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Simply Holding Up a Mirror: An Interview with Kevin Patterson of Poly Role Models

·1005 words·5 mins

Relationships are custom jobs — in general, and especially so when it comes to polyamory. When you step away from the notion that there’s only one “right” way to do relationships, there’s a dizzying range of possibilities.

And Poly Role Models does a great job mapping out that territory, one interview, one story at a time. If you haven’t checked out PRM, make sure you do.

I’ve been reading Poly Role Models for quite some time and often link to its profiles on this site (for example, in this post about treating monogamy and polyamory as a spectrum not a binary).

So I jumped at the chance to interview Poly Role Model’s Kevin Patterson and pick his brain about what it’s like to produce this series, what he’s learned along the way, and what he’s up to next.

Connecting with Poly Role Model Contributors

Page: How do you connect with the people whose stories you feature? Has that changed over time? Any unusual introductions?

Kevin: The blog works on a nomination system. The people who are featured are asked to suggest people who they find awesome and inspiring. One of the blog’s earliest supporters was initially able to connect me with a handful of people she knew. As I began taking my show on the road, as far as speaking about race and polyamory, I started meeting tons of awesome people who I’ve since been able to feature in my work.

While not terribly unusual, I was once stopped outside of a conference by someone who recognized my face from the blog. To them, I was the guy from the blog that they love. To me, in that moment, I was just a guy carrying his wife’s and his girlfriend’s bags out to the car. It could’ve been a rockstar moment. Instead, it’s been a memory that’s kept me grounded.

Page: What’s the technical process like for creating the PRM/CP pieces? Do you do light edits, moderate edits, heavy edits, no edits at all?

Kevin: I do very little in the way of editing. I trust the writers to their own words and experiences. The only times I make changes are if there are typos that I definitely feel need a hand. Things that damage clarity in a way that can’t be ignored.

Favorite Entries in the Series

Page: Do you have any favorite features you’ve done (either in the process or in the result)?

Kevin: The profile for Joreth Innkeeper comes to mind. It’s one that I connected to very personally. I feel like every profile resonates with someone, but this one did so for me.

Also, the Andraya profile! I had so little to do with that. A reader asked me about contributors being on the autism spectrum and I didn’t really know the answer.

So, I posted the question and took my hands off the steering wheel. A friend of mine suggested a friend of theirs and the result was Andraya’s awesome profile. Even better was that they also wrote an amazing follow-up expressing how autism impacts their polyamory.

It was one of the moments that inspired the blog’s 8th question about self-identities.

The Rewards and Challenges of Being a Role Model

Page: In my travels, I read that you began the series because someone called you and your wife their poly role models. In what way is being a role model for other people rewarding? In what ways is it challenging?

Kevin: It’s rewarding in that people give me credibility that I don’t always know I deserve. I think I say some smart things. When I do, I like knowing that people are more likely to believe them.

Conversely, when I screw up, I have more people to apologize to. A mistake that I make often demands accountability to both the people I’ve hurt and to the community at large. The level of scrutiny is higher. That’s not really a negative from a community standpoint. This is how communities can maintain safety and this should be welcomed. But on an individual level, it can become difficult.

Holding a Mirror Up to Systemic Oppression

Page: What’s your favorite part of your work?

**Kevin: **My blog has given me a platform to speak about polyamory all over the country. It’s been fantastic to go places and meet people and have the best discussions I’ve ever had. My favorite is always the nods of other people of color. When I talk about race, I always try to be careful about generalizing my own experiences as part of a larger cultural experience. When I see other people of color nodding along to my stories, I know that I’m speaking their truth as well as my own.

Page: What’s your least favorite/most challenging part?

Kevin: The thing about systemic oppression is that people don’t want to believe that they play a part. No one wants to hear about how they benefit from the subjugation of others. My work, in regards to race and polyamory, leans pretty heavily into discussions about privilege, entitlement, and oppression. So, often, I run into people who would rather get defensive and shut those discussion down.

It takes a lot of introspection to examine our behavior and our dating records and the way we treat the people in our lives. That’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to hear. So instead of doing that kind of introspective work, I’ve had people get upset with me for simply holding up a mirror. It’s challenging because I can tell these folks are right on the edge of a breakthrough…but they’re fighting it.

Other Projects in the Works

Page: Do you have any other projects (present or future) you’re working on that you’d like Poly Land blog readers to know about?

Kevin: Always! Starting in September, Poly Role Models will be featuring videos as well as written Q/A interviews.

I’ve been working with educators Chris Smith and Dirty Lola on a polyamory based video series and POC-centered podcast, respectively.


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