Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2017-07-26

Overcoming Stereotypes and Busting Out My Own Style

When I was eleven years old, I remember vividly the relief of exiting the school bus while girls viciously taunted me. This time the impetus was not my fat, my usual crime. It was having the audacity to wear a half ponytail with several different colored fuzzy ponytail holders on it—and the fuzzy ponytail holders did not match. I was in middle school and my greatest longing in the world was to fit in and go unnoticed. On that excruciating bus ride, filled with shame and regret for my bold choice, I learned that I better not try to have fun with my style. Folks who have been bullied on a bus know how endless the ride can feel, and how painful it is to endure taunting, staring straight ahead pretending it doesn’t bother you.

Fitting in when you’re already wearing adult sizes in sixth grade is basically impossible, especially in the early nineties. Plus size fashion is limited today, but before online shopping and Torrid in the mall, we had nothing but boring career wear to work with. The idea of looking like the typical American pre-teen girl, with her Guess jeans, hypercolor tee shirts and high top name brand shoes was my dream but I neither had the funds or access to make that dream happen.

As I absorbed the other lies I was taught about being a fat woman—that I was not sexually attractive, I better not wear anything revealing and I should try not to draw attention to myself—I lost any desire to discover my own style and perform my gender. Performing gender is a way of showing your internal gender identity externally—usually through clothes, accessories, and maybe make-up.

When I got to college and started the coming out process, I let the same kind of limiting beliefs affect how I presented myself. Due to femmephobia and anti-butch sentiment in my collegiate LGBT community, I learned that having a strong expression of masculine or feminine gender was not acceptable and it was better to lean towards an a-gender or hippy outdoorsy look. I thought that in order to get a girlfriend and be attractive I should be as androgynous as possible. This was kind of a relief because shopping in the men’s department at Old Navy made it marginally easier to find clothes that fit me (this is before Old Navy carried plus size women’s clothes).

I never actually pulled off androgyny, my inherent Femme presentation busted through no matter how many times I heard the term “Lipstick Lesbian” thrown around in a derisive way.

When I moved to Philadelphia for law school I fell into what I like to call the “right” crowd. These friends were supportive, believed I was a babe in a fat body and wildly applauded all of the new things I was doing to express my style and my gender. I began slow, in cute dresses, wearing sleeveless tops, showing cleavage.

Going sleeveless was a revolution for me. I had always believed that stereotype that a fat person I shouldn’t show off my arms, I have no idea how that rule came to be. Arm fat isn’t dangerous, it’s just a benign part of your body. It took a lot of work to get comfortable going out without sleeves on, but having that “right crowd” was really helpful to develop my confidence.

As I began performing on stage first as a drag king and then as a dual drag king/Femme queen I began really pushing the gender envelope. Leaning into different gender presentations I began to figure out what was expressing who I was and what I felt an inherent aversion to.

Far beyond fitting into the standard American womanhood, whatever that is, my actual gender expression is a sort of exaggerated femininity. Like Dolly Parton and Miss Piggy, I feel the most myself in bright make-up, big hair and sexy clothes.

Many queer women (and people) cannot relate to the standards of beauty and femininity that society promotes. Queer folks come in all shapes, sizes and gender presentations and the standards of beauty are not representative of actual human diversity.

Legendary storyteller Shonda Rhimes is partnering with Dove to shift the power of media representation from Hollywood into the hands of real women. Using an all female crew, Dove is helping open up the conversation about the effects of gender stereotypes. Meet Kylee!

Kylee Howell’s story is the second film from Dove Real Beauty Productions and empowers others to find their real beauty. It is a powerful message of non-conformity, self-assurance and shedding the narrow definitions of beauty imposed on herself and other women in her community. It also has a really sweet message from her mom.

I love this video—Kylee is a dapper stylish barber who had to unlearn gender stereotypes to become herself.

Quentin Crisp said, “Style is being yourself on purpose.” I really believe that you have to let go of everyone else’s expectations of you and fitting into stereotypes in order to truly discover your own style. This is so difficult in a culture that commodifies insecurity and prizes fitting in. Thank goodness for the internet and the ability to see so many gorgeous people out there working their own looks, their own gender and their own idea of how to be a woman/man/limitless gender they want.

If you have been struggling to overcome stereotypes and let your unique beauty shine, I highly recommend figuring out who the “right” group is for you. When you’re feeling good, write down who your body positive, supportive, style encouraging friends are. Who in your life believes in an expansive definition of beauty? Write it down and put that list someplace you can see it next time you need encouragement, or some folks to go out with wearing your first sleeveless top (or whatever your equivalent of a sleeveless top may be).

When I walk into the room doing my style and not stereotypes, I’m writing the conversation instead of landing in a narrative laid out by stereotypes. I am showing people I am bold, I take risks, and I am confident. I know now that fuzzy ponytail holder thing I was rocking in sixth grade was a stylish risk and it was fiercely nonconforming.

Photo by Jes Baker.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

2013-10-24

FEMME SEX WEEK: My Experience with Getting Femme Visibility on the Streets

After the success of FAT SEX WEEK and GAY SEX WEEK it only made sense to round out the trifecta with FEMME SEX WEEK. Check out the tag to see all of the entries in this topic and check back soon for more amazing Femme sex talk!

This weekend I was in front of the camera for a lifestyle shoot for the New York Toy Collective (more on their products and a behind the scenes video from the shoot later on in FEMME SEX WEEK). One of my favorite parts of a photo shoot is the chance to hang out with folks I don’t see much and meet new people with an immediate ice breaker–working together on a photo shoot.

While I was getting my make-up done somehow the topic turned to people getting picked up on the street, namely how one of the other models had been picked up on the street and on the train, in the same day, by two different femmes. One of which they ended up sleeping with. I was so impressed! It feels like an urban legend, a hot Femme just rolling up on a cute queer and making their desire known in an intentional way–AND WINNING. (Where winning, here, is both of them getting laid.)

Erica singing about sex toys. @NYToyCollective
Erica, pictured here, is singing a song about sex toys on that ukelele.

I’ve noticed over the last year or so that I have had an increase in my own queer visibility on the street. I tend to tweet about it whenever it happens because I’m usually alone and it’s so remarkable to be a Femme presenting person getting a dyke head nod or a wink on the street from a queer presenting person. It rules! It’s like that inner 20 year old in me who wore nothing but baggy Old Navy men’s clothing to appear more “andro” because I thought that’s what would get me attention from other queers is finally getting what she always wanted. To be seen.

I’m also an intrepid queer explorer so as soon as this visibility started happening to me I went into self-examination mode to determine what I was doing differently.

My dyke head nods, winks and smiles happen usually when I’m alone and lots of places I don’t expect. Especially at the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, when I’m wearing no make-up and some kind of “running around”outfit, I feel like I see all kinds of masculine of center queers who give me the nod.

I delight in the queer acknowledgement and then sit back and examine what I was wearing, doing, or “coding”to be queer. I’m feeling my most authentically queer when I’m really performing my gender, and that is in a huge, over the top kind of way that I mostly only do at certain parties. (See:every Rebel Cupcake, Swoon and Hey Queen.)

Lifestyle. @tuckmayo backstage at @NYToyCollective
Me and Tuck during the photo shoot.

Then I think about my hair. Is it because I have weird, loud hair (that’s about as loud and weird as I can get away with and still be a practicing attorney)? And I see other hot Femme presenting people out in the world with loud hair but it doesn’t necessarily code them as queer.

But what I have figured out is that it’s not so much how I present it’s what I do. And it’s that I finally learned how to casually flirt with people with an eyebrow raise or a smile or a wink, which is what is eliciting this response of “I see you and I wink back.”

I spent a decade trying to figure out how to flirt and express desire. Being called “too much”or “coming on too strong” many times, I kind of put the kibash on it. And before I was “too much” I would let my fear of rejection stop me from asking people out, flirting or being at all forward with people. Up until a couple of years ago, I had no idea how to be in the middle ground. And, as in all things, expressions of desire are a balancing act.

What I’ve done is finally,, finally absorbed my own advice of “Nobody ever died of awkward,” and what Rachael was always trying to teach me about flirting. “It’s never a bad time to make someone feel good.”

Backstage at new york toy collective @NYToyCollective photo shoot.

Flirting with someone on the street is not a big deal. And I’m not talking about catcalling, harassing or yelling at someone. I’m talking about a little eye contact and a smile to say, “I see you queer and I think you’re hot.” This often goes unnoticed by the person, but sometimes it doesn’t. And I get that head nod or acknowledgement. It’s kind of like that awesome Butch/Femme “dance” dynamic that people talk about, only here it’s queer on queer and it’s just about really seeing and appreciating each other.

So as I relaxed into the understanding that expressing desire didn’t mean I was proposing marriage, that I’ve done the work on my self-esteem to know that my self-esteem doesn’t rely on other people, I have nothing to lose in thst circumstance. It’s now become a kind of reflex, I see a hot queer on the street and I do the head nod or the smile that let’s them know that I see them. And sometimes they see me seeing them!

Maybe I’ll work up to the kind of impressive work that the Femme used to pick up that hot model on the train (they are really hot, by the way). But in the meantime I’m appreciating the ways in which I’ve eroded my own feelings of Femme invisibility in this tiny way and I’m maybe brightening the day of some anonymous hot queer on the street by non-verbally acknowledging their hotness.

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FEMME SEX WEEK continues through next week with some exciting interviews, toy reviews and porn!

If my site has ever helped you get a date, learn how to love yourself more or feel at home in your body, would you consider donating? My fund drive has some really amazing prizes and I’m working to fund my art so that I can finish my memoir and keep putting the kind of energy into this blog that I love to do. For $100 you can get a laptop dance from Drae Campbell. (This prize is too hot for Go Fund Me, so donate the $100 through paypal to queerfatfemme at gmail).

2010-01-21

I Believe in Butch* Abundance

During the Femme Family Heart Share Brunch on Femme Competition and Femme Mutual Aid, we were talking about the ways in which Femmes sometimes compete for affection from butches.

I declared to the room of ten, “I believe in Butch* abundance!”

I went on to explain that living in a scarcity mentality is damaging to community and collaboration. There is enough love to go around. There is enough sex to go around. There is enough.

I totally know what you are saying. “Oh Bevin! There’s no one in this town to date! I know them all! Wah wah wah!” Or “Oh Bevin! There are no butches for me to be friends with! Who will watch football/craft/do other butch bonding activities with me?”

I think that there are tons of butches. Openly relying on anecdata, I meet a new butch-identified person every single week. This is specifically butch, not also including the many myriad masculine-of-center folk also orbiting the queer community and are new-to-me all the time. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I am attracted to them–quite the contrary, generally I am not. I think oftentimes people who are complaining of butch scarcity are specifically referring to a lack of people who they are attracted to and are sexually available to them.

The fact that my single Femme friends are still finding new butches* we don’t know through OK Cupid, Craig’s List and other online dating sites further reinforces my anecdata.

I keep telling the story of a fat femme friend of mine who found a really fabulous artsy late twenties butch none of us had ever met before on OK Cupid as though it is an urban legend. Because those dating sites can often seem so dried up, it still feels like an urban legend to me, even though I’ve actually met the butch and she’s foxy, smart, funny and exists in real life.

IMG_4108.JPG
This is my friend Kieran, with our mutual niece Etta Pearl (we are heart family). She’s single, butch and totally awesome. She also does sweet things for me like bought me flowers for my birthday and brought me cupcakes to the middle of nowhere when I was camping.

Further, I think there is a lot of butch abundance evident in the burgeoning Butchosphere. Check out the Sartorial Butch, putting a face and words to the fashionable faggy butches I often call friends. Also, check out this amazing post by amazing subversive stitcher BeeListy in response to gender policing in the Butchosphere.

Not to mention a whole conference of butches, studs and aggressives! When cruising the conference facebook photos** I didn’t recognize at least half or more of the attendees.

People also like to argue that the “next generation” is not producing any butches. I say not so! I have a lot of fresh out of college friends who are 23 and totally rocking the Butch label proudly and who want more butch friends. Shout out to SirMaamSir, Alex, who taught me Garage Band and is helping with FemmeCast.

I think propagating the notion that butches are diminishing is dangerous.

When you get into the mindset that there are only so many butches around, it enables the excusing of bad behavior.

In the past, I have clung romantically to people who were super shitty to me because I didn’t believe that there were other cute butches out there who would treat me well. Cutting ties and sending the badly behaved back out into the water enables me to have a heart free and wide for those who are ethical.

Packing the JAM.
My friend Grover told me that morning she was “packing the jam”.

Further, believing in a scarcity of butches propagates competition and bad behavior on the part of hoarding or horse-thieving queers. Going after a butch who is dating your friend***? Not cool at all. I have had some significant emotional violence wrought unto me by two different close Femme friends because of a sense of butch scarcity. I don’t wish that on anyone.

Okay, you know your community better than I do. But, in this day and age of people traveling all over (four of my favorite people are going on tour next month, maybe through your town–including SIlas who totally still identifies as Butch) and people moving to far flung god-knows-where, I feel that there is enough deck shuffling that there will always be someone new. You just have to be open to it.

I’ve also taken to widening my online dating search to no location parameters–I like to see who else is out there, plus I love to travel. I am not closed to the idea of a long distance romance, I love a good laycation.

So, gentle readers, when you begin the familiar butch scarcity rant, stop and challenge yourself into a different way of thinking. What if you believed in Butch* Abundance, like I do? What doors would that open up in the realm of romantic and friend possibilities?

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*And queers of a more masculine gender persuasion, including but not limited to butches, genderqueers, transfabulous people, studs, AGs, and other non gender identifying foxy folks.
**Act like you didn’t do that yourself.
***Unless they are poly/non-monogs AND you’ve had those important, possibly hard/awkward conversations.

2009-09-03

Correspondence: Online Dating for High Femmes & Lovers of Same

TO: [My profile name on OK Cupid]

FROM: [Name withheld]

RE: [No Subject]

I have seen you around before. I have a question, my ex is high femme, but other than that they are hard to find, where do i look for them? okcupid certainly does not seem to know. 😉

Dear [Name withheld]:

I totally hear you. On my end it’s hard to find dapper butches, genderqueers and FTMs who are even into high femmes on these online personal sites. Like, first and foremost, how hard is it to have a queer gender clickie box? Like, M, F or Fabulous?

My take on OK Cupid is that it is a great way to take fun quizzes and compare your results to your friends. It is also a great place for really hot fat straight or bi girls to meet cute nerdy boys who like really hot fat straight or bi girls. The amount of fat burlesque performers I know who have met boys via OK Cupid is staggering. At my part time job at Re/Dress, one of the Glamazons was lamenting the lack of datable boys in the city. I suggested she go on OK Cupid and then 3 months later she came back into the store and was happily moving along the commitment road with boyfriend she met there!

Also, I know a lot of genderqueer folks who identified as female on the site and found other genderqueer people for some genderqueer on genderqueer switchy pronoun love, which is totally awesome.

To answer your question about “where do you find high femmes” I asked around and found a lot of my friends who found love online found them through the current incarnation of butch-femme.com. Not the old matchmaker, which had its hey day in the early aughts, but the current incarnation. Either through chatrooms, forums or the photo galleries. People nowadays might want to plan to attend their Vegas Bash October 8-11th. It sounds like so much fun–imagine Vegas overrun with hot butches and femmes from all over the world! The best way to see the sin city, I think. I would totally go if I were not broke.

I performed at the Bash last year. I have never been active on the site, though I am good friends with a lot of people who are, and I found the Bash to be so welcoming and sweet. The people involved with the community there seem very invested in taking care of one another and celebrating each other’s awesomeness. This was the sense I’ve gotten in person. As with all online communities there are some trolls full of hateration on there I am sure.

In fact, I did meet someone really hot and fabulous at the Bash and had a great date with them a few months later when I went back to the Bay Area. I lament the distance.

Other than that, there is the old standby of Craig’s List. Which isn’t so bad, considering you can just do a quickie search of “queer” and “femme” and find someone or post something yourself. Since I acknowledge that as a Queer Fat Femme (and flamboyant, a burlesque performer, and confident) I’m a specialty food and not palatable to everyone, I like to post my own ads. It’s like fishing. Plus you feel less rejection when you’re in the driver’s seat. I think it’s also true for FTMs as well.

I’ve found the best Craig’s List ads work when you are more ambiguous about what you’re looking for. For me I need the people I date to be ethical smart confident good communicators who have thought about their gender and are comfortable in their skin. I prefer tattoos, good hair, over 5’5″ and at least a little chubby, but these are things that are not all necessary in one person.

Other than that, the other dating sites I’ve found (nerve.com personals, match.com, that one true love thing advertised on facebook)* have zero results. Most of the people I find to date are through dumb luck or meeting them in real life and having crushes on them for a long time and one of us ends up propositioning or whatever.

As for you, you seem really cool, dapper and hot (and I think I recognize you as well). I’m sure you’ll have no trouble. If you ever find yourself in NYC or I am in [hometown withheld] (I travel to perform a great deal) and you want to ask me on a date, I’ll definitely say yes.

xoxoxo,

Bevin

*A butch identified girl I know told me recently that she signed up for JDate personals even though she is not Jewish. She said it was because they have a section for goyim. They don’t actually, they have a section for “Not affiliated” and I feel a little complicated about infiltrating that. Glenn Marla is very confident it is for Jewish identified folks only. Any high femmes out there have any luck on J Date?

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