Mitch Gayns is the host of Those People, a podcast with people, about people. In each volume Gayns focuses on one “Identity”. That may be something super broad such as “Creators” or it may be something more narrow like “Democratic Candidates for Congress”. Regardless of the subject, the format stays the same: A narrative biography from childhood to present day, a look at their current work and how their identity influenced it, and a look at the other people along the way who helped our guests see themselves that way.
A modern day Walter Konkrite, GAYNRD spoke to Gayns.
What was the origin of the Those People podcast? I listen to a TON of podcasts and have for years. I started my first, Late2Work, a couple years ago in 2017.
That experience taught me a lot, but also gave me a lot of pause—about 2 years pause—before launching Those People earlier this year.
I knew I wanted to start another podcast, but no one needed another pop culture “reaction” podcast, or album breakdown. And I certainly didn’t have the content knowledge in any one area required to do a history or expertise type of show. I knew however, that I was pretty good at getting people to talk about themselves, and that interviews with a guest I didn’t know well or I wasn’t expecting to like when I clicked tended to be my favorite podcasts to listen to, and was something that didn’t have many limitations.
I wanted each episode to be on a different type of person, maybe a mason one day, a stock broker the next and so on, but after consulting with some fellow podcasters as well as friends and family, the idea to center each volume around a different “type” or “label” of person took shape. We settled on 5 episodes with a few bonus episodes with podcasters who cover those types of people and set out about interviewing our first 2 volumes of Those People—starting off with two groups of people folks often either don’t like, or don’t know very well: politicians and artists.
Some are well known and have appeared from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, others aren’t well known at all and have appeared in your local dive bar. The goal was to be able to articulate that those people, and all people, are simply humans—filled with stories, successes, and struggles like we all are, that once shared, help us see our humanity reflected in them, no matter what we thought of how they “label” or present themselves.
You’re a supporter of Pete Buttigieg. Why? I’m a supporter of a number of candidates in this very large race and I should be clear that I’m certainly not a Pete loyalist by any means. I supported Beto, I love Cory [Booker’s] baby bonds bill, and I voted for Bernie in 2016 and Elizabeth Warren is my senator and has made us all proud with her service there.
As someone who comes from a tech and design background, Pete’s branding was actually the first thing that caught my eye. I’ve often wondered why smaller campaigns don’t make it easier for followers and supporters to create their own content about the candidate, if even just as a way to shave down their marketing costs. After seeing Pete’s Design Toolkit on the website (PeteforAmerica.com/design) I was immediately intrigued, and since then have continued to just be impressed with examples big and small that highlight this same consistent virtue; an attention to detail about the little things.
Since then I’ve supported Buttigieg for a number of reasons, his Douglass Plan probably chief among them.
To what do you attribute the hostility—among Dems (and a lot of progressive gays) to Buttigieg? A few things stand out to me. Specifically, in the Black community, I think he’s largely unknown. I think a white male that no one knows walking in and saying he’s going to solve racism falls on dead ears for a lot of folks. Couple that with the self-fulfilling press philosophy that he supposedly doesn’t care about Black people because he hasn’t moved to South Carolina full time yet and the fact he’s half the age of a lot of these strangers he’s asking for votes from.
RELATED: Pete Buttigieg Shares His Broad Prescription To Address Racial Inequality in America: ‘The Douglass Plan’—WATCH
Secondly and more broadly, I think he comes off overly prepared, robotic or like a “teacher’s pet” often. I think younger voters (18-25 or so) have no problem with this, because in the age of the internet, we’re all very used to the over-produced brand of “authenticity” that makes up a majority of our favorite social media content and slightly older voters that make up a lot of the media class and punditry (25-45 year-olds) grew up raging against and resenting the entire concept of selling out or intentionally joining the “machine” which is pretty much Pete’s entire character archetype.
I’ve seen things on social media like, “Pete Buttigieg reminds me of every racist white gay guy I’ve met,” coupled with the constant “he has no Black followers because he’s gay” which Charles Blow deconstructed in the New York Times, where do you think that particular animus comes from? Myths about Black homophobia are as you point out greatly exaggerated. Accounting for the fact the large swaths of America’s Black populations are concentrated around religious and/or immigrant experiences, two of the most resistant communities to queer equality regardless of race, I don’t think that its fair to take “Black people hate gays” from that at all. This resistance is often rooted in fears of repercussions from authorities or even God himself, which are dispelled over time as folks become more familiar with queer members of their communities and diversify their lives.
Similarly, Pete Buttigieg’s record on race, like most white men from the middle of America who are in their mid-30s and figuring out a lot as they diversify their lives, isn’t perfect. The feelings of distance, awkwardness or newness the Black voters get from his campaign is very real. I spoke with Team Pete organizers in several cities who told me they struggle to do outreach to Black neighborhoods out of “fear of being misunderstood” because they literally have no non-white team members in some places—so it’s no surprise that “Team Pete is racist, they don’t even come around this part of the city” is a narrative that’s out there.
Like most things, I think there’s a kernel of truth there being exploited by whoever’s got something to gain from it.
I don’t know every Black person in America, but I feel comfortable making the broad generalization that folks in the South, folks who are deeply religious and folks who are new to this country and fearful of persecution for any sort of “difference” are most resistant to accepting gay culture and that a great deal of Black people fit under those descriptions.
I certainly don’t know Pete personally, but the impression I get is one of a guy trying to do the right thing on racial animosities in this country—and who often gets a little overzealous, especially in his younger days, about how important white people’s role in fixing that is; centering their need to improve as allies, to contribute and to help as equal community participants and in speaking for and over Black voices about their experiences in an attempt to help (it’s this that’s often problematic).
Kamala Harris seemed to have boosted her own position by going hard at Buttigieg at the last debate [Editors note: Harris dropped out of the race this week]. What’s your take? My take is that it’s pretty clear Pete wasn’t comparing those two experiences and as someone who lives at the intersection of those experiences as someone who is both Black and queer, I find it a little naive to suggest that noting one’s own personal experience is equating that experience to the experiences of every non-majority population in the world.
RELATED: Pete Buttigieg Responds to Kamala Harris’ Calling Him ‘Naive for Comparing Struggles’—WATCH
What do you think he brings to the table that no one else does? A lot haha. I mean a lot of them do though, that’s the beauty of a wide field and a diverse range of candidates.
I think what sets Pete apart for me are his youth and the universality of his approach. Ironically these are things he often get’s dinged for by detractors (“He’s too young and too scared to upset anyone!” is something you hear all the time) but I think it’s exactly these things that draw me to him.
We’ve been a country who’s politics have been mostly run by folks in their 60s and 70s and with one of 2 last names (Bush or Clinton) in my lifetime. I LOATHE the Obama/Pete comparisons but one of the things I respect and admire about them both is that they are malleable and adaptable and that in their eyes inclusions means everyone coming to the middle, rather than one side winning enough of a majority to push through what they want and dragging the other 40% or so along.
“Centrist” policy gets a bad rep for well, a lot of its outcomes that turn out to be disastrous when partisan actors become involved, but especially at the very top, I think it’s important to have someone young enough, open-minded enough and inclusive enough, to be taking into consideration not just middle-class families, or billionaires, or teachers, or cops, or the poor, but truly every one of those people. I think that’s easier for younger people who understands that their friends very well may still become any of those things. So they still see the good and the value in every person, and who endeavor to, as Pete says, try to summon the best of what’s inside them.
When he’s not rambling on and on about how folks identify or about what the world has in store for us all… Mitch Gayns is probably editing recordings of those ramblings. In his spare moments, he loves to travel the country with his partner and eat breakfast foods nonstop and he hates sitting in traffic while driving a stick shift more than just about anything.
A Masshole through and through, Mitch spent 29 years trying to escape the Boston area, only to recently come to terms with the fact there’s no place else more suited for his blend of brash commentary, blue-collar elitism, and slight penchant for patriotism.
Want to know more? Follow @mitchgayns on Twitter.