Good news! Two people (Katie, who comments below, and a co-conspirator) are putting together an anthology of writings by “perverts of color”, which includes kinky and poly people. It was this sort of eventual product that I was trying to get at in this post, though I did not do a good job of it. So I am very excited about the upcoming anthology.
If it were possible to truly retract a blog post, I would want to do so with this post. But it is not, and I have a moral problem with deleting pithy comments such as those below. I am leaving this post up as a lesson in what not to do, and as a starting point for conversations.
The first rule of this sort of work is to not further the oppression in question. And that’s where I failed in this posting. By centering white people in my language and discussing the polyamory movement in unqualified terms, I made it difficult to have a productive conversation about race, which is what I was looking for. In retrospect, it is not at all surprising that the post resulted in various critical comments but not much in the way of stories.
I encourage readers to read this post in a critical manner, remembering that polyamory communities include people of color, and there are many kinds of poly community out there, some more visible and some less. Please read Katie and Nabil’s comments along with my original post in order to get the full picture.
To their criticisms, let me add that it is perhaps problematic (patronizing? colonizing?) for a white person to ask people of color to put their stories on the line as I have done here. At the very least it is difficult to do elegantly, and my activist urges have outrun my skill level in this case.
With these issues in mind, feel free to comment or continue any of the conversations started below.
I am abandoning the stories project for now. It is clear that I need to think hard about my positioning in racial power dynamics before trying again. If I decide that I am the right person to lead another attempt, the end goal would be to have a kind of mini-reference of the issues and experiences that people of color face around race and polyamory, something that could be referred to during power struggles around race within poly community.
I may still do a somewhat more generic interview project for polyweekly, because I think polyweekly could greatly be improved with more personal voices. If I do, I will be sure to include poly people of color as interviewees and race as a salient feature.
I apologize deeply for this abortive attempt. I do understand that flailing about like this can cause damage, and at the very least is not productive in anti-oppression work. I know I should have devoted a lot more attention and care to this post. I will be sure to do so in the future when dealing with race and racism.
Recently at a large poly speed dating event here in San Francisco, I estimated that around 85% of the room was white. This may not seem like a lot to some of my readers, but it looks a lot bigger if we remember that San Francisco itself is only 43% white, and the greater Bay Area is still only about half white. For some reason, or more likely a series of reasons, poly community in the area is either failing to attract or managing to exclude people of color.
This disparity becomes even stronger if we look at the the well-known luminaries of the polyamory movement. I have eleven books about polyamory on my shelf, and all but one were written by white people as far as I know. (And the exception is not a well-known poly book.) And while there definitely are a growing number of poly activists of color, that number was still a handful at the recent summit of poly leaders in Philadelphia.
I have been collecting my thoughts on race and polyamory into a separate post, but as I was writing that essay, I realized that my writing should not be the first or last word on the matter, in this blog or anywhere else. One of the intersectional issues for race and polyamory is the near-complete lack of representation of people of color who are nonmonogamous. So I am trying to do my little part to remedy this visibility problem, both here on the blog and on the polyweekly podcast.
My personal motivation here is related to my polyamory organizing and activism. I put on local polyamory events, and any understanding of racial dynamics around nonmonogamy is immediately useful to me in making these events more inclusive, and for figuring out how to support local poly people of color. I am hoping this call will be a conversation starter around these issues.
I am looking for stories or thoughts by people of color (including mixed-race people) who identify as polyamorous or nonmonogamous. I am also looking to hear from white people in interracial relationships. I will collect these together and then post them here as a separate blog post.
If you are a nonmonogamous person of color with something to relate, please send me something as short as a paragraph or as long as a couple thousand words. You can do that by posting it as a comment here or by emailing me. I will only perform minor edits for grammar or clarity before reposting. I will not post these thoughts anywhere other than this blog. Also, let me know what level of attribution you want: name? link? bio? anonymous?
I am also looking for interview folks for polyweekly. I am a co-host there, and the show is an easy way to reach a couple thousand people. My current vague plan is to do human-interest style interviews with race as a salient presence. If you are interested in being interviewed, or have some other idea for creating content, email me.
You should write about whatever seems important to you. However, if you are short on ideas, here are some questions that might get things flowing:
- What do you think of local polyamory community? Are you engaged with it in some way? Do you think that attending events would be a good or bad idea? If you have gone to local poly events, what good or bad experiences did you have?
- How do race and polyamory intersect for you? Do you find that stigma tends to stack as a poly person of color? Does dealing with racism tend to take priority over figuring out nonmonogamy, or vice versa? Do you find yourself traveling between communities?
- I have noticed that the poly people of color who attend local poly events in my area are mostly those who are willing to date white folks, which is not too surprising given the white super-majority at these events. For those poly people of color who date white people, do you run into difficulties around race in these relationships? Or trouble finding partners?
I do reserve the right to exclude posts that are egregious in some way: completely incoherent, hate speech against an oppressed group, etc. However, I do not anticipate this being an issue. All other stories will be reposted unless the author specifically requests that they are not.
Because the purpose of this post is to hear people’s experiences, I will have a comment policy in place. I encourage folks to start discussions based on any posted experiences, but responses that are overly critical or which seek to invalidate people’s experience will be moderated. Please be respectful. Similarly, comments which seek to shut down or derail the conversation will be moderated. If you are curious if this includes your response, check it against these bingo sheets. White commenters, please state your race.
I welcome comments from people of color which are critical of this project. If you see flaws in this, please speak up.