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

2017-04-14

FAT SEX WEEK XXL: Interview with Cinnamon Maxxine

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!

When I say stripper if you bring to mind a White, cisgender, feminine presenting and seemingly straight thin woman, there’s so much more to the world available for you. Just like people, excellent strippers come in all shapes, sizes and presentations. If you are a regular consumer of stripping entertainment and you assume most of the people performing in the club are straight and they are cisgender, you haven’t read my blog long enough. Gender doesn’t have anything to do with your perception of a person’s presentation. It is a personal choice that requires an ask. (And a whole lot of queer folks are strippers.)

It’s the White Capitalist Heteropatriarchy that is keeping strip clubs so homogenous. And sadly, the Unionized strip club in San Francisco, The Lusty Lady, is no longer. But there are still lots of strippers of all different shapes and sizes out there, performing their hearts out for the audiences lucky enough to see them, even if they don’t perform in clubs. (And if you know about clubs that have size diverse strippers please leave a comment!)

I saw Cinnamon Maxxine perform last summer at the Desiree Alliance conference and they were magnificent. Seriously, one of the best strip performances I had ever seen and I’ve produced a lot of shows. There’s a magic and charisma a person has on stage when they are really enjoying it and know how to engage their audiences. I wanted to interview Cinnamon for Fat Sex Week to find out more about their stripping performance, and self care.

Photo of Cinnamon from my friend Amanda Arkansassy‘s project Femme Space. Read Cinnamon’s statement to go along with this piece at the Femme Space website.

The basics: What’s your pronoun?

They/Them

What was the conversation about sex like in your family and community growing up? How do you think it’s helped or harmed you becoming your authentic self?

We didn’t talk about sex growing up. My mom didn’t really offer up those conversations readily. When it came time for sex ed in school, my mom wouldn’t sign the forms. So the next time sex ed came around, I went to my dad and it took a little convincing, but he signed it.
I feel like the lack of openness around sex only led to me feeling really shy, scared, and self conscious in my own private sex life. Yes, I’ve done porn, yes I’ve done sex work, but that’s all performative and it’s very different than what sex is like in one personal life.

How did you get started stripping, porn performing and doing sex work? How has it evolved for you?

I started stripping because I needed a job. I also figured it would be fun. I figured I would be able to perform a little bit and that was appealing to me. I got hired at the Lusty Lady and loved it. From there I met other sex workers and got involved in other types of work. Once you’re in, it’s easy to find ways into other types of sex work.

I started doing other sex work in 2008 and porn in 2009. When I started escorting, I kind of just jumped in and went for it. Then from there I started doing private parties and events. That turned out to be my jam. I love private parties and events. I have the most fun doing that type of work and I’m not terrible at it and I also make money. It’s a win win win.

I’ve continued to do events and private parties, however, I haven’t really done any escorting for a few years because I was really burned out and my mental health couldn’t take it anymore. I always figured I would get back to it eventually, but right now, I’m taking a break for as long as I need.

In your bio for the Desiree Alliance conference after party show you said that stripping is the thing you love to do most. What is it about stripping that brings so much joy for you?

I think I love the performance aspect for sure. I also enjoy having a crowd to perform for. Performing while fat and black is really empowering for me as well. I’m also incredibly shy normally, but being the center of attention for anywhere from 5 mins to a few hrs is really amazing.

What are some numbers you have in your repertoire in case anyone out there books shows or special events?

The acts I get most requested is the one that’s a little more performance artsy where I hand out love notes to the audience and the act where I pull pearls out of my pussy.

Cinnamon you once told me your ritual before you perform in a stripping competition, would you share it with my readers?

LOL, I don’t get to do this much anymore because I’m far more broke and I kind of miss it.
But it went like this:
I’d wake up and spend an hr or so planning my day and figuring out everything I needed for the competition or work event. Usually my first stop was the wig shop, followed by picking up an outfit. Sometimes if I had a little extra money, I’d go to Foxy Lady on Mission st, otherwise I’d hit up this random clubwear store, I think it was near 18th and Mission. If I couldn’t find anything there, I’d stop by Fabric Outlet and get material to make my own outfit. After Fabric Outlet, I’d treat myself to lunch, then get my nails done, then pick up some jewelry, then head home. This literally took most of the day. These things are all pretty time consuming and I was also taking public transit.

What has the process of coming out as gender non-conforming has been like for you?

I think I’ve always just been where I’m at in any given moment about my gender. And those around me, excluding my bio family, kind of always just accepted me where I was at. I don’t think that any formal coming out was necessary. I also didn’t have any words for what I was feeling gender wise. When I started working at the Lusty, I was meeting new people and through that I was able to find some words for what I was experiencing.

But the biggest hurdle wasn’t necessarily coming out, but finding words to even do that.

Can you share the affirmation you do every morning?

I’ve had a lot of those! Right now, I’m telling myself Something my grandmother always used to say, “ Everyone is just doing the best they can.” Which I don’t always believe, but it helps sometimes.

A sign from the Desiree Alliance protest, an annual part of the conference where folks attending march in protest with signs. The attendees are current and former sex workers, businesses that work with sex workers, direct service organizations, sex worker’s rights organizations, policy makers and creators, and academics who study sex work make up the diverse conference. The next conference is in 2018.

What is your self care practice?

I love video games, hamburgers, bacon, mac n cheese, and making art stuff. I’m also learning how to speak up for myself. I’ve had a really hard time doing that in the past and it’s really taken a toll on my mental health. It’s not a fun part of self care, it’s been really hard, but it’s really made a difference in my life and how much I respect myself.

You are a person who is really great at asking for the help you need. Are there any tips you can give to folks about how to feel more confident asking for help?

I don’t feel confident! I’m always really scared about asking for help. However, I know it’s really hard, but just do it. It’s so much easier said than done to literally just ask for help, but you have to. Talk about it with some close friends or family first if you feel like that might help. You can sort some thoughts and figure out what kind of help is going to be most, well, helpful, and then put that out there to the universe. I often use Facebook, but you don’t have to.

What are some of your fat sex tips? Favorite sex toy?
I love sex with other fat people. I really enjoy grabbing other people’s fat.
My favorite sex toy was my Hitachi, but it was stolen some years ago and I haven’t been able to replace it.

Links to current projects and links to how to paypal/venmo to support you.

I use Venmo and that’s the best way to throw me money just for existing.
Cinnamon Maxxine / @CinnaMaxx on venmo

I also have a Patreon that, however, I don’t post that often, but I do still appreciate patrons and followers.

I’ve also been raising money to save toward an RV because I’ve been homeless off and on so much in the last several years. I feel like an RV is my best bet in my current situation for some sort of housing stability. I’ll be putting up the link to that fundraiser on my Facebook. You can follow me on Facebook.

Thanks so much for contributing to Fat Sex Week, Cinnamon!

2016-10-21

You are Stronger Than You Think: Grief, Resilience and Capricorn Resistance

Last week I was shaving my newly adopted cat’s legs in an effort to mitigate his pee smell from peeing on his legs. “Shaving Day” was not a success and continues to be the official low point in our three week relationship. Lucky for me, it was a very consumptive process because I missed the texts from my mother when Grandmother went missing.

biscuitreynoldsHe’s so cute but the pee smell is so gross.

After I released Biscuit Reynolds to his 18 hours of post-shave sulking, I checked my phone. Mom’s series of texts were heart-wrenching, but I was already relieved to have read the most recent one. “I called Eisenhower and talked to Grandmother. She was in the hospital getting tests. She’s being released right now.” The first texts talked of asking me to join the hunt looking for Grandmother. She lives independently and doesn’t love her cell phone so we have to catch her at home in order to reach her. Mom hadn’t reached her in too long and got worried. On a whim she called Grandmother’s favorite hospital and asked for her room—and got her!

bevingrandmothermay2015Me and Grandmother in May 2015 on a visit from NYC. Being closer to her geographically was a big reason I wanted to move to LA.

I’ve been kind of wrapped up in my grief around Amanda’s suicide, so I was glad for a happy and swift resolution. Then I recounted the story to my partner Dara and started weeping. A coping strategy I have from my traumatic childhood is to be able to stay separate from my Feelings during crisis. I’m a complete rock star in crisis, I can solve shit, I can organize, I can motivate—I know how to stay safe and I know how to keep other people safe. This is a great skill but not great for emotional health and the Feelings always come. The weeping while I was telling Dara gave me the warning bell that I wasn’t done having these Feelings about Grandmother going missing.

Later that day I walked into Target and then started melting down. Have you ever sobbed at Target? It’s not cute. Part of what has been hardest for me with Amanda isn’t just the loss of her, it’s how much I identify with her and it’s scary. If the world was too hard for Amanda, will it be too hard for me? This thought often propels me to make the phone call even though I feel awkward talking about my Feelings in Target. I know I need to not isolate and I need to ask for help. So I called Bridget (she’s been so amazing this past month).

grandmotherbevinshermansMe and Grandmother at Sherman’s on Friday. When I asked the waitress for Shabbat candles for the table she was very confused.

I got through everything and then talked to Grandmother. Her test was a biopsy on a mass on her lung. She had gone to urgent care because she was coughing up blood and then they sent her right to the ER who admitted her to find the mass, do the biopsy. Grandmother didn’t call us because she doesn’t get a cell signal at the hospital and “didn’t know anyone’s numbers by heart.”

The fact that Grandmother might have cancer was a lot for me to take. Dara just celebrated two years out of cancer treatment in August. I, unfortunately, know a lot about cancer from supporting her through it. In spite of looming work deadlines, Dara offered to come with me to Grandmother’s the next morning to keep her company while she got the biopsy results from the doctor.

cancersurvivorpark1In May 2015 we did this photo shoot at the Cancer Survivor’s Park in Rancho Mirage, CA. We had NO idea Grandmother would have cancer–that’s the one thing that doesn’t really run in our family.

That night I was snuggling with Dara in “the nook.” My thoughts started floating to the grief places and I was crying. I realized I was soaking her shirt with my silent tears and I rolled over to my side. I felt like I was getting away with something. When you’re grieving sometimes you think your sadness, hurt, confusion, anger, depression is too much for your loved ones. Because often, it’s too much for you. Normally I spit in the face of anything that says I’m “too much” but I’m an independent Capricorn and sometimes I like to seem more together than I really am. Crying silently on my side of the bed felt like I could be more of a mess than Dara thought.

I instantly related to Grandmother. Like me and Dolly Parton, Grandmother is a Capricorn. So is my Great Grandmother and my Great Great Grandmother. An epic line of Capricorn women who in each past generation with deepened misogyny had to seem together and not lose it in front of anyone about grief and abuse and alcoholism and who knows what other trauma legacies are in there. Capricorns are the goat climbing the mountain. Persistent, ambitious, success-driven, not showing weakness. The cardinal Earth sign. The Keep It Together and Look Good Doing It sign.

I understood Grandmother’s reticence to ask for help when she got swept away to the hospital, to sit in a bed by herself and not call her kids or grandchildren. Just to do it on her own and not bother anyone. Getting away with not seeming like a mess or like she needed anything.

cancersurvivor2

I felt glad to relate to her and understand her motivation to isolate. I understand it with love and not judgment. I was also glad to be forcing myself on her to support her through the diagnosis the next day. I was sure she didn’t need someone to be there. She is always so happy and grateful when I come to visit I knew it wasn’t an imposition.

Dara caught on to me crying eventually and got me tissues and was her rock star supportive self. She drove two hours with me into the desert to Grandmother’s house in Rancho Mirage. She sat at the table with me and Grandmother googling the diagnosis, a mass on her lung but possibly a type of adrenal cancer or maybe lung cancer I still don’t know. She showed Grandmother her chemo karaoke video from her cancer vlog “Cancer Can Be Cool” and talked Grandmother through her experience with cancer treatment and how Dara insisted on positivity from everyone in her life.

daragrandmotherchemokaraokeDara worked so hard on that Chemo Karaoke video–she filmed it on her birthday during a chemo infusion at the Memorial Sloan Kettering chemo center where she got her treatment.

My idea was to go out to Sherman’s, our family’s favorite restaurant, a Jewish deli. (Better than most places I’ve been to in NYC—there I said it.) I wanted us to have a celebration for Grandmother’s cancer survival and success. I believe in the power of positive thinking more so than just about anything in my faith arsenal. If you’re going to go for a positive attitude might as well celebrate and have fun.

celebrationfood

We’re in the day by day diagnosis phase right now, where we wait for the next test result, next doctor referral. It’s maddening to a Capricorn like me who wants to plan and know what’s happening. But that’s not how the world works and I have to keep using lots of tools to be cool with it. I’m on my second listen to the just-released audio book The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein and it’s got a lot of tools for working with the flow of the Universe, womanifestating and for finding serenity.

I told Grandmother that part of my vision for being a rich lesbian is having a big ol’ compound where she would be able to live in her own space in our house, hold court with my friends (who all love her or will love her, she’s so charming) and she won’t have to deal with telling the gardeners they are not doing a good job she can just tell my house manager. But since I’m not yet a rich lesbian I need her to hold on a lot longer. We gotta beat this.

cancersurvivorpark2The Cancer Survivor Park in Rancho Mirage is really great. Worth a visit if you are in Palm Springs.

There’s a lot to worry about, both me and her. She’s older than she looks and that means she gets a lot of ageism when people look at her chart instead of her whole picture of human health. I can certainly relate to doctors looking at weight and not the whole picture of human health. She is always concerned that she won’t get to live independently anymore. I want to be able to be there a lot for her treatment but we just adopted this cat and he stressed out with us gone for one night that he started pooping blood. I just recommitted myself to finishing the memoir I shelved during Dara’s cancer treatment.

I get that worry is a misuse of imagination. I’d rather focus on how fun it will be to make art projects and adventures out of her cancer treatment. We almost convinced her to sing a Dolly song for an instagram video to help me promote Dollypalooza LA on October 29th! She’s got cute stories about being almost famous early in her life, about being constantly mistaken for a celebrity while living in Beverly Hills and now I think everyone thinks of her as an older celebrity while she’s tooling around Palm Springs. We are hopeful she’ll consent to being part of Dara’s cancer vlog. Grandmother is basically a gay icon waiting to happen.

daragrandmotherwalkingHeart emoji. Literally every time I write a gratitude list Dara is at the top.

Before Amanda died, the phrase “You are stronger than you think” kept popping into my head. I didn’t realize it then but that was the Universe telling me I am ready and resilient, even as I don’t really feel either just yet.

cancersurvivorpark3

2016-10-11

My Coming Out Story

Happy Coming Out Day! Every year on October 11th the LGBTQ community and our allies celebrate Coming Out Day as a way to commemorate and sanctify an important moment in the lives of queer people. It’s also an important way to help our children, families, friends, co-workers and communities know that you are a safe space for LGBTQ folks to come out to.

bevinchrisamandadamienFor this post I’m using photos I found in my archives from the Femme Family Pride Coming Out as Femme party that Femme Family produced in June 2009 at Stonewall Inn. L-R, Damien, Me, Amanda and Chris.

Coming out is such an intensely personal decision, since being queer is somewhat of a seemingly mutable way of being different. (“Passing” as straight is easier for some than others, and it is often tied to gender presentation.) I thought in honor of the occasion, and the fact that I told this story to my friends Jenna and Rick at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner on Friday, I would share it here!

Coming out is easier said than done, and for me it was really difficult. I am 37 years old, which means I grew up in a pre-Ellen era. I noticed a pretty big cultural shift when Ellen’s character came out as a lesbian on her then sitcom in 1997. It was a watershed moment when, more and more, people were aware that LGBTQ folks were openly living their lives queerly. I feel like most kids who came of age after Ellen came out have a different experience within American culture.

bevinrachelsophieMe, Rachel (check out her work getting Queers, Women and POC into tech sales) and Sophie (check out her incredible body positive pin-up photography business).

I didn’t know gay was a thing that you could be until I was 14 years old. I had literally never understood that any of my mom’s friends were gay, that any celebrities were gay or that people throughout history had been leading queer lives.

I met the first lesbian that came out to me at Girl Scout Camp when I was a Counselor-in-Training. At the time that was a big no-no (even when I became a counselor a few years later it was very understood that lesbianism was don’t ask don’t tell) but we were friends and it came up. I felt a huge paradigm shift knowing that people were gay and it started helping me understand myself better. I wasn’t the kind of kid who grew up knowing I was attracted to other women, mostly I was attracted to gay men. (Hello, Keanu Reeves and George Michael.)

bevinbridgetMe and Bridget, who just launched her amazing business coaching! She’s been a little bird supporting me with branding, web stuff and business for years, so excited for her new venture!

I began questioning my sexuality when I was 15. I had no one to talk to about this so I just kept it as a running wonder in the back of my mind. My mom came out for the second time around then.* It was not a bonding experience for us. My Junior and Senior year of high school was really difficult for our relationship, since mom was going through a divorce and my grumpy selfish step dad was still living with us because we couldn’t afford to sell the house (recession) and mom didn’t want to risk me having to leave our great school district. Not a recipe for anyone to be at their most compassionate emotional self. In my perception at the time my mom was not a safe person for me to discuss my sexuality with because we were not safe people for one another emotionally. My mom is awesome and she has been a great safe space for queer kids for years and years as a teacher but we were very much water and oil in high school.

I know now that a teacher at my school was gay (she’s friends with my mom!) and if only teachers were allowed to be openly gay in the mid-90s, my life would have been a lot easier.

miasiaMiasia is an incredibly talented belly dancer from Washington, DC and whenever I possibly could get her up for a gig in NYC I did just that! You should check out her classes and performances!

I came out to myself for real when I was 16 years old and could actually articulate internally that I was attracted to another woman. I told three very close friends who were not in my day to day life. When I got back to high school for my senior year I shoved all of that internal realization deep inside, in spite of a low-level crush on a girl in high school, and tried to keep fitting in even though I never actually fit in.

katestonewallLaurence and Kate Huh, a really vital archivist photographer of NYC queer life.

I never dated anyone in high school, all dance dates were strictly platonic and even though I had some flirtations with boys here and there nothing ever happened. I knew how to keep my armor up as a trauma response to intense bullying I experienced in late elementary and middle school. To this day I still have to work to let my armor down where sex, attraction and flirtation are concerned.

damienstonewallperformanceOne of my favorite performances of Damien’s is “Femmes Bash Back” based on the Femme trans women of color who began the Stonewall uprising by throwing purses and heels at the cops raiding the Stonewall. Let that fictional Stonewall movie be forever proved wrong, since they rewrote history so some white cisgender gay dude threw the first brick. Stay tuned for Happy Birthday Marsha! It is important that our history be preserved accurately and not white-washed.

In college I met a lot more gay folks, especially gay men, and almost everyone was in the closet for some period and eventually came out. It’s so weird to think about that time because now it’s so normal for people to be openly gay that I forgot that I knew a lot of these folks before they came out formally. Even though I knew in my heart I was attracted to women (I identified as bisexual at the time because I hadn’t realized all my big crushes were on gay dudes) I didn’t think I should come out because I hadn’t dated or even kissed anyone romantically. It was all wrapped up in fat girl body self loathing and not feeling like I deserved access to my sexuality. Why bother coming out if I was inherently unfuckable?

shomidjingOur Femme DJ Shomi Noise.

Now I know that my identity has nothing to do with anyone other than myself. I know I’m Femme regardless of whether or not I am partnered with a Butch, I know that I am fuckable whether or not I’m presently having sex, I know that I am kinky even when my floggers are collecting dust.

bevionstagestonewallIf my college-aged self could know how I would turn out, coming out of the closet would have been way easier.

At the beginning of my Junior year of college, at 19 years old, I was really thinking about coming out for real in spite of not having kissed a girl, and then just days later I met my first girlfriend. I was her Resident Advisor, she was a resident on my floor, she had Ani DiFranco posters all over her room (a very late ’90s tell). She wasn’t out to her roommates but as we became friends she came out to me and then we held hands while watching Mary Poppins late one night and it became wildly easy for me to come out because I was young and in love and wanted to tell literally everyone I knew about it. Plus saying, “I have a girlfriend!” is way easier than saying “I need to let you know I identify as LGBTQ.” Since being Femme presenting is invisibilizing to many folks, coming out is Groundhog Day repetitive for me. I tend to drop a “My partner/my girlfriend” or when I was single “My ex-girlfriend” as a way to come out rather than just telling people directly. Somehow that is more seamless for me.

arielbevinEarly photo of me and my friend Ariel Speedwagon.

I’ve had a few more coming outs in my life, like when I got to law school and decided to come out as a lesbian instead of bisexual, when I came out as Fat and Femme, and when I shifted to using queer to identify my sexuality because it better encompassed non-binary gender identities. There’s also coming out as a medical marijuana user (as Melissa Etheridge says,”I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally, whether they consider it so or not”), and coming out as non-monogamous which for me just means I like to be a little free to ethically explore connections with people as they pop-up and adhere to agreements with the person I am partnered with.

melissasjMe and my friend Lissa and Sarah Jenny.

I just can’t endorse coming out enough. I was scared, so so so scared before I came out because I thought I was going to lose friendships, loved ones and access to my dreams. For me, living life authentically, and loving myself for all of me, allows me to feel so free and relaxed that I am more able to focus my energy on making the world safe for other people to do the same. I have had SO MANY DREAMS COME TRUE because I am openly 100% of the time my authentic self. I think global peace starts with inner peace, and we need to be committed to doing the self care and self expression we need to feel at peace.

femmefamilyintention

Our logo intentionally had wings hugging the heart. Sophie designed it and Chris designed our flier.

Queer allies: amplify queer voices on your social media. Tell people you are a safe space and show your support for LGBTQ people. Work to learn how to be a better ally. It’s still dangerous in many spaces to be out as a queer person. Queers who live in countries that are more accepting of queers, learn more and more about LGBTQ refugees and borders and how being queer is sometimes the fight for your life. Offer your resources. I’m hoping to amplify more ways to do that in the coming months as I learn more about displaced LGBTQ folks.

Let’s all make the world more survivable for LGBTQ people and work to make “coming out” obsolete. Wouldn’t it be cool if people got to just grow up to be whoever they really are and love whoever they love and do it to whoever they feel attracted to and have consent and all that stuff?

Happy Coming Out Day!

*It turned out that my mom herself had come out of the closet for a few years in the early 80s. She even rode in Dykes on Bikes in the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1980! After a really traumatizing relationship with a horrible woman, my mom went back in the closet when I was four, dated men and married said step father who started out cool and then got awful and selfish and then after her second divorce she dated a woman and came out for good. So complicated, right? I didn’t come out to her until I came out publicly when I was 19.

miasiaonstageI love that in this photo Miasia is holding herself much like the wings of our logo are holding the heart.

metaueretandjesseTaueret and Jesse were both at the Femme Family Coming Out Party but somehow not in my batch of photos so here’s a cute one I found at a party in the same time period when hunting through my archives. TT made that beautiful hair fascinator herself. She was so talented.

 

 

 

2015-10-08

Saying Goodbye to NYC: On Leaving, Change, Grief and Anxiety

I have this grief about leaving Brooklyn that hits me in waves. I am profoundly curious and excited about this new chapter in my life. I haven’t experienced a drastic geographic change in 15 years. I’m a totally different person than I was when I left CA. I’m so curious what it is going to be like. But also, I’m bummed about leaving a lot of the things I love about NYC behind. I’m working really hard not to let my grief and anxiety interfere with my ability to love the process and let go of NYC in a mindful way.

bevinatnybgOn my NYC Bucket List was going to the New York Botanical Gardens, which currently features an amazing Frida Kahlo exhibit. It includes fourteen pieces of her artwork and a whole recreation of the gardens of her famed home, Casa Azul.

When I was 29 and my fiance had just broken up with me and I was kind of a disaster, my friend Kelli Dunham gave me a cd about the grief process. I didn’t realize at the time that you could have grief about things that weren’t death. I just thought you powered through yucky feelings by ignoring them. Learning how to deal with grief and anxiety has been a long road and I’m still working through it.

I am going to miss my friends. I’m going to miss all of the tremendous cultural opportunities living in NYC–mostly all of my weirdo Downtown artist friends’ shows. I am going to miss Fall foliage (strategically moving just after foliage, when the gorgeous Gaywitchmas decor lines the streets and just before deep snow times). I’m going to miss the ability to skip car traffic and hop in a subway car to get places. There is grief about leaving that behind.

FridapyramidSince I’m moving someplace in a warm climate I got a lot of great ideas for my future gardens in LA. I love the way the colors of the plants popped against the bright colors of the buildings and pyramid at Casa Azul.

I want to approach this move in a mindful way that is as low stress as it can be. Last night I mentioned to Dara my anxiety level and she’s like “What are you anxious about?” I said, “Um, how about my impending move across the country?” Even the best laid plans and the most time you have to execute them still come with lots of unknown anxieties and that’s kind of buzzing along in the back of my head. I do all the things I know to do to handle my anxiety, including buckets of self care, meditation, faith that the Goddess has a plan for me and is taking care of everything behind the scenes on my behalf and still more self care. Yet still, part of having feelings that are difficult to experience is just acknowledging them. Hi anxiety. You are there still.

So my anxiety is telling me “Do ALL the NYC things you might possibly miss! Schedule ALL the hangouts with your friends! Fill up ALL of your time with moving prep!” But my self care mind is telling me, actually, slow the fuck down you started getting sick this week. Do what you can. It will all be okay. It will all be okay. It will all be okay.

casaazul

Ever since I stopped doing monthly queer parties, I definitely changed how I interact socially. Going through chemo as Dara’s support was a big part of recentering myself towards hanging out at home. At first it was out of necessity and then it became part of how I interacted with the world. I think this is also a product of getting older, and have heard queer friends in their thirties, forties and fifties talk about shifting priorities and not focusing on nightlife for socializing any longer.

There’s also this thing where everyone in NYC is really busy. There’s a necessary hustle to living here because it’s not cheap and my friends tend to be working artists. So they hold down day jobs/day hustles, side hustles, artwork, gigs, rehearsals, etc…

Remember that line in Clueless where Cher’s dad says “Everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes!!” In NYC I think that’s more like 45 minutes. The subway is convenient but it takes awhile, and busses take forever–often they just don’t show up. So if you factor in 45 minutes to get to Crown Heights from South Brooklyn neighborhoods it is hard to squeeze that into an evening. Am I naive to hope that things are a little bit different in a town where most folks drive?

bevinmacvictoriaThe other day I got to do one of my favorite things which was a spontaneous dinner hang with two of my favorite people at once! Mackenzi and Victoria!

I also just got kind of fatigued with how much work it takes to schedule a hang out in NYC sometimes. When people are busy and you get to the third round of times that don’t sync up… This summer I made plans with a couple of friends of mine 2 months out to go to Spa Castle. I totally guarded that time like a precious jewel because it was so hard to get it on the calendar and I wanted to see my friends.

I have also been on a journey to move towards centering self-care into my life–making taking care of myself a priority. Having blank space on my calendar to work on my day job work or my art work is important, it’s also important that I get to the gym, and not to burn myself out running around. Where I used to say yes to everything and fill up my calendar with back to back plans, now I’m more hesitant because I want to conserve my energy for the work I want to be doing in the world. I changed the way I eat, which means I cook for us a lot. It’s much easier and cheaper to eat a whole foods diet* if you cook at home, but that also means I spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning.

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So I had all of these shifts in my life, many of which contributed to my decision to move in the first place, but it also means so many of my precious NYC friends became people I see only every 4 to 6 months.

When I was doing my “should I or shouldn’t I” thinking about moving I realized that if I move away and am still working somewhat bicoastally, I’ll still see my NYC friends about every 4 to 6 months, just in more concentrated doses during visits rather than sporadically during our busy New Yorker lives. I’m hopeful that will work out.

Each time I catch-up with a friend I haven’t seen in 4 to 6 months (or sometimes longer) I am struck at how connections don’t necessarily have to have time limits. I love the experience of having so many friends with whom I have connections that time does not expire. That’s radical, beautiful abundance. It’s kind of weird to be like “Okay, so in the past 6 months all this has happened” with someone who is not a friend from out of town, but that’s a totally legitimate way to sustain connections with people we don’t get to see day to day. And in NYC there are few folks we get to see day to day unless we work or live with them, roll in a crew that prioritizes group hangs, or you see your neighbors often. (I have some neighbors I really love who I rarely see because our schedules don’t overlap.)

meandamandaAmanda moved away from NYC years ago and it is always a joy to get to see her again! Photo by Sarah Jenny.

So in part, my handling of moving anxiety and grief is going with the flow when it comes to getting my last minute NYC enjoyment in. I can’t possibly go to all the museums I’d like to see before I go, I probably won’t get to squeeze everyone before I go. Having an abundance mentality, where I know I can try to see folks as much as possible, putting it out there that I want to have hang outs while I’m decluttering and packing, sending around potluck invites, prioritizing quality time AND self care… Even looking at my life and being able to acknowledge that I’m having grief and anxiety is huge progress compared to who I was just 8 years ago. That’s what I’m experimenting with to handle my grief and anxiety.

That and remembering that I get to see lots of people I love once we are headed to LA. Both on the trip out through the South and once we get there. Life is change, the Goddess is change, and with change comes grief and anxiety.

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*It is also not cheap to eat a whole foods diet and food justice programs that work towards making whole foods more accessible to low income folks is work I really admire and want to amplify. Do you do food justice work and want my help amplifying? Please get in touch!

2012-09-05

This is What Happened for Bevin at the Femme Conference 2012

My story about the Femme Conference 2012 is completely informed by what it took to get there and my frame of mind. Thus, it begins with the epic journey.

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The Goddess was really on my side getting me to the Femme Conference this year. I knew it was going to be sort of bananas, having been on a road trip and off the grid camping for the 17 days prior to Femme Conference, stopping home for one night only to throw Rebel Cupcake: Lonely Girls (the periodic slow songs were a big hit). This is really a cornerstone characteristic about me, seeing possibility where other folks would see “too much” or “too hard.” Because the option existed to roll all of these travels together I decided to do it.

I had set-up travel arrangements, accommodations and timing before I left, but then one of my pals had to bail the weekend before we were to leave. I was trying to get in touch with our other travel buddy but couldn’t really do anything about it until I was on the road. While on the road Wednesday, barely back on the grid, I touched base with my other travel buddy and she was able to easily solve her conundrums without me, which seemed right. Cut her loose and maybe not go. It seemed like doing the whole Michfest/Rebel Cupcake/Femme Con plan could work if I didn’t have to stop to strategize but problem-solving made it feel too overwhelming and stressful.

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One sort of pleading/processing post on Facebook yielded a room to stay in and a ride (the ride part was hard because most folks I knew were leaving on Thursday). Then, at Rebel Cupcake, 1:45AM, just hours before we were supposed to leave I got a text saying my ride had a family emergency so I was again at square one in NYC. I decided to leave it up to the Goddess about whether and how I would get down there. (Here’s the other thing about this multi-leg travel lifestyle–I didn’t have a ton of money to throw at solving these problems.)

I woke up Friday and booked the only available mega bus to Baltimore ($25, leaving at 1:30) knowing I might not make it to the stop on time. I re-packed in light of taking the bus instead of a car, making some intense clothing and beauty product compromises for the sake of space. I headed out and had big re-thinking thoughts on my way to the subway station knowing I probably was going to miss this bus. I decided nothing worth doing isn’t worth fighting for, so I would head out in search of Femmes ’til I got a real “No” from the universe and not just me second-guessing myself.

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Spoiler alert–I made it to the conference. Here’s Emma.

I took a cab from the subway to the weird, block-long MegaBus situation on 42nd Street and was told that the bus I was looking for was already gone but to “stand at the back of the line.” I was actually pretty surprised when, an hour later, I was herded onto a half-empty bus headed for Baltimore.

The bus stop is not anywhere near Baltimore itself, it is somewhere in the suburbs. Given my waning cell phone battery life and the 90 minutes of public transit I would have to contend with, I took a $50 cab ride to the hotel. It was sort of ironic that the Amtrak ticket probably would have cost me about $75 if I had jumped on it during their fare sale. That was no matter! My pal Hadley was waiting for me at the hotel to grab my bag from the trunk and whisk me away to our hotel suite and offered me booze.

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Bridget and her alternative housing arrangement.

I saw from the car a few Femmes parading in party dresses and got a little nervous. In that about to jump into a new culture way. I’ve been in this culture before but it always makes me a little jittery. I like to think it’s nervous like stage fright–because your audience matters to you. It’s really special to peacock for other Femmes. Put on what makes you feel the best and admire others. For me it is not at all about Femme competition, it’s about how one piece of glitter sparkles on its own but how hundreds of pieces of glitter shine infinitely more brilliantly. But here at Femme Conference we’re shining for each other and it’s ablaze and beautiful.

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Miss Mary Wanna.

So, back at the hotel I put on the opposite of a party dress. My Aerosmith groupie realness outfit packed really small and didn’t require ironing, so it made the cut. I had my share of whiskey to take the edge off the travel and get a little silly. I was still a little nervous. I also needed to eat dinner and know that self-care is essential in the life of a conference-goer. It is so easy to get caught up in trying to get to everything that you forget to eat, sleep and take care of your basic needs.

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We picked up Emma, Jenna and Nomy Lamm from the hotel (ours was about a 5 minute walk away). Nomy’s keynote was on Friday so I missed it but I have heard the themes self-comforting and resilience come out of my chats with friends. We got sandwiches and had a sandwich caucus.

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Nomy and a wrap.

Another session I missed was “In Fierceness and Vulnerability: Deconstructing and Resisting Femmephobia.” Kim Crosby, the presenter, has made the powerpoint available online and it is incredible.

The evening event at Ottobar was the FemmeSPEAK spoken word night. It is such a blessing to have so many incredible performers at one weekend, which means the evening events are epically long. I missed the first few performers but I did get to catch the tail end of my roommate Damien Luxe‘s Exorcism piece, a shortened version of Heather Acs “This is What We Have,” and a featured set of Fran Varian, whose piece in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation is my favorite.

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Heather, performing. I was toting merch from her piece, a lavender tote that says “This is what we have.”

I felt so grateful to be on the floor and present for an actual anthem from Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha called “Femme is For Free.” She is going to post it on her blog really soon, but the power in her voice and the cadence and the words. It was why I was there. In that. Sometimes poetry just breaks you open and Leah’s done that for me before and she did it this time.

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I also enjoyed Dacia Holliday‘s featured performance. There’s a great quote from one of her poems.

“…fem(me) identity means: I love as hard as I fuck, and I fuck as hard as I fight.”

(Thanks to Jessie Dress for catching that.)

Settling into the event I was so caught up in the sparkle that before I got to the front to really immerse in the words I was in the back just seeing people, trying not to talk when folks came up to greet me so as not to distract from the performances. It was awkward, since I was so excited to see folks and triumphant that I arrived but so hearing the siren song of the words that are spoken. I remember turning around and seeing this total BABE behind me and doing a slow creep looking up and down her outfit when I noticed her seeing me and I was like dang, I’m caught being a creepster!* There were BABES GALORE at the Femme Conference.

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I mean like, daaaaang. It was also the hair, Elisabeth has this amazing queer pompadour!

After the show was over we stayed and danced a bit. With no prepared DJ we were enjoying the grace of sound guy at the booth plugging in for us but at the mercy of folks’ iPhone playlists for tunes and a lot of La Roux happened. But it didn’t matter! We were in a frenzy of Femme on Femme adoration and swirling around each other was exactly what we wanted. (Of course, as soon as the Gossip came on Bridget nearly died of excitement, fans of the Lesbian Tea Basket know her feelings.)

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Jenna and Hadley.

After the dancing we retired to our hotel suite, me, Hadley and Emma, with a guest Nomy. We had some great conversations in the suite and even though I missed out on some intriguing invites.

“SLUT PARTY AT THE SKANK PALACE ROOM 256! Bring yr slutty self and somebody else’s slutty self too. Lingerie and lace encouraged but not required. Xo.”–Actual text from my phone.

But a ten minute walk is a long walk after a long day of travel at 1AM and with a full day of conferencing to begin at 9AM the following morning. So I just settled into bed with Emma (totally platonically unless you want to imagine something else but your imagination is without consent from me or Emma) and cruised Facebook on my phone until I fell asleep.

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Sleeping soundly.

The next morning we naturally overslept for the first workshop session, though Haddles was up and at em and out the door before me or Emma got to getting. We scrambled to make it to “Mean Girls” in the 10:30 slot, a workshop given by my friend Amanda Arkansassy (aka Lola Dean) who moved to San Francisco two years ago and her hair is long and ombre now, like happens to Femmes in San Francisco. Their hair gets long and ombre! It’s a thing! Not for everyone, but lots of them go long and ombre!**

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The workshop was great, but full of process because it had like 75 people in it and it’s hard to put all of what you need to talk about when debunking Femme competition and mean girl behavior into 90 minutes, and how to maneuver that with the people and space allotted. Also I had given up coffee not long before and was still trying to get conscious so I spent most of the workshop actively absorbing not participating. First we broke down the whys and then the hows and then we talked about how to heal it. By consensus we actually spent an additional fifteen minutes into the lunch hour finishing the workshop. Amanda’s blog has a really great write-up from the workshop, I encourage you all to go read it. I’ll be here when you get back.

Porch talk, isn’t that an adorable blog name? I love it.

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Afterwards we were going to get lunch. I sort of tagged along into two groups that became one giant group, all of us chanting about getting cheeseburgers. We went for a ten minute walk and then we found a restaurant and by group consensus missed the next keynote in favor of having a sit-down and not rushed lunch. Sometimes I find these informal get togethers, the social aspect of conference-going, to be the most valuable. We did a go around*** at the table and talked about what we wanted to get out of the conference. We made tender connections, Rachel offered to do a rap duet with me as I am dipping my toes into song-writing to create a theme song for Rebel Cupcake.

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On the way back to the hotel we were in a clump of ten and seeing the reactions of the Baltimorians on the street was amusing. At some point a young man asked me (towards the back of the group) “What is going on? Y’all are looking fine!” I just smiled and kept going on our mysterious, babely way. It’s really powerful to roll ten deep.

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We got back to the conference for Caucus time, since Jessie Dress was slated to chair the Fat Caucus. We began with 25 folks that then bloomed to easily 45 while we were doing the initial go around. I was getting a little bit diet-talk-squigged-out because the go-around involved where people were with fat activism. This incites some folks to talk about diet history but when I’m facing a room of so many people talking about diet history I feel overwhelmed and like I’m in a Weight Watchers meeting. I like talking about diet history in context of healing and solutions and strategies, and is ultimately what I prefer to get out of these gatherings (along with community and naming struggle). Luckily, our moderator noticed when the go around had taken fifteen minutes and not even gotten a quarter of the way through the participants and we moved on.

By group consensus we agreed to address fat and health first as a large group and several folks talked about struggles with being fat activists who were addressing health issues and learning how to approach exercise from a Health at Every Size perspective and how that is either effective for them or not. There were a lot of things said but I didn’t take any notes.

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Deeply babely. I didn’t take photos at the Fat Caucus, either.

We decided to break into mini-groups for the last fifteen minutes and I took the role of facilitator for the small group on desire. Having to come up with questions on the fly I just asked the eight or so participants in our group how they have been hurt or healed dating while Fat and/or Femme. We also expanded the topic to discuss what it is like to be Fat dating a not-Fat person. Fifteen minutes felt very short but was also really nice to get the tender tiny discussion to round-out (ha) the Fat Caucus.

Other small group topics were health/disability, race/class, inbetweenies, your size is not my size.

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After the caucus I was heading to another workshop when I was enticed to stop by and visit with Diana Cage and Jessica Halem, two brilliant comic babes and we sort of folded into the Cocktail Caucus. We discussed many important things, including bad dating behavior and our lives.

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I made the wise decision to head to my hotel room around 5:30 knowing I was performing that night and was leaving for the venue at 6:45. I had the room to myself for a brief rehearsal and got as dolled-up as I could before going backstage. I knew sharing the stage that night with forty people (for real) was going to mean cramped dressing room space.

FemmesWerq, the burlesque show, was four hours long. The upstairs of Ottobar is a little bizarre. It’s a rock venue, so there are the typical graffitied walls and a million penises.

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The author may have borrowed a sharpie and left her mark.

It’s like two floors and there isn’t a real bathroom, there is a toilet on a raised stage inside one of the dressing rooms. Peeing in a public space not in a stall is a recurring nightmare of mine and so I feel, having done it backstage at the Femme Conference, it’s one of those things that I will now have exorcised from my psyche or something. Hopefully. With 28 acts to wait through, we definitely were going to need to pee a couple of times.

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Watching Femmes rehearse waiting for my tech needs to be met.

My act was squarely in the middle of the show, right after the intermission we never had. Watching all of that incredible burlesque got me uncharacteristically nervous before performing. My Lesbolesque is highly earnest and hilarious, not the studied art of seduction so many other burlesque performers were putting up. Notable performers were Vagina Jenkins, Dr. Ginger Snaps and a third performer doing an homage to Femmes of Color burlesque. Each performer took a Black burlesque performer and performed an act in homage to her, and then after the three performed there was a slideshow. It was stunning, I am a longtime fan of both Vag and Dr. Snaps with renewed vigor.

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Backstage with Vag, addressing the performers.

My friends the Miracle Whips, a feminist performance group from LA did an incredible piece in homage to vaginas and the various wobegone fates we can have in them. UTIs, yeast infections/bacterial infections and period cramps. It was magical performance art and hilarious and I loved it and want to see it again.

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Me and The Miracle Whips.

Two words: SNAIL BURLESQUE. To Rihanna’s “We Found Love.”

Snail Burlesque
Photo by Nicole Myles.

Backstage before my act my friend Miasia and I had a moment. When I get stressed I like to pray and I find it is really helpful for me to pray before shows as I find creating and performing an act of spiritual connectedness. So we had a wonderful moment, the two of us, asking for guidance and letting the love in and having authentic and beautiful performances. Miasia, of course, killed it. She’s such a fox and an incredible belly dance performer.

My act was the Lesbolesque act I created for Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession,” track one from Fumbling Towards Ecstacy. It is about coming out, finding myself, and finding my place in the Lesbian Community through Femme and Queer. The Miracle Whips were my surprise lesbian back-up dancers and I have no photographs.

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More backstage ambiance with Cameron.

Afterward I played matchmaker with a friend of mine, made out with a date, potentially hit on a Femme from far away who understood I was hitting on her but I was leaving for my date so I wasn’t sure if she really understood, and reveled in the incredible Femme on Femme babely energy of the place. Everyone was a Femme that probably liked other Femmes and everyone was visible. After the final act the place erupted. Folks were leaving for the conference play party, hotel room numbers were being texted around, my very drunk friend tried to tell me how to get to their house for the after after party. But I had booked some alone time in my hotel room and my thoughtful roomies had left safer sex supplies on the pillow.

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Things at the Femme Conference got wild on Saturday night and there aren’t a lot of folks I know who didn’t get action if they wanted it on that balmy Baltimore evening.

The next morning was rough getting to the hotel in time, especially because we had to check out of our hotel and pack our garments. Hadley, Emma and I had a really fun time and decided to get brunch to go so we could at least eat and watch the Femmes promenade. French toast is better with Femmes.

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I had a fifteen-minute power catch-up with Leah while she prepared for her workshop, “Femme of Colour Survivors: Badass Resilience.” I genuinely appreciate that our friendship is often made up of soulful connecting, 90 minutes at a time.

I headed to the “Beyond Classy: Working Class Femme Power” workshop facilitated by Blyth (who you may recall from her guest post on this blog). I think Blyth is just amazing and I also know that class identity is something I struggle with talking about, even though I am so open about the other intersections of my identity. The structure was very thoughtful. Channelle was the moderator, Blyth, Kirya Traber (an amazing spoken word performer), and Arti were the panelists. Each panelist took about fifteen minutes to tell their story about growing up poor or working class and how that intersected with their Femme identity. Then there was a Q & A for the panelists, and the last twenty minutes or so was open to the voices of working class or poor Femmes in the room to talk about how Femme had intersected with their class identity (I hope I am remembering that prompt correctly) and then finally, one word or phrase that was a takeaway of strength from their upbringing. (For me it was “Living on the edge.” Other folks said “Independence,” “Looking fabulous on a dime,” “Beauty pageants,” “Resilience.”)

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The crowd for the workshop swelled from the initial twenty to at least seventy folks, crammed in. Blyth was so overwhelmed she threw herself on the floor.

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Blyth passed around banana bread made by her grandmother and I called it “Working Class Femme Communion.”

Let me tell you, it was an emotional hour and a half. I learned new things about other peoples’ experiences but the stuff that was hardest was the naming of experience that was so much of my own. Like moving thirteen times before I turned thirteen. I had never thought about how that was about being poor or working class. And Chanelle called out experiences of internalized classism in a way that blew my mind.

I was really grateful I made it to the workshop and I have so much to unpack from it in my creative work, in my personal life. I am so grateful to Blyth for creating that space and so grateful to Arti and Kirya for being on the panel.

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Before the workshop got full.

Afterward was the second caucus time but I needed to get caucused with some Feelings cake and ended up spending some good time at the cafe next door to the hotel with some Femmes processing the workshop. The closing plenary was next where we talked about the Femme Collective and how the conference went. Did you know you can get involved on the Steering Committee for the 2014 conference? It is a bunch of work to make it happen and the conference is entirely volunteer-run.

The ride home was great. I was with Hadley and Emma and we got sandwiches from Charmington’s, which is now my favorite Baltimore haunt. It was a good debrief and I was so grateful I got to go to the Femme Conference and participate in this soul-opening, glitter encrusted experience.

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*The hilarious-we-became-friends-later-that-weekend post script to that is she didn’t notice me being a creepster, she recognized me from my blog so she was having an “OMG it’s Bevin!” moment while I was full-on checking her out. Hi Elisabeth!

**Side note, should I have ombre hair? Should my hair be tri-colored? Maybe I should do that instead of cutting it shoulder-length again? I know I’m a Brooklyn Femme but what if I go SF Ombre??

***Go Around is conference-speak for doing a round table of everyone’s name and some other information about them. Often/always at Femme Conference they involved Preferred Gender Pronoun, where you were from and something else related to the topic at hand.

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