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

2018-06-04

Bevin’s Rx to Increase Your Capacity this Summer—Number 1: Grab the text books

Counting the weeks until the launch of the Fat Kid Dance Party Aerobics video for the wider public, I wanted to talk through how we can increase our capacity. What I’ve learned is that it’s not how many hours we have in the day (they are finite) it is how we use them. And the best way I’ve found to use them well is to do the inner work that keeps me from achieving my dreams.

There is so much great healing available to you this summer just by curating your beach bag / pool bag / commute bag / waiting for your kid while they’re in a class bag. I’m excited to share with you my top picks to thrive and heal this summer!

[This post includes affiliate links to Amazon–if you buy literally anything from clicking on my links to enter Amazon I get a referral credit and I appreciate the support!]

With the Seattle class of Fat Kid Dance Party in May–taking a picture with Jes’ book to tell her that Seattle was ready for her tour stop!

First is Landwhale by Jes Baker.

Jes is the first person to tell you she doesn’t have it all figured out. But her second book is so raw and real it creates empathetic realizations. A memoir titled after a reclaimed name lobbed at her by trolls on the internet, we journey with Jes as an internationally known thought leader in body acceptance who charmingly screws things up and makes peace with her mind and body. Her chapter about how she realized her father was the root of her body dysmorphia, digging into how his cycle of dieting and gaining weight and his judgment of her body created work she must do to make peace with her body. She reflects on how many different kinds of movement she tried to lose weight and how choosing no movement at all was an important pause for her to heal her relationship with exercise.

You’ll find yourself in her stories. Jes looks deep inside the history of her fat body and explores where many of her painful moments can connect her closer to liberation. Bonus for people who like to know other characters of the book, I show up about 2/3 of the way through the book during a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood.

Photo by Kristen Frantz

Second is The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor.

This is the book I will use as a textbook for anything I teach in the future and have already assigned to my intern Asher to read.

It is an incredible reflection about how oppression of all kinds, including body oppression, intersects on our body and interrupts our peace. Sonya is a well-known expert in finding body peace for a reason. She gets it. Her premise about Radical Self Acceptance is that we are all born self loving and that we are taught what keeps us separate from that. How our media perpetuates body terrorism. How we can develop resilience to body terrorism and heal our relationships with our bodies.

This book is so valuable! Definitely throw your journal and a pen in the beach bag along with this book because you will want to do her journal prompts. Do the work and achieve a more peaceful relationship with your body. Increase your capacity by unlearning what limits you!

Me and Amber Rae at one of her book launch events!

Third is Choose Wonder over Worry by Amber Rae.

Amber was called to write this book (she returns to the topic of needing to write this book and what blocked her from doing it many times as a teaching tool). It is so accessible and fast absorbing. I finished her 4 hour and ten minute audio book in one day.

It was an immersive seminar about how to create that pivotal pause between our thoughts and our action. The thing we’ve learned from thought leaders like Mike Dooley, Shaman Durek, Louise Hay, Iyanla Vanzant, and Wayne Dyer is that our thoughts create our reality. Amber gives dozens of pieces of practical application shifting yourself back into a positive mindset.

Without spiritually bypassing, she knows how to create a new and easier reality by embracing what each emotion we don’t like can teach us. Feeling jealousy, imposter syndrome, or shame is yucky but Amber tells us how to become BFF with our shame in order to let it disappear. At a $25 cover price the peace of mind afforded by this book is worth 100 times that value. You deserve to feel good.

I am excited to dive back into the work of Amber’s book and do the journal prompts.

Since I find learning and healing happens more for me in a group, I’m offering a special Beta Group Coaching Process for four weeks using Amber’s book as our text. We’ll do the work of meeting ourselves in our journals and convene to talk about our revelations, our resistance, and I’ll work with all of you to open up what’s blocked.

I’m releasing the tickets for the 8 person coaching group to my email list first. I’ll post the link to sign up here on Wednesday. Here it is!

2015-04-24

You Should Read Michelle Tea’s Book How To Grow Up

I love Michelle Tea. I can’t say much more than at 22 years old I read Valencia and finally found a literary voice that sounded like my own. Kind of breathless excitement about life, stories and a fascination with other people and my feelings and how they affected one another. Reading Michelle Tea told me I could be a published writer, too. It also told me I could maybe one day be an artist and have an amazing group of inspirational kind of reckless friends and all of those things came to pass.

How to Grow Up is her latest memoir. I have read much of her work over the years and I think it is my favorite. Her writing has evolved a bit, it’s still chatty like a friend telling you a story over coffee rather than writing a story and letting you read it. But the sentences are tighter, shorter and the sentiments are clearer. Also, she has a lot of really deep self-reflection and self-compassion that sharpens what she says through lessons learned. It is familiar to her early work but it is a different and more developed literary voice.

It’s written in essays, which makes it easy to read in chunks, but it is also very difficult to put down!

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I thought at first that the book was basically going to be an almagamation of her great column in xoJane Getting Pregnant with Michelle Tea. (I remember a road trip a couple of years ago where I would take breaks from driving at gas stations and read a couple of articles on my phone.) I was totally wrong about that, the pregnant stuff is only a couple of chapters and it is in a more nuanced, self-reflective tone than the columns.

Her book covers so many topics like doing the work on yourself so you stop dating people who stomp all over your heart, going to Paris fashion week, deciding whether or not to drop being a full-time artist in exchange for steady employment, getting over a huge break-up, having a wedding without spending a fortune, and so much more. I related to so much of it on such a deep level.

1937764487_495d6304f0_zIn November 2007, I had just been dumped by my fiance. I was devastated. My friend Mamone was in DC (I was in NYC) at the Sister Spit show and, knowing what a huge Michelle Tea fan I was, asked the group to pose with this sign to make me feel better! It was such a wonderful gift to receive this photo!

If you out there are reading this blog post, I think you should buy Michelle’s book How to Grow Up. However, these people in particular are going to love it:

Working class folks.

I love how much Michelle Tea talks about money, her feelings about it, growing up working class and oh my goddess how being an artist with an uncertain income is affected by that working class upbringing. I have never read anyone talk about the intersections of those two realities about money–working class/poor childhood and taking the leap to freelancing. It is scary as shit and I need a lot of tools in order to navigate this. I’ve already begun using one of her tools, which is to invite her higher power into

Spiritually curious people.

Michelle opens up about her spirituality, including a Stevie Nicks higher power that helps her through things. Tarot readings, how she meditates, explores Buddhism and explains some Buddhist principles in terms of hilarious real life examples of her love life. She also talks about how meditation has really helped her navigate life with more stillness. And the weird fears we get when we venture into a new kind of deeply religious or woo place with ritual and worrying about getting it “right.” I related so intensely to that I put that sentence in “we” and I’m not going to edit it.

I’m a super spiritually curious person, I’m always interested in hearing folks spiritual practice and woo modalities, so I loved that thread throughout the book.

XO-lv4KJThis amazing photo was taken by my friend Sophie Spinelle of Shameless Photography fame.

12 Step People.

I’m paraphrasing Michelle in a blog post I can’t find that I read a few years ago that she breaks the 11th tradition of AA about being anonymous at the level of press, radio, TV and films–being transparent about where her tools for sobriety came from–because she couldn’t have gotten sober without it. Not telling people about her work in AA would be like lying and acting like she could have done it all on her own.

Anyway, she has so many great recovery gems going on in the book in some ways I felt like I was reading really engaging sobriety stories. I found a lot of good tools for my work in my own 12 step program (for family and friends of alcoholics) and I will recommend this book to my pals in recovery.

I have been thinking a lot about whether or not people who don’t like 12 step language or tools would be put off by the book and I don’t really think so. (I know a lot of folks who had parents or former partners in recovery who have been really damaged by recovery language and don’t like it.) It doesn’t overwhelm the content, and if you take what you like and leave the rest you’ll still enjoy it.

Political people like queers or femmes who critique the fashion industrial complex but also love it.

There’s a whole chapter about Michelle buying her first designer piece, a leather hoodie, and all of the feelings that come up about it from her working class background and history being a vegan punk. How her deeply committed political beliefs are complex and how she had to learn to lighten up a little in order to actually enjoy life and eat enough food to live off of. Um, also there’s a whole chapter about Michelle deciding whether or not to get BOTOX.

20150212_015937Macy’s ankle broke while I was reading the book.

On a personal note, this was the first time I read a Michelle Tea book and actually knew some of the people she talked about because our queer worlds are very small. I had always wondered if I would read a Michelle Tea book one day and know people in real life, and then it happened. Knowing who they were did not change how I perceived them independently of the book and also it did nothing for deepening the story since Michelle writes very well from her own perspective and experience. I kind of thought if I knew someone and read about them it would be a thing but it wasn’t.

(I am always curious about how people talk about people they know and use pseudonyms and all of that because of my blog and the memoir I’m working on. My privacy ethics are very nuanced after years of blogging, but I still sometimes feel nervous about people’s reactions to being in print.)

I highly encourage everyone to buy Michelle Tea’s How to Grow Up and savor it. You will love it.

And then consider picking up Valencia because it rules.

2013-07-02

Book Review: Freak of Nurture by Kelli Dunham

“Have you read my dead girlfriend’s book?” I heard near the end of the NYC Dyke March while a flyer for a book I’ve read (and reviewed on my blog) was thrust at me from behind, followed by the familiar meaty arm and dolphin tattoo of my friend Kelli Dunham. She had made fliers for her deceased girlfriend’s book as well as her own book on a reversible cardstock. It was really good looking and didn’t seem at all like it used any graphics software from Vista Print, one of Kelli’s favorite design aesthetics.

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An example of this design aesthetic from my archives.

Kelli continued her pitch, “Cheryl was my second girlfriend who died in five years. They both died of cancer.” At this point I was laughing hysterically, which is something Kelli has always been able to do to me, make me laugh uncontrollably. Once I threw her a birthday party potluck and I encouraged everyone to bring dishes named for her comedy. Mine was Spotted Owl Casserole, from her joke about not being invited to any more lesbian potlucks.

Probably most people wouldn’t be able to make seamless jokes about something so awful–the opposite of a miracle, she says, in her book Freak of Nurture. But that’s Kelli, she’s somehow got an incredible sense of humor and an incredible sense of humility, both are huge themes in the book.

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Kelli is very good at being from the Midwest and makes great casseroles.

Kelli’s book is a collection of essays from the life of an ex-Catholic nun, butch lesbian who is often mistaken for a boy of varying ages, a working stand-up comic with a penchant for misadventure, someone who readily and often talks to strangers, who had a really tender D/s partnership with a burlesque queen and legend of her time who passed in 2007 using Oregon’s right to die laws, who, against all odds, found love again and her girlfriend died of an incredibly curable form of cancer, who speaks Haitian Creyol and used those skills to go to Haiti to help after the earthquake and is left with little patience for hipster problems in New York City. And who once peed on the B train and makes comedy about it.

Kelli told a friend at the Dyke March, “Bevin and I have known each other for about a million years.” Which is almost true, where a million years is 12. I’ve found it really hard to “review” Kelli’s book. It’s amazing. It’s my friend who is hysterical and whose dysfunctional family stories alone are book-worthy. It’s a lot of stories I know because I was in Kelli’s life while they happened but still made me so wrapped up in them that I missed my subway stop two different times while reading it.

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Kelli and Cheryl at the Dyke March in 2009. Cheryl loved the Dyke March. You should totally read Cheryl’s book, too, if you haven’t.

I cried a lot, multiple times, especially at the chapter about her Queen, Heather MacAllister. It’s so clear how much they loved each other and what a beautiful and rich relationship they had until Heather passed.

Kelli is sarcastic and has great timing. There’s a chapter where she teaches a nun how to masturbate and a really endearing story about how she was working at a school for kids with disabilities in Haiti and they kept teaching her really lewd terms in Kreyol and she, to this day, has to tell people “I’m sorry, I learned Kreyol from children, is there a more polite way to say that?”

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Little known fact about Kelli: She will almost always say yes to a dare, especially when on stage. This is from the NO PANTS NO PROBLEM Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

I guess I keep waiting to have the “perfect” thing to say about Kelli’s book but I can’t so I will just say she is incredible at making very difficult things to hear easy to absorb. She speaks from a place of compassion for anyone who has felt like a freak in mainstream society (i.e. just about anyone). You should totally get her book from Topside Press! It makes a great gift for the lesbians, ex-nuns and intense nerds in your life or people who just like to laugh.

2013-05-01

Book Review: Reveal: A Sacred Manual for Getting Spiritually Naked by Meggan Watterson

Cruising Twitter one day in early April hero and mentor Barbara Carrellas tweeted that we should check out the new book from her friend Meggan Watterson. I plunged into the internet rabbit hole, learning that this book was about delving inward for spiritual fulfillment, something I have been yearning to develop. With Barbara’s recommendation and my curiosity piqued, I was ready for it. Hay House Books sent me a review copy of Reveal: A Sacred Manual for Getting Spiritually Naked.

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The book is part memoir, part self-help manual, part spiritual overview, with a distinct focus on the Divine Feminine. I learned so much about world religions and spiritual practices I didn’t already know.

The author travels on two different pilgrimmages to Divine Feminine sacred sites in Europe and tales of those journeys are part of all of the awakenings in the book. She trumpets many times that she went all that way to find something that was inside herself the whole time.

That’s what was most captivating for me reading this book. I wanted to find a way to not get so rocked to my core every time something happened “to” me or someone in my life left. I’ve done a lot of this work, through building my self-esteem and self-worth, but I know there’s something in my spirituality leading me to that solid, unshakeable core as well. That is the ultimate destination in the relentless pursuit of my joy.

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From the book: “The fierceness of Kali’s iconography is a symbolic attempt to capture the intensity of her force. The complete transformation Kali’s unconditional love demands feels as terrifying as her appearance. It’s a love that is powerful and paradoxical, trasformational and frightening, because it asks for nothing less than complete surrender.” Kali is a goddess for those of us who have been called “too much.”

Meggan talks about her intense fear of flying that she was able to overcome with an integrated spiritual practice, ultimately learning how to replace her fear with faith. By the end of the book she mentions dancing down the aisle of the last commercial flight she was on. A stark difference from the white knuckled grip of fear she used to experience. I think a lot of folks can relate to wanting to unlearn fear that holds us back from our destiny.

The book is organized in seven main steps to “Reveal” the sacred truth within. For those out there interested in body liberation activism, her chapter on REVEAL: Your Sacred Body will especially resonate. Getting into your body and seeing it as sacred is essential work to living wholly integrated. She also talks about returning to the body after a childhood sexual assault and I thought it was a great chapter about embodiment.

I’m also particularly curious about how one listens to their soul-voice–that still, small voice that creates impressions or straight-up talks to you from the inside, telling you where next to go. There’s a whole REVEAL: Your Soul-Voice chapter.

I really enjoyed Meggan’s tale of meeting “the hugging saint” Amma, who literally hugs every single person she meets. I was so impressed–what a heart-open way of connecting with people. Amma’s website claims she has embraced 32 million people. That’s like more hugs than anyone gets in a lifetime. Looking at Amma’s photos I see so much of my step-mom in her it’s actually really mystical.

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I’m also always ready to find cissentric language in things that talk about “women’s” whatever, but this book wasn’t gender essentialist. It talked extensively of the bond women share, the sacred feminine, but made very little reference to how womanhood is embodied or created.

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From the book, discussing her first visit to the Black Madonna of Notre Dame de Vassiviere, pictured above. “The Black Madonna is black not just because of her relation to the Egyptian goddess Isis but also because ‘she has literally or figuratively been through the fire and has emerged with an immense capacity for love and understanding.'” That is how I always want to emerge from pain.

Bonus for all of you R. Kelly fans out there–she met him on a ship once.

Books like Reveal are necessary because so much of feminine energy and women’s bodies are erased, ignored or subjugated from modern-day spirituality. I learned so much that piqued my spiritual interest. One of the signs of a good book is that it keeps sliding into my everyday conversations. Like talking to my roommate about my interest in the Gnostic Gospels, turns out she has a copy and it’s in my living room waiting for me.

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When people talk about what was edited out of the Bible it makes me so annoyed! My mom, who declined to raise me Catholic though she was raised Catholic and now attends mass every Sunday as an out Lesbian in a gay-accepting church, always said she was suspicious of any book that deleted the voices of women. I wish I had spiritual teachings like Reveal growing up!

Buy Reveal on Amazon for $13.29, Kindle for $10. Buy it from Hay House directly for $15.

2013-03-14

Book Review: Nevada by Imogen Binnie

I was given a copy of the e-book of Nevada by Imogen Binnie to review by my friends at Topside Press. Imogen is one of those friends-in-law people I know to be awesome but don’t know personally, and I was excited to read her first novel.

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I seriously couldn’t put it down! Nevada was the first work of fiction I’ve read in a long time that made me want to keep reading more than go out, which is saying a lot for an extrovert party girl like me. Conversely, once I got toward the end of the book I couldn’t bear the thought of finishing it because I didn’t want it to end, I just wanted to keep hanging out with weirdo, angsty, heart-wrenching main character Maria.

Nevada begins with a sex scene that should be kinky and exciting but you can tell the main character, Maria, is bored out of her skull and can’t seem to find a way to tell her girlfriend. So she just fakes it. And so is most of Maria’s life, a series of her doing the same thing she’s done for five years, same bookstore job, same girlfriend, same apartment, and she’s faking it because she can’t stop the momentum and hasn’t stopped to figure out what she wants out of life.

We follow Maria, breathless as she bikes across the Williamsburg bridge, enduring some old-fashioned dyke drama, escaping her life through whiskey and monster movies. We participate as Maria makes some bad decisions, thinking it’s really going to change her life.

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Imogen Binnie

I thought Maria was entirely relatable, especially through her easy, colloquial language. “This rules” and strong opinions. Also, through her being stuck in a life she created but doesn’t really like anymore. I think no matter how amazing your life looks on the outside, folks can relate to feeling like they aren’t getting traction or going anywhere.

Maria ends up with nothing to lose, on a road trip in a sorta borrowed sorta stolen car. I can also relate to going on a road trip because everything in your life felt like it was all ending all of a sudden. Her real shifting point comes in Nevada, where through country music and a sense of “knowing,” meets a closeted trans woman working at Wal Mart.

Nevada is a book that, though it is way beyond coming out, provides essential trans narrative beyond the traditional. Maria’s been an out trans woman for years and has a palatable ennui that is relatable like the best 90s Liz Phair songs. One thing Imogen did that I thought was to the book’s great credit was tell Maria’s coming out story slowly, in pieces, rather than all up front. She also drops a lot of trans and queer 101 information in a way that both flows well with the narrative but also answers a lot of questions that readers might have. I mean, I know a lot of beauty rituals that folks who weren’t born female use because I’m in Femme community with trans femmes but probably not a lot of folks know about the boiling water before you shave trick.

When you’re a trans woman, patriarchal mandates about presentation get extra twisted up with narratives of disclosure, validity as a human being, violence, the possibility of ever being found attractive, and probably a bunch of other stuff you haven’t even identified yet. It makes it actually pretty complicated to leave the bathroom once you’re in it.

Totally relatable.

And you know what? Everyone who is trans does trans differently. Mainstream society, when it acknowledges trans experience at all, does not show more to the MTF trajectory than a traditional narrative of having the means to have surgery. A lot of folks don’t and therefore need to find ways to exist and thrive in the world that doesn’t depend on having cost-prohibitive procedures before you get to living an authentic life.

The end of the book took me by surprise. So much so that I immediately texted my friend/the publisher to make sure that he didn’t send me a bum e-book and I didn’t get all of the ending. But my investment in the book, the characters and the story was a testament to how great an author Imogen Binnie is. She’s incredible and I can’t wait to read her next book!!

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This is one of those books that you should really support the amazing, queer/trans lead publisher when you purchase. Topside Press offers not just a hardcover, ebook and paperback editions of Nevada, there are also limited edition support-the-author’s-book-tour covers and posters of the artwork from the cover! Check it all out here.

Imogen is on tour right now on the West Coast supporting the book! The NYC release is on April 2 at the QEJ offices at 147 W 24th St, 4th Floor at 7pm. East Coast tour dates will be announced soon. But don’t wait for the event to order your book, get it now! $17.95 makes a huge difference to indie publisher authors!

Also, if you’re like me and need to talk about this book (you should really just host a book club), join this group on Facebook!

2013-02-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me and author Diana Cage.

Fucking Transwomen Zine by Miranda Bellwether

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

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

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

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

Ecstacy is Necessary by Barbara Carrellas

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

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

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

Buy the book!

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

Stay tuned! FAT SEX WEEK wraps up tomorrow!!

2013-01-07

Book Review and Excerpt: Cristy C. Road’s Spit and Passion

My pal Cristy C. Road just wrote a book and the folks at Feminist Press sent me a copy to review! I highly recommend this piece of genius.

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It’s obvious by her amazing art that Cristy is an incredible illustrator. She has such a distinct style that’s both real and wild. But I often forget what a profound writer she is. I never thought I’d be underlining passages in a graphic novel, but then there I was on the B65 bus clutching my purple pen marking this, “Casual homophobia. It’s the social acceptance of gay jokes, slurs, and homophobic remarks when in the presence of a feminine man or a masculine woman. I saw it as a side effect of money and power destroying spirituality.”

Spit and Passion is Cristy’s autobiographical story of coming out as queer in middle school as a Cuban American pre-teen obsessed with Green Day. Holed up in her bedroom in Miami wondering about the Bay Area punk scene. I was drawn to her cultural references, as I was totally obsessed with Nirvana and Pearl Jam when I was that age. It’s also so honest and insightful, while deeply intimate. This is not an easy balance to strike in a personal narrative.

The book is also at times painful in that way that only adolescent honesty can be. She talks about her unibrow, masturbation, awkward fashion choices and the difficult task of trying to relate to peers when there’s no one relatable.

There is a character in the book, “The bald girl,” that Cristy gets this huge crush on but never talks to. I feel like there’s a point in the coming out process where a lot of us are super attracted to people who have the outward appearance of gay/non-heteronormative because that’s what we long so much to be. Seriously, throw a set of pride rings on a short-haired girl in college and I was all swoon city, creating a whole relationship in my head between me and the latest object of my affection.

At the book launch Cristy confessed that the bald girl is actually an amalgamation of two girls, neither of which she ever spoke to in middle school. Then she said the most profound thing. “Now, we’re all the bald girl.”

Buy Spit and Passion, for yourself, for your teenage cousin who is coming out, for your best friend whose band obsessions defined her youth. You can get it for $9.57 at the Feminist Press website!

The Feminist Press gave me this excerpt from the book to whet my blog readers’ whistles! Read on! (P.S. Sometimes I totally felt/feel like that little gay alien in the Queen t-shirt.)

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2012-10-25

Book Review: Cheryl B.’s My Awesome Place

I am totally delinquent posting this book review since I read a preview copy from the publisher a couple of months ago during my Summer of Memoir. I’ll be honest, I’ve had a really hard time writing this review because Cheryl B., the author of My Awesome Place, was my friend and she is dead. This is not a spoiler alert, it’s in the first line of the foreward by Sarah Schulman. “Cheryl Burke died of medical malpractice in June 2011 at the age of 38.”

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Cheryl B., Diana Cage, Molly Equality Dykeman, Me and Kelli Dunham at Nerd Love in February 2011, Kelli and Cheryl’s Valentine’s Day show.

But the book is out and Cheryl’s friends and her literary executor put together her memoir work so that it could be published and we can know more about her life. Like what it was like to grow up in Staten Island and New Jersey in an alcoholic home with a controlling mom and a dad who broke a plate of spaghetti over her head when she told him she got into NYU. How she drowned her feelings in alcohol and drugs but also learned how to trust her creative spirit. How she became this amazing poet and performer and made a name for herself in the 90s on the slam poetry scene, touring the country and writing plays.

How she dealt with continuing a relationship with her family even though it wasn’t at all easy. Working through her father’s death. Watching her good friend go through cancer and acting as his caretaker. How she bounced back from a guidance counselor who told her to be a toll taker on the NJ Turnpike and clearly she is a genius artist (that part of the book actually made me angry).

It sounds like everything in the book is heavy stuff. And even though a lot of it is, Cheryl moves through the words with such energy it becomes easy to understand, move through it and laugh a lot. Cheryl’s really well known for her sarcasm and wit and that blankets the book.

I felt like it was such a gift, to get to know her better through this book. I had no idea what she lived through and how she managed to become the caring and wry person I knew. I knew she had been ten years sober but I didn’t know the extent of her survival.

I also enjoyed her journey to her sexuality. It’s trite to say it’s a coming out story, but it is a really compelling path to dating women and starting to have serious girlfriends and then having a boyfriend and navigating people’s reactions and judgments around queerness and bisexuality. I think folks who have experience dating across the gender spectrum will find this aspect very relatable.

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Similarly, she was fat as a teenager she talks about navigating in a world when she went to college and lost all of her weight and got skinny. I wish the book had gone into that more, but it is relevant to her story and dealt with sensitively and not like some kind of narrative where the main character gets skinny and suddenly everything is okay. Everything is certainly not okay with Cheryl when she loses weight.

Her cat is also a central character and I deeply appreciate that aspect. It seems sometimes that Sabrina the cat is the only thing keeping her alive.

Kelli Dunham, my friend and Cheryl’s widow, wrote the afterward about her cancer and finding the support network of her friends.

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Me and Cheryl at the Spelling Bee for Cheryl B. I organized with my fellow Re/Dress Shop Girls. She was heartily nerd identified and this was a great way for folks to show their support for Cheryl both monetarily and spiritually.

Writing this review I had a memory of Cheryl before the spelling bee coming to Re/Dress and changing behind the counter into these black patent leather stiletto boots and I remember thinking “Man, Cheryl is such a bad ass.” And there is a scene in the book where she walks up and down Manhattan in black stiletto boots looking for a job as a cocktail waitress and I thought “Man, Cheryl is such a bad ass.” And maybe that’s the message of this book. Cheryl was a bad ass and you can be, too.

It’s hard to promote a book when the author isn’t around to do a book tour or go on the Today Show or whatever. It’s also really awesome to support small publishers and Topside Press is really awesome and providing a venue for a bunch of queer and trans authors to get their voices heard. Buy Cheryl’s book! (If you order it before the end of Friday you can get a free ebook in addition to the paperback.)

2012-09-18

Q & A with Gaga Feminism Author J. Jack Halberstam and Book Giveaway

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When I was asked to be part of the Gaga Feminism blog tour, I engaged my collaborator and dear friend Taylor Black to help me write some questions for QueerFatFemme.com. We’ve had bourbon/coke zero/cherry juice discussions about Jack Halberstam’s work before. Gaga Feminism, out this week from Beacon Press, is the latest in the academic arsenal of the USC professor, blogger, and ubiquitous Queer Studies scholar.

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Me and Taylor performing Bob Dylan at Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Ms. Liederman.

Check out what Jack has to say about desire, feminism, Lady Gaga and failure below. Beacon Press is giving away a copy of the book at the bottom of this post!

QFF: In Gaga Feminism you acknowledge Lady Gaga as a post-Warholian pop hybrid. Today it seems it’s not enough for our pop singers to just be good showmen, like Prince or Dolly Parton, but they have to do it all: Catchy recycled pop tunes/performance art/pushing sexual boundaries/becoming a new feminist icon enough to have a branch of feminism named after them. Is there a place in mainstream culture for just a showman? Someone who gets famous just being talented and doing what they do instead of being a Gagaesque “Fame Monster?”

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Jack Halberstam, photo by Assaf Evron.

Jack: In truth, no one ever just gets famous for being talented – there are hundred, no thousands, no millions of talented and smart and original people in the world but only a few become famous and only a very few become mega global brand names like Lady Gaga. I happen to think Lady Gaga is extraordinarily talented and smart but not just because of what she says but on account of the way she markets her image, captures an ever expanding media market and makes body art out of her live and video performances. Lady Gaga calls herself a “student of fame” and like Andy Warhol she thought very carefully about how to make an impact, how to use the market and how to manipulate the technologies available to her. In my book, though, Gaga is not just Lady Gaga, it is a practice, a way of being and a style of revolt. Lady Gaga is only one incarnation of that.

QFF: In the introduction to your book The Queer Art of Failure, you cite one of Quentin Crisp’s most famous phrases: “If you try once and don’t succeed, failure may be your style.” In fact, Crisp’s aphorism about failure being a style for queers is given alongside Foucault’s idea that it can also be a way of life. What differences you see between these two statements—between a queer style and a queer way of life? Or is this coupling only to suggest that Crisp and Foucault were saying the same sort of thing in different ways and from different places?

Jack: Right! They were kind of saying the same thing about queer life – Quentin Crisp was articulating a new logic for failure – if at first you don’t succeed, he was basically saying, why on earth would you just keep trying. Maybe our notions of success are not engineered for everyone. For some of us, failure is literally something we aspire to. We strenuously object to the models of success that exist all around us – wealth, conquest, normativity—and we prefer failure as a mode of critique. Foucault’s point about a “queer way of life” is made in the middle of an interview about homophobia and he commented there that what fuels homophobia is rarely the idea of homo-sex simply. What fuels homophobia is a sense that gays and lesbians and trans people actually want to change the way we live; that their queerness stands as a rebuke to the forms of life that heterosexuals have fashioned, consolidated and defended.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

QFF: It’s pretty clear that Gaga’s “style” isn’t a personal sense of style, it’s more performative outrageousness–part of that “fame monster” situation. As Crisp says, “Style is being yourself on purpose.” How much do you think Gaga’s meteoric popularity has to do with folks believing her style is personal or do you think the “little monsters” know she’s a product of her industry and love her in spite of it?

Jack: Fans always know better than anyone what constitutes their idols’ appeal. Lady Gaga’s little monsters get that Lady Gaga is a performance, one that renounces the personal in favor of the public, one that sacrifices the private for the popular, and a performance that takes in the subcultural worlds that worship Gaga from afar and in turn are worshipped by her.

QFF: I’m wondering if you are familiar with (New York-based academic and PrettyQueer.com and Junebug vs. Hurricane writer) Taylor Black’s work on Quentin Crisp and style and if you could elaborate on your ideas of what style is and how it may be a significant term in contemporary queer studies? Also, while queer style seems to appear in your text as a counterintuitive effort against the logics of heterosexual success, my understanding of style in Taylor’s work is just the opposite: that it is an intuitive force and a form of becoming rather than simply a way of life or a manner of being.

Jack: No, I was not aware of this website or of Taylor Black’s work. It sounds amazing though and I will check it out. Based on your description, I don’t see the discrepancy between my definition of failure and Black’s – my account makes failure into a counter-intuitive site of self-invention. But what makes it counter-intutive is that it turns away from the common sensical embrace of the logics of success. You are saying that failure in Black’s work is also about committing to another way of being or becoming that has its own internal and intuitive logics. Well….exactly! I don’t necessarily make the distinctions between being and becoming, being and performing that you seem to here.

QFF: How has failure influenced your life path?

Jack: Failure has been my life path. I failed to be a girl, to be a woman, to be heterosexual, to be a good student, to pass exams. I fail well every day and I hope to continue to fail. That does not mean that I have not advanced in my career or grown as a person in all kinds of ways but its does mean that I have recrafted the values that are meaningful to me in my career and my personal life.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

QFF: A lot of my work right now explores desire in the queer community. Would you be more or less likely to ask Lady GaGa out on a date if she were not famous? Do you think outrageousness in attire in a queer feminine context makes one more or less desirable for dates in the queer community? Do you think it is anti-feminist to make a blanket statement about desire, for example “I don’t date Femmes/I don’t date Butches/I only date transmen not men?”

Jack: Wow, great questions. Hmm, would I ask Lady Gaga out if she were not famous. Tough question – that is like saying would you ask Lady Gaga out if she were not Lady Gaga? If she were not famous? Who exactly would she be then? As for outrageous attire – depends on the occasion. And as for anti-feminism coming in the form of blanket statements…I probably disagree with that. Feminism is as much about naming one’s desires with precision and care as it is about expressing desire in more amorphous ways. Everyone, even the most polymorphously perverse among us, has likes and dislikes in the realm of desire: I can say with complete confidence that “I don’t date butches or men” but that does not make me anti-feminist, just clear. All sexual orientation and all sexual identities are defined as much by what people will not do as what they desire to do and with whom. Precision is always helpful when it comes to connecting sexually with others…check out personal ads and online dating sites, people who are specific about their desires have a better chance of meeting someone. Now, what is anti-feminist is a kind of phobic rejection of people who fit a stereotype – like lesbians who may well date boyish and androgynous women but say in their personal ads “no butches.” Or gay men who may well like a range of male bodies but say “no fats, no femmes” in their personal ads. These are not boundaries on desires so much as prejudices.

Thanks for your questions!

To win a copy of Gaga Feminism, like the Queer Fat Femme Facebook Fan Page and leave a comment here (see form below) with your favorite Jack Halberstam article or Lady Gaga song. Winner will be selected at random on September 28, 2012.

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Other stops on the Gaga Feminism Blog Tour:

Monday, September 17
My Husband Betty

Tuesday, September 18
Queer Fat Femme (That’s Me!)

Wednesday, September 19
Sugarbutch Chronicles

Thursday, September 20
The Qu

2012-05-30

SUMMER BEACH READS: Kate Bornstein’s A Queer and Pleasant Danger

Hey friends! I’m starting a new blog series about Summer beach reads–I’ve got a nice stack of books to recommend for you.

To kick this Summer series off, I have the honor of hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Kate Bornstein’s new incredible memoir

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Kate Bornstein is probably one of the sweetest and kindest humans I have ever met. She is iconic, inspirational, and gorgeous. In her memoir she describes herself as a puppy dog and I think that is absolutely correct; she brings that level of joy and excitement to interpersonal interactions and onstage.

The book is what I would describe as a “Chatty Memoir,” the kind that is written as though she’s sitting across from you lounging in your living room telling you her life story. It’s so engaging. She often addresses the reader as a pal, telling us to go ahead and google things while she waits. I’ve read a lot of Kate’s theory and seen her perform and keynote events but never got the full scoop of what she’s gone through. I mean, the process of getting to be a charming babe like Kate Bornstein is no less than spectacular. She went to an all-boys prep school and is one of the only two women degree holders from Brown University prior to 1970. She totally could have been a Normal and she isn’t. She chose to follow her truth and live an extraordinary life, often with great opposition, but by following her heart she came out on top.

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And beyond just telling us the who, where, what and how of her life, she’s extremely revealing about her process. Not just some of the deepest parts of her personality (as Kate says in the book, “Life’s better without secrets,”), like her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, but also the internal process of what it was like to be here. She cracks open her heart and shows us the internal realities of growing-up and adulthood prior to transitioning, many ongoing touchstones of what it was like knowing she was “girl,” how she related to it and how she either leaned into it or away from it with facial hair, sex, weight and clothing. Her lifelong battle with anorexia, how she learned to starve herself and then how she learned to think she could be pretty while being voluptuous. What it is like as a cutter, the pain and relief and how she used it to get through. Vivid plans for suicide attempts.

I’ll be honest, parts of it were a little hard to read, but for me not the ones you might think. She describes the above processes in detail and I found those confessions comforting–we’re raised in this culture not to talk about that and not a lot of artists are brave enough to talk about all of this at once.

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Me, Kate and her girlfriend Barbara Carrellas at Rebel Cupcake.

What I found hard to read was the huge section on Scientology! You guys, don’t ever take that free personality test! Did you read that 26 page article in the New Yorker about Scientology? I did and it freaked me out. I learned even more about what goes on in Scientology from this book and I had a crazy nightmare a few nights ago while in this section that Tom Cruise was trying to kill me. Kate’s memoir will convince you to never take that personality test for real.

Another thing that stuns me about how awesome Kate is as a human and a writer–the perspective of compassion she writes the book from. Having compassion for ourselves and others is probably one of the best places to live a life of peace. (I learned that from my friend V’s last blog post and it has changed my life.) There is a sweetness to Kate’s memoir that is as kind and charming as Kate herself. No matter all of the awful things she’s gone through, she’s come out of it stronger and more interesting, and to maintain that perspective of compassion is truly inspirational.

I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Queer and Pleasant Danger ASAP and schlep it with you to the beach. It’s so worth the weight of a brand new release. (And it’s also available for Kindle or whatever other e-reader you use!)

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Kate reading the section from the memoir about being a 24/7 slave to a Butch/Femme couple in Seattle on an iPad. Maybe an iPad’s not great for the beach, but whatver, read it en route.

I leave you with this quote I found incredibly touching from Kate’s mom. “No matter how your world falls apart–and honey, that’s what happens: we all build ourselves a world and then it falls apart–but no matter how that happens you still have the kind heart you’ve had since you were a child, and that’s what really counts.”

SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE: Here I am introducing Kate and she reads a little piece from the memoir. This video shot by Rebel Cupcake videographer Laura Delarato!

But you don’t have to take my word for it! Here are the other stops on the blog tour:

Monday, May 28th: en│Gender

Tuesday, May 29th : io9

Wednesday, May 30th: Queer Fat Femme (That’s Me!)

Thursday, May 31st: Large Hearted Boy

Friday, June 1st: Random House Blog

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2012-03-06

Get Me Embodied: Ecstasy is Necessary Book Review and Interview With Author Barbara Carrellas

Barbara Carrellas radically changed how I saw my sexual identity without even knowing it. I went to a workshop she gave at the Lesbian Sex Mafia on fire play. Even though I had existed in community with tons of kinky folks, I never thought it was for me. And then I saw how empowering and beautiful it was to set someone on fire for pleasure and connection. All of my fire safety skills from Girl Scouts were so thrilled about the care and attention put into the act, and I was immediately drawn to the kind of connection and trust created through those acts.

Barbara is an author, sex/life coach and sex educator. Her new book, Ecstasy is Necessary: A Practical Guide, is on a blog tour and today is my day! Welcome to the blog, Ecstasy! Would you like a cup of tea?

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Me and the Miracle Whips, a feminist performance troupe from LA.

I said hell yes to the blog tour mostly because I think Barbara is awesome and also because I want to learn how to have better, more fulfilling sex, I identify as being in the relentless pursuit of my joy and getting a galley copy of her new book is a pretty rad perk of being a blogger. This book was beyond anything I imagined it was going to be.

This book is an empowerment manual for embodiment. It is a road map to learn how to go into your body and get to know yourself on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. I spend at least 6 hours a week diligently working on these connections for myself and there was a lot I learned about myself within the first seventy pages.

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Photo and body paint by Camrose Artes Infinitae.

You begin to examine your values, needs and desires are right away. I was really surprised when I was working through my values, since this timing coincides with my thinking and talking about how I find balance and settle on my priorities. Distilling your core values to six main tenets tells you what your priorities should be, gives you some guidance as to how to align your life.

Get a cute notebook when you’re getting the book. You’ll need it for your work going inside and becoming the expert about your own body.

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It can be frustrating as a single person without many regular sex partners to want to improve your sex life and not really know where to start. I am a big believer in the power of attraction–that you attract what you put out. This book is a great place to work from within to draw to you what it is you want from a partner. I felt not once alienated by my single status. Barbara also begins the book by giving a shout out to “they” as a gender neutral singular pronoun and the book is explicitly queer positive.

I was able to ask Barbara a few questions that I thought the readers of Queer Fat Femme would enjoy and also really just wanted to pick her brain for things that were going to help me on my ongoing journey for body self-love. It’s win-win, we’re all on the same team!

What is one great thing that folks who feel disembodied can do to open themselves up to ecstasy?

Breathe-often and deep and full. Send your breath down into your torso so deeply that you can tickle your genitals from the inside. Use your breath to experience your body from the inside out. When we feel disembodied we often feel like we can’t place our bodies comfortably in the world. Go within. Try and sense the universe inside your own body. When you orgasm, instead of trying to blast out of your body, dive deep within. Revel in the love and dark mystery of your inner-verse.

Do you have any advice on learning to feel comfortable with a new sex or play partner?

I like the Tantric approach. Accept what is the way it is. Don’t fight it, use it. Sit across from your partner, gaze into their eyes and breathe. This will no doubt be uncomfortable at first. Don’t fight it. Giggle and squirm if you need to but don’t speak. Just keep breathing and eye gazing. As you breathe, gently allow your feelings of nervousness or fear to begin to move toward excitement and anticipation. You will both soon feel an emotional space open up that is safe and comfortable to occupy together. You might want to follow that with some wordless, safe sensual touch. Then you can begin to speak. Whatever kind of speaking follows (negotiation, limits, safer sex, desires, etc.) will be much more easily spoken and received.

How can we help ourselves feel worthy of joy & ecstasy?

Ask yourself, “If I did feel worthy of joy and ecstasy what would that look like? What would that feel like? What would I do or do differently if this were true? If you can’t imagine this for yourself, imagine how someone you admire would feel or act. Then fake it till you feel it. I mean it! Act “as if.” Think of this practice as your emotional rehearsal space and show up for rehearsal daily. You will eventually-probably soon-feel some measure of joy and ecstasy. That will lead to more joy and ecstasy. The joy and the ecstasy will eliminate any feeling of unworthiness. One caveat: this is not a one time transformation. It’s a skill. Once you’ve learned the process you can use it whenever the not-good-enough feelings threaten your joy.

Isn’t Barbara so smart and grounding? I feel calmer just reading her responses. Imagine how great it would be to see her live! Check out her book tour schedule here.

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Me, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Kit Yan, Drae Campbell, and Miss Mary Wanna at Cupcake Cabaret, a show about the radical act of self-love and empowerment I produced last winter.

The book is out and you can buy it! I, of course, as always implore you to get it from your local feminist sex toy store or indie book store. But if you want to buy it online you can do it through this link. Ecstasy is Necessary: A Practical Guide

And there’s so much to read about Ecstasy is Necessary all along the blog tour! Here’s the schedule below:

1 March Kate Bornstein : Kate Bornstein’s Blog for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws.

2 March Viviane : Viviane’s Sex Carnival~A Blog about Sex and Sexuality.

5 March Betty Herbert : Love in the Long Run

6 March Bevin Branlandingham : The Queer, Fat, Femme Guide to Life (That’s me!!)

7 March Kendra Holliday : Striving to bring shy folks out of their shell, and offer a safe haven for those exploring their sexuality and creative side

8 March Sinclair Sexsmith : The sex, gender and relationship adventures of a kinky, queer, butch top

9 March Nancy L. Hill : Cultivating a Beautiful Life

12 March Andrea Zanin : Thought on Sex and Life

13 March Rubyyy Jones: Love Lust & Light

14 March Jill Boyd: Smart-ass Virgins Make Better Whoopie

15 March Heal Your Life: Live blogging with Barbara!

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