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

2017-03-24

Meet Iris and Virginia, the Cuties behind Cuties

Hey everybody! I am so thrilled to introduce you to my pals Iris and Virginia! I met them through their monthly pop-up gathering Queers, Coffee and Donuts and am so appreciative of all of the work they do to create fabulous parties.

Virginia (left) and Iris (right).

I love gender inclusive body positive community space. Being explicit about this gathering principle helps people feel at ease in new social circles. When I was planning my move to LA many people complained about a dearth of queer community events and spaces, but thanks to Iris and Virginia’s hard work, there’s a thriving new crowd about to inhabit a permanent brick and mortar space–Cuties coffee bar!

Not even a year ago we lost 49 gathered at a gay nightclub in the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Not long after that was the Ghostship fire in Oakland, where queers were gathered in an underground space and 36 lost their lives. I think now more than ever brick and mortar gathering spaces that are funded and able to have safety protocols are so important for marginalized communities. We need safe(r) spaces and refuges where we can be ourselves and we need to rise up let our tragedies fuel our commitment to making space and our resistance to oppressors.

As a Femme presenting person I really love being in a majority queer space and hope that folks assume I am queer until proven otherwise. I also hope that in a space that centers gender non conforming identities that folks don’t assume pronouns based on aesthetic assumptions. Iris once joked, “Every time someone asks a Femme presenting person their pronoun preference, an angel gets its wings.”

The fundraising video for Cuties is groundbreaking! An example of how all media can work to be in solidarity with gender non conforming and trans folks–put people’s names and preferred gender pronouns! (You have to watch it!)

The first Cuties event I went to was a pool party with donut floaties! Here I am with my friends Dari and T!

Read below the vision behind Cuties coffee bar. If you have a few bucks to help create this vital gathering space, please donate. Perks include pronoun pins! A great accessory and fabulous gift! And if you don’t, please share about this on social media. Folks all over should know that this is happening.

Here’s my interview with Iris and Virginia, my questions are in bold:

Tell us a little bit about yourselves and what background you bring to the Cuties coffee bar?

Iris is a genderfluid queer femme who has a background in costume design and the arts. Virginia is a transgender woman who started two online businesses. Her most recent business Tonx was an online subscription service for coffee which sold to Blue Bottle. We’re both from Virginia and we both love hosting. Creating a business around hosting and serving folks seemed very natural to us.

Cooper is their incredibly cute and sweet cat.

Did you start your events before or after you decided to open the coffee bar?

The coffee bar idea came first! We knew the process of finding a location and building out the coffee bar would take time. We also knew that we wanted to provide space and start building community right away so we came up with idea of “Queers, Coffee and Donuts.” It’s a monthly event where all folks on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and allies can congregate in a low-pressure social environment. There’s no agenda other than inclusion, good strong coffee and delicious homemade donuts.

What has been the part of Cuties that has made you the most proud?

Seeing how loving and supportive this community can truly be makes us incredibly proud. We love watching people connect at events we host. We’ve seen people find new partners, friends, roommates, collaborators… you name it. People are even finding jobs through one another! Our goal with Cuties from the start has been to connect the queer community in LA in a way that’s inclusive and supportive and it seems to be working! Seeing the results fills us up and keeps us moving forward.

What are the challenges you’ve been experiencing with the build out and starting a brick and mortar business?

Everything always takes a lot longer than you think! We had some delays in getting into our space which threw our timeline off but we just put our energy into fundraising and creating more events for the community. We also imagine that there will be some delays with the buildout but we’re trying to schedule padding into our timeline to accommodate for those. It’s a struggle to let go of challenges that come up that we can’t control but over the past year we’ve really seen the power of persistence and incremental work. Even when it doesn’t feel like you’re making progress even the smallest step makes a difference in the long run.

What’s your vision for a day in the life of the Cuties coffee bar?

It’s early. Still dark out. We lift up the security gate and get the shop ready for the morning rush. Sleepy LACC students wander in before their first classes as the sun comes up, folks stop by after morning meditation at Against the Stream, people from the neighborhood come in for their morning pick me up. Slowly as the morning rush dissolves folks start settling in a bit. We have a slow, steady stream of everyone on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum (including allies) coming in and getting served. The afternoon shifts into evening. Some folks are out front in the vestibules cozied up on a date, tables are moved aside and chairs are set up inside and a screening of short films by queer filmmakers or maybe it’s a continuing sex education class or perhaps a Queer Mermaid Meetup. We close up shop after a full day happy knowing that our community had a safer and welcoming space where they could be themselves.

What informed the decision to open in East Hollywood?

The process of finding a space took us almost a full year. We were looking all over the city and saw hundreds of spaces. It was a very Goldilocks experience: this space is too small, this space is too large, this space is too expensive, this space doesn’t have enough infrastructure. The space in East Hollywood seemed to have a lot that was just right. The building is older and has some nice vintage details including dusty rose bricks and white moulding. The space is around 1,200 square feet and fit our budget. It was previously a coffee shop so there’s adequate electricity as well as some good plumbing already in place. We also love the location because we’re right behind LACC, a block away from a Buddhist meditation center. The Braille Institute and the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical center are both close too. While our goal is to center and support queer & trans folks our business is going to be kept afloat by the neighborhood around us.

Dari drinking coffee at Queers, Coffee and Donuts.

What’s on the menu for Cuties?

We’re starting small! You’ll be able to get some pastries and donuts with your coffee. Since so many of our community members are vegan and gluten free we’re featuring goodies from Erin McKenna’s Bakery. We’ve been serving their donuts at Queers, Coffee & Donuts monthly and they are a great option for folks who can’t have Virginia’s very glutinous and decidedly non-vegan donuts. Eventually we’ll start adding some grab and go items like breakfast bagels and sandwiches.

I have noticed that a lot of coffee bars in LA don’t have space for fliers (for real!). Since you’re a community space, what’s your vision for fliers/community message board?

In the shop we’re planning on having nooks for fliers for like events and classes but also informational pamphlets about PrEP or safer sex practices. There will also be bulletin board for people to share services, roommate requests, and more. We’re also excited to feature zines from queer & trans creators and have them on a rack for purchase. The flier nooks, bulletin board and zine racks will be positioned so folks will see them when they pick up their drinks. We’re also dedicated to keeping those resources up to date. It’s such a bummer to see a flyer for a cool event only to find out it was last weekend! We’ll also continue with our promotion of community events and services through our social media accounts and through our newsletter the “Cuties Weekly Brief.”

Check out the IndieGogo for Cuties right at this link (and seriously watch the video even without sound–you’ll see what I’m talking about with groundbreaking pronouns in the subtitles)!

Follow Cuties on Facebook!

Upcoming events for Cuties:

Queer Carnival fundraiser in the new space Sunday, March 26thTristan Taormino is doing a spanking booth, there’s a Shibari tutorial and lots of other fun, and I’m working the door!

Queers, Coffee and Donuts April 9th

I love that Cuties events often encourage optional costumes and Iris will always bring the fabulous costume to other events–like my birthday party! Pictured here with Tristan.

2014-03-04

Seven Strategies to Curb Anxiety

Towards the end of January I had a little bit of a break-down. I just felt completely overwhelmed and anxious. I wasn’t sure why. I had spent most of the weekend doing self care activities and was walking home from the gym on the phone with Jacqueline saying, “I just don’t know why out of nowhere I feel so anxious and it won’t go away!” And Jacqueline wisely told me that sometimes when she does self care like yoga or something very relaxing she ends up with more anxiety. That resonated with me. It feels like when I don’t acknowledge my feelings of anxiety and overwhelm, it’s like a cork that releases all this pent up stuff I haven’t been looking at and poof! I can’t get away from it.

As a result of this little mini-breakdown, I am obsessed with self care right now. I’m talking to people about their self care regimens, being more methodical about what I need from myself in order to be the person I want to be in the world. I now acknowledge that when it comes to taking care of others, the more I have the more I can give. My well has to be 100% full in order for me to give water to anyone else, and I’m in the role of primary caregiver to my girlfriend (yeah, we went there) who is going through chemo treatment for breast cancer right now.

12417512173_a30b444fb5_zI went away for a birthday retreat with my friends in February and it was all about finding a place with a hot tub. I love to meditate in a hot tub when it’s cold outside.

I am going to do a mini-blog series about self care and in this first post I detail what I do to handle anxiety when it comes. There are lots of ways to deal with anxiety, of course, but this is what has worked for me and what works for some of my pals. Obviously, there are varying degrees of anxiety and some folks should consider seeing a mental health professional, but for those who have kind of spotty occurring anxiety like me, hopefully these tips will help.

1. Pay attention and course correct.

I treat feelings of anxiety and overwhelm as warning signs. They’re my own personal “check engine light,” some kind of acknowledgement my body, mind and/or spirit needs attention. If I’m having anxiety come up more often than usual than I know something is wrong and I need to do the work to assess what’s going on in my life and where the imbalance is. If I were on Car Talk and talking about running a diagnostic, I would do the things I know to do when I need to diagnose what’s going on with me. Journal, phone a trusted friend, stop and look at what’s going on in my life. In the January example, I knew what was going on–I had three friends and one of my cats pass away in a three week span in December on top of being primary caregiver for someone with cancer. Any one of those things is a lot! I needed to be gentle with myself and take care of myself and the check engine light came on!

When I’m feeling anxiety, it’s hard to know in the moment that I need to do something differently, in the moment all I can do is think “Fuck, how can I make this stop?” Then I turn to more immediate solutions.

2. Drink stress relieving tea.

Over my Christmas trip to visit my mom and grandmother I woke up feeling intense anxiety one morning. (I think this was another moment where I was relaxing and the cork popped out and all the grief and anxiety I was feeling came out.) I didn’t have anything that could cut the anxiety in the moment, so I went rummaging through Grandmother’s tea cabinet to see if she had any chamomile. Lo and behold, she still had the tea sampler I created as a hostess gift for my cross country road trip two years ago. Fully intact, it held in it four kinds of loose tea including “Stressed Out Tea.” It was like a gift to myself from the past. I drank that tea like I was chain smoking, one cup after another and within a couple of hours it started to work.

I bought the Stressed Out Tea from PS Coffee and Tea in Park Slope, but here are the ingredients if you want to create it yourself. Stressed Out Tea (blend of lots of herbs to calm down including rosemary, peppermint, chamomile, lady slipper, catnip, violet, feverfew, wood bettany herb, blessed thistle herb, white willow bark, stevia herb, raspberry leaf and flavored with peppermint oil).

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3. Treat self care like a job.

Self care is a really important aspect of my anti-anxiety routine. The best thing I can do for my anxiety is to prevent it from happening. I like to say self care is a full time job, which it kind of can be, especially in the Winter when we have all the Winter Feelings and seasonal depression.

The other day I was staying with friends and they told me, “We go to bed at 9:30.” Which is an amazing example of prioritizing getting the sleep they need and having a mellow, unrushed morning. I have so much admiration for people who prioritize their self care.

Since my breakdown in January I have been very strict about doing all the core self care things I do every single day. I knew I hadn’t been doing the things I usually do every day, I was skipping some. I was in love jail, snuggled up with my sweetie in Winter and mistaking those temporary good feelings with the things I need to do for my own sanity in the long run.

4. Cut the caffeine.

Eliminating caffeine from my diet has been great for keeping my anxiety at bay. Some days I have none, some days I have a little, but I keep it in check as much as possible. I started the Lesbian Tea Basket web series when I gave up coffee for digestive reasons. Replacing my passion for coffee with tea wasn’t exactly a substitute (I still dearly, desperately, love coffee) but I do now feel very passionately for tea in a way I didn’t expect. I think the herbal aspects of tea are medicinally great but I also think the ritual of brewing and consuming a hot beverage is very soothing.

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5. Exercise.

It’s such a hassle sometimes, but exercise is so crucial to my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It soothes everything for me. If I can keep it up at least twice a week it’s great to keep me from getting depressed or anxious.

6. Medicate.

There are a lot of people I know who medicate for anxiety. I’ve never gotten a prescription for anything mental health related, but haven’t ruled out the possibility. There’s so much stigma associated with mental health prescriptions but honestly, I think stigmas around what people need to do for their mental health are bullshit. If you have a headache you take an advil, if you have anxiety and a pill will help, maybe take the pill? I’m definitely a follower of the Kate Bornstein philosophy of living:

Do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. Anything at all. It can be illegal, immoral, unethical, self-destructive… anything at all if it makes your life more worth living. There’s only one rule to follow to make that kind of blanket permission work: Don’t be mean.

I just got some Rescue Remedy to see if an herb tincture (they also have pastilles/candy and gum) could help me in those moments where in emergency I need to break glass. So far it seems to work though I’ve only done it a couple of times when I was mildly stressed and haven’t had a major anxiety bout since I got the tincture.

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I have some friends who medicate with klonipin (one of them just nibbles a little on a pill to take the edge off an anxiety episode), ativan, and xanax. Obviously you’ll go see a mental health professional or general practitioner who can advise about prescription meds.

Other friends I know with chronic anxiety use medical marijuana. For those who don’t know there are like a billion kinds of marijuana and there are lots of different ways to use it. Depending on your body chemistry there are kinds that just take the edge off the anxiety and you can still function (“cleaning the kitchen” weed) or others that make you want to sit on the couch. I am into watching documentaries about the medical marijuana dispensaries on Netflix and what it can do for folks. Again, this is totally something to go talk to a professional about if you’re in a jurisdiction that has the medical marijuana.

7. Meditation.

I am a shitty, inconsistent meditator. However, if I can take a minute to stare at some birds and ponder what they are up to, look up at the sky for thirty seconds, or close my eyes and just notice what sounds I hear, that will do me as much good as sitting in a chair with my eyes closed trying really hard to think about nothing. It’s really not much more for me than a way to ground myself in the present and remind myself that I am safe. When I’m feeling anxious I am not feeling safe.

12919812773_f0c6e5949d_zThis bird feeder was right next to the hot tub at the house we stayed at!

I hope this not comprehensive list helps out when folks are feeling frustrated by bouts of anxiety. Leave your tips in the comments!

2011-04-04

Everyday Glitter

My yoga teacher says at the end of each class “The light in me bows down to the light and the teacher in all of you.” I definitely feel that teaching is a two way process. I get just as much out of mentoring people, teaching workshops and writing this blog as people tell me they get out of those classes or this website. I treasure each compliment and appreciate them more than you know. But even more so, doing the art I do, blogging, writing, performing, producing, helps me to keep going on this journey, this lifetime journey, to loving myself. Teaching the gems I’ve mined about learning to love yourself and your body helps me mine even more gems.

At my workshop at Swarthmore I compared and contrasted the mainstream standards of beauty with what an alternative standard of beauty would look like. The gist of the mainstream standard is that it is virtually impossible to achieve and creates insecurity. An alternative standard is fluid. I said to the attendees, “You are all beautiful right this minute. The thing we need to learn is how to see ourselves as beautiful.”

I’ve talked about celebrating the fact that we are glitter identified people on the blog before. But I’d like to get deeper and start thinking about what are we doing every day that is putting together our amazing glittery lives? How are our lives beautiful right this minute? Where is our “too much” coming from, piece by piece?

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Sometimes my glitter literally comes in fistfuls from gay boys at dance parties. Hey Queen, July 2010.

Sometimes I find reading other people’s shines* really inspirational so hopefully you will find mine inspirational, too.

1. Spring! It’s still hovering in the 40s but today we got a couple of moments where it was downright near 60. I took my hoodie off for a precious brisk walk from the car to the grocery store. And not to be deterred, the birds are back chirping up a storm in the morning and some of the more dedicated early bloomers are thrusting forth.

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I spend a lot of time with my face toward the sky inspecting the trees for budding leaves. You can just barely make out silhouettes of buds here. All photos taken today in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

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2. The perfect color of aubergine. For months I’ve wanted these deep purple sheets I saw on a reality show. Today at an impromptu trip to Ikea with Mackenzi I found a bedspread in that exact shade of aubergine, perfectly slippery so as to repel cat hair.

We went to scope out entertainment center options for my great living room redecoration project. Might as well start with a fast and easy fix to revolutionize my bedroom and acknowledge the continued need for comforters. I feel like the reverse of the Princess and the Pea. Instead of adding mattresses for comfort I am adding comforters for warmth!

3. The ridiculousness of an ornate cat food bowl. I couldn’t think of a more perfect setting for my cats to eat from, and a nod to old school Fancy Feast branding. (Note I feed them Nutro Indoor Senior food, not Fancy Feast.)

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They have to eat atop a chair so Macy can’t get into their food. I think it needs some sort of silver tray.

4. Mackenzi shouts to me, “Sugar Free Bacon Vinaigrette!” from across the aisle in the grocery store. I yell back “What has you speaking my love language?”

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It’s this miracle my lovelies. I can’t wait to try it out. It’s made with real bacon and comes from some maple farm.**

5. New gays moved into the loftiminiums across the street from my apartment!

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6. Trading coffees with Heather! Bedford Hill, the new coffee shop on my corner is awesome. They have a board where you can buy your friend a coffee and chalk it up for them to find. I bought Heather a coffee to help her with planning her tour (hey midwest! go see the Heels on Wheels Road Show!) and she reciprocated! I went down there and worked on my memoir today.

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Also the staff is really nice and cute. Their egg, avocado, cheese bagel sandwich will change your life.

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Heather and Damien are going to put on an amazing tour as soon as they finish reading this book about unicorns at a house party!

7. Brunch with friends! I am on this aggressively pursuing brunch on Sundays kick. I have worked retail so many weekends it kills it for me trying to do muggle brunch timing. But I miss my friends and I want to share cheap eats with them!

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I hope you are all putting your glitter out there this week!

*Shines and whines were something my college Resident Advisor staff used to do at staff meetings and I love them. It’s a way to communicate your highs and lows.
**Recall how much of a maple chaser I am.

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