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

2012-06-11

Femme Solidarity Workshop at the Philly Trans Health Conference

As you may know, I have two nieces (by heart, not by genetics) who live in Philadelphia and I pretty much jump at the opportunity to go visit. Ideally I see them every couple of months but that is with varying success. I saw an opening in my calendar and decided to re-learn how to take public transit to Philly with a shih tzu now that I am living a car-free lifestyle.

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Time for sniffing baby heads is important in the life of an Aunt.

As luck would have it, a pal was driving to Philly and offered me a ride, the babies were at a party until the evening time so I had an afternoon available and could go with my pal to the Philly Trans Health Conference.

I went to the conference once before, in the early aughts (maybe 2003 or 2004), when it was tiny at the William Way LGBT Community Center and my drag king troupe (including the parents of the aforementioned nieces who were still long from becoming parents) was asked to perform as the evening entertainment in the sweaty lobby of the Center. In my mind the conference always looks that tiny, even as I’ve heard about it for years and how it has gotten more noteworthy. Even up in NYC there is typically post-conference hubub about the ubiquitous, often problematic Femme workshop and top surgery show and tells.

The conference has gotten really huge, it’s at the Philadelphia Convention Center. It’s also free, which makes it an amazing resource for trans folks, allies and healthcare providers. As my pal’s car of eager Brooklynites got closer to Philly and we went through the available workshops in the Saturday afternoon line-up (easily 8-10 workshops in each slot) we got really pumped and made a plan.

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Macy basically insisted on riding in Hadley’s lap.

It was sort of awesome to drive around looking for parking, seeing people we knew through the windows of the lobby (let us never forget how small our communities are) and various costumed superheros from the Wizard Con happening upstairs from the PTHC. We rolled in and quickly abandoned plans for the first workshop block as there were so many folks to catch-up with along the vendor roll.

I was really excited to learn about the Hearts on a Wire collective. They provide community support inside and outside of prison to incarcerated gender variant folks. Here’s a report they did on prison experiences for trans and gender variant folks. Did you know that glitter isn’t allowed in prison? Did you know that inmates held in women’s facilities are allowed some make-up and crafts and that inmates in men’s facilities are not allowed those items? There is a petition to change that! Imagine how a little clickie clickie action YOU can do RIGHT NOW could change the experience of an incarcerated person! Go ahead and sign the petition, I’ll wait right here.

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I forgot my camera for the conference so here’s some extra baby pictures.

I saw a bunch of other people at the conference, including meeting many blog readers! Thanks for saying hello!

I was excited to make it to one of the Femme workshops! That’s right, “one” of! There was a whole track of Femme workshops, so it wasn’t limited to just one.

The workshop I went to was called “Femme Solidarity” and facilitated by Almah LaVonn Rice, Jac Stringer and Katie Spencer. The facilitators created a framework for the discussion with a lot of safer space ground rules and a few ideas for topics, but mainly it was a space they created for Femme identified folks at the conference to, at this late moment in the conference, to discuss their experience and what was on their minds as Femme folks in that space.* I liked that the facilitators created a “stack”, where workshop participants could raise their hand and be added to the “stack” of names to be called on and then not worry about keeping their hand in the air. The conversation ends up a little disjointed but it does seem to flow and then more folks have a chance to talk, rather than just the pushy folks.

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Etta Pearl is learning how to snarl like the baby Femme she is.

I live tweeted the workshop and got quotes as best as I could truncate while things popped around the room. Ultimately, I really enjoyed that the discussion centered around addressing misogyny in queer spaces and how that affects spaces like the PTHC where femininity can be drowned out by a “dudely” privileging of masculinity. I thought it was a good conversation to have and in a free-form workshop like the one we were in, even though it didn’t really address Femme solidarity directly.

Here are my tweets:

Jac has a great pronoun policy. If you know pronoun use it, if you don’t, don’t use them or use general “they.”

“How do we validate each person’s experience with femme and acknowledge our own.”

“How do we merge femme dyke space and femmme fag space and cross gender binaries?”

“It is the responsibility of people in the club space to find the gaps and reach out to other folks.”

“In the past femme workshops @ #pthc2012 have been the white cis partners of transmen that ignored/marginalized experience of transfemmes.”

“The femme workshops have shifted. More inclusive. Has to do with leadership of workshop.”

Femme ally says “Conference is feeling very “dudely.””

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“Queer community can reinforce the same exclusions within itself of the heterosexual world.” It happens at this conference.

“These conversations mean there is misogyny in these spaces. Misogyny is hatred of anything not men.”

“Definition of misogyny arguably defined as oppression and depression of folks who aren’t ideal man. Affects everyone.”

“One of the hardest things of being a femme is the stigma about submission & obedience.”

“I have the opposite experience. Folks I know see femme as aggressive.”

“A lot of people have an extreme connotation with misogyny. The word has a strange stigma. Everyday things are sexism.”

“Worth remembering that misogyny can happen to anyone and can come from anyone. About perception of things femaleness/feminine.”

“Interrogation about lookism in Femme. Commodifying ourselves is violent.”

“Femmes trying to be seen as really tough feels like it is reinforcing stereotype that femme is weak.”

“Femininity in society is so manipulative. Changing femmeness in diff spaces.”

“How can we take on misogyny in femme space and sep from femme identity?”

“No one size fits all gender narrative @ #pthc2012. If this is going to be a coalition it needs to recognize there is dissent.”

“A lot of transsexual women do support the binary gender but don’t necc support gender non conforming folks.”

“Confronting the not femme enough stigmatizing in femme communities online.”

(At some point in here I pulled out the Amber Hollibaugh book I am re-reading and quoted about unlearning her internalized misogyny in order to come out and make community with lesbians–interesting that this is a process that was going on in the 70s and here we are 40 years later dealing with misogyny still.)

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We took a trip to Giovanni’s Room, one of my favorite gay bookstores. Referenced a lot in Kate Bornstein’s memoir.

“Trauma spreads. It is important to do our self care & release it.”

“Socializing (talking & working through socially) is healing & can help us work through our oppressions.”

“Important to decenter femme identity from the stuff we deal with because of being femme. Femme is a beautiful thing to move toward.”

“Aspects of femininity are powerful they hate & fight what is powerful. To me femme is acknowledged power.” @damienluxe

“We want to hear what inclusion feels like to you. We have an opportunity to build that together.”

So those are the tweets! It was an interesting discussion I was glad we had. What it really did was get me totally pumped for the Femme Conference happening August 17-19 in Baltimore! This year for the Femme Conference I declined to submit a workshop or do a panel or do anything other than one performance slot. I figured I could focus on one thing instead of spreading myself thin like I have done previously. I want to just enjoy the conference.

The Femme Conference is only $80 (and there is a discount if you sign up with five other people) and there is a hotel deal for $99 a night for 4 occupancy (meaning $25 a night sharing a room with folks). I hope you are able to make it! I’ve been to the Femme Conference twice, in 2008 and 2010. Both times it was extremely worth it and the 2008 one completely changed my life in some pretty big ways.

If money is an issue and budgets are tight, there are scholarships (applications due June 20) AND a rideshare/housingshare forum on the Femme2012 website!

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The fact that Etta Pearl sought out that Miss Piggy doll when I suggested it above all the other possible Build-A-Bears was heartwarming. Especially because that doll is actually a puppet. I’ll be real, I LOVE stuffed animals and I LOVE accessories and my first Build-A-Bear experience was magical beyond belief.

*At this point the conference was winding down, even though I had just gotten there. In some ways it felt awesome to have fresh conference energy. I totally know the feeling of being fried at the end of an experience like that.

2012-02-24

Balance, Priorities, New Lesbian Tea Basket, Everyday Glitter

Hey, things are really amazing in all of these tender and small ways. I think it’s pretty impressive when I feel settled and calm even when the stuff around me is far from perfect. Boxes everywhere. An ill-conceived pile of shoes in the path to the bedroom door because I couldn’t figure out where they should go until I install their shelves. Macy looking plaintively up at me because she cannot scale the pile of the shoes to the tote bag she is using as a makeshift dog bed because her actual dog beds are still in boxes someplace. My vanity mirror is still packed so my desk is the site of hand mirror make-up application, meaning my day to day make-up look is either more colorful than intended or a little haphazard.

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Me a little haphazard and my fresh niece, AJ. 5 days old. By the next day my hair just looked like an updated version of a witch from a Disney movie.

But still. Even in all that. There is calm. And there is joy in little and big things that make the agita of the post-move bearable.

Someone interviewed me for a school project and asked me how I “do all the things” that I do. The answer is that I live a balanced life with priorities. And it’s not like I am standing rock solid on the teeter totter of my life like Wonder Woman somehow doing it all. I don’t do it all.* But I know what’s important to me and I do that.

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Etta Pearl, big sister, with newbie AJ.

The thing about priorities in life is that they change. As I got to know myself more I started to shift and adjust what I plan to do with my days to align with my core values. I am nowhere near perfect at this. I had to really learn how to have reasonable expectations of myself. When I first started working from home and had my own business my to do list was far beyond any possibility of what I could get done but I thought by creating this giant expectations I was doing myself a favor, that somehow I was going to conform to this perfect superhuman level of task completion. No way! It was sort of like I was doing what the weight loss industry wants to do to fat folks–shaming them into losing the wight. Shame actually has the opposite effect, it causes you to freeze up and do nothing. Feeling bad about yourself is not the way to get anything done.

When I feel seized by my perfectionism and shame, I just check out and play clickie clickie games on the internet. Nothing gets done. I feel the shame spiral. It sucks.

To change this I got simple. Started from scratch.

When I was a teenager this motivational speaker told this parable during an assembly about time management. He was describing life as a jar and the things we have to do every day as tiny pebbles. Our priorities make our pebbles bigger or smaller, depending. He asked how we get as much as possible in the jar. The answer was to fill it first with the big pebbles, your priority rocks. Then fill it with the other smaller pebbles so they can shift around it. And that’s the thing about little rocks. They slide into the rest of it.

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I really wanted an armchair to put next to my fire escape garden. Damien calls it my “feelings chair.” $35 from my favorite South Jersey thrift store!

And that’s what I did with my to do list. I got the big stuff and let the little things slide into it. Sometimes they get done, sometimes they don’t but it is rarely make or break.

In the last couple of years as I’ve learned what is really important to me and learned to let go of what isn’t, how to say no to things and how to check in with myself about what I am doing and how I am doing it. Moreover, I’ve learned how to identify for myself what is important to me, how to turn off all the voices of what I “should” be doing or who I “should” become, what my body “should” look like or how much I “should” love myself even when it’s hard. I got tired of shoulding and wanted to instead be living and enjoying my life. Thus, I have created a practice whereby I check in with myself about my priorities. I try to do this every week, but basically it comes up for me when I feel off balance.

When I let go of the shoulds and am instead leading my life based on my priorities it is a lot easier to get things done, go to the gym, be happy. Let go of expecting to do it all.

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I really wish I could always have time do do fancy make-up and hair. But when I do make time it feels really great.

Moving felt like I was working at work and working at home and trying to keep up with the minimum amount of self-care I could get away with. Which isn’t a very gentle life. And then my new niece was born, so I shifted again, because seeing this little baby at 5 days old was worth another week amongst the boxes, grabbing a cocktail dress and thinking it was a nightgown because I don’t have my closet rods up and my loungerie looks like going out attire inside a suitcase. You should see the weird disaster outfit I came up with for painting. Sure, the perfectionist inside me wanted to have the exact right painting clothes but stuff still got painted. And sure, the perfectionist inside me told me it sucked that my painting didn’t all get done in one night like I planned, but I had to change my expectations when I realized I didn’t have the tools I needed to get it all done.

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Chavon helping me paint.


Post painting lavender.

So, all the imbalance of moving is just a reminder to stop, think about what is the biggest priority, and be guided accordingly. Sometimes it feels like I am flat on my butt on the ground having fallen off that teetertotter. I’ve noticed my attention getting swayed in different directions which are not in line with my priorities and don’t give me balance or peace. Gentle shifting.

Right now my big rocks are my spiritual practice, self care, work and creating a peaceful, artistic and fun home environment. And at some point they will shift as they need to but I know I need to go to the gym to feel calm and I know I also need to focus on what is working and what is delighting me in order to not focus on all the unfinished stress. That’s what Everyday Glitter is for! Focusing on the small joys that make up the whole of a fulfilling life.

Glitter Item the First: There is a new episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket! I review Mackenzi’s chalkboard mugs (buy them here) and also this incredible tea I found at a local store in Brooklyn, Choice Greene.

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Glitter Item the Second: The Body Love Revolutionaries Telesummit I participated in was really amazing. The last minute addition of Ivette González-Alé of Marimacho clothing, Azucar party and the new web series The Peculiar Kind (omg, totally go watch it, episode one is online), a reality series about queer women of color in Brooklyn.

You can register and download the telesummit recording for free until 3PM Friday, after that you have to buy a pass for the conference and you can download all of the telesummits through the end of March (sliding scale starts at $20).

Glitter Item the Third: I am really into making comfort foods for myself in these days of new job and moving transition and stress. You know how when you’re moving you have to keep eating take-out because your kitchen is in boxes? Between work food and home food being take-out I spent all my money on food. I also got reaaaaaaallly broke from the cost of movers (renting a truck and trying to get friends to do it was going to cost almost as much and eat up all my favors from my friends) and coming up with unexpected first, last, security. So while I waited patiently for my first paycheck (a long month) I had to get unpacked in the kitchen really fast and find something to eat that cost next to nothing.

Twice Baked Potatoes! Seriously, I hadn’t had them since childhood but a friend told me about one she had stuffed with short ribs and then I was ready to make it real for myself. I bought a bag of baking potatoes, baked them in the oven for an hour, cut them like little canoes, shoveled out the insides into a bowl, being careful to leave enough potato on the skin to keep the shape. Added some sour cream, butter, salt, pepper, sauteed onions, cremini mushrooms (I got the fancy kind, since enough for several twice bakeds was only $2) and mixed it together. I filled the potatoes again, sprinkled the tops with gruyere from trader joe’s and also the lids with some gruyere (making potato skins) and baked again for 15 minutes or so. I think I got 10 potatoes out of all of those ingredients for $10. Super comforting food and easy to reheat (toaster oven is best) and great for winter and cheap.

Heather said “Bevin you’re a lawyer, how do you have time to bake this twice??” The weekend. That’s how.

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Heather temped in our office one day when the front desk gay had strep throat.

I also made bolognese sauce from scratch. It took over two hours. It makes me feel really special when I eat it for lunch at work. This was not as cheap but taking the time to make something for so long felt like I was taking extra special care of myself.

Glitter Item the Fourth: I’m on Pinterest. Still not sure what that’s all about but I am enjoying making visual boards. If you’re on there I am @queerfatfemme.


Fashion wins by Heather and Erica.

Glitter Item the Fifth: I made a new Spotify playlist! (Clicking the link opens Spotify, which is free.) An everything bagel sort of playlist, it’s a mix of what I was obsessed with listening to about two weeks ago. A little top hits, a little dance, a little country.

*I also want to mention that I have a lot of free time because I am single. Relationships take a lot of time! I am not saying it’s not worth it but certainly it is more difficult to be both productive and have self-care when you are also negotiating with someone else’s time and priorities.

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