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.

2017-05-17

The Life-Altering Power of Changing Your Mind

On Friday, Dara and I flew up to Seattle to visit my mom for Mother’s Day. The whole flight was a huge comedy of errors and a GREAT opportunity for both of us to practice the life-altering power of changing your mind.

This was a hard trip for me to plan, since it’s just three months after we lost Grandmother and the first time we were leaving Macy and Biscuit Reynolds after our last pet sitters left them alone after an emergency. Even the thought of booking our flights was hard for me, so Dara sweetly took over logistics. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get us seats together for our flight.

There was once a time I believed I did not look good in red so I never wore it. What a great thing I changed my mind about! Photo by Dara.

Since we each had a window and an aisle, Dara figured we would easily convince the person in the middle switching for Dara’s aisle seat. However, when we arrived at my row the woman declined as she was traveling with her son. Dara and I said our goodbyes and proceeded to have individual opportunities to adjust our thinking on our flight.

Flying while fat is rough and one of the best benefits of being in a mixed-size relationship is being able to sit next to each other with an arm rest up. The first thing that woman did was make sure her arm rest went down–I can always tell when someone is trying to mark their territory on a plane.

This was my first opportunity to change my mind. I didn’t dwell on it, I just let that armrest go down and moved on to my next thought. Earlier in my life, I would have spent the whole flight stressed about squishing as far away as I could from that woman and assuming I was constantly in her way. My ability to obsess about other people’s perceptions of myself and my size was unparalleled and it made me miserable. Now I shift my focus to my own life, my art, my work in the world and focusing on my own comfort during a flight.

Next up was the wailing baby. It was clearly several rows behind me but its discomfort was loud. I put in headphones and turned up 9 to 5 so I could continue conceiving of aerobics choreography. I almost always stop myself from feeling annoyed at kid noises to change my thought pattern to compassion. As uncomfortable as it is to be a passenger on a flight with a wailing baby, it’s way more uncomfortable to be a parent dealing with a wailing baby. I prayed for the baby that it would find comfort and moved my thoughts away from it.

Our flight was delayed by a half hour, which gave me a head start on free movie watching. I absolutely love when flights have on demand movies available, I consider it a $5.99 bonus. I started that Will Smith movie about grief, “Collateral Beauty,” from a totally analytical place. I’m cooking up a grief book idea to help me through my grief about Grandmother and I want to consume as much as I can about grief theories. I did not think about the trigger truck that I was inviting into Row 21 of this Delta flight. The beverage service didn’t happen until I was at the emotional climax of the movie.

Suddenly, the woman next to me knocked over her fresh hot cup of tea and it landed all down my thigh, my leg and in my boot. It scalded at first and I blurted, “Ow, ow, ow!” The woman was very sorry and apologized a bunch of times. I was gracious, telling her it was okay, but still needed to advocate for my needs with the flight attendant. It’s hard to ride that line of being generous in spirit but also making sure that your needs get met, I certainly wasn’t going to sit there with a sopping wet leg and no napkins to soak it up, but punnishing her in any way for something that was a mistake isn’t appropriate. Punnishing people for mistakes creates a psychologically unsafe environment and I believe really strongly in creating a life/workplace/home environment where mistakes and accidents are just part of getting to a good experience/output/joy. Dara’s consulting business focuses on this a lot.

I did what I could but that scalding hot water turned cold really quickly. I could have sat in misery but I just kept turning my attention back to the movie and trying so hard not to ugly cry. I didn’t want that woman to think her spill was making me cry but the jarring hot water when I was being really touched by grief was difficult. I was so thankful that the flight attendant checked on me again and I asked for a blanket–it really saved the rest of the flight for me.

I had to do a lot of changing my mind in order to be ready for this wonderful relationship with Dara. I had to humble myself that I didn’t know everything and learn how to do relationships, dating and communication differently. Totally worth it in every way. Photo by Rick Sorkin.

During all of this was epic turbulence. At least twice the plane dipped very quickly. Both times my first thought was, “Well, I guess this is it.” I don’t really have a fear of dying, I think when you’re destined to go that’s your moment. But I shifted my thoughts to visualizing our smooth landing in Seattle so that I wasn’t sitting there in fear of my impending death.

Dara’s experience of the flight was similarly bumpy. She was one row in front of the crying baby and even worse was the father, caring for the child alone, was *yelling* at it. She was having total empath feels for this poor baby who wasn’t even being soothed. The first sudden drop on the flight happened when she was in the bathroom alone! She thought the plane was going down, too, and considered running down the aisle to me so that we wouldn’t die separately.

The person across from the aisle from her started barfing, the sounds and smell were awful for her (chemo was really, really hard for Dara). When the second intense plane drop happened the woman next to Dara started crying and freaking out, which didn’t help Dara.

I asked Dara how she dealt with all of it and she said she would take a deep breath (nose closed during the barfing) and put her focus back on her work. Taking her focus away from the things disturbing her/grossing her out/freaking her out helped to take the power away from those external influences.

When we got off the flight we arrived at the shuttle bus terminal to go to the deep woods where my mom lives on the Olympic Peninsula only to find out that it was sold out. By then I was hangry and overwhelmed and had to carry all our luggage because Dara’s still in post hysterectomy no carrying more than 5 pounds mode.

My problem solving skills were weakening, but after fifteen minutes of trying I figured out how to take a Lyft not at surge pricing to the Seattle Ferry Terminal. They Lyft ride plus the ferry was a little bit cheaper than the shuttle for both of us and it was a negligible difference in how far mom had to drive to pick us up. However, we arrived at the Ferry ticket booth thirty seconds after they announced that they had final boarding on the ferry we were trying to make and had to wait another hour.

When I first heard about EVERYBODY, the body positive gender affirming gym opening in LA, I didn’t know how I was going to participate. By changing my mind about my capacities, I realized I could take all the work I had been doing as a body positive warrior for self love all these years and channel them into dance aerobics. If Richard Simmons could do it, I could to! I’m building up my following and would love to have you join me on Thursday nights!

As luck would have it, the waiting area has a gorgeous view of the Seattle waterfront, the Commuter Cafe at the Ferry terminal had these incredible salads that are hella cheap (take that, $15 tasteless LAX breakfast burrito!) and we were able to just sit and enjoy ourselves and finally debrief our wild flight.

One of the skills I’m most grateful for every day is the ability to interrupt my thought patterns. I can sit pretty steadily in a hell of my own creation if I don’t do this because once I go down that spiral it picks up steam.

I was really taken by how both Dara and I survived what could have been a completely miserable experience by choosing to change the directions of our thoughts and focus on something else. I find gratitude lists are a helpful way to change thought direction, I use the Serenity Prayer sometimes, I take a macro look at the situation from lens of an outside perspective. I use the six month rule–will this matter in six months?

Mom got stuck behind a draw bridge on the way to pick us up (things are slow out on the Olympic Penninsula) and she arrived five minutes before we did on Bainbridge Island to pick us up. The timing worked out perfectly, even if not as planned.

I was always a cat person and it took changing my mind about dogs in order to be open to Macy in my life!! She’s changed everything for the better!

2017-04-17

FAT SEX WEEK XXL: 6 Tips for Reclaiming FUPA, The Fat Upper Pubic Area

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

Two weeks ago I hit the moving jackpot. My partner wanted to send me away during the two day packing and moving process of our home and my friend Katy was in town for a work event (the Victoria Beckham for Target launch party). Katy invited me to come chill in her pet friendly hotel so Biscuit Reynolds, Macy and I joined her. I loved hanging with Katy, as always, and I learned two things of note: Harper Beckham is very cute and the term FUPA.

FUPA stands for Fat Upper Pubic Area. I never knew this was a thing anyone cared about. I had noticed that fat people often have fat pubic mons and I have always thought it was cute! When I was on April Flores’ radio show a couple of weeks ago we were talking about why Fat Sex is so awesome and I instantly thought about how fat pussies are so cute!

Katy, like many of us, had to work really hard to reclaim loving her body, a journey she’s still on. She had to specifically focus on her FUPA to make it a source of pride and not insecurity.

“I had all these milestones with my body. I went sleeveless for the first time, that was a big deal. I took photos of my back fat naked. I finally wore sandals for the first time because I was previously so insecure about my big feet, I didn’t want to expose them.

“My leggings got shorter, my dresses started to reveal skin more and more as I learned to accept and love my body.”

The FUPA was difficult. If you google the term, you’ll see it is usually used derogatorily. It’s not gender specific, all types of bodies can have a FUPA.

Self portrait of FUPA by Katy.

The internet likes to come for Chris Christie and Donald Drumpf about their FUPA. I would like to state for the record that body love is for every person. I think it’s body shaming and lazy activism to target Chris Christie for his weight or Donald Drumpf for his “tiny hands.” There are literally hundreds if not thousands of things to critique both of those people for and targeting the body parts of people you dislike is counter to what body liberation activism is about. It perpetuates body negativity and fat shaming.

People’s insecurity about their FUPA sometimes goes to a place of wanting to get surgery. “When your crotch isn’t how you think it should be it is a disabling amount of preoccupation. I have a D cup for a pubic mons,” Katy reveals.

People who have penises and a FUPA might lose up to an inch of usable length, which is another sort of genitalia difficulty. Just like all other benign human body diversity, genitals come in all shapes, sizes and mechanics.

Like me, Katy was a late bloomer, but she took loving her body and owning her sexuality into her own hands. Katy has a really great Tumblr that’s focused on reclaiming her body and celebrating her sexuality. Lots of nude photos and plenty of FUPA reclamation content!

Here are some ideas I brainstormed with Katy to reclaim your FUPA if you’re insecure about it, or just to celebrate it if you’re already down with your Fat Upper Pubic Area.

1. Photos!

You’ll notice throughout Katy’s body love journey on her blog that she uses naked photos as a means of reclaiming her body and normalizing it for her and her followers. I started learning how to look myself in the eye in a mirror and loved how I looked by surrounding myself with photos of me and my loved ones. Because I already loved those people, that feeling of love would amplify for my own image. This was before Tumblr, Instagram and blogging (actually even before camera phones and digital cameras) so I just used actual printed pictures and put them up around my law school dorm room.

Katy makes art to reclaim her FUPA.

2. Tattoos!

I started getting tattooed as a way to decorate my body how I wanted it. I always wanted to have them work as whole when I’m naked, so it wasn’t so much about my fat body as my fat decorated body. I’m not suggesting you tattoo your pubic mons unless you want to, more like decorating your body to look how you want to curate it.

Katy says, “I got more tattoos to celebrate the small victories of loving my skin. The cool thing about a tattoo is the process makes me love myself. It connects me to my body and can pull me out of depression and remind me I’m alive in my skin.”

3. Genitaljazzling!

What if you decorated your mons? I know sometimes that involves shaving which isn’t comfortable or the right choice for a lot of people, but it is really cute to put glitter, rhinestones, temporary tattoos, or just draw on your FUPA!

4. Extended Worship!

If you have a lover, sometimes extended foreplay where you incorporate yoni/genital area massage, or other forms of worship can help you feel like you are more comfortable in your skin. Says Katy, “Something happens in sex for me where my girlfriend focusing on my pussy as the thing to be worshipped and reminds me that the skin in and around my pussy, including my FUPA, is filled with nerves.”

5. Cannabis!

Katy highly endorses using edible cannabis to relax for sex. “As a sexual assault survivor it is very helpful for me to get out of my head and get more into my body.”

I can also vouch for certain kinds of edibles (I prefer a sativa edible that brings a joy vibration) helping me to drop into my body better. I don’t do it when I teach aerobics! But, sometimes when I am a student, I like to take a tiny bit of edible to get a body high while I’m doing dance aerobics because it helps me relax into my body and get out of my head more. I haven’t successfully done it for sex, I get too distracted, but I am looking forward to experimenting more and exploring what Ashley Manta the CannaSexual has to recommend.

6. Flagging FUPA Pride!

Katy makes these adorable bracelets that have words and acronyms on them. “It’s hard sometimes, especially as a Femme, to let everyone know what you’re down with. I love passive, decorative forms as a means of communicating something about your body that is uncomfortable for you. I made one that had PTSD on it so that i could talk to someone in a certain setting by communicating without having to use my words.”

I hope this post helps reclaim FUPA for anyone out there who is unfamiliar with the term or has insecurities about their Fat Upper Pubic Area. I want to leave on this great quote from Katy about her body love journey.

“Past Katy, present Katy and future Katy are making moves. Even if I can’t see them today as my own healing, every micro step I take is progress.”

2017-04-11

FAT SEX WEEK XXL: Curvy Rope Bottoming

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

I know so many people for whom kink and BDSM have been their gateways to body acceptance. I’ve been to lots of parties and seen rope suspension, whether for art or kink (or both!) and there is definitely an overwhelming amount of suspension that privileges young, thin, White bodies.

Evie Vane is an author whose forthcoming book, Better Bondage for Every Body, excerpted below, seeks to provide the support needed to diversify the rope bottoming scene.

For folks who don’t know, rope bottoming is the experience of being tied up. When you’re doing the tying, you’re the rope top! Not everyone who rope bottoms is a bottom all the time and likewise with topping.

Below are several excerpts from the chapter “For Curvy Rope Bottoms” in Better Bondage for Every Body (out in May).

The photos of fat rope bottoms in suspension in the book are really beautiful.

***

As deviant as the rope world is, its public face often seems to share mainstream views about body image. Just look at FetLife’s Kinky & Popular page, all the rope groups on Facebook, bondage photos published in magazines and books…more often than not, the rope bottoms are thin, young, very flexible women—in other words, not representative of the majority of rope bottoms, who have a wide range of body types, whose ages run the gamut, and who include men and transgender people.

This is not to judge thin, young, bendy women, by the way, who deserve to be who they are without being shamed or judged, just like everyone else… This book is one small effort that I hope will take root and grow until every rope bottom sees their beauty.

Model: Terri F.
Bondage by Zetsu Nawa and Demonsix
Photos by Retrotie
Hair and makeup by Anastasia Panagiotidis

***

Bri Burning offers this: “The biggest challenge I’ve faced being a rope bottom is the doubt of tops—whether that be doubt in my body and what it can do, or insecurities in their own skills.” That last part brings up another part of the challenge: incorrect assumptions about the limitations and capabilities of larger bodies. “I’m a very curvy woman who is extremely flexible,” Bri continues. “[But] most people assume that I can’t stay in stress positions for long or can’t bend a certain way.”

Let’s be clear: Flexibility is not related to size. Curvy bottoms run the gamut from having very limited flexibility to having very high flexibility, the same way noncurvy rope bottoms
do. (See Chapter 12 on ties for limited range of motion if you fall into the former category.) As Starberry says, “There may be some things I can’t do, but those are my limitations and not necessarily due to weight.”

***

“An educated top is your biggest ally,” Kurious says. “Ask the questions…‘Have you ever tied up a big [person]? What do you do differently with someone my size versus someone that is half my weight?…Will you be prepared to catch me if I am falling?’”

If you just can’t find an educated top, consider creating
one! Do your own research and educate your partner. Learn together. “There are always workarounds to an uncomfortable tie,” WyldOrchi_soumi says. “My top has added wraps or changed the point of the primary pull, and it has made all the difference. Also, a good wrap clearing or cleaning can make a huge difference when you have a lot of fleshiness under those wraps. Hurts like a bitch in the moment but is worth the extra minutes I can hold the tie.”

Model: Terri F.
Bondage by Zetsu Nawa and Demonsix
Photos by Retrotie
Hair and makeup by Anastasia Panagiotidis

***
Learning how to tie and even self-suspend can be helpful as well. “Self-tying has helped me the most physically and mentally to rope bottom,” thisgirl_m says. “I’ve gained knowledge about the technicalities of the ties that allows me to judge the safety of the ties I am in. I have learned my body’s ‘normal’ in rope so I able to tell if something is causing me harm.” Gnethys adds, “If someone tells you you’re too fat to fly, nothing will shut them up faster than self-suspending in front of them.”

***
If you are wildly intrigued by rope bottoming, here are some great resources:

If you’re interested in topping for the first time, start with the Topping Book. Likewise, if you’ve never bottomed, start with the Bottoming Book.

Evie Vane’s previous book, The Little Guide to Getting Tied Up, is available now.

Better Bondage for Every Body
is coming out in May. Sign up on Evie’s email list to find out when you can get it!

Here’s Evie’s YouTube channel with rope bottoming videos.

Remember, all bodies are worthy of love/sex/rope bondage exactly as they are!

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).

2015-07-13

An Open Letter to Oprah about Crop Tops and Body Positivity

This is a letter I wrote to Oprah Magazine in response to a call for reader input in the August 2015 issue. It is in response to the totally banal and fatphobic response to a reader question in O Magazine that folks should wear crop tops “If (and only if) they have flat stomachs.” I generally skim or skip the style and beauty content in O Magazine every month because it’s written towards folks who are seeking a more neutral style than I am looking for. But given the deep internet controversy I thought this was a great time to offer Oprah some unsolicited advice about how she could be doing better.

Since posts are better with photos of lots of folks with different bodies, I have asked my friends to be part of a crop top army, their photos and links are throughout this post.

IMAG0213If I had a Bevin Magazine and I did it like Oprah with my photo on every cover this is what my cover could look like one month.

Dear Oprah:

I am writing this from the place of being very steeped in Oprah culture. Like many folks, I am a longtime fan. Growing up watching your talk show at my babysitters and getting more interested in your message of self-improvement once I got to college in the late 90s. I remember saving up to buy an Iyanla Vanzant book I saw on your show. I’ve always identified strongly with you and your interview style, my friends even started calling me “The Queer Oprah” about a decade ago because of my way of asking the right follow-up questions and getting deep into someone’s story, similar to your skillset. I like to ask questions until I really understand something and walk through the world with curiosity, which I believe you do as well and what makes you so good at what you do. I buy all the book club books. I’ve had a subscription to O Magazine for several years, and maintain a hoard of back issues for reference.

11403440_843086015759871_5209027308039080049_n
Photo of Laura Luna, one of my favorite folks on social media. Her insights and vulnerabilities and fun are very inspirational. Here are her words as a caption to this photo. I highly recommend an instagram follow! “That time at #amc2015 when I got pulled up on stage by @leahrosegallegos from @lascafeteras to share a dance and everything around me felt magical cos femmes and a little of LA in Detroit and how because of seeing so many brilliant fats strutting their stuff at the conference I felt safe and even a little liberated to wear this outfit and dance dance dance in front of what seemed like a sea of people.#femme #queer #qpoc #qwoc #femmesofcolorvisibility #fat #xicana #latina #femmeofcolor #fatvanity #pocbodyposi #effyourbeautystandards #fatpoc.” Photo was taken at the Allied Media Conference by Ara Howrani.

Ever since you started OWN, I’ve been an even stronger fan, your spiritual programming really resonates with my eclectic mix of spirituality. I kept cable much longer than I could afford to because I wanted to continue to have access to OWN. (Because it streams online the parade of spiritual thought leaders on Super Soul Sunday is still part of my life, but if you made Next Chapter and Iyanla Fix My Life available for purchase like Bravo does with their shows I would be a very happy camper who doesn’t have cable.)

I say all of that to position what I’m about to say from a place of love and constructive feedback. I get what you do in the world, I get where you have been going recently, and I think you can do a whole lot better when it comes to talking about people’s bodies.

The original instagram post that started it all, according to news reports.

You were at the forefront of diet culture for decades, folks watched you openly struggle with controlling your body. Your value for your body echoed the dominant culture, that you should be thin. I think it’s important to recognize that the diet focus you had for many years influenced people, and caused harm by reiterating body shame and body hatred for all of the people watching who view you as a role model.

11693951_10153160790928439_2118689748260329656_n
Photo of Amanda Joy. Check out her art website and her instagram!

People change and people evolve, and I’ve noticed in the past few years much less emphasis on dieting in the Oprahverse–that has been a welcome shift.

I hated my body for so many years. So when I watched you dieting growing up, I identified with feelings of futility and wanting to try yet another thing to control my body. I hated myself so much that it consumed me. More often than not, my idle thoughts were spent berating myself, rather than focusing on bigger ideas or being open to seeing the world around me. I didn’t know how to be present. I was always focused on the future, the thin body I would one day have that would solve all of my problems. Or I was focused on the past, my failures, and deep depression.

Screenshot_2015-07-12-14-46-10-1
My friend Chavon modeling for Booty and the Geek. In Chavon’s spare time she makes geeky themed frames and journals, check them out on instagram.

Ironically, though the Oprah show reiterated my body hatred, it was an Oprah Book Club selection that helped me begin my journey to stop hating myself. Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone featured a fat main character who hated herself so completely I felt shame for identifying with her so strongly, and vowed to work to stop hating myself.

11248873_10205634388792444_3572189551496738652_n
Photo of Pizzacupcake, one half of the duo GAYMOUS, showing the important relative to the crop top–the side belly cut out. You can buy the incredible GAYMOUS EP here. (Their Let’s Pretend We Don’t Have Feelings video is also worth watching!) Photo by Danielle Billingsley.

It would be years until I got to the stop hating my body part of that journey, but once I did I was free to open my mind up to the world and step into an activist role working to help all people realize that they are worthy of love no matter what their body looks like. I really believe that my purpose in life was blocked and my spirituality was not accessible to me when I let myself stay obsessed with hating my body and myself. A big part of my spiritual awakening happened because I was able to love and inhabit my body, realizing that I was here in the body I was given for a purpose. Part of that purpose is to help folks heal the shame of a society steeped in body currency. (Body currency is a term coined by Jes Baker that I explain in this post.)

11202448_914884111888521_3032253831620096736_nI just started wearing crop tops this year. I’ve been slow to start wearing crop tops, even though I’ve been rocking a fatkini for a couple of years. I am forever indebted to my queer fat femme style icons for doing it for so long and helping me learn that it’s okay to flaunt and love your belly at any size. Photo by my friend Anne at Rebel Cupcake in June, 2015.

Now I’m present. I love my body and it frees me up to really inhabit this life. To focus on my purpose. To enjoy the world this time around. To have so much fun that it makes up for the years of depression, self-loathing and misery.

Fringe shorts on the Fire Island Ferry! Heading to Cherry Grove! 🍒

A video posted by Bevin (@queerfatfemme) on

Speaking of fun, press play on this video and see how much fun I’m having in my Diet Industry Dropout crop top!

The body shaming response to a reader’s question about whether she could wear a crop top, “If (and only if)” she has a flat stomach is causing public outrage for good reason. This is a chance to get on the right side of history. More and more folks are deciding to love their bodies and wear whatever they want to display those bodies.

I was disappointed that the public response from O Magazine (as printed on People.com) was trite and shallow. “We support, encourage and empower all women to look great, feel confident and live their best lives – in this case, we could have expressed it better. We appreciate the feedback and will be more mindful going forward.” Actually, doing what you did caused harm to folks, much like the constant diet chatter caused harm on the Oprah show. Not just “could have done better” but how about instead of being just mindful you really do something different?

20150712_132411_picmonkeyed
This is Al Benkin. “I’m a otherly abled gender non conforming queer working artist. I am a proud She. My bramd is Beautiful Mutant Art aka Mutantland.” You can follow Al on instagram!

This is an opportunity to move forward with utilizing your platform to include body positivity. I think you can acknowledge that every person has humanity–do all humans deserve dignity regardless of their body’s appearance? Can you be open to the fact that our culture creates a hierarchy of bodies and that race, class, gender, gender presentation, sexuality, culturally approved beauty, amount of cellulite, body hair, age, ability and a ton of other factors ranks us and pits us against each other?

That keeping us hating our bodies and focused on dieting is a way to hypnotize us while folks who have their body currency on lock (white, thin, straight, wealthy men) use it to profit off of us?

This is a chance for you to use your clout to actually change our culture. You are a thought leader. What you amplify in your media makes a difference in people’s lives. You know from your experience on the diet roller coaster that body shame does not help people lose weight. It simply helps people hate themselves.

IMG_4486Photo of Jenna Riot, amazing femme DJ and style icon! Jenna’s instagram is here. More fun than the Kardashians.

Here are some ideas I suggest to adopt throughout the Oprah media platforms, including O Magazine, Oprah.com, and the Oprah Winfrey Network programming.

1. You can talk about nutrition and body love from the perspective of “all bodies are good bodies.” You can do this from a place of knowing that working to eat in alignment with the comfortable functioning of our body and movement for so many great, body loving reasons don’t necessarily have to be focused on an outcome of weight loss. That weight has nothing to do with people’s value. You can do a whole show about Health at Every Size!

10393159_10204690599326387_5808253992774790506_n
Photo of very talented performance artist Shane Shane by Odalys Diaz. I love Shane Shane’s FANCY belly tattoo.

2. Continue to suggest foods, eating patterns and physical movement that is focused on nourishing the body. You totally do this about half the time. (The other half of the time is printing a bunch of intense dessert and indulgent food recipes. Both are great! Both can be about celebrating food and bodies.) When you do this, try to not assign value to the food and movement you talk about.

image13
Photo of Kelly Higgins, self identified body positive straight girl. (I definitely think fatkinis are cousins of the crop top.)

3. How about a lifestyle show about people loving their bodies? Doing loving movement at every size. Getting various body positive activists to work with folks one on one on the show to help them work through their body shame. I have a lot of ideas for shows celebrating body love. There is so much fun to be had celebrating body love!

11749641_10153568080490984_2073689423_n
Marina wore her first crop top last week! Here’s her tumblr.

4. Place a thematic emphasis throughout the Oprahverse on body love and healing aimed at young people. I imagine how different my life would have been if the Oprah Show had talked about body positivity and loving your body where it is at when I was an adolescent instead of making me want to go on a liquid diet. It would have been so freeing. It can still be so freeing to so many teens if you make this turn now.

You know who should be wearing crop tops? Everyone who wants to be wearing crop tops. Non-normative bodies wearing crop tops are important because they help make the world safer and easier for other folks to feel comfortable in their bodies. I’d love to see you in a crop top, Oprah. I don’t care what condition your belly is in, I know it is beautiful.

xoxo,

Bevin

P.S. I want to mention in this letter, because it’s an open letter, that it’s important to talk about the fact that just because people with all bodies CAN wear crop tops they don’t have to. It’s okay to be somewhere on the body love journey (or fashion preference journey) to not wear crop tops. No one should feel shame about their body love journey because they’re not ready to Rock the Crop.

Side note: How amazing would it be that, instead of the shallow “We’ll try to do better!” statement they actually issued, Oprah instead issued an apology with a promise that she’ll be on a future cover of Oprah Magazine wearing a “Diet Industry Drop Out” crop top?

Just saying.

11747402_10155735014085702_614776046_oPhoto of Jacqueline Mary by Courtney Trouble. Jacqueline wrote a great guest post about how to be a good ally to her crippled arm. She also is a DIY smut artist inclusive of all bodies, the link here is totally not safe for work: Heartless Productions.

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.

2014-07-10

Bevin Branlandingham Included in Go Magazine’s 100 Women We Love

Every Gay Stamina Month, or “Pride Month” as most people call it, Go Magazine, the big lesbian party and lifestyle magazine, produces a list of 100 Women We Love. This year I’m included!

I’m super honored to be on the list talking about my mission to make the world safe for people to love themselves, and especially their bodies!

″Too many folks spend so much of their lives putting off really living and enjoying themselves until they lose weight or modify themselves in some way. Truly feeling worthy is an inside job, not something that is conditional on outside acceptance or conforming your body to a cultural norm.″

Unlike lots of lists out there, Go Magazine asks for an interview and consent from the participants and I was really grateful to get to talk about what is important to me about the work that I do. Consent is sexy!

Check out the whole article here! 100 Women We Love–Bevin Branlandingham.

20140702_173956My mom is going to be stoked that I’m right next to K.D. Lang.

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.

2014-01-24

Five Ways to Begin to Love Your Body Right Now

In my interview with Amy McDonald at the Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit, she asked me for five tips people can employ to love their body more right now. I wanted to write these up and share them with readers who didn’t get a chance to hear the interview and for new readers who want to remember them from the interview. (If you missed the interview and want to listen to it–along with several other incredible talks with lesbian and queer folks talking about money, love, bodies, nutrition, travel, it’s available as a download. Click here to view more details.)

You don’t have to wait to have a good relationship with your body. Not after you lose weight or start going back to the gym or get a lover. Whatever space you’re in with it, you can start making peace right now.

1. Remember that you are not alone.

Everyone has a hard time with their body at some point or another. My friend Glenn Marla says, “There’s no wrong way to have a body.” And everyone can do better at loving their bodies right where they are at.

We’re in a society that commodifies insecurity–it serves the billion dollar beauty and diet industries if we hate ourselves so we buy all of their stuff. If you could really solve your own body hatred by buying something it would totally work but it doesn’t.

Even the most ardent body positive activist has “bad fat days,” and the struggle with our very human bodies is part of being human.

2. Be honest about your yucky feelings.

I am a big believer in naming our hard feelings and getting them out of ourselves. It helps expell shame. So if you feel complicated about a body part, be honest about it.

An exercise I’m a big fan of for a body part you feel complicated about is to talk to it. First, touch it, softly. If this were my stomach I’d rest my hands on it. Then I would talk to it. “Hey stomach, I’m feeling really complicated about you. X, Y and Z are making me feel really hard today.” Then, after you name the hard feelings, start thanking it for what it does do for you. “I know I feel complicated about you today, but I want to tell you thank you for being a soft place for my dog to rest, filling out my dresses, being a great canvass for a tattoo, etc…”

rp_7611841844_73be89d6d6.jpgFrom a Rebel Cupcake a couple of years ago. I felt sooooo complicated about that outfit.

3. Take excellent care of yourself.

When you don’t feel good about your body it is really hard to have the motivation to take care of it. Self care is really important for mental, physical, emotional and spiritual help, though, and it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle, negatively and positively. The more you don’t take care of your body the more you start hating it and the reverse is true, too.

Once you start taking care of your body by doing things like getting enough sleep or learning intuitive eating, it starts helping you feel more comfortable in your body.

It’s taken me years to learn how to take care of myself and I’m still learning. I just said to Jacqueline the other day, “I’m 35 years old and I just realized that I absolutely need to eat lunch within a couple hours of breakfast. As soon as I leave the house I end up in this spiraling vortex of not being able to get the food I need and I get hangry and want to kill someone.” It is so weird because my logic brain is just like, “I shouldn’t be hungry yet,” except that I actually usually get hungry and should just pay attention to my body.

Is there something for your body you could do to take good care of it today? Like an extra hour of sleep? A long bath or shower? Self care stretches time, according to Kelli Jean Drinkwater, and it really goes a long way.

rp_6051297793_7ca8fb97d1.jpgEveryone has a body! With the Miracle Whips.

4. Get value-neutral about your body.

I heard a spiritual thought leader say that the body was just a vessel for the soul. I have found that idea very helpful in coming to terms with my body changing when I don’t ask it to. It’s similar to the sentiment I expressed about How to be a Good Ally to Fat People Who Appear to Have Lost Weight. It’s just a body, in a different form.

Sometimes our bodies are doing things that frustrate us, as in a period of lessened mobility, or sometimes our bodies may feel absolutely great. Being really attached to one kind of outcome or another is a vicious cycle of not enough or worry about things changing. Weight naturally fluctuates a little bit, skin gets saggy when it gets older. It just changes, but it doesn’t have to change how much unconditional love you have for your body.

Part of learning to be body positive for me was learning my body was not my worth. The acceptance of your body without judgment is really powerful. It takes baby steps but repeating mantras of, “It’s just my body.”

5. Stop negative talk about other people’s bodies.

I absolutely love the expression, “When you point your finger you have three pointing back at yourself.” I have had to do a lot of work to stop judging other people’s bodies. When I hear myself begin to judge I stop and I change it to noticing. It’s a subtle difference but it does actually work. “I’m noticing that that person has amazing boobs. I’m noticing that that other person is very thin.”

We are conditioned in our diet/scarcity/commodified insecurity culture to judge other people’s bodies but that is actually not our job. So if I work to stop buying into that in my own head, and externally with my friends and family, I’m doing the work to change the culture I see as so damaging. I believe that change begins with me and I want to do my work to make the world more loving of all bodies.

I also think that we are our own worst critics. Whenever someone spends the time to say something really hateful I wonder what they are saying to themselves, alone, when no one is around. People who are terrible critics of other bodies are saying nastier things to themselves.

And the good news is as you get more value-neutral, compassionate and understanding about other people’s bodies it really helps to become compassionate about yours.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress