Bevin's Blog I'm blogging the relentless pursuit of my joy

2014-05-22

All Bodies Deserve Health Care: Great Video Resource!

My friend Kelli Dunham, a stand-up comic and nurse, posted a video she made about planning for unplanned health care and I think it is one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen about how complicated it is to have a non-normative body while trying to navigate the health care system. I absolutely had to share it with my readership.

If you can’t watch a video right now–repeat this mantra, “I deserve health care.” Then keep repeating it until you have six minutes to watch the video and receive some really great, practical, funny advice.

I think a lot about how much worse Dara’s cancer treatment would be if she had waited. Believe me, it sucks a lot, but it could be worse… Luckily right now her care is considered “curative.”

240134641_117c66a8d5_o (1)Here’s Kelli Dunham with her late partner, Heather MacAllister, who worked to inspire all folks to take care of their minds and bodies. Her parting words are in this blog post I wrote five years ago about my own medical self advocacy.

I’m really thankful Dara’s lump was found when it was. But if she had waited to get her annual GYN exam she might not have caught the lump in time for it to be stage 2. I mean, Dara is not boob identified so even though once I knew it was there I could feel the lump it wasn’t super likely it would just get found on its own, and without her doctor’s insistence she might not have had it biopsied for quite some time.

It really touched me in Kelli’s video when she talked about how even folks who haven’t gotten “that lump” checked out deserve health care. Because they do! It’s so hard to advocate for yourself and it takes time to realize that you probably need to deal with the hassle and cost of health care.

The more hassle you get being a fat, disabled, gender non-conforming, otherwise marginalized person in the health care system the more likely you are to need your health care situation to actually feel or seem extremely urgent to get health care. Which, sadly, means that health care issues that are easier/cheaper to address if they’re caught early, are much harder to deal with and sometimes no longer curable.

One of the biggest motivating forces behind my work as a body liberation activist is getting people to love their bodies enough to take care of them and to dismantle the system that pathologizes fat people just for their fat. My beloved step mother died at age 48 after being prescribed fen-phen–she was being treated for her fat not her actual symptoms. What a fucking hassle to have a body that is immediately targeted and treated incorrectly because people buy the myth that fat is automatically unhealthy. This happens far too often.

11873829985_1d0d81bcc4_zMy step mom Liz, in Yosemite, sometime in the early 90s.

I also know way too many fat, gender non-conforming queers who have passed before their time because of a lack of healthcare that can squarely be blamed on systemic fatphobia.

So watch this video. Pocket this info. Regardless of what your own situation is, maybe you’ll learn something that will be helpful to pass along to a friend when the time comes. And repeat the mantra, “I deserve healthcare.”

10290632_10152377167780340_6190868267996805814_nKelli designed this awesome low-fi photo of Glenn Marla with his iconic phrase!

2014-04-23

New Body Love Video by Mary Lambert

This has been an amazing few days of body love video work on the web!

Mary Lambert, the hot tattooed queer singer brought to the stage of the Grammy’s by singing the hook on Macklemore’s “Same Love,” song has released a new video about Body Love!

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It’s a gorgeous piece of spoken word about loving your body and finding your value within and I was super stoked to see lots of different types of bodies in it, including a trans*gentleman lovingly stroking top surgery scars.

Mary did a whole social media body love campaign to support the release of the video that I lament I didn’t find out about until today when I was cruising her facebook fan page.

Also, a great post-script to the very earnest Mary Lambert video, which is all about how it doesn’t matter if people find you fuckable if you love yourself on the inside, is this super weird but awesomely irreverent video from Ilana Glazer. Ilana is one half of the duo behind Broad City, a tv show on Comedy Central that you can find on Hulu. Broad City is what Girls and Two Broke Girls tries to be but fails. It’s hilarious hijinks of two Jewish girls (one of them is queer) living in Brooklyn. I laughed for a very long time at a subtle Trader Joe’s joke.

Ilana makes the very important point that you, yes you, are completely fuckable and tons of people want to fuck you. And then it kind of devolves into a very “happy 420” place which I suppose is hilarious and makes a lot of sense if you are high, which I was not when I watched it so I’ll find out from friends.

2013-11-22

Thanksgiving Day Body Support

I have a few big triggers in my life and one of them is holiday events as a single person. (In fact, I realized when writing this post I’ve written about being single and child-free at the holidays several times, here, here and here.) Holidays are so loaded! It’s like here’s another time of year where you’re supposed to have a partner and that triggers all my feelings of not having this relationship I want. Plus all of the seeing family of origin stuff or not seeing family of origin and how isolating and hard it can feel at either end.

It’s hard to have a body at any old time of the year but especially given the trigger fest of eating and family and large meals and seeing people for the first time in a long time.

I was asked by Melissa A. Fabello of Everyday Feminism to be part of a Body Activist conglomerate on Twitter to provide support through a hash tag all day and evening on Thanksgiving!

I’ll be posting from the intersectionality of my work–about learning to love your body, being queer in the world, gender, and developing authenticity around family of origin.

All the information is below! Please signal boost!

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From the release:

#THX4SUPPORT: A Twitter-Based Recovery Support Event

Thanksgiving is coming. And while for many of us, that means the excitement of friends, family, and food, for many others, Thanksgiving comes with it a lot of stress, fear, and anxiety.

But you’re not alone.

And this Thanksgiving, we want to make sure that you get the support, resources, and community that you need.

This Thanksgiving, use the hash tag #thx4support on Twitter to:

Reach our team of eating disorder, recovery, and body image activists for one-on-one support or inspiration

Find awesome articles, videos, and resources being tweeted out by organizations and activists

Make new friends by finding people across the country struggling with the same issues. Start a support network!

The following people will be on hand to talk you through any feelings of negativity that you experience:

Melissa A Fabello, Body Image Activist: @fyeahmfabello
Wagatwe Wanjuki, Writer and Activist: @wagatewe
Arielle Lee Bair, Recovery Blogger: @arielleleebair
Kat Lazo, Media Literacy Advocate: @theekatsmeoww
Matt Wetsel, Survivor Turned Activist: @tiledsarenomore
Bevin Branlandingham, Body Liberation Activist: @queerfatfemme
Use the hash tag #thx4support or tweet us directly.

Are you an organization who wants in on the action?
Use #thx4support to tweet out related articles and resources!
Let your followers know that this support is available. Share this graphic!
If you have capacity, join in on giving support to people using the hash tag.

And what can individuals do?
Follow #thx4support and send inspiration to those in need!
Tweet out your favorite resources using #thx4support.
Let us know what kinds of ideas and questions you have by tweeting us!
Because we believe that recovery is possible. And we know that support can help.

—-

Struggling? The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) can help. Call toll-free 1.800.931.2237.

2013-10-09

My Experience with the Heart Beets Holistic Seasonal Cleanse

A few months ago I began a health coach relationship with one of my friends. I actually really love the coaching experience–I had an artist life coach three years ago and the experience radically transformed me artistically and spiritually. There’s something about the accountability required with one on one attention and the individualized diagnostics that can happen with the right chemistry between coach and subject.

The gateway activity for me and Heart Beets Holistic health coaching was her seasonal cleanse. I was initially extremely dubious. I have heard about cleanses people have used before and they often seem like fad diets or fasting. Many people say “cleanse” as a euphamism for radical diet. As someone who is body positive, fat positive and virulently opposed to diet culture, I am not prone to want to jump on eating trends. Cleanses seem trendy right now.

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Vic. She’s not just a coach, she’s also a babe.

Heart Beets Holistic announced the first cleanse group and I immediately thought, “Not for me.” But Vic is persistent and persuasive, so though I didn’t think it was going to be a good thing I agreed to try it for the three week period. I trust Vic as a body positive, health at every size focused health professional. She believes all bodies are good bodies. She’s a nurse practitioner and a holistic health pratitioner who is very excited about fat. “Mo’ fat mo’ betta!” she likes to say to me.

“I can’t seem to get full!” I say to her.

“Eat more fat!” she replies.

She’s the first health practitioner I’ve ever been involved with who is pro fat but she is right when she tells me to put butter on stuff. It’s the opposite of how I was raised. It was a non-fat milk, low fat food kind of lifestyle, even though I was always fat.

The cleanse was appealing to me because it was about eliminating the most inflammatory foods. Sugar, dairy, wheat/gluten, corn, peanuts, eggs, and soy. I have kicked sugar before and I felt great, so I knew this would help me reinvent my eating.

She gave us recipes for every meal. Most cleansers were doing two smoothies a day, one in the morning and one at night, but because of my IBS (Irritabel Bowel Syndrome*) Vic didn’t want me to have so much fiber so close to bed, so I was to eat bone broth with veggies cooked in it at night. There was a healthy, filling lunch in the middle of the day and we got recipes for that, too.

I also have been interested in moving towards a whole foods lifestyle and I found the cleanse really helpful for that. Focusing on eating whole foods–not processed or pre-packaged and getting down with some vegetables I hadn’t used before was easy to learn through the methods of the cleanse. It also reset a lot of my eating habits and made me focus on my eating in a new way.

It wasn’t a cheap process. The cleanse experience made me think a lot about food justice. It’s really hard to eat well in an inner-city, and it costs a lot of money. Stuff with wheat in it is cheap! Processed food is cheap! We have all these corn subsidies so corn stuff is cheap!

Getting the things I needed for the cleanse recipes took a lot of hoofing it around Brooklyn and Manhattan (this would be easier if I lived in a town with a Whole Foods and a car). But Vic is also all about teaching you how to do things cheaper, and towards the middle of the cleanse we can replace protein powder with beans and nuts (together become a complete protein). Beans in a smoothie are weird but actually not bad.

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Grocery haul at the beginning of the cleanse.

I’m not going to lie, some of the smoothies were a little weird, but by the end you learn how to create your own to suit your palate, and being forced to try something new is actually a good exercise in learning how to deal with change.

At the beginning of the cleanse I was feeling very diet triggered. There was so much emphasis on what I couldn’t eat, so much focus on food that it made me think of all the millions of times I embarked on a diet. But I also recognize that, for me, when I am aware of a trigger, I can make different choices around my self-care. I recognized the feelings coming up of rebellion, “You can’t tell me what to do” and the familiar sense of failure that haunts diets in the life of a fat person. But I reminded myself that my goals in this were to try a new way of eating and feel better, it wasn’t about losing weight or finally getting skinny so I could begin my life, which is what all my old diets were about.

I also could talk to my friends (and my health coach) about those feelings and work through them.

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Me, Randee, Vic (in the burger costume) and Leo.

The cleanse took some time and focus every day. All that food preparation is a good amount of work and at least a couple of trips to the grocery store a week to stock up on vegetables. But it was only three weeks and I kept reminding myself of that. I can do anything for three weeks.

I felt totally sore the first couple of weeks. She suggests epsom salt baths to help with the sugar detox, and I was taking herb supportive and immune system supportive tinctures three times a day. Vic also sent out journal prompts and daily breathing exercises to keep us working on the mind/body/spirit connection.

We also gave up smoking, caffeine, and alcohol during the cleanse.

I liked having friends who were involved in the cleanse with me. Leo did it, too, and we mutually bitched about all the stuff we missed and supported each other through it. There was a facebook group since we did this as a group for a seasonal thing (in May, this was the Spring detox) but Vic also does the cleanse with one on one coaching clients.

I had a lover over one night during the cleanse and I made her a smoothie that I was having. She had been fighting a cold for three weeks and after that smoothie she was totally back to normal. These smoothies are no joke, extremely filling and full of nutrients.

Tons of people asked me how it went and Jacqueline was the first to point out that my skin was glowing because it really was. Some people lose some weight on the cleanse and while I was actually at a pretty low weight for me to begin with I felt kind of puffy and I noticed the inflammation die down. I also had more energy and felt better overall.

After the cleanse was over there’s a re-entry period where you see what your body reacts to. Turns out I am really reactive to soy, corn and dairy, which kind of blows because I love a latte’ and hardly anyone has almond milk. (I’ve begun Yelp check-in tips about places that serve almond milk.)

The cleanse, for me, was great because it completely transformed how I eat, cook and relate to food. It was also the realization for me, as suggested by Vic, that I had a candida overgrowth and would need to treat that, too. I’ll blog more about the candida cure at a later date.

The cleanse also sparked a 90% reduction in my IBS symptoms. This is something I’ve struggled with for over six years, had two colonoscopies and upper endoscopies, lots of medicine and nothing has helped other than avoiding food triggers. But it turns out that many of my food triggers (raw salad, kale, broccoli, blueberries) are totally digestible if I’m eating in this whole foods way. Doing the candida cure this summer has resulted in an almost entire elimination of IBS for me, which feels like a miracle because, while mine was not a terrible case compared to others, it was definitely really difficult under constant threat of debilitating digestive episodes.

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Pretty stoked to be eating broccoli again.

If you’re interested in doing the cleanse with Vic, I say go for it. Her packages are sliding scale and each comes with two coaching sessions, which happen over the phone. Also, if you’re interested in having a supportive, body positive health coach who is really amazing, I highly endorse Heart Beets Holistic Heath.

*For me the IBS “diagnosis” was basically my second gastroenterologist telling me “We don’t know what’s wrong with you but there’s something wrong with how you digest food.” Super unhelpful. So people with IBS often present differently with different symptoms.

***

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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.

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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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2013-06-24

My Body’s Nobody’s Business But My Own

This weekend I was riding the A train, as I do nearly every day, and I received the first stranger comment about my weight in a long time. He had been sitting next to me for several stops and was talking to another girl with a stuffed Nintendo Mario character backpack near us, clearly trying to pick her up. I suspected he was drunk. I kept reading my book and said, “Excuse me,” as I walked past him when we got to my stop.

He loudly said to my back, “You should go on a diet,” as I was getting off the train. I had a pause waiting for the doors to open. Usually I ignore these kinds of things, but this time I turned to the 20 something white dude, looked him dead in the eye and said, “My body is none of your business, nor is anyone else’s.”

He started to rebut as I got off the train. I just kept going. I realized as I was walking away I said that not so much to change his mind but for the benefit of anyone else listening that might think it’s okay to talk about someone else’s body.

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Me and my bestie Rachael from Atlanta at WHAM BAM! last month. The next one is on Pride Sunday, June 30th. Photo by Grace Chu.

A lot of things influenced my decision to say something to him. One was that it was four in the afternoon and it was a crowded train, I wasn’t afraid for my safety. I also wasn’t willing to be perceived as a victim of his harassment. People’s opinions of me don’t really matter, I know happiness is an inside job and if I conducted my life based on what people told me to do I would be living a lot more miserable and lonely existence.

This guy is clearly a jerk, but I have compassion for him. If someone is living a life where they feel the need to comment on other people’s bodies what does that say about them? He’s probably pretty insecure and miserable, probably thinks he needs to appear macho and important in order to get the attention of this girl on the train. Whatever it is, it’s a sad, unhappy existence.

There’s a lot of street harassment in New York City. There seems to be a culture of men who think it’s okay to talk about women’s bodies (fat or otherwise). I know sometimes, for some people, in some circumstances, it’s street appreciation. Like when a guy tells you honestly “You look good today,” sometimes that’s nice. But it’s generally really not okay. I always wonder to myself, What do these guys think is going to happen by commenting on my body? That is going to somehow get me to pay attention to them? Seriously?

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After I told her about the street harassment, Jacqueline sent me a photo of the knuckle sandwich she wanted to give the guy on my behalf. I love the sweetness of Femme rage, and the feeling that if I ever really needed it I could get a Femme girl gang together in about 20 minutes. Photo by Grace Chu.

As compassionate as I am about the human condition, I did feel some rage in the moment when that guy was telling me his unsolicited thoughts about my body. The old chestnut, “I may be fat but you’re ugly and I can go on a diet,” or something really mean and aggressive and misandric. Or punch him dead in the eye.

But I know that’s not productive. And, more importantly, it’s not in line with my values. Because while it doesn’t matter to me what people think about me, it really matters what I think about me. And when I’m able to tell a guy a good, succinct version of my political beliefs, “My body is none of your business,” that matters more to me than getting revenge or meeting disrespect with rage.

I know the next time this happens I will likely ignore the guy, it’s my go-to response, the non-response. But I feel good about the ability that one moment to really live my walk. That the amount of times I’ve self-corrected in my head about thinking about other people’s bodies has begun to work that it’s a reflexive act how I speak up for myself.

It was a stomach-churning event that brought a lot of feelings to the surface, but I moved through it pretty quickly. And I really hope that girl with the stuffed Mario backpack didn’t give him her number.

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This is Neon from Youthquake. Photo by Grace Chu.

2013-06-18

Plus Size Pageant Documentary–There She Is and some questions for my readership about being fat and expressing gender

I was asked by the filmmakers of a new documentary released yesterday to watch a sneak preview. I was cuddled up in a cabin in the woods with a bunch of my queer besties and it seemed like the perfect activity for a rainy day. Now that it’s released world-wide for free on the internet, I want to share it with my readership.

From the press kit: “There She Is follows two plus size pageant queens as they prepare for an upcoming pageant. They discuss their lives as plus size women, including how they feel when others’ perceptions of their appearance clash with their own. The film challenges the viewer to examine his/her own definition of beauty and the ways in which it affects our everyday lives.”

It’s very fat acceptance 101 but also very human. It’s full of pretty dresses and watching girls do make-up (one of my favorite things to watch).

I have some thoughts about the film, so read on for my feelings or you can watch the movie and then read what I have to say. I’d love to hear your reactions, too.

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I accidentally bought an evangelical christian guide to retreat planning when at the used book sale.

Here is the full film (about 20 minutes long)–the link to the website is here.

Or just watch the trailer:

I feel strongly that pageants can be a great thing for people. I think beauty, make-up, hair and clothes are art forms that are derided by mainstream culture as “frivolous” but can be very empowering. I think aesthetic arts are actually really helpful ways of reclaiming your body from what society expects from you. This is assuming that one understands that make-up/hair/etc are optional parts of aesthetic life and not compulsory. So I went into this documentary on the side of the contestants because I know beauty pageants are actually really fun hobbies/pursuits for folks.

I competed for the title of Miss LEZ and talk more about my pageant thoughts in this post.

A couple of things struck me about this movie. The first was that the blonde subject spoke about not wanting to run out to the grocery store without doing her hair, make-up and wearing cute clothes because she felt an unspoken expectation not to appear like a “fat slob.” I actually struggle with this myself. I challenge myself all the time to appear outside (and sometimes in photos on this blog) without wearing make-up. Sometimes I just physically don’t feel comfortable not wearing make-up and I am not sure if that’s because I just like to present a version of myself that is more in line with my vision or if it because I feel pressure to make myself more palatable for the outside world as a fat, queer person. I think it’s likely a bit of both, though I do work really hard to not let other people’s perceptions of me affect what and how I do things. I also never truly feel “in my gender” if I’m not wearing false eyelashes, red lipstick and some killer outfit.

I also was curious about the subject who talked about her weight loss at the end. It was actually kind of a bummer because as a fat loving person who is self loving I secretly want a fat acceptance narrative to not involve weight loss goals, but at the same time it’s unrealistic to expect fat people to not participate in ways of bodily self-determination. I rarely pursue weight loss goals myself but certainly make choices with regards to food and exercise that sometimes have a by product of weight loss.

I was curious and confused about the brunette’s reaction to her weight loss. In some ways I felt like her engagement was a byproduct of it from a man who wouldn’t otherwise accept her. (I.e. “It’s okay if you’re fat as long as you’re trying to lose weight.”) But I had a hard time understanding whether I was perceiving that correctly.

Cuddle pile.
Cuddled up watching the documentary.

For me, I try to make weight loss value-neutral and not focus on the scale about success. I focus on how my body is feeling. I don’t think losing weight will change who I am inside and suddenly make myself love me more. I’ve known enough formerly fat but still self-loathing people to know that’s not a narrative that works, you have to love yourself from the inside first regardless of how big your body is. As a body liberation activist, I also work really hard to not mind other people’s weight loss positively or negatively. I won’t judge them for it and I won’t celebrate it. I want to know if the person is feeling good in their body.

I’m wondering from readers what they feel like about wearing make-up, whether they find it compulsory, if they feel comfortable in public spaces or specifically queer spaces without it (if they are a make-up identified person)?

In what ways do you feel “in your gender,” and how does that present? How does that differ from day to day, moment to moment?

How do you respond to weight loss in your life? Are there ways that you make it value-neutral?

2013-02-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me and author Diana Cage.

Fucking Transwomen Zine by Miranda Bellwether

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

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

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

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

Ecstacy is Necessary by Barbara Carrellas

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

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

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

Buy the book!

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

Stay tuned! FAT SEX WEEK wraps up tomorrow!!

2013-02-19

FAT SEX WEEK: Interview with Queer Porn Star Sophia St. James

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

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

Sophia St. James is a Portland-based sex educator, queer porn star and burlesque performer among many other things. I was poking around her website after seeing her in Lesbian Curves and thought she would be a great addition to FAT SEX WEEK. Please imagine my interview being conducted Queer Oprah style, in two fat-friendly chairs, accompanied by cups of tea.

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Sophia St. James photo by Raise Your Fist Productions.

BEVIN: How did you begin performing in porn?

SOPHIA: It’s kind of funny. I ended up slipping off my porch and breaking my elbow and knee. So I was bed bound for weeks and was surfing the net constantly. Somehow I came across an article about Syd Blakovich and Madison Young. The article had mentioned ‘queer porn’ and I asked my partner, “Have you ever heard of queer porn?”. She told me she hadn’t and I immediately began my hunt for this ‘queer porn’. As soon as I learned about it, I applied to be a model with Courtney Trouble, Marie Beatty, and Crash Pad Series. And I guess the rest is history…

BEVIN: What is your experience being a person of color and size in the porn industry? Does it help or hinder getting roles?

SOPHIA: I find queer porn and mainstream porn to be two different worlds. In mainstream porn, I am seen as a plumper or BBW, ebony or urban. In queer porn, I am just me. I don’t mind being labeled because I am ebony and I am of size, but I am also a hell of a lot more than that and in queer porn the other parts of me are valued as well. I have said this many times, porn is the only industry that can get away with being sizist, racist, classist, homophobic, ablest, and bigoted. However, if you surround yourself with empowered, fierce people it’s not a problem. In mainstream, I am not small enough to be in ‘regular’ porn and I am not big enough to be in most BBW porns. But in queer porn, I am accept for my style, beauty, and sex appeal. I have not experienced direct negativity from being in porn when it comes to my size or ethnicity, but I have experienced indirect negativity as well as seeing my friends and others deal with it. My goal is to make my own queer fierce femme realness genre versus trying to fit in with one. I also enjoy being able to educate my heterosexual cis gendered male fans about what queer is and how sexy it can be.

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Sophia St. James photo by BV Imagery.

BEVIN: How about as a person of color and size in the burlesque community? Do you have any advice about people of size and/or color who want to start performing in porn or burlesque?

SOPHIA: The burlesque community as a whole can be very similar to porn. With the movement of feminist and queer burlesque, there is a lot more acceptance of plus sized performers. I find each major city has it’s hidden gem of a community that produced radical, sex positive, body positive burlesque. Those are the gems to look for. I would suggest to anyone wanting to perform burlesque that is of size or a person of color to find these areas. The queer performance scene is very welcoming to all sized bodies and skin colors.

BEVIN: What is your body love story–did you always love it or did you need to love it? Did BDSM help you become more comfortable?

SOPHIA: I have always been comfortable in my skin. I mean, there were times I questioned myself and how my body looked, but for the most part I have always been happy with my appearance. No matter the size I am, I know I am still fierce and am able to do what I need to do in order to be happy. And believe it or not, when I was a size 9/10 I had more issue with my body size than I do now at a size 20/22. I remember trying to fit in with the other girls in school. I had a very womanly shape as a teenager (big boobs, small waist, big hips.booty) and that was not a normal thing at where I went to school. I felt like I was fat and need to lose weight. Not to mention I was in the pageant and model circuit, but that’s an entirely different topic. At my size now, I am happy and I am fit. I just recently decided to start exercising more. Not to lose weight, but to increase my stamina and flexibility. BDSM can be a great self confidence builder. BDSM is centered all around power dynamics. It is also about community. The depth of community you are involved in is up to you, but I find that kink and leather families can be some of the strongest bonds made. They help lift you up when you need and family members ‘have your back’ when you need it.

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Sophia St. James photo by Maxwell Lander.

BEVIN: As a sex educator, you have a lot to teach folks about sex! What’s one thing that people (at any size but especially fat folks) can do to feel more comfortable having sex in their bodies?

SOPHIA: I think the most important thing would be to stop comparing yourself to societal standards of what sex appeal means. This means don’t try to fit into someone elses box of what sexy is. Rub your fat. Touch your fat. Caress your fat. Let your lover(s) kiss and worship your body for the sex pot that you are. Know that it is all a part of you and that makes you the most beautiful YOU that you could be. Allow yourself to accept the love and lust others have for you and know that you are sexy no matter what!

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Sophia St. James photo by Maxwell Lander.

Sophia is launching her official education site in March (www.professorsophia.com) and will be launching a queer kink/BDSM site at the beginning of April (www.thedeviantspectrum.com), so stay tuned for both of that. Sophia is also producing Hedonistic Decadence, a queer strip night, on March 8th in Portland. You can find it on Facebook and Tumblr! I love their mission, “Bringing sexy, radical, sex positive, body positive, gender inclusive, queer erotic performance to the community.” Thanks Sophia!

Stay tuned for more FAT SEX WEEK tomorrow! (Clearly FAT SEX WEEK is too big for just one week…)

2013-02-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Clean fatphobic rhetoric from your vocabulary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

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

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

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

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

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

2013-02-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Courtney’s summary of Lesbian Curves:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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