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

2012-08-01

50 Shades of Glitter: On Self-Examination and Shifting Desires

I know some folks whose dating histories are full of first timers on the road to Lesbianville. I have plenty to teach a queer newcomer but that just has not been my path, I’ve never been the first queer for a straight person. However, I am often the first Femme folks have ever gone on dates with or slept with. It’s kind of fun to introduce people to what Femme can be and shattering stereotypes. I find most folks who haven’t dated Femmes before me had a lot of really intense ideas about what Femme is or is not and what Femmes do or do not do.

This also has the bummer byproduct of hearing a lot of femmephobic things from folks who are otherwise attracted to me but who are somehow intimidated or otherwise put-off by my Femme characteristics. This has happened a few times and I’m always left wondering if folks really mean they don’t want to date Femmes or they just don’t want to date me. Frankly, I would be less offended if it was the latter because I think most of the time it speaks to unexamined misogyny and Femmephobia to declare that you don’t date Femmes or aren’t attracted to Femme characteristics. Further, just because you might not be into Bevin’s brand of Femme doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be into other brands of Femme.

IMG_2207.JPG
Here I am dressed like a gay Narwhal on a queer booze cruise in May. Heather is also pictured.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I see Femme as a diaspora of femininity. There are a lot of definitions of what Femme means to folks, sometimes this is an identity that is static and sometimes it is fluid and only applies some of the time or to some elements of peoples’ identities. I think Femme is a really sparkly umbrella big enough to fit over all of us. Femme is a venn diagram of femininity and empowerment and the way it manifests on different bodies and sexualities is extremely varied. For some Femme is a gender. For me Femme is how I fit into my sexuality but my gender is something else entirely, much more Muppet.

If we’re coming from a place of acknowledging there are so many different ways to be Femme, why is it valid to make a blanket statement that people aren’t attracted to Femmes at all?

I also want to make it clear that this post is as much addressed to Femme-identified folks who don’t do Femme on Femme Action (FOFA) as much as non-Femme identified folks.

IMG_2218.JPG

I’ve addressed this tired line before, focusing on debunking Femme as high maintenance. Now I want to focus on shifting desire and whether the idea that one can actually say they all the time never are attracted to Femmes.

Also, gender presentation is such a mystery. Sometimes it changes! And chemistry and desire are such mysteries, but I think desire is the kind of thing that can be cultivated.

I was talking about this with my pal Quito on a boat cruise on the East River a couple of months ago. Quito is someone who I said once their gender was Gonzo and they enjoyed that description. They were really sweet, openly sharing about being intimidated about dating Femmes. Quito said that the Femmes they know are really ferocious and embodied in their identity. Quito’s eyes got big when they said it and there was more and I wish I had taken more notes. But I understood that they were intimidated.

IMG_2231.JPG
I really adore Quito so very much.

It’s an interesting statement because while there’s a lot of ferocity there is also a lot of tenderness. Most of the fiercest Femmes I know are pussycats on the inside. I also am reminded of the constant drone of hearing “You’re too much” as a reason to not want to date someone.

I think there’s also an element of inexperience that impedes folks from feeling like moving toward Femmes. Like, if you’ve always done it to the same kinds of folks maybe you don’t know what the experience of certain feminine elements you’re not familiar with is going to do or how it might be different from sex you’ve had before. Maybe you might be bad at it. Maybe it might not be something you like.

For example, one time I got to inaugurate the first time someone had done it with someone who was wearing fishnets. There was some fumbling but it was incredibly hot. I think that’s true for any kind of new sexual experience. I, personally, intend to continue having new and hot sexual experiences well into my golden years. With new and hot things I don’t understand in my present erotic consciousness and new and hot people.* It’s also really exciting and fun to tell the person you’re with that you’re new to something. Perhaps instead of being intimidated by Femme, you confess to your potential new lover “I’ve never done this before.” People love to be the Marco Polo of sex and turn you out. I always give out sexual first time/best time awards when they are earned. Honestly, if I found the right boy scout I’d actually create patches.

IMG_2230.JPG

Also doing something for the first time, while fumbly, might just tell you something is not your thing and that’s cool, too. So maybe that’s desire that comes out of trying something that’s not for you.

IMG_2250.JPG

And maybe it’s the person who you don’t want to explore with. But if it’s the person just say “I’m not into you like that” or “I’m not feeling chemistry with you” or something along those lines.

But maybe before you say it’s the person interrogate your desire for a second. Are you balking because of them or because you’re feeling intimidated by a new desire? Or feeling some internalized shame for being attracted to femininity and you have some internalized misogyny to work out?

IMG_2268.JPG

For every Femme who wears fishnets and heels there are just as many Femmes who wear sneakers and jeans. And also! Also! Femmes who wear fishnets sometimes also are the Femmes who wear sneakers and jeans. For me I feel Femme all the time, no matter what I’m wearing and maybe sometimes people aren’t Femme identified in their sneakers and that’s cool for them. But I think that all permutations of Femme or not-Femme right this second all desireable and can be desireable.

IMG_2222.JPG

So, can desires change? Can folks who have never really found Femme attractive or maybe find a Femme attractive in spite of never being attracted to Femmes before shift their desires or get over the shock enough to pursue it?

I was really compelled by this quote by the late Mark Aguhar.

is desire an unacceptable weapon because so many people refuse to believe desire can be controlled

What Mark said popped into my mind a bunch of times while I’ve been pondering this post the last couple of months. I think this can mean a lot of things but here I find it resonates that desire can be directed. Maybe your fear and intimidation by something new is hard to wrap your head around?

Cherry Poppins, a friend from the Bay Area, came to town not long ago and she told me that when faced with a dearth of tops in her town decided to abandon her bottoming only lifestyle and learn how to top in order to get laid. She said she shifted her desire in order to expand her dating pool and it worked. She believes very strongly that desires can change.

IMG_2226.JPG

For me, when I examined my internalized fatphobia and began the journey to loving myself and loving fat bodies, I became very attracted to fat people. They were my primary interest for a long time, for a sense of personal safety and kinship. Now my desire is much more body diverse since I can look on a fat person and find them attractive because I am not plagued by my own internalized shame triggered by seeing another fat person.

And I think there’s a lot to plain old chemistry. As someone who has gotten a lot more selective about who I am attracted to (and how much bullshit I will put up with), chemistry can be really hard to find. I don’t want to squander opportunities for hotness with someone because they are triggering something in me that is bringing up shame. I want to work through that and get to a place of hotness.

IMG_2225.JPG

There is an undeniable amount of masculine desirability privilege in queer communities. It’s far more socially acceptable in most circles to go after a masculine of center person or a genderqueer person than a Femme. My roommate Damien Luxe is quick to point out this is misogyny and femmephobia at work.

IMG_2235.JPG

I wonder if we, as a community and as individuals, start to interrogate our desires and work to unlearn our ableisms/racisms/sizisms/homophobia/misogyny/femmephobia/ageism (etc…) if desire will change? I think it can.

I also think we can be more intentional and mindful with each other in the ways we express our chemistry and desire. I know it would sting a lot less and feel a lot better if folks said something that sounded like they gave a rejection more thought than the same old line of “I’m not interested in Femmes.” It just sounds like a punishment for an identity that is perceived as mutable but for many of us it is absolutely not.**

IMG_2216.JPG
Gay Narwhal is not mutable.

*Monogamies permitting, etc…
**Let’s talk about this at FEMME CONFERENCE 2012! Clickie for more information on the conference, August 17-20, 2012 in Baltimore! I’m performing Saturday night and I would love to meet all of my blog readers who are in attendance!!

2009-12-11

Femme Family Zine #1: Femme Coming Out NOW AVAILABLE

I’ll have some of the excerpts from the zine that I recorded at the launch party on later episodes of FemmeCast. Until then you should get a hard copy of this GORGEOUS piece of work.

IMG_3871.JPG
Me & Damien, Kinky at Kinkos.

Femme Family NYC is ever so proud to announce our Femme Coming Out zine. It includes work from 20 femme contributors ranging from poets, activists, illustrators, photographers, performance artists, musicians, students and more! We’re also sending all proceeds from the sale of this zine to The Femme Collective, to help fundraise towards the next Femme Conference!

Contents include prose, personal narrative, poetry, illustrations, love letters to lost Femme friends, photography and more!

IMG_3868.JPG
It’s gorgeous. Ally & Sophie at Kinkos. We were on a deadline.

To order a copy online, email paypal [at] femmefamily.com, or just go to PayPal.com and donate $8 or more for hardcopy, or $6 or more for a digital copy, to paypal [at] femmefamily.com. Be sure to include your address if you want your copy mailed.

IMG_3920.JPG
Chicago, reading his piece from the zine. All contributors are Femme identified and give you just some of the amazing breadth of Femme talent out there.

We hope you enjoy reading this zine as much as we enjoyed making it! We’re really proud of all the contributors. Our next zine is on the theme of Art – Femmes who make art, critique art, and/or live art. Deadline is March 1, 2010. Send questions or submissions to info [at] femmefamily.com

Thanks and femme ferocity,
NYC Femme Family | femmefamily.com

IMG_3932.JPG
Taueret leads us in a moment of rage after the moment of silence for Trans Day of Remembrance.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Femmevolution | Corrine A. Schneider | p 3
Welcome Home: Femme Wading in the Queer Sublime | Lainie Dalby | p 4
When I Was a Wee Little Thing | Alysia Angel | p 6
From Fox to Femme | Jordan Fox | p 8
Revolutionary Steps | Rachel Schiff | p 9
I Think I Came Out the First Time I Didn’t Fuck Someone Back | Hana Malia | p 10
Gender Wishes | Sparkle | p 12
Crunchy Granola Femme | Stacey Langley
Albright | p 13
Words for Femme | Hadassah Damien | p 14
Art | Beth Slutzky | p 16
Poems | Taueret Manu | p 18
Something in My Closet | Sophie Rogers-Gessert | p 20
She Doesn’t Believe in Labor Unions | Lola Dean | p 22
One Day in My Early Thirties | Rexy Radical | p 22
An Omen of Good Faith | Chicago | p 24
Queer Femme Pop Diva | Nicky Click | p 25
Low Femme Low Life | Gaby Cryan | p 26
Prototype | Sarah Pinder | p 27
Shameless Portraits | Sophie Rogers-Gessert | p 28
A Different Kind of Herstory: Longing for Femme Mentors | Amanda Harris | p 30
The Missing | Bevin Branlandingham | p 32

2009-07-17

On Femme Dates, Femme on Femme Action and Cultivating Both

In reference to my previous post Additions to the Queer Lexicography: Dry Spell Edition, I received a comment that stated they thought calling a date between two Femmes was exclusionary of Femme on Femme Action (FOFA). In fact, Mae says my term Femme Date is heterosexualism and “it seems to imply that anything between two Femmes is platonic and just friends”.

Mae! I have to respectfully and indignantly disagree with you! If you read my definition of Femme Date, I say “In this context I mean it as a platonic event that is ultimately constructed as a romantic date is, but without the bumbling, attraction questions or all of the other baggage of a regular date. It’s specifically designed for Femme bonding time.” Femme Dates are all about not being romantic dates. NOT TO THE EXCLUSION OF FEMMES DATING.

Here’s the thing–if two Femmes go on a romantic date, it’s called a DATE. Just like if a Butch and a Butch go on a romantic date, or a Genderqueer and a Femme or whatever. Two Femmes going on a date is a date that, of course, increases the FOFA (god that’s such a great acronym) in the world, and, according to Cherry Poppins, when two Femmes do it they produce glitter that comes out of nowhere. It happened to her and her ladyfriend and they were very thrilled.

IMG_2407
Cherry Poppins commented on this photo, “Bevin, what I really ♥ about this picture: it’s like Southern high femme realness (fancy frocks + Lone Stars + cute shoes + camp chairs).”

I think titles give something an air of importance. What I mean by giving Femme Date a special term, is because making time where we treat our friends with the same special devotion and attention we lavish on our romantic dates, it honors our commitments to them and honors our common identities (here, Femme, but you could easily do it with fat friends, trans friends, Femme friends over forty, etc…) and how special it is to have a friend who you see across from the table who embodies what makes up you. Who can really SEE you. I want to give at least the same amount of attention to a Femme Date that I do on a date with someone I might want to do it to.

Recently I’ve had my nose buried in Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities*, and I’m being all meta, quoting Ulrika quoting Clover Cuthroat, who is talking about her BFF Vagina Jenkins.

“About [Vagina Jenkins], you in return wrote: ‘Even thought there is an age gap between [Vagina Jenkins] and me, we’ve such similar lived experience, it’s like I’ve known her all my life. Because we both grew up black, poor, fat and awkward, we know what it’s like to be invisible aside from our sexual orientation. She encourages me to take up more space and exaggerate my beauty. We understand each other’s past and present and love each other for it.'”

Vagina says about Clover:

“‘I love her like the sibling I never had and always wanted. My childhood girlfriends understood my socio-economic background, my college girlfriend from the Black Student Union understood my racial politics and my queer girlfriends understood my sexuality stuff. I love those friends for the gifts they’ve given over the years. But Clover is the one person who gets it all without explaining any of it.'”

fistyandvag
Clover to the left and Vagina to the right. You should book Vagina Jenkins at your venue, she’s phenomenal, sexy, sparkly and really down to earth.

I will admit to tearing up a little bit when I read that essay. There’s something so special about creating friendships with people who really see you, understand you and bring out the best in you that just gets me to that spot in my heart where Beaches and other BFF movies from the 80s settled in. Plus, I have that in my life, with quite a few people. And I do sacred rituals like Femme Dates with Zoe, Femme bonding trash tv time with Chris, and long weekends with Rachael in order to make sure that my Femme relationships are cultivated with the same intentionality as my romantic relationships.

I want to also make it clear that just because I make a lot of noise about dating Butches or folks on the transmasculine spectrum, it doesn’t mean I exclusively date them. Quite the contrary, before I dated my ex of 3 years Seth (Genderqueer), I exclusively dated femmes. They weren’t femme identified necessarily, but definitely gendernormative and very feminine presenting. A couple of them would go on to become quite butch** but most of them are still just as girly.

What I struggle with now, as a Femme community leader, is the fact that so often I’ll make a new friend and default to Femme friendship because it’s really complicated. Femme bonding is so special and distinct, and as a leader I don’t want to screw things up for people, you know? Also, I am very wary of power dynamics and the complications of queer ethics. I had a crush on a Femme recently and it really spun out my tires because I was weighing all the measures of whether it would disturb community building or power dynamics too much to try to date her instead of just being friends and working together. Some of the ways in which I’ve figured out how to determine whether to default to Femme friendship is to find out right off the bat if they do date Femmes, have considered it or are open to it. I also try to make sure people know that about me. I’ll tell you my Femme type (which is oddly specific, as are my types of the transmasculine variety) if you ask nicely.

So, anyway, Mae, I’m interested to know your tips and tricks for a Femme dating Femmes. How do you meet girls and not default to friendship? How do you ask them out and make sure they’re clear it’s a date-date and not a lesbian not-date? Do you date Femmes who perform Femme in the same way you do, or do you go for a different kind of Femme?

*A book by Ulrika Dahl & Del Lagrace Volcano that just came out in the US. We celebrated the East Coast launch in Atlanta last weekend. Holy crap was that fun! I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s so lovely and wonderful to read and see images of all of this Femme lusciousness. If you can’t buy it from your local feminist bookstore, if you click on the link to Amazon right here I will make some pennies towards the costs of producing FemmeCast, which is totally unfunded and a lot more than you’d think.

**Hot damn is my first girlfriend a really good looking genderqueer now, but she was also hot when she had long blonde hair. At the time I was embarassingly clueless.

2009-02-14

Unicorn Dick

Zoe and Tara and I decided to head to Toronto for a crazy Femme adventure and somehow fate landed us each a hottie to have as a date on NYE. Despite our burgeoning Canadian trysts, we had an amazing Femme bonding weekend*. We went to a women’s only spa called Body Blitz, lounged in their salt pools, hot tubs and saunas for a few hours for only $35 Canadian! We ate brunch, our favorite meal, every day at a new place. We got to indulge in one of our favorite activities, sexcapade redux on the road trip home, as it is rare that the three of us are getting it simultaneously.

During our trip we plotted out the details of our Golden Girls retirement home. You see, our plan is that we are each others’ life partners, and we intend to retire someplace warm (I oppose Florida because humidity is not a friend to my thick tresses) and to seal our bond we are going to adopt a new last name. This last name is an amalgamation of all of our Femme Besties’ last names put together, O’LowErlelisshamwinsonsonlee-Murphy. Rolls right off the tongue! We can’t wait for the telemarketers to get a hold of that one.

I had a big crush on the Toronto Hottie I hooked up with, who I propositioned for a make-out ahead of time with a clever Facebook message. Rendering me shy is the sure sign that I am monstrously attracted to you, and even though I’ve known Toronto Hottie for years, I’d never mustered the gumption to flirt with her and thought the Facebook proposition was the surest way to overcome my shyness.

The proposition was very well-received. She was even better, nicer, and more talented than I had thought, and we connected in a way I crossed my fingers might be more than a one night fluke. A couple of sweet text messages on my ride home, and a few dirty Facebook emails the following weekend told me the chemistry was still there. It took a week to muster up the courage to ask her for a phone date. Or rather, a week and Zoe’s Consiglierie insistence “JUST TEXT HER AND ASK”. Our phone date was the same night, three hours long, I got off the phone and my cheeks hurt from smiling.

There’s just so much to talk about and I have a lot of fun even on the phone with her. Since I’m funemployed, I’ve got a lot of extra time on my hands these days, thus much more traveling flexibility, as I can look for a job using the internet even in another country. Anyway, it didn’t take much beyond her first couple jokes of “You should come visit next week” for me to seriously ponder this as a possibility.

I debated this pretty hardcore for the better part of a day. In some ways it seemed very practical–a fact-finding mission. Did we have chemistry beyond the first date? Was she as fabulous as she seemed and was she more than just a friend? Could she make the amazing deviled eggs she promised? Naima answered the practicality for me. “Bevin, the way I see it, there is nothing more sane than traveling for good sex.”

I got further support from my friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. “I completely support you traveling to the Dot** for Unicorn Dick.”

So I drove my Prius up to Toronto again and had a really great date. I learned a lot about her and had a lot of fun in all the best ways. The sex was still amazing and so was hanging out an watching our favorite movies.

The next few weeks and follow-up visit have had me thinking a lot about Unicorn Dick in the context of the Queer Fat Femme lifestyle. Anyone who has done the dating thing as a Queer Femme knows how hard it is to find someone that embodies the killer combo of personality, looks, chemistry, smarts and timing.

I asked Leah to define Unicorn Dick further, and here’s her dispatch:

“Unicorn Dick is lust and sexual skill. It also refers to the almost mythological perfect butch/trans guy cock / love / brain package that we often believe is as rare as a Unicorn Dick. When we find it, we can sometimes go insane, elevate the degree to which which value it above our life and our girls, and try to hide it / protect it / get crazy over it / everything in the world pales next to the Unicorn Dick.

This is unhealthy and is counter to the Femme Shark principle of ‘His dick is not gold plated, but you goddamn well are.'”

It’s hard to avoid a scarcity mentality when you find something you don’t come across very often. As in, you want to absorb as much as possible because you’re afraid it won’t come around very often. But it’s important to remember that if the Unicorn Dick is worth it, s/he is going to realize how crucial your besties are to you and support your priorities. Further, if you’re a badass Queer Fat Femme, you can’t become any less badass to please someone. In past relationships I usually deferred to the sensibilities of my partner because sometimes I was “too much”. I remember Zoe reminding me when I was broken up with my ex, John, how much he held me back. I’m not doing that again.

You can get excited about Unicorn Dick but you can’t let your inherent amazingness suffer. Because, ultimately, Unicorn Dick won’t hold you up the way your inner strength does or your besties do. Maybe over time, maybe when things develop Unicorn Dick becomes part of your support system–but even then it should be part of it and not everything. I know from losing the man I thought was my forever how crucial it was that I kept my friendships strong. Even when I didn’t even have the resources to get up off my kitchen floor while I was crying, I knew I could call someone to be there with me while I fell apart.*** That’s what besties are for.

The reason why my Toronto trip was so wonderful wasn’t just because I got laid or uncovered Unicorn Dick like a lusty archeological dig, it was because I was having such an amazing time with my closest friends. And you can’t let years of friendship suffer because you find something shiny.

While I remain very excited about this Unicorn Dick, I’m still letting things unfold and in a data gathering phase. I enjoy the time we spend together, am appreciative of our connection and the chance to learn more about her and have great sex when we can make time for one another. Leah calls this attitude a “Zen Buddhist slut move”. But what I’m really grateful for right now is the support of friends like Zoe. Knowing I have been having a really horrific unemployment/housing situation right now, Zoe sent me the following love letter.

“dear Bevin [a femme love letter]

sometime around spring 2002 i went to see this philly drag troupe perform and watched wistfully as all these hot [thin] femmes performed on stage alongside the kings. and i so wished to be one of them but i knew that as a fat girl, i wasn’t good enough to do so. and then you came out and you unhinged my world in … Read Morethe best of ways…

7 years later you are one of the best BFFs a girl could ask for. not only did you help me get on that stage myself (and so many wonderful, crazy, lascivious, hilarious adventures ensured), but you have been there for me through the good, the bad and the downright fucked up, steadfast in your love and loyalty.

over the past 7 years i’ve watched you grow and change and unfold unto the fucking dynamo badass force of glitter, muppety smiles, cheer, snark, wit, glamor, smarts, performance art, social hub and social change that you are. and you did so even through serious strife and hard times. i am so fucking proud of you.

one of the things that so amazes me about you is not only your ability to stay strong and positive and to focus on your joy in the midst of bullshit, but to be able to ask for help and reach out when times are hard and when you need support.

and so i just want to remind you, openly and here on facebook and for posterity, that i will always be there for you, by your side, whether it’s on stage in matchy-matchy glittery outfits, holding your hand through hard times, or being next to you on the couch, cuddled up next to you and laughing while you torture me by playing Bob Seger songs on repeat.

you are an inspiration and you are my heart.

golden girls forever.
xoxoxoxoxo,
Z”

It is my wish for all Queer Fat Femmes that they find the kind of community, love and support I’ve found with my QFF besties. It’s really the most special, magical thing you’ll ever find–even more magical than Unicorn Dick.

*We were having such a great time Anna hopped a $70 flight from NYC to join us. She did not hook up on NYE but is pretty much awash in pussy in her new social circle in Portland, though technically still single and looking for dates.

**Why do people call Toronto “T Dot”?

***This happened to me again recently, for reasons not related to romance.

Powered by WordPress