On the Phone with Ruby Bouie Johnson

Evita Sawyers interviewed Ruby Bouie Johnson, therapist and organizer of Poly Dallas Millennium. Learn more about her private practice here.

You ever talk to a person and just instantly feel a kinship and ease with them? A comfort and familiarity. Warmth. That was exactly what my conversation with Ruby Bouie Johnson felt like. I had never met Ruby in person or online, and I was asked to get the word out about this dynamic polyamorous woman of color and to plug her upcoming event in July. Poly Dallas Millennium is her annual symposium about ethical and consensual non-monogamy with a special emphasis on the experiences of persons of color. I called Ruby on an early Saturday afternoon, and, in no time, we were chatting like old friends.

ES: “Hello! Such a pleasure to be speaking with you. Let’s dive in! How long have you been polyamorous?”

RBJ: “I discovered polyamory in 2010.”

ES: “Nice! And how many current partners do you have?”

RBJ: *Laughs* “Partner is such a loaded word! Let’s just say that I have many people that I love a lot that have love for me, but I am currently in one romantic relationship.”

ES: *Laughs* “I feel that! Makes sense. Tell me how you discovered polyamory.”

RBJ: “I met a gentleman while in recovery. He was recently divorced and didn’t want to be monogamous anymore; he was over it. He introduced the concept to me. I didn’t understand it. I had a territorial and possessive idea about love, that there wasn’t enough, that love was scarce. I struggled. We broke up but I fell in love with the community. Like minded people together, learning from one another and supporting each other. My first love was the community.”

ES: “Man, do I understand that. Discovering the swinger community had that same affect for me. I felt like I was finally around people who ‘get’ me. People I could really be myself with.”

RBJ: “And through polyamory, I discovered the kink community. Kink was always something that I held but hadn’t fully explored. There’s a large intersection of the polyamorous and kink communities. I burst open. I was like a kid in a candy store and no one judged me! I felt freedom from the abuse I had experienced in my life; I learned about consent. Polyamory was the catalyst for a life altering change for me. It aided in my recovery and in the evolution of myself. It was the liberation and the breaking of life long chains. I never thought I’d get remarried, and now I’ve been with my current spouse for five years.”

ES: “I felt the Spirit move on that one! What is polyamory about to you?”

RBJ: “Honestly, polyamory is as much about loving myself as it is about loving others. It’s about not judging ourselves for our wants and desires and not judging others for theirs. It’s a revolutionary act of love for me.”

ES: “That resonated with me. The biggest benefit of polyamory for me is the self-discovery. I have learned so much about myself and how to appreciate and accept and love ME. I feel like once I began to learn how to do that, it made it easier for me to do that for others.”

RBJ: “Exactly. You can’t do something for someone else that you can’t do for yourself.”

ES: “What would you consider is YOUR polyamorous practice?”

RBJ: “My approach to polyamory is an egalitarian approach. In my experience, hierarchy in my relationships doesn’t work, it doesn’t feel good. I don’t have a “primary” and “secondary” outlook for my relationships. There’s no up or down. I feel like an egalitarian approach is kinder. No one is made to feel like a second class citizen or disposable. I had to learn how jealousy works in order to learn how to be accepting and inviting of the people I am in relationship with.”

ES: “To me, egalitarian relationships are empowered relationships. People do better when they feel they have power and agency in their relationships. Tell me about your event in the summer! What is the Poly Dallas Millennium Symposium?”

RBJ: “The Poly Dallas Millennium Symposium started in 2015 as a workshop to educate clinicians about polyamory, kink, and BDSM. By 2016 it was over two days long. 2017, three days. Poly Dallas first provided a platform for a lot of folks of color to have their voices be heard. That wasn’t commonly heard of at poly conferences before: a large number of speakers of color.”

ES: “Even now, we are just starting to really make our voices heard as polyamorous people of color.”

RBJ: “This is the only event of this kind that caters specifically to persons of color and their experiences. It’s a labor of love for me; I pour my own personal resources into it because I believe in what we’re doing.”

ES: “I have heard some incredible things about the event.”

RBJ: “We have to be intentional about creating our own spaces. We need our black communities to come out and support. This may be the last year I am able to coordinate this if we don’t get the word out and get people coming.”

ES: “That is a major struggle. I live in San Diego where large communities of black polyamorous persons are scarce. It’s hard trying to get people to come together. We complain about not having our own spaces and representation but when we do, we need to do the work to keep them going.”

RBJ: “This year we have an incredible line up of speakers, including Kevin Patterson, author of ‘Love Is Not Colorblind’ and creator of the Poly Role Models blog, and Femnista Jones, blogger, activist, and author of ‘The Secret of Sugar Water’.”

ES: “I saw that you wrote the foreword for Kevin’s book! I totally fan girled out for you when I read it! It was really good!”

RBJ: “Thank you! Most people don’t even notice that that was me!”

ES: “What are some of the topics that will be discussed?”

RBJ: “The tagline for Poly Dallas Millennium is Developing Critical Consciousness, and this year’s theme is Rewriting the Rules. We’ll be talking about a wide range of topics from raising children in polyamorous families, dealing with grief and loss in polyamorous relationship, how to set proper boundaries for yourself, the intersection of race in polyamory, rewiring your personal triggers, and a variety of relevant discussions will be taking place.”

ES: “It sounds amazing; I can’t wait to go. It’ll be my first time attending anything like this! I’m excited. Before we close this out, any last words? A parting message?”

RBJ: “Yes. Come and support our event. Lend your presence and voice and experience. Come and learn and find community amongst other polyamorous people of color just like you. Black people are the game changers. We are an essential group, and we don’t realize our power, and once we realize our power, we’ll be unstoppable.”

The 4th annual 2018 Poly Dallas Millennium Symposium will be taking place July 13-15. For more information and to register, visit their website at www.polydallasmillennium.com.

Happily Ever After: The Everitts

Everitt family

Evita Sawyers writes about the Everitt triad after their recent committment ceremony.

“What was your favorite part of the commitment ceremony?” I asked each member of the Everitt Triad. Sonya 28, Shallena 40, and Cliff, 40 recently tied the knot in a beautiful spring ceremony accented with coral, grey, and crème colors and delicate calla lilies. Shallena replied that the ceremony itself was her favorite part, while Sonya chose walking down the aisle towards Cliff and Shallena as her favorite memory. Both women mentioned seeing each other in their dresses because, while they both got custom gowns made of the same fabric, neither had seen the other one’s gown until the day of the wedding. Cliff’s answer was seeing Sonya with her father during the Father/Daughter dance. “Seeing Sonya with her Dad and knowing that he accepted us and approved of our union was very touching to me as a man.”
family

The Everitts have been a triad for four years. Shallena and Cliff were married for 14 years prior to meeting Sonya in summer of 2013. For edification purposes, a triad is a polyamorous dynamic in which three persons are all romantically involved with one another, creating a “triangle of love” if you will. The relationship started with Cliff and Sonya interacting in a Facebook group online, although Sonya and Shallena were the ones that went on a date together first. Sonya was only interested in Cliff first, but the relationship evolved. “Sonya was consistent,” Shallena said when I asked what made Sonya a match for them both.

the Everitts
Triads, especially Female/Male/Female ones, catch a lot of flak in the polyamorous community, with terms like “unicorns” and “unicorn hunters” being words that bring up negative connotations of couples preying on defenseless single bisexual women to force into relationship captivity. I have my own difficult experience when it comes to triads. Mine ended after a challenging two years together in 2016. Ironically, they are the most sought after dynamic and the one most publicly depicted. With the running narrative of triads being nearly impossible to maintain, especially within the black community, stories like the Everitts are rare.

“Cliff played a trick on me before he asked me to marry them, so I was mad at him,” Sonya laughed as she remembered the proposal. Cliff told her right before he asked that they wouldn’t be having a ceremony to throw her off the scent. “I like practical jokes,” he chuckled. Shallena did all of the wedding planning, with Cliff and Sonya pitching in where they could. “One of my biggest concerns was what the officiant would be saying,” Shallena told me, adding that she wrote the speech herself by tweaking a traditional wedding one she found online. The trio’s children, four girls and one boy, were all a part of the ceremony, and all three of their families were in attendance. “We’re out to all of our families,” Shallena said. For the honeymoon, they enjoyed a cruise to Bermuda. When asked what was next on their journey, they answered that getting the legal paperwork to recognize Sonya as their partner. They adamantly stressed that they would be having no more children.

heartI asked them what advice they would give to people seeking to build triads that weather the years of life, and they echoed what most polyamorous veterans would say: communicate, be patient, have realistic expectations, and be vulnerable. Shallena had a message especially for “wives” in triads: relinquish some of the control and enjoy the relationship that they are building with their new partner as well as the one that is being built between that partner and her spouse. “You’re building an entirely new relationship, not just adding on to the existing one,” she says. This was a personal struggle of mine during my own triad so I could definitely agree with her admonishment. “Believe that your relationship with them is special and has value,” Sonya advises.

As we laughed and talked, I was struck by how “normal” it all was. They were just a family in the middle of the evening routine: putting laundry away, dealing with the children, working together. It made me nostalgic myself for the family that I had once created. What I saw was simply people that loved each other that had decided to link themselves to one another and go through life together. Not much different from what people search for in monogamy, huh?

I want to thank the Everitt family for talking with me and for giving us a glimpse of a poly “Happily Ever After.” I’m also thankful for the opportunity to write this. Black love, abundant black love, in all the forms it comes in, is a beautiful thing.

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