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

2018-01-26

Year of Ask Vol 2: Why and How I Started My Year of Ask Project

I set the date for my 39th birthday party months in advance, at the totally subtle nudge of my partner. It surprised me that I was procrastinating sending out my invites. Like all things I need to do and instead procrastinate, it was in heavy rotation in the back of my mind. For some reason I felt resistant to asking people to celebrate with me.

This picture series is basically all sorts of folks who showed up to celebrate my birthday and helped make it happen in some way. By not asking folks to my birthday party I would have cut myself off from receiving all this love! All pics by my friend McKay.

As others who have December birthdays know, birthday gatherings are met with quite a bit of scheduling competition and to ensure you have robust attendance you have to invite early and remind repetitively. Usually I don’t do either of those things and let whatever happens happen, or I put my birthday party off until January.

I went to a retreat for my new coaching program the first weekend in December, having still not sent out invites to my birthday party. During the retreat I kept working on uncovering my blocks to money. The realization came when I was heading home, noticing the strong resistance to sending out invites with fresh self awareness.

I have been saying for years that asking for help is a sign of strength. But, as with all personal growth, there is always new work to be done in areas I thought I had handled. Having that time at the retreat to really examine myself and how I might be limiting my greatness introduced me to this new growth edge—I needed to open up to asking.

Sometimes, when I have an area of personal growth, I just need to practice. Get in there, feel awkward, cheer for myself and do it anyway. With practice, awkward things feel less awkward. Eventually difficult things become muscle memory and the resistance doesn’t come up as much.

I decided to embark on a Year of Ask. Like Shonda Rhimes and her Year of Yes, I would devote myself to a year of asking. Literally anything that comes up, big or small, that involves asking, I will just do the ask. I love the saying “If you’re not hearing no you’re not asking enough.”

So I started with my birthday party. My ideas for what I wanted to accomplish with my party were mighty. A holiday special for my Facebook Live, a brunch the next day, a Dolly holiday raffle. I knew if I wanted to go hard for my birthday it would require a lot of help since I couldn’t afford a caterer and I needed production help. My heart was telling me “Yes, yes, go hard Bevin!!” but something in me was blocking the execution.

My annual pic with the Zarou family!

The Year of Ask was the permission I needed to push through that block. And a birthday party is a great occasion to practice shameless asking.

Behind the scenes of my Facebook Live Holiday Special, which yes, included a BBQ as a stand-in tripod. My friend Leo provided SO MUCH HELP making this happen because I asked for her help!

I made all the big plans, I wrote up an epic Google RSVP form with about fifteen check boxes of ways folks could help. And it happened, we had enough chairs (thanks Kate and Jennifer!) and the food was fabulous and plentiful. And the pictures are beautiful. Way more people RSVPed than I thought would happen and it turned out Dara had been secretly pre-planning my birthday as a surprise proposal which explained why so many people were available and ready to help.

Keep up with our queer wedding planning on our Wedding Vlog!

So here I am, officially 39, having had probably the best birthday party I’ve ever had, running a pre sale for my first ever workout video for Fat Kid Dance Party, and asking away. Will you support my mission to make the world safe for people to love themselves in any amount? Link to support right here!

I’m excited to share with you how the progress in my Year of Ask is going and would love to hear from you. How have you opened yourself up to asking? What process do you use to feel the fear and do it anyway?

2017-12-15

I’ve Been Going Live on Facebook Everyday for Five Months and Here’s What’s Up!

In July PopSugar released a video about the aerobics class I created, Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression). The video went viral—it has had almost 4 million views to date. Since it was mostly hosted on Facebook my fan page Queer Fat Femme was my social media account that saw the biggest bump.

With this bump in likes I wanted to figure out a way to engage my new and longtime followers in a new way. I also had been thinking of ways of taking what I was teaching with movement at FKDP and deepening those lessons about self love and healing from body oppression. Something outside of aerobics class that uses additional teaching modalities to light a healing path for folks.

I can’t NOT photo credit! It’s a part of who I am! But my friend McKay who took these great photos doesn’t want photo credit so I’ll just leave it as a casual mention with lots of gratitude.

Enter Marisa Murgatroyd, business coach and motivator. My pal Christine Dunn (an effective relationship coach) had been posting about Marisa’s work. I seriously considered attending Marisa’s conference Message to Money Live last February but I didn’t have the funds to attend.

In late July Marisa created a 21 Day Facebook Live challenge. It was free to join and if you went live on Facebook for the 21 consecutive days of the program you would win a free ticket to Message to Money Live! At $1,000 value, this was not a small incentive for me.

I wasn’t ready to start going live every day. I had a ton of reasons I could have used to keep from embarking on this live journey. Timing! I was about to go visit my mom in a remote area of the Olympic Penninsula, what if her wifi was spotty? I didn’t know what exactly my live videos would consist of. Some days I am not in any shape to “perform,” how easy would it be to maintain my authentic voice? A cornerstone of my “brand” is being exactly who I am, no compromise. What if I ran out of things to say? What if no one tuned in?

When I began my journey to love my body I wasn’t ready. I just started. I used the tool fake it ’til you make it big time until I finally just did love my body without having to fake it. There’s a great business strategy, start before you’re ready. Same concept. The incentive and the timeline were a great opportunity so I did the thing, joined the challenge and started doing daily Facebook live videos. I could have easily sat in that resistance space spinning what if questions in a procrastination hamster wheel.

It has been almost five months and the results have been fabulous. In those first three weeks I ended up having another viral video. I was in a coffee shop answering media interview questions about Fat Kid Dance Party, literally writing about the effects of oppression on the body while a woman next to me said some horribly fatphobic things to a group of five people. Not one person stood up for justice in that moment and after I got done staring at her in shock I felt a surge of rage. I couldn’t sit there one second longer without going off on that woman, so I took a self care walk, leaving Dara with my computer.

I had the commitment to go live every day and here I was in a self care crisis rage spiral and I decided to get messy. The video of me processing that moment has 74,000 views. That was more than enough of a high five from the Universe for me to commit to continuing this daily live video project. The viral video also won me an additional $500 gift certificate for Marisa’s other coaching projects, I’m excited to use it to help develop the Fat Kid Dance Party digital workout platform once the pre-sale crowd fund (launching next week) finances my first video project.

Going live on Facebook every day answered a lot of the things I had been ruminating. It gave me a great outlet to engage people around the core tenants of what I teach at Fat Kid Dance Party in a much deeper way. It was on Facebook so it deepened the connection to all those new and long-time followers, and there’s really nothing like eyeball to eyeball contact to develop trust and intimacy. I have been a blogger for going on fifteen years and doing a live video takes me as little as five minutes including posting it, whereas a blog post takes me a minimum of five hours (usually more like 20 on a meaty post) between writing, editing, html coding, photos and social media amplification.

It has been a fabulous record of my life, a great way to share information I have learned in service to making the world safe for people to love themselves, and a wonderful training ground for my true career goal—a self love talk show. In many ways, it already is my self love talk show. It’s like a lab where I get to work on my on camera skills, develop my verbal storytelling, and learn what engages my audience the most.

Since my daily live show goes with me wherever I travel I get to share the cool places I go and great conversations with my incredibly wise friends. I have always wanted an Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown element to my talk show/reality show. (I just did a tour of Dolly Parton’s Chasing Rainbows museum this weekend!)

Since it’s live and daily, I feel less need for it to be polished. I don’t wear make-up every day so I don’t wear it in all of my videos. I let myself be messy, especially when I’m going through hard times. I’ve also learned that I don’t come off nearly as messy as I feel on those days I’m not as confident, which is a relevant lesson for everyone, we’re probably not as messy appearing as we feel.

It requires a level of daily self reflection that has allowed me to do more deep personal work and reminds me to look for lessons and tools. I think it makes me super relatable and my audience engagement is totally enhanced. I’ve gotten new Reiki energy healing clients from it and it has helped me work through new offerings as I develop as an entrepreneur looking to support my family with my art and healing work.

My friends have shared with me that my live videos feel like they are hanging out with me and that they love them because it’s an easy way to keep up with what ever-bustling Bevin is up to. I absolutely LOVE that! I want my viewers to feel like I am a healer, ally and supportive bestie in this journey with them, so the fact that my friends reflect that it’s like hanging out with me IRL is the best feedback.

My self love talk show was always a dream of mine and now it is a reality, I didn’t realize it until about three months into this project when the theme of my daily live videos emerged. I am in a continual process of deepening my self love and I deal with issues that come up that are so relevant to any step in the journey. Start before you’re ready applied to me as much in 2002 as in 2017.

This Saturday, December 16th at 5:30PM Pacific I am going live with my first ever holiday special. I LOVE the holidays so here’s another dream coming true. This year I have a musical guest, La Louma (if you love Sleater-Kinney or layered beautiful instrumentation get into her!!), we’re lighting the menorah, doing a solstice ritual and I am evoking Dolly vibes by having a raffle you can win from your living room for tons of Dolly fan art. Buy tickets here!

By turning on notifications for my live videos I am inviting you to have tea with me every day!

At the end of that PopSugar viral video I say, “When you love yourself you can move mountains.” Loving yourself makes everything easier. Join me daily! You can click the “follow” drop down menu to turn on notifications when I go live so you don’t miss an episode or tune into the ones that are most relevant to your journey.

2017-05-17

The Life-Altering Power of Changing Your Mind

On Friday, Dara and I flew up to Seattle to visit my mom for Mother’s Day. The whole flight was a huge comedy of errors and a GREAT opportunity for both of us to practice the life-altering power of changing your mind.

This was a hard trip for me to plan, since it’s just three months after we lost Grandmother and the first time we were leaving Macy and Biscuit Reynolds after our last pet sitters left them alone after an emergency. Even the thought of booking our flights was hard for me, so Dara sweetly took over logistics. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get us seats together for our flight.

There was once a time I believed I did not look good in red so I never wore it. What a great thing I changed my mind about! Photo by Dara.

Since we each had a window and an aisle, Dara figured we would easily convince the person in the middle switching for Dara’s aisle seat. However, when we arrived at my row the woman declined as she was traveling with her son. Dara and I said our goodbyes and proceeded to have individual opportunities to adjust our thinking on our flight.

Flying while fat is rough and one of the best benefits of being in a mixed-size relationship is being able to sit next to each other with an arm rest up. The first thing that woman did was make sure her arm rest went down–I can always tell when someone is trying to mark their territory on a plane.

This was my first opportunity to change my mind. I didn’t dwell on it, I just let that armrest go down and moved on to my next thought. Earlier in my life, I would have spent the whole flight stressed about squishing as far away as I could from that woman and assuming I was constantly in her way. My ability to obsess about other people’s perceptions of myself and my size was unparalleled and it made me miserable. Now I shift my focus to my own life, my art, my work in the world and focusing on my own comfort during a flight.

Next up was the wailing baby. It was clearly several rows behind me but its discomfort was loud. I put in headphones and turned up 9 to 5 so I could continue conceiving of aerobics choreography. I almost always stop myself from feeling annoyed at kid noises to change my thought pattern to compassion. As uncomfortable as it is to be a passenger on a flight with a wailing baby, it’s way more uncomfortable to be a parent dealing with a wailing baby. I prayed for the baby that it would find comfort and moved my thoughts away from it.

Our flight was delayed by a half hour, which gave me a head start on free movie watching. I absolutely love when flights have on demand movies available, I consider it a $5.99 bonus. I started that Will Smith movie about grief, “Collateral Beauty,” from a totally analytical place. I’m cooking up a grief book idea to help me through my grief about Grandmother and I want to consume as much as I can about grief theories. I did not think about the trigger truck that I was inviting into Row 21 of this Delta flight. The beverage service didn’t happen until I was at the emotional climax of the movie.

Suddenly, the woman next to me knocked over her fresh hot cup of tea and it landed all down my thigh, my leg and in my boot. It scalded at first and I blurted, “Ow, ow, ow!” The woman was very sorry and apologized a bunch of times. I was gracious, telling her it was okay, but still needed to advocate for my needs with the flight attendant. It’s hard to ride that line of being generous in spirit but also making sure that your needs get met, I certainly wasn’t going to sit there with a sopping wet leg and no napkins to soak it up, but punnishing her in any way for something that was a mistake isn’t appropriate. Punnishing people for mistakes creates a psychologically unsafe environment and I believe really strongly in creating a life/workplace/home environment where mistakes and accidents are just part of getting to a good experience/output/joy. Dara’s consulting business focuses on this a lot.

I did what I could but that scalding hot water turned cold really quickly. I could have sat in misery but I just kept turning my attention back to the movie and trying so hard not to ugly cry. I didn’t want that woman to think her spill was making me cry but the jarring hot water when I was being really touched by grief was difficult. I was so thankful that the flight attendant checked on me again and I asked for a blanket–it really saved the rest of the flight for me.

I had to do a lot of changing my mind in order to be ready for this wonderful relationship with Dara. I had to humble myself that I didn’t know everything and learn how to do relationships, dating and communication differently. Totally worth it in every way. Photo by Rick Sorkin.

During all of this was epic turbulence. At least twice the plane dipped very quickly. Both times my first thought was, “Well, I guess this is it.” I don’t really have a fear of dying, I think when you’re destined to go that’s your moment. But I shifted my thoughts to visualizing our smooth landing in Seattle so that I wasn’t sitting there in fear of my impending death.

Dara’s experience of the flight was similarly bumpy. She was one row in front of the crying baby and even worse was the father, caring for the child alone, was *yelling* at it. She was having total empath feels for this poor baby who wasn’t even being soothed. The first sudden drop on the flight happened when she was in the bathroom alone! She thought the plane was going down, too, and considered running down the aisle to me so that we wouldn’t die separately.

The person across from the aisle from her started barfing, the sounds and smell were awful for her (chemo was really, really hard for Dara). When the second intense plane drop happened the woman next to Dara started crying and freaking out, which didn’t help Dara.

I asked Dara how she dealt with all of it and she said she would take a deep breath (nose closed during the barfing) and put her focus back on her work. Taking her focus away from the things disturbing her/grossing her out/freaking her out helped to take the power away from those external influences.

When we got off the flight we arrived at the shuttle bus terminal to go to the deep woods where my mom lives on the Olympic Peninsula only to find out that it was sold out. By then I was hangry and overwhelmed and had to carry all our luggage because Dara’s still in post hysterectomy no carrying more than 5 pounds mode.

My problem solving skills were weakening, but after fifteen minutes of trying I figured out how to take a Lyft not at surge pricing to the Seattle Ferry Terminal. They Lyft ride plus the ferry was a little bit cheaper than the shuttle for both of us and it was a negligible difference in how far mom had to drive to pick us up. However, we arrived at the Ferry ticket booth thirty seconds after they announced that they had final boarding on the ferry we were trying to make and had to wait another hour.

When I first heard about EVERYBODY, the body positive gender affirming gym opening in LA, I didn’t know how I was going to participate. By changing my mind about my capacities, I realized I could take all the work I had been doing as a body positive warrior for self love all these years and channel them into dance aerobics. If Richard Simmons could do it, I could to! I’m building up my following and would love to have you join me on Thursday nights!

As luck would have it, the waiting area has a gorgeous view of the Seattle waterfront, the Commuter Cafe at the Ferry terminal had these incredible salads that are hella cheap (take that, $15 tasteless LAX breakfast burrito!) and we were able to just sit and enjoy ourselves and finally debrief our wild flight.

One of the skills I’m most grateful for every day is the ability to interrupt my thought patterns. I can sit pretty steadily in a hell of my own creation if I don’t do this because once I go down that spiral it picks up steam.

I was really taken by how both Dara and I survived what could have been a completely miserable experience by choosing to change the directions of our thoughts and focus on something else. I find gratitude lists are a helpful way to change thought direction, I use the Serenity Prayer sometimes, I take a macro look at the situation from lens of an outside perspective. I use the six month rule–will this matter in six months?

Mom got stuck behind a draw bridge on the way to pick us up (things are slow out on the Olympic Penninsula) and she arrived five minutes before we did on Bainbridge Island to pick us up. The timing worked out perfectly, even if not as planned.

I was always a cat person and it took changing my mind about dogs in order to be open to Macy in my life!! She’s changed everything for the better!

2017-01-01

This Year Have a Revolution Instead of a Resolution

“But, today, the way I play the game is not the same; no way. Think I’m gonna get myself happy.” – George Michael

Language is so powerful. I believe that if you change the way you talk about things you can change outcomes you manifest for yourself. I like to womanifest positive abundance, so after I learned that concept I really put my shoulder into it. I like to replace “should” with “could” whenever possible, it’s a much kinder way to speak to myself. I like to say “when” instead of “if” about things I am working towards, like “When I am a tea millionaire and I have my Willy Wonka tea factory…”

In that spirit for the New Year I love to use the term “revolutions” instead of “resolutions” because resolutions are so loaded with dominant body paradigms and full of “shoulds.” A revolution sounds like a positive uprising. Like being on a team with yourself instead of a team against how you used to be. This time of year you’ll probably see your feed choked with articles about how to create change and stick to your resolutions and how and why so many of them fail.

family2017nyeWe went to a queer prom New Year’s Eve party last night and it was so fun. This is my real prom dress–it still fits! #chublife

A lot of times when we set out to change things in our lives we do so from a place of self condemnation that is totally counterproductive to actual change. I think that’s why so many diets fail—you do it because you feel bad about your body and want it to conform to a way you think it should be. It’s great to want to make changes, but the key is changing your perspective on how you make change. A revolution instead of a resolution.

In 2010 I talked about this on my blog (content warning: Taueret and Amanda) and set out a revolution intention to eat more kale but my digestion wasn’t having it. So I had to meet my body where it was at and went with spinach.

cozywithfriendsBeing cozy with friends–Jenn, Dari, Tristan, and my partner Dara!

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change.”

― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

I like to think about making changes in the way I eat to be in alignment with my body. Working with a health coach who is body positive has helped me learn how my body interacts with foods and I have more information to work with. I was also able to heal my gut so I can now digest kale without issue. Working in alignment with my body makes it feel so much more personal and takes it away from the diet industrial complex.

daridaraDari & Dara & a menorah.

Just this morning when I was making a kale smoothie* I was thinking about how the perspective I would have applied to eating kale first thing on New Year’s Day 20 years ago was really different than how I approach it in 2017. In order to get here I had to heal my relationship with my body, my mind and my emotions around my size. I had to check out of the diet industrial complex and dominant paradigms about bodies. How even after I had begun my body love journey I had to unpack all of the ways in which “health” is used as a weapon against bodies like mine. I had to learn that health gets to be for everyone, no matter their size. I had to learn that kale is just a plant which is not owned by fat haters, it’s a nutrient dense gift of the Goddess that together with a blender is easier to digest first thing in the morning.

All of that learning over the past 15 years lead me to the point today where I can eat in alignment with my body and a kale smoothie is simply a choice I’m making in the morning rather than a bummer diet moment. That’s a revolution in how I interact in the world, and it happened in baby steps.

“How do you create in the midst of destruction, chaos? How do you turn darkness into light? It’s more important than ever for us to use this energy to create the lives we want, sometimes rebuilding, starting over, or completely transforming into something new because Uranus and Pluto show us where things are not working.”—Katie Sweetman, Empowering Astrology

This year my revolutions list is just one thing, I want to work on planning my time more effectively so that I can continue to create even in the midst of destruction and chaos. I don’t tend to write when things are hard, I default to prioritizing managing crisis, self care and making money. But my art is a form of self care and I think when we’re doing what we are meant to be doing in the world it helps to bring light and joy to our lives that helps our survival and those around us. So, my revolution is to set up time to write and put the systems in place to make it happen.

I also want to continue to approach the world with silliness and fun, to energize hard stuff into easier to digest stuff.

A revolution doesn’t happen in a day, it happens over time. It happens when you love yourself enough to do something that can help you become who you are meant to be. As Octavia Butler said, I believe change is God, and working towards change is often working towards more alignment with my higher spirit. Spiritually and personally I want to be in alignment with how I can most create change, justice and light in the world. Because the world needs more people who are lighting themselves up so we can light up the world together.

revolutions2017How will you light up the world in 2017?

*Three loose cups of kale, one loose cup of spinach, about 2-3 teaspoons each of chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax seeds, 1 teaspoon of local bee pollen, enough almond milk to make it as thin as I like which is probably a cup, blend til smooth and then add about an inch piece of banana and a small handful of frozen berries for taste, blend again till smooth. Recipe is from Heart Beets Holistic Health. Vic is running another anti-hangry whole foods cleanse starting January 9th, with part of the proceeds benefitting the Dakota Access Pipeline protest efforts (she went out there for a couple of weeks in the Fall working in their healthcare tent in a camp).

2015-07-08

How Getting Neutral About Food Helped Dara Drop Sugar

When I posted my thoughts about being a good ally to fat folks by getting neutral about food, Dara and I have had a lot of conversations about it, including a pretty startling revelation that I wasn’t aware of. It turns out that Dara, working to get neutral about her food self-talk in order to be a better ally to me as a fat person, was able to transition to a low-sugar anti-cancer lifestyle a lot easier with food neutrality than if she had kept up agonizing about food being “bad” or “good.” Her words on this are below.

bevindarapridePhoto by Tinker Coalescing.

What Dara says is in alignment with what Health Coach Isabel Foxen Duke says about the diet-binge cycle. Hating your body creates the desire to emotionally eat which is a feedback loop that causes more body hatred. When you get neutral about your food it helps you detach from emotional eating as well.

Some background of Dara’s choice to go for a low-sugar anti-cancer diet. We believe pretty strongly that her breast cancer was the result of high stress. Prior to doing the Anti-Candida Murder plan I read the book The Candida Cure, which talks about how when your body is stressed out, your blood sugar spikes–just as though you ate a donut. Lots of studies show lots of things about preventing cancer reoccurrence but for sure creating a less stressful lifestyle comes up a lot. Lots of studies talk about how cancer feeds off sugar. So, we believe stress becomes sugar and sugar feeds cancer. (Dara did a video blog about this theory when she announced she was stepping back from the global initiative she started and self-funded.)

The eating plan she follows is based on Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer diet, if you’re interested in reading more. Lots of green veggies, plant-based whole foods, a little bit of meat (that’s not in the Kris Carr plan, but you do what you do), whole grains, yadda yadda yadda.

Anyway, here are Dara’s words about getting to food neutrality.

IMG957531Dara doing paddleboard yoga during our trip to Key West.

When Bevin first asked me to stop talking outloud about my uphill battle with cutting sugar from my diet (a step that research suggests prevents cancer recurrence), I had mixed reactions. I mean, cancer is a whole different thing than body positivity, right? Surely, the same rules of food neutrality don’t apply to me?

Because I love my partner deeply, and so respect the work she does in the world to help everyone love and value their bodies, I decided to give it a try. (I mean, I could always use the Cancer Card to say, “Baby, this just isn’t working for me” and know I would get a free pass.) Instead, I decided to give it a shot… and in doing so, I had a surprising and powerful realization: IT ACTUALLY GOT EASIER TO SAY NO TO SUGAR!

I don’t know how it happened to be honest, but I think it got easier to say no to sweets because instead of badgering myself (outloud often) about whether or not I should eat something, and what it would mean about me, and my lack of discipline, or my willingness to commit to staying alive… instead of having this agonizing back and forth, I instead just said a simple ‘no thank you.’ And that was that.

What would normally take up at least 10 minutes of space in my brain, and cause unknown quantities of anxiety and self-flagellation pretty much just went POOF! Gone. Buh-Bye!

It made me realize just how much my anxiety about what I was eating was wrapped up in my head. How much of a victim I was to my own insecurities and doubts. Making the decision to be neutral about food put me back in control, and enabled my rational brain to take the lead, while my negative internal chatter was forced to sit quietly in the back of the room.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy to turn down cookie-cake or a jelly-filled donut when offered – and I’m not even saying that I do turn it down all the time. But I will say that it no longer consumes my thinking like it once did. And I no longer feel guilt or shame about my decisions. I feel stronger, more in control… and (as a result of the fact that I now eat less sugar) can say that I have a better chance of living the rest of my life cancer-free.

IMG_7020At the Dyke March in 2014, just about a month after her last chemo treatment.

I am grateful to Bevin for helping me better understand the idea of body currency and food neutrality. As a fat ally, I have for sure sought to prioritize ways of being that enable all bodies to been loved exactly as they are. But this side benefit of being able to apply the concepts to my own health, to be able to live a longer, happier life? That one I didn’t see coming.

It’s true what Dara said, if she needed to keep externally processing about food to support her anti-cancer goals we would have come up with another solution, another way to talk about food that isn’t laden with shame and guilt. We work together to mutually support our goals. I’m really grateful that I had a way in which I needed her to work as a thin ally to me and it ended up enhancing her goals!

You can read more about Dara’s cancer journey on her cancer Tumblr page as well as read my posts about going through chemo and her diagnosis process.

2015-02-27

Half the Self Hate: Denise Jolly “Self Love is my Life’s Work”

For years I’ve been noticing the People Magazine annual “Half Their Size” issue. It comes out around New Year’s Eve and the cover is always the same: before and after photos with big graphics about how much each person has lost. People Magazine devotes pages and pages of a feature story to readers who have lost over half their body weight. They ask them how they did it, what motivated them, what their “rock bottom” was as a fat person.

I kept thinking, What if we talked to people about how they lost more than half of their self-hatred? What would it look like? I find it so inspirational to hear how people have risen out of oppression and cultures that don’t value their bodies/identities and have learned to love themselves in spite of that.

I reached out to several artists and activists whose work and self love I admire to ask what practices they employ to love themselves and how they defy a culture that commodifies self hatred. I wanted to know what inspired them to work to reduce or eliminate their self hate.

This is a series about self love triumphing over self hate, and valuing yourself as a radical act of resistance.

The Half the Self Hate series continues next week with my video interview with plus size porn performer, size activist and feminist April Flores.

16456735267_5290011166_z

I first learned about Denise Jolly through friends in San Francisco and Brooklyn who said that I should meet her. After this happened three times, I started doing some googling and found the treasure trove of her work. Denise is an artist living in Berkeley, CA who shot to notoriety with her Be Beautiful project, a social media exploration of loving her body for 30 days. She’s an incredibly powerful performer, self-reflective and vulnerable writer and I’m thrilled to have her as part of the Half the Self Hate series.

How do you identify?

That’s a fun question.

In the most universal context I identify as a fat, kinky, queer, working class raised, community educated, white, femme.

What does that identity mean to you? How do the intersections of it help you bloom? What are your struggles?

My goodness I feel as though I could write an entire book trying to answer these three questions. I’ll do my best to be succinct.

My identity means the world to me. It is fluid and constantly evolving. It is the intersection of judgment and projection, the merging of what I am socially prescribed to be with how I see myself. It manifests in my crass tongue that loves words like cunt and fuck. It is big in all its 6 ft tall 300 lb 5 inch heel, red lip, big hoop wearing glory! Everything that I do is big yet somehow I love to hide in dark corners in cities everywhere I go with an astute awareness that I embody a level of safety most do not experience. My identity is an active and working understanding of when and how to leverage privilege. Unpacking, honoring and growing my identity has become a massive part of my life practice.

At this point in my relationship to self and social analysis I can say with great certainty I move through the world with a very high level of privilege. Even with the oppressions I have experienced in my life which to be clear there have been plenty. That said, I am a large bodied, feminine presenting, cis gendered, white, femme. Which means I am afforded social fluidity in nearly all communities. I am the mama archetype. My queerness is celebrated and highly visible within queer community and moot in straight community. Especially dominantly white straight community. Which is where I was raised by my fiercely loving, working class, single mother in a house filled with trouble making boys. I was groomed to know how to care for myself and others from birth. I learning how to work hard, have compassion, and always aspire to do and be better from my working class roots. I am not college educated. I learned critical thinking and writing in community spaces. Those roots are invisible to most unless I state them. This is what free agency looks like. The intersection of how I look and the way I speak affords me the opportunity to see the world in a lot of different ways. No matter the struggles or oppressions I have experienced I am extremely blessed.

As for my struggles my critical brain wants to name my greatest struggle as my internalized beliefs around class division that are steeped in a capitalist agenda. My vulnerable heart wants to name my greatest struggle as depression that can manifest in addictive and self- destructive behaviors. My body wants to scream at my brain for thinking so much it interrupts its ability to be free. Even in all of this it has become glaringly clear that any “struggle” I experience is a blessing.

denisesubwayThe final photo in the Be Beautiful series. Photo by Airial Clark.

When you were younger did you have a period of self-hate? If so how did that affect you internally and in the ways you expressed yourself or interacted with others?

Truthfully I hated myself most days until I did the Be Beautiful project. That was not even two years ago and I am currently 35 years old. I fear saying this but in the spirit of honoring vulnerability there are still so many days self-hatred creeps in like a destructive lover. The hatred no longer wins but it sure does work hard to hold its place in my life.

Throughout my teens and most of my 20’s I aspired to be loved by everyone. So I showed up in service to the needs of those around me rather than working to actualize my own greatness. I was sweet and congenial. Hell I was even prom queen. I was simultaneously highly visible while feeling completely invisible and alone. No one knew much of anything about my life and if they did it was compartmentalized to a singular aspect and
never the full spectrum.

What helped you decide not to hate yourself? What were the circumstances, how old were you?

A want for love was my primary motivation. I was constantly in shared space with my Bestie and platonic life partner Sonya Renee Taylor who founded The Body is Not an Apology. Her life’s work is about creating social change through empowering radical self-love and acceptance. She and I were invited to be part of a Body Politic think tank at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and asked the question “What sits on the other side of your bodies shame and your bodies joy?” I was 33 and had never really experienced being seen as desirable, partnerable, or lovable. I realized I had never shared sexy photos with a lover or even stopped to look at my gorgeous body in the mirror. I had no clue I was sexy or amazing. I knew part of that was something I had to navigate internally but was also clear there were social constructs that instilled those beliefs in me so I started Be Beautiful as an active inquiry to the question and now my life’s completely different.

sonyacarriesophiedenise(L-R) Sonya Renee Taylor, Shameless SF photographer Carrie Lynn, Denise, and Shameless founder and photographer Sophie Spinelle. Photo by Miki Vargas.

Where has your journey to living a life geared towards self-love taken you? How has your work as an artist been influenced by this journey?

It has become my life’s work. Outwardly my journey toward self-love has literally taken me all over the world. Honoring the vulnerability through public discourse and artistic process has afforded me the opportunity to speak, perform, and share my work with audiences globally. I am now a fulltime artist and activist who’s work specifically engages the process of actively learning to love myself. My goodness, as a working class girl who was told she’d never be nothing I still weep with gratitude at what my life has become.

Inwardly my journey towards self-love has taken me through a tumultuous and impassioned series of love affairs. I have and continue to build intimacy while dismantling the internalized beliefs that lead me to 33 years in isolation from love. I had never known beauty, body and heart break the way I do now. As a writer I live a life that lends to a shifting narrative. Which means everything I do informs my artistic practice.

Your Be Beautiful project was a huge step towards leaning into self love. Can you give some background to my readers who are unfamiliar with the project and the reception?

Be Beautiful started as a 30 day exploration into loving my 6 ft tall 311lb body. Each day I took a photograph of myself nearly naked in public and private spaces with beautiful written across the parts of my body I had internalized shame about. I then posted the images on social media. When the 30 days were complete I wrote an article about my journey that was published on The Body is Not an Apology. The Article and photographs have since been republished and cross-posted all over the world. I then had the remarkable privilege of working with Shameless photography. We flew to Brooklyn and recreated the shot of Madonna hitchhiking nude only this time I was the model wearing only high heals and a handbag. Mind blowingly that image went more viral than the Be Beautiful series. For instance in a single day it was shared with Cosmopolitan.com, Redbook, and MTV under headlines naming my 311lb body as gorgeous.

Having major markets and social institutions like Cosmo name a body like mine as gorgeous was a remarkable moment. That said what I continue to experience, as most impacting are the personal stories people share. Last year on tour a young woman told me when the project was released she was in treatment for an eating disorder and the project saved her life. So many women have written just to tell me in seeing my body they are considering themselves as beautiful for the first time in their life. My god that’s amazing.

denisemadonnaThe recreated Madonna shot (my first missed connection with Denise–Sophie invited me to the set to help this last March but Dara had chemo that day!), photo by Shameless Photography.

Since the Be Beautiful project ended have you continued the practice of looking in the mirror at your body? How has your conception of your body changed?

I most definitely have continued the practice of looking at myself in the mirror! There of course have been periods wherein I have not but I do
prioritize doing so.

I love my body now. Every inch, every stretch mark, my face, my breasts, my ass, I love it! The most important evolution has been learning to share and celebrate my body with lovers.

Is there anything you think you could say to your younger self to turn away from self hatred or do you think it was an inevitable path that had to run its course?

To be real I think our cultural constructs around self hatred and destruction lend to most people having to navigate and work through some level of it. That said I certainly believe it can lessen with every generation.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to surround yourself with people who affirm and validate your power and possibility. Regardless of age or station that can be hard but if you identify potential role models that challenge any perception of internalized shame or self-hatred, invest in that relationship. I have been blessed to meet a slew of powerful women in my life and have worked very hard to prioritize being in shared space with them as much as possible. My closest friends are my greatest influences and anyone I work in collaboration with or support of is someone that is investing in the actualization of my greatness as much as they are of their own. This is imperative.

What practices do you employ now to be more self loving and less self hating?

I have many. I think the most important is practicing active awareness. Self-hatred did not just disappear when self-love finally made its way into my life. When hatred comes I have to honor its arrival, unpack why its here, and invite the possibility of other experiences. This opens my life up to moments of levity without shaming the absolute truth that I was indoctrinated with a deep belief that I should hate and work to destroy myself and everyone else.

I wrote an article that offers 5 rules to start being beautiful that I think can speak more extensively to this.

What’s your favorite self-care activity?

My favorite activity is writing love poems in chalk while listening to music and dancing around my neighborhood in the middle of the night.

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Thank you so much, Denise, for your thoughtful and incredibly powerful answers for the Half the Self Hate series!! You can invite Denise Jolly to speak, teach or perform! All the information is at her website. You can also follow Denise on her Instagram, Facebook fan page and Tumblr!

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Half the Self Hate Instagram and Twitter contest challenge:

The contest is over, thanks to the folks who shared and posted, and many many thanks to two great feminist, queer owned, body positive sex toy stores for sponsoring, Sugar in Baltimore, MD and Self Serve Toys a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Albuquerque, NM (both have online stores). They believe, as I do, that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are!

I still want to know how you’ve lost half your self hate! Write a tweet or an Instagram post about one practice you have employed to lose half your self hate. Or commit to employing one practice to lose half your self hate! (You can borrow a practice you learned about in this blog series!) Hashtag your post with #halftheselfhate.

I can read something and it kinda sinks in, but if I read something and then apply it to my life by writing something reflective, that’s when it really begins to work for me. The great thing about blogs and social media is the archive. I’ve really loved reading what people have said so far on the hashtag and I’d love for it to continue as a reflective space for folks to remember what they’ve done to cut half their self hate! It’s difficult to speak openly about loving yourself and I’d love to keep moving forward to cut that social stigma!

2015-02-13

Half the Self Hate: Kate Bornstein Wriggling Towards Fun

For years I’ve been noticing the People Magazine annual “Half Their Size” issue. It comes out around New Year’s Eve and the cover is always the same: before and after photos with big graphics about how much each person has lost. People Magazine devotes pages and pages of a feature story to readers who have lost over half their body weight. They ask them how they did it, what motivated them, what their “rock bottom” was as a fat person.

I kept thinking, What if we talked to people about how they lost more than half of their self-hatred? What would it look like? I find it so inspirational to hear how people have risen out of oppression and cultures that don’t value their bodies/identities and have learned to love themselves in spite of that.

I reached out to several artists and activists whose work and self love I admire to ask what practices they employ to love themselves and how they defy a culture that commodifies self hatred. I wanted to know what inspired them to work to reduce or eliminate their self hate.

This is a series about self love triumphing over self hate, and valuing yourself as a radical act of resistance.

The Half the Self Hate series continues Monday with my interview with Be Beautiful Project founder and poet, Denise Jolly.

kateauthorphotoKate with her pug, Mollyanna.

I discovered Kate Bornstein when I was 17 years old and taking my first Women’s Studies class (this was 1996, before it was renamed Women and Gender Studies). How lucky I feel to have known Kate’s work for almost half my life! Her book Gender Outlaw radically shifted how I saw gender, people and identity and I have continued to learn so much from her work ever since. Kate works to make the world a better place, whether that’s through her engaging keynote speeches on achieving world peace through gender anarchy and sex positivity, her numerous books, social media work preventing suicide with #stayalive, or just one on one over fried chicken and good conversation.

I knew I wanted to include Kate in this blog series about battling self hate because her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, is an incredible book that delves deep into how Kate’s mind works. She writes very candidly about working through feelings of strong self-hate and how she wiggles through that to become both profoundly accomplished and self-actualized. On top of all of that, Kate is also one of the kindest people I have ever met. I’m so thrilled to bring her words to you as part of Half the Self Hate.

How do you identify?

Currently, that’s in flux. It’s something like genderqueer BDSM asexual transsexual diesel femme dyke crone.

What does that identity mean to you? How do the intersections of it help you bloom? What are your struggles?

It means I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules about gender and sexuality—rather, I can explore the non-binaries of me. The struggle? I’m a double Pisces. I don’t struggle so much as I wriggle. I’m wriggling toward being the most fun me I can be. The challenges all seem to come down to someone else’s respectable rules, regulations, standards, and values. I’m wriggling away from all that, as best I can.

Do you identify as someone who loves themselves or something else? Maybe just working on not hating yourself?

Love myself? Oh goodness, no. Well, rarely. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally come to a place of having compassion for myself.

kate_bornstein santiago felipePhoto by Santiago Felipe.

Do you remember when it became obvious to you that you had a self-hating internal monologue? Was there ever a time before that you loved yourself?

Ummmm. Since the moment I was self-aware, I’ve always felt that I’m less-than. Less than a real boy was the start of it all. My life from that point on has been all about how I don’t measure up, how I get it all wrong, how I never get enough done. And that’s been the state of me until quite recently—say a couple of years ago—when, in one of the very early crowdsourcing campaigns, thousands of people raised over $100,000 so that I could pay for two years of wriggling through lung cancer to the point where I’ve now been in remission for over nine months.. That many people helping me stay alive, well, that marked the end of my low self-esteem and self hatred.

Can you create work as an artist when you are having a bad self esteem day? If so, what is your process of working through it? If not are you able to let yourself off the hook about it?

Oh yes! Art got me through a LOT of suicidal periods of my life. A lot of art gets made that way. There’s a wonderful collection of essays by me and others who do exactly that: “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,” edited by Sabrina Chap. Now, doing art hasn’t always made me love myself, but it almost always has gotten me through periods of my life when I just might have acted on that self-loathing.

What practices do you employ now to be more self loving and less self hating?

Over the past four years, I’ve been doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy. When I’m lost or losing my way, that’s a huge help to returning to a place of compassion. DBT is a therapy developed by Marsha M. Linehan. As I understand it, it’s part Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and part Zen Buddhism. I love Zen. Along with Sufism, Zen is one of the world’s last remaining slapstick spiritual paths.

What’s your favorite self-care activity?

Cuddling with Maui, the Siberian cat I live with.

IMG_20150212_183722Kate and Maui. Photo from Kate’s Instagram.

You do so much work helping others Stay Alive. Your #stayalive hashtag on social media, your book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, and virtually all of your other work helping people feel at home in their gender(s). How has doing that work influenced your self love journey?

In addition to Zen, I’m also a follower of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Love him. Studying his take on Buddhism, I’ve become familiar with the spiritual path of bodhisattva. Google it. It gives me a lifetime to lifetime goal and focus of ending suffering for all sentient beings, by means of becoming as wise as I can possibly be. During the moments that I’m aware of that goal and life focus, yeah… I love myself.

Kate-infront-of-books1byDavidHarrisonPhoto by David Harrison.

You can find Kate Bornstein touring on the lecture/workshop/performance circuit (her schedule is here and you can also book her for your college/conference/retreat/etc…) as well as touring with Sam Feder and the film he made about her, Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger. I was so surprised, thrilled and honored to have my femmeceeing included from Rebel Cupcake in May, 2012 in the film about Kate. I’m wearing a cute dress.

I also want to second Kate’s book recommendation for the anthology “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,”, it has helped me come to a lot of understanding of how my depression (I get seasonal as well as just regular depression) affects me as an artist, and helped me not feel so alone in my struggle.

You can follow Kate on social media, her Instagram and Twitter are fantastic, and sometimes she tucks you in bed with a sweet benevolent message. If you haven’t read her books, start with her riveting memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, then explore My New Gender Workbook, Gender Outlaw, and Hello Cruel World.

If you or a friend are in need of alternatives to suicide, there’s the free Hello Cruel World lite and if cost is an issue, you or your friend can reach out to Kate directly to get a full copy of Hello Cruel World.

Thank you so much Kate for your insights!! I love you!!

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Half the Self Hate Instagram and Twitter contest:
**Contest extended!!**
I want to know how you’ve lost half your self hate! Write a tweet or an Instagram post about one practice you have employed to lose half your self hate. Or commit to employing one practice to lose half your self hate! (You can borrow a practice you learned about in this blog series!)

Hashtag your post with #halftheselfhate and make the post by February 20th at midnight Eastern time. Two winners will be chosen by a random draw.

One winner will receive a $50 gift certificate from Self Serve Toys a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Albuquerque, NM with a great online store!

A second winner will receive a Vesper vibrator worth $79 from Sugar, a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Baltimore, MD which also has an online store!

Self Serve Toys and Sugar believe, as I do, that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.

*To qualify to win your Instagram or Twitter needs to be public! The winner will be selected by random number generated by random.org of all entries to the contest between February 11th and February 20th February 24th Midnight Eastern time.

2015-02-11

Half the Self Hate: Kama La Mackerel is Deconstructing Embodied Colonialism through Self Love and QTPOC Community

For years I’ve been noticing the People Magazine annual “Half Their Size” issue. It comes out around New Year’s Eve and the cover is always the same: before and after photos with big graphics about how much each person has lost. People Magazine devotes pages and pages of a feature story to readers who have lost over half their body weight. They ask them how they did it, what motivated them, what their “rock bottom” was as a fat person.

I kept thinking, What if we talked to people about how they lost more than half of their self-hatred? What would it look like? I find it so inspirational to hear how people have risen out of oppression and cultures that don’t value their bodies/identities and have learned to love themselves in spite of that.

I reached out to several artists and activists whose work and self love I admire to ask what practices they employ to love themselves and how they defy a culture that commodifies self hatred. I wanted to know what inspired them to work to reduce or eliminate their self hate.

This is a series about self love triumphing over self hate, and valuing yourself as a radical act of resistance.

The Half the Self Hate series continues Friday with my interview with gender activist, performer and legend Kate Bornstein.

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The Goddess smiled upon me when I met Kama La Mackerel when they stayed at my home while in New York City to perform. They are a sissy, poet, comedian, dancer, drag and visual artist based in Tio’tia:ke, on colonized Kanien’kehá:ka ​/​ Mohawk territory (aka Montreal, Canada). There are invisible fireworks radiating from Kama at all times and especially when they are on stage. When we first met we spoke about their work creating community spaces that celebrate self love for Queer and Trans* People of Color. I knew Kama would have some incredible insights into self love practice and the journey to value yourself. If you ever have the opportunity to see them perform I suggest you snap it up, and in the meantime am so grateful to welcome Kama to Half the Self Hate Week on QueerFatFemme.com!

How do you identify? ​ ​

TransPOC femme queer warrior mixed-race brown/black working class university-educated​ able-bodied​ displaced diasporic anti-colonial anti-racist survivor artist community organizer movement builder & lover…

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What does that identity mean to you? How do the intersections of it help you bloom? What are your struggles?

I deliberately decided to reply to the first question, “How do you identify?” with a list of words that string together a multiplicity of identities that all intersect in different light, at different moments, a bit like a kaleidoscope​; ​at any given moment, I am all of those ​identities​, and more, but at any given moment, I am also less than ​the totality of​ those words threaded together​.

​I strongly believe in intersectionality as a way of understanding ​ one​​self and processing the types of oppression one faces, and the type of privileges ​from which ​one benefits.​ I will, however, explain a couple of the words I use to self-identify:

TransPOC – ‘coz that’s just a fact: I am a person of color​. I can’t ever switch that one off. Not even in the most intimate moments, ‘coz that’s how deep white supremacy creeps in– it manages to crawl inside your skin and colonize the shit out of your own colored body. And TransPOC, “trans” and “POC” together, because my race is only policed vis-à-vis of my gender, and my gender is only policed vis-à-vis my race. Or as I like to call it #Colonialism101: controlling, policing, ridiculing, silencing, fetishizing, dissecting, sexualizing, selling, buying and trading colored bodies through the lens of western white supremacist gender binary.

The rest is fairly self-explanatory. I do want to point out that I am university educated and this has given me TREMENDOUS amounts of privilege in navigating the world. Just the fact that I have access to the English language, and to a particular type/register of English language testifies to this.

I will also point out that I conclude this string of words with the word “lover”– love is a force that is taking more and more space in my art, my organizing and my everyday life. I wouldn’t be able to do all the work I do if I didn’t centre love as the driving force in my life: love for myself, love for others, and love for justice.

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When you were younger did you have a period of self-hate? If so how did that affect you internally and in the ways you expressed yourself or interacted with others?

​Oh Goddess! I’ve been in a “period of self-hate” for most of my life now! As much as I have learnt to love myself, to care for myself, to value myself, and to be happy with who I am, and as much as I am now the happiest I have ever been in my life, this does not mean that I have conquered it all! This only means that I am still working through shit, I am still working through a lot of shaming and self-shaming, and I am still learning to love and value myself a little bit more, every single day.

I like to think of shaming as functioning in layers: living in a white supremacist world that values only particular types of bodies, we learn to feel ashamed of ourselves from a very young age, and through our family, school, the media, society, our communities, we internalize layers and layers of shame over the years, and by the time we’re 15, we’re all pretty much screwed… It is only a couple of years ago that I started to actively work through all those layers of internalized shame and self-hatred. I’m still working through it; I don’t think it will ever end: each time I work through one layer, another layer appears, and that’s the challenge and the beauty of doing this type of work.

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What helped you decide not to hate yourself? What were the circumstances, how old were you?

​Oh this was a process. This was a long, long, very long process and it is still ongoing. I will mention a few things here that helped me and that worked for me. First, having amazing, kind, challenging, honest and supportive networks/people in my life. I consider myself very blessed– I’ve had some really rough shit to deal with in my adult life, but I’ve always had solid people to hold me when I broke down. Those people loved/love me so much, even when I hated myself, and they thus pretty much taught me how to love myself. (If you’re reading this right now, you know who you are: <3) Things also changed when I started​ connecting with more POCs, when I started surrounding myself by QTPOCs, and loving them, desiring them & fucking them, and reading their zines, and spending afternoons with them in parks, and running workshops and organizing festivals with them! Doing all this helped me see beauty in them so I could love myself a bit more; and it helped me see beauty in me, so I could love them a bit more. Things also changed when I started spending long nights with Audre Lourde and metro rides with bell hooks, and all those other amazing Black feminists and women of color writers. They helped me ground myself, they helped me honor my legacy, and they taught me to centre love in my life, my art and my work. Things also changed when I stopped dating and/or fucking cis-white able-bodied dudes. Things did change when I made a commitment to watch only porn that features POCs and only POCs. Things started to change when I started looking for representations of myself and my people in the media that I consumed-- the books I read, the blogs I followed, the shows I watched... Things changed drastically when I started working on my internalized misogyny and my internalized racism. This was and still is, without a doubt, the hardest part of the work for me, and yet, this is the work that allows me to love myself a little bit more everyday... 16501533752_04a6973be9_z

Where has your journey to living a life geared towards self-love taken you? How has your work as an artist been influenced by this journey?

​I think, more than anything, that a journey towards self-love has allowed me to love others better. A journey towards loving myself allowed me to be a more caring human being, first towards myself, and then towards others, and that in turn has helped me to build community in more intentional and accountable ways.

This journey towards self-love has allowed me to embrace my femme identity, my skin, my thick curly hair, my history, my legacy… It has also allowed me to make art and to finally get over the fear of my own voice and to express my right to narrate.

It has also made me a better lover! Once I had started working through my layers of shame, I started seeing people with different bodies in different ways: I started dating and fucking individuals for whom I wouldn’t have previously felt much attraction, and that pretty much revolutionized my sex life!

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When we spoke in December I remember you were talking about creating intentional space for QTPOC to heal legacies of hatred through self love, can you talk about that?

​YES! As I like to say, the revolution will not happen in the streets. It will first happen around dinner tables, park benches and comfy couches where we will intentionally spend time together, talk about the generations of trauma that we carry in our bodies, and slowly work through our pain and heal collectively. Once we do that, we can go and burn the streets for all I know. But first, we need to create the spaces for us to love each other and care for each other, and heal.

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Is there anything you think you could say to your younger self to turn away from self hatred or do you think it was an inevitable path that had to run its course?

Interestingly enough, I never talk to my younger self and/or think about talking to my younger self. But my younger self talks to me pretty much all the time! Generally speaking, my younger self says: “Don’t worry, you got this! You’re winning at this, who’d have thought?!” And that allows my present self to breathe a little bit in moments of panic!

In that journey towards self-love, one of my biggest struggles has been with self-forgiveness– you know, forgiving myself for shitty things I did to my younger self, ‘coz I didn’t know better, and even when I knew better, I put myself in threatening situations just because of low self-esteem?

I still struggle with self-forgiveness and I sometimes hate myself for things I did to my younger self. But my younger self is pretty badass, and often talks to my present self and asks me to forgive myself and to embrace and love my younger self. (I’m still working through this one…)

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What’s your favorite self-care activity?

​WELL, MASTURBATING, OF COURSE!
My self-care activities are fairly standard (watching shows, spending time in bed, having good food etc.), so what about I talk about my favorite self-love practices instead? I love touching myself in multiple sensual, erotic and sexual ways, I love dressing up and celebrating my body through clothes and make-up, and I love gifting myself a great deal of alone time.
Making art is also a gift of self-love to myself. Given that I have a full-time job and other commitments in life, making time to make art is a deep act of self-love to me: making art and allowing my voice, my point of view and my experiences to speak through the creative process is, to me, an act of self-love. Also, making art brings so much joy to my life, and I like making myself happy!

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Can you tell me more about Qouleur​ and GENDER B(L)ENDER? What does 2015 have in store for both of them?

Qouleur is a QTPOC grassroots arts festival that I co-founded in 2012. It is typically a 10-day festival that seeks to highlight the lives, work and art of queer and trans racialized folks in Montreal, and it is packed with workshops, film screenings, talks, an art exhibit and a performance night. Qouleur started because QTPOCs felt that neither mainstream nor alternative/radical Montreal queer and feminist spaces had an anti-racist and anti-colonial analysis AND practice to them, and that if QTPOCs wanted to have access to safe and celebratory spaces, they would have to create it themselves. The festival will be running for a 4th year in 2015, with an amazing collective of committed and passionate volunteers. I have stepped away from Qouleur to work on other projects, but it is phenomenal to see the project change and evolve according to the vision of new folks getting involved! <3 ​ GENDER B(L)ENDER is a monthly queer open mic that I founded in May 2013, and that I host every last Friday of the month. The idea, really, is to allow anyone to have a stage where they can perform whatever they want, and they won’t get judged for the quality or nature of their performance. No oppressive language or behavior is tolerated in the space and this applies to both audience and performers– those are the only rules of the night! It’s a fun, kind, nurturing and supportive space where most of the performers are performing for the first time of their lives. And that is a beautiful moment of self-love to witness and celebrate every month!

​For the 3rd year in a row now, I am curating a performance night called The Self-Love Cabaret: l’amour se conjugue à la première personne. This is an amazing night ‘coz it happens on Feb 14th and it is actually an anti-Valentines artistic manifesto! With a queer, feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial mandate, artists take to the stage to celebrate self-love instead of celebrating capitalist notions of belonging and coupledom! This year, I have a line-up of six absolutely amazing Montreal-based QTPOC artists whom I can’t wait to introduce! ​

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Kama La Mackerel is so incredible! You can find out all about their work and keep up with them at their website, Tumblr and Facebook Fan page. Thank you so much for your kind words and reflection, Kama!

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Half the Self Hate Instagram and Twitter contest:
**Contest extended!!**
I want to know how you’ve lost half your self hate! Write a tweet or an Instagram post about one practice you have employed to lose half your self hate. Or commit to employing one practice to lose half your self hate! (You can borrow a practice you learned about in this blog series!)

Hashtag your post with #halftheselfhate and make the post by February 20th at midnight Eastern time. Two winners will be chosen by a random draw.

One winner will receive a $50 gift certificate from Self Serve Toys a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Albuquerque, NM with a great online store!

A second winner will receive a Vesper vibrator worth $79 from Sugar, a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Baltimore, MD which also has an online store!

Self Serve Toys and Sugar believe, as I do, that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.

*To qualify to win your Instagram or Twitter needs to be public! The winner will be selected by random number generated by random.org of all entries to the contest between February 11th and February 20th February 24th Midnight Eastern time.

2014-10-10

Nine Steps to Be Ready to Wear Sleeveless Shirts or Shorts Next Summer

If you spent this summer consistently covering up your arms because you were ashamed to show that part of your body, now is a great time to start working on being ready for next year. You can unlearn the lies that people tell you about how you have to cover up in order to be socially acceptable.

I remember very distinctly an episode of the Oprah show I watched when I was a teenager where she waved her upper arm in the air and spoke derisively about the skin and fat “waddle” dangling there. I turned crimson with the recognition that I already had that “waddle” and that because Oprah was opposed to it then I should be ashamed of it.
2957045493_cb41415748_zI thought I’d do a little flashback Friday with photos of me sleeveless through the last decade. Here is a photo of me showing my arm waddle during a performance at the International Drag King Extravaganza in Columbus circa 2010. This is the dapper and amazing Heywood Wakefield.

Oprah is in a unique position—she’s so influential in US culture that many people listen to what she says with the same kind of attention that we might give to a parent or relative. My parents and relatives were also fatphobic and ashamed of their bodies and it was easy to internalize that the fat body I had all my life was wrong, with a hearty reiteration from Oprah.

We’re all human, though, and I recognize everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. My mom is now super supportive of my work with body liberation and Oprah is definitely much more body accepting in the twenty teens than she was in the nineties.

I don’t understand why our culture is so opposed to fat people’s arms. What is it about the arms specifically that makes us need to cover them up most of all? No fat person’s arm has caused more harm than a thin person’s.

I was on the phone with a body liberation coaching client and told her the story of how I got through my own shame about sleeveless shirts, and I wanted to share that with my readers. This is the same time of year I began that journey, so I thought it would be great to encourage others who are ready to take these steps to begin now for next summer.

I’m outlining here a process of self-acceptance and learning to be comfortable in the body you have right now. All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are AND they deserve to be comfortable.

14558700107_5d7497a1ae_oThese are my stickers! Aren’t they cute? If anyone wants some, make a donation via paypal of any amount to queerfatfemme at gmail and include your address.

1. Get ready to do things differently

I was 19 when I embarked on the journey to start wearing sleeveless shirts. I was at an interesting turning point in my life. After a many years long, often suicidal depression, I had decided to stop hating myself. I didn’t know what that meant and I had no identifiable role models for fat people who didn’t hate themselves, but I knew I needed to do something different. That summer, I met someone who basically made me promise to stop putting myself down and work on loving myself. Grant was a lifeguard at the Girl Scout camp I worked at and he wrote me the sweetest note in my camp yearbook. It meant so much to me. It was the first time I was ever able to hear that I was worthy of not hating myself.

I knew instinctively that I was wrong for hiding my arms. It was uncomfortable and annoying and I wanted to feel the freedom of my skinny counterparts. I had a couple of tank tops as layering pieces and I started to open myself up to the idea of wearing them, and set a goal to be wearing them outside by the next year. I wasn’t sure exactly how, but I was going to do it.

If you want to do things differently, you need only set your mind to it. If you’ve been spending your summers all bottled up under hoodies or wearing pants even though you would be way more comfortable in shorts, you can move past your fear and shame and start being more confident.

You just need to want it. It’s also okay to not want it and spend the next year or however long getting to a point to want to go sleeveless or wear shorts. That’s okay, too!

2. Go shopping

If you already have tank tops or shorts you want to wear, great, skip this step. If you’ve avoided them forever, this is a great time of year to get low stakes clothing that you’re not that attached to.

Now that I’m comfortable with my body I don’t have a problem investing in pieces that are armless and short legged (herstorically I’ve spent a pretty penny on vintage lingerie pieces). But if I wasn’t comfortable in a short sleeved shirt, I wouldn’t want to spend a bunch of cash on them just to see if I could learn to love myself in spite of all the lies people tell me about my body.

Right now Target has summer clearance hanging around—I got two really great sleeveless dresses for $12 recently. And a quick search online yields promising results (like this long tank top, I love a long tank top). I also totally adore Target’s Liz Lange maternity clothes–this sleeveless V neck cami marketed for “sleep” but totally not just for sleep is a great plus size sleeveless first step shirt.

Layering pieces are super helpful for this process, too, if you need some guidance for what to buy. The tank tops I started trying out when I was 19 were meant to go under overshirts. One of my favorite looks when I was in college in the late nineties were men’s dress shirts worn open over a frilly tank top. When I was ready to wear tank tops out of the house it helped to have the layers ready to go whenever I felt shy.

If you’re wanting to try shorts out, there’s a little less layering wiggle room, but it’s a great time of year to get clearance shorts, too.

15498653845_ffa838faff_zThis is a layering look I adored in 2011, a sleeveless dress with a cardigan on top.

3. Identify confidence anchors on your body

I didn’t do this when I transitioned to tank tops, but when I came out as Femme I used this a whole bunch. I found the part of my body I felt the most confident about (my cleavage) and I dressed around it. I could try pretty much anything if my cleavage was bangin’. The Lane Bryant Plunge bra was great for this. If your anchor is your cleavage, make sure you have a great bra for stepping your way into wearing tank tops next summer.

For some tips on bra shopping check out this article I wrote about getting a custom bra fitting.

So maybe your favorite part of your body is your calves or your forearms or something. Find a way to highlight it and use it as an anchor.

647924376_8cb8653c4f_o2002, at the IDKE showcase. Corsets were really good to me in the focus on the cleavage not the arms department.

4. Practice at home

Once you have the will to try something new and the new garments you want to try, start practicing at home. At 19 I was a Resident Advisor in the dorms, so this was an experiment just in my room at Thoreau Hall at UC Davis. I would just use tank tops as my around the house wear. Previous to this I was so ashamed of my arms that I wasn’t even wearing tank tops in the privacy of my own home, not even as loungewear.

What made the tank tops different than loungewear was that I would be all dressed for outside, but in a tank top. This is where layering pieces helped—I was able to just throw on an overshirt and go about my day. But in the house, I was wearing the tank top that I wished I had the confidence to wear outside.

If you’re trying on shorts, wear them around the house and get used to what your body looks like in shorts. I know a lot of folks who are super insecure about hairy legs, cellulite, weird skin stuff and leg size or shape.

5. Identify your body positive allies

This is a really great exercise whether or not you are already a sleeveless shirt and shorts wearer. Who in your life is a body positive ally? Your best friend? A certain group of friends? I sure hope you have some folks in your life who affirm the body that you’re in right now and don’t think you need to change.

If not, start making a list of the attributes of friends who will be body positive allies to you, and open yourself up to finding those friends.

9304102569_cdb266b898_oThis was the first time I ever wore a bikini, with my friend Jacqueline.

6. Identifiy your “safer” spaces

Once you’ve identified body positive allies, come up with a list of safe(r) spaces to try out wearing new clothes. This is a great technique for any kind of fashion risk. Places I like to try things out:

*Casual hang out with your allies.
*A body positive ally comes over and you just don’t cover up your arms.
*Brunch—this is my favorite petri dish for new fashion. Low stakes and early in the day.
*Going out in public with a body positive ally who can compliment you when you’re feeling nervous.
*Going out in public with a layering piece so you can quickly cover up if you need to. Challenge yourself to go without the layer longer and longer each time.

2504463608_9827babbb3_zA little chicken satay and body positivity with Rachael, one of my oldest friends, in 2008.

7. Fake it till you make it and act “as if” you’re already comfortable in sleeveless shirts

When I was trying out tank tops I remember the first time someone came over by surprise and I just didn’t cover up my arms. It was my not-yet first girlfriend and I remember feeling embarrassed about my arms showing but also really wanted to try to be okay with it. I was so crushed out on her that it was easy to forget to be insecure because my mind was absolutely full, and that’s exactly why I forgot to put on an overshirt in the first place!

What I did was I just faked it. I pretended to be okay with my arms showing. The more it happened with folks coming over the more I realized it wasn’t a big deal. No one was going to think differently of me with my arms showing.

3683063609_4ce737edc2_zPride parade 2009 with the Femme Family NYC.

8. Instagram or tumblr body positive images

I really like to reinforce positive body image for all bodies. I love Instagram and Tumblr for this. To consistently surround myself with people who believe all bodies are good bodies and who exude self-confidence is a really great antidote for our fat shaming society. Get used to seeing bodies like yours in sleeveless tops or shorts!

By the way—never read the comments. People are gross on the internet.

Remember throughout this process—so many of us have been there. The people you see in Instagram and Tumblr feeds are people who have survived the same body policing and fat hating society. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Just because someone seems confident doesn’t mean they are not vulnerable, human and insecure just like you.

9. Do what you need to do about beauty rituals to feel comfortable in sleeveless shirts

Again, this is a process of self-acceptance and learning to be comfortable in the body you have right now. However, if you need to do things to feel good in them that are achievable, maybe you try that. Maybe it’s a spray tan. Maybe it’s an arm tattoo. Maybe it’s shaving your legs every single day to wear shorts until you can get comfortable enough to go hairy legged one summer. Maybe it’s addressing a skin thing keeping you from showing your arms. I’m not saying modification of your body is necessary to body acceptance, but sometimes it’s helpful to baby step your way.

1393354441_e2bef3304b_zFound this photo of my friend Zoe’s leg tattoo–a great reason to wear shorts!

Dolly Parton’s character Truvy in Steel Magnolias says there’s no such thing as natural beauty, and I do believe that everyone should get to do exactly as much “work” as they want to on their appearance. For me, when I’m feeling nervous about something, I throw on a full face of make-up including fake eyelashes and big hair and it definitely ups my confidence.

When I was about 9 years old I started developing bumps on my arms. It looked kind of like chicken skin after feathers were plucked from them. I was super insecure about it, and my paternal Grammy told me it was genetic. Eventually I learned that this is a really typical skin condition and I could just exfoliate three times a week and it would go away. I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable trying tank tops if I hadn’t already addressed this skin issue I was having, but I’d like to think I would have still tried. (Right now I use Lush’s sandstone soap to exfoliate, and also a scrubby washcloth.)

Oh, and once I started exposing my skin to the sun more often, the bumps were way less prevalent.

Being self confident is a baby stepping process. I was 19 when I started trying to wear tank tops and it took me until I was 22 to start to embrace my fat body and fat as an identity. You can get there. Every single day is a great day to start.

7310063030_3093c1724a_zRebel Cupcake second anniversary party, 2012.

2014-10-01

Are you Single and Ready to Manifest Your Dream Date?

Earlier this year I did a few sessions of relationship coaching with Christine Dunn-Cunningham, better known as the Lesbian Love Guru. She’s so kind, sensitive and smart. Christine had some incredibly valuable advice for me and Dara about how to communicate better and to have a more fulfilling relationship. What surprised me about the process of her coaching was that we both met separately with her via phone, working on our own stuff so that we could get together and create more harmony.

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This approach makes me confident Christine is a great singles’ coach. I think a lot of times we get in our own way to finding the kind of love and sex relationships we’re looking for. As queers, women, people of size, people of different abilities and all sorts of marginalized identities, we’re not taught that we’re worthy of love. We’re not taught how to be open to love from a self-confident and self-aware place.

I kept picking the wrong folks who were emotionally unavailable and didn’t have what I wanted. When I realized I was repeating the same pattern again and again I buckled down and did some hard work on myself. I know it was doing that work on myself that opened me up to love with folks who were a better fit for me.

For a limited time, Christine is offering an exciting package deal for folks who are ready to do the work to open themselves up to the right love relationship.

Her new online workshop, “Manifest Your Dream Woman*: How to Attract the Love of Your Life” is for single women who are ready to find lasting love. She’s created a simple, proven 4 step process for attracting the woman of your dreams. It’s a powerful, exciting process guaranteed to get you moving forward in your love life!

Christine will take you by the hand and personally lead you through the entire process step-by-step. Over the course of 30 days she’ll empower you to manifest your dream woman – someone who is just right for you!

Get Started Here!

In the workshop series, get ready to:
*Create a crystal clear picture of the kind of relationship you really want…and discover the secret to getting it!

*Identify emotional blockages that keep you from getting the love you want and learn how to easily move past them!

*Experience a massive perspective shift that will allow you to effortlessly attract the love of your life and keep her!

*Enjoy the unstoppable self-confidence you need to be yourself and attract a woman who loves you exactly the way you are!

*Find loving support every step of the way – motivating, encouraging, and sharing experiences with each other to create the ultimate support system along the journey

*Get re-energized and excited about your love life again, certain that your dream woman is on her way to you!

Christine is a dating expert and coach and she’s helped women all over the country find love and create deeply connected, passionate relationships.

Along with the program you’ll get great bonus content including a private 30 minute one-on-one “Love Life Transformation” coaching call ($297 Value), “Perfecting Your Online Profile” Program ($47 Value), and…

Special guest coaching call with ME, Bevin Branlandingham, sharing my secrets for loving yourself and enjoying unstoppable self-confidence! (Because in the words of icon RuPaul, if you can’t love yourself how in the hell are you going to love somebody else…)

IMG_6671My beloved friend Jess got this RuPaul shirt air brushed in Pigeon Forge, TN when we went to Dollywood!

So if you’re struggling in your dating life – if you keep dating the wrong women, feel frustrated by the dating process, or even lost hope that you’re special someone is out there – join Christine in her “Manifest Your Dream Woman” workshop and get ready to completely transform you love life!

Click here to reserve your spot (space is limited!)

Karen C.’s feedback to Christine:

“After attending your [Manifest Your Dream Woman] workshop last Aug, I came home and found her. Yay!! Without a doubt, I attribute finding her to your workshop.  Finally, I really knew what I was looking for in a partner, where to look and tada!, I found her. Thanks!!!!”
Eteranally Grateful, Karen C.

If you’re ready to find your special someone, click here.

*Christine’s work is for all self-identified women. She’s worked with singles, couples, poly situations, and folks of all genders and sexualities. Also, during my coaching call I’m going to use the term “Womanifest your dream woman.”

2014-08-02

August Astrological Forecast and Self Development Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

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August is here and it’s time for some more planetary shifts to bring us in alignment with the next round of ways we can improve ourselves. I agree with Katie from Empowering Astrology, rough astrology is either our chance to get knocked around or it’s our chance to use the energy to be our best selves. Saturn is making some difficult conjunctions this month, anyone who has gone through their Saturn Return knows it’s rough to get real about what is going on in your life. But it’s also a great way to grow.

As always, I’ve written exercises working in conjunction with this month’s astrology to create self improvement with some celestial oomph. The activities include learning how to respond instead of react (good strategy no matter what’s happening in the stars), a full moon ritual about getting real with yourself, and incorporating health at every size into your new moon intentions.

Click here to download this month’s report.

Enjoy!!

2014-07-07

July Self Development Astrology Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

Filed under: Self Development,Spirituality — Tags: , , , — Bevin @ 11:20 am

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In this month’s astrology self development worksheet in partnership with Katie from Empowering Astrology, we’re tackling play as stress relief, checking in on lessons and themes from the last couple of major astrological events in October of last year and April of this year, taking stock of how far we’ve come in big projects and practicing living life with authenticity.

Download the worksheet here!

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