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

2016-10-11

My Coming Out Story

Happy Coming Out Day! Every year on October 11th the LGBTQ community and our allies celebrate Coming Out Day as a way to commemorate and sanctify an important moment in the lives of queer people. It’s also an important way to help our children, families, friends, co-workers and communities know that you are a safe space for LGBTQ folks to come out to.

bevinchrisamandadamienFor this post I’m using photos I found in my archives from the Femme Family Pride Coming Out as Femme party that Femme Family produced in June 2009 at Stonewall Inn. L-R, Damien, Me, Amanda and Chris.

Coming out is such an intensely personal decision, since being queer is somewhat of a seemingly mutable way of being different. (“Passing” as straight is easier for some than others, and it is often tied to gender presentation.) I thought in honor of the occasion, and the fact that I told this story to my friends Jenna and Rick at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner on Friday, I would share it here!

Coming out is easier said than done, and for me it was really difficult. I am 37 years old, which means I grew up in a pre-Ellen era. I noticed a pretty big cultural shift when Ellen’s character came out as a lesbian on her then sitcom in 1997. It was a watershed moment when, more and more, people were aware that LGBTQ folks were openly living their lives queerly. I feel like most kids who came of age after Ellen came out have a different experience within American culture.

bevinrachelsophieMe, Rachel (check out her work getting Queers, Women and POC into tech sales) and Sophie (check out her incredible body positive pin-up photography business).

I didn’t know gay was a thing that you could be until I was 14 years old. I had literally never understood that any of my mom’s friends were gay, that any celebrities were gay or that people throughout history had been leading queer lives.

I met the first lesbian that came out to me at Girl Scout Camp when I was a Counselor-in-Training. At the time that was a big no-no (even when I became a counselor a few years later it was very understood that lesbianism was don’t ask don’t tell) but we were friends and it came up. I felt a huge paradigm shift knowing that people were gay and it started helping me understand myself better. I wasn’t the kind of kid who grew up knowing I was attracted to other women, mostly I was attracted to gay men. (Hello, Keanu Reeves and George Michael.)

bevinbridgetMe and Bridget, who just launched her amazing business coaching! She’s been a little bird supporting me with branding, web stuff and business for years, so excited for her new venture!

I began questioning my sexuality when I was 15. I had no one to talk to about this so I just kept it as a running wonder in the back of my mind. My mom came out for the second time around then.* It was not a bonding experience for us. My Junior and Senior year of high school was really difficult for our relationship, since mom was going through a divorce and my grumpy selfish step dad was still living with us because we couldn’t afford to sell the house (recession) and mom didn’t want to risk me having to leave our great school district. Not a recipe for anyone to be at their most compassionate emotional self. In my perception at the time my mom was not a safe person for me to discuss my sexuality with because we were not safe people for one another emotionally. My mom is awesome and she has been a great safe space for queer kids for years and years as a teacher but we were very much water and oil in high school.

I know now that a teacher at my school was gay (she’s friends with my mom!) and if only teachers were allowed to be openly gay in the mid-90s, my life would have been a lot easier.

miasiaMiasia is an incredibly talented belly dancer from Washington, DC and whenever I possibly could get her up for a gig in NYC I did just that! You should check out her classes and performances!

I came out to myself for real when I was 16 years old and could actually articulate internally that I was attracted to another woman. I told three very close friends who were not in my day to day life. When I got back to high school for my senior year I shoved all of that internal realization deep inside, in spite of a low-level crush on a girl in high school, and tried to keep fitting in even though I never actually fit in.

katestonewallLaurence and Kate Huh, a really vital archivist photographer of NYC queer life.

I never dated anyone in high school, all dance dates were strictly platonic and even though I had some flirtations with boys here and there nothing ever happened. I knew how to keep my armor up as a trauma response to intense bullying I experienced in late elementary and middle school. To this day I still have to work to let my armor down where sex, attraction and flirtation are concerned.

damienstonewallperformanceOne of my favorite performances of Damien’s is “Femmes Bash Back” based on the Femme trans women of color who began the Stonewall uprising by throwing purses and heels at the cops raiding the Stonewall. Let that fictional Stonewall movie be forever proved wrong, since they rewrote history so some white cisgender gay dude threw the first brick. Stay tuned for Happy Birthday Marsha! It is important that our history be preserved accurately and not white-washed.

In college I met a lot more gay folks, especially gay men, and almost everyone was in the closet for some period and eventually came out. It’s so weird to think about that time because now it’s so normal for people to be openly gay that I forgot that I knew a lot of these folks before they came out formally. Even though I knew in my heart I was attracted to women (I identified as bisexual at the time because I hadn’t realized all my big crushes were on gay dudes) I didn’t think I should come out because I hadn’t dated or even kissed anyone romantically. It was all wrapped up in fat girl body self loathing and not feeling like I deserved access to my sexuality. Why bother coming out if I was inherently unfuckable?

shomidjingOur Femme DJ Shomi Noise.

Now I know that my identity has nothing to do with anyone other than myself. I know I’m Femme regardless of whether or not I am partnered with a Butch, I know that I am fuckable whether or not I’m presently having sex, I know that I am kinky even when my floggers are collecting dust.

bevionstagestonewallIf my college-aged self could know how I would turn out, coming out of the closet would have been way easier.

At the beginning of my Junior year of college, at 19 years old, I was really thinking about coming out for real in spite of not having kissed a girl, and then just days later I met my first girlfriend. I was her Resident Advisor, she was a resident on my floor, she had Ani DiFranco posters all over her room (a very late ’90s tell). She wasn’t out to her roommates but as we became friends she came out to me and then we held hands while watching Mary Poppins late one night and it became wildly easy for me to come out because I was young and in love and wanted to tell literally everyone I knew about it. Plus saying, “I have a girlfriend!” is way easier than saying “I need to let you know I identify as LGBTQ.” Since being Femme presenting is invisibilizing to many folks, coming out is Groundhog Day repetitive for me. I tend to drop a “My partner/my girlfriend” or when I was single “My ex-girlfriend” as a way to come out rather than just telling people directly. Somehow that is more seamless for me.

arielbevinEarly photo of me and my friend Ariel Speedwagon.

I’ve had a few more coming outs in my life, like when I got to law school and decided to come out as a lesbian instead of bisexual, when I came out as Fat and Femme, and when I shifted to using queer to identify my sexuality because it better encompassed non-binary gender identities. There’s also coming out as a medical marijuana user (as Melissa Etheridge says,”I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally, whether they consider it so or not”), and coming out as non-monogamous which for me just means I like to be a little free to ethically explore connections with people as they pop-up and adhere to agreements with the person I am partnered with.

melissasjMe and my friend Lissa and Sarah Jenny.

I just can’t endorse coming out enough. I was scared, so so so scared before I came out because I thought I was going to lose friendships, loved ones and access to my dreams. For me, living life authentically, and loving myself for all of me, allows me to feel so free and relaxed that I am more able to focus my energy on making the world safe for other people to do the same. I have had SO MANY DREAMS COME TRUE because I am openly 100% of the time my authentic self. I think global peace starts with inner peace, and we need to be committed to doing the self care and self expression we need to feel at peace.

femmefamilyintention

Our logo intentionally had wings hugging the heart. Sophie designed it and Chris designed our flier.

Queer allies: amplify queer voices on your social media. Tell people you are a safe space and show your support for LGBTQ people. Work to learn how to be a better ally. It’s still dangerous in many spaces to be out as a queer person. Queers who live in countries that are more accepting of queers, learn more and more about LGBTQ refugees and borders and how being queer is sometimes the fight for your life. Offer your resources. I’m hoping to amplify more ways to do that in the coming months as I learn more about displaced LGBTQ folks.

Let’s all make the world more survivable for LGBTQ people and work to make “coming out” obsolete. Wouldn’t it be cool if people got to just grow up to be whoever they really are and love whoever they love and do it to whoever they feel attracted to and have consent and all that stuff?

Happy Coming Out Day!

*It turned out that my mom herself had come out of the closet for a few years in the early 80s. She even rode in Dykes on Bikes in the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1980! After a really traumatizing relationship with a horrible woman, my mom went back in the closet when I was four, dated men and married said step father who started out cool and then got awful and selfish and then after her second divorce she dated a woman and came out for good. So complicated, right? I didn’t come out to her until I came out publicly when I was 19.

miasiaonstageI love that in this photo Miasia is holding herself much like the wings of our logo are holding the heart.

metaueretandjesseTaueret and Jesse were both at the Femme Family Coming Out Party but somehow not in my batch of photos so here’s a cute one I found at a party in the same time period when hunting through my archives. TT made that beautiful hair fascinator herself. She was so talented.

 

 

 

2016-09-30

I Promise My Personal Tragedy Will Not Interfere with My Ability to Do Good Hair: Remembering Amanda Arkansassy

It happened again. The phone calls and texts started, trying to give me news of a friend’s suicide before I found it on Facebook. This is what we have now. Who knows the protocol?*

bevinarkansassyMe and Amanda at a dance party in 2010. Yesterday I met someone who had tiny flying birds coming from a tattoo on their head and it reminded me of her shoulder tattoo.

This is a post about my friend and it’s a post about my messy grief process. I don’t know what to do right now, but I think modeling how I am grieving may be of some help to other folks out there who are bewildered and confused and don’t know how to keep processing these suicides of bright light Femmes.

My friend Amanda and I became close in 2008/2009 when she was a member of Femme Family, a Femme organizing group that sprung to life after the Femme Conference in August of that year. We wanted Femme community in NYC, and me and Damien, Amanda, Sophie, Chris, Taueret, Bryn, Bridget, Rachel, Hana, Dylan, Erica, Heather, and a lot of other Femmes who popped in and out, made it happen. Mostly we were cultural organizers, throwing dance parties, fundraisers, Femme poker nights, a Femme literary reading series, we had a book club and published a zine.

femmefamilyClockwise from top left: Bryn, Sophie, Damien, Amanda, Rachel, Me, Chris, Dylan, Erica. We were all so busy working our party that we had to do a group photo in stages.

femmefamilygroup2webTaueret, Heather, Me, Bridget, Amanda.

Amanda was the Madam of Country Glam, me and Damien weren’t yet roommates but we were Co-Head Madams. Taueret was the Madam of Ferocity. I forget which Madam title Bryn had. Taueret took her life in February of last year and Bryn just this past January. The last time I saw Amanda was when she was out for Taueret’s memorial (on Amanda’s birthday, October 3rd) and the last time we spoke on the phone was after Bryn passed and Amanda needed advice about posthumous art curation. It was such a beautiful moment, we talked for an hour while I was in a park at sunset, Dara and I having just seen what would become our quirky house in LA. I watched the beauty transform around me in my new neighborhood, we processed about Bryn and she filled me in on her new romantic adventures.

Amanda had the biggest heart. She was so sweet and welcoming. She was from Arkansas and it was a huge part of her identity. She was brilliant and political and knew how to show up for people. She always drove a huge SUV and made it look really easy in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She was a little younger than me and in some ways I think that played into our dynamic. A couple of days ago a friend of hers told me Amanda referred to me an inspiration but to me she was my fiercely loyal Femme friend.

birthdayamandaI’ve known so much grief and loss for so long that I know that even in sad circumstances we need to celebrate life. So even though it was the day of Taueret’s memorial and that was the reason for her visit, I knew our Femme Family reunion brunch needed to include birthday candles for Amanda.

I was still rebuilding myself after my painful break-up with my ex fiancé and she witnessed and held space. She showed me solidarity. She loved Steel Magnolias and Dolly Parton as much as me. She loved to get dressed up and take pictures. She loved other Femmes and loved to peacock for and with us.

0008_ability-to-do-good-hairThe title of this post is an homage to a shared favorite movie.

She started performing burlesque as Lola Dean and I think her first performance ever was at my Queer Family Holiday party. Taueret’s first burlesque act was at my previous party, a Queer Zombie Cabaret, and they both bonded over learning burlesque. When I competed for the title of Miss LEZ I asked them both to be my back-up dancers for my “talent” (hosting a gameshow/being surrounded by hot Femmes) as the Baconettes.

arkansassywiththosepastiesAmanda loved these pasties so much, she bought them special for the show on Etsy. Photo by Alison Picard.

Amanda was amazing backstage at the pageant. She was a former pageant queen in high school and gave me great advice about my interview portion and poise and other pageant stuff. Taueret was also amazing and told off a former date of mine who had recently stood me up. I remember leaving with Taueret after losing the pageant and feeling both physically famished (they don’t feed you backstage) and emotionally supported while kind of crushed that I lost.

misslezbevinamandaIf you want to read about my pageant platform and my play by play of that night check out this blog post. Photo by Syd London. Shout out to original Baconette Melissa Davis!

We brought the Baconettes back together the following Spring. I was Queen of Honor at Hey Queen, a queer dance party that was a staple of Brooklyn nightlife for five years. I was “Size Queen” and wanted to compose a really hot number to Madonna’s “Hanky Panky.” Me, Taueret, Amanda and Hana met up in my tiny living room to practice. We did it again at That’s My Jam the next month and from the buzz off those events I started Rebel Cupcake at Sugarland on International No Diet Day, May 6, 2010. Amanda performed as Lola Dean along with Taueret at the first Rebel Cupcake and once more before she moved to San Francisco.

bevinbaconettes

She, Sophie and Rachel all moved to San Francisco at about the same time. I felt really sad that they left but felt kind of okay, too, because I knew they had each other and no doubt they would do magical things out there.

rebelcupcakequeerrootWatching the blossoming friendship of Rachel and Amanda was really special. Photo from the photo booth of Rebel Cupcake, by Nogga Schwartz.

I think a lot about how Femme Family was this beautiful incubator for those of us involved. It gave us confidence in our abilities and we got ideas that were firmly based in our Femme identities. I started Rebel Cupcake, a body positive dance party for fat kids and fabulous weirdos. Damien started Heels on Wheels, a Femme art tour, show series and now a book with Heather. Sophie started Shameless Photography a feminist body positive pin-up photography business and many of the Femme Family were her first models.

Amanda went on to create Femme Space, a reclamation of space for Femmes and a beautiful portrait project. The stories and photos are stunning, I highly recommend a deep dive into them.

Long distance took an understandable toll on our friendship, but it never lost all of its love. I would see her and have epic conversations about all the things but mostly romance gossip because it was a fav of both of ours. Just six months ago she got on snapchat and she posted the sweetest thing on Facebook about how she loved my “snapchat stories” and for a bit there we would have girl talk and lingerie sharing over snapchat private message 10 seconds at a time.

bevinamanda2015

As our friend Elisabeth said memorializing Amanda, she was the ultimate “Hi Femme!” which was her actual license plate. She had to appeal a bunch to the CA DMV to get it–they thought it was about drugs and she schooled them that it was an actual identity. She was tickled every time she caught someone taking a photo of it behind her in traffic.

We constantly bonded over country music and I still think of her every time a good block of country music sung by women is on the radio (which is rare). When I was in LA last year learning my way around I heard a whole hour dedicated to women in country music and was so excited to tell her about it.

A couple of years ago she told me her plan after she moved to San Francisco was to eventually go back and head an organization for Southern Queers in Arkansas. I loved seeing Arkansas through her lens on social media. I loved seeing places she had told me about.

sfcrew2011Visiting San Francisco with Mackenzi, outside of the Lexington with Sophie, Dagger and Digg. Amanda was always a poly-identified Femme and there are a bunch of really good looking folks that had the pleasure of knowing her romantically in mourning. She was so special as a friend and I think she was extra extra special as a lover.

Another toll of long distance is when your friends throw parties you hella want to be at. She had a birthday party at the Madonna Inn one year and I was SOOOOO SAD I was too broke to go because I had always wanted to go to the Madonna Inn and they were taking lingerie photos with all the theme rooms! It was going to be Femme Slumber Party birthday magic. And I got to go to Dollywood which I know she always wanted to do and I wanted to do it with her! And she had a Dolly Parton themed getaway birthday party.

rachelamanda2010Femme Conference 2010.

Now that I’m in LA I am closer (wouldn’t ever turn down an invite to the Madonna Inn now!) but her housewarming party in Crockett, where she just moved to get more rural, was a night when I’m doing a big event here. I remember thinking “SOMEHOW SOMEWAY we will have a party we can both attend.” She died before I could even pester her to come be my photographer for Dollypalooza next month.

One of the things that is most beautiful in Femme friendships is seeing yourself reflected in one another. Amanda was positive and upbeat, like me, and sparkly. She was the kind of Femme who threw herself into activism and organizing and also had good hair and impeccable nails. I always told her she was my nail inspo and had stiletto nails long before they got really mainstream popular. She kept a few fingers on the right hand short, for sex. I was living for her ombre. Honestly, her hair just kept getting better and better.

arkansassyNashville fans, she declared Juliette Barnes one of her fashion icons. Amanda left behind a perfect shiba inu/chihuahua rescue named Memphis and her cat, Kitten Butt. And a gorgeous white bedroom set she moved cross country.

I’m taking this death really hard. I am replaying all of the ways in which I feel like I could have done things differently. Like what if I hadn’t flaked on hiring her to photograph me at my high school reunion reclaiming space that felt alienating to me as a teen. Would we have had a heart to heart two weeks ago that could have changed things? Should I have finished writing my book already since it’s mostly about how I survived this epic heartbreak and betrayal and bloomed even bigger and brighter than I ever thought possible? Could it have been a road map for her?

I shared these feelings with a friend yesterday who said, “You can’t put your lightness in someone else’s darkness.” And then confessed that they must have been channelling Spirit because they would never have said that. I’ve also gotten similar messages about Bryn and Taueret when I asked my psychic Alex about their possibly related suicides.

queerfamilyholidayallofusPhoto by Alison Picard.

I feel like there’s this way that when you shine really bright like Amanda did, like Bryn did, like Taueret did, that the world doesn’t want you to survive. Just being a bright light superstar that by your very identity challenges the white heteropatriarchy is dangerous. That manifests in the experiences of trauma caused by oppression, misogyny, heterosexism, ableism, fatphobia, transmisogyny, slut shaming, classism, and on and on. It’s hard to stay sane and positive when the world is relentless with heartbreak, police brutality, apartheid, and all of the other horrific things you see just by turning on the news.

The world is made better and sweeter for me by activists and artists like all three of them. I try like hell to take care of myself. I try like hell to model self care for the corner of the internet where people pay attention to what I say. When I’m modeling self care, I am saying “This is how I am staying alive today.” Because self care is vital and survival is vital.

amandaonthemuniThe same month she took her life her face was on the side of a Muni bus. Her light was shining bright. But it goes to show that we can have a good face on and be battling darkness really deep.

And let’s talk about our fucked up mental healthcare system. Why don’t we have walk in clinics, where you can start treatment without a giant ball of red tape and bullshit. Why don’t we fund this? Is it because the people who are in charge find our bodies disposable? We have such a fucked up world we need to make it more survivable. Instead the fuckedupness is making it harder and harder to stay alive.

It’s important and good we know about what’s going wrong in our world. We have to see it to change it, right? But we also need to recognize the toll that takes on everyone’s mental health.

We need to stop treating self care like it’s optional. Take care of yourself and take really fucking great care. And fund easy to access free mental health for everyone because we need it . All three of these friends of mine were brilliant women with different access to help and different ways of soliciting it. What about the people who aren’t as resourced or good at self advocacy as Bryn, Taueret or Amanda? Somehow we need to do better at getting mental healthcare into the hands of people who need it. The amount of people who need it is mounting.

speakingoffemmegroupSpeaking of Femme.

I keep thinking about the idea of feminizing the world as a means of creating world change and world peace. Amanda even mentioned it in the article announcing her as one of KQED’s 20 Women to Watch.

In response to the question, “If you could live in a book, TV show, movie, play or painting, what would it be?” She replied, “It hasn’t been written yet (to my knowledge), but I’m looking forward to media exploring a futuristic femme oligarchy. Until then, Steel Magnolias will do.”

Maybe that’s how I need to womanifest my thoughts about how to feminize the world. Write a TV treatment for a show exploring a Futuristic Femme Oligarchy. If Femmes ruled the world? It would be amazing. Amanda dedicated her Femme Space project that was poppin’ off to the memory of Taueret and Bryn (check the footer on the page) and I would dedicate that TV show treatment to all three.

amandaspeakingoffemmeblue

In the meantime we need to figure out how to survive. This is why I blog. This is why I talk about the things I’ve figured out for self care and to take good care of myself. I’m writing a self care zine so I can brain dump to whoever wants it all the stuff I know about self care. Because we don’t live in a world where mental and emotional healthcare is free and easily available. ’Til we do we need to be taking care of each other and ourselves.

I talk a lot about becoming a rich lesbian. I mostly want to be rich because I want to start a foundation to support the kind of hard to fund amazing grass roots edge of social change groups that don’t usually get grants. I want to give them cash and provide support for their sustainability and helping have the kind of structure that ensures the legacy can move forward if the founders either move on, burn out or have shit go down in their lives. My friend Jenn and I brainstormed that I need to have a social worker on staff who can provide therapy for supported organizers, coaching people in self care.

bevinandthebaconettes

I see a lot of activists whose work and care taking is dedicated to the point of compulsion. There’s always more to do and not enough money or resources. I see people who are broke who give what little they have to folks who are broker than they are. It’s in the giving nature of people dedicated to world change. I wonder if Amanda needed more care than she was capable of receiving. I wonder if there’s a way to teach people to receive the love that is around them. Because Amanda, Taueret and Bryn were all beloved.

These deaths rip open the wounds that I work hard to heal. I’m grieving hard the loss of all three, grief compounded upon grief. I was putting dishes away and a wave came. I was literally sobbing into my kitchen cabinet when I came to. I find it’s easiest to grieve when I just open myself up to it. I don’t try to pretend that I’m cool when I’m not and I work to practice radical honesty with people who ask me how I’m doing.

femmepicnicWhen I was doing my deep dive into my photo archives I realized that right after this Femme picnic in Dolores Park I met up with my queer Femme friend Melissa Tracy who also took her life this year.

I’ve learned a lot about grieving over the years. I was sending a blog post about break-up grieving strategies to a friend and I realized a lot of it was very applicable to death. Try to be present. Try to let it flow. Commit to your plans so you don’t spiral out for too long. For me, preventing the darkness is easier than being swallowed by it and having to crawl out, so I’m trying really hard to not fall into that place.

This week I asked for a lot of help. Dara has been out of town for work for almost two weeks. On Saturday Amanda’s suicide hadn’t been announced yet and I had to figure out how to get the help I needed without doing the endless phone calls and messages thing, so I put an all call on Facebook. I don’t give a fuck about seeming vulnerable. I think we should be more vulnerable with each other, it’s a sign of strength.

amandaonstageatbellhouse

In some ways it’s been good that Dara’s not here. I have been relying for primary support from my friends and it’s important to lean out of your primary for support. I’m also crabby and listless, and I’m actually feeling shitty about how I am not a pile of sunshine for Dara right now. So being independent from her has been helpful.

Yesterday I knew I had a ton of work to do and in the in between times might need brightening. So I asked Facebook once again for sweet memories. Remembering connections to other, living folks is a sweet way to remind me that I am loved, and taking breaks from work to sit with a few at a time has been so helpful.

queerfamilychristmasstage

I keep remembering all the hot people I was going to set her up on dates with. I keep thinking about all of the collaborations I wanted to do. Over the past year I thought a lot about what Amanda would do my Femme Space photo about. I thought maybe my rainbow mumu and me in a Home Depot because I am definitely a power tool wielding Femme, I do not let stereotypes about women and femininity stand in the way of me getting what I want to get done. And then I definitely thought it was going to be me teaching my new fitness class at the body positive gym opening up in LA. But whatever it was, it’s a collaboration that won’t happen. Because something about the world was too painful for her.

I want to make the world more survivable. I wrestled with the choice to not go to her funeral on Wednesday but the thought of making the travel plans was so overwhelming I was paralyzed. So I took that, and my big chronic digestive disorder flare as my signs that I needed to stay put and take care of myself. I can’t make the world survivable unless I take care of my own survival.

*For me, just in case this is relevant to any of my friends reading this, I prefer a phone call. Almost all of my calls are scheduled because that’s how I roll, so if you call me twice in a row and text “Call me ASAP” I know what that means. So that’s my preferred protocol. I changed my number to a 323 number when I moved to LA so check your phone and delete that old Jersey 201 number!

wafflesinbmoreI have all these new friends I just made and I wonder if they think it’s weird that I say I love you literally every time we part ways. It’s because I’ve known so much loss and I’m only 37 and I know it might be my last opportunity to say it. So I always do when I feel it. Grief is an unfortunate side effect of love, and I love really big. I loved Amanda a lot and my grief reflects the size of that love. There is no timeline on grief, I will never get over missing her. I will never get over Bryn and Taueret. I will only do what is the best case scenario and get used to the idea that they aren’t here. 

More Amanda Love:

Go Fund Me Campaign to help with Amanda’s memorial costs.

KQED Holding Space for Amanda (lists a lot of her artistic accomplishments if you want to learn more about her prolific work)

Femmes Before Literally Everything

To be added: Memorial information for next month’s memorial.

2015-11-13

One Night at MIX Festival

Every year I struggle with how to describe MIX Festival and it’s magic and wonder when I plug the event on my blog and social media. People fly in from all over the world to gather for this experimental film festival/queer community gathering/installation art. After my epic Wednesday night in the MIX Factory I thought I would just give it a good Bevin narrative, maybe that’ll tell you what’s up with MIX.

meandvictoriamix

I arrived right on time for my appointment with the XFR Collective. It was early for MIX, 5PM, and the house lights were still on. The XFR Collective is a media preservation organization that works to provide low cost preservation services for obsolete media to non-profits and artists. I had a couple of VHS tapes I wanted preserved for my art. When I looked into doing it myself locally it cost $125 and I put it in the “I will get to this someday” pile and having the opportunity to do it for free was a high priority for me!

lazermixLazer, visiting from out of town and sporting these holographic wedges!

The first tape was a collection of Feminist Films from my Feminist Film and Video class in 1999 at UC Davis. It was my first foray into body liberation activism even though I didn’t know it! My friend Dianna and I did a five minute video talking about plus size shopping and how marginalizing it is. The soundtrack includes Indigo Girls and Ani Difranco. (I come by my Deep Lez tendencies honestly and earnestly.) The other video was my dad and step-mom’s wedding video, which I am going to use for a performance piece about her affect on my life I’m developing. (Liz died of a heart attack when I was 19 after having taken Phen Fen. Dad never joined the class action.)

anothermixselfie It’s a big part of why I do the work I do in the world to help fat folks feel valued in their bodies as they are rather than pathologized, and the first part of that was to learn to love myself.

The tape transfer process was not smooth because I was the first person of the day and there were technical challenges, so I just hung out with the volunteers. All three of them were librarians or archivists (shout out to my librarian babes!) and they were sweet and charming. A couple of them were even wearing vintage media themed outfits, like a sweater with folks in 3D glasses emblazoned on it! By 6 they hadn’t resolved things, and said I was free to wander instead of waiting for my tapes. Jacqueline thought it was funny when she arrived that they were archiving a wedding tape and didn’t realize it was my tape! “Deep 80s fashion” she mused. It was Merced, CA in 1990.

mixfamilyEntering the MIX Factory.

I mentioned in my last blog post I find the schedule hard to navigate on their website (I really just need a trailer for the festival) so I like to let the Goddess guide things. And here was the opportunity! I ran into my friend L.A. Teodosio who was screening a film I had heard about at that very moment but didn’t realize was at MIX.

catbuttface

I bought a ticket and slid into the screening with my roommate Damien (who is on the MIX Board) and a bunch of our pals. It’s called Peace of Mind and is about Teo’s partner Flo McGarrell, an artist who was killed in the Haiti earthquake. The movie is perfect for MIX because it’s a bit documentary, a bit art film, a bit fiction. The soundtrack is sumptuous and sweet, the scenery is beautiful, as Haiti is so gorgeous. It was shot both in Port Au Prince and the seaside town of Jacmel and there was a marked difference between the two places, though the lack of resources were consistent between the two. Flo made an interesting comment in one of the archival pieces, that when he was in Haiti cooking food was so difficult and food was much harder to come by, so he would lose weight. When he would go back to the states he would gain it all back. Flo worked with local artists as part of a project that taught artists and curated work and many of the artists were interviewed in the documentary.

catbuttThis is a cat butt.

Also in the film was a subfilm, a part of the movie KATHY GOES TO HAITI, based on the book of the same name by Kathy Acker, that Flo was working on with the director Cary Cronenwett (who directed the documentary, along with Teo). Zachary Drucker played Kathy Acker and it was interesting to see it, though from what I understood from the documentary the book itself sounds White feminist colonialist. We only saw a part of the book as they had only shot the last chapter, with the intention to shop it around for funding. Due to that and that it was in a larger narrative that addressed a lot of what it was like for LGBTQ people in Haiti, I thought it was redemptive of the source material and appropriately critical of her perspective on Haiti. Check out the trailer for Peace of Mind and if the movie tours in your area I highly recommend seeing it.

creepynestthingNest installation.

Because it’s MIX, filmmakers come to screenings and there are often talk backs, so the awesome Haitian editor of the film (and collaborator of Flo’s) Zaka, was there as well as Teo, discussing the film.

There’s a thing at MIX called “MIXoclock” where they say stuff happens at a certain time but that’s kind of an idea and isn’t really something to count on. Again, with MIX, best to just let the Goddess guide you. So I noticed on my phone that by the time the talk back of this one ended it was already a half hour later than the next screening (I had bought tickets for online). There’s only one screening room so I guessed I had a bit of self care time between the films to go buy some water, check my coat as the coat check was finally open and the house lights were down and everything was doused in purple lights and blacklights. Sitting in a theater for three and a half hours straight is a lot but I was glad for it! ART!

photobydraemixtriangePhoto by Drae Campbell.

The next screening (the one I prioritized and planned my whole night around) was curated by Queer Rebels, a duo made up of Celeste Chan and KB Tuffy Boyce, both Bay Area artists who I’ve performed with and love their work. Their curation of Queer People of Color made films is always spot on. A mix of lengths, narratives and stories, each is on a theme. This one was on Home and my highlights were a short music video about queers of color in the Bay vs tech gentrification and a short film about a gender non-conforming person coming home to their mother who does not accept them and is awash in grief. Another highlight was Orient, a film about the tension between Black folks and Asian Americans and internalized colonialism. Queer Rebels is incredible and the talk back afterward was also great.

celestemix2014Celeste’s galactic jumpsuit from last year’s MIX Queer Rebel’s screening.

After all of that art I stumbled dazed back into the MIX Factory thinking I’d visit with some folks and then head home. It was already 10, I had been there for five hours! Jacqueline and I went out on the smoking deck, I was aggressively hit on by a person who self-identified as “transexual satan” who I then referred to a different friend of mine. Kind of like, “You’re not for me but I have someone else in mind for you,” which is something I have done before and, listen, I roll with babes. It was a successful match in the end and I’ll save the rest of the dirt for Snapchat.

mejacquelinedraeMe, Jacqueline and Drae.

I rolled through the space here and there, looking at installations. You can go into a cat lounge area through its butt. You can sit inside a triangle. You can wander and look at all the outfits. Even the bathrooms are installations this year! I saw people who don’t live here anymore visiting, hung hard with some local friends and had a lot of fun. I was really tired and every time I felt my energy flagging somehow the space would fulfill my need. The best thing that helped me wake up a bit was a decaf iced coffee from Dunkin that Victoria brought me when she arrived at 11PM. I get a zip from decaf that can really turn around an evening and it worked.

victoriamixLike a psychadelic Goddess bearing decaf coffee.

Dinner was served at 11:30PM, it was a pasta with a side of root veggies and salad. Delicious! And free with entry/going to one of the films.

damienpowersuitDamien’s look for MIX that night (as photographed from my desk chair when I screamed “OMG Frye Boots with a vintage power suit!” as she checked herself out in our wall mirror). Here is her on video talking about MIX in her capacity as a Board member!

Victoria and I peeled off from our friends and laid down in a nest of pillows in a small side room where we watched a forest scene with a man “hatching” from a plastic bag. Again and again. The more I watched the more the art came alive. Also, resting laying down was really helpful. When can you do that in social spaces?

outdoorinstallation
photobydraehatchedmixSecond photo by Drae Campbell.

I was about to leave at midnight and then DJ Average Jo, Holly and Topher arrived so I ended up hanging with them. I was under no intoxicants yet was a bit high on socializing. Full disclosure, I did take a tiny bit of adderall to try to wake up around 9PM and that had zero effect. All told, I was there chatting and admiring outfits (two of my favorite things) until 1:30AM. By then DJ Battyjack was spinning, there was a band playing and other people were still arriving. MIX! It’s magic!

mehollymixPhoto by Jacqueline Mary, who said I looked like Muppet Baby Miss Piggy while snuggling Holly. High compliment!

I have a conference this weekend that starts painfully early in the morning but I’m still going to try to go tonight and tomorrow! If you’re curious and you’re in town, go! I coaxed Drae Campbell to come last year for her first time and this year she was there on Wednesday fully in the mix and emceeing!

photbydraemejacquelinedevonMe, Jacqueline and Devin. Photo by Drae Campbell.

2015-11-11

Call for Couple’s Finances Stories! / Mix Festival is This Week

Hey friends! My incredible roommate Damien Luxe has developed an amazing financial empowerment workshop series (more on that in a later post). I am doing a presentation at the Cross Class Relationships Workshop on November 22nd here in Brooklyn, where I will talk a lot about what I know professionally–prenups, buying real estate, creating agreements–and I will talk about what I know personally having been in cross class relationships. I would like to create a handout resource of personal narratives from folks who have come up with creative financial solutions to finances. Here is the call below:

medamienbedstuyMe and Damien a couple of Springs ago!

Couples’ Finances! Especially *Cross-class couples* or *Couples with Creative Financial Situations* or *Couples who are more than two people*:

I am looking for one or two paragraphs max about struggles you’ve had and creative solutions. This can be about:
*Budgeting together
*Setting and following through with financial goals (like buying property and having kids)
*How you value domestic labor vs paid outside the home labor
*How you work it out when one of you is more resourced
*How you work it out when one of you has higher income
*How you retain independence while comingling finances
*How you pay bills while NOT comingling finances
*Particularly helpful apps or websites for you
… or more things I haven’t thought of!

Email it to queerfatfemme at gmail. Please let me know if you are okay with me including your first name(s) and ages. This handout will likely be archived/available on my blog as a resource for other people! Need these no later than November 20th!

medamiencookiesMe and Damien at our holigay cookie party last year! Going through all of these old photos made me SO SAD to be moving out! It’s been so amazing living with such a kick-ass Femme powerhouse!

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

This week in NYC is the 28th Annual Mix Festival. It’s a really fun installation art factory for five days only and opened last night. I just got a press release for it with the schedule and it looks dense and hard to figure out what to do. What I usually do with Mix is find out when my friends are screening films or performing, go to those and then just show up (it’s free to hang in the installations) the rest of the time and let the Goddess guide me. Honestly, there will always be something awesome happening at Mix and great folks to meet. Here’s the website, it’s on through Sunday. I cannot underscore how epic and life changing and cute Mix is.

One year there was a uhaul exhibit honoring the legacy of a gay cruising culture in the late 70s and 80s involving truck fucks where they would pop into unlocked trucks in the meat packing district and do it. I haven’t been to the factory yet this year (going tonight for Queer Rebels curated short films) but I am hoping for something as epic.

The week includes:

128 short films! And 15 short-film programs
Four Features!
13 Artist-built installations!
Six original performances!
Four late-night parties (Wed. – Sat.)
35 of the filmmakers themselves live and in person and stoked to answer questions and talk filmcraft!

I’m super excited about the digital archive project happening–I have a few videos I need to get digitized for performance art and for archiving and this is the perfect time to coincide with my move. It also got me to go through my tapes and dvds! You need to make an appointment to do the digital archive. If you want to see some of my feminist films from 1999 swing by tonight!

22010538922_02dfb4b9d8_zWatching the amazing MIZZ JUNE perform last year at Mix. Photo by Tinker Coalescing.

2015-09-10

I’m Totally Having So Much Fun on Snapchat Here’s Why

It’s no secret I adore social media. I prefer to curate my own information streams because I think that corporate media is designed to create scarcity mentality, fosters insecurity and just works to ad big dollars to the insecurity industries.* Also, I like people’s stories, I like learning about new places and I love seeing lots of adventures through people’s eyes.

Instagram has been a favorite for some time, but lately I’ve gotten into Snapchat! (I’m @queerfatfemme there and all the other stuff I use.) I tried it once before when it first came out and it was okay but not great. Pretty social but I didn’t have a group of friends who were doing it so I didn’t stick with it and uninstalled the app.

bevindollypaloozagreenslipMe at Dollypalooza this year! Photo by Ves Pitts.

Recently a couple of bloggers I like mentioned that they were Snapchatting and my friend Devon Devine’s fun videos convinced me I should give it another shot. When I got a new phone I decided to try it again.

Snapchat is so different now and I’m really enjoying it!

Here’s the deal:

Record a video of up to 10 seconds, or take a photo that will be live on screen for up to 10 seconds (you choose the length). Add text, emojis, or draw on the photo if you want. Add a filter/skin and voila! You have a snapchat! (Here’s my tutorial about how to use Snapchat since I found it hard to figure out at first.)

Here’s a video as part of a little diary about why it is awesome to have a Femme roommate.

A video posted by Bevin (@queerfatfemme) on

Your snap can be sent directly to your friends on Snapchat or you can publish it to “My Story” which is an aggregate of all of your snaps for the past 24 hours. Once it is 24 hours old it disappears forever!

The idea behind snapchat is that it is kinda throw away media. It’s not meant to last forever, so people are really casual, they lip sync, they dance, they show you where they are vacationing or walking down the street, they goof off with their best friends, they introduce you to people, lots of cute snuggly animal moments. In some ways, I find it to be more intimate social media because you get a sense for someone’s personality rather than something intricately curated like perfecto instagram pictures or a well-edited blog post. I would call it “hang out media.”

Some of my favorite things to watch on Snapchat are hotel room tours, house tours, cute pet moments, cool travel places, snap chatting (where folks talk to the selfie camera and tell us about something going on for them), outfit ideas, ten second drag acts, day in the life montages. I especially like when my real life friends talk because if they are my friends I probably miss them and like the opportunity for a virtual hang out!

One of my favorite things about publishing to Snapchat is geotagging! There are these skins that pop up for your videos or photos (when you’re in the editing screen, swipe right) that are specific for your location. They are very cute! New York City has at least one for most neighborhoods I’ve been in. For example, my therapist’s office is at Columbus Circle, so when I swipe right I can get one for Columbus Circle, a couple for the Upper West Side, sometimes it gives me Hell’s Kitchen, and I always get Manhattan. It’s cute!

bridgetboxFrom my snapchat tour of Bridget’s Femme apartment.

I love geotagging when I’m traveling just to show off and play with the geotags where I’m at. When I went to Normal, Illinois this summer (this is a real place, Dara’s brother lives there) I was really disappointed when I thought that Snapchat didn’t have geotags, and was delighted when they eventually showed up as options during my third hotel room snapchat tour video!

There are lots of places that don’t have geotags yet, I learned on my road trip through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey this summer. It’s fun to watch Snapchat develop and add more. Right now I’m visiting Webster, FL for a wedding and there could (should) be a geotag for Florida and perhaps one for “Swamp Life” out here!

Here are some things I’ve been doing over at my Snapchat story:

Tours of where I’m at (I travel soooo much sometimes, especially in the last few months)
Narrating my favorite parts about NYC
Nightlife adventures—the last couple of weeks I’ve been going out a lot!
Cute videos of Macy
Tiny diary-like snippets (e.g. a couple weeks ago I talked about how like how I leave blank space in the calendar intentionally so I have time for mini side adventures)
Goofing off with my friends (When I hang with Victoria chances are she might be scantily clad and when I hang with Jacqueline she will usually do a boob shimmy for my snapchat viewers)
Dance party at the Bed Bath and Beyond (that happened with Dara)
A tour of a sparkly and amazing Femme apartment (Hi Bridget!)
Wedding venue I officiated

jacquelinemacyJacqueline with Macy, before her Snapchat shimmy.

On Monday at the beach I had my friend Jo tell my snapchat how to body surf—a skill set I have not learned!

I’ve also really loved the special Snapchat content! Snapchat has an NYC local story that is really cute and seems to change daily. There was an adorable Animal Rescue one recently, a back to school one that focused on a day in the life of a high school, a really great “Life on the Farm” story, I loved the Snap story for Ramadan (at Mecca), and all sorts of music festivals I’ve never heard of.

There’s also Snapchat exclusive content from other media providers if you want to go down that rabbit hole. The National Geographic one is generally interesting and shout out to the Food Network Snapchannel because a friend of mine oversees the content there. I now know the secret to perfect hummus every time thanks to Snapchat. Also People Magazine does some throw away content (almost every time I look in on it there is a story about Taylor Swift).

Here’s a cute video I saw on Lady Quesa’Dilla’s Snapchat (@ladyquesa_dilla) that I asked for her to download so I could show off backstage at Dollypalooza on Instagram:

A video posted by Bevin (@queerfatfemme) on

Here are some folks I am enjoying following on the Snapchat:

Blogger Nicolette Mason—she’s always on the go to private meetings she can’t talk about, going out with her hot wife, and talking about how perfect her adorable pug Frankie is because Frankie is, in fact, totally perfect.
@nicolettemason

Blogger Gabi Fresh—she’s got a wardrobe to die for (naturally) and she does really fun “what’s in this box” reveals when she gets mail. She’s also a big traveler and always doing cute hotel room tours.
@gabi.gregg

My fav Real Housewife Kim Zolciak-Biermann—she has a totally adorable brood and they are always doing something fun. Also, her family’s chef is a hot dyke who does animal rescues and I totally love her show Don’t Be Tardy on Bravo.
@kimzbiermann

Blogger/model Nadia Aboulhosn—she’s literally always clowning with her BFF Shavah, being a total goofball behind the scenes, her knowledge of hip hop lyrics is pretty impressive as she is often lip syncing, and she has this cute animal voice where it gets all high when she sees a cute animal. Also, her jet setting model life.
@nadiaaboulhosn

nadia-aboulhosn-1441275114Nadia is this ultra model BABE but she’s also totally a weirdo magical person on Snapchat.

Plus Size Supermodel and Body Positive Activist Tess Holliday—she has a snapchat diary thing going on that I adore. Last week she real talked about how once she gets comfy in a hotel room it is hard for her to keep plans with her friends. She’s really good at narrating what’s going on and she is ultra jet setting.
@tessholliday

Are you on snapchat? I would love to know what you love to watch on snapchat, who you love following (and why) and any other protips for good snappin! Leave a comment below!

*Diet industry, plastic surgery, beauty industry, spending money to feel class status, etc… Don’t get me wrong, I love Sephora, but I go on my own terms because I like to decorate myself not because I think there’s something about me that can be fixed by $22 mascara.

2014-12-17

Introducing Hell’s Bells, Handbell Butt Choir

One of the things I am most grateful for about my living situation is that my roommate is one of my favorite artists. The things that this femme creates are incredible. Like, stick in your head remember for a bunch of years incredible.

10501888_10154783540430252_8625194217501065641_n

Last month Damien started getting a bunch of packages and I was wondering what they were. She casually said, Ariel [Speedwagon] and I were thinking of creating a handbell butt choir. I responded, “Oh, really?” But didn’t get to all of my questions about it. Which were many. How are you going to get the handbells to stay in the butt? Do you know how to play the handbells? (Damien has churchy origins so I figured some time in a youth handbell choir was likely.)

Then the night came when Ariel was over (and Lizxnn) and the handbells were opened and I could hear them in my bedroom… clear as a bell. And this was clearly a thing that happened.

So much work went into this choir. Figuring out the mechanics of making butt plugs out of handbell handles. Casting the bell ringers–finding people who were okay with Christmas stuff, playing a handbell with their butt, and at lease slightly musically inclined, plus the more difficult aspect, whether their schedule permitted both performance dates and a couple of rehearsals. Artists in NYC are busy, especially during the holidays!

1907875_734849713259779_1475339536878244670_nPhoto by Zachary Wager Scholl for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

They had to select the songs to play out of the thousands of holiday songs out there. They had to rewrite the music for the songs in some sort of music software Damien learned, and arrange it for handbells in the correct key. And learn what a key was. And decide which four notes were the best for the butts…

10445597_734849459926471_6872289149922360399_nPhoto by Jacqueline Mary for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

I was impressed during this entire endeavor as it unfolded at my house and excitedly went to both performances. The finished product is in the below video. (You can see my little head cackling away with Heather, I’m in the bow in the front row doing backup videography for the first performance.) TOTALLY worth a watch this holiday season!

Not safe for work (unless your work is butt friendly). It’s really funny and heartwarming. Hell’s Bells Handbell Choir!

(Also I was definitely already calling the handbell player second from the left “Jingle Bells” because of their important role in that song… but then after you see the video you know why that name will be seared for life!)

For further holiday related video wonderfulness, allow me to remind all about the amazing Leo Christmas Hammer video from last year. It still makes me cry. Miss you Leo!!

2014-06-20

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

I read a lot of blogs, especially design and mommy blogs, where it kind of seems like the blogger has this magical, perfect life full of sunshine and roses. I know that’s an easy thing to think about someone who publicly shares about their life that things are easy all the time. But it’s part of my artistic intentions that I talk about the way shit is hard sometimes, too. This piece is about how it is okay to not be okay sometimes.

On Father’s Day every year for the past four years my magical, powerful, wonderful roommate Damien Luxe produces an event called Fuck You Dad: A Cabaret to End Patriarchy. It is a way for her to reclaim Father’s Day, which always falls near her birthday. It’s such an empowering event and I’ve really loved getting together with other artists to perform in a cute backyard and DIY empowerment we maybe (probably) didn’t get from our dads.

14428960215_f66d930428_oFrom a previous year’s Fuck You Dad offerings, as published on the Heels on Wheels instagram.

As an only child raised by a single mom in off and on working class/poverty, with a family legacy of alcoholism, I’ve got lots of dad issues. I work through them in a few venues, most helpfully in a twelve step program for families and friends of alcoholics. Much of the time, maybe even 95% of the time, I’m really fine. I have lots of compassion, detachment with love, etc… But this year it took me by surprise.

My girlfriend, who has been going through treatment for breast cancer, just lost her beloved father. He was a wonderful man, he radiated love and support and everything a Good Dad can be. (And I’d like to point out here that the patriarchy makes it really hard even for Good Dads to be Good Dads.) I am so grateful I got the chance to meet him.

The day after Dara’s last chemo treatment her dad went to the ER with chest pains and a little over a week later he passed away. It is really shitty to want to be celebrating a cancer treatment milestone and instead be packing up to go to a funeral. We were supposed to be getting together for a family vacation where I was going to meet her brothers and their families for the first time and her folks were going to meet my mom and Grandmother, my two closest biological relatives. It was weird how all of our travel had changed and it was a grief tornado.

As far as I could tell for myself everything was fine, considering. I was holding it together and feeling really helpful with the family. Dara’s family rules, they are really sweet and awesome. I really appreciated being able to be helpful—managing food as it came to the house, cleaning up, grocery shopping, making sure Dara was eating. All the kinds of things I’d learned to do as a cancer caretaker in a more concentrated form.

14445164014_98c990f573_oDamien emceeing and Heather and Daniel Rosza preparing for their Fancy piece.

We flew home from staying with her mom for the week after the funeral and the next morning was Father’s Day. I was working on my piece for Fuck You Dad and it wasn’t gelling. I was feeling really distracted and moody. Dara and I got into a really dumb fight and I didn’t know why.

Until I got to Jacqueline’s house to workshop our pieces and I kind of lost it during her rehearsal. And then when I got to the cabaret and started crying as soon as I hugged my friend Heather, I just realized, I’M NOT OKAY.

This was both a surprise to me and also kind of sucked. When I perform I want to have more control over myself and not feel like I might cry when I get up to the mic.

What I’ve realized about resilience is that it’s there when I most need it. During a crisis, I’m a rock. I am a logistics mistress, I will get everything taken care of. I generally am not feeling my feelings when I’m going through something hard. I’m just getting through. Given all the dad grief going on so acutely for the previous three weeks, given all the caretaking energy I’d been putting out for the past six months, I just didn’t have all my resilience I usually do on Father’s Day.

The dad stuff that’s usually on the shelf and very tidy for me was a total mess. But because I was performing in this space, with these people around me all at once, all these amazing Femmes who have been my rocks (some of them for years), I could afford to lose it a little and have time to collect myself before I went on stage. And it was okay.

Being a Feelings Squirrel kind of person, where a squirrel saves her nuts to eat during the long winter, I kind of unconsciously save my feelings for later when I have space. I recognize that this is a survival mechanism that I learned out of necessity in a not great childhood. This is something I’m only recently learning about myself so I am still working on how to constructively let out my feelings when it’s time instead of having them come out in not so great ways later.

I’m experimenting with ways for me to have some space to feel feelings. Like when we were in Vegas I took a friend’s recommendation for a Korean day spa, one of those places where you pay $20 and get to go lounge in a sauna or hot tubs for as long as you want. I went there because I knew I needed a place to feel feelings.

14435415852_70ef34c5bb_oJacqueline spray painting Fuck You Dad on a comforter. Photo courtesy @mxjackdawson on Instagram–the modern day Getty Images.

But it wasn’t enough. I totally got to the point on Father’s Day where my feelings were coming out of me like I was an overfilled sandwich cracker and the peanut butter was squishing out the sides.

When I found out that my performance at Fuck You Dad was the last in the line-up I knew what I needed to performed. I scrapped what I had prepared and I decided to do a healing exercise with the audience.

As my introduction I had the emcee call on three people that new me to solicit compliments. This is a totally hard thing to do, solicit compliments, but is a really quick and easy way to access strength and resilience when you need it.

When I ask my friends for compliments, I’m not doing it from an insecure place. When I’m feeling not okay, having my friends remind me why I am a babe or a bad ass or competent or whatever really helps me get out of the negative thought patterns that love to rush in when my vulnerabilities are high. Try it next time you need a boost—call on folks you consider body positive allies when you need a boost about body self confidence, or call on folks who you trust to support you when you need general confidence reminders.

They were perfect compliments, too. One was about being a good dog mom, one was about my blog and the other was about how I have a spirituality that is very big but I don’t push it on other people. It was helpful to have that framework for what I did next with the crowd.

14430104821_d0d57e77f4_oI didn’t even get it together enough to dress how I wanted to for Fuck You Dad and Jacqueline loaned me this babely leopard dress. I’m pictured with this totally nice person who looks like my bestie Leo who has been on the West Coast for months.

I told the audience I was not okay and that it was okay that I was not okay. I testified a one minute version of this post about my dad stuff. I thought that probably, like me, hearing 11 acts, many of which really went there with exorcising Bad Dad stuff, brought things up for people and they might need some centering, healing and cleansing.

I lead a breathing and prayer exercise. Breathing in healing and breathing out fear. Breathing in love and breathing out anger. I offered a Reiki healing to everyone for their childhoods—at my present level of Reiki training I can heal through time and space. I had them picture a time in their childhood that needed healing and I beamed the healing out to them.

Then I did a centering exercise based in gratitude, where I had the audience turn to someone next to them and thank them for being with them in this moment. I find it really helpful to make human connections in times when I’m not okay.

So that was my offering at Fuck You Dad. I wanted to share it with folks out there in my blog audience. Kind of like how even the most ardent fat activist still has “bad fat days” even folks who have done lots of work on different areas of their lives have hard times and it’s okay to not be okay. It’s taken me a lot of work to release the shame that comes up for me when shit I thought was long settled gets stirred up for me again.

And Father’s Day is almost a week over and I’m working on doing the things I know that work to take excellent care of myself. And I know I’ll be okay, even though I also know it’s okay to not be okay.

2013-12-03

Queer Family Holiday Rebel Cupcake Saturday December 7th

rebelcupcakeleatherfam.jpg

It’s here! My annual queer family holiday party! All the pertinent details are here and at the bottom of the post.

This is the fifth annual party I’ve thrown in NYC to celebrate queer families around the holiday season. In 2009 I did a Queer Family Holiday Party (part of the series of shows I produced in advance of getting my first monthly party, Rebel Cupcake). In 2010-2012 I did the monthly Rebel Cupcake in December. Now that Rebel Cupcake is no longer monthly I still wanted to have that holiday coming together spirit. This is an intentional event I do every year to cultivate and celebrate queer families of choice.

I’m very stoked to do things a little different this year–instead of a show I’m having INSTALLATIONS! Each installation artist is curating a specific holiday hybrid with BDSM. I was inspired by a leather family event I went to this summer that had a family photo booth. Why not do it in the holiday way?

LEATHER DADDY SANTA PHOTO BOOTH
Featuring Dusty Shoulders. She promises some amazing beard action, Santa suit and accessories. I’m working with our photographer Kelsey Dickey to have a super cute photo booth so you have something you might want to print out and send as cards to maybe your kinky friends but maybe not your mom (depending on your mom, I guess).

ERIN HOUDINI’S CHRISTMAS TREES
I took a rope class with Erin Houdini a couple of months ago through the Lesbian Sex Mafia and it was awesome! I learned so much. And Erin’s ropes are fucking sumptuous! The colors are also incredible and she’s selling them at Rebel Cupcake for $10 off their online price so bring cash for stocking stuffers. And stick around and watch her decorate people like Christmas trees! I am bringing ornaments.

JACQUELINE MARY’S JEWISH MOMMY HANNUKAH CELEBRATION
Mommy/boy play is awesome and so is Jacqueline and there’s something delightfully maternal about serving latkes and dreidel action. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

DAMIEN LUXE SERVES SOLSTICE
Damien is a genius performance artist and notoriously adept at BDSM so I asked her to serve something for Soltice.

MIZZ JUNE SERVES SHOTS
Whatever she wears will be its own installation, and the incredible Mizz June is always a delight. Buy shots from her, or send a shot to someone else at the party.

DAVID JOHN SOKOLOWSKI SERVES BEATS, BUT LOW ENOUGH SO YOU CAN TALK
One of the secret reasons I love throwing parties is because I have enough influence to set the volume of music. I never understand why music needs to be so loud in a club. And I know this isn’t just because I’m 34, I’ve felt this way since I was 20. Like, at a house party music is loud enough to dance and experience but still soft enough to be able to have a conversation. But at a night club or bar it’s gotta be at top decibal I still don’t understand. So I am the kind of person who is all, play good music but let’s keep it able to have a conversation.

People have met their partners, one night stands, new besties (it’s where I met Jacqueline and many of my dates) and artistic collaborators at past Rebel Cupcakes. I want y’all to mingle and meet folks!

Also David is a great DJ.

FREE TREATS!
My Cupcake Princess is out of town (*sob*) and I haven’t found a back-up yet so if I don’t find someone who wants to make cupcakes for Rebel Cupcakes (you get supplies covered/free admission/GLORY) I will be doing it myself like in the old days. But trust, RC is a place for decadent treats and I try my best to honor our gluten and vegan cupcake challenged siblings.

Here’s all the details. Hope to see you there!!

Saturday, December 7th, 2013 * Brooklyn, NY
Bevin Branlandingham Presents
Rebel Cupcake 41: Leather Family Holiday
8PM-10PM; NO SHOW–Come early to experience all the installations * $10
Stick around after to dance at TNT til 4a
**NEW LOCATION—THIS N THAT BAR: 108 N. 6th St. @ Berry, Brooklyn, NY
(2 blocks from the Bedford L subway stop)

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From the Queer Holiday Extravaganza in 2009! Me, Deb, Glenn Marla and Taueret from our Re/Dress Brooklyn days! Photo by Ally Picard.

2013-10-21

FEMME SEX WEEK: Excerpt from my Memoir for International Fisting Day

After the success of FAT SEX WEEK and GAY SEX WEEK it only made sense to round out the trifecta with FEMME SEX WEEK. Check out the tag to see all of the entries in this topic and check back soon for more amazing Femme sex talk!

It’s International Fisting Day, an online celebration created by queer porn mogul and star Courtney Trouble and queer porn star Jiz Lee to bring awareness to an important sex act that uses the whole hand!

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Jacqueline, Me, Miss Mary Wanna and Courtney Trouble in a cab.

It may seem kind of flippant to have a whole day dedicated to fisting, but it’s actually born of the struggles Courtney has had as a pornographer getting distribution for films that involve fisting. Even though it’s a really common sex act, especially amongst queers, it is maligned in a list of potentially “obsene” and therefore possibly illegal sex acts. You can read more about fisting in pornography and Courtney’s activism around distribution of films in her State of the Fist address.

In terms of my contribution to the Fisting Day lexicon, I want to provide an excerpt from my memoir. It’s not yet published (I am very close to finishing the first draft and am looking for a publisher) but fisting featured prominently in a few stories I tell in the book and I spent a lot of time figuring out how to communicate the mechanics of fisting in this excerpt. Enjoy!


We were making out until the beach combing trucks came. With that heady mix of chemistry and alcohol, I knew with every fiber of my being that I wanted to sleep with her.

When we got back to my place I was really glad I had prepared for my date.

We were rolling around on the bed, getting sand everywhere and she basically said “None for me, thanks,” with regards to receiving any fucking, because she had her period. Our clothes came off quickly and at some point she had her (relatively small) hand inside me but I couldn’t really feel anything. I asked how many fingers she was using and she said, “One…”

I laughed. I always laugh a lot in bed. Sex is silly! There are so many weird things to talk about.
“You can start with three.” Picking up her free hand I said, “Um, your hands can probably fist me.” I didn’t use the term Size Queen with Jen Small but I was definitely thinking it. And I certainly don’t have any shame being one. Some bodies are built to pass a child and the pursuit of pleasure can accommodate a lot with enough patience and lube.

Jen Small did some more fumbling and I started laughing again. My hands flew up to my mouth and I tried to stifle my laughter. “I’m not laughing at you! I’m laughing at me!” I tried to reassure her as my laughing continued. Jen Small wasn’t very insecure and she seemed to understand.

I explained, “I was assuming you know how to fist someone. Have you ever done that before?” I realized, at twenty five, she might not have fisted anyone. I certainly hadn’t had any fisting on the giving or receiving end by twenty five.

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Image by Damien Luxe. Read about the history and intent behind this piece here.

She shook her head no. I did a thirty second fisting demonstration for her. Using my left hand as a prop vaginal opening, connecting my thumb and forefinger making a circle. I shaped my right hand into a duck bill “fist,” with the top of the bill my four fingers and the bottom of the bill my thumb placed in the center, scrunching the whole situation as thin as possible and inserted my duck billed hand into the left hand circle, twisting it to fit.

If I were doing this demonstration for a friend I would also include some tips for maneuvering the fist to graze the g-spot as it is working its way in, positions that work best for accommodating something bigger than your vagina is used to, and probably end the demonstration with a fist insertion/jazz hands flourish. But I didn’t finish my demonstration with any of these bells and whistles because I was anxious to get Jen Small’s hand back in there.

I had also never been in the position of sleeping with someone with less experience than I had and wanted to ensure she was at ease. I always want to make sure the folks I sleep with feel safe being their authentic selves in bed. So instead of the jazz hands flourish I said, “But you don’t have to do it if you are uncomfortable!”

“No, I really want to!” she said. And she did.

P.S. I also found this post on my tumblr for folks with long nails who want to fist people!

***
I have more fun things to include in FEMME SEX WEEK coming up this week and next. If you’d like to read a longer excerpt from my memoir, I’m giving away a whole chapter (it’s lots of dyke drama and fat politics) at the $50 level for my fundraiser to support QueerFatFemme.com.

2013-06-28

Eight Things to Keep in Mind For Your First Sex Party

There are a couple of not safe for work photos in this post…

It’s Pride Week and the close to Gay Stamina Month and what better thing to talk about that makes us really gay than… sex. My friend Elisabeth even addressed it in her wedding column!

A few friends of mine are preparing for their first ever play party, so I’ve been doling out advice right and left. It’s called “play” but sometimes folks interchange the word “sex” or the acronym “BDSM.” Whatever you call it, it is a social occasion in which folks are free, perhaps even encouraged, to engage in public sexual or kink behaviors. It’s a good place for people who are exhibitionists and voyeurs, as well as people who want a dose of sexual energy in their lives. There are a bunch of different reasons folks might want to go to a sexy party, a few of which I’ve addressed below. I believe being good in bed is one third chemistry, one third listening to your partner and one third skill. Sex parties are great places to learn new skills and better sexual communication.

I only attend sex parties sporadically and rarely play with strangers–and I don’t play unless I really feel like I want to. When I want to feel agency over myself as a sexual being I like sex parties a lot for that. The energy is usually really good and liberating and it often feels like a way to reclaim my body after a break-up, even if I don’t play at all. And I’m always looking for ways to do that.

My first play party was about a decade ago. I was still living in Philadelphia when I made the trek to Throb on the Lower East Side. It was a queer women & trans play party, the likes of which I had heard about in dyke literature–Michelle Tea books, On Our Backs magazine–and the fringes of my sex positive friend groups. I was in a monogamous relationship (with some make-out freedom) and I’m not sure entirely why Seth was okay with me going without her but I think it was an adventure I felt in every part of my twenty-four year old heart that I needed to have.

I think it was a release party for Sugar High Glitter City and I was too shy to ask Shar and Jackie to sign my copy. I found that first party intimidating but liberating, and not as scary as I thought but still scary in a this is a really new thing I don’t know how to be sort of way. Over the years I’ve become really fond of parties that hire a good DJ (nothing kills my boner like bad music) and have at least one room that feels like a regular party and isn’t very serious. I like to chat with folks and sometimes people are very serious about kink. I’m not. I remember having folks tell me “I heard you were flogging so and so at Switch and making her recite Britney Spears lyrics.”

Like I said, I don’t go to play parties often but I enjoy them. There are some folks who make this a huge part of their life–taking weekend trips all across the country to go to parties. So this list is just some suggestions from my perspective and I encourage you to ask other folks for their ideas as well.

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I consulted my friend Felice Shays about her tips as a long time player, author of Brutal Affection, and the person who flogged me for the first time during a demo carnival at Throb the second or third time I went. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

1. Brush up on consent practices.

Just because someone is at a party doesn’t mean they want to engage in play or sex, or engage in it with you. They might just be there testing the waters or just not that into you or what you want to do. Remember, without no there is no yes. But also, they might just be shy and want to, so it is worth asking and being prepared to hear “No” or “Yes” and remember that asking is the victory, not the outcome.

Some parties have explicit consent policies and practices–you should read all of those before you get there so you have an idea of what to expect. I suggest reading the Learning Good Consent Zine to any person who wants to engage in sexual activity with another person ever (i.e. everyone), but it’s especially good to do this before you go to an explicit play space. Also my tips on How to be an Ally to Your Fat Lover are relevant here, too. Be body positive!

The Myth Party is one of my favorite play parties ever and I suggest cruising their “rules and security” section. They are very thoughtful and awesome. I appreciate that everyone there adheres to these consent policies because it makes me feel comfortable as a queer woman who has sex with folks of non-normative bodies and genders to know that the multi-gendered partiers are all on the same page as I am with consent.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

2. Brush up on your talking to strangers.

I’ve written extensively here about how to get over shyness and ask people out on dates. The same principle applies at a play party–nobody ever died of awkward.

Felice suggested making it a goal to talk to at least one person you don’t know. I had the goal to talk to five people I didn’t know at the single’s mixer I went to a couple of months ago. It’s hard to talk to strangers (even for some extroverts) especially in a sexually charged/awkwardish environment. But probably everyone else is feeling a little nervous, too. Even experienced players get nervous, awkward and consider leaving. Best just to dive in and get through it so you can get to the good stuff!

Felice also said, “If you see something or someone interesting talk to them. Wait until they’re done w whatever or whomever they’re doing.” It’s normal to feel like a weirdo in unfamiliar social settings but remember a play party is just like a regular party. Use a little grace and finesse about when and how you talk to people. Be appreciative not creepy.

Take advantage of cruising wristbands and use that as your opening with people. “I notice you’re looking to engage in S/M play as a top…” Submit party here in Brooklyn has a whole cruising wristband system.

The one-liner that works best in my experience at play parties is, “Would you like to negotiate something?” An ex of mine said going up to people at parties is like shooting fish in a barrel because most folks at women/trans events are too shy to make the first move. Be bold, the rewards are plentiful!

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Felice is a mega-tron babe. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

3. Go with a specific desire in mind but no expectations.

This was from my roommate, Damien Luxe. I think it’s a great idea to have a desire so that way when you do talk to someone or they talk to you and the question comes up whether or not you want to negotiate something, you have things in mind. Examples might be, bondage, flogging, spanking, sex, making out, cuddling, watching porn together, watching scenes together, doing each other’s make-up, learning how to do something.

But going with no expectations is really important. If your getting laid is the only way you’ll feel successful at the party, you probably won’t be successful. Going with the flow and being open to genuine connections is probably better. I learned how to just let expectations go and be appreciative of the experiences I’ve had and wound up much happier (be this at conferences I thought would be total boink fests, and dates I’ve thought were sure things but then there was no chemistry).

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Felice giving a glitter spank demo at Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

4. Interact with the host!

Felice suggests “Find the host and ask for a tour and or offer some help.” Getting the lay of the land is really helpful right away. Often volunteering at events is a really great way to meet people you may want to negotiate play with. It’s a good ice breaker, too, and can help you feel more brave, as these parties are all about stepping outside your comfort zone.

I was the Mistress of the Parlor for a play party my friend Trent threw a few Pride weekends ago called “Transaction.” I got to greet people and play matchmaker and ice break. I loved that job! It didn’t get me laid but I think I was secret monogamous at the time so I wasn’t really looking for action.

If you think the host is hot (and probably they are, and very good at what they do), Felice has some specific advice. “Don’t wait til an hour before closing time to ask the party host to flog you or fuck you – they’re possibly cleaning up condoms or wiping down equipment or fucked or flogged out already.”

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I was searching desperately for a photo of LeRoi Prince in Captain Kirk drag to illustrate a point later on in this blog entry but I had to settle for this insanely hot photo of them in a vest and shirt. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

5. Dress in a way that makes you feel confident and sexy.

I’m not so into the leather scene aesthetic of black tank top/tee shirt and black jeans and black boots. Or camouflage anything. Sure, I like 90s style on the right person, but I just think that’s a “safe” look and good style really makes you stand out. How about gray skinny jeans? Your boots should be fabulous. If they were two-toned cowboy boots that would really turn my head.

When I was still pretty new to kink stuff and going out a lot after the end of my engagement, my bestie Rachael came to town to teach me to flog. When deciding what to wear to the party we went to (I think it was Switch at Paddles, may it rest in peace) she highly endorsed me wearing a gold dress. “It’s important to stand out,” she said.

Lots of folks default to the standard slip dress or lingerie, which is fine if that is your aesthetic. But I don’t shy away from a costume and was pretty proud of what I wore to do that hostessing gig at Transaction, which is the same outfit I wore to Femmecee Rebel Cupcake a couple of months later.

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From Rebel Cupcake, August 2010. The fact that I was 31 at the time is sort of startling because it doesn’t feel that long ago and I still have all of the elements of that outfit in my wardrobe. Photo by Nogga Schwartz.

Corsets are good, wear great underwear and “consider shaving your personal bits or whatever else you consider primping before you get there,” says Felice.

Most play parties have a place to change, and people often make use of this. No one expects you to arrive “ready.” This is one of those great examples of a place where you can bring multiple outfit changes. At a party I went to with a sweetheart in service to me (and I was performing) I had three pairs of shoes and took advantage of having someone to lean on while I changed heels several times.

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Finding that photo of me meant finding a photo of my darling Miss Mary Wanna from 2010, too. What about wearing a hot apron and fishnets to a play party? Photo by Nogga Schwartz.

6. Mindfully imbibe.

Lots of parties are BYOB. Some are sober (keep your eyes out for that). But be mindful of using alcohol and other drugs when you’re playing. It really messes with consent and boundaries and you don’t want to do something you wouldn’t soberly decide to do with your body or to someone else’s body. There are many other chances in life to get fucked up and a play party doesn’t need to be that place.

But, you know, if you need a beer or a makers on the rocks to ease into things, go ahead. Just be forewarned that there are people who won’t play with you if you have been drinking or using other drugs.

Also, drink lots of water. Felice: “Drink water. Use lube. Drink water.”

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I’ve worn this outfit to play parties, too. This is my dear friend Anne!

7. Pack your toys!

Lots of parties have the big equipment, like beds, crosses to lay someone on, cages, etc… But you have to supply the flogger, canes, dildos, vibes, whatever. What you might want used on you is a great thing to bring because not all tops come carrying all that they have in their repertoire of skills. And if you have something you want to use that’s a good thing to maybe flag with casually in a back pocket. Just a thought for cruising purposes.

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Drae Campbell at Rebel Cupcake NO PANTS NO PROBLEM. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

8. Kiss somebody.

Felice says simply, “Kiss somebody!” Making out is fun and no big deal. I used to throw make-out parties all the time and they were really fun. I had all these games and got people in huge groups (50 or so) to play where it forced them to interact with people and either kiss, make out or friendly handshake and it was a way to negotiate play and also meet new folks.

In summary, sex parties are totally a fun way to play with energy and get really into your body and your desire. I highly endorse a couple of them before you decide they aren’t right for you. And if they are, you might find yourself on Fet Life getting all up in it every weekend like the sex hobbyists I know.

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The time we had a makeout contest at Rebel Cupcake NO PANTS NO PROBLEM. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

Folks in New York who want to give play parties a try I suggest:

July 11th–the hardly ever happens so catch it while you can Myth Party. It’s like the nightclub of the future, where folks are dancing and mingling but also fucking and playing and wearing Star Trek costumes.

It’s a great answer to the problematic nature of “who exactly is women and trans” because it’s not. It’s a fluid gender party where the needs and comfort of queers of all bodies, genders and ethnicities is privileged. You have to apply to get an invite and it’s definitely, definitely worth it. Especially if you just go to be at a party with sexual energy and aren’t sure whether you want to play. I went as a performer last time and was super impressed with it and felt no impetus to get down with my sweetheart, but felt welcome to. She and I had fun playing with a new dynamic, and briefly playing fetch with one of my roommate’s houseboys who was playing the part of Rover that evening. Pet play may not be my thing but it’s all play, and sometimes fetch is fun no matter who is doing the fetching. These parties are about experimenting and being free.

July 13thUnchained. It’s new, I’ve never been, but a trusted friend of mine went and gave it their stamp of approval so I am passing it on.

Every last SaturdaySubmit. It’s a Women and Trans party I’ve been to many times. They have a great in-house DJ (Angel Boi). The space is a basement, which sometimes smells like basement and is not my favorite olfactory experience but it’s a fun group of folks that seem to change every year or so I make the trek to the basement.

2013-04-26

Untapped Cruising Territory: OK Cupid Mixers

Almost exactly three years ago I started this blog project where I was going to explore places to meet potential dates in New York City that were outside of my comfort zone. I wrote one post (and the adventure did get me a date and a hot make-out, after the fact). Almost exactly two years and fifty weeks ago I rekindled a romance with an ex in LA and stopped needing to cruise because I was back in a long distance thing. Secret monogamous* style.

But, it’s Springtime again! I am looking forward to expanding my horizon! And when a pal of mine who works for OkCupid** offered me a comp ticket to a Queer Women’s Mixer at the Dalloway bar (the newest lez bar in Manhattan) that was exactly one month to the day from my break-up, I thought it was a sign I should try something new. So welcome to post number two in my Untapped Cruising Territory series! Three years later.

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The Dalloway Bar is next door to a doggie day care that has a window for Peeping Lesbians.

Part of moving on is about dipping your toes in the water, finding that fine line between pushing yourself too fast and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone so you can grow.

The event: OKC has started to create a little Web 3.0*** action by facilitating events! They have beer tastings and book swaps and lots of other hipster nerd activities to partake in. This one was just a happy hour for folks. You had to preregister on the site and you could even preview people’s tiny photo icons on the website. Pre-cruising at events, like on Fet Life! This event was just a happy hour, with the intent to meet folks. Very low-key.

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Why this is untapped for me: The Dalloway is a bar I’ve only been to once for a friend’s fundraiser. It’s a sort of gaystream place and I hang out in queer gender weirdo crowds. In a big city like NYC we can self-segregate a bit and I am totally guilty of this. (Hence a blog project to not do that so much!) Also, though I am a total extrovert, I hate small talk! I like authentic, deep conversation with people and the whole “being socially lightweight with the questions I ask because you’re a stranger” thing is not my favorite. This is why I want to be a talk show host! I want to get the meat of the question. So happy hour/networking things are hard for me because it’s pretty surface and shallow.

The Outfit:

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You can’t really tell I’m wearing black leggings and hot black motorcycle style boots with studs on the straps.

I went with something casual but signature. I’m a big believer in wearing colors, especially amongst New Yorkers who tend towards greys, browns and blacks. Next time you’re out in Manhattan after work hours see what I’m talking about. I think when you’re doing a thing about meeting potential dates it’s important to look as true to yourself as possible. I mean, you want to be impressive but without compromising authenticity. I didn’t wear red lipstick until after the sun went down. This is not a hard and fast rule for me, this was just because I knew I wanted to sample the Dalloway’s happy hour truffle fries and didn’t want to worry about having to reapply.

The Wing Femme:

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Bridget. Who could basically teach a class on how to be a great Wing Femme. She knows exactly when to draw someone in and when to back quietly out of a conversation. She knows when to remind you the day of the event that you look like a babe, and when to follow-up the next day to remind you that you’re a babe and a great catch. (Hella important traits when making first forays into dating after a break-up.) Bridget’s pretty incredible.

The Scene:

Approximately fifty queers in a swanky basement happy hour space. Before we even got into the bar I ran into another friend whose break-up is about three weeks younger than mine and I commented, “Didn’t you just get your heart broken yesterday?” But sometimes your friends drag you out as soon as you become single to remind you of the vast pussy possibilities out there.

The Dalloway has their own singles night at 8PM every Tuesday, so they were creating this a combo event. You had to be on the pre-paid ticket list for OkCupid in order to get in, and the swanky door folks offered the glow stick tagging bracelets for anyone who wanted them. Options were Single, Taken or D.T.F.**** I selected D.T.F. Why not? It’s pretty representative of how casual I’m interested in being right now. Getting what you want is all about being clear with your desire.

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The thing to do with singles mixers, according to my bestie Victoria, is to make it your goals to meet as many people as possible and not expect to meet the love of your life. I mean, sure, I believe in love at first sight, but that’s for times like at a friend of a friend’s birthday party or over produce at the food co-op and not at a singles mixer. This is just about a numbers game.

What I liked about the happy hour was that everyone was there explicitly to meet people so folks were a lot bolder than they normally would be because there was a group understanding about interacting. So people seemed to free to just float up to a group of folks and start chatting.

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I stayed close to Bridget and let her do the fishing for us. It seemed that between me, Bridget, her friend Blakely and this other girl Jenny she knew, that we kind of group dated other new folks. “Oh, hey, tell us about yourself,” until somehow they hit it off with one or none of us.

I enjoyed some diet coke (I’m not drinking alcohol anymore as a lifestyle choice), truffle fries and a slider. It felt a little weird to be eating at a happy hour where not a lot of people got food, but I was really hungry and honestly if someone is going to be weird about me eating some truffle fries I just don’t think they’re a good match for me, friend or date.

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The slider was really good and so were the fries. But they totally were expensive even for happy hour pricing, at $5 for a mini burger and $7 for fries. Pricey place, that Dalloway.

The verdict: I spent two hours at the mixer and by the end was pretty done talking to new people. I enjoyed my time but small talk is, again, a lot of specific energy and I was excited to go back to talking to my bestie/wing femme. Also I saw a girl out of the corner of my eye that I swore was my ex’s ex (but maybe she just looked like her) and I freaked out a little.

However, I totally met two people I would absolutely go on a date with, so I think in a crowd of fifty that is a total win. I didn’t ask either of them out (or even flirt that much, I’m not that great at subtlety) because I know at this delicate stage I can’t handle even a little bit of rejection. But it is really reassuring and awesome to know that there are babely babes I want to chat up date-style and have hot make-outs with out there and it’s a small queer world, our paths will cross again.

As I left with my friend who is way more freshly broken-up with than I am, I lamented that no one else was flagging D.T.F. and she proudly lifted up her shirt cuff to reveal her yellow wristband. We had a great laugh.

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My friend Regan.

After the event I noticed that we can now see the actual profile listings of the other folks at the mixer, I guess to help facilitate follow-up!

Bridget says, “They call it ‘Okay’ Cupid not ‘Exceptional’ Cupid or ‘Extremely Effective’ Cupid.”

And my friend who works for OkCupid says this:

With OkC, your experience depends a TON on your priorities & expectations. It is great if: you want to meet a lot of people fast, if you’re pragmatic about casting a wide net and proactive about making the first move, if it’s important to you that the person you are meeting for drinks shares some values or interests with you, if your dating prefs are very specific or unusual in some notable but maybe not immediately apparent way (poly, kinky, looking for sex only, etc.) or if you feel like you are otherwise “not for everybody” and would prefer to get hit on by people who are ready for this jelly (see also Bevin’s note about fat strippers doing really well on OkC.) OkCupid is a BAD idea if: you’re sensitive to rejection or deeply bummed out by strangers ignoring you, if tend to assume it’s “me not them” when people aren’t into you, if you’re skeeved by people you don’t consider suitable checking out your profile or contacting you, if a ‘we met cute’ story is important to you, or if you have high expectations around the level of connection you’ll have with the people you meet.

I think that’s a pretty great nutshell for online dating in general, but especially the OkC situation.

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What’s next on the Untapped Cruising Territory for Bevin? I’m going to try my old ideas from 2010, lesbian softball game, the Park Slope Food Co-op, and A Brooklyn Meat-Up (though I don’t remember what this was). And my friends keep telling me about this Lesbian Herstory Archives speed dating thing for 30+, but I’m not so sure about that.

*Secret monogamous is where neither party has agreed to monogamy but both end up just defaulting to monogamy because they don’t want to do it to/date anyone else.

**For those of you who don’t know, OkCupid is a dating website. It’s good for urban queers and our pals. I know many people who have met their partners from it, especially fat burlesque performers who like cisgendered nerdy dudes. It’s a thing.

***Web 3.0 is where you use social media to meet people in real life! Damien Luxe brought this term unto me.

****D.T.F. I learned from watching Jersey Shore, means Down To Fuck. It’s a hilarious conversation starter.

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These people made out at the mixer, I believe they might call this a success.

2013-04-19

My Time With the Heels on Wheels Glitter Road Show

Early in March I had the opportunity to attend two gigs with Heels on Wheels at a couple of colleges in the Northeast. I have known about HOW since its inception, mostly because two of my besties (Heather Acs and Damien Luxe) conceived it. Much like the Sister Spit tour, I always wonder what it would be like to “get in the van” and bring my work around. I’m lucky that part of my income comes from going to colleges to do workshops and performances, so I get a bit of that, but never in the big group. Getting to do those two gigs was a little taste of the road-trip-meets-art-adventure without ever having to forsake a shower because there were too many people and too few showers available in too little time (the greatest road show complaint I hear from everyone who goes on any tour).

Ever relentlessly documenting my life, I made a little photo essay of our trip to Hampshire College to present a workshop on confidence (Femmepowerment–from the stage to the street) and perform as the evening entertainment for the Five Colleges Queer Conference. I had a really great time and it was an honor to be in such extraordinary company for our 16 hour adventure.

We got in the van. All nine of us, Femmes, in some way or another.
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There was the HOW Production team, Heather and Damien. The HOW touring artists, DJ Shomi Noise and Lixznn Disaster. The folks on the East Coast leg of the tour (me and Kirya Traber). The photographer for the day, Nicole, and the amazing Cristy Road, catching a ride with Heels on Wheels to go to her own workshops/readings.

I'm on tour for one day. #howroadshow Cristy Road, @shominoise @kiryat Damien Luxe not pictured heather acs Nicole and Lixznn.

Our fearless driver & navigator. Lixznn disaster & Nicole ayla mules. #howroadshow

I learned early on that Lizxnn drives the van like a boss. Seriously, not at all intimidated by the size and power of that huge van, as we rolled over curbs as needed and got where we needed to go (Northampton, MA) safely.

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The van was a pretty amazing experience. Imagine how wonderful, inspirational and loud it is to be surrounded by chatty Femmes. It is the most at home I ever feel. When my too much is exactly as much as everyone else’s. We learned that all of us had been raised with working class single moms. We had a spontaneous performance art moment where those of us who had no dad were told by those who had bad dads all the things we wished we’d heard growing up.

For example:
“You’re so pretty exactly as you are.”

“Here, let me show you how to build a bookshelf.”

“I support you growing up to be a working artist.”

“I love you unconditionally, no matter what.”

(As an aside, it’s really powerful work to reparent yourself as an adult when you learn what unconditional love can look like.)

We decided we were going to perform that at “Fuck You Dad,” Damien’s annual father’s day/birthday party performance show.

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Shomi did some casual community organizing from her wifi hot spot on her phone.

As a former drag king troupe producer, I am familiar with traveling with a group of folks and creating itineraries. We were given explicit timing instructions of when we would leave and could expect to return. We knew it would be a long day. Our lunch stop ended up being a dunkin donuts in the middle of who-knows-where Massachusetts because of timing.

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They were pretty amused with us flowing in and out, getting breakfast sandwiches and using the bathrooms in turn. There was a delightful little flier on the counter.

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We also went through the workshop we were going to give that day, confirming who would do what. It was great to get to create with those amazing minds. It was also just so incredible to roll up to the various pit stops we made with this group of Femmes nine deep. Being a weirdo out in the world is pretty usual for me, but being a weirdo with other weirdos is a spectacle is empowering beyond words. That’s Femme visibility.

This is a laminated copy of the hanky code I got from an ex lover that I gave to Damien for her van warming party in 2010 and now hangs in the van. The ex lover was a Butch Virgo, if that explains the lamination and lengthiness of the code.

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There was considerably less gear than we would have had if the tour was for more than a 16 hour trip with no overnight.

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We stopped at this crazy natural foods store in Northampton (?) that had more fruit and Easter candy than I expected to see.

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After snacks we got into the conference and set up for our workshop.

I always like to give folks the option to follow us on the internet, so I created this intensely detailed situation on the white board during our workshop.

#howroadshow

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(Photo by Nicole Myles.)

At the beginning of the workshop we each told a two minute story of our journey to self confidence. I like to begin my workshops and performances at colleges telling people how glad and grateful I am to do this work. I explain that when I was in college if I had access to seeing a queer fat femme teach me about self-confidence (or, let’s be honest, just seeing a queer fat femme) it would have changed my entire life.

Accidental selfie. #howroadshow

After the workshop we made our way over to this barn where there would be the Heels on Wheels performance and a QUEER PROM.

We spent some time backstage eating dinner and getting ready. Heather and I did some yoga stretching where the financial aid office is. No doubt, where a lot of stressed out students line up every semester like I once did. I tried to invoke some healing and patience energy to those students.

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Being a performer means that the term “backstage” is a loose idea that includes kitchens, storage rooms, alleys behind bars, bathrooms, a sheet tacked up to the ceiling bisecting a part of the room that is the performance space and many, many other weird permutations.

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The merch mall. Buying merch at shows is a fabulous way to support touring artists. I’m super stoked to wear my new purple v-neck Heels on Wheels shirt.

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(I still have those Rebel Cupcake hankies, $8, and hair flowers, $5. If you want them, email me queerfatfemme at gmail.)

It’s impossible to summarize the work presented by the HOW artists that night, but here’s my attempt to give you the diaspora. Heather did her performance “This is What We Have,” about adventures, freedom, longing and stardust. Damien did her piece “Exorcise” a comedic act about a process for embodiment from trauma. It’s very empowering. Shomi did some singing and storytelling about immigrant adolescence and coming out. And Kirya did this incredible piece using Beyonce moves about growing up, gender and body hair. My piece is about what it is like to spend 34 years in a body bigger than what society deems “average,” and I think it’s a good piece for college shows because it’s very body oppression 101, personal and empowering.

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Photo by Nicole Myles.

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Photo by Nicole Myles.

After the show we hung out listening to DJ Shomi Noise DJing. We went out to the van for a brief hang out and imagined that we were sailing through the air in the van with Cristy Road’s image of the night sky floating by us.

Matteo made this bling himself! I was so excited about it.

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We arrived home at 5:30 in the morning. Getting a little lost in some giant state park and only had to stop once so someone could pee behind a car.

After our adventure to Hampshire and New Paltz, the part of the tour that was going to the West Coast (Heather, Damien, Shomi and Lizxnn) went from LA up to Vancouver and back down again. Sorry to anyone who saw me on the posters and thought I was going to be out there! I got a lot of emails from people thinking I was in town. It made me seriously consider my own tour of the West Coast. I’m happy to do it if anyone wants to help me book a couple of college gigs!

The Heels on Wheels had a rough time out there, to say the least. Read here about the trauma they experienced while in Olympia.

I can’t tell you how much love I have in my heart for all of the artists involved with Heels on Wheels. They mean so much to me personally and as a queer femme in the world.

Heels on Wheels is an amazing organization that is working-class lead, feminist and femme empowering. HOW is fundraising through Indigogo to create sustainability for the organization and to support future work by the organization. You can give for the next eight days through this link. You can also get a bunch of really sweet prizes, but contributing to Femme magic, like the road trip I just described above, is also prize enough.

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You can get this ultra-rad carabiner mug for only a $20 donation! I’m totally stoked about my forthcoming mug that can easily clip to my purse.

Here are a bunch of artists from the Brooklyn homecoming show. It’s such an honor to perform with HOW.

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Photo by Chaska Sophia.

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