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

2018-01-29

What People Are Saying About Fat Kid Dance Party and How You Can Help Launch The Next Stage!

The pre-sale for the first aerobics video ends on Thursday, February 1! I’m 74% funded and thought that I would let some of my class regulars and participants do some of the recommending!

“The Fat Kid Dance Party experience is unlike any other work out I have tried, and I have tried many! As a veteran of places like Jazzercise and SoulCycle, what Bevin offers is a healing love note to your body. It’s like a work out for your mind and physique. I love her rhetoric and how she infuses her class with messages of social justice, body positivity and absolute self love”
Marcy Guevara-Prete

Click here to grab a video four pack, a guided body love meditation and affirmations, or a whole workout accessory pack!

The inspiration from this photo was the cover of a Sweatin’ to the Oldies VHS I found at a yard sale. This pic is on my vision board now.

“I’m so grateful to have found your class! I’ve been working on loving my body the way it is for a while now but it’s all been very cerebral like like reading, podcasts, etc… It’s really nice to have a fitness/movement class to physically go to that supports my body love journey. I also really appreciate the community I’ve met there so far, people of all sizes in an inclusive and supportive environment…and class is SO FUN!”
–Laurel Hitchin

Click here to expand your body love journey!

This is from the number (to a Big Freedia/RuPaul song) where we reclaim our jiggle for healing! Photo by Shoog McDaniel.

“I go to school in Los Angeles and have tried going to the gym there. As a fat, trans boy it was always daunting to be surrounded by cis athletic bodies. I would constantly compare myself to them and it became a harmful, destructive cycle. I heard about Fat Kid Dance Party once I decided to join EVERYBODY and the class has been life-changing. To be in a room that supports not only my identity but my body shape WHILE allowing me to work at bettering my physical well being in a healthy mindset is something I never believed I was worthy of having. Bevin has taught me how to proudly take up space in this world through big movements and amazing music and for that I am eternally grateful.”
–Asher Tessier

Click here to join the party!

Class photo! (Halloween edition, but costumes are literally always celebrated!) Photo by Shoog McDaniel.

“I used to tell myself that I didn’t dance – and I believed it. I saw myself as awkward and without any mastery of physicality. My body just did what it wanted. Facing my fears at my first Fat Kid Dance Party class, I found myself having a blast learning how to do all the 90s moves I couldn’t figure out how to do myself in high school. After coming back multiple times I learned that I could climb through my bedroom window (after accidentally locking myself out) without hurting myself. Yay – newfound agility! I had never experienced joyful sweating until FKDP. Now, I frequently give myself mid day dance breaks and express myself through movement at home, work, everywhere!”
–Kate E. McCracken

Click here to become an early adopter of a fitness revolution!

Fat Kid Dance Party is for all ages, sizes and abilities to heal from body oppression! Photo by McKay!

“I truly look forward to exercising at Fat Kid Dance Party. I always feel better while I’m there and afterwards.

As I get older, I see less of my friends at the gym and usually feel a little out of place as the oldest one in the group. FKDP takes away that anxiety. Everyone in the class is supportive and Bevin makes all of us feel welcome and comfortable.

I love that Bevin combines movement through simple routines so the brain is exercised as much as the body. She incorporates somatic healing into the movements which is subtle yet highly effective. At some point in most of the classes, I will feel an overwhelming sense of emotional release to the point of tears–GOOD tears. Bevin has the ability to make everyone in the room feel comfortable and worthy. She inspires us to cheer each other on and to embrace any awkwardness as a good thing that represents change towards something new and healthy. FKDP is a safe space to let go of troubles and anxieties and embrace self care and healing while doing fun routines to fabulous music!”
–Jennifer

Click here to learn somatic healing dance moves!

Photo by Shoog McDaniel

“FKDP has helped me rediscover joyful movement. I walk all day for work, and FKDP helps remind me that I can move around, dance and let go of the negative energy that often comes with getting paid to do physical labor. I love it!”
–Sonya Mendoza

Click here to show your support for my work to make the world safe for people to love themselves!

THANK YOU to all of my beloved regulars who show up weekly (or more!) to party and heal together. It’s such a special class and I’m so honored to be part of people’s self care practice. Please join us!!

P.S. If you want to come to the in person party check out this page–I’ll be keeping it updated as I add new classes, special events and tour stops!

2018-01-19

Body Shaming Trump Perpetuates Harm to all Bodies

Hi Y’all!!! Exciting news–an Op-Ed I wrote for Newsweek was published today about why perpetuating body shaming against Trump doesn’t create justice it creates harm. The Girther Movement is focusing on the wrong issue! You can read it through this link.

Yes, all bodies, even bodies of people you don’t like and bodies of people who perpetuate harm. Do the work to critique folks on real issues rather than their bodies! Also these are stickers I have available, if you’d like to buy some email me–queerfatfemme at gmail!

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time–ever since the first “Micropenis” chatter, which is not only body shaming but also perpetuates harm against trans bodies. Talking about the size of someone’s genitals having anything to do with their worth misses the point of body liberation and, frankly, as sex positive folks will tell you that it’s not the size of the genitals that have anything to do with how great sex can be.

It made me so bummed out when I saw signs for the Women’s March last year that focused on his small hands instead of the thousands of substantive issues that are available for critique. I thought about the children at the march who would see that and how it might make them think that targeting someone’s body is okay and that might inflame their own insecurities about the way their bodies aren’t “normal.” What a toxic word and idea in a world so full of diverse bodies and totally valid ways to inhabit those bodies.

Signs like this! I even saw some carried by children and babies! Source: Wikipedia commons.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to lovingly inhabit the body you’re in and have some fun–check out my Fat Kid Dance Party Aerobics (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression) videos! Just two weeks left in the pre-sale to be an early adopter!! Also available–body love meditations to help change your thoughts and party packs to be fully outfitted.

P.S. What a missed opportunity to use the term Girther to mean something really hot.

2018-01-02

Year of Ask Vol. 1: Fat Kid Dance Party Aerobics Video Pre-Sale Now Live!

Hey Everybody!!!!!! I am so excited to say that I launched the pre-sale for the first ever Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression) workout video! All the info is through this link, but in sum, it is the culmination of all of my 15 years in body positive activism and performance and I am so excited to bring it to life!

Photo by Shoog Colleen McDaniel.

My friend Jen Hollywood wrote a really sweet testimonial about the pre-sale on her Facebook page. She said:

“If you know me, you know I love a good workout video. Cindy Crawford, Richard Simmons, Leslie Sansone. I’ve done them all. I WOULD LOVE TO WORK OUT WITH MY FRIEND BEVIN!!!!!

I love this woman. I used to listen to her podcast back in the day… I read her blog Queer Fat Femme, and whenever I get a chance I hang out with her in real life. She is fun, creative and fat positive. Please donate to this Indie GoGo campaign and get her latest work of genius, FAT KID DANCE PARTY off the ground and into your living room. You won’t be sorry about this early adoption. [Double heart eyes emojis]

For all sizes to heal from body oppression!”

Thanks so much Jen! (Bride selfie from Jen’s wedding where we did a flash mob surprise for Jen and Dani!)

If you read this blog and enjoy it, you’ll probably enjoy my aerobics videos. If aerobics isn’t your thing, I also have a guided meditation and body love affirmations available as a pre-sale. (Change your thoughts change your life!)

The pre-sale includes four videos—a full 60 minute Fat Kid Dance Party workout, a 10 minute stretching video for use every day to help you increase or maintain mobility and relieve pain, a 20 minute cardio workout for those days you need to move but don’t have a lot of time, and a 60 minute Fat Kid Dance party Chaircize video workout. I always invite folks to do the traditional FKDP from a chair if they need to, but I want to center the experience of working out in a chair in this video.

I’m really excited about the momentum of this class that I created and the effects.

Photo by Shoog.

My class regular (and now friend) Kate said this about her experience coming to class at least once a week for the past six months.

“Bevin’s creation has completely changed my relationship with movement. It’s fun! It feels good! It fills me with joy! It is no longer punishment! It is healing! And infused my life with joy and freedom.”

If you can share the sale in your networks, that would be so wonderful. I think everyone knows someone who would benefit from an affirming, uplifting movement class. A personal anecdote about why you resonate with my writing and media or Fat Kid Dance Party also goes a long way to amplifying the share. If you have capacity to financially support the Indie GoGo pre-sale I would really appreciate it. I have long dreamed of supporting my family through my work empowering people to love themselves and having a video I can produce and then sell will really help.

Photo by Shoog–Kate is near me playing the role of monster in our Thriller choreography group photo.

I am doing so much right now to bring the message that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are to the masses. This workout video is just one Ursula tentacle of my whole self love Femmepire, stay tuned here at my blog and in my other social media realms for more!!

Follow me on Facebook (turn on notifications) to watch my daily live videos about self love! I’m regularly updating about the progress of producing and filming and distributing the workout videos. I’m also chronicling the planning of my epic wedding with Dara on my live videos. Plus interviews with some really cool people and adventures!

Follow me on Instagram @queerfatfemme for motivation (turn on notifications there, as well, the Instagram algorithm means the more followers you have the less likely you are to pop up in someone’s feed).

Follow @fatkiddanceparty on Instagram for updates on the video, my upcoming tour schedule and class schedule in LA. (I’ve got a new non-gym venue for class that launches Wednesdays at 7PM on January 10th, in addition to Mondays at 8PM at EVERYBODY gym.)

2017-01-01

This Year Have a Revolution Instead of a Resolution

“But, today, the way I play the game is not the same; no way. Think I’m gonna get myself happy.” – George Michael

Language is so powerful. I believe that if you change the way you talk about things you can change outcomes you manifest for yourself. I like to womanifest positive abundance, so after I learned that concept I really put my shoulder into it. I like to replace “should” with “could” whenever possible, it’s a much kinder way to speak to myself. I like to say “when” instead of “if” about things I am working towards, like “When I am a tea millionaire and I have my Willy Wonka tea factory…”

In that spirit for the New Year I love to use the term “revolutions” instead of “resolutions” because resolutions are so loaded with dominant body paradigms and full of “shoulds.” A revolution sounds like a positive uprising. Like being on a team with yourself instead of a team against how you used to be. This time of year you’ll probably see your feed choked with articles about how to create change and stick to your resolutions and how and why so many of them fail.

family2017nyeWe went to a queer prom New Year’s Eve party last night and it was so fun. This is my real prom dress–it still fits! #chublife

A lot of times when we set out to change things in our lives we do so from a place of self condemnation that is totally counterproductive to actual change. I think that’s why so many diets fail—you do it because you feel bad about your body and want it to conform to a way you think it should be. It’s great to want to make changes, but the key is changing your perspective on how you make change. A revolution instead of a resolution.

In 2010 I talked about this on my blog (content warning: Taueret and Amanda) and set out a revolution intention to eat more kale but my digestion wasn’t having it. So I had to meet my body where it was at and went with spinach.

cozywithfriendsBeing cozy with friends–Jenn, Dari, Tristan, and my partner Dara!

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change.”

― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

I like to think about making changes in the way I eat to be in alignment with my body. Working with a health coach who is body positive has helped me learn how my body interacts with foods and I have more information to work with. I was also able to heal my gut so I can now digest kale without issue. Working in alignment with my body makes it feel so much more personal and takes it away from the diet industrial complex.

daridaraDari & Dara & a menorah.

Just this morning when I was making a kale smoothie* I was thinking about how the perspective I would have applied to eating kale first thing on New Year’s Day 20 years ago was really different than how I approach it in 2017. In order to get here I had to heal my relationship with my body, my mind and my emotions around my size. I had to check out of the diet industrial complex and dominant paradigms about bodies. How even after I had begun my body love journey I had to unpack all of the ways in which “health” is used as a weapon against bodies like mine. I had to learn that health gets to be for everyone, no matter their size. I had to learn that kale is just a plant which is not owned by fat haters, it’s a nutrient dense gift of the Goddess that together with a blender is easier to digest first thing in the morning.

All of that learning over the past 15 years lead me to the point today where I can eat in alignment with my body and a kale smoothie is simply a choice I’m making in the morning rather than a bummer diet moment. That’s a revolution in how I interact in the world, and it happened in baby steps.

“How do you create in the midst of destruction, chaos? How do you turn darkness into light? It’s more important than ever for us to use this energy to create the lives we want, sometimes rebuilding, starting over, or completely transforming into something new because Uranus and Pluto show us where things are not working.”—Katie Sweetman, Empowering Astrology

This year my revolutions list is just one thing, I want to work on planning my time more effectively so that I can continue to create even in the midst of destruction and chaos. I don’t tend to write when things are hard, I default to prioritizing managing crisis, self care and making money. But my art is a form of self care and I think when we’re doing what we are meant to be doing in the world it helps to bring light and joy to our lives that helps our survival and those around us. So, my revolution is to set up time to write and put the systems in place to make it happen.

I also want to continue to approach the world with silliness and fun, to energize hard stuff into easier to digest stuff.

A revolution doesn’t happen in a day, it happens over time. It happens when you love yourself enough to do something that can help you become who you are meant to be. As Octavia Butler said, I believe change is God, and working towards change is often working towards more alignment with my higher spirit. Spiritually and personally I want to be in alignment with how I can most create change, justice and light in the world. Because the world needs more people who are lighting themselves up so we can light up the world together.

revolutions2017How will you light up the world in 2017?

*Three loose cups of kale, one loose cup of spinach, about 2-3 teaspoons each of chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax seeds, 1 teaspoon of local bee pollen, enough almond milk to make it as thin as I like which is probably a cup, blend til smooth and then add about an inch piece of banana and a small handful of frozen berries for taste, blend again till smooth. Recipe is from Heart Beets Holistic Health. Vic is running another anti-hangry whole foods cleanse starting January 9th, with part of the proceeds benefitting the Dakota Access Pipeline protest efforts (she went out there for a couple of weeks in the Fall working in their healthcare tent in a camp).

2016-08-29

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

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

bevinallbodies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Cleanse the judgment palate.

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

2. Take your own inventory.

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

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

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

3. Speak up for other folks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Remember your ally tools.

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

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

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

6. Body autonomy is important.

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

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

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

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

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

hardfrenchwinterball

Ready for more? Here are some great resources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Steps to Learn to Love Your Body Now

Six Strategies to Not Care When People Stare at You

 

 

 

2015-02-13

Half the Self Hate: Kate Bornstein Wriggling Towards Fun

For years I’ve been noticing the People Magazine annual “Half Their Size” issue. It comes out around New Year’s Eve and the cover is always the same: before and after photos with big graphics about how much each person has lost. People Magazine devotes pages and pages of a feature story to readers who have lost over half their body weight. They ask them how they did it, what motivated them, what their “rock bottom” was as a fat person.

I kept thinking, What if we talked to people about how they lost more than half of their self-hatred? What would it look like? I find it so inspirational to hear how people have risen out of oppression and cultures that don’t value their bodies/identities and have learned to love themselves in spite of that.

I reached out to several artists and activists whose work and self love I admire to ask what practices they employ to love themselves and how they defy a culture that commodifies self hatred. I wanted to know what inspired them to work to reduce or eliminate their self hate.

This is a series about self love triumphing over self hate, and valuing yourself as a radical act of resistance.

The Half the Self Hate series continues Monday with my interview with Be Beautiful Project founder and poet, Denise Jolly.

kateauthorphotoKate with her pug, Mollyanna.

I discovered Kate Bornstein when I was 17 years old and taking my first Women’s Studies class (this was 1996, before it was renamed Women and Gender Studies). How lucky I feel to have known Kate’s work for almost half my life! Her book Gender Outlaw radically shifted how I saw gender, people and identity and I have continued to learn so much from her work ever since. Kate works to make the world a better place, whether that’s through her engaging keynote speeches on achieving world peace through gender anarchy and sex positivity, her numerous books, social media work preventing suicide with #stayalive, or just one on one over fried chicken and good conversation.

I knew I wanted to include Kate in this blog series about battling self hate because her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, is an incredible book that delves deep into how Kate’s mind works. She writes very candidly about working through feelings of strong self-hate and how she wiggles through that to become both profoundly accomplished and self-actualized. On top of all of that, Kate is also one of the kindest people I have ever met. I’m so thrilled to bring her words to you as part of Half the Self Hate.

How do you identify?

Currently, that’s in flux. It’s something like genderqueer BDSM asexual transsexual diesel femme dyke crone.

What does that identity mean to you? How do the intersections of it help you bloom? What are your struggles?

It means I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules about gender and sexuality—rather, I can explore the non-binaries of me. The struggle? I’m a double Pisces. I don’t struggle so much as I wriggle. I’m wriggling toward being the most fun me I can be. The challenges all seem to come down to someone else’s respectable rules, regulations, standards, and values. I’m wriggling away from all that, as best I can.

Do you identify as someone who loves themselves or something else? Maybe just working on not hating yourself?

Love myself? Oh goodness, no. Well, rarely. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally come to a place of having compassion for myself.

kate_bornstein santiago felipePhoto by Santiago Felipe.

Do you remember when it became obvious to you that you had a self-hating internal monologue? Was there ever a time before that you loved yourself?

Ummmm. Since the moment I was self-aware, I’ve always felt that I’m less-than. Less than a real boy was the start of it all. My life from that point on has been all about how I don’t measure up, how I get it all wrong, how I never get enough done. And that’s been the state of me until quite recently—say a couple of years ago—when, in one of the very early crowdsourcing campaigns, thousands of people raised over $100,000 so that I could pay for two years of wriggling through lung cancer to the point where I’ve now been in remission for over nine months.. That many people helping me stay alive, well, that marked the end of my low self-esteem and self hatred.

Can you create work as an artist when you are having a bad self esteem day? If so, what is your process of working through it? If not are you able to let yourself off the hook about it?

Oh yes! Art got me through a LOT of suicidal periods of my life. A lot of art gets made that way. There’s a wonderful collection of essays by me and others who do exactly that: “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,” edited by Sabrina Chap. Now, doing art hasn’t always made me love myself, but it almost always has gotten me through periods of my life when I just might have acted on that self-loathing.

What practices do you employ now to be more self loving and less self hating?

Over the past four years, I’ve been doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy. When I’m lost or losing my way, that’s a huge help to returning to a place of compassion. DBT is a therapy developed by Marsha M. Linehan. As I understand it, it’s part Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and part Zen Buddhism. I love Zen. Along with Sufism, Zen is one of the world’s last remaining slapstick spiritual paths.

What’s your favorite self-care activity?

Cuddling with Maui, the Siberian cat I live with.

IMG_20150212_183722Kate and Maui. Photo from Kate’s Instagram.

You do so much work helping others Stay Alive. Your #stayalive hashtag on social media, your book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, and virtually all of your other work helping people feel at home in their gender(s). How has doing that work influenced your self love journey?

In addition to Zen, I’m also a follower of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Love him. Studying his take on Buddhism, I’ve become familiar with the spiritual path of bodhisattva. Google it. It gives me a lifetime to lifetime goal and focus of ending suffering for all sentient beings, by means of becoming as wise as I can possibly be. During the moments that I’m aware of that goal and life focus, yeah… I love myself.

Kate-infront-of-books1byDavidHarrisonPhoto by David Harrison.

You can find Kate Bornstein touring on the lecture/workshop/performance circuit (her schedule is here and you can also book her for your college/conference/retreat/etc…) as well as touring with Sam Feder and the film he made about her, Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger. I was so surprised, thrilled and honored to have my femmeceeing included from Rebel Cupcake in May, 2012 in the film about Kate. I’m wearing a cute dress.

I also want to second Kate’s book recommendation for the anthology “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,”, it has helped me come to a lot of understanding of how my depression (I get seasonal as well as just regular depression) affects me as an artist, and helped me not feel so alone in my struggle.

You can follow Kate on social media, her Instagram and Twitter are fantastic, and sometimes she tucks you in bed with a sweet benevolent message. If you haven’t read her books, start with her riveting memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, then explore My New Gender Workbook, Gender Outlaw, and Hello Cruel World.

If you or a friend are in need of alternatives to suicide, there’s the free Hello Cruel World lite and if cost is an issue, you or your friend can reach out to Kate directly to get a full copy of Hello Cruel World.

Thank you so much Kate for your insights!! I love you!!

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Half the Self Hate Instagram and Twitter contest:
**Contest extended!!**
I want to know how you’ve lost half your self hate! Write a tweet or an Instagram post about one practice you have employed to lose half your self hate. Or commit to employing one practice to lose half your self hate! (You can borrow a practice you learned about in this blog series!)

Hashtag your post with #halftheselfhate and make the post by February 20th at midnight Eastern time. Two winners will be chosen by a random draw.

One winner will receive a $50 gift certificate from Self Serve Toys a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Albuquerque, NM with a great online store!

A second winner will receive a Vesper vibrator worth $79 from Sugar, a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Baltimore, MD which also has an online store!

Self Serve Toys and Sugar believe, as I do, that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.

*To qualify to win your Instagram or Twitter needs to be public! The winner will be selected by random number generated by random.org of all entries to the contest between February 11th and February 20th February 24th Midnight Eastern time.

2015-02-11

Half the Self Hate: Kama La Mackerel is Deconstructing Embodied Colonialism through Self Love and QTPOC Community

For years I’ve been noticing the People Magazine annual “Half Their Size” issue. It comes out around New Year’s Eve and the cover is always the same: before and after photos with big graphics about how much each person has lost. People Magazine devotes pages and pages of a feature story to readers who have lost over half their body weight. They ask them how they did it, what motivated them, what their “rock bottom” was as a fat person.

I kept thinking, What if we talked to people about how they lost more than half of their self-hatred? What would it look like? I find it so inspirational to hear how people have risen out of oppression and cultures that don’t value their bodies/identities and have learned to love themselves in spite of that.

I reached out to several artists and activists whose work and self love I admire to ask what practices they employ to love themselves and how they defy a culture that commodifies self hatred. I wanted to know what inspired them to work to reduce or eliminate their self hate.

This is a series about self love triumphing over self hate, and valuing yourself as a radical act of resistance.

The Half the Self Hate series continues Friday with my interview with gender activist, performer and legend Kate Bornstein.

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The Goddess smiled upon me when I met Kama La Mackerel when they stayed at my home while in New York City to perform. They are a sissy, poet, comedian, dancer, drag and visual artist based in Tio’tia:ke, on colonized Kanien’kehá:ka ​/​ Mohawk territory (aka Montreal, Canada). There are invisible fireworks radiating from Kama at all times and especially when they are on stage. When we first met we spoke about their work creating community spaces that celebrate self love for Queer and Trans* People of Color. I knew Kama would have some incredible insights into self love practice and the journey to value yourself. If you ever have the opportunity to see them perform I suggest you snap it up, and in the meantime am so grateful to welcome Kama to Half the Self Hate Week on QueerFatFemme.com!

How do you identify? ​ ​

TransPOC femme queer warrior mixed-race brown/black working class university-educated​ able-bodied​ displaced diasporic anti-colonial anti-racist survivor artist community organizer movement builder & lover…

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What does that identity mean to you? How do the intersections of it help you bloom? What are your struggles?

I deliberately decided to reply to the first question, “How do you identify?” with a list of words that string together a multiplicity of identities that all intersect in different light, at different moments, a bit like a kaleidoscope​; ​at any given moment, I am all of those ​identities​, and more, but at any given moment, I am also less than ​the totality of​ those words threaded together​.

​I strongly believe in intersectionality as a way of understanding ​ one​​self and processing the types of oppression one faces, and the type of privileges ​from which ​one benefits.​ I will, however, explain a couple of the words I use to self-identify:

TransPOC – ‘coz that’s just a fact: I am a person of color​. I can’t ever switch that one off. Not even in the most intimate moments, ‘coz that’s how deep white supremacy creeps in– it manages to crawl inside your skin and colonize the shit out of your own colored body. And TransPOC, “trans” and “POC” together, because my race is only policed vis-à-vis of my gender, and my gender is only policed vis-à-vis my race. Or as I like to call it #Colonialism101: controlling, policing, ridiculing, silencing, fetishizing, dissecting, sexualizing, selling, buying and trading colored bodies through the lens of western white supremacist gender binary.

The rest is fairly self-explanatory. I do want to point out that I am university educated and this has given me TREMENDOUS amounts of privilege in navigating the world. Just the fact that I have access to the English language, and to a particular type/register of English language testifies to this.

I will also point out that I conclude this string of words with the word “lover”– love is a force that is taking more and more space in my art, my organizing and my everyday life. I wouldn’t be able to do all the work I do if I didn’t centre love as the driving force in my life: love for myself, love for others, and love for justice.

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When you were younger did you have a period of self-hate? If so how did that affect you internally and in the ways you expressed yourself or interacted with others?

​Oh Goddess! I’ve been in a “period of self-hate” for most of my life now! As much as I have learnt to love myself, to care for myself, to value myself, and to be happy with who I am, and as much as I am now the happiest I have ever been in my life, this does not mean that I have conquered it all! This only means that I am still working through shit, I am still working through a lot of shaming and self-shaming, and I am still learning to love and value myself a little bit more, every single day.

I like to think of shaming as functioning in layers: living in a white supremacist world that values only particular types of bodies, we learn to feel ashamed of ourselves from a very young age, and through our family, school, the media, society, our communities, we internalize layers and layers of shame over the years, and by the time we’re 15, we’re all pretty much screwed… It is only a couple of years ago that I started to actively work through all those layers of internalized shame and self-hatred. I’m still working through it; I don’t think it will ever end: each time I work through one layer, another layer appears, and that’s the challenge and the beauty of doing this type of work.

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What helped you decide not to hate yourself? What were the circumstances, how old were you?

​Oh this was a process. This was a long, long, very long process and it is still ongoing. I will mention a few things here that helped me and that worked for me. First, having amazing, kind, challenging, honest and supportive networks/people in my life. I consider myself very blessed– I’ve had some really rough shit to deal with in my adult life, but I’ve always had solid people to hold me when I broke down. Those people loved/love me so much, even when I hated myself, and they thus pretty much taught me how to love myself. (If you’re reading this right now, you know who you are: <3) Things also changed when I started​ connecting with more POCs, when I started surrounding myself by QTPOCs, and loving them, desiring them & fucking them, and reading their zines, and spending afternoons with them in parks, and running workshops and organizing festivals with them! Doing all this helped me see beauty in them so I could love myself a bit more; and it helped me see beauty in me, so I could love them a bit more. Things also changed when I started spending long nights with Audre Lourde and metro rides with bell hooks, and all those other amazing Black feminists and women of color writers. They helped me ground myself, they helped me honor my legacy, and they taught me to centre love in my life, my art and my work. Things also changed when I stopped dating and/or fucking cis-white able-bodied dudes. Things did change when I made a commitment to watch only porn that features POCs and only POCs. Things started to change when I started looking for representations of myself and my people in the media that I consumed-- the books I read, the blogs I followed, the shows I watched... Things changed drastically when I started working on my internalized misogyny and my internalized racism. This was and still is, without a doubt, the hardest part of the work for me, and yet, this is the work that allows me to love myself a little bit more everyday... 16501533752_04a6973be9_z

Where has your journey to living a life geared towards self-love taken you? How has your work as an artist been influenced by this journey?

​I think, more than anything, that a journey towards self-love has allowed me to love others better. A journey towards loving myself allowed me to be a more caring human being, first towards myself, and then towards others, and that in turn has helped me to build community in more intentional and accountable ways.

This journey towards self-love has allowed me to embrace my femme identity, my skin, my thick curly hair, my history, my legacy… It has also allowed me to make art and to finally get over the fear of my own voice and to express my right to narrate.

It has also made me a better lover! Once I had started working through my layers of shame, I started seeing people with different bodies in different ways: I started dating and fucking individuals for whom I wouldn’t have previously felt much attraction, and that pretty much revolutionized my sex life!

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When we spoke in December I remember you were talking about creating intentional space for QTPOC to heal legacies of hatred through self love, can you talk about that?

​YES! As I like to say, the revolution will not happen in the streets. It will first happen around dinner tables, park benches and comfy couches where we will intentionally spend time together, talk about the generations of trauma that we carry in our bodies, and slowly work through our pain and heal collectively. Once we do that, we can go and burn the streets for all I know. But first, we need to create the spaces for us to love each other and care for each other, and heal.

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Is there anything you think you could say to your younger self to turn away from self hatred or do you think it was an inevitable path that had to run its course?

Interestingly enough, I never talk to my younger self and/or think about talking to my younger self. But my younger self talks to me pretty much all the time! Generally speaking, my younger self says: “Don’t worry, you got this! You’re winning at this, who’d have thought?!” And that allows my present self to breathe a little bit in moments of panic!

In that journey towards self-love, one of my biggest struggles has been with self-forgiveness– you know, forgiving myself for shitty things I did to my younger self, ‘coz I didn’t know better, and even when I knew better, I put myself in threatening situations just because of low self-esteem?

I still struggle with self-forgiveness and I sometimes hate myself for things I did to my younger self. But my younger self is pretty badass, and often talks to my present self and asks me to forgive myself and to embrace and love my younger self. (I’m still working through this one…)

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What’s your favorite self-care activity?

​WELL, MASTURBATING, OF COURSE!
My self-care activities are fairly standard (watching shows, spending time in bed, having good food etc.), so what about I talk about my favorite self-love practices instead? I love touching myself in multiple sensual, erotic and sexual ways, I love dressing up and celebrating my body through clothes and make-up, and I love gifting myself a great deal of alone time.
Making art is also a gift of self-love to myself. Given that I have a full-time job and other commitments in life, making time to make art is a deep act of self-love to me: making art and allowing my voice, my point of view and my experiences to speak through the creative process is, to me, an act of self-love. Also, making art brings so much joy to my life, and I like making myself happy!

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Can you tell me more about Qouleur​ and GENDER B(L)ENDER? What does 2015 have in store for both of them?

Qouleur is a QTPOC grassroots arts festival that I co-founded in 2012. It is typically a 10-day festival that seeks to highlight the lives, work and art of queer and trans racialized folks in Montreal, and it is packed with workshops, film screenings, talks, an art exhibit and a performance night. Qouleur started because QTPOCs felt that neither mainstream nor alternative/radical Montreal queer and feminist spaces had an anti-racist and anti-colonial analysis AND practice to them, and that if QTPOCs wanted to have access to safe and celebratory spaces, they would have to create it themselves. The festival will be running for a 4th year in 2015, with an amazing collective of committed and passionate volunteers. I have stepped away from Qouleur to work on other projects, but it is phenomenal to see the project change and evolve according to the vision of new folks getting involved! <3 ​ GENDER B(L)ENDER is a monthly queer open mic that I founded in May 2013, and that I host every last Friday of the month. The idea, really, is to allow anyone to have a stage where they can perform whatever they want, and they won’t get judged for the quality or nature of their performance. No oppressive language or behavior is tolerated in the space and this applies to both audience and performers– those are the only rules of the night! It’s a fun, kind, nurturing and supportive space where most of the performers are performing for the first time of their lives. And that is a beautiful moment of self-love to witness and celebrate every month!

​For the 3rd year in a row now, I am curating a performance night called The Self-Love Cabaret: l’amour se conjugue à la première personne. This is an amazing night ‘coz it happens on Feb 14th and it is actually an anti-Valentines artistic manifesto! With a queer, feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial mandate, artists take to the stage to celebrate self-love instead of celebrating capitalist notions of belonging and coupledom! This year, I have a line-up of six absolutely amazing Montreal-based QTPOC artists whom I can’t wait to introduce! ​

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Kama La Mackerel is so incredible! You can find out all about their work and keep up with them at their website, Tumblr and Facebook Fan page. Thank you so much for your kind words and reflection, Kama!

******************

Half the Self Hate Instagram and Twitter contest:
**Contest extended!!**
I want to know how you’ve lost half your self hate! Write a tweet or an Instagram post about one practice you have employed to lose half your self hate. Or commit to employing one practice to lose half your self hate! (You can borrow a practice you learned about in this blog series!)

Hashtag your post with #halftheselfhate and make the post by February 20th at midnight Eastern time. Two winners will be chosen by a random draw.

One winner will receive a $50 gift certificate from Self Serve Toys a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Albuquerque, NM with a great online store!

A second winner will receive a Vesper vibrator worth $79 from Sugar, a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Baltimore, MD which also has an online store!

Self Serve Toys and Sugar believe, as I do, that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.

*To qualify to win your Instagram or Twitter needs to be public! The winner will be selected by random number generated by random.org of all entries to the contest between February 11th and February 20th February 24th Midnight Eastern time.

2015-01-28

Why Plus Model Tess Holliday’s Media Blitz is an Important Moment for Fat People Everywhere

So the other day I got a phone call from a reporter friend of mine at the New York Daily News (one of the big dailies in NYC) doing an article about plus size model Tess Holliday (formerly known as Tess Munster) being signed to a modeling agency. Tess is unusual because she’s only 5’4″ and a size 22–much different proportions than the standard for plus size models. By the way, even though plus size models are modeling clothing worn by women of lots of different shapes and sizes, the “industry standard” is under size 14 and 5’8″ or taller.

tessCNNTess Holliday on TV! Source: Tess Holliday Facebook.

I did the interview with the New York Daily News and my quote is good and meaty. Here it is.

“It’s astounding the reach she has and how many people respond to her,” said QueerFatFemme blogger Bevin Branlandingham. “She created a movement around being a plus-size model.

“It’s radical to have an agency willing to stand behind someone and push the envelope about what way models have to look. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. A good model has more to do with how she works in front of a camera then what her height and weight proportions are.”

Since that article came out on Saturday the media has been blowing up about Tess getting signed! I got an excited text from the reporter, Pearl Gabel, that it was the third most popular article on the Daily News’ website! Since the Daily News article came out I’ve seen Tess in People Magazine, Buzzfeed, CNN and just learned she was on Inside Edition!

During my brief interview with the Daily News I had a lot more to say than what my quote could fit, so here are my thoughts on why it’s important that Tess was signed by an agency and the resulting media storm.

tesscuteShe’s so cute! Source: Tess Holliday facebook page.

Fat comes in lots of shapes, and my fat looks really different than someone else who may be the same size as me. And it definitely looks different than a standard plus size model. It’s really refreshing to hear of a modeling agency willing to take a chance on a model who doesn’t fit into the industry standard.

So why does the modeling industry matter in all of this? Shouldn’t we be moving away from more superficial representations of bodies?

I was steeped in this issue when I was working at Re/Dress in its Brooklyn incarnation, 2008-2011. Then-owner Deb partnered with Plus Model Magazine to do a model search for a size 18+ model. I resisted at first, not feeling great about modeling as an industry and Re/Dress as an indie store helping supporting it. I remember a long conversation with Deb while we were sorting clothing on the racks talking about this. (Plus size processing was one of the best things about being a Shop Girl at Re/Dress.)

I came around 180 degrees watching the model contest unfold. There was of course an essay contest in addition to the photos for the entries. As folks who love people who love their bodies we really looked for people who had body positivity as part of their ethic. Seeing how excited people get about modeling and models, I thought it was a great way to use that excitement to feed in messages of body positivity. Additionally, it’s really fun to dress up and look pretty, especially if you’re in a non-normative body that is historically marginalized.

We ended up selecting a regular customer of ours who was so glamorous and gorgeous and, like Tess Holiday, gives amazing face in front of the camera. Audrey Lea Curry, who later went on to co-star in the erstwhile awesome show Big Sexy with my friend and fellow Re/Dress shop girl Leslie Medlik, was the model and won cash and prizes, including a spread in Plus Model Magazine featuring Re/Dress clothing and shot by amazing plus size model and photographer Velvet D’Amour.

audreyplusmodelmagA page from the Plus Model Magazine spread. Photos by Velvet D’Amour.

The plus model industry and size positive movement has been pushing the issue of representation in the fashion industry for a long time and it’s really heartwarming to see a shift happening in this moment. I remember ten years ago mainstream plus brands were barely starting to use standard size plus size models in their advertising. And today mostly you get the really pretty, “curvy” models. I love brands, like Domino Dollhouse, that have been using bigger plus size models all along and work to support them.

I first heard about Tess Holliday when she was modeling for Domino Dollhouse. I got to meet the designer, Tracy Broxterman, at an indie trunk show at the closing of the Re/Dress Brooklyn incarnation. (Re/Dress has since retained an online store and has a storefront in Cleveland, and is now owned by the fabulous indie designer Rachel Kacenjar of Cupcake and Cuddlebunny fame.*)

tess-holliday-anthonyevansPhoto by Anthony Evans.

What I love most about Tess’s media blitz is that not only is there a non-standard plus model in the industry making huge waves, she’s also tattooed and pierced! Tess has been staying on message about believing in herself in spite of what people told her. This quote from the People Magazine online article is really inspirational:

“I’ve just kept doing this stuff recently, thinking, ‘Thank God I didn’t give up,’ ” says the Los Angeles-based Holliday, who had to overcome many detractors to get where she is today.

“I found out about plus-size modeling when I was 15, and I went to an audition in Atlanta. They told me that I was too short and I was too big, and I would never model. But I’m very hardheaded!”

I can definitely relate to being bullied and using that spitfire to rise above the lies people told me about my body and loving myself anyway. Tess didn’t just stick to plus modeling in spite of being told no at that audition, she also began a movement called Eff Your Beauty Standards in order to empower other fat folks. I think it’s amazing when plus models, who could just stay a pretty face in front of the camera, get political with size activism and empower others.

The modeling agency (MiLk Model Management) said that they were driven to sign Tess because of her social media following. I think it was Tess’s inspirational movement that has been a big part of her prolific social media presence that helped get her that deal.

Tess Holliday’s Instagram is a very satisfying feed to follow. Lots of gorgeous Tess shots, of course, but also glamorous behind the scenes of a modeling career and regular every day stuff like hanging out with her babetown Australian fiance and her son. And it’s always a good moment for me when Tess is in her underwear. Swoon!!

tesshollidayforpowdermagazineHeidi CalvertI adore Tess’s vintage aesthetic and her fatshions. Photo by Heidi Calvert for Powder Magazine.

Our society’s ridiculous notions of beauty are being thwarted a bit right now, because of this event and the media avalanche. This is a big story. People who read it who haven’t heard about size activism might have their minds stretched. The modeling industry is seeing that people respond well to non-normative body shapes.

The more people who share about Tess and talk about how great it is to have actual plus size diversity in modeling the more we can catalyze a bigger societal shift towards body acceptance. So share this blog post, or a media piece you appreciate about it. (I’m especially fond of the Buzzfeed article because it shows lots of Tess’s followers using the #effyourbeautystandards hashtag being empowered!)

Fat allies, this is your time, too, tell your people about Tess and let them know that it matters to you that this is representing change in an industry that oppresses bodies. Remember my mantra, All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are!

And be sure to write your favorite plus size manufacturers to ask them to use models of all plus sizes so we can be sure that MiLK model management and other agencies that follow suit have jobs to send these models on! And support the indie designers that have been using plus models of all sizes all along!

I would love to see this change mean more gateways for other non-normative bodies, ages, ethnicities, genders, body hair status, etc…

20150117_182554-MOTIONI also want to give a shout out to my bestie Mackenzi’s new women’s clothing boutique in Astoria, Queens, Lockwood Style, carrying sizes 0-24! The inventory is really diverse and there’s a lot of turnover in styles. It just opened as the sister store to her Lockwood home and gift store next door. It’s worth a trip to Astoria if you find yourself in NYC shopping while fat! The dress I was trying on was from Cabiria Style, an indie local plus size designer carried at Lockwood.

*If you’re suffering from cold this winter I highly recommend fleece lined leggings, and Re/Dress online is having a Winter layers sale right now. I just bought some in pink and black. Use code LAYERUP for $5 off each piece. I secretly wanted to buy this $98 vintage nightie but for now just practical layers, I will when I am a rich lesbian.

**PS. Be sure to check out Domino Dollhouse’s Valentine’s lingerie line featuring Tess Holliday!

***PPS. Read this article from Huffington Post last week about my friend Sophie Spinelle’s body positive feminist pin-up photography business. I love the title of the article so much! These Pin-Up Photos From ‘Shameless Photography’ Show That Every Body Is Gorgeous. Congratulations Sophie!

o-SHAMELESS-PHOTOGRAPHY-900Bra burning pin-ups is the way to go!

2015-01-02

Queer and Body Positive Calendars for 2015

I cannot believe it’s already 2015. Where does the time go? I’ve been lost in a holiday/birthday/travel time vortex and I’m scratching my head about being 36 already and have so much I want to get done this year!

What better way to set goals and mark time than with a calendar that acknowledges queer bodies and lots of different bodies! I think it is incredibly powerful self-love to surround yourself with images of hot queer and fat folks who have diverse bodies. Sensitizing yourself to queer and fat bodies that look like yours and the people you love is an important part of loving yourself and/or being a good fat/queer ally.

Like my 2014 Queer Fat Femme gift guide, I am not being compensated for these listings, I just want to get folks connected to great artists and support queer and body positive projects!

Q-were Calendar
I’m really excited about the Q-were project. I met Patience, the photographer, this summer and got to look through the 2013 and 2014 calendars and I was like daaaaang these are basically hot queer stroke books. I loved it. And I was doubly, maybe even triply, thrilled to find out my queer fat femme pal Rahjah is the centerfold for 2015!! Buy the calendar for $25 and support queer body positive diverse art!
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Q-were Instagram
Q-were Website
Link to buy the 2015 Calendar on Etsy

Queer Porn Star Calendar
Another hot queer, sex positive, body positive calendar is the Queer Porn Star Calendar. Included in the spread are April Flores, Courtney Trouble and Chelsea Poe, three of my favorite queer porn stars and really awesome people. (I had brunch with April Flores recently and she’s so wonderful.) I absolutely love what Courtney is doing with their queer porn femmepire at Trouble Films and the amplification of authentic and fun queer sex. If I had been able to see queer porn like what Trouble Films puts out when I was a baby queer it would have changed my life.

queerporncalendarAprilFlores

chelsea-poe-1bTake a minute to sign Chelsea’s petition to ask mainstream porn sites to cease using the term shemale.

Link to buy the 2015 Queer Porn Star Calendar
The Trouble Films Porn Empire

Adipositivity Calendar
The Adipositivity project is a fat acceptance project that goes back several years. “Part fat, part feminism, part fuck you.” Substantia Jones is still clicking away, preserving bigger and better images of fat bodies. The calendar is $19.99 and supports this great art collection of fat bodies.
The Adipositivity Project: The 2015 Adipositivity Calendar is here! &emdash;
Link to the Adipositivity project
Buy the 2015 calendar

Pudge PDX Calendar
I did a little googling to make sure I wasn’t missing any body positive calendars and found the Pudge PDX plus size pin-up calendar! Queer heartthrob Melody Awesomazing is seen in the below photo (far left) as a lumberjack! “Pudge PDX’s body positive calendar includes 13 months with lunar cycles and wacky holidays. Fawn over these fancy folks while staying up to speed with your schedule!”

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Buy the calendar for $25!
Link to Pudge PDX

2014-10-10

Nine Steps to Be Ready to Wear Sleeveless Shirts or Shorts Next Summer

If you spent this summer consistently covering up your arms because you were ashamed to show that part of your body, now is a great time to start working on being ready for next year. You can unlearn the lies that people tell you about how you have to cover up in order to be socially acceptable.

I remember very distinctly an episode of the Oprah show I watched when I was a teenager where she waved her upper arm in the air and spoke derisively about the skin and fat “waddle” dangling there. I turned crimson with the recognition that I already had that “waddle” and that because Oprah was opposed to it then I should be ashamed of it.
2957045493_cb41415748_zI thought I’d do a little flashback Friday with photos of me sleeveless through the last decade. Here is a photo of me showing my arm waddle during a performance at the International Drag King Extravaganza in Columbus circa 2010. This is the dapper and amazing Heywood Wakefield.

Oprah is in a unique position—she’s so influential in US culture that many people listen to what she says with the same kind of attention that we might give to a parent or relative. My parents and relatives were also fatphobic and ashamed of their bodies and it was easy to internalize that the fat body I had all my life was wrong, with a hearty reiteration from Oprah.

We’re all human, though, and I recognize everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. My mom is now super supportive of my work with body liberation and Oprah is definitely much more body accepting in the twenty teens than she was in the nineties.

I don’t understand why our culture is so opposed to fat people’s arms. What is it about the arms specifically that makes us need to cover them up most of all? No fat person’s arm has caused more harm than a thin person’s.

I was on the phone with a body liberation coaching client and told her the story of how I got through my own shame about sleeveless shirts, and I wanted to share that with my readers. This is the same time of year I began that journey, so I thought it would be great to encourage others who are ready to take these steps to begin now for next summer.

I’m outlining here a process of self-acceptance and learning to be comfortable in the body you have right now. All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are AND they deserve to be comfortable.

14558700107_5d7497a1ae_oThese are my stickers! Aren’t they cute? If anyone wants some, make a donation via paypal of any amount to queerfatfemme at gmail and include your address.

1. Get ready to do things differently

I was 19 when I embarked on the journey to start wearing sleeveless shirts. I was at an interesting turning point in my life. After a many years long, often suicidal depression, I had decided to stop hating myself. I didn’t know what that meant and I had no identifiable role models for fat people who didn’t hate themselves, but I knew I needed to do something different. That summer, I met someone who basically made me promise to stop putting myself down and work on loving myself. Grant was a lifeguard at the Girl Scout camp I worked at and he wrote me the sweetest note in my camp yearbook. It meant so much to me. It was the first time I was ever able to hear that I was worthy of not hating myself.

I knew instinctively that I was wrong for hiding my arms. It was uncomfortable and annoying and I wanted to feel the freedom of my skinny counterparts. I had a couple of tank tops as layering pieces and I started to open myself up to the idea of wearing them, and set a goal to be wearing them outside by the next year. I wasn’t sure exactly how, but I was going to do it.

If you want to do things differently, you need only set your mind to it. If you’ve been spending your summers all bottled up under hoodies or wearing pants even though you would be way more comfortable in shorts, you can move past your fear and shame and start being more confident.

You just need to want it. It’s also okay to not want it and spend the next year or however long getting to a point to want to go sleeveless or wear shorts. That’s okay, too!

2. Go shopping

If you already have tank tops or shorts you want to wear, great, skip this step. If you’ve avoided them forever, this is a great time of year to get low stakes clothing that you’re not that attached to.

Now that I’m comfortable with my body I don’t have a problem investing in pieces that are armless and short legged (herstorically I’ve spent a pretty penny on vintage lingerie pieces). But if I wasn’t comfortable in a short sleeved shirt, I wouldn’t want to spend a bunch of cash on them just to see if I could learn to love myself in spite of all the lies people tell me about my body.

Right now Target has summer clearance hanging around—I got two really great sleeveless dresses for $12 recently. And a quick search online yields promising results (like this long tank top, I love a long tank top). I also totally adore Target’s Liz Lange maternity clothes–this sleeveless V neck cami marketed for “sleep” but totally not just for sleep is a great plus size sleeveless first step shirt.

Layering pieces are super helpful for this process, too, if you need some guidance for what to buy. The tank tops I started trying out when I was 19 were meant to go under overshirts. One of my favorite looks when I was in college in the late nineties were men’s dress shirts worn open over a frilly tank top. When I was ready to wear tank tops out of the house it helped to have the layers ready to go whenever I felt shy.

If you’re wanting to try shorts out, there’s a little less layering wiggle room, but it’s a great time of year to get clearance shorts, too.

15498653845_ffa838faff_zThis is a layering look I adored in 2011, a sleeveless dress with a cardigan on top.

3. Identify confidence anchors on your body

I didn’t do this when I transitioned to tank tops, but when I came out as Femme I used this a whole bunch. I found the part of my body I felt the most confident about (my cleavage) and I dressed around it. I could try pretty much anything if my cleavage was bangin’. The Lane Bryant Plunge bra was great for this. If your anchor is your cleavage, make sure you have a great bra for stepping your way into wearing tank tops next summer.

For some tips on bra shopping check out this article I wrote about getting a custom bra fitting.

So maybe your favorite part of your body is your calves or your forearms or something. Find a way to highlight it and use it as an anchor.

647924376_8cb8653c4f_o2002, at the IDKE showcase. Corsets were really good to me in the focus on the cleavage not the arms department.

4. Practice at home

Once you have the will to try something new and the new garments you want to try, start practicing at home. At 19 I was a Resident Advisor in the dorms, so this was an experiment just in my room at Thoreau Hall at UC Davis. I would just use tank tops as my around the house wear. Previous to this I was so ashamed of my arms that I wasn’t even wearing tank tops in the privacy of my own home, not even as loungewear.

What made the tank tops different than loungewear was that I would be all dressed for outside, but in a tank top. This is where layering pieces helped—I was able to just throw on an overshirt and go about my day. But in the house, I was wearing the tank top that I wished I had the confidence to wear outside.

If you’re trying on shorts, wear them around the house and get used to what your body looks like in shorts. I know a lot of folks who are super insecure about hairy legs, cellulite, weird skin stuff and leg size or shape.

5. Identify your body positive allies

This is a really great exercise whether or not you are already a sleeveless shirt and shorts wearer. Who in your life is a body positive ally? Your best friend? A certain group of friends? I sure hope you have some folks in your life who affirm the body that you’re in right now and don’t think you need to change.

If not, start making a list of the attributes of friends who will be body positive allies to you, and open yourself up to finding those friends.

9304102569_cdb266b898_oThis was the first time I ever wore a bikini, with my friend Jacqueline.

6. Identifiy your “safer” spaces

Once you’ve identified body positive allies, come up with a list of safe(r) spaces to try out wearing new clothes. This is a great technique for any kind of fashion risk. Places I like to try things out:

*Casual hang out with your allies.
*A body positive ally comes over and you just don’t cover up your arms.
*Brunch—this is my favorite petri dish for new fashion. Low stakes and early in the day.
*Going out in public with a body positive ally who can compliment you when you’re feeling nervous.
*Going out in public with a layering piece so you can quickly cover up if you need to. Challenge yourself to go without the layer longer and longer each time.

2504463608_9827babbb3_zA little chicken satay and body positivity with Rachael, one of my oldest friends, in 2008.

7. Fake it till you make it and act “as if” you’re already comfortable in sleeveless shirts

When I was trying out tank tops I remember the first time someone came over by surprise and I just didn’t cover up my arms. It was my not-yet first girlfriend and I remember feeling embarrassed about my arms showing but also really wanted to try to be okay with it. I was so crushed out on her that it was easy to forget to be insecure because my mind was absolutely full, and that’s exactly why I forgot to put on an overshirt in the first place!

What I did was I just faked it. I pretended to be okay with my arms showing. The more it happened with folks coming over the more I realized it wasn’t a big deal. No one was going to think differently of me with my arms showing.

3683063609_4ce737edc2_zPride parade 2009 with the Femme Family NYC.

8. Instagram or tumblr body positive images

I really like to reinforce positive body image for all bodies. I love Instagram and Tumblr for this. To consistently surround myself with people who believe all bodies are good bodies and who exude self-confidence is a really great antidote for our fat shaming society. Get used to seeing bodies like yours in sleeveless tops or shorts!

By the way—never read the comments. People are gross on the internet.

Remember throughout this process—so many of us have been there. The people you see in Instagram and Tumblr feeds are people who have survived the same body policing and fat hating society. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Just because someone seems confident doesn’t mean they are not vulnerable, human and insecure just like you.

9. Do what you need to do about beauty rituals to feel comfortable in sleeveless shirts

Again, this is a process of self-acceptance and learning to be comfortable in the body you have right now. However, if you need to do things to feel good in them that are achievable, maybe you try that. Maybe it’s a spray tan. Maybe it’s an arm tattoo. Maybe it’s shaving your legs every single day to wear shorts until you can get comfortable enough to go hairy legged one summer. Maybe it’s addressing a skin thing keeping you from showing your arms. I’m not saying modification of your body is necessary to body acceptance, but sometimes it’s helpful to baby step your way.

1393354441_e2bef3304b_zFound this photo of my friend Zoe’s leg tattoo–a great reason to wear shorts!

Dolly Parton’s character Truvy in Steel Magnolias says there’s no such thing as natural beauty, and I do believe that everyone should get to do exactly as much “work” as they want to on their appearance. For me, when I’m feeling nervous about something, I throw on a full face of make-up including fake eyelashes and big hair and it definitely ups my confidence.

When I was about 9 years old I started developing bumps on my arms. It looked kind of like chicken skin after feathers were plucked from them. I was super insecure about it, and my paternal Grammy told me it was genetic. Eventually I learned that this is a really typical skin condition and I could just exfoliate three times a week and it would go away. I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable trying tank tops if I hadn’t already addressed this skin issue I was having, but I’d like to think I would have still tried. (Right now I use Lush’s sandstone soap to exfoliate, and also a scrubby washcloth.)

Oh, and once I started exposing my skin to the sun more often, the bumps were way less prevalent.

Being self confident is a baby stepping process. I was 19 when I started trying to wear tank tops and it took me until I was 22 to start to embrace my fat body and fat as an identity. You can get there. Every single day is a great day to start.

7310063030_3093c1724a_zRebel Cupcake second anniversary party, 2012.

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!

mary-lambert-the-grammy-nominations-concert-live_3987122

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.

2014-04-18

Six Strategies to Not Care When People Stare at You

When my girlfriend started to go through chemotherapy, she shaved her head. She didn’t want to start losing her rock star style shaggy hair in great clumps so she figured she’d go bald on her own. She doesn’t shy away from flamboyance, so she did a whole head shaving party and got our buddy Khane Kutzwell from Camera Ready Kutz to do a whole fancy design, that you can see in the below video.

Shortly thereafter, folks started staring at her more than they used to. Especially as her hair thinned and she slowly went bald. She worried, when it got really obvious that she was balding, about what other people were thinking about her.

12762536225_3f2f5d8db7_z

I could relate to how she was feeling. I used to constantly stress out about what people thought about me, even when I was a more run of the mill fat girl when I was a late teenager and in my early twenties. (I did my best to blend in, but it’s hard when you’re 5’7” and fat.) As I started to come more into my own, I started dressing more flamboyantly and now I get noticed a lot. It’s actually kind of a relief in New York City because you get less stares when you look like a weirdo than you do outside of the city. I often forget how conspicuous I am until I travel.

13513393314_3d9cd2f604_zPhoto I took in a bathroom on a road trip through small towns when I realized people were staring at me and I remembered that I usually stick out.

A lot of folks do the long look to try to decide what’s going on with someone when they look unusual. And that’s way more noticeable when you’re not used to it. It feels weird. And when Dara started to notice it, she felt uncomfortable and insecure about it.

I surprised myself by rattling off a bunch of strategies she could use to get more comfortable with being conspicuous. So here, dear readers, is a cheat sheet for how to stop caring about what strangers think about you.

This is, of course, just strategies for your perceptions of people looking at you. This list doesn’t address the real danger of homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, femmephobic, ageist, sizist, antisemetic, racist, anti-erotic street harassers and jerks out there. For my readers out there blooming as the gorgeous weirdo flowers you are I send a lot of love and protective energy to you.

1. It’s not about you.

I like to remember that everyone in the world is running their own race. What that means is that everyone is on their own journey and you don’t actually know what’s going on in their mind. We’re all living in a beligerent society that commodifies insecurity. It teaches us to hate ourselves and our bodies. When I was at my most insecure, I rarely paid attention to anyone else except if it was in a way that I would put my own self down.

I would hazard to guess that most folks who you think are looking at you aren’t actually noticing you. And if they are noticing you and passing judgment or having thoughts about you, it doesn’t affect your value one bit.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to work on your own value internally. How much you are worth isn’t decided by the woman standing behind you at Starbucks who won’t stop looking at you. Even if she is judging you, which she might not be, her scowl could just be about how she’s not sure she can actually afford to pay her light bill and she’s wondering if this latte is a good idea.

If you’re familiar with the Four Agreements, I like to remember the second agreement in times like this. “Don’t take anything personally.”

2. Pretend they are thinking you are beautiful.

I read a tweet from Our Lady J that changed my life. She said something to the effect of pretending like the people staring at her were thinking she was beautiful. So many people might be looking at you because you’re beautiful but you might not have the ability to agree with them so you’re assuming it’s a negative judgment when it might actually be something positive.

I really like the call to assuming people’s best intentions and an affirmation of your own beauty if you can go there. And also, sometimes negative body comments are a way of masking folks’ own discomfort at finding nonconformative bodies attractive. That is really complicated for people.

Our_Lady_J_8Photo of Our Lady J by Santiago Felipe.

3. Remove your judgments about other people.

I believe true change on a global level starts from the personal. If you can transform the way you think it will help transform the world. I think this is true for how you feel about other people.

I used to comment internally on people’s bodies. I grew up wildly focused on my own body. Now I work hard to be really neutral with myself about my own body, but I had to stop my internal chatter about other people’s bodies before I could apply it to myself. When I found myself saying, “That person is thin, I wish I was more like that,” I would stop myself and remind myself of my core value: All bodies are good bodies.

We live in a society that teaches us that it is okay to pass judgment and value other bodies in hierarchical ways. The media is constantly critiquing people’s bodies and appearance–it’s so difficult to step away from that programming!

If you can replace criticism with compassion for other people it will transform the way you feel about yourself. Once I started learning more about how to apply compassion in my own life (I talk about this in the April write-up with Empowering Astrology) I mellowed out a lot and cared much less about what other people were thinking about me.

13416539085_5c6b735962_zDara’s alien as it started to fade.

4. Work on your own perception of yourself.

From about age 8-13 I was bullied relentlessly. I absorbed those terrible things kids and adults said about me and my body. I became the worst bully of myself and started a constant internal chatter of criticism. I believed those things. It took years and years of choosing to rearrange my thoughts to not berate myself.

Accepting and then eventually loving myself took a lot of time and intention on how to think about my body and then eventually my own self worth. There are a million strategies for this (I offer body liberation coaching to help folks work on loving their bodies), but one of my favorites is below.

Piggybacking on removing judgment about other people in number 3 above, is removing your own judgment. Often we look for things to reinforce the thoughts we already have. Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. When you walk around thinking about how awful your body is, that is what you reinforce with your thoughts about what other people are thinking about you–a toxic feedback loop!

Instead, try replacing your negative thoughts with positive affirmations. The deal with affirmations is that they are statements that may not be true in the present but that you will eventually begin to believe the truth of. (See Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life.)

Some good affirmations that you can splice into your thoughts when you get caught up berating your own body or worrying about what other people think of you are:

I approve of myself.
All bodies are good bodies.
I love myself.
My body is wonderful.
I am beautiful and smart and that is how everyone sees me.

5. Wear sunglasses.

As a nightlife performer in New York City–where venues with proper dressing rooms are a luxury–I have had to learn how to not worry about people openly staring at me because I’m wearing a weird costume and a lot of make-up. Once, on the way to the Dyke March wearing a Wonder Woman costume I put on a pair of sunglasses and I decided that if I couldn’t really see other people they couldn’t really see me. It worked, I stopped caring that much about whether people were looking at me.

6. Fake it till you make it.

This is also a great strategy for learning to love your body. It’s just acting like it doesn’t bother you when people look at you. Maybe it still does but if you pretend to yourself and maybe to other people that it doesn’t bother you, you’ll start to believe it.

13133225584_0696c9b086_zDoing Chemo karaoke.

It’s taken me many years to get over people’s perceptions of me. Ultimately, I know if what I am doing, wearing, writing about, living is in alignment with my core values, I know I approve of myself. And that’s the most important thing to me, being a person who knows who I am and lives that life authentically–no matter how people judge my body or my lifestyle.

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