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

2017-03-31

FAT SEX WEEK XXL: Femme Sex Chat with Catiriana Reyes AKA Miss Sparklez

Welcome one and all (who are knowingly entering into this adult-themed conversation)! This is Fat Sex Week XXL, the second edition of QueerFatFemme.com Fat Sex Week where I explore many facets of fat sex. Named for Magic Mike XXL, which was even better than the first Magic Mike, I’m hoping this edition is louder and fatter than ever before! Check this tag for all of the posts!

Y’all I had such a great conversation with my friend Miss Sparklez today for Fat Sex Week XXL! It feels so good to chat with other Queer Femmes about sex and dating, I find it a really comforting feeling of sharing perspectives and being seen and understood. Sparklez is a brilliant, talented babe. A scholar, a DJ, a Soprano opera singer and a bottom. She’s an out trans woman, queer identified, into leather but not the leather scene, of African descent and originally from Kentucky.

We talked about the leather community feeling masculine and binary, dating on OK Cupid, why telling someone they are a BBW isn’t the best line for picking up someone, and rejection resilience.

She dropped a Foucault concept during our chat and I started weeping for joy, just because I love when folks sweep from sex chat to academia and back again. Michel Foucault is a famous social theorist and philosopher that most folks know from college courses. He was also a queer man who POTSA (Passed On To Something Awesome) in one of the first wave of AIDS-related deaths.

We also learned shower douche 101. “Poop doesn’t live in your anus, it only passes through.” Learn more about identity, sex and sexuality with Sparklez!

Sparklez says in our interview, “Trans women are worth more dead than alive. We have more bio power dead than alive.” Let’s change this and amplify the voices of Black Trans Women! It starts with listening to their perspective (like this interview!) and it moves to giving opportunities for work, housing and community organizing that respects and center their needs and experiences.

I’m posting this on Trans Day of Visibility, which is a great opportunity for folks who are not of trans experience to act in solidarity with gender non conforming and trans folks. Here’s a great thing you can do to be in solidarity with folks: literally never assume someone’s pronouns.

“To be able to self select what your identity is confirming your truth to power… When someone else does that it’s taking away your power.”

Asking someone what pronoun they prefer (especially if you think you know based on looking) is a great way to make the world a little more survivable for trans folks. And if/when you screw up pronouns genuinely apologizing and working to get better. Maybe it feels awkward but you, as an ally, absorbing a little awkward to make the world easier to navigate and helping people who struggle with a lot more oppression than you do feel more at ease is a great way to repair the world.

Thanks so much to Sparklez for our fabulous interview!

Find DJ Sparklez on Mix Cloud (I love listening to mixes while I work!)

She spins at Do You Like Disco last Thursday of the month at Metropolitan Bar in Brooklyn.

Find Sparklez on Vimeo.

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.

2016-08-29

Why All Bodies are Good Bodies: Body Liberation Activism in Five Minutes

On that trip of a lifetime earlier this month, (I’ve been home a week/can’t believe it’s already been a week!) the first group go around we said our name and something people could talk with us about. I have been in a lot of facilitated groups; this was the simplest and most effective go around for sparking individual conversations! Some people picked silly stuff and some people went more serious. I chose strategically because I knew the folks with whom I would engage with were global influencers, it was a rad opportunity to get to talk to them about body liberation activism!

bevinallbodies

What I did not expect was how sharp and quick my 2-5 minute spiel about body liberation activism would get when I delivered it 20 times! Sometimes it was one-on-one sitting next to each other on the bus, sometimes it was at dinner to a few folks, and then that time Jenna asked me about it I gave a full five minute workshop about it with a tiny cluster of curious Storytellers. Jenna and I continued a lengthy conversation about it for almost a whole day.

jennafloppyhatGlamour from a place of a floppy hat, featuring Jenna, a totally brilliant, inquisitive babe/ardent feminist.

To me Body Liberation Activism stems from a place where all bodies are valued equally. Think about our culture’s obsession with Body Currency, a concept coined by Jes Baker.

In a system of Body Currency, bodies are each assigned a specific value based on a metric of privileges and oppressions. Body size is one, so is age (and we’re literally all aging), ability (we’re literally all only temporarily able-bodied), race, class, religion, gender, binary gender conformity, flamboyance, expressions of sexuality, and how else we might be visibly or invisibly othered.

In a fatphobic society, all bodies are targeted and made to feel insecure. A fear of fat develops that results in epic amount of eating disorders and body shame. It creates a culture of conformity which benefits billion dollar cosmetics, diet and other industries that capitalize on our feelings of shame and unworthiness.

I focus on the semantics of “Body Liberation Activism” rather than just “Fat Activism” because I acknowledge that everyone is affected by this. Thin folks can use their privilege to act as an ally to fat folks, but when we dismantle systems of Body Currency we all win.

heelsonwheelslareadingI talked about how coming out as queer was affected by my experience with fat oppression in my piece in the Lambda Literary Award Winning anthology, Glitter and Grit. Here’s me and other brilliant contributors at the LA launch earlier this summer. Azure D. Osborne-Lee, Heather Ács, Anna Joy Springer and Meliza Bañales.

To walk in alignment with Body Liberation is to disinvest from a system of Body Currency. Some places to start:

1. Cleanse the judgment palate.

When you find yourself judging someone else’s body or looks, stop yourself. Notice that you are doing it. Come up with a “thought palate cleansing” mantra, such as, “All bodies are good bodies.” “All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.” If you want to take to to the woo tip, “I see the light in that human. We are equal,” and actually imagine their golden light of humanity shining out of them.

2. Take your own inventory.

How are you loving your body? How are you talking to yourself about your body? Are you putting off living life or doing anything until you hit a goal weight? Are you talking shit about parts of your body? Commit to yourself to do the work to come into loving alignment with your body and your life will get exponentially happier, your activism will get more effective and folks in your life will absorb your values.

Body love doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a series of brainwashing to unlearn the lies our culture tells us about our bodies. I started this work at 22 years old, after 15 years I’m still doing the work, but now loving myself is a reflex.

bevinbobtammyWorld Famous *BOB* and Tammy Cannons are performing with me this Saturday at Dollypalooza NYC!

3. Speak up for other folks.

I love to gently remind people how they can use their privilege. (I prefer gentle consciousness raising to “calling out,” I find it wildly more effective.) My bestie Rachael told me once that she feels like a thin secret agent among other thin people when she hears body shaming going down. That is a great place to consciousness raise.

If you hear your thin friends talking shit about other bodies or talking shit about their own bodies, that is a great time to step in and say something like, “I believe that all bodies are good bodies.” Or drop knowledge bombs like describing the system of Body Currency and how it hurts everyone.

You can also talk about your friend Bevin’s work to help people love their bodies no matter their size. I know a lot of folks who amplify my work as a way of being an ally and I think it really helps to not have to take a full “stand” or argue, but simply to talk about different ideas.

backofthebusrealityJust some of the back of the bus crew. I have about 2400% more straight male friends than I did before this trip. We had great convos!

4. Don’t comment on other people’s bodies.

Well intentioned people act in fatphobic ways all the time! I take it as a total nonpliment when people tell me I look so good when I’ve lost weight! Gross! I was hot before, still hot now. Being body neutral means not commenting on people’s bodies even when that is so ingrained in our culture and it’s haaaard. Try just complimenting them on their hair or their outfit if you are trying for a fast save. (Read all about it in my post How to Be a Good Ally to Fat People Who Appear to Have Lost Weight.)

This is also true for how you interact with young people. Girls are told they are pretty and boys are told they are brave. We condition kids to perpetuate these ideas that a girl’s value is in their looks and a boy’s value is in their ability to hide their feelings and be “tough.” Kids are also sponges, refraining from talking about other people’s bodies in front of them, especially your own is a big deal! I learned a lot of body self-loathing from well intentioned and loving adults in my life. Being conscientious about body talk around kids is like waving a magic wand for their current and future self esteem.

rebelcupcakebevinbymorganI had to do so much work around my body to be okay with Visible Belly Outline. But now it’s a THING OF REVOLUTION and there are whole articles about it! Photo by Morgan Hart, Rebel Cupcake 2012.

5. Remember your ally tools.

People see fat folks, queers, people of color, women, non binary gendered people, older folks, disabled folks, etc… as less than. They often love to speak FOR them. Do that when you’re alone (see #3 above) but when in a group with folks whose bodies are differently valued than yours, help to amplify those voices.

If you’re a man and you want to talk about amplifying women’s voices, make sure you aren’t interrupting or talking over women.  Learn about mansplaining and don’t do it. If a woman has asked a question in a crowd and it’s getting ignored (I witnessed that on my trip), use your privilege and ask the speakers to address the question. If a fat person is around and talking about fat oppression, if a person of color is talking about an experience of oppression, etc… your job as an ally is to listen and amplify.

It’s also not your job to “save” self loathing fat folks! Sometimes thin people are the BEST allies because the notion that someone with body privilege is valuing your body is really thrilling, but for some fat folks talking about bodies is really triggering and they’re not ready for it. It’s okay to gently say you believe all bodies are good bodies when a fat person talks shit about their body to you, but if they are fighting back, let them have their own process around it. In that vein…

6. Body autonomy is important.

Listen, not all fat people are fat and happy. Thanks to a fatphobic society we’re taught to hate our bodies. We’re also a culture that prioritizes a diet of starchy bullshit that does unkind things to bodies that involves inflammation, persistent chronic health disorders and sometimes weight gain. (Remember a thin person can be less healthy than a fat person, a lot of fat experience is due to genetic lottery.)

Everyone is going to have their own goals about their body and maybe that includes weight loss goals. I am totally in support of people’s body autonomy and goals. But think about who you are talking to about your body goals and your issues with your body.

Fat people (especially Fat women and Fat Femmes) are often targeted for uncompensated emotional labor around bodies. How shitty would it feel for a fat friend of yours to hear about how much you don’t like your fat. As someone who has worked hard to step away from body policing and negative body talk, I am astounded at how many fat people I know who hear it from friends in their own body policing.

Get consent BEFORE you talk about your body with anyone, and especially fat folks and then pay attention to non verbal cues about someone actually not being comfortable talking about it. You never know when you’re potentially triggering someone out about an eating disorder or body trauma.

And dear Goddess, if you are a thin or thinner person dating a fat person, don’t talk shit about your body to them! Get your emotional support for your body weight fluctuations from outside of your relationship. It is so hard to be vulnerable with your body sexually; an empowered person is a lion in the sack, but a disempowered person cannot roar. (More on this in  Seven Ways to Be an Ally to Your Fat Lover.)

hardfrenchwinterball

Ready for more? Here are some great resources:

My boo Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s TED talk, “The Fear of Fat, the Real Elephant in the Room.” (I have a draft of one, too, if anyone knows of a TED event I should apply to let me know!)

The Body Is Not an Apology, founded by Sonya Renee Taylor, fosters global, radical, unapologetic self love which translates to radical human love and action in service toward a more just, equitable and compassionate world.

The Fat Activism Conference in September is going to be amazing! It’s virtual so you can do it from anywhere.

Jes Baker‘s book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls.

Other hits people have liked from my blog that amplify body liberation:

Nine Steps to Be Able to Wear Sleeveless Shirts by Next Summer

I Lost a Bunch of Weight and Feel Really Complicated About It

Five Steps to Learn to Love Your Body Now

Six Strategies to Not Care When People Stare at You

 

 

 

2015-11-03

I went to the DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum Conference and it was Rad!

“The most important office in government is the office of citizen.”–President Barack Obama

October 22nd and 23rd I attended the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum’s 22nd Annual National Issues Conference in Washington, DC. Say that five times fast. In short, it was wildly more awesome than I expected it to be.

bevindarawhitehouseIt was very close to the White House.

I had a friend on Facebook ask me what brought me to the event and that’s a great question. I’m not that involved in mainstream political activism. In college I worked for the CA State Attorney General’s Press Office and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I think it was the hybrid of policy and media that I found so exciting, plus a great boss who was inspirational, fun and liked his job a lot.

Once I went to law school, George W. Bush won that election through the Supreme Court, I realized how disempowering the legal system can be and I got burnt out on politics. I was exposed to more radical liberal politics and developed a passion for making change through personal narrative and DIY media. (Hence my work blogging, vlogging, podcasting and social media.)

When Dara brought up the idea of going to this conference I was lukewarm about it. My curiosity of what the Democratic National Committee was up to, the idea of attending as a person who is pretty far left though I always vote Democrat, and the low low price of $100 to attend as a person under 40 was what got me in the door. (Tickets for the over 40 crowd were $1,000 or having raised $2,500 or more for the DNC.)

WLFstepandrepeatI wore a vintage polyester dress from Re/Dress owner Rachel’s previous business Cupcake & Cuddlebunny vintage.

When we signed-up Michelle Obama was scheduled to speak and I thought it would be cool to take a Mishelfie while she was on stage. In my fantasy I would love to talk to her about how targeting fat kids for being obese doesn’t actually help overall health and wellness for kids and there is a lot of body positive rhetoric and Health at Every Size methodologies that would be more successful at creating a healthier United States.

The line-up changed a bunch and by the morning of the conference Barack Obama had replaced Michelle as the keynote speaker, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were scheduled in the morning and several panel discussions were in the middle of the day full of women who seemed like they could be impressive.

I was entirely blown away. The curation of the event was great. Not one of the sections of the programs was a snooze–I was shocked given how political it was that no one boring got stage time. Women of color were centered in the programming. The panel discussions were incredible–very smart, accomplished women, nearly all (or possibly all) of the panels were majority women of color. There was also age diversity and a diversity of economic backgrounds. Unsurprisingly there was not a lot of size diversity or visible ability diversity.

secretserviceAt one point I was surrounded by Secret Service. I want to acknowledge my privilege, that as a cisgender, White person being surrounded by law enforcement I feel delighted at how weird it is and can snapchat about it rather than being stressed or worried about it, like many POC in our country.

Hillary’s appearance was the day after her 11 hour Benghazi hearing. Did you hear about this? Apparently the Republicans on the committee have a wine club that celebrates how glacially slow their work has been. Anyway, her joke at the beginning of her fifteen minute speech was hilarious. (See below video from my Instagram.)

Hillary’s speech was charming and just what you would expect from her. The room was VERY pro-Hillary. I heard many times throughout the event about how much folks were looking forward to the reality of a woman POTUS. They were careful not to create an allegiance unless they were overt Hillary supporters (this is politics, after all) but the temperature of the room was Hillary degrees fahrenheit.

I kind of wish Hillary came off more genuine on stage instead of feeling like the kind of person she’s trying to get folks to think she is. Her speech reminded me of Tracy Flick’s speech from Election, where she spoke of having conversations with specific constituents. “I spoke with so and so, whose mom works in the cafeteria and he is concerned about xyz.” I generally agree with her politics though I wish she was a little more working class focused. Highlights for me included quality affordable healthcare for all (remember she’s been working on this since Clinton was elected in ’92), gun control, strengthening the middle class, fair wages, paid leave for all genders of caretakers, and funding women’s healthcare including Planned Parenthood. And maybe someday I’ll get to hang out in a hot tub with Hillary and she will be real with me and I can report back about genuine. I just feel like people get more real when hanging out in a hot tub.

hillary

Bernie Sanders was amazing. I really love that he brings the working class into the conversation every time. “Our government belongs to all of us not just a handful of billionaires,” is his rallying cry and it’s taking off. If you’re curious about what he stands for and love thinking about eradicating class disparity, especially with regards to taxation, go down the rabbit hole with videos on his website. “We need an economy that works for working class. So many rich people are pouring money into the political system.” I have so many thoughts about money and politics and the ways in which social media and personal connection are actually more valuable than money, I’m going to have to write another post.

We had some lively discussion at our table about Bernie vs Hillary (the college student, Eric, who was sitting next to me is a huge Bernie supporter) and someone said that Bernie + Hillary = Obama and I would say that seems pretty accurate. I’m curious to see what the primary has in store and how their disagreements will flesh out policy stands between them. Also I love that Bernie is pulling Hillary to the left. (Have you heard about Hillary going after the school to prison pipeline?)

bernie

By far my favorite speech was Nina Turner, a former Ohio State Senator who is an incredible public speaker. She left the podium with a wireless mic and spoke so passionately and vibrantly about honoring our inner purpose. (I wish more politicians left the podium! It gets very endless-graduation-speakers to see people speaking from a podium again and again.) Nina reminded the audience that fierce women shake the world and use both hands, one to reach forward and one to reach behind. “We are a country that lifts people. Everybody should have the right to live a good life. Not just decent, a good life.”

She focused her talk on living for your purpose and not for a title. “This world will be right if you live for your purpose. Many of our foremothers didn’t have titles but they had purpose.” I think it’s great to hear a reminder about being true to yourself in a room full of politicians. I think politics gets way too caught up with the horse race and the “winners” when it’s important that we have leaders whose discussions lift up issues that are significant, regardless of whether or not they hold office.

ninaturnerI really tried hard to find a full length shot of Nina Turner’s amazing gown but haven’t yet found one! Here’s a partial from Getty Images.

Bernie Sanders made a joke out of having to give his speech right after Nina Turner, who is so inspirational and really brought the house down.

The day began with breakfast that started at 6:30AM. Dara and I thought we were there early by arriving at 7:30. Ha! We had to sit on the far right side of the room. These women who were early birds? They were getting worms and by worms I mean really baller coffee service (three types of syrups including sugar-free vanilla), fruit and quiche. And an oatmeal station!

Nancy Pelosi gave a speech and reiterated a theme that was brought up again and again over the two days at the conference–that women politicians are more effective. She said, “If we reduce the role of money in politics and increase the role of civility we will elect more women.” And that the DNC has women running in half of their targeted races.

There were about 10 different times that they called to the audience to encourage those in attendance who wanted to run for office. There was an emphasis on the training programs available for women, (Emerge America training is a good example) and especially those trainings that support candidates and campaign staff of color.

The keynote speech closed the conference and was delivered by President Obama. I never thought I’d see President Obama speak while in office, this was like a dream come true I hadn’t even articulated. It was exciting to see him for the first time! His whole vibe was pretty casual since it was a room of friends, basically. He said he loved being in a room of Democrats and especially a room of Democratic women. It was like ultra charming because it was both super flattering to women but also not delivered in a way that was too flirtatious to be professional. Such a hard line to walk.

obama

He was so charming and engaging, I couldn’t believe his whole speech was 30 minutes long!

Obama focused on rallying the troops for the 2016 election, and definitely had a lot of harsh words for Republicans. “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

“America’s greatness doesn’t come from building walls it comes from building opportunities.”

Obama jumped on the theme of the evidence of effectiveness of women and Democratic leadership. According to Obama’s speech, empirical evidence shows when there’s a Democratic president & Congress that the economy does better.

He also told some jokes! “Republican politicians are down on America. They are gloomy. They’re like Grumpy Cat.” That was hilarious.

There were five 45 minute long panels after the first stretch of speeches and before Obama’s keynote. Some of my highlights from the panels are below–seriously could write a blog post about each one):

The one and only panel where size diversity was mentioned was the Women Breaking Barriers panel, through an audience question, as two of the panelists were in fashion. Moderated by Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama and assistant to the President, Tina Tchen (who is a bad ass, definitely go see her speak if you ever get the chance), an audience question about wanting more diversity in clothing sparked some great soundbytes about the need for fashion to represent all sizes.

Rebecca Minkoff said “Companies need to listen to their consumers and change to include everyone.”

Jana Babatunde-Bey, who works for Will and Jada Smith in their production company and in their Foundation, said, “You have to decide how you are comfortable in your own personal style. Be unapologetic.”

The WNBA President, Laurel Richie, is a plus size woman and had a lot to say. “We have the ability to show them how it will work by showing it is possible.” She wants plus size women to get a great tailor and not be limited by what’s available, and that continuing to be fashionable it will change the tide of limitations on size. As the response to a different question on how to exude power in the corporate world she said to find what works for you. For her, she wears red lipstick, it recalls the energy of her mom who exuded power.

bathroomfernsThe men’s restroom on the floor where the event was held became an additional women’s restroom for the day.

The panel also talked about work-life balance. Laurel Richie said you should take time to determine what work is important in the organization you’re working for and what is important to you and balance those two things.

A couple more valuable gems I found were Tina Tchen’s advice about when men are speaking to men in the room and ignoring women. “Don’t get thrown by it. Have confidence you have the answer.”

“I make it a point to speak first and I’m not afraid to contradict the popular opinion,” Jana Babatunde-Bey.

Another panel highlight for me was the Media Messengers panel. This was the first time feminism was spoken about. I was shocked at how, in a room full of folks who are where they are because of the work of feminism they didn’t use the word even one time except for this panel. They said “foremothers” a lot and spoke of the work of women before them but did not mention feminism.

The panel included the Editor of Feministing, Lori Adelman; Senior Editor from Ebony, Jamilah Lemieux (whose Twitter is great); and the “millenial voice” of Elizabeth Plank, a Senior correspondent at Mic News.

I loved that intersectionality was a big topic for the panel. In response to a question about intersectionality and poitics, Jamilah Lemieux said, “My feminism & race are not in conflict. Racism and sexism are in conflict against me.”

In a room full of White feminists, it was great to have this media panel dropping truth. Jamilah say that Black women are essential to feminism and how mainstream (aka White) feminism has herstorically erased the experience of intersectionality. Elizabeth Plank (29 year old White journalist) said it was important for White women to step back and listen to Women of Color perspectives. Lori Adelman reminded folks that three queer Black women started the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Lives Matter came up a lot all day long and Jamilah also used a great metaphor. Men who complain about feminism being about women trying to be above men are missing the point. Feminism seeks to make women equal to men–the things that we need to work on like paid leave for caretakers helps all genders. Just like saying Black Lives Matter naturally leads to all lives mattering, but saying All Lives Matter erases what we need from Black Lives Matter–the work to make all lives important in a society where that is not the case because of oppression. (Read more here.)

daraatpotusThere’s a great gift shop near the White House that lets you take some photos in their set if you spend $10. We bought a Santa sitting on Lincoln Memorial’s lap ornament just for the photo opp.

In the panel Why Women’s Leadership Matters, I was enamored of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who said, “The most powerful thing you can do is be heard.” And who talked about a bill going through Congress to remove barriers to LGBT people fostering children.

Ayanna Pressley, Councilor at Large from Boston, said “An advocate is greater than an ally–they bring up issues when it’s not convenient or politically expedient.”

There were men in attendance, too, but the majority were women. I get feminist offended when the media focuses on what women are wearing in politics, but this is a part-fashion blog so I gotta dish on these outfits.

I expected a lot of lady suits and while I saw several blazers I was impressed at how well-dressed and stylish many of the attendees were. I was a little too shy to do street-style photos of folks in the lobby (plus the lighting was terrible for equipment without flash) but I took a lot of notes about how to dress professionally stylish. There was a woman in a black dress with black leather details that reminded me of the Monif C line three years ago that I loved. Not that I needed any reason to lust after a Monif C dress, but calling something a work-appropriate investment is always more seductive.

I also want to shout out to Nina Turner who wore a stunning floor-length variegated green gown. I love when women in politics dress beyond the skirt suit!

The first day of the conference was a training program but I didn’t walk away with a ton of skills, though I got a lot of information. I loved the presentation by Jessica Byrd who began a consulting business focused on getting people of color elected to office!

jessicabyrdPhoto from JessicaByrd.com and definitely go see her speak if you can!

“Diversity is the people who are invited to party, inclusion is who gets to choose the music,” Jessica said. “What would it look like if people of color and women had a clear path to elected office?”

The rest of the day was a lot of facts and figures about women running for office and how to fundraise, the presentation of which gave me a lot of mixed feelings about the way in which folks who fundraise interact with class backgrounds and people who are not wealthy, but that is for another day and discussion of politics and money!

The things that were not addressed that could/should be, especially if folks in the DNC want to be in touch with the millenial generation (as many said they did):

Non-binary gender: If we’re talking about being inclusive, especially with regards to millenials, we need to acknowledge non binary gender identities. I know it’s hard at an event that relies on a binary gender but we can (and should) absolutely talk about womanhood in a context of a non-binary gender!

Size diversity only came up the one time, with regards to fashion. Weight based discrimination is still alive and well! It is not okay to discriminate against people about their body size. We have a long way to go beyond being included in clothing racks.

Sex workers’ rights: This wasn’t mentioned even once, in spite of this summer’s groundbreaking stance by Amnesty International supporting the decriminalization of sex work, and the raid on Rent Boy by Homeland Security. (Talk about a weird use of Homeland Security to go after sex workers, rather than maybe focusing on trafficking or actual threats to homeland security.) If you want a primer on what decriminilization means and a primer on sex worker’s rights, this is a good article. Sex workers’ rights are a passion project for me, and I work as an ally to sex workers for the Desiree Alliance, which, among other advocacy, creates a conference that brings together folks working for sex workers’ rights. The next one is in New Orleans, July 10-15, 2016.

Disability justice and access: This was only discussed in a cursory manner.

Immigration: This came up a lot but not in any meaningful ways that proposed policy changes.

Anyway, would I attend this event again? Hell yes. Did it make me feel more engaged in my role of the public office of “citizen” as Obama called it in his speech? Hell yes. Do I want a DNC “I hate Tea Parties” reusable mug to have on a future episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket? Hell yes.

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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.

2014-09-26

Thoughts on Facebook Legal Name Policing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spread the word!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-07-09

Bridging the Gaps between Feminisms by Being Better Allies to One Another

8409407368_13a394a9f8_zMe and Hana. Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

I have an article up on Everyday Feminism today about working across different kinds of feminisms. A lot of the work I do in my activism is bridging gaps between folks who believe differently and yet all still call themselves feminists. We can work to do things differently if we work on our ally skills, and leave room for rage and compassion.

Check out the article! Building Allyship and Finding Room for Multiple Feminisms.

2014-01-15

Guest Post: How to Be a Good Ally to My Crippled Arm

My bestie Jacqueline Mary is disabled in a way where it is not readily apparent to the naked eye. Her arm was shattered in a bike accident a couple of years ago and the initial surgery restored only a small percentage of function in her arm. But because she still has her left arm and most people aren’t particularly observant, it’s not obvious right away that there’s anything different about it. She often has to tell people not to touch her arm, especially strangers in public, and sometimes people we know don’t even believe her and continue to poke, touch, even punch her in the arm because they think she’s joking. She’s also in a lot of chronic pain that has gotten worse over the last couple of months.

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She posted the following note to Facebook and I really loved it. Not just because she’s my friend, but also because I thought it was an exceptional example of stating your needs and asking for help–I believe vulnerability is a sign of strength.

What was a huge bummer about it was that she reposted it several times to her Facebook feed and it only got 10 likes. Whereas the day before when she posted about being hungover she got 30 likes. It speaks to a lot, especially to how uncomfortable people are about disability and vulnerability.

I’ve learned a lot from Jacqueline about disability lately and the most distasteful one was that men often use it as an opener to hit on her. GROSS!

Blanche side eye

So here’s a dating pro-tip: if you see someone has an injury or a cane, don’t use it to make conversation to hit on them. Hit on them in a different way. Get creative. Here are some ideas.

Every person who has chronic pain or a disability has different needs and asks around it, but most folks really want to be heard. So if a friend of yours is asking for help or being vulnerable, a simple “like” to say you heard something, or even (my favorite) a comment heart (<3) is a sweet gesture. I hope you like the following piece by Jacqueline Mary.

This is a brief PSA about the status of my arm – I’d appreciate some likes on this (aka- i read this, that sucks).

Things are not at all great. My radius is no longer attached to my wrist, which means it’s just kind of floating around in there. My hand is quite literally dangling off my ulna. In the last 6 weeks, my pain levels have risen pretty dramatically and my mobility has lessened even further. I’ve been to the clinic several times for this, but since I’m going to Bellevue and they’re seeing me for next to nothing, this is going to be a long process. They’re looking into surgical options and trying to see if anyone is crazy enough to cut me open without knowing what’s really happening in there. My MRI failed because of the amount of metal in my arm (which I’m told over and over again is exceptional).

The result of this is that I need my friends to understand. Guys, I’m tired. Fucking exhausted. Being in pain every moment is a huge head trip in so many ways, but the most noticeable is that it sucks all your energy away. Aside from actual physical fatigue, I’m mentally fatigued. What I need to do for my arm and what I need to do to survive are at war. The strength it takes to not just quit my life and stay in a comfy bed with my arm elevated is really wearing on me. This makes me, basically, bitter and cranky. I apologize.

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In addition, my arm is extra fragile these days. Even a tiny bump creates big pain. This means that I don’t want to go to things where I’m sure it will be jostled. I’m actively trying to avoid anything with crowds (especially shows, unfortunately). I’m driving most places these days. I can’t ride my bike anymore. The train, when it’s busy, is pretty awful for me. Please still invite me to things, but understand that I may decline for what looks like no good reason.

I’m wearing ace bandages a lot more these days, and it’s looking like I may turn back to the sling. Both of these are scary and stressful, as it’s much more of a physical indicator of my disability than I’ve had in a long, long time. This results in even more unwanted attention from assholes on the street. It also creates an appearance of being weak, which is extra scary because, well, I am, and it makes me feel like a bigger “target” to be attacked. However, if any of my creative, DIY, or textile manipulating friends want to make me a beautiful sling and/or wrap, I would seriously love that. Especially if it didn’t look like a sling and therefore made me feel a bit safer.

I know that most of my friends don’t have experience with disability, but I appreciate that you’re trying. Here are a few things you can do to make life a little easier on this crip:

1. Don’t touch my left arm. Ever. Don’t push it, don’t pull it, don’t try to hold my hand on that side, and don’t insist I hug you with both arms. Don’t be insulted if I pull away from you, I’m most likely in pain, aka not trying to get away from you. (And, for the love of god, don’t fucking tell me my scars are beautiful and/or give me character. Don’t downplay my disfigurement.)

2. Help me out. Offer to carry things for me. Insist. Help me open jars, doors, envelopes, even my coat. If you see me trying to do something stupid and struggling, offer to do it for me. I know, I know, I can get pissy when you offer, but offer anyway. The pissyness is a result of feeling bad about needing help, not a result of your offer.

Another GREAT way to help is walking on my left side if we’re in a crowd. I’d much rather have a trusted friend on my bad side than for it to be open to whatever dickbag wants to knock into it. Take the lead, guide us to a safer place, and don’t be afraid to yell CRIPPLE COMING THROUGH!

Also, feel free to call people on their shit if they’re not being kind or a good ally to me. I’m so worn out from having to tell people “Don’t touch me there, don’t push me, that hurts, THAT REALLY HURTS,” just to be met with giggles. It’s not a game, I’m not playing, and it’s not funny to me. Think of it as a matter of consent.

3. Be understanding. If I’m cranky, late, or cancel completely – I’m sorry. I can’t do all the things I want to do as it is, but it’s getting much harder lately.

4. Be kind. I’m tired. I’m sensitive. I’m touchy. Just be sweet to me. I try to not be sensational about these things, but I still have pushback where people seem to think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I know I mostly look fine, which is why things have gotten to this point before doctors would take me seriously.

Guys, I’m fucking scared. There isn’t really any other way to say that. Every time I go to the doctor, they manipulate it which makes it hurt even worse. I will not go back on painkillers. The “best” option I have is a surgery where they will take apart my entire arm (from the elbow down) and completely restructure it. This means another hospital stay, recovery time, physical therapy, and a bunch of other things I don’t have the time or money for. I have no idea how I’m going to manage that, but I trust that I’ll figure it out when the time comes.

So yes. This was a “brief” PSA about the status of my arm. Thank you for reading. Feel free to ask questions if you have any, but mostly I’m just very grateful to have friends who will read this, get it, and try their best to accommodate my bullshit.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey for the Rebel Cupcake Leather Family Photo Booth.

Jacqueline is going in for major arm reconstructive surgery tomorrow morning. She’s going to have a piece of her hip inserted into her arm! The recovery period is going to be intense and require a lot of cabs. It’s so hard to know how to help, but here’s a concrete ask you can probably help with (or signal boost)!

Folks reading this in any city served by Uber cabs–a smart phone cab hailing service that allows you to call a car with your smart phone, which is actually a lot easier in NYC than calling a car service. Uber is offering a special where if you sign up now, as soon as you use your first free $20 ride (that’s right, it’s free for the first ride with this sign up), Jacqueline’s account will get a $20 bonus. Which means a free ride to or from work for her! You can help her just by taking a free cab ride!

Sign up for Uber here, Jacqueline’s referral code is uberjacqueline but should be automatically entered when you click that link!

These are the North American cities Uber serves–I love it and it’s pretty easy to use, especially the UberX service, it’s even just a little bit cheaper than a standard Brooklyn car service.

ATLANTA BALTIMORE BOSTON CHARLOTTE CHICAGO COLUMBUS DALLAS DENVER DETROIT HAMPTONS HONOLULU INDIANAPOLIS JACKSONVILLE LOS ANGELES MINNEAPOLIS MONTREAL NASHVILLE NEW JERSEY NEW YORK CITY OKLAHOMA CITY ORANGE COUNTY PHILADELPHIA PHOENIX PROVIDENCE SACRAMENTO SAN DIEGO SAN FRANCISCO SANTA BARBARA SEATTLE TORONTO TUCSON WASHINGTON D.C.

And if anyone has a lead on how to build a clamshell for Jacqueline to lounge in during her recovery, or the money to finance putting 100 pink and white balloons in her bedroom let me know.

2013-10-04

How to be a Good Ally to Fat People Who Appear to Have Lost Weight

Our culture normalizes talking about bodies all the time. There is especially a lot of value placed on weight gain or loss. Turn on a television and just listen to diet chatter. It’s pervasive, obnoxious and well-meaning individuals perpetuate it in our personal lives all the time.

I like to create an environment in my life that is about substance over small talk, where compliments are genuine and weight is value-neutral.

“Oh, but Bevin,” you may be saying. “I really mean it as a compliment when I notice you’ve lost weight!”

But, well-intentioned friend, just because you’re well-intentioned doesn’t mean what you say doesn’t have a harmful impact. Weight loss doesn’t mean I look good. I believe I look good at all of my weights–all bodies are good bodies. And I know your perception of me might have changed because you are socialized to believe smaller is better, but I would like to gently invite you to do something different with your nonpliments of “You look so good!” when someone has lost weight.

It’s also important to remember that the well-intentioned friends come in all shapes and sizes, fat, thin and in between.

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Photo by Amos Mac.

1. How about don’t talk about it?

I strongly subscribe to the philosophy that my body is nobody’s business but my own. If I want to talk about it with someone, I will and I do.

I completely understand the inclination to ask questions about an obvious change. I am a naturally inquisitive person. My friends call me the Queer Oprah because of my tendency to really like to get into the meat of people’s stories. As I’ve learned how to become a more sensitive and compassionate person I have had to learn that sometimes you just don’t ask and you stay in the dark. It feels kind of impossible to not be nosy about it but I do it anyway because it’s not my business.

Also, what if you’re wrong? A friend of mine just said she gets asked all the time if she lost weight when she puts her hair down!

Being nosy and being inquisitive are natural things that I am still working on curtailing. But I think it’s worth it to do the work to be sensitive because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I want my friends to feel like they can be their most vibrant and awesome selves around me.

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Super cute picture of me and Sarah Jenny from the Yes Ma’am archives.

2. Wait for the person to bring it up.

Have you ever noticed that lots of straight people will out themselves to you within about ten minutes of conversation? Sometimes as short as two. Straight people in a heteropatriarchy are reaffirmed all the time about how great, normal and important their straightness is. Therefore, they have likely not had the experience of having to hide or code their sexuality to people. They don’t really play the “pronoun” game and affirm their heterosexuality without thinking about it.

The same is true for lots of people who have lost weight. In a diet-obsessed culture, it is super normalized that weight loss is a good thing. People who are excited about their weight-loss will probably bring it up because it is normalized to talk about people’s bodies whether that is right or wrong. So let it happen if it will organically.

People don’t stop to think about whether or not weight loss might be a sign of someone’s increased health or not. I know many people who have had cancer that lost a lot of weight rapidly. Candye Kane (an amazing blues singer) said on stage once, “I don’t recommend the cancer diet.”

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Candye Kane by XRaySPX. Buy Candye’s cds! They’re great!

Maybe just ask them what’s going on in their life and talk to them organically. The core questions you have about them may just come to light. But, again, their body is none of your business unless they bring it up.

If they do bring up their weight loss in a positive manner, you can do the work of someone working in solidarity with fat people by saying, “I think you look great at any weight, but I’m really glad you feel good in your body right now.”

3. Mention a general compliment that is more neutral.

If you really want to compliment someone because you genuinely think they look good, there are lots of things about someone’s appearance you can go for. Instead of mentioning weight loss thing, if you want to compliment someone you can go for something else. “Your hair looks great!” “I love this outfit!” There are a bunch of different ways to express positivity to someone that don’t take into account weight loss and reinforce that weight loss is the only way to look good.

I can see friends who come at me when I’ve lost weight sort of looking for a way to talk about my appearance without going down the wrong road because they know I loved myself X number of pounds ago and they don’t want to bury themselves in the wrong kind of compliment.

4. “You seem particularly present tonight. I don’t know what it is, but you just seem extra YOU today. I love it!”

If you must say something to the person, I suggest the foregoing. Kris Ford gave me this quote.

Kris Ford
Kris!
I think it’s really great! What a remarkable way to get to the essence of what your weight loss compliment is really about. When we stop to think about what we really mean when we’re talking to people we might be able to clearly communicate without hurting them.

5. Absolutely don’t ask someone what they’re doing.

Omigod, my family is so into this discussion. I zone out when I start to hear diet talk, Weight Watchers, walking the track, whatever new thing they’re doing. I truly believe in health at every size and will totally pipe into discussions of fitness, feeling good in your body and other things from an all bodies are good bodies perspective. But I have heard “What are you doing??” question so many times and I just absolutely hate it.

Again, often folks will offer it if they want to. But in general the “what you’re doing” question is such a standard thing people think is okay to ask but it’s actually really personal! I have a super close friend I asked this question of because I genuinely had no idea how she had lost weight and wondered. But I’m close enough to her that when she dropped that it was an eating disorder it was a safe(r) space to talk about it. I also learned from that moment to tread even a little more lightly with that stuff, to open those kinds of conversations with gentle warnings or open slowly. Because people who are just hanging out or going about their life maybe don’t want to just talk about their traumas out of the blue because you want to comment on their bodies.

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Another picture of Kris because I couldn’t choose. Hot fatkini!!

I struggle with what to say to people when they comment about changes to my weight. True fact about me–I tend to be an emotional non-eater. If I am going through a rough time I will likely lose some weight. I lost sixty pounds when my fiance left me and every time someone commented on my weight I would say, “Bad break-up.” I would kind of grumpily respond to a nonpliment with snark.

I don’t always want to do that, but I really leave it up to how I am feeling in that moment. Sometimes I go with, “I think I look great at any size.” Often, especially if it is a friend or loved one, I go with a very long explanation of what lead to my recent weight loss so that they understand what I’m going through, that it’s been a real struggle and that the weight loss is a byproduct of a larger initiative to resolve a chronic condition I have.

Sometimes, I just respond to weight loss nonpliments graciously because it’s not worth the fight. I learned to respond to compliments I didn’t agree with back when I was still self-hating. I would do things like respond to compliments with, “Oh, I don’t look good I still have x,y,z wrong with me.” And I replaced that with a simple, “Thank you,” until I was ready to really hear and absorb good things about myself.

A friend told me once, “Hi skinny,” in response to weight loss. My response was, “Um, I don’t identify as skinny.” Because anytime I’ve ever lost weight in my life (as someone who has a lifetime of fat experience) I have always been fat.

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Miss Mary Wanna dressed as a pizza. Photo by Gizelle Peters.

And, in the case of my beloved Grandmother, I accept her compliments graciously and deeply appreciate when my mom pipes in with, “But we love you at any size.” Because sometimes it’s not worth the fight. But it is amazing to have my mom acting in solidarity with my politics and values around all bodies being good bodies at any size. This was not always the case, but working with her in love, respect and compassion through the last twelve years of my participation in body liberation activism, has actually been really rewarding.

I’ve also blogged about being a good ally to your fat lover as part of my Fat Sex Week series.

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