and we reply individually to every message.
This document may contain small transcription errors. If you find one please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will fix it ASAP.
Jase Lindgren: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we are speaking with Kevin Patterson, creator of the Poly Role Models blog and author of the upcoming book Love is Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities. This is a fantastic interview. I'm excited to get to it, but first let me tell you a little bit about who Kevin is. Kevin Patterson is an active member of the Philadelphia polyamory community. He's been practicing ethical non-monogamy since 2002. And in April of 2015, Kevin was inspired to start Poly Role Models, an interview series for people describing their experiences with polyamory.
Polyamory Role Models is part of a drive and a desire to change the way that our lives and communities are viewed. It's currently the most diverse and inclusive platform for polyamory available. In addition to writing the book, Kevin also holds speaking engagements nationwide about how race and polyamory intersect and actually, we are both going to be at the same conference which is the Southwest Love Fest in Tucson, Arizona, which is the first year they are doing it, the inaugural edition of it and we will be presenting a couple workshops there and so as Kevin. I hope that if you are anywhere in that area, get your tickets and come see us there, we'd love to see you and have you be part of that.
Dedeker Winston: We also ended up talking about video games a surprising amount during this interview, so if you enjoy that you have that to look forward to.
Jase: Stick around 'till the end to get to the video game section. All right, and with that, lets get to the interview. [sound effect] All right, thank you for joining us, Kevin.
Kevin Patterson: Hey, thank you so much for having me. Glad to be here.
Jase: Yes, totally. During this interview, we're probably going to talk a lot about your book that's coming out at the end of March here which is called Love is Not Color Blind and I want to start out by saying that from the review copy that we all got to read, of all the stuff we've read, something that really pleasantly surprised me about this is how succinct it is. I found myself being like, "Okay, I got to get through this book for this interview so I know what to talk about, so I'm going to skim through it," and I ended up not skimming it and actually just reading it because everything was presented in such a way that was so well thought out and well worded and very clearly worded, it wasn't a lot of filler and I just really appreciate that.
Kevin: Hey, thanks. I saved my filler and my long-windedness for actual conversations.
Kevin: When I write, I just get to the point.
Emily Matlack: That's awesome.
Dedeker: Is that a warning for conversations with you.
Kevin: Trust me, actually having a conversation with me, I've got lots of wild arm movements and I'm moving around a lot so I keep you fairly entertained during the conversation and stuff like that. It's not a bug, it's a feature.
Jase: Love it.
Emily: That's awesome.
Dedeker: I know, but I wanted to build on that Jase because I found a literally the same exact experience where I was like, "This actually is really easy to read and really accessible," and I think that's why I really want to stress to our listeners that definitely to pick up the book. I think also any of our listeners out there who are interested in creating any kind of meet up group or discussion group or community event or anything like this, I think this is required reading.
Jase: Yes, I have to agree with that.
Kevin: Yes, we get so caught up in just trying to create a viability for our events, for our meet-ups, our communities, our discussion groups, our happy hours, our potlucks that we end up not really looking at the demographics and not really examining the demographics. It's so easy to get caught up in that where polyamory, it's small, it's a niche, it's alternative. Sometimes you just want to get 20 people to your happy hour and you're not really paying any attention to what those 20 people look like and that's something that we all need to pay more attention to because there are people you can be leaving out whether that's intentional or not.
Emily: Yes, absolutely.
Dedeker: Right, definitely.
Jase: To start out, there was something that I just wanted to bring up because I don't think it's a distinction that we've ever made on this show before that we've talked about this and you do a really nice job of summing it up at the beginning of your book and that is the difference between racism and race-based discrimination.
It's something I found has been sort of at the core of a lot of arguments that I see online between well-meaning liberal people, who are using the term racism to mean something slightly different from each other. Usually, white people using racism to mean race-based discrimination, whereas people of color using racism to mean systemic on-going oppression of a particular group of people. I was wondering if you could just kind of clarify that for us like you did on your book. I guess I just said it right there?
Kevin: Yes, I wanted to make sure that I started the book with a real explanation of that because if nothing else, it makes sense of the issue in terms of resources and representation where if you talk about like individual instances of race-based oppression or race-based prejudice, you take away from the conversation about institutional systemic oppression and they're not the same thing. They might look the same to someone who's not paying a whole lot of attention, it might look the same to someone who doesn't want to have a hard conversation about systemic oppression, but they're not the same, and you can't really approach them the same.
It sucks when somebody treat you poorly because of your race and what have you. I just walked a partner to the bus a few minutes ago, and as I'm walking back, it's cold outside, I'm wondering whether or not I should put my hood up because the people who are assigned to protect and serve me, they might see a guy walking fast through the cold with a hood up and that might turn into something that really isn't. That's something really important. That is different than somebody doesn't like me because I'm blah blah blah race. Those are two different things and you can't approach them the same way. It's something that permeates all of American society, it needs to be examined the right way.
Dedeker: Right, I feel like it lives in America. When you go and look at like our childhood, many us of our childhood education around racism in the States is so very much this like tit for tat, no one should be judged by the color of their skin. Everyone should be equal. Everyone should be judged on their merits and the unfortunate by-product of that being, I think like you addressed in your book, being that just talking about race at all becomes this taboo subject that no one's willing to talk about because that's the definition that's get handed to us.
Kevin: It ends up being sort of a smokescreen, it ends being sort of a curve ball to derail the argument and obscure what we're really trying to solve, what we're really trying to fix. Then, it becomes harder to have the conversation when you don't feel like the people you are having the conversation with, when you feel they are being disingenuous about the topic where if I'm saying, "Hey, this is my experience as a black man in America and it's different than your experience as a white person in America." If you're trying to say we have the same experience, we're not arguing on the same level, we're not having the same debate.
You're not believing me when I'm telling you that my experiences are different than your experiences and that makes the conversation so difficult to have. So I wanted to make sure like at the beginning of the book there I explained, when I say racism, I'm not talking about the guy that said, "Fuck you whitey," because he was mad. I'm talking about: I have a lack of resources, I have lack of access to resources or education about one thing or another because of systemic oppression.
Jase: It's such an important distinction to make and I'll be honest, that's one that I don't think that I really understood until just earlier in this past year. Finally read an article that made sense to me, that clarified that difference because I went to a very liberal college, but there was almost all-white people, so we're having this conversations but we're missing a pretty fundamental distinction there about how to talk about it and what racism really means and the difference between those individual experiences and, like you said, the more systemic ones.
Kevin: We all have to come to that point of learning and everyone has to hit it from its own angle. I talk about it in the book where for me it was a matter of me understanding it by way of sexism, with me understanding it through my own experiences with racism. I can't remember who-- I think it was Brianna Wu who was a main target of Gamergate back when that was in full force.
She's a friend of mine, we've been online friends for like over a decade. I saw somebody's talking to her about race or about misogyny and rape culture and it sounded so much like the way people talk to me when I talk about race. Like the same circular logic, the same dismissive tone, the same sense that when the conversation was over they were just going to go back to their lives and not think about anything I said because it didn't really affect them in a personal way. When I saw somebody doing that to a woman I was like, "Wow, that's what I've been doing to women. Wow, that's what people do to me about race the whole time. Maybe I should be listening to what they're going through and understand their situation better," because I don't want to be that guy because I know how it feels being on the opposite end of that.
Emily: Yes, I so appreciate that you've said that.
Dedeker: Yes, it's a perfect segue.
Emily: I really appreciate that you said that this book is, like Dedeker said, I think really required reading. I talked to my mom all about it this morning on my drive to work because I just thought it was so meaningful and really, really awesome. I want to bring up this one quote which I feel like you should say, but you don't have it in front of you so I'll say it. You said near the beginning of the book one of the main problems at the intersection of race and polyamory, and really at the intersection of privilege and oppression is that we don't always know what we're doing.
We don't always stop talking long enough to listen and we're often far too scared or too defensive to learn uncomfortable truths about ourselves and our behaviors. It's really interesting because you just brought that up about yourself which I really appreciate that you're able to look at yourself and it causes the reader to want to look at themselves as well when they read this book. I think it's incredibly important.
Kevin: Learning those things sucks.
Emily: It does. It's interesting because when you're in a polyamorous relationship, you're forced to look at those things over and over again, about yourself about the way in which you look at relationships or your own insecurities. It was interesting to me reading this book because I have thought in the past and my viewpoints have now changed maybe a bit. People who are polyamorous just automatically are people also who want to learn a lot of themselves and become more enlightened and do all of those things, ,but the two don't necessarily jive together. It may mean that that is the case, but they may be leaving out other things in addition. The stuff that you talk about, for example.
Kevin: Yes, like you said, polyamory is really big on owning your shit. That's really big on emotional literacy in figuring out what I feel jealous so I should approach jealousy this way. That's a lesson you can bring to every aspect of your life. I know there've been times where I've said things to people with different experiences that I have and then years later I think about it or not all these years later sometimes it's later that afternoon and, "Wow, I said that and that was terrible. I need to do better. I know better now I need to do better."
It's hard because everyone wants to think of themselves in the nicest, sweetest terms possible. Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story. Sometimes the hero messes up and you just got to learn, grow, and get better at it.
Emily: Yes, it did definitely make me think like, "Shit." From the examples that you gave even though people may be thinking about their own insecurities, they're not necessarily looking at their lives in this fashion and saying like, "Maybe I'm a cause and continuing the systematic oppression based on race." That's really something that people should be looking at clearly.
Kevin: Yes, we all need to take that look. If you fall into any privileged class you have to observe how that plays out in every aspect of your life. How many barriers you don't hit as a result of me being male, me being cisgender, me being heterosexual, mostly heterosexual. There are series of barriers that I just don't run into. It's easy to just not think about them and assume that everyone else has those same experiences, but I know what it is based on race. I know when I walk into a store there's a series of looking, I've got to look around. I've got to scan the landscape because I don't know whether or not I'm going to be followed around.
If I pick something up, if I get a cup of coffee somewhere and I take a sip of that cup of coffee on my way to the counter to pay for it, I don't know if that's going to cause an argument with the guy at the counter or not. Basic stuff that shouldn't matter and doesn't matter for other people, I've got to pay attention to just through that one filter. That's something I have to pay attention to on the opposite end for all the ways that I am privileged.
I know that I'm not going to be spoken over in ways that women are. I know I'm not going to have to worry about which bathroom I'm going to based on my gender expression.
I know I don't have to worry about talking to a coworker and mentioning my spouse and that leads to me being ostracized or fired because I'm mostly hetero, most of my partners are 100% women and that's not going to cause an issue if I say, "Hey, my spouse, hey, my partner." No one's going to look at me funny or threaten my employment, threaten my freedom, threaten my safety as a result of that.
Dedeker: I want to keep talking about this topic of doing that uncomfortable work of examining one's own privileges and examining the different ways that other people are oppressed because like Em mentioned and like you mentioned also, Kevin, that in polyamory we're so encouraged to own your shit to look at those uncomfortable things when uncomfortable feelings of insecurity or jealousy come up like, "Look at them, sit with them, figure them out," and I can say from my own personal experience and also from my experience working with clients is that most people really suck at that, at least at first.
They really suck because it's understanding that people want to protect themselves, they want to make their partner wrong in some way. They want to take that burden of discomfort off of themselves. Then, to also extrapolate that to this topic to get people to sit with their discomfort without getting defensive.
You mentioned that you do workshops and you had this wonderful quote in the book that you said you don't get to enact social change from a comfortable spot. I'm just trying to think of, "How do you approach that?" Because I feel like human beings, when it comes to getting defensive when they're uncomfortable, it's just so unavoidable. To actually get people to do that work of sitting with their discomfort feels like such an uphill task to me.
Kevin: There's a quote that I'm going to paraphrase poorly that's something to the effect of you have to love people in the way that makes them feel loved. That's something that I keep in the back of my head all the time. I see in online arguments all the time someone will say something transphobic and a bunch of people will say."Hey, that's transphobic," and they'll say, "No, I don't have anything against trans people. I just think that blah blah blah transphobic thing."
It's like, "Okay, yes, we get what you're saying, but that is a transphobic thing you're saying. You are harming trans people," and they'll say, "No, no, no. I'm not harming anyone. I'm not transphobic, just I believe blah blah blah transphobic thing." Over and over the same circular logic. If you're trying to be friendly to people, if you're trying to be allied with people, if you're trying to stay in solidarity with people, whatever you want to call it, that's something you always have to remember. You have to love people in the way that makes them feel loved.
I had a recent breakup with someone who insisted that they were protecting me. Insisted that they were being supportive, but they are being supportive in a way that harmed me and I had to continually say, "Hey, this isn't the kind of support that I am looking for," and that's something that you always need to be mindful of and remind people who aren't getting that message. I get that you're trying to be friendly or good, or allied, but the thing you're saying is literally harming the people that you're trying to be allied with. If this is something that actually matters to you, these are the steps you're going to have to take.
That's not an easy conversation to have either. If it comes to trans people, it might make more sense for me to have that conversation as a cis dude because I can have that conversation without it being because it's low stakes for me. I can have that conversation without being harmed by it. I can have that conversation and still go home at night. You can't ask someone who is being harmed to educate the person that they're harming or educate the person that's harming them. That's not always going to be a productive thing. That's not always going to be a reasonable thing. Have you ever heard of White Nonsense Roundup?
Jase: I haven't. Can you tell us what it is?
Kevin: It's a Facebook group. It's a group of white volunteers and in any public post, if you're getting into a debate, if you're getting into an argument about racial dynamics with a white person who is not trying to hear you, you can tag this group White Nonsense Roundup and they show up with lightning speed. They show up and they'll argue with this white person on your behalf. In the couple of times that I've had to tag them into a post, they showed up and said basically the exact same thing I had been saying and the person that I was arguing with in both cases said, "Wow, thank you for explaining this to me fellow white person. Thank you for explaining this to me in a way that I understand. I'm going to go on and be better with my life now." Despite hearing the same exact thing just from somebody who looked different than me.
Dedeker: I want to say that's simultaneously sad and brilliant at the same time.
Kevin: I'm glad they were there to jump in and help the situation and at the same time I was so frustrated that they had to jump in to save the situation.
Emily: Yes, the issue that that has to happen.
Dedeker: I'm liking their page right now.
Emily: All right, in talking about intentional communities and just polyamorous communities, in general, you bring up another quote which I'm also going to say because I think it's really important for our listeners to hear. You say you end up having to present what seems obvious in a way that seems like just a positive option. Inclusivity has to be seen as a benefit to the community. The lack of diversity has to be seen as a detriment to that community. The person bringing up inclusivity has to address a problem without calling attention to the fact that it even is a problem and has to address the people who have the ability to solve the problem without calling attention to the fact that those people created the problem in the first place.
From this, I just kept thinking throughout this book I was like when was the moment when you were like, "Fuck, I need to make this book. I need to do this because people need to understand what we go through."?
Kevin: I've got this thing in my head. It's based on some old Ricky Henderson quote. I have a thing about what's on the back of my baseball card. What are the numbers on the back of my baseball card say? I use that as a self-esteem thing where if I'm ever feeling bad about myself I remember what's on the back of my baseball card. I'm tall and I'm handsome and I've got a beautiful wife and I've got amazing partners and kids that are fucking amazing kids. It pulls me out of any depression that I'm in.
The thing about it is what I need to do better with is looking at the back of my baseball card and knowing when I need to step up to the plate because I didn't start this on purpose. I started talking about race and polyamory only because I was talking about my own experiences among my friends, among my family. It's just we're having conversations about our like experiences. One of my partners, Rebecca Hiles of Frisky Fairy, she jumped in and said, "Hey, you should write about this. You should propose to do some workshops going forward and make that a thing that you do."
It wasn't something that I had thought about. It wasn't something I thought I could do, but she suggested it, and I started writing and it worked out. Then at some point, somebody else said, "Hey, maybe you should write a book about polyamory," and I reached out to Thorntree as my publishers and I had some other idea and I said, "Hey, I got this other idea. Here you're looking for polyamory books," and they were like, "That's an okay enough idea, but we've been hearing about this race and polyamory workshop that you've been giving, maybe you should write a book about that."
It wasn't something that I started on purpose, it was something that other people saw. They saw the numbers on the back of my baseball card and said, "This is the spot of lineup you should be at. You should be batting," and it just worked out. I started writing this book and Ruby Johnson who does Poly Dallas Millenium, she posted the other day.
Emily: Yes, we've had her on the show, she's awesome.
Kevin: Yes, she's phenomenal. She is one of the strongest people I know. She tagged me in something the other day and said that I'm the first black American to have a polyamory book out. I hadn't even thought about it that way. I don't even know if that's true. If somebody comes and claims it, I will hand it over to them, but until they do, I'll take it and that's amazing to me. That's black history, welcome to black history month.
Emily: You said it was mostly white women and really we do have a white woman who wrote on polyamorous--
Dedeker: - polyamory author.
Emily: Yes, that's awesome that you are the first black person to do so.
Kevin: Yes, I'm glad it's being well received. Again, I don't know if that's true. I will hold the title 'til someone else comes in and points to their own publication date. In the meantime, it's an amazing place to find myself.
Dedeker: I'm going to pivot us just a tiny bit because last week we recorded an episode on cognitive biases and particularly how they can affect your relationships and how they can affect your dating. In the book, you talked about racial preference in dating, about looks and preference in dating and you specifically mentioned that just because you didn't define the beauty standards to which you described, it doesn't mean that they can't be redefined at all. I'd like to talk to you more about how that process of redefining beauty standards has been for you personally in your experience.
Kevin: I went to Howard University which is historically a black college university. It's actually where Chadwick Boseman who played Black Panther went to. I just saw Black Panther a couple of days ago about to see it a couple of days from now so it's in my head.
Jase: Emily and I just watched it last night actually.
Emily: Yes, it's so good.
Kevin: Yes, it's so good. I went there and I know that when I started school and when I left school, I had a completely different beauty standard in those years because I found myself growing up in a mostly white suburb to going to primarily black environment. The things that I found beautiful on day one, they were still beautiful, but the range had changed and it was just a matter of me being in spaces and changing people in my head from being a bundle of stereotypes, to being full-fledged people with motivations and dreams and flaws and strengths and human beings.
I didn't go to school to do that, it was just something that naturally happened. When I hear people say, "I'm just not attracted to people of blah blah blah race," it reads as a lack of introspection because a big part of how we form attractions is based on perceived social status and that's a gut reaction based on the stereotypes and the socialization that we carry around. If you can see this wide diaspora of black people, if you go to Black Panther and watch that movie and not find anybody attractive, there's something else that's going wrong.
Jase: I don't know how that's possible.
Emily: Oh my God, how's that possible?
Kevin: Yes, but if that's the thing that you can do. If you can go and look at Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong'o and like, "Well, neither of these people are attractive to me in any way," there's something more going on there than the physical and that's something that needs to be examined one way or the other because even if you think it's only limited to your dating life, it probably isn't. It probably plays out in the way that you treat your friends who are people of color or other people of color who are like service staff or co-workers or just random people you see on the street.
If that's something you can carry around in your dating life, it probably carries around in other places that affect other people who notice it and can call it what it is.
Jase: Yes, actually I just want to mention this from watching Black Panther last night, and don't worry there are no spoilers if you haven't watched it yet listeners, is that there's a scene where a few of the characters go to Korea and they show up and they start speaking in Korean to the employees at this establishment.
I found myself, I had this reaction at first of like, "What's happening?" To then, "Oh my God this is fucking rad," and then realizing I probably wouldn't have even thought anything of this if this was a white character who is doing it because we're so used to seeing the superheroes or the spies who like, "Yes, of course, he speaks 10 different languages." We don't even think about it, but the fact that it was black characters doing it, it's like, "Fuck, I don't know if I've ever seen this in a movie," and that was saddening and shocking, but also really cool that it's at least happening now in this movie.
Emily: It's such a celebration.
Kevin: Yes, it is.
Emily: It's so great.
Kevin: What's sort of amazing is there is a lot of American pop culture that makes fun of African accents or what have you for one reason or another, and it's not limited to white representation. I know there's an African character in the show Dear White People which is a show I've really enjoyed and there are people who make fun of this one African character. But that African character, like a lot of African people, that dude knows six languages. English is his 5th of six languages. How much of his language do you know? How much of his languages do you know, where you can make fun of his English which comes out a little slanted?
Jase: Or to most Americans, how much of any other language do you actually know? [chuckles]
Dedeker: Yes, basically.
Jase: Something to bring it back to our topic about hidden biases and stuff like that, something that we actually talked about somewhat recently. This is was few episodes ago now, is something that I like to call the perils of intuition. Which is, in a lot of dating advice and things like that, people will say things like, "Trust your gut." Or go with your intuition on things and I think sometimes there can be some merit to that. If there's a part of you that is telling you to get out of a toxic relationship or something.
Like you mention in your book, that studies have been done showing that humans, we have a gut reaction to things and we react to it, and then later we go back mentally and we justify why we reacted the way we did. Doing that on the subject of looksist or ratio preferences, or any number of other things in terms of our dating partners or even who we are friends with or things like that, I feel like trusting your gut or your intuition isn't enough. It's worth taking that extra step of being like, "But why? Maybe I should challenge myself on some of these things."
Kevin: Yes. I'm very much a trust-your-gut person, but also, trust but verify.
Jase: That's a good way to put it. Yes.
Kevin: It's important only because we are dealing with other human beings, and the sort of the biases the biases that we have for relevant person A, might play out with completely unrelated person B through D, and we should know what's going on there. If it is trust your gut, I don't want to drink this Pepsi because maybe there is something in it, then it really doesn't hurt anybody. Throw that Pepsi in the trash and go get a different one, you are fine. If it's about breaking people's hearts in polyamory, if it's about treating people poorly and just any everyday life situations, you've got to know what's happening there. You've got to understand where these things are coming from because people's lives can be on the line.
Every day in America, somebody looks out the window and sees a person entering their own home. A black person entering their own home and might call the cops and say, "I don't know that black person." A couple of years ago I was doing my workshop about raising polyamory in Connecticut and the host of the venue offered us room to crash at her home, but she wasn't coming home. So she said, "Here is the address to my home, there's a key by the back door just go and get the key and go on in."
This is late at night, I'm there with a white partner and I'm like, "I'm going to stand by the car I don't want to--" Just like a general male toxic masculinity, male socialization, I don't want to send my girlfriend around to the back of a house in the dark, to go digging through some hidden key. At the same time I'm like, "She's white, I'm black, if I go digging around for some hidden key in some unfamiliar suburb, this could turn into any number of things because of somebody else's hidden biases that they don't really think that they have, they don't feel like they walk around with, but once they see me behind that house looking for this key, all of a sudden that might pop up to my detriment."
Dedeker: Yes, makes sense. Along that line, in our cognitive biases episode we talked about the empathy gap, in general, being something that is just there for all of us as human beings and I know you called that the ratio empathy gaps specifically. Em, you had something specifically you wanted to mention about?
Emily: I recall you speaking about that you were like if anyone's seen the movie Get Out, you had your own Get Out party scene moment that you speak about in the book and that you were at a party that was your white girlfriend's birthday party and that everyone was using microaggressions even though they themselves may have been thinking like, "I'm being kind to this person, I'm being inclusive in a way," but they still have those cognitive biases there clearly. I don't know if you can talk about that a little bit because again, it was a moment of being like, "Holy shit, when have I done that? Have I done that? I'm sure I've done that, what can I do better next time?" Et cetera.
Kevin: Yes, like you said, they all felt like they were being welcoming and there were so many different topics we could have been talking about for them to be welcoming. I was the odd man out in terms of proximity because this was a distance way from where I live. Longevity, because this was a relatively new girlfriend versus people who had known her for years; long-term friends and roommates, and romantic partners, but they kept trying to engage me in conversation that had nothing to do with race.
It was just, " Hey, I dated a black girl once." Or, " Hey, I had a black co-worker." Or just these completely random asides that had nothing to do with me as a person and it was just me as a race. They probably thought that they were being really friendly and really welcoming, and throwing an arm around me and bringing me into this party and really they were just pushing me away over and over and over. I didn't want to make a scene about it because there's already this pre-packaged stereotype of the angry black guy, so if I say like, " Hey, this is not all right." All of a sudden, I'm ruining my girlfriend's birthday party by not being sensitive to the needs of the other party goers and it was a really frustrating situation.
Then when I watched that movie Get Out last year, it was so hard to watch that scene because it felt the same and another partner who was with me at that party, she was with me the first time I saw Get Out and she leaned over to me and she was like, "Yes, it was just like that party that one time." I was thinking it right before she said it, it was so hard to watch because I'm watching Daniel Kaluuya who is doing this brilliant acting job of keeping things like--
Dedeker: Keeping his shit together.
Kevin: Yes, just keeping it together, this low-key rage that he's got to keep it to a simmer because he doesn't want to ruin his girlfriend's family party and everything like that, but you can see he is uncomfortable and she is uncomfortable and the people who are making them uncomfortable don't notice it all.
Dedeker: Yes, I want to do what you do a lot in the book which is bringing up some analogies to help people who don't have a personal experience with this to understand it. I think maybe something that our listeners would relate to, that again is probably just like a fraction of what your experience is, but I think when people are polyamorous and when they do open up to their friends or to co-workers, something like that, that they might be like, " I have a husband and I have a boyfriend." Then the co-worker will come back at you with, "Really? wow, my girlfriend and I are trying to have a threesome." You're like, "I didn't say anything about threesomes."
Emily: The forced ambassadorship that you talk about a lot.
Dedeker: The parallel obviously it isn't perfect and not nearly as intense, but I think something that can relate to experiencing these random asides that come in from nowhere, again, from someone who is probably very well-meaning and thinking that they are meeting you at the same level when they are totally on a completely different sides of the map essentially.
Kevin: Polyamory? Yes, my girlfriend, cheated on me lots.
Dedeker: Right, yes. Exactly. I feel like more often I get people being like, "Gosh, wow. Yes, I've been terrible at monogamy." [chuckle]
Kevin: it's like, "I'm not terrible at monogamy, I'm good at polyamory."
Jase: Yes. I remember actually someone giving me a really good example of this unrelated to polyamory or race at all, but it was about having kids and if someone with kids talks to someone else and they're like, " Yes, don't you mean because of blah blah with my pet." You're just like, "You have no fucking clue what having kids is all about if you think that's even in the same neighborhood."
Kevin: I respect people with pets and everything and I respect how difficult of a thing that is and I'm but like, "What's going on?" Yes, I've got a pet and I've got kids and these are night and day situations.
Dedeker: Well, I guess there isn't really a segue here, but I really just want to talk about video games honestly because they're all throughout your book and all three of us are video game nerds.
Emily: Oh, my God.
Dedeker: I know Jase, you had a specific question that I'm also interested in.
Jase: Yes, mine's a brief question. In the book, you mentioned that you have a tattoo of the polyamory infinity heart that's adapted from the Assassin's Creed logo.
Emily: Just so cool.
Kevin: If you take a look at my Twitter page which is at Poly Role Models, that is the logo for my Twitter page.
Jase: Okay, nice.
Dedeker: Doing it right now.
Emily: Yes, I know.
Kevin: I really engage the Assassin's Creed series. Assassin's Creed revelations was probably my favorite one out of the bunch. The way they wove Altaïr and Ezio' stories. Then at the end, when he gives this explanation of the Creed itself, when he gives this explanation of the creed about nothing is true, everything is permitted, it played into my own ideas about polyamory in terms of the societal structures that I've been given isn't true.
What I want to do with my life as long as I'm not harming myself and others, is permitted. That's just what I took from it. I wanted to get the Assassin's Creed logo tattooed anyway. When I found a way to tie it in the polyamory by stylizing it, flipping it upside down and adding the infinity to it, that was an instant move right there.
Emily: That looks awesome.
Jase: I'm looking at it now.
Dedeker: It looks really cool.
Kevin: Thank you.
Dedeker: Yes, definitely.
Jase: If all of you listeners want to check it out, go to Poly Role Models on Twitter.
Dedeker: I love that you also share this wonderful story about being at a conference and bonding with another conference goer about BioWare games specifically like about Mass Effects and about Dragon Age. You know that in that instance, this person who turned out to be a trans-woman brought up, the trans character that was in Dragon Age.
Jase: Not in Mass Effect?
Jase: No, it was the Dragon Age one?
Dedeker: In Dragon Age III prem voiced by Jessica Hale, right?
Kevin: Jennifer Hale, my favorite voice actor.
Dedeker: Jennifer Hale, sorry. Yes, Jennifer Hale. It was a wonderful example that you shared of avoiding othering of finding where are the places where we're at the same rather than the places where we're different. I think honestly video games are a great candidate for that.
Kevin: Yes and they're trying to do so much better with that now in terms of representation. I'm glad I found a way that wedged into the book, but something I've been talking about for a while is the character of Delsin Rowe in InFamous: Second Son where as far as I can research, Delsin is the only character of native descent. In a big budget game, he's the only protagonist of native descent who doesn't have to be of native descent.
Dedeker: Yes, you mentioned that.
Kevin: Yes, every other character is dealing with specifically Native American issues or they have some stereotypical set of Native American powers or backgrounds or what have you. You couldn't pop a white guy in there, or a black guy in there and the story remain the same, but Delsin, yes, Delsin, he's the only Native American any man, every man that I've ever seen in a video game and it was so unheralded. It was a good game and it got good reviews and everything like that, but that aspect of it was so unheralded that it was like a missed opportunity to notice something magic that happened there.
Dedeker: That reminds me. I know all three of us talked about this in various iterations over the years and I feel like we've seen in modern day video games, some people trying to incorporate polyamory into the romance systems and not really being super effective about it. Do you think we're ever going to get really good well-written effective polyamory romance tracks in the major--
Kevin: The closest polyamory that I've seen in any game is fallout and it's not really what they were doing, it's just they're going to romance multiple characters and none of them really referenced the others.
Dedeker: Yes, I think that is the closest that we've got is that just the option for multiple characters--
Dedeker: Yes, but there's no actual acknowledgement of what's going on I suppose.
Kevin: It's such a disappointment to me that the BioWare doesn't do that because BioWare where does so much right in terms of representation, they do so much right in terms of character development. Mass Effect is my life. I've got the Assassin's Creed tattoo, but the one that means the most to me is I've got an N7 tattoo from Mass Effect on my chest. When someone's like, "Hey, I see you in the N7 sweatshirt." I pull off that sweatshirt to reveal that I'm wearing an N7 t-shirt, and then I pull off that t-shirt to reveal that I've got an N7 tattoo. Then we start talking about, like the woman in that story is probably the third or fourth person that I've randomly had BioWare geek out sessions about just because I'm wearing some gear.
Dedeker: I love it. You are three levels deep N7.
Emily: Wait, are you a Playstation person or an XBox person?
Kevin: I'm a Playstation person. I currently own a 360 and I only have three games. Mass Effects I, II and III. That's the only reason why I own a 360.
Dedeker: That's all you need, really.
Dedeker: It's all you need. This has been fantastic, we are about to run out of time, but, Kevin, can you let our listeners know where they can find more of your stuff?
Kevin: Well, the easiest place to find all of my stuff is polyrolemodels.tumblr.com or Facebook.com/polyrolemodels. I would steer people towards the Facebook page because that's where my events appear. I'm doing a book tour for Love's Not Colorblind going forward, I'm going to be in Tucson for Southwest Love Fest.
Jase: We're going to be there as well, so we'll see you there.
Kevin: Yes, you will. I'm going to be all over California, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, I'm going to be all over the Pacific Northwest. I'm going to be in New York, Philly, the D.C. area, Atlanta, Dallas. I'm going to be basically everywhere possible to show out for Love's Not Colorblind. Preorders are available on Amazon.com. It's going to be releasing on March 30th. I would love for people to buy the book, I would also love for people to show up to the book signings because it's going to be me talking about race and polyamory. If you've ever seen me talk about anything, I'm always inviting people to share their experiences. It's not a lecture, it's a celeb discussion and I want to have as many people as part of the conversation as possible and also selling the book.
Dedeker: Of course. Well, excellent, thank you so much, Kevin, and hopefully we'll see you around on the book tour.
Kevin: Yes, if you're going to be at Southwest Love Fest, you're going to be at almost the very first leg.
Jase: Right and that's in early April for everyone out there.
Kevin: Yes, just a weekend in April.
Jase: There's still time to get tickets which I would encourage you to do because you'll get to see us present about polyamory and fictional media and you get to see Kevin present about his book. Are you doing a specific workshop besides that?
Kevin: I'm doing a workshop on race and polyamory and I'm doing a workshop on masculinity and polyamory.
Jase: I love that, I'll be there for that one.
Kevin: I gave that workshop at Poly Living in Philadelphia and it went so incredibly well. It was such a cathartic and vulnerable and introspective space. A lot of tears were flowing both on the panel and in the audience, it was such a magical moment that I'm eager to do the workshop again. I really am.
Jase: That's so cool, that's a subject that's near and dear to my heart as well. I definitely want to come check that out. Cool. Well, thank you so much Kevin and we'll see you then.
Kevin: Thank you.