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

2017-03-24

Meet Iris and Virginia, the Cuties behind Cuties

Hey everybody! I am so thrilled to introduce you to my pals Iris and Virginia! I met them through their monthly pop-up gathering Queers, Coffee and Donuts and am so appreciative of all of the work they do to create fabulous parties.

Virginia (left) and Iris (right).

I love gender inclusive body positive community space. Being explicit about this gathering principle helps people feel at ease in new social circles. When I was planning my move to LA many people complained about a dearth of queer community events and spaces, but thanks to Iris and Virginia’s hard work, there’s a thriving new crowd about to inhabit a permanent brick and mortar space–Cuties coffee bar!

Not even a year ago we lost 49 gathered at a gay nightclub in the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Not long after that was the Ghostship fire in Oakland, where queers were gathered in an underground space and 36 lost their lives. I think now more than ever brick and mortar gathering spaces that are funded and able to have safety protocols are so important for marginalized communities. We need safe(r) spaces and refuges where we can be ourselves and we need to rise up let our tragedies fuel our commitment to making space and our resistance to oppressors.

As a Femme presenting person I really love being in a majority queer space and hope that folks assume I am queer until proven otherwise. I also hope that in a space that centers gender non conforming identities that folks don’t assume pronouns based on aesthetic assumptions. Iris once joked, “Every time someone asks a Femme presenting person their pronoun preference, an angel gets its wings.”

The fundraising video for Cuties is groundbreaking! An example of how all media can work to be in solidarity with gender non conforming and trans folks–put people’s names and preferred gender pronouns! (You have to watch it!)

The first Cuties event I went to was a pool party with donut floaties! Here I am with my friends Dari and T!

Read below the vision behind Cuties coffee bar. If you have a few bucks to help create this vital gathering space, please donate. Perks include pronoun pins! A great accessory and fabulous gift! And if you don’t, please share about this on social media. Folks all over should know that this is happening.

Here’s my interview with Iris and Virginia, my questions are in bold:

Tell us a little bit about yourselves and what background you bring to the Cuties coffee bar?

Iris is a genderfluid queer femme who has a background in costume design and the arts. Virginia is a transgender woman who started two online businesses. Her most recent business Tonx was an online subscription service for coffee which sold to Blue Bottle. We’re both from Virginia and we both love hosting. Creating a business around hosting and serving folks seemed very natural to us.

Cooper is their incredibly cute and sweet cat.

Did you start your events before or after you decided to open the coffee bar?

The coffee bar idea came first! We knew the process of finding a location and building out the coffee bar would take time. We also knew that we wanted to provide space and start building community right away so we came up with idea of “Queers, Coffee and Donuts.” It’s a monthly event where all folks on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and allies can congregate in a low-pressure social environment. There’s no agenda other than inclusion, good strong coffee and delicious homemade donuts.

What has been the part of Cuties that has made you the most proud?

Seeing how loving and supportive this community can truly be makes us incredibly proud. We love watching people connect at events we host. We’ve seen people find new partners, friends, roommates, collaborators… you name it. People are even finding jobs through one another! Our goal with Cuties from the start has been to connect the queer community in LA in a way that’s inclusive and supportive and it seems to be working! Seeing the results fills us up and keeps us moving forward.

What are the challenges you’ve been experiencing with the build out and starting a brick and mortar business?

Everything always takes a lot longer than you think! We had some delays in getting into our space which threw our timeline off but we just put our energy into fundraising and creating more events for the community. We also imagine that there will be some delays with the buildout but we’re trying to schedule padding into our timeline to accommodate for those. It’s a struggle to let go of challenges that come up that we can’t control but over the past year we’ve really seen the power of persistence and incremental work. Even when it doesn’t feel like you’re making progress even the smallest step makes a difference in the long run.

What’s your vision for a day in the life of the Cuties coffee bar?

It’s early. Still dark out. We lift up the security gate and get the shop ready for the morning rush. Sleepy LACC students wander in before their first classes as the sun comes up, folks stop by after morning meditation at Against the Stream, people from the neighborhood come in for their morning pick me up. Slowly as the morning rush dissolves folks start settling in a bit. We have a slow, steady stream of everyone on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum (including allies) coming in and getting served. The afternoon shifts into evening. Some folks are out front in the vestibules cozied up on a date, tables are moved aside and chairs are set up inside and a screening of short films by queer filmmakers or maybe it’s a continuing sex education class or perhaps a Queer Mermaid Meetup. We close up shop after a full day happy knowing that our community had a safer and welcoming space where they could be themselves.

What informed the decision to open in East Hollywood?

The process of finding a space took us almost a full year. We were looking all over the city and saw hundreds of spaces. It was a very Goldilocks experience: this space is too small, this space is too large, this space is too expensive, this space doesn’t have enough infrastructure. The space in East Hollywood seemed to have a lot that was just right. The building is older and has some nice vintage details including dusty rose bricks and white moulding. The space is around 1,200 square feet and fit our budget. It was previously a coffee shop so there’s adequate electricity as well as some good plumbing already in place. We also love the location because we’re right behind LACC, a block away from a Buddhist meditation center. The Braille Institute and the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical center are both close too. While our goal is to center and support queer & trans folks our business is going to be kept afloat by the neighborhood around us.

Dari drinking coffee at Queers, Coffee and Donuts.

What’s on the menu for Cuties?

We’re starting small! You’ll be able to get some pastries and donuts with your coffee. Since so many of our community members are vegan and gluten free we’re featuring goodies from Erin McKenna’s Bakery. We’ve been serving their donuts at Queers, Coffee & Donuts monthly and they are a great option for folks who can’t have Virginia’s very glutinous and decidedly non-vegan donuts. Eventually we’ll start adding some grab and go items like breakfast bagels and sandwiches.

I have noticed that a lot of coffee bars in LA don’t have space for fliers (for real!). Since you’re a community space, what’s your vision for fliers/community message board?

In the shop we’re planning on having nooks for fliers for like events and classes but also informational pamphlets about PrEP or safer sex practices. There will also be bulletin board for people to share services, roommate requests, and more. We’re also excited to feature zines from queer & trans creators and have them on a rack for purchase. The flier nooks, bulletin board and zine racks will be positioned so folks will see them when they pick up their drinks. We’re also dedicated to keeping those resources up to date. It’s such a bummer to see a flyer for a cool event only to find out it was last weekend! We’ll also continue with our promotion of community events and services through our social media accounts and through our newsletter the “Cuties Weekly Brief.”

Check out the IndieGogo for Cuties right at this link (and seriously watch the video even without sound–you’ll see what I’m talking about with groundbreaking pronouns in the subtitles)!

Follow Cuties on Facebook!

Upcoming events for Cuties:

Queer Carnival fundraiser in the new space Sunday, March 26thTristan Taormino is doing a spanking booth, there’s a Shibari tutorial and lots of other fun, and I’m working the door!

Queers, Coffee and Donuts April 9th

I love that Cuties events often encourage optional costumes and Iris will always bring the fabulous costume to other events–like my birthday party! Pictured here with Tristan.

2015-11-13

One Night at MIX Festival

Every year I struggle with how to describe MIX Festival and it’s magic and wonder when I plug the event on my blog and social media. People fly in from all over the world to gather for this experimental film festival/queer community gathering/installation art. After my epic Wednesday night in the MIX Factory I thought I would just give it a good Bevin narrative, maybe that’ll tell you what’s up with MIX.

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I arrived right on time for my appointment with the XFR Collective. It was early for MIX, 5PM, and the house lights were still on. The XFR Collective is a media preservation organization that works to provide low cost preservation services for obsolete media to non-profits and artists. I had a couple of VHS tapes I wanted preserved for my art. When I looked into doing it myself locally it cost $125 and I put it in the “I will get to this someday” pile and having the opportunity to do it for free was a high priority for me!

lazermixLazer, visiting from out of town and sporting these holographic wedges!

The first tape was a collection of Feminist Films from my Feminist Film and Video class in 1999 at UC Davis. It was my first foray into body liberation activism even though I didn’t know it! My friend Dianna and I did a five minute video talking about plus size shopping and how marginalizing it is. The soundtrack includes Indigo Girls and Ani Difranco. (I come by my Deep Lez tendencies honestly and earnestly.) The other video was my dad and step-mom’s wedding video, which I am going to use for a performance piece about her affect on my life I’m developing. (Liz died of a heart attack when I was 19 after having taken Phen Fen. Dad never joined the class action.)

anothermixselfie It’s a big part of why I do the work I do in the world to help fat folks feel valued in their bodies as they are rather than pathologized, and the first part of that was to learn to love myself.

The tape transfer process was not smooth because I was the first person of the day and there were technical challenges, so I just hung out with the volunteers. All three of them were librarians or archivists (shout out to my librarian babes!) and they were sweet and charming. A couple of them were even wearing vintage media themed outfits, like a sweater with folks in 3D glasses emblazoned on it! By 6 they hadn’t resolved things, and said I was free to wander instead of waiting for my tapes. Jacqueline thought it was funny when she arrived that they were archiving a wedding tape and didn’t realize it was my tape! “Deep 80s fashion” she mused. It was Merced, CA in 1990.

mixfamilyEntering the MIX Factory.

I mentioned in my last blog post I find the schedule hard to navigate on their website (I really just need a trailer for the festival) so I like to let the Goddess guide things. And here was the opportunity! I ran into my friend L.A. Teodosio who was screening a film I had heard about at that very moment but didn’t realize was at MIX.

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I bought a ticket and slid into the screening with my roommate Damien (who is on the MIX Board) and a bunch of our pals. It’s called Peace of Mind and is about Teo’s partner Flo McGarrell, an artist who was killed in the Haiti earthquake. The movie is perfect for MIX because it’s a bit documentary, a bit art film, a bit fiction. The soundtrack is sumptuous and sweet, the scenery is beautiful, as Haiti is so gorgeous. It was shot both in Port Au Prince and the seaside town of Jacmel and there was a marked difference between the two places, though the lack of resources were consistent between the two. Flo made an interesting comment in one of the archival pieces, that when he was in Haiti cooking food was so difficult and food was much harder to come by, so he would lose weight. When he would go back to the states he would gain it all back. Flo worked with local artists as part of a project that taught artists and curated work and many of the artists were interviewed in the documentary.

catbuttThis is a cat butt.

Also in the film was a subfilm, a part of the movie KATHY GOES TO HAITI, based on the book of the same name by Kathy Acker, that Flo was working on with the director Cary Cronenwett (who directed the documentary, along with Teo). Zachary Drucker played Kathy Acker and it was interesting to see it, though from what I understood from the documentary the book itself sounds White feminist colonialist. We only saw a part of the book as they had only shot the last chapter, with the intention to shop it around for funding. Due to that and that it was in a larger narrative that addressed a lot of what it was like for LGBTQ people in Haiti, I thought it was redemptive of the source material and appropriately critical of her perspective on Haiti. Check out the trailer for Peace of Mind and if the movie tours in your area I highly recommend seeing it.

creepynestthingNest installation.

Because it’s MIX, filmmakers come to screenings and there are often talk backs, so the awesome Haitian editor of the film (and collaborator of Flo’s) Zaka, was there as well as Teo, discussing the film.

There’s a thing at MIX called “MIXoclock” where they say stuff happens at a certain time but that’s kind of an idea and isn’t really something to count on. Again, with MIX, best to just let the Goddess guide you. So I noticed on my phone that by the time the talk back of this one ended it was already a half hour later than the next screening (I had bought tickets for online). There’s only one screening room so I guessed I had a bit of self care time between the films to go buy some water, check my coat as the coat check was finally open and the house lights were down and everything was doused in purple lights and blacklights. Sitting in a theater for three and a half hours straight is a lot but I was glad for it! ART!

photobydraemixtriangePhoto by Drae Campbell.

The next screening (the one I prioritized and planned my whole night around) was curated by Queer Rebels, a duo made up of Celeste Chan and KB Tuffy Boyce, both Bay Area artists who I’ve performed with and love their work. Their curation of Queer People of Color made films is always spot on. A mix of lengths, narratives and stories, each is on a theme. This one was on Home and my highlights were a short music video about queers of color in the Bay vs tech gentrification and a short film about a gender non-conforming person coming home to their mother who does not accept them and is awash in grief. Another highlight was Orient, a film about the tension between Black folks and Asian Americans and internalized colonialism. Queer Rebels is incredible and the talk back afterward was also great.

celestemix2014Celeste’s galactic jumpsuit from last year’s MIX Queer Rebel’s screening.

After all of that art I stumbled dazed back into the MIX Factory thinking I’d visit with some folks and then head home. It was already 10, I had been there for five hours! Jacqueline and I went out on the smoking deck, I was aggressively hit on by a person who self-identified as “transexual satan” who I then referred to a different friend of mine. Kind of like, “You’re not for me but I have someone else in mind for you,” which is something I have done before and, listen, I roll with babes. It was a successful match in the end and I’ll save the rest of the dirt for Snapchat.

mejacquelinedraeMe, Jacqueline and Drae.

I rolled through the space here and there, looking at installations. You can go into a cat lounge area through its butt. You can sit inside a triangle. You can wander and look at all the outfits. Even the bathrooms are installations this year! I saw people who don’t live here anymore visiting, hung hard with some local friends and had a lot of fun. I was really tired and every time I felt my energy flagging somehow the space would fulfill my need. The best thing that helped me wake up a bit was a decaf iced coffee from Dunkin that Victoria brought me when she arrived at 11PM. I get a zip from decaf that can really turn around an evening and it worked.

victoriamixLike a psychadelic Goddess bearing decaf coffee.

Dinner was served at 11:30PM, it was a pasta with a side of root veggies and salad. Delicious! And free with entry/going to one of the films.

damienpowersuitDamien’s look for MIX that night (as photographed from my desk chair when I screamed “OMG Frye Boots with a vintage power suit!” as she checked herself out in our wall mirror). Here is her on video talking about MIX in her capacity as a Board member!

Victoria and I peeled off from our friends and laid down in a nest of pillows in a small side room where we watched a forest scene with a man “hatching” from a plastic bag. Again and again. The more I watched the more the art came alive. Also, resting laying down was really helpful. When can you do that in social spaces?

outdoorinstallation
photobydraehatchedmixSecond photo by Drae Campbell.

I was about to leave at midnight and then DJ Average Jo, Holly and Topher arrived so I ended up hanging with them. I was under no intoxicants yet was a bit high on socializing. Full disclosure, I did take a tiny bit of adderall to try to wake up around 9PM and that had zero effect. All told, I was there chatting and admiring outfits (two of my favorite things) until 1:30AM. By then DJ Battyjack was spinning, there was a band playing and other people were still arriving. MIX! It’s magic!

mehollymixPhoto by Jacqueline Mary, who said I looked like Muppet Baby Miss Piggy while snuggling Holly. High compliment!

I have a conference this weekend that starts painfully early in the morning but I’m still going to try to go tonight and tomorrow! If you’re curious and you’re in town, go! I coaxed Drae Campbell to come last year for her first time and this year she was there on Wednesday fully in the mix and emceeing!

photbydraemejacquelinedevonMe, Jacqueline and Devin. Photo by Drae Campbell.

2015-10-21

How Dunkin Donuts Turned Me Into a Sports Fan

I love tea. Obviously. I also really love iced tea. About four years ago Dunkin Donuts really upped their iced tea game and I was hooked. They are everywhere in the North East. There are three between my house and my partner’s house and we only live a 12 minute drive apart. My favorite beverages are only $1.50 to $3 so I often stop for a beverage when out and about in the city or on road trips. They have decaf coffee and almond milk so that has really solidified their meeting my needs on a couple of levels.

I also love a coupon.

groupatdunkinA selfie taken at a Dunkin Donuts in Jersey City this very weekend with Ariel Speedwagon, Damien Luxe, Dara and me!

When Dunkin unveiled their DD Perks card, the first opportunity I could remember that you could get a frequent buyer discount, I thought it was cute. It took a long time for me to get around to buying in. Their frequent buyer card requires that you prepay in order to receive the benefits. (It’s a perpetual gift card you reload.)

You get 5 points for every dollar you spend. Every 200 points gets a free beverage coupon. It’s not the best or worst deal for frequent buyer rewards (at $2 or so per beverage that I buy, it takes about 10 beverages to get one free). I’ve got a few coupons for free beverages lingering in my purse at any one moment.

victoriapumpkinThe road trip was to this great apple orchard with so many Fall magical things.

When I tend to start racking up points out of nowhere, there is some kind of special Dunkin reward thing happening and I finally pay attention. This summer there was a thing where I got 30 extra points for getting food with my purchase (their hash browns are on point–made with onion). There have been extra points for going more than a few times in a month, and sometimes double points for certain periods of time.

But even better than the extra points are the exclusive member discounts. This summer during a brief and beautiful window all iced tea sizes were 99 cents. Then, for the month of September all Dark Roast coffees in any size were 99 cents. This was great for outings with Victoria, who drinks a giant iced coffee, black, any time of day. I love to buy her coffee when we drive around on our adventures.

victoriacoffeeThis was at Denny’s but she was definitely drinking it black.

But the best is happening this football season. Anytime the Jets or the Giants win a game, the next day medium coffees are 25 cents. That’s right. A normally nearly $3 iced coffee is suddenly $0.27 (including tax). It is a miracle.

I have found myself googling sports scores, finding out when games are and generally wishing a team I otherwise care nothing about, good luck. I think there’s a lot of spirituality in sports, “laypeople woo” if you will. Think about all of the superstitions by the players and fans, lucky tee shirts, rituals. It’s all woo. And for me, someone who never uses woo for sports, to throw my thoughts into the ring. Anyway, it’s a genius way to direct spiritual energy.

My Google Now app has hooked onto how much I care about it and now I get notifications about scores and impending games. Since apparently professional football is played more than just Sunday, it can happen on Mondays or Thursdays, too. The Jets and the Giants have had a really great season so far, based on the number of 25 cent medium coffees I’ve received. Thanks dudes!

quarterbackscore

With the exception of Monday night’s game, where the Eagles trounced the Jets. I would say if I cared about professional football in any way it is simply by osmosis from Christie and Becky and having lived in Philadelphia amongst many of my favorite people who love that team no matter where geography leads them. So I was okay not getting my bonus cheap beverage.

I did learn a catch, though. When I tried to buy two medium coffees I only got one for cheap (outing with Victoria). Also, if you run out of money on your card, make sure they refill your card before they charge you for your beverages because otherwise you don’t get your perks points for it.

receiptThe first time I paid 27 cents for coffee I thought it was a mistake.

And, for people who love coupons AND eat gluten, you get a free donut for going online and filling out their 5 minute survey about customer service and taste on a website. You put the code on your receipt and return it to the Dunkin for the free donut. I go to so many Dunkins that it’s rare that I align a code with the place, but if you hit it while it’s busy they’ll just hand it to you. This is another treat I like to give Victoria, since I don’t eat gluten and I also don’t even like their donuts. I find them kind of filmy with grease and prefer a mom and pop donut shop donut.

But, for this season at least, Dunkin is using their delicious beverages and points system to get me, an avid avoider of sporting matches, to care about football and root for teams. Who would have thought?

2015-10-15

Full House the Musical is Awesome

I already gave away my review in the title, there I go again. But knew I was going to love Full House the Musical before I even saw it because it was written by Bob and Tobly McSmith. They are the duo behind the musical parody of Saved By the Bell (Bayside the Musical) and Showgirls (Showgirls the Musical). Tobly and Bob know how to tease out and highlight the most ridiculous elements of their characters, string together a plot featuring the greatest hits of the show and write jaunty tunes revealing the innermost turmoil of the cast. The 90s is full of material just waiting for their treatment.

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Full House, for those not familiar, is the iconic show where dad Danny Tanner (played in the original by Bob Saget and here by Perez Hilton–yes that Perez Hilton), is suddenly widowed (widowered?) and left alone to raise three daughters. Enter brother-in-law Uncle Jesse (played by John Stamos and here by John Duff) and best friend Uncle Joey (played by this Canadian actor who once dated Alanis Morisette, and here by Seth Blum) to help out and provide hijinks only three single guys together raising three girls can have. Full House is the reason that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are famous and why whenever you see Bob Saget in anything on TV or movies he’s swearing up a storm to prove how edgy he is. (See Entourage, Season 2.)

The musical is full of 90s nostalgia. From the playlist of 90s singalong songs that plays while you wait for the show to start, to the opening jingle of TGIF (anyone who watched Full House on TV knows it), to the Alanis Morissette references peppered throughout, it’s a group cultural experience touching back on 20 year old things you forgot you remembered. That alone makes it an amazing group theater outing–I know lots of folks go to the Bob and Tobly shows as Bachelorette parties, because 30 somethings these days are going to a lot of weddings and 90s nostalgia makes for a fun, raucous night out. Also there’s a bar attached to the historic theater and they encourage booze to support the arts.

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One of the most brilliant songs was “There’s No Gays in San Francisco (As Demonstrated by this TV Show).” Because, in a town as culturally diverse as San Francisco the cast is completely white and there is no reference to homosexuality in San Francisco even once in almost 200 episodes. Full House is a shining example of how mainstream media ignores anything that’s not convenient for them. I’m glad the musical addressed the lack of any reference to San Francisco as a center of Gay Liberation.

The actually most brilliant song in the show is “Kimmy Gibbler Don’t Give a F*ck.” It really encapsulates the essence of Kimmy Gibbler, the wacky and pesty next door neighbor. There’s a queef solo.

JOHN

John Duff is the babe that played gay Slater in Bayside the Musical and I was so excited to see him as Uncle Jesse. He shined in his musical solos and necessary Uncle Jesse Elvis impersonations. He was discovered by Bob and Tobly on a subway car heading home from auditions for Bayside the Musical! And now he’s getting songs written for him. New York City dreams do come true, you guys!

Seth Blum is the kind of actor who truly lets everything go on stage. His physical comedy is full force and in Bayside as his roles of Mr. Belding/Torey the Bad Girl/Anyone Else they needed I was stunned at how quickly he was able to change backstage and the same is true here in his role as Uncle Joey “and others.” He is brilliant, I’d go see whatever shows he’s in.

FULL-HOUSE-THE-MUSICAL-CUTITOUT

Perez Hilton is working on changing his image. You know him as the gossip website maven who shot to fame by talking shit about famous people. He’s got two kids now and is making a conscious change to be less of a person who is famous for tearing people down and instead resting on his own talents. I was curious if he would be any good, and I was impressed. The first few notes he sang you could catch a whiff of the Uma Thurman character in Smash, where it’s clear he’s not a musical theater native, but the rest of the show he blended well musically with the other actors. His acting range was very impressive, given the character arc of Danny Tanner in the musical, which goes from Dad speeches to the more nasty and raunchy elements of Bob Sagat’s public persona. I thought the range showed acting talent and I’m excited to see what Perez does next!

The women playing the girls of Full House were also really talented (and somehow are heighted exactly right in descending order to match the show). The show had to be pretty offensive (it’s the Bob and Tobly McSmith way) and it relies heavily on the clumsy way in which Full House addressed the burgeoning sexuality of the two older daughters. There’s a very realistic cum dumpster prop that is used in one of the later scenes.

BOBANDTOBLYBob and Tobly, photo by Allison Michael Orenstein who also took the photo of me in my shark dress that is the deader for my blog. Small queer arts world overlap.

Full House the Musical is worth a trip. Off-Broadway shows like this are my favorite in NYC. The smaller theaters are more intimate, you can see the actors and often I find them more fun with better storytelling. (I saw the Anna Nicole opera and I definitely thought Tobly and Bob do better at celebrity parody. There, I said it.) Plus I like to support hard working artists I know from the LGBT community!

You can get tickets through their website. Use code “Olsen” for 25% off! And be sure to sign up for their email list for future discounts and announcements. I saw Screech in Bayside the Musical, who knows, maybe Candace Cameron will give up her fundamentalist lifestyle to come visit the set?

P.S. Have you seen John Stamos in Grandfathered? It’s a cute show!

2015-09-18

I’m Moving to LA and Here’s My Process

I’m really getting right to business in the title of this post. Yup, I’m moving. From Brooklyn to LA. I’m a queer, let’s process about how I got to that decision!

Two years ago, if you had told me I would be moving to LA at 36 years old I would laugh in your face. I grew up in Northern California. I have lots of complex feelings about my hometown and the East Bay surrounding it. I love to visit SF and Oakland and especially the Northern California coastal lands (e.g. Marin and Half Moon Bay). But I wouldn’t want to live there. Dot com stuff really changed how expensive it is there and most of the Bay feels pretty suburban and not appealing to me.

bevininbigbearMe visiting Big Bear, CA, which I LOVED and is only 2 hours from LA.

When you grow up in Northern CA you are taught a kind of regional disdain for Southern CA. I think Northern Californians buy into stereotypes that LA is all airy fairy and image-obsessed. Whenever I’d flip through LA Weekly and see nothing but ads for plastic surgeons I would allow that to be my perception of the entire region. (Not to mention the fact that I’ve become pretty airy fairy as I’ve become spiritual in my 30s.)

Much of my extended family is in Southern California and I thought that because I’d visited it twice a year most of my life that I had an understanding of the area. But mostly I know their suburbs (Ventura County, which is actually phenomenal and beautiful, and Palm Springs, which I adore) but not LA proper. I literally only stepped foot in LA for family events or the airport.

I moved to Camden, NJ for law school in August, 2000, from my cozy college town in Davis, CA. I didn’t expect to stay on the East Coast. I thought that I’d go to school and come back to settle in the Bay Area because that’s what I knew and my friends from college were mostly concentrated there. But things changed. One of my favorite people from college moved to Jersey City and I spent a lot of time visiting John in Jersey City. John’s couch generosity for those two years really changed my life. I got to experience NYC the best way you can as a broke law student, with close friends and a lot of alcohol.

MeJohnGroveStPath2002Me and John at the Grove Street PATH station.

I was drawn to NYC by magic—I genuinely felt a creative life force energy in me whenever I would come up to NYC and frolic in the East and West Village. It was a different place back then, Meow Mix was still open, and The Cock was somewhere by 9th Street and the Lower East Side was really queer whereas now it’s covered with hoardes of drunk straight folks on weekend nights.

JohnNicoleTheCock2002John and Nicole in front of the Cock in about 2001 or 2002.

That creative life force energy when you visit NYC and it is calling to you is pretty different once you get here and have to hustle hard to make rent. Midtown during the day has a really different energy than nightlife in the Village. But still, NYC kept her promises and I got really creative here. It’s always been a struggle for me managing the practicalities of feeling “safe” with the call to produce and create cultural events, community organizing, performing and writing. Surrounded by the artists and activists I know here I was given so many great examples of creating art while holding down a hustle.

I always knew that I wasn’t a lifer in New York City. I don’t know if I’ll have kids, but if I do I would love to do it somewhere with a driveway. I really enjoy parking in a parking lot that is attached to Target. I love going out into nature, I find it really soothing and centering. One of my favorite most spiritual things I can do is be somewhere where I can look in one direction and only see what the Goddess has made. (The beach is great for that.) I guess I always thought that I’d eventually move to Atlanta or Austin or another medium sized city.

Enter Dara, my wonderful and supportive partner. The first time we dated, she brought up that she was thinking about moving to LA. Having lived there just after college for two years she loved it and always wanted to go back. She pulled the trigger, deciding to become a “single nomad” and broke up with me. (OMG if this was the Mindy Project I could make a funny joke right now but mostly I’m just happy for the messy beginning so we can have a stronger now.) She traveled the country, ending up in LA and just after she landed was diagnosed with breast cancer. She wanted to be treated in NYC, so back she came, her attempt to move thwarted. When she got back here and I reunited we talked about her desire to move to LA and I laughed because I didn’t want to go, but that we would figure out our departure from NYC when the time came.

grillinginbigbearWhen we move to LA my intention is to get one of those adorable 2 bedroom bungalows with a backyard and a detached garage. You can rent them for about what each of us pay in NYC for apartments. Macy is going to love a backyard.

I could feel my swan song with NYC beginning last Fall. Coming off the most chaotic and difficult year of my life (but still really great in complex ways) I started doing some heavy reflecting on my values and priorities. I realized that my seasonal depression (which can be as long as six months) was grinding me to a halt creatively. As I work on developing my psychic gifts, I realize how draining it is for me to be around a lot of people all at once. For me, even going to the gym can be draining because there’s at least 100 people on the trip from my house. And self care is one of my top priorities. I realized I was living in a place with an expiration date. Here I hustle hard for the money to live here, as well as hustle hard to maintain the self care that helps me feel good and that doesn’t leave a lot of time or energy to do the work that I am passionate about.

On our post chemo road trip through CA last October we stopped in LA for a day. Dara really wanted to show me what she loved about it. We just went to Echo Park to meet my friend Taylor Black for lunch and a wander, but it surprised me. The energy was different than I thought. It was a mellow city hustle bustle, but with nature right in there, with big, undeveloped hills and regional parks throughout the East LA area. I started opening up to the idea of moving there.

As a spiritual person, I understand the decision making process to be self-correcting. If I’m following my inner guidance from the Goddess, I’m going to be on the path I’m meant to be. So if I were to decide to move to LA and it wasn’t right, I’d get signs. Doing self care is really important for me so that I can be calm enough to notice the signs and feelings directing me.

I think sometimes the Goddess guides me nicely in a whisper, the stern voice is somewhere in the middle and then I get the hollering through pain. A lot of my biggest turning points in life happened after really painful endings before I had the chance to act on that gut instinct about how that day job really didn’t suit me and I wanted more flexibility to work on my art or how my fiance and I really wanted different things in life… Things like that. I was worried that I would stay in NYC until it got painful.

bevinwatchingeclipseWe visited LA last October during a solar eclipse, and this juice bar just gave out glasses to go watch it. So magical.

So, when I’m making a big decision, I start out by just acting as though I’ve decided. What does that look like, how does that feel? I spent about 4 months considering the move to LA, and then a friend of mine passed away. We weren’t close, but I took it as the sign I’d been praying for. (The thing I knew about her most was that she had moved cross country from a comfortable existence and a job she liked and then moved on faith and it was a great choice for her. Laura Mulley’s blog is here, I recommend starting fro the beginning it’s amazing.) I’ve had lots of friends pass under the age of 40. It has really sucked to get this practiced at grief. But I also know there is usually a learning in my grief and it was that week that I decided moving cross country was the right choice. This was March, so I gave myself 9 months, human gestation period, to get my ducks in a row and ready to go.

My Grandmother is another big factor in my move. She lives in Palm Springs, she’s still very independent and we have a lot in common, being Capricorn glamour babes who love woo. I have always hoped that my money situation would pop off and I would get to go visit Grandmother every couple of months from NYC but that hasn’t happened. I would love to get to spend more time with her.

Also, my Aunt and her progeny all live in Southern California and I love them a lot. I don’t know them very well, since I was raised 8 hours away and we saw one another twice a year. But whenever I do get to see them as an adult I enjoy them and I think it would be rad to see them more often.

I genuinely never thought that I would be one of those queers who moves to be closer to family. But I guess I am? I watched a lot of 19 Kids and Counting over the Winter (I have a LOT I can say about the Duggar scandals) and one of the things I loved most about the show is seeing what it is like to be intimate with your family. As the only child of a single mom, I did not have an experience of unconditional love and support and family intimacy growing up. I’d love to know what it’s like to have someplace to go every holiday, even the little ones I don’t super acknowledge in my hustle bustle NYC life.

So, all of this came down to feeling pulled to LA. I visited in May to get to know all the various areas of LA and finalize what neighborhood we’re looking to move to (more on that in another post).

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It was important to me to have my own independent reasons to move rather than just going with a partner. A friend of mine pointed out it’s totally okay to move for and with a partner and she was right. I am really excited to do this with Dara because doing things together is fun as we love an adventure. We haven’t lived together formally (though she stayed in my apartment with me during the last two months of chemo) and we are fatigued with the schlep inherent in not living together.

I’m really looking forward to the changes from this move. God is change and I want to be open to the next big things happening in my life by opening up all this energy!

I’m also kind of scared. I don’t know what my day job is going to look like. I promised myself when I took the Bar exam that I would never do it again, and I am going to keep that promise. (When I looked into the CA requirements the yearly bar fees are double the ones I pay in the two states I’m licensed in and I got that feeling in my stomach I had when looking into a law career 12 years ago when I graduated law school.) Also, as a real estate closing attorney out here, my skills translate to either a real estate agent or a title company attorney and I’d 100% rather be a Realtor. My Grandmother was a big deal real estate agent in Beverly Hills in the 80s & 90s so it’s kind of a family thing. And, with any luck, my line of Reiki infused teas will pop off and I won’t need a day job and can just focus on stuff I’m passionate about! (I enjoy real estate but it’s not like my life blood energy the way doing work in the world to help people feel at home in their bodies is.)

I’m also presently planning the logistics of the move (just to get a quote from PODS I was on the phone for 40 minutes… $5,000) and starting a project management plan for getting everything done. I have no idea how and when to get rid of stuff, so I’m going to do some interviews of folks I know who did a cross country move before.

Me, Macy and Dara leave NYC on December 20th, and arrive in LA around March 1st. We’re taking a month for a DIY artist residency so I can finish my book finally, and then taking a lingering trip through the Southern route to see lots of friends/family and for me to do readings and parties. Currently we’re planning stops at Dollywood, Atlanta, Key West, Ft Lauderdale, New Orleans, Austin, Albuquerque, Tucson and Las Vegas.

2015-04-15

Fun Home The Musical is Totally Awesome

I was offered press tickets to see a preview of Fun Home, the new Broadway musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home. Alison Bechdel is famous (to me and to every lesbian from the 90s, as the author of the famed comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.
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I knew a bunch of people who saw the first version of the musical when it played at The Public Theater, and also I know the dog walker of the woman who adapted the graphic memoir as a musical. It’s a tiny queer world. (Her dog is REALLY sweet.)

I have very few feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as someone who lives in New York City, developing FOMO resistance is a survival strategy. Yes, somewhere at this very moment there are a ton of parties going down and I’m not missing anything. I feel this way about books and TV shows sometimes, trusting that one day I’ll get to it if it’s that good. This is why I didn’t read Fun Home when it first came out and I was too broke to see it at the Public.

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Ugh, I wish I had read Fun Home when it came out! It was so good!

The setting of the story is Alison’s family’s obsessively restored house not unlike the Addam’s Family’s period mansion. Additionally, the family’s funeral home business (the “fun home”), time traveling to college when Alison came out, and in the musical there is time traveling to present day while Alison is working on the graphic memoir and trying to understand her father.

Her dad is volatile, moody, obsessive, difficult, secretly gay and it isn’t certain but probably he committed suicide, just four months after Alison came out to her parents.

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Due to the literary references and analogies in the book I kind of found myself wishing I had read Henry James, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more heavy hitters in American and European literature so I could better understand Alison Bechdel’s when I was reading the graphic memoir (imagine a cartoon doing that), but then I remembered that my brain is full of the entire works of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Dorothy Allison and I’m not missing any of the old white dude set.

In reviewing the photos from a family (minus her mother) trip to the shore with one of their young male baby sitters, with new eyes, she draws connections to literary hard hitters.

“In one of Proust’s sweeping metaphors, the two directions in which the narrator’s family can opt for a walk–Swann’s way and the Guermantes way–are initially presented as diametrically opposed. Bourgeois vs aristocratic, homo vs hetero, city vs country, eros vs art, private vs public. But at the end of the novel the two ways are revealed to converge–to have always converged–through a vast ‘network of transversals.'”

This is all written over a drawing of the family’s station wagon in the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s the kind of book that you can glaze over the stuff you don’t understand because of the pictures, but if you’re a word whore like me you’re looking up the two words per page you don’t know.

I went to see the musical on Broadway fresh from reading the book and so curious how that sweet elderly poodle’s mom had adapted it to the stage. Here’s Alison Bechdel’s comic in video form about the transition from book to Broadway.

I thought the musical was great. It was super tender and distilled the important parts of the book for me. It was brilliantly staged in the round, with furniture moving up from the floor and around through holes in the stage. It struggled to flesh out the mother’s character, who I thought had a bigger part in the book.

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Dara thought Bruce Bechdel (Alison’s closeted gay dad) could have had a bigger emotional payoff, but I also wish I had been listening to the soundtrack ahead of time so I could really hear what he was singing in the last couple of songs, which is I think where the payoff was. Also, it’s so heartbreaking to watch the story of a person, especially a queer person or otherwise non-societally conforming, who lived their whole life in a 1.5 mile diameter circle.

The part that I felt was most different in the musical was the part played by Joan, who in the book is kind of a background character, but the dimension she gets in the musical makes her so charming and also the actress has some great swagger.

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It’s also really freaking cool to see a masculine of center Lesbian as the star of a Broadway musical, as the narrator character is present-day Alison Bechdel (not the real Alison, an actress) in all her tee shirt, jeans, converse, short hair, bespectacled glory.

The book is a quick read, and I think my having read it made a huge difference in how I was able to experience the musical.

It was also so great to learn soon after the show that there is a sequel to the book! Are You My Mother.

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Everyone I’ve talked to about the book says they love the scene where young Alison sees a butch for the first time. Here’s the you tube video of the song from the musical. It’s so amazing when you see a butch for the first time and you’re not used to seeing gender non-conforming people who you identify with!

Tickets are Broadway pricey at $75-$150, but this one is worth it. It’s on Broadway through September 13th, so grab them fast! And if you can’t make it to NYC to see it, read the book and then get the soundtrack. Both are really fantastic! (Ugh, especially the cute coming out dialogue “Thanks for the Care Package.”)

2015-01-22

That Time Dara and I Met Abbi and Ilana from Broad City and the New Yorker Wrote About It

When Dara was going through chemo last Winter and Spring, sometimes all she could do was watch TV. TV was great because it gave her something to focus on other than the constant state of nausea she was in or how uncomfortable or painful her body felt.

IMG_7020Me and Dara, about a month out of chemo at the Dyke March. She let me paint “Fuck Cancer” on her still bald from chemo head. Because all of my friends know how much I love Broad City I periodically get texts from late adopters telling me I was right about how great it is. I try to live a spiritual existence where being right doesn’t matter to me but I do enjoy being right about cool cultural things that are awesome.

It was really important to Dara from the very beginning of her cancer diagnosis to keep it positive, so she was super interested in finding shows that were up lifting. It was also hard with “chemo brain” to watch anything complicated. She burned through Parks and Rec—so much so that I ended up missing a few episodes of the last season because I couldn’t keep up with her. She was a little stressed knowing Parks and Rec was nearing the final episode available and a friend of hers, Lalta, suggested she turn to Broad City, a new show on Comedy Central executive produced by Amy Poehler, the star of Parks and Rec.

We started watching Broad City right away and absolutely loved it. We have since watched each episode multiple times, and scoured you tube for episodes of their Broad City web series, the pre-curser to the more polished and lengthy Comedy Central show. As a cancer caregiver the belly laughs afforded by the antics of these women were really helpful medicine for my spirit, too, and Dara absolutely loved it.

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Abbi and Ilana are so charming and hilarious. I think it does what 2 Broke Girls and Girls tried to do with the early twenties women living in Brooklyn situation but with an authenticity and reflection that the others miss. It’s goofy, adventurous and New York is an important part of the show, including the street harassment, subway weirdness and other hassles of trying to live day to day here. I appreciate that sometimes Ilana’s character takes on being politically correct but to an extreme where she maybe doesn’t get it. Dara calls the show a modern-day Cheech and Chong for women.

I especially love Lincoln, played by Hannibal Buress, who you might remember from blasting Cosby for the rape rumors and Cosby’s trash talking of the Black community back in October, igniting the recent round of scandal. (If you haven’t watched Hannibal’s original comedy act in Philly about that, do.)

By the point in chemo where we stepped deep into the Broad City hole, Dara was bald bald. Combined with the perpetually youthful aesthetic so common among masculine of center queers she looked even younger, moving towards an 8 year old make a wish kid aesthetic.

20140603_173316I want to say that Dara’s diagnosis was not terminal like an actual Make a Wish kid. We knew that. But she does look kind of like an 8 year old.

It was coming up on her 39th birthday, for which she was in the thick of planning her “Chemo Karaoke” video where she wrote a parody of Pat Benetar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and got a ton of friends together to shoot it in the chemo infusion center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. This was a huge project for her and it was great for her spirits, giving her something to focus on and made chemo kind of a project or a game rather than the really physically, emotionally and mentally devastating ongoing medical procedure that it actually is.

One night after our second round of watching Broad City, I said, “What if you made a Make a Wish video and asked Abbi and Ilana to write you into their show?” Dara immediately countered with, “I should get them to come be in my Chemo Karaoke video shoot!”

So we did it. Why not? It was a low-stakes, really fun way to spend an evening, making the video. And even if Abbi and Ilana couldn’t come to the video shoot, at least it was a way to say thank you for producing art that was really delighting us during a time that was pretty shitty. Obviously their art production is at a totally different level and reach than mine, but it always feels really awesome when people tell me that the things I’ve written, workshops or performances I’ve given made a difference in their lives. It’s never a bad time to make someone feel good about themselves, as my bestie Rachael likes to say.

20140507_230933 (1)They make Broad City toilet paper.

We had no idea how to get it to Abbi and Ilana. I tweeted at the Broad City account knowing it might not go anywhere. Then I thought, maybe through six degrees of separation we could do it, so I posted it on my Facebook wall. Turns out I know someone who knows someone who dates an executive at Comedy Central and that I know someone who went to high school with Ilana. Boom. Within 24 hours we had an email from their manager.

Abby and Ilana were busy writing the second season of their amazing show and couldn’t come to the shoot. But they did invite us to be their guests at their show the night before Dara’s birthday party. We were excited, in all our internetting we never realized they were still doing their live improv show at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade.

14299828758_e9fc7bab10_zWe got four tickets, so Dara’s friend Allison (second from left) who flew in from Atlanta for the video shoot came with us and our awesome friend Donna (far left) came along as well.

When we got there we had a huge surprise. First of all, they saved us seats in the front row. Then after they came out and performed their first act (a very full energy improvised dance to Drake’s “Started From the Bottom”), they did this whole long intro about a special guest joining them, and it turned out to be Dara! Ilana’s brother Eliot Glazer brought out a cake and sang Happy Birthday and Abby and Ilana gave her a bunch of Broad City schwag.

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Ever relentlessly documenting my life, I videotaped it.

The whole thing was surreal and it was so wonderful to see Dara so happy, when during chemo the state of just not being incredibly uncomfortable/in pain/nauseous/whatever is a victory.

The show was great and we watched them play Fuck, Marry, Kill with Natasha Lyonne. Afterwards we were out on the street and ran into an old friend of ours and were chatting for awhile and realized Abbi and Ilana were coming out of the theater. Dara decided to go up to them and thank them for everything. It was really sweet and a nice connection. They filmed a chorus of Hit Me With Your Best Shot with the gusto of seasoned improv comedians.

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Improving Hit Me With Your Best Shot with Abbi and Ilana:

It was all so thoughtful and fun and really awesome of them to do that for Dara. The next day during the epic shoot for Chemo Karaoke, it was a great story to tell. And the cake was delicious! Billy’s bakery is the shit, I worked around the corner from them for a few months and fell in love with the banana cake. Trust me. Trust Ilana and Abbi. It’s the best one.

While Dara was talking to Abbi and Ilana, a reporter from the New Yorker sidled up to me and asked my name and Dara’s name because he was trailing them to do an epic piece about Broad City. I had to go through this whole fact checking thing after the fact with someone from the New Yorker*.

IMG_20140618_180212They didn’t send me a copy of the magazine, which I think would just be polite, if you’re going to spend time doing ten minutes of fact checking.

Broad City is shooting to the moon right now! Season 2 just premiered and it’s hilarious. Abbi and Ilana interviewed Sleater-Kinney for NPR (I could not figure out how to get into that event). You can catch all of the first season of Broad City on Hulu, and I think for a limited time on Comedy Central’s app and website without plugging in a television provider. You need a tv cable provider log-in to watch Season 2. And it’s worth it!

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Here’s the finished produce of Dara’s Chemo Karaoke video:

*P.S. If you’re reporting something and someone’s name doesn’t sound “real” to you, don’t euphemize it by saying “[H]er girlfriend, who goes by the name Bevin Branlandingham.” Everyone is entitled to use whatever name they want, even if it sounds made up. No need to add the “goes by the name” because it is condescending and unnecessary and will result in many texts and tweets from uppity queers about lack of respect for chosen names. Like why couldn’t he just say, “Her girlfriend, Bevin Branlandingham…” Just saying.

2014-12-17

Introducing Hell’s Bells, Handbell Butt Choir

One of the things I am most grateful for about my living situation is that my roommate is one of my favorite artists. The things that this femme creates are incredible. Like, stick in your head remember for a bunch of years incredible.

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Last month Damien started getting a bunch of packages and I was wondering what they were. She casually said, Ariel [Speedwagon] and I were thinking of creating a handbell butt choir. I responded, “Oh, really?” But didn’t get to all of my questions about it. Which were many. How are you going to get the handbells to stay in the butt? Do you know how to play the handbells? (Damien has churchy origins so I figured some time in a youth handbell choir was likely.)

Then the night came when Ariel was over (and Lizxnn) and the handbells were opened and I could hear them in my bedroom… clear as a bell. And this was clearly a thing that happened.

So much work went into this choir. Figuring out the mechanics of making butt plugs out of handbell handles. Casting the bell ringers–finding people who were okay with Christmas stuff, playing a handbell with their butt, and at lease slightly musically inclined, plus the more difficult aspect, whether their schedule permitted both performance dates and a couple of rehearsals. Artists in NYC are busy, especially during the holidays!

1907875_734849713259779_1475339536878244670_nPhoto by Zachary Wager Scholl for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

They had to select the songs to play out of the thousands of holiday songs out there. They had to rewrite the music for the songs in some sort of music software Damien learned, and arrange it for handbells in the correct key. And learn what a key was. And decide which four notes were the best for the butts…

10445597_734849459926471_6872289149922360399_nPhoto by Jacqueline Mary for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

I was impressed during this entire endeavor as it unfolded at my house and excitedly went to both performances. The finished product is in the below video. (You can see my little head cackling away with Heather, I’m in the bow in the front row doing backup videography for the first performance.) TOTALLY worth a watch this holiday season!

Not safe for work (unless your work is butt friendly). It’s really funny and heartwarming. Hell’s Bells Handbell Choir!

(Also I was definitely already calling the handbell player second from the left “Jingle Bells” because of their important role in that song… but then after you see the video you know why that name will be seared for life!)

For further holiday related video wonderfulness, allow me to remind all about the amazing Leo Christmas Hammer video from last year. It still makes me cry. Miss you Leo!!

2014-09-26

Thoughts on Facebook Legal Name Policing

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Facebook legal name policy lately. For those of you who haven’t heard, Facebook has been deleting accounts of people who don’t wish to use their legal name as their profile name. They’re coming for people, one by one, and telling them they either need to change their name to their legal name or convert their profile to a “page.” Pages don’t have the same kind of interactivity that a regular profile has.

This is very disturbing on a lot of levels. The first, is that primarily in this round, drag queens and gender variant folks seem to be targeted. They’re also on the forefront of the fight with Facebook to reverse their legal name policy.

What is baffling to me, is that Facebook is a platform that is reliant on users for content. It seems wildly inappropriate for them to be putting requirements on users to out themselves. If folks don’t feel safe using facebook they won’t have the kind of content they currently have. People who are using legal names would be more likely to curtail content.

People choose variant names for lots of reasons, here are just a few reasons I came up with, but there are tons of folks who choose to use their non-legal name:

1. Trans people and other people for whom their legal name does not represent their gender(s).
2. People whose name is extremely googleable. The John Smiths of the world don’t have the same issues with online content that the Bevin Branlandinghams do.
3. Performers who use facebook to connect with their performance community.
4. Roller Derby folks who want to use their derby name to connect to their community.
5. People whose jobs or careers would be jeopardized by interaction with social media.
6. People for whom a legal name change is a barrier of time/access/money.
7. People who use social media for a specific group that utilizes nicknames.
8. People who don’t want people knowing their legal name in a casual setting.
9. Folks who are hiding from abusive exes/parents/relatives or stalkers.
10. Folks whose countries of citizenship would punish them for speaking about their country.

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I don’t use my legal name on Facebook for the Google concerns of number 2 above. Because I still have a day job to be beholden to, I can’t just have all my stuff out there. I also use Facebook specifically to only be friends with people I actually know—I already have a “Page” and I don’t need to have another one to connect with folks I know in real life. I worry about when Facebook comes for me. What am I going to do? I don’t even have email addresses for many of the folks I’m connected to there.

I feel a deep love for the intimacies of social media. I have had so many great connections in the world and keeping up with them on a common platform is awesome. It’s kind of awesome that Facebook has become a place where I have access, at the same time, to my radical queer friends and straight folks I know from when I was a camp counselor. I really miss having time to chat for hours with my former co-workers, and it’s nice to get a glimpse into their lives.

What’s odd, too, is that the government will allow you to change your legal name to whatever you want as long as the intent isn’t to defraud creditors. That’s pretty wide open, right? Why can’t Facebook be guided by the same principle? Why does a judge need to codify someone’s name in order for Facebook to feel satisfied that the person is able to connect with their friends and provide Facebook free content?

Just because they haven’t come for you doesn’t mean they won’t. First it’s legal names then who knows what else. I think it’s important for folks who don’t have the same legal name concerns to be on the side of folks who do. It’s time to ally, and time to work together. It’s also time to find other ways to stay connected to people.

There are a couple of things happening to support people for whom the legal name requirement is prohibitive to their involvement on Facebook that I have heard of. One is on October 8, a day of deactivization—folks are deactivating their FB accounts for the day in protest.

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Spread the word!

As concerned citizens of the world we are now making it clear to Facebook that on October 8th, 2014 as the Full Moon goes into a complete Lunar eclipse so will Facebook. On that day we will be deactivating our accounts for 24 hours in protest of Facebook’s recent enforcement of their dangerous and ill-considered “naming policy”.

We demand that Facebook change it’s “real” name policy and stop policing the identities of it’s members. We stand in solidarity with those who have joined Facebook to create and build community where they can inhabit a safe and friendly environment. Due to the difficulties faced by people in oppressive countries and bigoted environments many people have used pseudonyms to protect themselves as they reach out to others to escape abusive families, spouses, stalkers, to protect their jobs, to voice political dissent -as did the founding fathers when America was fighting for it’s Independence from England, as have many other freedom-fighters throughout history.

There are numerous valid reasons why people use pseudonyms including the joyous and powerful antidote to oppression -whimsy!!!

Our names and identities whether given, chosen, or earned are our own!

Another is a queer group of folks working on creating an open source social network–Quirrel. This doesn’t exist yet but it is in development, so if you’re a coder you can get in on that. (From my Facebook feed, “CollectQT is run by black trans women, non-binary queers, and a sex worker, and the social network they’re building is open-source.”)

People are starting to flood to Ello, another social media site that is being funded by venture capitalists. It might be the answer, it might not, and currently it doesn’t have the valuable “friends only” features that Facebook has.

It all feels so powerless. And yet, when one in four website hits is Facebook and Facebook decides to change things, we feel the hit pretty deeply. And need to get less dependent on it.

In the meantime, you should backup your facebook data. In case they come for you and you lose all your photos. You can back it up by going to settings, scrolling to the bottom and click back up your facebook data.

P.S. If you’re a friend of mine and rely on Facebook to tell you when I update my blog, you can get on my email list and I promise to send one email a month with my top blog posts and upcoming events.

2014-09-18

Go See Bayside! The Musical! The Saved By the Bell Parody Show!

Did you watch Saved by the Bell when you were growing up? I loved it and my watching of it was so relentless that my mom created a nickname for it. She called it, “That ‘Stupid Show.’” She thought it was terrible.

Well, few things stand the test of time and the show doesn’t. I have tried to watch it as an adult and I cringe at the poorly strung together plot and all the problematic elements. But, you know, it was a kids’ show in the 90s. It wasn’t meant to stand the test of time.

Except now! National Lampoon’s Bayside! The Musical! is a musical parody of Saved by the Bell and it makes fun of the show for two hours. You’re in store for a lot of exaggerated aspects of the show and a ton of sexual innuendo. They take subtleties from the show and make them overtures. For example, the sexual tension between A.C. Slater and Zack, and the exploitation of the underage sexuality of the female characters.

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I’ve seen Bayside! The Musical! three times in a couple of different incarnations and it gets better and better. With the addition of Dustin Diamond to the cast—the actor who famously portrayed Screech on the show and has since made some questionable life choices—for a limited engagement, I had to see it again.

I love how the show keeps getting reworked, and the jokes keep getting funnier. The same actor who has been playing Screech kept the role, Dustin plays himself, a janitor at Bayside High. He has a great musical number. Dustin was really funny and did a great job making fun of himself but also with a humility and grace you might not expect of a child celebrity who is more well-known nowadays for his antics and not his talent.

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I had fun before, during and after the show. The theater pumps up the 90s jams while you’re being seated and during intermission. Many people sang along to Tearin’ Up My Heart. After the show there’s a meet and greet with Dustin Diamond!

Dara couldn’t resist the chance to get a photo with Dustin so we waited through the opening night crowd while I chatted with Bob and Tobly McSmith (the writers and band leaders of the show).

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It wasn’t on the record, so I won’t tell you all of the things I learned except this one tidbit—the caffeine pills Jessie Spano famously takes in the show have always been a running joke in the musical. I was shocked at the volume of the pills in this incarnation of the show—easily three times as many as the last time I saw it! The pills they use are tiny, white, freeze dried marshmallows (similar to those found in Lucky Charms). The production buys them in bulk but I’d love to figure out exactly how much goes into a truly exuberant Jessie Spano performance.

bayside-the-musicalApril Kidwell is incredible as Jessie Spano. She also played Nomi Malone in the musical version of Showgirls!

I am asked a lot by folks visiting New York City what they should do when they come to town. Obviously NYC is known for theater and I love quirky theater that pushes buttons. Plus, everyone back home who is a SBTB fan will be totally stoked to hear about the musical. And meeting Dustin Diamond!

AC_smallerJohn Duff still plays Slater and he fills out a singlet quite well!

The website for the show often has discount codes for tickets, and there are group arrangements that can be made for things like bachelorette parties. Plus, it’s right on St Mark’s Place so there are limitless delicious places for tea and food nearby. I suggest Crif Dogs, Puddin’ and Physical Graffitea. You can check out another post I wrote about hanging out around St. Mark’s Place here.

2014-07-10

Bevin Branlandingham Included in Go Magazine’s 100 Women We Love

Every Gay Stamina Month, or “Pride Month” as most people call it, Go Magazine, the big lesbian party and lifestyle magazine, produces a list of 100 Women We Love. This year I’m included!

I’m super honored to be on the list talking about my mission to make the world safe for people to love themselves, and especially their bodies!

″Too many folks spend so much of their lives putting off really living and enjoying themselves until they lose weight or modify themselves in some way. Truly feeling worthy is an inside job, not something that is conditional on outside acceptance or conforming your body to a cultural norm.″

Unlike lots of lists out there, Go Magazine asks for an interview and consent from the participants and I was really grateful to get to talk about what is important to me about the work that I do. Consent is sexy!

Check out the whole article here! 100 Women We Love–Bevin Branlandingham.

20140702_173956My mom is going to be stoked that I’m right next to K.D. Lang.

2014-04-03

Untapped Cruising Territory: NPR Singles’ Mixers

Awhile ago I started a blog adventure to go to regions of NYC looking for queer cruising opportunities I hadn’t explored. I believe life begins at the end of your comfort zone and I really think that’s true for dating in this wild city. In a time when I was totally not cruising I ended up finding a gem I wanted to report back to my readers! Even in times of temporal monogamy* I’m looking out to try to get my readers laid!

The event: I’ve been working with a business coach on my attorney business to try to develop a sustainable, more reliable income for myself. My artwork suffers when I am having to spend too much time hustling for cash, and the whole point of having my law practice is so that I can support the body liberation social justice work I love to do. Part of the business coaching is developing business contacts as steady streams of client referrals as well as learning how to do more networking for clients.

IMG_8139_120710The event space. Photo from WNYC.org.

Under her guidance, I was in the process of developing an email to friends to ask for networking events they knew of. All of a sudden, as though a message from the Goddess, I heard an advertisement on NPR for a lesbian mixer. It was so perfect! The event promo on the radio made it sound like a networking event and the event page on the WNYC website made it sound like a singles’ mixer. I was already sold either way.

Coupled with all of this, my girlfriend is a great networker at networking events and volunteered to go with me and coach me on networking. So I was all set to plunk down $40 per ticket (the price was definitely helped because it is a benefit for public radio) to try out some professional networking with other lesbian NPR listeners. A better group of potential clients I could not have asked for.

Why this is untapped for me: Well, the price tag for one. I’m not one to spend $40 for a concert ticket, let alone a happy hour networking thing. Also, I’m totally going to admit loving and listening to NPR but I’ve never given to a pledge drive. (There are so many things I wish I could go back in time and do when I was working at a law firm making real money–donating to public radio is totally one of them.) I’m a total fair weather listener to public radio and I admit that.

Also, I don’t go to a ton of events marketed to lesbians since I actually identify as queer, though I do enjoy “lesbian” as a cultural identity. I was curious what kind of crowd this would create, though, so I was interested.

The Outfit: I went into the event thinking this was to get clients and not as a singles’ mixer (or as an event to write-up for my blog, otherwise I would have tried to get press tickets) so I didn’t take photos. However, I wore one of my super favorite lady lawyer dresses with some vintage cat pins on them. Hey, I was playing to my audience and lesbians love cats.

5752937889_3210240f0f_bI wore this outfit, though this picture is from a couple of years ago, I think I did similar hair and had a different pair of cat’s eye glasses. In my dream job world I wear vintage style dresses for all lawyer outings, which is only true about 50% of the time.

The Wing Femme: In this instance I wasn’t technically cruising so I didn’t have Wing Femmes, I actually had one dedicated Wing Butch (my girlfriend) and an intermittent Wing Butch (Leo). My girlfriend was actually great at this, she showed me how she introduces herself to folks at things like this, starting out doing most of the talking for me, a few of the folks in between she helped me tag team and then the last couple of introductions I did on my own. She was quite great at teaching me professional networking. I don’t love professional networking because I don’t love small talk. This is what makes me a great talk show host but not necessarily great at mixers.

The Scene: The scene was actually pretty fun! I saw a few familiar faces from the queer Brooklyn nightlife scene and some folks from some magazines I know. My astrologer Katie was there (who is single and was looking to meet folks**) and so were a few other folks I have met in my time as a queer New Yorker for over a decade. But what was more refreshing was how many folks I didn’t know!
700_3247Photo courtesy WNYC.org

The age range was wild–a few folks in their 20s, pretty heavy on 30s and 40s and then a good amount of lesbians over 50. But what was even better was that everyone seemed to be having a great time and really interested in meeting people.

I was definitely in the minority of being there for professional networking. At least 70% of the folks I met were definitely trying to meet people to date. I still made some good connections, though, and learned a lot about how to navigate professional networking events should my friends help me identify some of the good ones in NYC.

There was also a really great lesbian trivia game emceed by Caitlin Thompson. It was really, really funny. I was actually shocked when our team didn’t win the trivia game because we got almost all of the questions correct.

700_3034 (1) Photo courtesy WNYC.

The winning team got every question correct. I am in awe of that teams lesbianitude and knowledge of current lesbian events.

Folks were talking all night, and my single butch friend Leo said she got hit on a lot. I felt like the energy in the place was really good and a lot of people there got what they were looking for.

The verdict: I might have gotten a client (I at least got a good lead for a client, we’ll see if she retains me). But more importantly, for you, dear readers, I think the WNYC singles’ mixers are a winner! You can check out the scene for yourself in this slideshow at WNYC.com!

I heard (on NPR this weekend) that there is an OKCupid algorithm that says that if you agree with your partner about the answers to three questions it is a predictor about whether or not you will be a compatible couple. The questions are:

Do you like horror movies?
Have you ever traveled around another country alone?
Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?

(It’s totally worth reading the OkCupid blog entry about why those questions work to predict compatibility. Data! It’s sexy!)

However, I think that whether or not you both like NPR is a good predictor of being compatible because the idea of spending Sunday mornings (my very favorite time spent as a couple) are totally awesome spent brunching while listening to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.

I really should donate to NPR.

WNYC is producing singles’ mixers for people of all orientations all the time (and lots for over 40s)! Check out their listings and maybe also donate to public radio before it’s too late and you pursue a career as a social justice artist.

*My then not-girlfriend and I had a temporary agreement during January about not exercising our non-monogamy, which some might call monogamy but I vehemently called “Non-practicing open relationship” so as not to compromise identity. At the present moment we’ve rearranged to a free ass pass arrangement during chemotherapy, but, lez be honest, getting laid is a lot of work and so is caretaking and self care.

**Katie generally likes femme of center folks, but people of all gender presentations who are stylish and fun get her attention.

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