From the community: Kevin Patterson
An interview with Kevin Patterson
Gender pronouns: He/Him
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Curator of :
-Poly Role Models
-Author of Love's Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities
- What is your current (or preferred) relationship structure and dynamic?
My current relationship structure is a wide range of partnerships spread both locally and over long-distance. I don’t keep a running tally of partners. There are just lots of people that I love and that have positive impact on my life. I just try to be as valuable to them as they are to me.
Was non-monogamy something you learned about at a certain point in your life, why did you feel drawn to it? And how did you start educating yourself around relationships that weren’t monogamous?
I had heard of non-monogamy a few times, by way of popular culture. But most of the time, it was represented in a problematic sort of way. Either problematic because of how limited the representation was or because it was presented as a negative in the lives of those involved. I didn’t engage in non-monogamy on purpose. I just stumbled into it and found a comfortable place. While it was initially a rush simply to be involved with multiple partners, I eventually started putting in the effort to do better by my partners and community. I started absorbing every book on non-monogamy that I could find. My wife and I began attending local Meetups and events. We both joined several online forums and took in as much as we could.
Tell us about dating in Phili. What’s great about it and what are the challenges? Where can you be out and where do you hesitate to make your status known?
Philadelphia is an awesome city for me because there’s a wide range of stuff to get into. But it’s not as hectic or overwhelming as, say, New York City. The variety extends to the type of people that I’m likely to meet and engage with. In that way, I’m never short on awesome people and awesome things to do with those people. The challenges, at least community-wise, is how difficult it is to be one of very people of color in some of the spaces that I find myself in. Especially in a city as diverse as Philly. Though it’s gotten better of the last couple of years, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
I don’t worry about being out or making my status known. I’ve made my face really visible. It’s too late to be scared about it now.
- Do you ever date in other cities? What do you notice is different?
While I have partners that I visit in other cities, I’m never there long enough to have a really informed opinion of the local culture.
What are your thoughts on the language or lexicon of “polyamory”? Do you call yourself “poly” or something else? What parts of the lexicon if any do you identify with and what parts if any do you resist?
I do identify as polyamorous. My style of polyamory does read as relationship anarchy, but for me those aren’t two separate things. I understand that polyamory has certain stigmas that people seek to get away from. For me, it’s customizable enough that I’d rather work around those stigmas to reclaim the term in a positive way. As far as I’m concerned, every bit of the lexicon should be a conversation instead of a dead-end definition.
Do you consider yourself “queer”? Why or why not?
Not at all, by way of my polyamory. I’ve identified as straight for almost the entirety of my life. I’ve only recently edited that to “mostly straight” and I’m still trying to figure out what that means. Either way, I don’t think that gives me a right to take up space in queer identity conversation when I’ve inhabited and benefited from heterosexual privilege in almost every way that matters. That’s just my own take though. Others might feel differently.
What is different about your experience of non-monogamy because of being a black man? What do you wish more people understood about your experience?
As a black man, my polyamorous experience differs for the same reasons that my American experience differs. Often people get an instant idea of who they think I am or what I might be into. That instant idea creates assumptions that I’m expected to hold to...and unexpected results when I don’t. There’s far too much to pile into a couple of paragraphs here, but that’s why I wrote a book about how race and polyamory intersect, Love’s Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities.
In your Poly Role Models interview you remarked that “...I have to dodge commentary from monogamous people of color who might assume or insist that polyamory is ‘some white people shit.’” What can/should change about poly culture and what can be done to combat this reputation? Is there anything you would tell white people who want to do more/better to change this?
The thing we really need in this case is more and better representation. It’s so easy to not see yourself represented in a thing and then to assume that thing is not for you. Polyamory is one of those things. We need more visible people of color in these spaces...but that also means that white folks with platforms need to use them to prop up people who don’t get the same kind of exposure. That means bloggers, organizers, community leaders, etc.
What are your thoughts around monogamy?
It’s fine. It works for a lot of people and I’ve got nothing against that. My only issue with monogamy is that people often approach it as a default setting. Instead of making deliberate and intentional choices to craft the relationship that makes most sense to those involved, couples routinely just enter relationships as they were modeled by parents or pop culture. Without any real conversation about what the structure of the relationship will look like.