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

2017-01-23

What Kind of Activist Are You? Free Five Minute Journaling Exercise!

In light of the tremendous success of the Womens’ Marches throughout the country this weekend, a lot of people are feeling a strong call to action but don’t know where to start. I have a simple, five minute journaling exercise that can help!

I think this event was so legendary that our kids are going to think of it like we think about Woodstock. When I was young I always asked people who were young adults around that time if they went to Woodstock. Everyone has a good story about it, even if they weren’t there.

On Friday Dara, me and my friend Rick Sorkin implemented Love & Resistance, a Shabbat Dinner party centering activist uplift. We had a number of amazing presenters and Dara’s facilitation of ‘From Words to Action: Changing the Way we Organize with Love & Resistance’ was a hit. (She’s a professional facilitator and she’s fabulous.) I thought the content of her thirty minute facilitated discussion was a fabulous place for folks to use for self-reflection about their activism.

The pics aren’t in from the event but here’s Dara at the Madonna Inn!

Dara broke down five types of activists.

Protestor
If you are the first out on the picket line, you love to participate in boycotts, you are totally into calling your Senators and Congress folks, you might be a Protestor.

Protector
Unfortunately, Dara’s example for this type happened to her on the way to dinner. At the ATM in Silverlake, getting cash to pay for the restaurant, a man walking by screamed “Get all your money you Jew bitch.” For real. So if your inclination if you saw this happen was to roll up on Dara and find out if she’s okay and figure out how you can help her, you might be a Protector. Same if you are on a Southwest flight (where there are no assigned seats) and you sit next to a person of size to keep them from getting hassled by fatphobic seatmates. Or if you engage in other actions of one to one solidarity with folks who are vulnerable for a host of reasons… you might be a protector.

Bridge Builder
If you were invited to a meeting to talk to Drumpf supporters, would you do it? Do you want to figure out how to connect with people who don’t believe in the same things you do? Do you believe empathy and understanding can help us end racism, sexism, homophobia and the like? If so, you might be a Bridge Builder.

Healer
If your activism stems from a place of offering meditation, yoga, mental/emotional/spiritual/physical healthcare practices. If you gather people together to create healing, or practice self-care you might be a Healer.

Art Maker
If your activism is in the form of making art or music, if you hear “write for an SEO project working to make the internet more positive” and you immediately email them about it, this might be your form of activism.

The stickers are what folks in the room identified as. You’ll note glitter stars are a theme throughout the event. Photo by Tristan Taormino.

Dara then broke out groups of each type of activist (knowing that people fall into multiple categories.) I adapted the group work to journaling prompts here:

Consider the 5 types of activists. For this exercise, I want you to think about the type of activism you feel most drawn to right now. (Picture yourself doing each type of activism. Whichever one rings with the most joy, that’s what you feel drawn to.)

1. In your experience, what’s working about what activists in this area are doing?

2. What are the biggest challenges these activists are facing?

3. What could these activists do to improve the way they organize moving forward?

4. What’s one thing that you would be willing to do to improve the way you engage in activism?

If you find yourself currently engaged in a different type of activism, apply these questions to that type in a subsequent journaling session. If they are different, journal about why you’re active in an area that is not what you are drawn to!

My piece was about Mariah Carey’s Lingerie Lifestyle as applied to social justice. Photo by Tristan Taormino, who helped us by co-hosting, donating a prize and inviting folks!

Doing this simple and powerful work has already impacted how I perceive people in my life and helped me understand better how to work in coalition with them. At the event I noticed when we talked about Bridge Building there were people in the room who actively roared against it. That’s totally okay if you have a strong aversion to one type versus another, it takes all kinds! In my opinion, Bridge Building is essential work to creating change, but so are all the other types of activism. Healing is also essential—and sometimes activism means powering down, healing yourself and staying alive.

I also extra loved that there were report backs from each group. Big takeaways I loved were Protectors saying to remember to stay in listening mode and let folks be autonomous when you’re working in solidarity. Protestors saying it’s been 60 years and we’re still protesting the same stuff. Bridge Builders saying to remember to see people as people, not as monoliths as their ideas. Art Makers saying they need to make sure they are using their art for activism and standing behind what they believe.

Photo by Tristan Taormino.

Whether your activism is protesting or protecting, we need you more than ever so that we can collectively take that marching resistance energy and shift that arc towards justice under the weight of our boots/heels/wheels/loafers/sneakers/sensible lesbian sandals!

Our event was made possible with a grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. We asked our guests in lieu of tickets to donate to Project Q, a fabulous non-profit in Los Angeles that serves LGBTQ homeless youth. If this resource is valuable to you, consider a donation!

2016-11-10

Four Strategies I’m Using to Move Forward in the Wake of the Election

Last night I was at Trader Joe’s and the cashier asked me how my day was going. I have a standing principal of authenticity and I don’t say “fine” unless it’s true. I try to give an honest answer. So I answered, “As a Gay American I’m really struggling in the wake of the calamitous election results.” He was not prepared for my answer and I watched him having a lot of Feelings as he rang up my groceries. I didn’t realize that my honest answer might be triggering to him, but sometimes I think cisgender White men need to be reminded of inconvenient truths.

And the inconvenient truth is, even as a Gay American, I’m a person with a lot of privilege, specifically White Privilege. I know the results are even more terrifying for people of color. I’m struggling in the unknowable future of a Drumpf* presidency. I don’t know what comes next for Muslim-Americans, undocumented people, people of color, gender non-conforming people, trans people, women, people of size, disabled people, any people dependent on Obamacare, and all of the other bodies of Americans that man metaphorically stood on top of or discarded while he used hatred to galvanize support.

I am remembering the legacy of resistance I come from. Before every event and performance I produce I do a circle prayer/offering of good intentions where I honor our queer ancestors. (If you’re curious what that looks like skip ahead to minute 9 of this video.) I don’t take for granted my ability to be a fat queer flamboyant femme, I know that just thirty years ago I wouldn’t have this access to express my authentic self. The ease I have being a weirdo in this world is because of the blood, sweat, and resistance of those people that came before.

It looks like it might get harder to be a weirdo for awhile. And at least I know that we have communities and we can create some really beautiful shit. And grass roots works a lot faster than government, the glacial pace of regression under Drumpf won’t be able to move as fast as we will. We can support each other and we can continue to make change.

amberhikesFrom my friend Amber Hikes: “I, for one, am not done fighting. There’s not one aspect of my identity (Black, Woman and Queer) that gives up and goes quietly into the night. We ain’t going out like that. Game on.”

I’ve been working with the spiritual principal “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional,” and thinking through the ways I allow suffering into my life. I know that the pain from this election is real but I do not want to suffer. However, it’s super important to acknowledge our Feelings and process them, otherwise we end up just feeling them later—and paying interest.

Here are some strategies I’m using now to cope with all of the anger, grief, guilt, sadness, rage, and shock. I offer them to you as ideas. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Belief in my friends who are changing the world.
Giving me the most hope right now are my friends. When I start to spiral out into the what-ifs and the horror of 50 million people voting for someone who stands for so much hate, I can picture a friend and think about the ways they work to change the world.

I have surrounded myself with people who have big hearts and are bad asses, who see problems and dive in. These are people who work at non-profits or people who have corporate jobs and big volunteer lives. Who are artists who use their art to amplify anti-racism, experiences of marginalized people, who change people’s hearts and minds through self-expression. People with financial privilege that have a strong ethic of giving back and empowering people who don’t have the same privileges.

Especially people who are just everyday folks who speak up at the work lunch table or wherever to interrupt food shaming, racism, or “locker-room talk.” Frankly, I think that’s the most effective form of activism, one to one relationship-based conversations that help people have more compassion.**

It’s horrific to think about all the people who voted for hate (even if they couched it in different reasoning to make themselves feel better, a vote for Drumpf was a vote for White supremacy), but I believe so strongly in the people I know doing good it helps me have the faith to move forward.

halanbevincoffeeshopMy friend H. Alan Scott writes, “The Talmud says, ‘When the castle goes to ruin, castle is still its name; when the dunghill rises, still it is a dunghill.’ Drumpf is temporary, but if we focus, as a community, we’ll make the castle rise again.”

Have Faith Not Fear.
Earlier this year two people I knew had second bouts with cancer. This flipped me out because my partner is a cancer survivor. I started thinking about strategies to move forward without being afraid she’ll get cancer again. I could be worried and fearful 100% of the time if I let myself go into that thought spiral. I had the aha moment that I needed to remember to replace that fear with faith.

I have so much fear about the future of our country but I am choosing instead to have faith. Not faith in outcomes but faith moreso that we are going to work. I hope that people are galvanized enough to keep doing the work, keep having the uncomfortable conversations with people, keep standing in support. (Hey White folks who want to be in solidarity, here’s a great article about how to have those uncomfortable conversations with other White people. Here’s a great cartoon about how to interrupt Islamophobia.)

Remembering times we had a dip in social progress and we came back.
When Prop 8 passed in CA and it outlawed gay marriage, everyone was so mad! There were protests in solidarity all over the country! But the thing I couldn’t forget in that time (2008) was that when I was in college there was a similar referendum on the ballot (Prop 22 in March of 2000) that passed with a 10% greater margin. I was sad that gay marriage was still outlawed in CA but at the same time also impressed at how much the margin had changed. Prop 8 passed by only a sliver.

I genuinely believe social progress is the way forward and that our social justice work is working. I think the Drumpf election is a setback and a wake-up call to apathy and White complacency. If you feel you didn’t do enough work on this election, you can pick it up now and start working on ways to shift the world. (10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism.)

I remember when Bush won the election in 2000. I was 21 and we thought we should all move to Canada. I don’t think that anymore, I am going to stay here and fight because I believe we can continue to move social progress forward. I’m going to tap my mentor activists for their experiences of hope and how they moved forward during the GWB years. This is worse, but we have so much we can build on.

I also believe that the amount of talk about rape culture going on in the election has helped shift the conversation, emboldened women and is teaching more consent on a wide scale. A silver lining from this traumatic election cycle.

daniellemannafromheavenMy friend Danielle Berrin is a Senior Editor at the Jewish Journal, pictured here delivering “Manna from Heaven” after blessing the Challah at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner. Because of the talk of Drumpf’s sexual assaults, she chose to come out in her newspaper about having been sexually assaulted during an interview with a prominent journalist. She put herself at personal and professional risk to do so, since women are so often lambasted for talking about sexual assault experiences. Her story has had an a-typical result, with the assailant outing himself and ultimately resigning from prominent positions. I was surprised and grateful that Danielle has received so much support. This is a new era where sexual assault survivors are becoming more and more supported. The more of us who speak out against rape culture and sexual assault the faster we will change things so entitled men like Drumpf don’t just get to grab whoever they want whenever they want. Photo by Rick Sorkin.

Channeling rage
Rage and anger are totally valid emotions. So is a feeling of powerlessness. The first step to processing pain is validating your feelings. Protests are a great way to channel anger, so are art projects, cooking, and exercise. Figure out what you need to do to identify the feelings you’re feeling in the wake of the election and figure out a way to channel them so that you can refresh yourself for the work ahead.

Self Care
Whenever I go through loss or get hard news my first stop is self care. After Grandmother’s recent lung cancer diagnosis I committed to a daily meditation practice and I’m proud to say I’ve been consistent for 25 days and that’s my longest daily meditation stretch so far.

In a world and culture that doesn’t value my body, my gender or my sexuality I know I have to value it the most. Self care is an act of resistance and it is really important that we prioritize this.

I encourage you to do a self care inventory. How are you caring for yourself? What ways can you adjust your life to make room for the things that increase your capacity to care for yourself? Self care stretches time and enables your fuel for the revolution. Make self care dates with friends and check in with each other about following through with self care.

Right now I’m in a “detox from America” and am doing all I can to cleanse my mind from this stuff and support my resilience.

Kate Bornstein says this about suicide—do whatever you need to do to stay alive, just don’t be mean. Figure out what you need to do and do it, because we need you to stay alive.

magalybevinatweddingFrom my friend Magaly Ickes-Jones: “My first generation Cuban/Nicaraguan-American, gender non-conforming, queer, Latinx, veteran, political scientist lover of the U.S. Constitution heart is bruised and battered by the unamerican hatred, ignorance, and fear that fueled American voters yesterday. I’ll heal and it will get better. I appreciate the comfort of my loved ones and these words and the promise that can’t be taken back: ‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’ -Preamble to the U.S Constitution”

I am going to do what I know to do and look for support from my loved ones as we hold each other up. I’m going to stick to my faith. I believe we are going to work together stronger. We’re going to be okay. It’s what I have to tell myself every time a new cancer diagnosis comes into my life, every time I mourn a friend, every time I try something and fail. I remind myself that everything is okay in the end, and if it’s not okay it’s not the end. It’s not the end.

*I installed that app from the amazing John Oliver video “Make Donald Drumpf again” and so now all I ever read is Drumpf online and it makes me feel good. Thought with 30 million views it sadly still didn’t change the election results.

**I like the idea of spreading kindness rather than calling it “political correctness.” My work in the world is to support activist resilience and I want to help people do this work more effectively. If you have questions about how to do that, hit me up and I will work to get it answered.

2015-11-25

How I Use A Positive Outlook as an Activist to Cope When the World Seems Terrible

Yesterday my therapist said something pretty surprising to me. “I saw this Barbara Walters special with Donald Trump. I can’t believe she would give him that level of publicity, and I am so sad that he is going to win the presidency.”

My therapist is a pretty positive person and generally very supportive of my positive outlook on life, so her certainty of the fate of a Trump presidency was shocking to me.

That sentiment, that resigned idea that the world is a terrible place, is hard to avoid right now. It’s hard to stay resilient against that idea. The terror attacks on Paris and Beirut. The media and social portrayal of support for Paris but ignoring Beirut, reminding us how the media devalues brown bodies.

The fact that Obama wants to let in only 10,000 Syrian refugees (and the amount of displaced Syrians is in the millions). Yet the House voting to block Syrian refugees even though refugees in the US are vetted for years and it would be extremely difficult to actually get away with terrorism as a refugee in this country.

The last few weeks have been jarring with the amount of hatred, fear, lack of humanity that is making the news. But at the same time, we’re in a time of deep unrest and outrage. I think it’s tantamount to the sentiment that you have to see the dirt in order to clean your house. I think we’re seeing the dirt.

My world view is not for everyone. If anyone out there would rather give up, see the world as a terrible place and resign themselves to the Trump presidency and live in fear, I think that is totally fine. But for me, I need to stay positive to stay alive, and I’m going to stay alive, so I can keep encouraging people to love themselves.

My therapist talked about moving to Canada. I remember many folks talked about moving North when George W. Bush was running for president and I don’t know that many people who actually did.

But that’s not my ethic. I’m not going to run away. I’m going to stay put, stay present, stay outraged and stay loving. I am going to believe for the best in people, I am going to believe that Trump will not win the presidency, and I am going to believe in the inherent good of the world so long as people like me stay compassionate and positive. And, let’s be honest, being president is a lot of work and I don’t actually believe he’s interested in doing the work.

Tomorrow in the US we celebrate Thanksgiving. Last night I was trying to think of ways to acknowledge at the meal I will be attending that the holiday ignores the mass genocide of the Native Americans with whom White settlers were supposed to be making peace, while still being socially appropriate. I think that comes from maybe leading a grace that names it, honoring those who died outrageous and unfair deaths, the legacy of colonialism that continues to affect Native Americans and other POC in this country. It comes from feeling genuine gratitude for what we have, and vowing to use what we have to uplift people affected by that legacy.

I leave this with a quote from Grace Lee Boggs, an incredible activist who lived to be 100 years old and passed away on October 5, 2015. Her tenacity and positive outlook resonates with me, and inspires me to continue to use my belief that we can continue to do better and do our work on an individual level to affect the higher good. (I highly recommend renting the documentary about her life and work, American Revolutionary: The Evolution Of Grace Lee Boggs.)

gracel-lee-boggs_robin_hollandPhoto of Grace Lee Boggs by Robin Holland.

“Love isn’t just something you feel. It’s something you do every day when you go out and pick up the papers and bottles scattered the night before on the corner, when you stop and talk to a neighbor, when you argue passionately for what you believe in with whoever will listen, when you call a friend to see how they’re doing, when you write a letter to the newspaper, when you give a speech and give ’em hell, when you never stop believing that we can all be more than we are. In other words, Love isn’t about what we did yesterday; it’s about what we do today tomorrow and the day after.” – Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution

2015-05-20

On Activism, Capacity and Seeing Yourself as “Enough”

I’ve been thinking a lot about capacity, self care and activism lately.

This morning I got one of my daily spiritual emails* that talked about directing our energies without regard to the need to be successful in an outward way. It told a story about Mother Teresa, who was asked why she devoted herself to such a massive problem as alleviating the suffering of the poor, when obviously she wasn’t going to solve poverty. Where did she get her dedication, “knowing that all the poverty and sickness would still be there long after she had died? Didn’t she realize she couldn’t win?”

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“Her explanation was simple: Of course she knew the task was immense, but “finishing” wasn’t her purpose.” Since Mother Teresa was a person of faith, she was willing to do what she believed was the right action for her, regardless of the outcome. She was focused on the task itself, not the completion of it.

This resonated with me today, as I’ve been focusing on learning my capacity for work, developing systems of self care, and thinking about activist burn out. I think the tendency as one is socialized in systems of oppression, is to give and give of oneself until there is nothing left. This is a value often taught to women, the idea that you have to put everyone else’s needs before your own.

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Activist movements, as in almost all things, can suck you dry—there is always more to be done, more people to reach out to, more actions to plan, more art to make, more reaching out. But at a certain point you have to be able to say, this is my limit. But we’re not socialized in a way to know what our limits are, to think thoughtfully about our capacity, and how to use self care in order to build our capacity. We’re not socialized to be able to say, “Enough, I can’t do this any longer.” I’ve seen it wear down on people until disease forces them to make big life changes.

I had to learn how to start saying no to things, how to learn how to ask folks for time to respond to them (I usually take at least 24 hours to say yes or no to volunteer work), and how to assess whether I wanted to continue working on things that were pulling a lot of my energy. I have flares of my chronic digestive disorder whenever I start getting really stressed out emotionally or with work.

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Today I went for a walk on Venice Beach. My partner is in LA for a work conference and I got to stay with her at the conference hotel. I’m so grateful for a super flexible day job where I can work remotely from a hotel! I took an hour and a half off for lunch and a drive to the beach. I was very charmed by the beach but so troubled by the amount of trash that was washing ashore. I grew up as a Girl Scout in Northern California and we were always doing eco events, picking up trash in wetlands and things like that. It’s a great way to have intimacy with nature and be of service.

Whenever I’m in nature I can’t help it, I just start picking up trash. I get so troubled by seeing it, imagining plastic wrappers wrapping around the necks of birds and things like that. I am 36 years old, I’ve been hearing about environmental conservationism my entire life. It feels so sad that beach clean-up and litter in the ocean is still an ongoing issue. And don’t get me started about the Pacific Trash Vortex. I can’t even.

17721574790_ee6a1b7bc8_zSome kind of corporate stress ball that looked like it could have been a jellyfish from afar. The weirdest trash I found today was an empty bottle of Patron Silver.

My brain is wired in this way where I just start to go there, I think about how big the problem is, how futile it feels for me to walk on the beach and pick up trash without a trash bag. Just gathering things in a found Starbucks cup or precariously clutching them in my paws. I had to think about what I was doing with my time. Was I going to spend my entire walk on the beach picking up litter? Or would I take the relaxing walk I had originally intended?

I decided to asses my capacity and go from there. So I focused with the intensity of a Capricorn for two ten minute bursts, and spend the rest of my thirty or so minutes on the beach in contemplation of birds in the surf and walking along. It felt like a great way to put into practice just doing something I felt called or compelled to do, without regards to the fact that my twenty minutes of litter removal was not even a drop in the bucket compared to trash island. I needed to see it as good enough and let go of the outcome.

17906139372_6e7f32ce97_zI’m obsessed with this bird. Did it ever find the fish it was looking for today? It didn’t the whole time I watched it but I hope it found something delicious later on.

I want to be the kind of person in the world who is of service, and also a person who enjoys life. I think that enjoying life and being person who is receptive to good in the world makes me better able to dismantle systems of oppression that say that fat people, queer people, and women, folks raised working class should not be free to enjoy their bodies. That by being a living example of a fat, embodied, sexually liberated person enjoying life is a form of activism. And that enjoying life is a way of increasing my capacity to do good.

I also know that I can use my privilege as a White person, a person with higher education, a cisgender person, temporarily able bodied, some level of “pretty privilege**,” and a person who has access to media privilege to help causes that are important to me. I never believed that by posting a blog post about Lyme Disease that I was going to somehow cure it. But I did know that by raising awareness of it, encouraging even one of my followers to watch that documentary about Lyme might make someone more sensitive to it and make the experience of Lyme for someone they know easier because someone “gets it.” That’s something. Or maybe just one of my readers has $50 to throw at my friend Jessica’s Lyme fund.

17288704433_242a2f15b2_zWhen I’m a rich lesbian I will have lots of money to give to all sorts of great organizations doing good in the world, and will create a foundation dedicated to funding projects that mainstream funders avoid–like fat stuff, radical queer stuff, sex worker organizing–and building capacity in those movements to make them more effective and support their self care matrixes. Also I will have a baller house on the beach and all those windows will have a giant mural that says “All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.”

It can feel so daunting to be an activist and want to work to make the world better. To get stuck in spirals of inactivity because you don’t feel effective. To get stuck in spirals of inactivity because you’re depressed, anxious, need to focus on making money or just survival and feeling so helpless. Getting used to seeing what you are doing as enough, learning that because you are human you are worthy of love and it’s not about what you “do” that matters it’s more about who you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the matrix of success lately, as I struggle through yet another round of letting go of my need to “accomplish” and “prove my worth.” I spent an entire session in therapy trying to talk about how I can get more done and my therapist arguing with me about how I am way too hard on myself. I have had to go through this so many times in my life and it usually ends up the same. I learn to let go of how much I accomplish, learn to feel worthy in spite of my ideas of success, and release blocks that enable me to find deep bursts of energy, creativity and the ability to work more effectively.

That airplane idea about putting your oxygen mask on first before helping others? I want to help create movements with folks where that is the norm and we help each other learn what our oxygen is.

17722918699_c035db8ea3_zLearning about my self care and what is effective self care has been really important for my journey to building my capacity and refilling my tank. Being at the beach really helps me. Such cleansing energy, with the wind (air), earth (sand), water (obvs) all that is missing is fire for a full four element cleanse.

*The one I am referring to is Today’s Gift from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which supports my work in a twelve step program for families and friends of alcoholics. I also get a daily email Note from the Universe which is super cute and whimsical.

**It feels really weird to say that you have pretty privilege when you are talking about yourself. I have so much to talk about in a subsequent post about that, but there’s definitely an element of being someone who has some level of conventional attractiveness that affects your privilege in the world, even as a fatty.

2015-04-20

We Need to Be Talking About Lyme Disease in the Queer Community

I’ve been trying to find a way to talk about Lyme Disease and how it affects the queer community. I grew up a woodsy outdoorswoman going to Girl Scout Camp in Northern California with signs that warn of deer ticks carrying Lyme disease. I saw the signs that told us to do tick checks, as a camp counselor I’ve coordinated big groups of young people in looking for ticks and being aware of them. I know to seek medical attention if you see a bullseye rash, especially if you get a fever or aches following exposure to a tick bite. (The CDC has a guide to symptoms of tickborne illness, if you’re lucky enough to know you got bitten.)

I’ve heard that only 20% of folks with Lyme Disease had a tick bite that was identifiable. It’s a disease that sneaks up on you, is vastly underreported and very difficult to test for. (It’s estimated that the cases of Lyme Disease are actually 10 times higher than what is reported.) Because of these factors it is really difficult to get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Insurance companies and the US Government are both very unwilling to concede to the actual appropriate treatments for Lyme Disease, doctors lose their license for treating it effectively, paying out of pocket for treatments is wildly expensive… This is a very scary, very real and very deadly thing that is happening to more and more people.

Over the years I’ve known a few queers with Lyme Disease. I’ve connected with some about treatment as they’ve used a similar anti-inflammatory food plan as I have, or who have battled candida overgrowth like I did because of the mammoth amount of anti-biotics used to treat Lyme.

small_selfportrait_sunX400Photo of Leslie Feinberg from Advocate.com. Have you read Stone Butch Blues yet? You should.

Ever since Leslie Feinberg died from Lyme Disease, I’ve known we need to talk more about Lyme Disease in the queer community. I didn’t know how to have that conversation, so I just started to bone up and educate myself.

I watched the documentary Under Our Skin, free streaming on You Tube, which according to folks I know with Lyme, it is an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to seek treatment for Lyme Disease and it is shitty. It’s the kind of helpless I feel when I see really big world problems that need solutions. But I know what I do have control over and that’s learning more about it, asking questions and opening conversations.

Here’s the trailer for Under Our Skin:

Under Our Skin – Trailer from Open Eye Pictures on Vimeo.

Here’s a link to the whole documentary on you tube.

I also watched the Punk Singer, the Kathleen Hanna documentary by Sini Anderson. Kathleen opens up about her Lyme Disease and how it affects her life. It’s a really powerful double feature. The Punk Singer is available on Netflix and to buy on iTunes. (It’s great in addition to the Lyme content to hear about the Riot Grrrl movement, see great interviews with queer heroes like Lynnee Breedlove.)

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Here’s the trailer:

I may not know what to say about Lyme except, I’m here and I’m listening and reading about the disease and experiences of those with the disease. And I want more people to listen to folks with Lyme and hear them. And see them, and help them be part of the queer community even if they physically can’t be there.

4116744_1428627138.8138Photo from Jessica’s Lyme Treatment Fund.

My friend Jessica Scarlett and her wife Nik are fundraising $9,000 for her Lyme treatment. Maybe you have a few extra bucks for a stranger or maybe you know them from somewhere on the internet, like both of their really awesome art and etsy stores. NikScarlett.com
Jessica’s vintage collections and sales are the coolest.

I met Jess when I was a baaaaby gay in Sacramento, CA in the late nineties and Nik when I moved to Philly. They are a really cool couple and battling a really shitty disease.

I’ve also followed Fran Varian’s battle with late-stage Lyme Disease for years, as she is an incredible writer and femme so many folks I know have adored for a long time. The thank you letter up on her Help Heal Fran website is a poignant article about living as a queer with a chronic, expensive illness.

franindiPhoto of Fran Varian from HelpHealFran.org

The below passage from that piece really hit me. I think a lot of Femmes participate in queer community from a place of giving–but it is so hard to be Femme and in a place of needing help sometimes. We have this notion about ourselves as Femme that we have to be resilient warriors doing it on our own.

Before I knew that I was sick I was proud to be an activist. I worked for social justice in the health care industry and I donated my time to teach kids about poetry. I read and I performed at fund raiser after fund raiser. I wrote and spoke extensively with the earnest hope of making a difference in someone else’s life. Before I became sick I held a deeply-rooted belief that it is noble to give of one’s self and shameful to require gifting, though I never would have said that out loud.

Now I think differently. And because my body does not frequently cooperate and allow me to physically accomplish all of the things I want to I have a lot more time to think. Before late stage Lyme became my daily reality I allowed the pride I felt in being helpful and in giving to define me. I thought it said something about me. Unlearning that vanity has been almost as difficult as learning how to live each day with a daunting, progressive illness.

Avril Lavigne was on the cover of People Magazine last week coming out about her retreat from the spotlight while she underwent extensive Lyme Disease treatment. It’s awesome when celebrities bring awareness to it. Wealthy folks obviously have a different experience with treatment because they have access to funds for treatment insurance doesn’t cover. But still, the more awareness people have about it and the more we talk about it the more we can turn the tide of these awful insurance companies and maybe move closer to single payer healthcare/government run medical coverage for everyone.

Do you have an awesome Lyme resource to share? An article you read and resonated? A documentary, video, blog? Leave the link in the comments!

(I had some cool ones on my facebook fan page, but I’m still locked out of Facebook pending giving them a government id to their satisfaction).

2013-02-20

FAT SEX WEEK: Three Books To Help You Have Better Sex While Fat (Regardless of Whether Or Not You’re Single)

After the success of GAY SEX WEEK on my blog in October 2011, I decided to produce FAT SEX WEEK to celebrate sex for all bodies. This is especially inspired to counteract all of the media about sex around Valentine’s Day that’s all heteronormative/couplehood-oriented/body hegemonic. It’s a week of body liberation and sex and it’s going to be really fun! Check out all of the FAT SEX WEEK magic!

(All the photos in this post are Safe For Work, as long as fat girls in lingerie are safe for your work.)

On Friday I discussed seven ways to be a good ally to your fat lover. Now I want to give some tools for folks to become better lovers to themselves–as in, learning to get in touch with your body so you can have better sex.

Growing up fat (or having a body that is in any way non-normative) in a fatphobic society is very damaging. It was very traumatic for me to feel like my body was always “wrong” and I definitely did not feel like I had access to owning my sexuality. In some ways I completely dissociated from my body and interacted with it as little as possible. (I write more about my experience of disembodiment in this post.)

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Look it’s me and my new pal Devin who was kind enough to loan me her ass for this photo when I saw how hot it was. Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

I used to feel afraid to leave relationships because I was afraid the sex would never be as good as it was with the person I was with–a deep scarcity mentality. “So and so knows my body so well, so and so does this trick how can anyone replicate that?” Those kinds of thoughts. It was as though all those years I wasn’t getting laid because I was checked out from my body I needed to make-up for by staying with the wrong kinds of partners. Like I might never get banged properly again.

I’m here to let you know, dear reader, that these fears were false. If anything, sex has gotten better and better as I’ve gotten older and I know the reason is that I am the common denominator in the good sex I have.

I think each break-up from a relationship with good sex is like getting a gift bag! You learned how to have new and improved sex with that lover. You learned how your body responds to different stimuli, you got to experience someone’s body in new ways and come up with more party tricks to bring to other lovers. Hopefully you explored more your capacity to flourish under someone’s touch. This partying gift is amazing!

You can keep the learning going, single or while in relationships, with a cadre of lovers or while between regular bouts of getting banged. Doing the work of getting to know your body and getting to know yourself sexually is a gift you give yourself for the rest of your life. There are lots of different ways to learn about sex–there is so much knowledge available to willing explorers. Below are three body positive resources that will help you get in touch with your sexuality from a body positive perspective!

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Holly Amory at Rebel Cupcake in February, NO PANTS NO PROBLEM. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

Mind Blowing Sex: A Woman’s Guide by Diana Cage

For people who have bodies that are female in origin, or who have sex with people’s whose mechanics are female in origin, this book is an amazing resource. I’ve read a lot about sex and sexuality but I still learned so much from it.

“Desire, sexual satisfaction, and orgasm truly are fraught more often for us than for men… [T]he ways in which we have been taught to fuck don’t always serve our needs and desires.” Diana talks about the female body from a place of empowerment and learning about the mechanics of your body physically, mentally and emotionally.

It is written from an incredibly feminist perspective. It is woman-empowering and body positive. I didn’t realize how much of our eroticism and what we learn about sex is based on male-centered desire. Ugh, patriarchy is such a boner-killer!

The book includes lots of work book sections where you get to explore your desire and what turns you on. And physical exercises! I felt more in tune with my body and my desires after I read it. (I also got some funny looks on the train while reading it…)

You can get it through my amazon link here, but request it from your local feminist sex toy shop! I’m always surprised when I go into Babeland and I don’t see it on their shelves, mention it to the people who work there but they don’t stock the shelves.

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Me and author Diana Cage.

Fucking Transwomen Zine by Miranda Bellwether

For folks who have transwomen bodies or who partner with transwomen, this zine is incredible! So many great tips for sex and the ways to have fulfilling interactions in a body that is not taught in sex ed and is ignored in the vast majority of mainstream sex how-to literature.

I also think it’s great for anyone who has sex that involves a penis whether or not they identify with it presently. Miranda spends several pages of the zine talking about the soft penis, which is basically ignored in sexual literature but “You can actually do more with a soft penis than a hard penis–if you are creative.”

The zine is full of sex how-tos, body knowledge and autobiography.

Buy it here for only $5! All of the money goes to Miranda!

Ecstacy is Necessary by Barbara Carrellas

I did a book review of this book last year, but I wanted to give it special mention here. This is basically a body love “you are worthy of erotic pleasure exactly how you are” goldmine. It’s a workbook, so you’ll need a notebook to go along with you on your sexual exploration, but the work it gives you is worth it.

People of all body types and levels of sexual exploration, especially if they feel cut off from their own sexuality, will totally benefit from a trip into this book. I did most of the work in this book while not getting laid regularly and it really helped me feel more in touch with what I wanted from sex when I was having it again rather than be caught up in the ideas of what I wanted from sex. Really cutting through your own bullshit (and the bullshit we are fed from society about what we should want) and identifying what our desires are is incredibly liberating. It also makes it much easier to find the right partners to explore with!

Read more at my book review and interview with Barbara Carrellas.

Buy the book!

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Me, Barbara and her partner Kate Bornstein at Rebel Cupcake in May, 2012.

Stay tuned! FAT SEX WEEK wraps up tomorrow!!

2013-02-15

FAT SEX WEEK: Seven Ways To Be a Good Ally to Your Fat Lover

After the success of GAY SEX WEEK on my blog in October 2011, I decided to produce FAT SEX WEEK to celebrate sex for all bodies. This is especially inspired to counteract all of the media about sex around Valentine’s Day that’s all heteronormative/couplehood-oriented/body hegemonic. It’s a week of body liberation and sex and it’s going to be really fun! Check out all of the FAT SEX WEEK magic!

(All the photos in this post are Safe For Work.)

I’ve been asked by people on different ends of the fat lover spectrum about advice being a good ally. From the “My lover doesn’t see how beautiful she is and won’t have sex with the lights on,” to the “My lover uses the term fat to describe themself but I’ve always thought of that as a derogatory word… isn’t it?” For FAT SEX WEEK I’ve highlighted some of the best ways to be a good ally to your fat lover.

This is all from my limited perspective, you should obviously be in good communication with your lover to find out what works for them and how they operate in the world. Communication is an essential sex toy!

This advice applies to folks of all sizes, not just thinner folks partnered (in all the myriad ways one can partner) with fat folks. And a lot of it is good advice for sex in general, regardless of whether or not your partner is fat.

1. Adopt the mindset that nothing about your partner has to change for them to be worthy of sexual pleasure.

Repeat after me: All humans are worthy of sexual adoration exactly as they are.

Not after they lose X amount of pounds. Not if they wear specifically enhancing or minimizing lingerie. Not if they develop a sexual prowess beyond their years. Not if they downplay the amount of people they have slept with.

I know a lot of people who have confronted sizism their entire life hold off on moving forward with the things they want to do because they are waiting for some “perfect” moment when they’ve “lost enough weight.” You won’t enjoy sex more as a thinner person if you haven’t learned how to enjoy sex at every size you are.

As a lover/partner of a fat person, adopting this mentality regardless of whether your partner has is good modeling for fulfilling sex. Adopting this mantra will help you be a supportive and caring person to every lover you have regardless of size, ability, age, etc…

2. Clean fatphobic rhetoric from your vocabulary.

No body shaming (of yourself or other people). Don’t talk about other people’s bodies in terms of good or bad body parts. “This model’s body is so awesome because she has a flat stomach.” Try being value-neutral or positive about bodies and food. No obsessive diet talk. Don’t say “Good” food or “bad” food. Learn what it means to not use fatphobic rhetoric and then put it into practice!

Taking a selfie at a dive bar. #rebelcupcake
Be food positive!

3. Learn all you can about body liberation activism and the fat activist movement.

There are so many great resources out there about the fat experience and body liberation practices. You can get started with Charlotte Cooper’s Obesity Time Bomb blog, the incredibly It Gets Fatter project for fat folks of color, Marilyn Wann’s Fat?So! book and Leslie Kinzel’s Two Whole Cakes. Also my blog is a great place, too. The tag body liberation is a good one, as is fat activism!

You learning about body liberation activism and not having to be taught by your partner is awesome. And even if your partner isn’t into body liberation, you getting into it will still help you become a better ally to your person!

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Hana, happy fat person! Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

4. and 5. Treat your relationship like a golden corral and your lover like a wild pony.

My friend Heather uses this metaphor for relationships and I like it on a lot of different levels.

If you treat your relationship like a golden corral, you’re making it like a safe and wonderful haven from the world outside. The media and people are constantly punishing us for being body non-normative, gender non-normative, queer, broke, poor, whatever. Your relationship should be a haven for that as much as possible! Think about ways in which it can be a safer space. Maybe watch TV with intention (or don’t watch it and have sex instead), or mute diet ads, or whatever you can. Mindful practices go a long way.

And treating your partner like a wild pony is about letting them be themselves and exactly where they are at in their personal journies with their body. It’s hard to have a body. It’s hard to learn how to be a self-loving person. I’ve been doing work on loving myself and my body since 2001 and I’m still working on it. No one is perfect. Maybe you’re even further down the body liberation activist path than your partner. Accept where they are at and let them be a wild pony roaming around, keep the corral golden, and every now and again pet them gently with some body liberation love.

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Fancy Feast, happy fat person, serving that Paula Deen burger thing. Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

6. Use affirming language for all body parts and especially body parts that are under attack.

I learned this body affirming practice where anytime you say something critical about a body part you immediately respond with an apology and a gratitude. “I’m sorry tummy for talking shit about you. I am so grateful to you for being so soft and comfortable.” Something like that.

I was thinking that if I was having a hard time with a part of my body it would be awesome for my partner to give it some extra TLC. Kisses, sweet talk, a massage, etc…

7. Be open to and positive about sexual accommodations for size.

One time I was in bed with a lover who used a strap-on harness with the base of the dildo on her belly. This is not the standard harness position, most folks have it on the genitals. But it made so much more sense for her body and my body, gave her a lot more leverage and control and was wildly successful.

I’m not sure if she came up with that accommodation herself or if she was taught that by another lover who had some fat sex tips up their sleeve, but I bet it was a revolution in her sex life and I was grateful for it. Being the kind of lover who can gently say, “Hey can we try it like this?” is going to set you up for success overall.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

Kitty Stryker (the swoon-worthy Femme I blogged about in the review for Lesbian Curves earlier this week) has some great Pleasurable Positioning suggestions in her Guide to Fat Sex. I especially love this methodology for making missionary style work:

Missionary position can be a bit difficult, especially if you both have bellies, as the partner on the bottom may feel smothered and the partner on the top might tire out quickly. There’s a few ways around this- one is to have the partner on the bottom wrap her legs around the top partner’s shins, meaning her legs are spread enough to make penetration easier and also encouraging the top lover’s body to press against her clit. Another way is have the penetrating partner sit back on their haunches during intercourse instead of leaning forward, therefore allowing some breathing room. If you’re the penetrating partner, support yourself with your hands rather than your elbows and lower yourself onto your lover’s body slowly. Finally the penetrated partner can put their legs over their lover’s shoulders for easier access and allows the bottom partner to push back against the top.

Ultimately, being a compassionate, caring, body affirming person will go a long way to being a good ally and lover to your fat partner(s)!

Stay tuned for more FAT SEX WEEK. Coming up this weekend and early next week, an interview with queer fat femme porn star Sophia St. James, a book review, and more!

The Miss Mary Wanna method dictates "take as many selfies as you want." #rebelcupcake
Fat selfies at Rebel Cupcake. Miss Mary Wanna says you can never take too many selfies and publish them all on the internets.

2013-02-11

FAT SEX WEEK: Courtney Trouble’s New Porn “Lesbian Curves”

After the success of GAY SEX WEEK on my blog in October 2011, I decided to produce FAT SEX WEEK to celebrate sex for all bodies. This is especially inspired to counteract all of the media about sex around Valentine’s Day that’s all heteronormative/couplehood-oriented/body hegemonic. It’s a week of body liberation and sex and it’s going to be really fun! Check out all of the FAT SEX WEEK magic!

(All the photos in this post are Safe For Work as long as fat girls in lingerie are safe for your work. Fair warning.)

The best thing in the world to launch FAT SEX WEEK here at QueerFatFemme.com is a review of a totally QUEER FAT FEMME ON FEMME porn! Lesbian Curves was just released by that bombshell Courtney Trouble from her indie body positive porn production company TROUBLEfilms.

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This is hot babe Courtney Trouble wearing an outfit of lingerie I wrote in my porn review notes “Need to find those underwear and buy them.” Femme reviewer realness.

I have long admired and appreciated Courtney Trouble’s porn femmepire. She says in her blog, “My audience may be smaller than most, but knowing that my art is on track with a larger scheme of the adult industry makes me feel like I’m working towards a goal of normalizing, representing, and respectfully erotizing what may seem like a ‘fetish’ or a minority in mainstream sexual ideals.” This is exactly in line with why I think sexual content in identity work is so important–it is really powerful to own our sexual liberation and represent it in a way that is both sexy and honest. I love Courtney’s art!

On to the review! Courtney sent me a review DVD of Lesbian Curves and I watched it a little differently than I usually watch porn, which is usually picking and choosing scenes based on my mood. This time I went beginning to end, on the couch like a movie, and we even went into the special features the next day!

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Betty Blac. All of the stars of Lesbian Curves are hardcore babes.

Here is Courtney’s summary of Lesbian Curves:

Sultry body worship, sensuous kissing, playful taunting, sex toys, chemistry, and hard core lesbian fucking are what make Lesbian Curves the genre-busting adult film you’ve been craving. This full length feature is full of luscious skin, bodacious bodies and intense orgasms, brought to you by the fiercest femmes in porn, soaking wet and thirsty for passionate, curvaceous, gritty, real lesbian sex.

Starring Courtney Trouble, Kelly Shibari, Betty Blac, Sophia St James, Sandy Bottoms, Kitty Stryker, Peppermint Fatty, and Eden Alexander and shot in full HD.

I really adored that the cast is size diverse throughout the range of “fat” sizes–from inbetweenie on up. Check out the cast photos here (NOT safe for work). It’s also racially diverse, including a scene that is just two queer women of color.

It’s clear that the porn performers have real chemistry. Especially the scene between Kelly Shibari and Betty Blac. I had a long conversation while watching it about whether or not they were a couple in real life.

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The music is good, especially during the first partner scene. It’s almost like someone was DJing the porn. I like it when porn music actually flows well. It’s also luxuriously edited. There aren’t a lot of story lines in this movie except the scene between Kitty Stryker and Eden Alexander.

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There were no safe for work photos of Kitty Stryker from the press kit so I borrowed this from Kitty herself. She has two-toned hair and cute glasses in the movie. I had a long conversation during her scene about how to get Kitty to make out with me.

Sophia St. James has been a favorite of mine for a long time, ever since I saw her in Bordello (another amazing work by TROUBLEfilms). She has a great scene with Peppermint Fatty that involves a juicy strap-on. I’m interviewing Sophia later this week as part of FAT SEX WEEK.

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I’m pretty sure no nipples makes it safe for work.

A lot of the scenes are best described as “Sweet and hot.” There’s a deep tenderness and body appreciation between the performers. Not a lot of kink involved in the movie, which is a little bit of a bummer because, to be frank, a lot of those sweet asses could have used a vigorous spanking and/or some good biting. (Just saying. Kitty Stryker, call me.)

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I never consider time wasted watching porn if I learned a sex technique I can fold into my repertoire. Courtney does this thing in her scene where she holds her tits together and has her scene partner suck both nipples at once. This is not easily accomplished in real life but is fun to try!

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Watching porn that represents people whose bodies look like yours and who are doing sex the way you like to do sex is incredibly self-affirming. I thought that the intro to the video, where a fat girl (Courtney) is engaged in some serious self-loving body worship, was extremely powerful from an artistic and embodied point of view. And also just totally hot.

It can be hard to find porn that represents your body or how you like to do sex, which is why it is so crucial to support indie porn makers like Courtney and TROUBLEfilms (which has a pretty incredible queer, race, gender and size diaspora).

Lesbian Curves is $28 on dvd (which includes lots of extras, that I enjoyed greatly). You can download to own Lesbian Curves for $26.

I was talking to my friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasina in my kitchen the other day about Lesbian Curves and she said, “Were there queer fat femmes getting tied up? That’s what I want to see!” And we went on to basically write the sequel, Lesbian Curves Two: Femme on Femme Action and it involves a scene where LLPS whips someone while they recite the Femme Shark Manifesto. Courtney, if you want me and Leah to help you vision this we’re happy to get coffee.

A copy of Lesbian Curves is the perfect present for your lover, partner, bestie, future sexcapade for Valentine’s Day! Also, you can give the gift of a QueerPorn gift certificate from Courtney’s website!

Stay tuned for the next installment of FAT SEX WEEK tomorrow!

2012-12-10

Blogging For Human Rights Day and A Big Project

Today I participate in Blogging For Human Rights Day, sponsored by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a one day blog carnival to shed light on human rights abuses and victories here in the United States. December 10th, Human Rights Day, honors the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Blogging For Human Rights Day asked for stories of human rights abuses as well as stories of the brave activism of DREAMers across the country. Today, I focus on the DREAMers.

I want to talk about an incredible project working to empower individuals worldwide to pledge individual commitments to contribute to world peace.

A Big Project’s event occurs on December 20, 2012, as an online broadcast bringing together Nobel Peace Prize winners, established and emerging artists, leading activist organizations, corporations and people around the globe. It will be broadcasted on more than 3000 websites in 150 countries.

I love it because while it is such a huge project, it is meant to work in small scale. The thing about human rights violations world-wide is that it can be really alienating and frustrating that there’s nothing we can do individually to make a difference so we often default to nothing. But by reaching out to individuals and harnessing the power of each person to commit to do something to help life change, all across the globe, the world really can change.

This video is a great summary of what A Big Project is doing:

The project asked people from 97 countries the same four questions and looked for the places that the answers overlapped.

What would you NOT want to continue from this world?
What WOULD you want to continue from this world?
What could people do differently now to help us get to that better world?
What is one thing that you will commit to do differently now to help us get to that better world?

The three words that came up over and over again were “Help Life Change,” which is the message the project is focusing on to solicit art and music contributions and individual messages for their December 20 event.

From the website:

Be a part of this historic effort! Participate in one of the following three ways…
1. Click here to make art or music that will be featured live on December 20th.
2. Click here to create a 30 second message about what you are doing to make the world a better place.
3. Watch the live broadcast on Dec 20th and submit YOUR commitment to making the world a better place.

Stay connected to A Big Project!
You can like A Big Project on Facebook.
You can tweet your support of helping life change.

Read this great article on the Huffington Post about people on the ground in Israel and Palestine working to make peace across borders when their governments yet will not.

Check out the rest of the Blogging for Human Rights Day participants on the Ella Baker Center website!

2012-01-24

Everyday Glitter: Everything is Coming Up Babelandingham

Oh, sweet readers, it has been a bit since I updated and my very good reason is that I have had so much intense change in this giant tidal wave of awesome. With change often comes a whole mess of work to do, but the other side of this mess of work is a big fat glittery rainbow. Also sometimes the everyday glitter is really really big pieces of sparkling confetti.

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Serpentina from the Coney Island Sideshow at the Beyond Visibility: Illuminating and Aligning Femmes in NYC Cabaret.

Glitter The First: I believe being open to possibilities means being truly open, trying new things you thought you would never do. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, that line of thinking. So, in embarking on a job hunt I was truly open to a lot of possibilities and careers. And then the sort of unbelievable happened–I was offered a job working at a boutique firm specializing in LGBT legal issues.

This was basically my dream job in law school and I never thought I would actually find a golden corral full of gay magic but I did. And I’ve been there a week and really love it. I learn new stuff every day. I am also working with some amazing folks and for a senior partner I really admire personally.

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Anyway, this is a BIG WIN for Babelandingham. I am very excited for this development in my professional life. Also the office dress code is “dapper” and I’m having some serious sartorial satisfaction in this environment.

Glitter the Second: I had spent New Year’s Day saying to my friends at this wonderful birthday party for Heather how happy and peaceful I felt even though I didn’t have a job and there was so much uncertainty in my life (this was before I got the job offer). Then the next morning, as though a joke by the Goddess, I got a call from my landlords saying they wanted to terminate our lease and we had thirty days to move out.

Now, I know my rights and they didn’t give me proper notice, so I had more than thirty days from that phone call. But I also knew I had a finite period of time to take action. I flipped out a bit, since my savings would be entirely extinguished by the cost of putting a deposit, first and last months’ rent on a new place. Not to mention the hassle of finding a new place with three (adorable and well-behaved) pets in New York City.

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And then things sorted themselves out. My friend Sarah Jenny was moving out of her place where she lived with my good friend Damien. I am able to take SJ’s room in a home I already feel very connected to and have loved so much already. SJ gave me her boxes from her move and together with boxes from Mackenzi’s store the logistics of the move have worked out pretty well. Other than the agita of packing my entire life up in an unexpected hurry, it is a really good change.

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SJ’s boxes are a great guide for what to pack next, since the contents are already on the side.

I haven’t been very good at asking for help with this process (I realized the last time I moved I had a lot more help because I was asking for it), so that’s a practice I need to get into for the unpacking and painting process.

But what an opportunity to practice leaning into change and embracing it! When I was life coaching with Lynnee Breedlove he used to tell me that the best way to deal with change was to lean into it. I could be whining about what a pain in the ass it is that my landlords are terminating our lease or whatever, but I’m able to turn this into an opportunity for a huge energy shift in my life. That’s amazing!

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It’s the apartment where I made all of my birthday wishes!

Also, as I embark on full-time office work once more, maintaining space in my life for my art is really important to me. Damien has long been a personal hub in my life for art and activism and I am really excited to make a home with her, a home which I hope fosters my creativity and helps me keep moving forward with my art. Plus the time structure of having a 9 to 5 hustle is good for my writing practice and I’m really hoping to get the first draft of my memoir finished by the end of the summer.

But in the meantime my new 60 hours a week at the office plus packing means I’m basically MIA from my social life. Soon to remedy!

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Me and my future roommate, Damien!

Glitter the Third: Rebel Cupcake was a critic’s pick in Time Out New York! We had a huge turn out on January 12th. I never believed when I was a fat, depressed and suicidal teenager that I would someday be out, proud, and an event producer hovering above the Gay and Lesbian section of a New York magazine holding a cupcake. I always thought getting skinny was going to make my dreams come true. Turns out it was embarking on the life-long process of learning to love myself that was what brought my wildest dreams to me.

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February 9th: Dance Music Sex Romance is a Prince Tribute show and on the bill is Ben Lehrman (Prince on the ukelele!), LeRoi Prince and an almost confirmed fat burlesque act I’m really excited about.

March 8th: New Wave Rebel Cupcake! With a 20 minute feature set of The World Famous *BOB* and Princess Tiny & The Meats’ homecoming show! This is going to be an incredible show!

And check out this really fun promo video for Rebel Cupcake by the awesome Laura Delarato!!

Glitter the Fourth: I’m presenting a workshop “Love For EveryBODY” at Ivy Q, a conference at Brown, on February 18th. If you’re there please stop by to say hi! Once I have more information I am going to put it all on my calendar page.

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Glitter the Fifth: I am a poster girl in the Stand 4 Kids Campaign! It’s geared to stand in solidarity with fat kids and in opposition to hate speech masquerading as health initiatives that unfairly target fat kids instead of promoting health for every kid.

Stand 4 Kids Campaign

Glitter the Sixth: At the recent Rebel Cupcake Damien surprised us with a live recording of Shit Femmes Say! An internet meme right on stage! Here’s a video of it!

So my life is crazy busy but crazy awesome. And this doesn’t even begin to encompass all the awesome happening right now. I hope your 2012 / Year of the Dragon is starting out on a winning note.

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Blog benefactor Domino Dollhouse is back for another month of blog benefacting! Tracy, the babe behind the Dollhouse, just launched a line of vintage style lingerie that I think folks who like plus size lingerie are going to drool over.

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The High Waisted Vintage Style Garter Panty is so hot! And a bargain at $39.99. I wear this style of garter belt and I find it considerably less fiddly.

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The Sweetheart Overbust Corset is something I am personally lusting over, as I totally need a new red corset as mine sadly broke. (“Need.”) $99

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Domino Dollhouse is now carrying bra and panties sets! For $14.99!

Don’t forget she also stocks tons of cute clothes and accessories!

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AND she has partnered with one of my favorite designers, Sweetooth Couture, carrying the Gumdrop Empire Waist coat in an exclusive colorway–purple! So foxy
and goes up to a 6X. $179.99 and your purchase supports two incredible independent plus size designers working to make fashion more accessible for fat folks.

The special coupon code for QueerFatFemme.com readers is still available for another month! Enter “QFF15″ (case sensitive) at check out to get 15% off your Domino Dollhouse order!

Thanks for supporting the blog, Domino Dollhouse!!

2011-04-03

Home is Wherever I’m With You

I came home Thursday night and felt as though I had been stood up. Perhaps my relationship to Netflix has become a little codependent. I used to be a total Netflix failure–the type of customer that is the reason they are profitable. I would get a dvd, let it gather dust on top of the TV, distracted by my fast-paced lifestyle, steadily losing interest in the contents. Eventually losing the dvd and letting my membership expire months of no activity later, after my credit card number changed or expired. This has happened many times.

In the last few weeks suddenly I am a rapt user of Netflix discs. Maybe it’s like a retroactive winter hibernation even though the calendar says Spring. (I’m still using three comforters at night and the “real feel” temperature is 22 degrees right now.) My social plans have ground to near stop and I’m using my free time to get my life more manageable, focus on my spirituality and rest.

Macy Chaise
I’m spending a lot of my time nose to nose with Macy, my Shih Tzu.

I’ve actually been craving this kind of down time. Sometimes my life is so non-stop I lament that I don’t take time to record the amazing things that happen and give them appropriate reverence. Also, I am practicing being compassionate with myself and that starts with slowing down and prioritizing self-care. I feel such a weight lifted off of me when I say no to doing something I would be doing out of obligation and not genuine want, or schedule a night home for myself. Also when I stop to think about my compulsion to be social and fear of missing out versus taking it easy I have a better handle on what my actual needs are.

I was telling my co-worker Bunny after a 9.5 hour Shop Girl day that I was really looking forward to a Thursday night at home with the movie Baby Mama that Netflix lead me to believe was going to be waiting in my mailbox. I mean, you develop certain expectations and when the email says it’s arriving “tomorrow” I imagine that to be the case.

Not so. The mailbox was cavernous, not even a junk catalog from one of the million affiliates of Jessica London that I get every other day. (I have only ever shopped from them once and it was online! Their junk mail is relentless.)

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The cats (Bear, left, ALF, right) were home to greet me.

At least when I get stood up by Netflix I have the charms of the Branlandingham Bunch to keep me company. They are all squishy faced and they each have distinct, sweet and ever so slight snores. And, you know, the Netflix has watch instantly so I wasn’t totally empty handed.

But instead of streaming I grabbed a book and put on some Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. And instead of reading I started daydreaming (this is why I am such a slow reader). I was thinking about what home means, especially what it means to me these days. I think slowing down has helped me notice that I treat my home as a closet for my stuff but not as a sanctuary for my mind.

I had an incredible experience at the Queer and Trans conference I presented and performed at Swarthmore College last weekend. (More on that later.) There was a workshop given by Mia Mingus and Stacy Milbern that has totally reshaped how I think about home. They have a blog about their experience moving together from different locations in the South to their new shared home in Berkeley, CA. They are two queer disabled diasporic Korean women of color and there is an incredible amount of thought and intention behind their home and their shared values. In addition to an incredible primer on dis/ability justice, what it means to create truly accessible space, crossing the boundaries between different kinds of dis/ability, they also showed us in a truly intimate setting–their home–how they are re-imagining how they and the collective “we” support liberation.

Their presentation was given via skype and projected from a computer onto a huge screen. (I wish I had a photo of it, it was a spectacular use of technology.) They showed us the guiding principles and shared values they wrote and put up (not unlike art, because it sort of is) in their living room from their living room. They could see us (well, half the room) in a lecture hall in a nice liberal arts college campus 3,000 miles away.

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I was trying to explain to a friend the weird places Bear likes to sleep. Like curled up next to the bathtub.

They talked a lot about how to create interdependence and what that means. That healing is organizing and healers are organizers. That social justice can start right at home. Building a home with intention is important.

Some of their shared values were intimacy, making time for each other, shared meals and adventures. I also appreciated their acknowledgment of the importance of their relationship with one another but also building their community support network and dating relationships.

I listened in awe of what they created together and how much intention they put into it. How important it is for activists to put a lot of love and care into their home in order to be centered. Being centered is where we must start in order to do the work we want to do to make change in the world. It’s just like that airplane emergency speech–put your oxygen mask on before you assist a child. How do you help someone else breathe if you can’t breathe yourself?

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When I was in the workshop I admired Mia and Stacey and also felt some grief and sadness. There are a lot of people I considered family of choice, who I longed to create this kind of domestic situation with who are no longer in my life. I thought I had built unshakable bonds that turned out to be strong for as long as they needed to be, but we’ve drifted apart. And in a more tangible way, I don’t put a lot of intention into my homes. I have interest in it–I read Southern Living magazine every month–yet I have barely paid attention to decorating my homes (yes, multiple) since the last time I lived with a partner. I seriously have two boxes of art I haven’t put up since I moved into my Brooklyn apartment nearly two years ago. I have basically made my apartments livable and functional but never finalized anything.

And maybe I find home with a lot of different people and not just in a space. Sometimes my home is 90 miles away with friends I’ve had for a decade, who helped me learn to be at home in my body and on stage.

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And sometimes they become parents and you get to be an aunt to their magical baby.

Sometimes my home is on the road. I really do feel at home in adventure. I think a lot about getting an RV and piling the muppets in to tour the country giving workshops about body love, performances and getting to hang out with my friends all over.

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Etta is the greatest baby.

Two weeks a year my home is a tent in the woods with a rolling garment rack, people I cherish and the Pandora station of cicadas and tree frogs.

Right now my work and my home are here in this charming Brooklyn brownstone apartment. I’m doing a lot of centering and spiritual work that deserves a place. I have an amazing roommate who doesn’t care that the living room is a craftastrophe and sometimes buys me fruit. I want to paint my living room at long last and turn it into a real design space so that there aren’t spools of ribbon everywhere (glitter will likely remain no matter what, I’m okay with that). And I want to stop waiting for someone else to be in my domestic life plan to settle all the way into my home. I’m the one I’ve been waiting for. I am enough.

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I’m never alone with animal companions. She waits for me to come to bed by sleeping on the side of the bed (and two of the three comforters).

So I am learning from Stacy and Mia’s example without waiting for a Stacy or a Mia to enter into my life. I am incredibly inspired by their example and the intention behind their home. I want to write guiding principles for my home life. I want it to be peaceful.

And while I work on that, I’ll finish watching Baby Mama.

2011-02-12

Glitterpositive Valentine Sentiments

Happy Validation Day everyone!

Love Thyself
Chalk art from Re/Dress NYC by Erin Bunny Burrows.

This time of year life is inundated with prix-fixe Valentine’s Day specials at restaurants and single-phobic, glitter-phobic rhetoric. (“Don’t be different! Do everything the same! Don’t be a wild pony! Find one person to love and do it in this totally heteronormative way!”) I find it gleefully ironic that these messages are sometimes sent using glitter*, when glitter to me represents people who shine really bright and really differently without regard for trying to quiet down or dim their shine in order to woo a mate.

I am a big fan of doing good things for yourself on Valentine’s Day, partnered or not. I’ve written about calling it Validation Day before and celebrating the joy of your life on Valentine’s Day. I’m into buying yourself something frivolous, delving into the cheesiness of hearts and confetti** just because it’s fun, or getting together with friends to make lasagna, drink red wine and revel in each others’ fabulousness.

I did the last thing one year with a whole bunch of boys. I was 22, being a fag hag and hiding out from the scary world of actually risking rejection by dating queer women. If I went out with a group of gay boys to a chorus of how fabulous I was*** it became much easier than the bizarre rejection I felt in a sea of lesbians who didn’t acknowledge me out at the queer girl events. I didn’t realize then that most people are just shy and socially awkward in big group scenes, my own awkwardness exponentially increasing the discomfort.

I don’t regret those days at all. I really needed to develop a sense of comfort with the woman I was turning out to be and it was like I was in a special baby Femme incubator. I also really loved Dolce and Gabbana cologne, watching old episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and going out dancing and so did they.

I thought I would do a round-up of glitter-positive, fat positive things that have caught my eye lately and share with you so that you, my queer/gender-fabulous/glittertastic lovelies out there can revel in some glitter-positivity out there. Shake off some of that mainstream-media Valentine’s Day hype.

Queerness, for me, is my choice. I am an active agent in choosing who I want to sleep with, who I want to have relationships with, and how I politicize my life.

Glitterpolitic is one of my favorite new blog projects. How is Ashley so hot and so smart? With the addition of her roommate/blog partner Erin their tumblr is unstoppable.

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Ashley at the Femme Conference, with Queer Fat Hungry. Photo by me.

I’m fat positive because I’m a feminist, and I refuse to acknowledge in the magical thinking that if you’re small enough, quiet enough, compliant enough and saccharine enough, you will somehow be enough.

Great article called “Why I’m Fat Positive” by You’re Welcome.

Co-dependent love is constantly represented as the ideal. ‘I can’t sleep/think/ live/function without you, romantic partner’ leads to the inevitable crash of despair when things don’t work out because you’ve set up someone else to meet the impossible expectation of completing you. ‘Forsaking all others’ doesn’t just imply sexual partners but in a nuclear model of family, seems to also speak to friendships and extended family.

Amazing article from Crunk Feminist Collective called Living Single.

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Erin from Glitterpolitic. So much hot in one blog!!

Shame doesn’t work. Diets don’t work. Shame is a tool of oppression, not change. Fat people already are ashamed. It’s taken care of. No further manpower needed on the shame front, thx…You know what’s shameful? A complete lack of empathy.

From “Hello, I’m Fat” by Lindy West.

Go forth, live and love radically!

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Source.

*I love a good post-Valentine’s day craft store sale.
**My Butch Ironworker roommate is making heart-shaped mini cheesecakes for Valentine’s Day and I am very inspired.
***I have always adored nightlife fags as they are liberal with compliments.

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