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

2017-11-24

Shop for the Holidays and Smash the Patriarchy (Getting the Deals, Too)

You need to shop for the holidays and you want to dismantle the patriarchy? Me, too! Supporting small businesses owned by women, queers, people of color and other minorities warms the cockles of my heart. Since my wealth is more in influence than it is in bucks for the time being, one of my favorite holiday blog traditions is my gift guide!

This is what I look like when I blog for the holidays. I’m rocking one of my All Bodies are Worthy of Love stickers 1.0 on my laptop and my Stitch Prism necklace of pyrite and blue kyanite.

On Cyber Monday at Noon Pacific time I’m going live on the Plus Bus facebook page. The Plus Bus is a local plus size resale store here in Northeast LA and I’m stoked to get to bring resale plus size clothing to people all over the world who don’t have a plus size resale store nearby. As a bonus I get to help bolster this plus size women owned store and hone my skills as a QVC hostess by curating a great inventory and featuring indie plus designer Proud Mary Fashion. Like the Plus Bus Boutique Facebook page and turn on notifications for live videos so you get reminded!

I love this All Genders are Valid Tee shirt (sized to 2X) from Genuine Valentine. I also love the To Be An Ally is to Show Basic Human Decency shirt (XS to 4X) and the Making My Own Path onesie (to 24 Months)!! (Pssst… I’m collaborating with the designer on a line of Fat Kid Dance Party tee shirts! Stay tuned for those!)

All weekend long use code “PARADOX” for 25% off orders over $60!

If people you know love their pets the way I love mine, these wood pet portraits are exactly the right gift. Rufus Reineck of The Pop Box sent me the cutest paintings of Macy and Biscuit Reynolds shelacked on wood. I cannot express the leaps my heart made when I got this gift from a self proclaimed “big gay family” who are fans of Biscuit and Macy on Instagram! Macy is pink glitter! It looks amazing on the wall and the colors are both true to our pets and make them seem like pop art. I’m obsessed. Get the custom dog portrait here or the custom cat portrait here. P.S. Someone go snag this amazing pop art of Prince before it goes.

Sometimes you just wanna craft for people. For three bucks you can get a PDF pattern for a pretty simple Feminist Killjoy pattern or for seven bucks you can get Nevertheless She Persisted (I would totally do this for a pillow). All I Want For Christmas is a Functioning Democracy is a fav if you don’t have time to cross stitch yourself. Check out the whole inventory of Caustic Cross Stitch.

Leather Coven is your go-to for body affirming leather harnesses and the leather cage skirt I’m forever obsessed with. The Priestess collar is a great smash the patriarchy gift at $27. I have a piece from there I bought during a cyber Monday sale a couple of years ago and it fits perfectly because it was made to measure. The handmade leather ornaments are so beautiful and are the perfect hostess gift for the leather femme in your life or someone who loves modern design. So beautiful and on trend!

Monday only get 15% off with code CYBERANGEL!

I met Scarlett River of Dirty Lola through Dollypalooza when she donated to our fundraising auction for the Imagination Library. (Stay tuned here for a worldwide online holiday raffle to benefit Dolly’s Imagination Library chapter in Belize–the raffle pull is December 16th!) She makes some beautiful fan art–Dolly prints, Prince candles, and darling vintage pussy plates. But apropos for this gift guide is her Smash the Patriarchy print–only $18!

On Monday 11/27 use code DIRTYMONDAY for a deal!

Stitch Prism is one of my favorite jewelry merchants. I have a couple of pieces and absolutely love them and use them in my crystal practice. This Saturn Return necklace is perfect for the 27ish human in your life who is going through it with the taskmaster in the sky, Saturn. I love the double triangle with agate, as well, or you could customize a piece with a type of crystal that speaks to what your pal is going through!

20% off Stitch Prism until Monday 11/27, automatically applied on Etsy!

Joshica Beauty is a Black-owned natural small batch beauty supply line. This Beard Maintenance gift set is under $20 and the beard oil is a five star rated product! This is a great gift for someone who is very excited about their beard. I know a few very beard-identified people who this would be perfect for!

I met the Gay Pin Guys at A Bear Named Troy‘s brunch event at The Plus Bus. They gave me their Spill the Tea pin and I adore it and featured in my Facebook Live video about how to brew Matcha, the cancer fighting delicious elixer. The Rainbow Resist Pin is a great gift for the militant lesbians, radical queers and PFLAG Moms in your life. The You’ve Got This pin is such a charming way of encouraging someone.

Don’t forget the queer/women/POC healers, massage therapists, tarot readers, mediums, astrologers, and other small business hustlers in your life. If someone you know is going through a rough time, a trip to a healer they usually only see when they have cash flow is a really nice thing to crowd fund for. I got a great medium reading as a crowd fund birthday present one year and it is still a treasured experience.

If you want to buy your 5778 Hannukah candles with a portion of proceeds going to domestic racial justice projects (I am not sure anyone else who makes Hannukah candles can say that), head over to Jonah at Narrow Bridge Candles. I have watched their chandelery in action many years ago and it is a truly beautiful and sacred process. It’s more impactful and intentional than buying your candles from Rite Aid. The North Bay fires (where Jonah’s chandlery and herbal apothecary are located) have affected their sales of the candles this year and they are still available! First Night of Hanukkah is December 12th 2017 / 24 Kislev, so get those orders in ASAP.

My friend Sabine Maxine of A Tribe Called Queer is the curator and designer behind Patty Wack Vintage (some plus vintage available). Sabine is offering 20% off through 11/30 and her shop is worth the look for the photography alone. This sale alone is a great excuse to treat yourself to something cute and new for the holidays!

I watched a lot of Muppet Christmas movies while writing this post and my favorite joke was: Did you hear about the church that burned down? Holy smoke! (Insert Statler and Waldorf Laughing.) Please make no mistake I love churches, of course, and I really love puns.

Do you have a small business you want to plug? I’m looking for brands who want to partner for a giant unboxing party in mid-December. Email me at queerfatfemme at gmail to be included!

When you love yourself, ​everything gets easier. Join me LIVE on Facebook everyday to learn how to love yourself more.

2016-10-21

You are Stronger Than You Think: Grief, Resilience and Capricorn Resistance

Last week I was shaving my newly adopted cat’s legs in an effort to mitigate his pee smell from peeing on his legs. “Shaving Day” was not a success and continues to be the official low point in our three week relationship. Lucky for me, it was a very consumptive process because I missed the texts from my mother when Grandmother went missing.

biscuitreynoldsHe’s so cute but the pee smell is so gross.

After I released Biscuit Reynolds to his 18 hours of post-shave sulking, I checked my phone. Mom’s series of texts were heart-wrenching, but I was already relieved to have read the most recent one. “I called Eisenhower and talked to Grandmother. She was in the hospital getting tests. She’s being released right now.” The first texts talked of asking me to join the hunt looking for Grandmother. She lives independently and doesn’t love her cell phone so we have to catch her at home in order to reach her. Mom hadn’t reached her in too long and got worried. On a whim she called Grandmother’s favorite hospital and asked for her room—and got her!

bevingrandmothermay2015Me and Grandmother in May 2015 on a visit from NYC. Being closer to her geographically was a big reason I wanted to move to LA.

I’ve been kind of wrapped up in my grief around Amanda’s suicide, so I was glad for a happy and swift resolution. Then I recounted the story to my partner Dara and started weeping. A coping strategy I have from my traumatic childhood is to be able to stay separate from my Feelings during crisis. I’m a complete rock star in crisis, I can solve shit, I can organize, I can motivate—I know how to stay safe and I know how to keep other people safe. This is a great skill but not great for emotional health and the Feelings always come. The weeping while I was telling Dara gave me the warning bell that I wasn’t done having these Feelings about Grandmother going missing.

Later that day I walked into Target and then started melting down. Have you ever sobbed at Target? It’s not cute. Part of what has been hardest for me with Amanda isn’t just the loss of her, it’s how much I identify with her and it’s scary. If the world was too hard for Amanda, will it be too hard for me? This thought often propels me to make the phone call even though I feel awkward talking about my Feelings in Target. I know I need to not isolate and I need to ask for help. So I called Bridget (she’s been so amazing this past month).

grandmotherbevinshermansMe and Grandmother at Sherman’s on Friday. When I asked the waitress for Shabbat candles for the table she was very confused.

I got through everything and then talked to Grandmother. Her test was a biopsy on a mass on her lung. She had gone to urgent care because she was coughing up blood and then they sent her right to the ER who admitted her to find the mass, do the biopsy. Grandmother didn’t call us because she doesn’t get a cell signal at the hospital and “didn’t know anyone’s numbers by heart.”

The fact that Grandmother might have cancer was a lot for me to take. Dara just celebrated two years out of cancer treatment in August. I, unfortunately, know a lot about cancer from supporting her through it. In spite of looming work deadlines, Dara offered to come with me to Grandmother’s the next morning to keep her company while she got the biopsy results from the doctor.

cancersurvivorpark1In May 2015 we did this photo shoot at the Cancer Survivor’s Park in Rancho Mirage, CA. We had NO idea Grandmother would have cancer–that’s the one thing that doesn’t really run in our family.

That night I was snuggling with Dara in “the nook.” My thoughts started floating to the grief places and I was crying. I realized I was soaking her shirt with my silent tears and I rolled over to my side. I felt like I was getting away with something. When you’re grieving sometimes you think your sadness, hurt, confusion, anger, depression is too much for your loved ones. Because often, it’s too much for you. Normally I spit in the face of anything that says I’m “too much” but I’m an independent Capricorn and sometimes I like to seem more together than I really am. Crying silently on my side of the bed felt like I could be more of a mess than Dara thought.

I instantly related to Grandmother. Like me and Dolly Parton, Grandmother is a Capricorn. So is my Great Grandmother and my Great Great Grandmother. An epic line of Capricorn women who in each past generation with deepened misogyny had to seem together and not lose it in front of anyone about grief and abuse and alcoholism and who knows what other trauma legacies are in there. Capricorns are the goat climbing the mountain. Persistent, ambitious, success-driven, not showing weakness. The cardinal Earth sign. The Keep It Together and Look Good Doing It sign.

I understood Grandmother’s reticence to ask for help when she got swept away to the hospital, to sit in a bed by herself and not call her kids or grandchildren. Just to do it on her own and not bother anyone. Getting away with not seeming like a mess or like she needed anything.

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I felt glad to relate to her and understand her motivation to isolate. I understand it with love and not judgment. I was also glad to be forcing myself on her to support her through the diagnosis the next day. I was sure she didn’t need someone to be there. She is always so happy and grateful when I come to visit I knew it wasn’t an imposition.

Dara caught on to me crying eventually and got me tissues and was her rock star supportive self. She drove two hours with me into the desert to Grandmother’s house in Rancho Mirage. She sat at the table with me and Grandmother googling the diagnosis, a mass on her lung but possibly a type of adrenal cancer or maybe lung cancer I still don’t know. She showed Grandmother her chemo karaoke video from her cancer vlog “Cancer Can Be Cool” and talked Grandmother through her experience with cancer treatment and how Dara insisted on positivity from everyone in her life.

daragrandmotherchemokaraokeDara worked so hard on that Chemo Karaoke video–she filmed it on her birthday during a chemo infusion at the Memorial Sloan Kettering chemo center where she got her treatment.

My idea was to go out to Sherman’s, our family’s favorite restaurant, a Jewish deli. (Better than most places I’ve been to in NYC—there I said it.) I wanted us to have a celebration for Grandmother’s cancer survival and success. I believe in the power of positive thinking more so than just about anything in my faith arsenal. If you’re going to go for a positive attitude might as well celebrate and have fun.

celebrationfood

We’re in the day by day diagnosis phase right now, where we wait for the next test result, next doctor referral. It’s maddening to a Capricorn like me who wants to plan and know what’s happening. But that’s not how the world works and I have to keep using lots of tools to be cool with it. I’m on my second listen to the just-released audio book The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein and it’s got a lot of tools for working with the flow of the Universe, womanifestating and for finding serenity.

I told Grandmother that part of my vision for being a rich lesbian is having a big ol’ compound where she would be able to live in her own space in our house, hold court with my friends (who all love her or will love her, she’s so charming) and she won’t have to deal with telling the gardeners they are not doing a good job she can just tell my house manager. But since I’m not yet a rich lesbian I need her to hold on a lot longer. We gotta beat this.

cancersurvivorpark2The Cancer Survivor Park in Rancho Mirage is really great. Worth a visit if you are in Palm Springs.

There’s a lot to worry about, both me and her. She’s older than she looks and that means she gets a lot of ageism when people look at her chart instead of her whole picture of human health. I can certainly relate to doctors looking at weight and not the whole picture of human health. She is always concerned that she won’t get to live independently anymore. I want to be able to be there a lot for her treatment but we just adopted this cat and he stressed out with us gone for one night that he started pooping blood. I just recommitted myself to finishing the memoir I shelved during Dara’s cancer treatment.

I get that worry is a misuse of imagination. I’d rather focus on how fun it will be to make art projects and adventures out of her cancer treatment. We almost convinced her to sing a Dolly song for an instagram video to help me promote Dollypalooza LA on October 29th! She’s got cute stories about being almost famous early in her life, about being constantly mistaken for a celebrity while living in Beverly Hills and now I think everyone thinks of her as an older celebrity while she’s tooling around Palm Springs. We are hopeful she’ll consent to being part of Dara’s cancer vlog. Grandmother is basically a gay icon waiting to happen.

daragrandmotherwalkingHeart emoji. Literally every time I write a gratitude list Dara is at the top.

Before Amanda died, the phrase “You are stronger than you think” kept popping into my head. I didn’t realize it then but that was the Universe telling me I am ready and resilient, even as I don’t really feel either just yet.

cancersurvivorpark3

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.

2016-08-24

I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times: General Life Update from Bevin’s HQ

Friends! I just got back from one of the most inspirational and fulfilling weeks of my life. Intentional community, dream trip, deep emotions, deep caring, connections, luxury bathtubs. It was such a surprise to me that the experience was so deep and so much of what I needed.

I was blogging through the process of my transition to LA from Brooklyn, but things got pretty derailed for me as I have been affected both by the de-stability of the transition and the effects of the mental illness and substance abuse of a close friend. Shit has been rough.

How blessed I feel to have had this experience. Intentional community is incredibly healing for me. Summer camp did that for me as a kid and a teen. The Femme Conference did that for me for awhile, so did performing with my drag king troupe in the early 2000s. Now I have this new experience to reflect on. I’m excited to dive in and tell you all about what I saw, heard, learned, felt and experienced. But first, I think I need to paint a picture of what’s been going on in my life for context.

Exciting Stuff for my Body Positive Art and Activism
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I’m presenting at the Fat Activism Conference in September! It’s an online conference happening September 23-25, 2016 that you can listen to by phone or computer from wherever you are, you’ll also receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so you can listen/read at your convenience. It is super financially and time accessible as far as conferences go. I recorded my speech Disinvesting from Body Currency and Building Activist Resilience in July and I can’t wait to hear what all these other influencers and thought leaders have to say. Big love to the Fat Activism Conference organizers for all their hard work putting it together! <3<3

I was featured in a Buzzfeed article about non-traditional beach wear. Lots of hot and stylish people give their ideas. Many lustworthy instagrams to follow are aggregated. Your girl represented for the fat, flamboyant, vintage collecting femmes.

My friend Jes Baker reposted an article of mine on her incredibly influential body positive blog The Militant Baker. She’s been doing some amazing writing herself and amplifying other body positive thought leaders you’ll be interested in. My post she reposted is 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Start Feeling Okay About Your Body Today.

I also must take this opportunity to plug Dollypalooza in NYC Sept 3rd and LA on October 29th! Come out and party for a cause!

Self Care

I believe self care stretches time (thanks to Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s therapist for that nugget) and in times of rough stuff I have been centering my life around that. In terms of time management I try to pick one modality and wrap my schedule around that per week. I just kind of assess what my greatest needs are and go from there.

4684915640_cddd098660_zDear Goddess: Please give unto me a trip to Sydney to visit my soul sister Kelli Jean. Love, Bevin. Photo from NOLOSE in 2010.

I have mentioned for years that I’m in a 12 step program for family and friends of alcoholics and it has been one of the best choices I have ever made for my well-being. Since shit has been going down with my friend, I’ve been going to meetings about 3 days a week. It’s kind of easy to center life around meetings because they are scheduled. Unlike working out at the gym or “whenever” self care, you make a commitment to get to that 10AM Tuesday morning meeting.

I have had a hard time working out because of my heat sickness and the 100 degree hot like the surface of the sun weather in LA (like that time I passed out at the Getty after doing aqua jog) so instead lately I’m doing light stretching, dancing, and taking sunset walks with my partner Dara and our magical dog Macy.

I believe food is foundational and for awhile I was doing a lot of emotional eating. Eating from a place of “I know I gotta eat and it will gladden my taste buds to have this food that doesn’t serve my chronic digestive disorder so I’m going to do it anyway.” I jumped in on another whole foods summer reset cleanse with my body positive health coach Heartbeets Holistic Health. It’s a keep you hella full and take you by the hand and teach you how to prepare and eat anti-inflammatory foods program. Very veggie focused with access to meat if it’s your thing. Tons of recipes. Tons of self care modalities like dry brushing and detox baths.

Once you do Vic’s cleanse one time subsequent cleanses are gratis. I find when I’m doing a lot of traveling it is soooo helpful for me to focus on whole foods anti-inflammatory eating at home. It’s centering and also keeps the travel food from totally fucking up my life while I’m out of town and don’t have as much control over my food. So during the cleanse I was centering my life around cooking, grocery shopping and nourishing me and Dara.

I was shocked at how much better my capacity for dealing with life’s shit storms got when I was doing this cleansing. My moods stabilized and I was better able to be present with Big Feelings. Like, literally improved my relationship because when I’m in a better space emotionally so is Dara (#Empath4Empath is a tightrope sometimes). By Day 5 I could feel that initial impulse to freak out about something but I didn’t actually freak out. I was like seeing my Big Feelings from a calm and centered space and didn’t need to let it melt me down. What a gift I gave myself by focusing on healing my gut.

10176302283_70a9713433_oThank you forever Vic. I love you. (Vic’s in the center, we’re surrounded by Randee and Leo.)

Spirituality

I moved to LA to deepen my spiritual gifts and have continued to open myself up to new thoughts and ideas and create new spiritual practices. Given all of the tremendous devastation going on in the world at large right now, listening to NPR makes it hard to resist bawling your eyes out or settle into a default mode of rage. I know rage doesn’t serve me. So I like to employ prayer, gratitude and meditation to help elevate the world. At least it’s a thing I can do. I believe in good vibes. I believe do gooders in the world make the world a better place just by believing in hope. I’ll revisit that idea in a later post.

But let’s just say right now faith is kind of all I have in a lot of arenas of my life. I find it strengthens me when I can lean into it. It’s kind of like when you work out and build your core muscles your back pain gets better? Working out my faith really helps me stand tall in the face of an oppressive world that doesn’t value all human lives equally.

$$$ Hustle $$$

Capitalism is real and your girl has to pay those student loans and health insurance premiums, rent and vet bills. Moving to LA we knew that we had a finite amount of savings to live off of, we knew that I was working to retire from the practice of law and that we’re both building up small businesses. (Dara has a consulting business focusing on educational leadership.)

I believe being transparent about money is a form of classist resilience. They don’t want us to talk about money because keeping us in shame about how we are surviving because shame keeps us complacent. Right now I have about $1,500 in my bank account. Dara just got a check so we know how we pay October’s rent. But last week we didn’t know.

Seven months into our move to LA the hustle is real. I’ve lived before not knowing when next month’s rent is going to come and having to have faith it will—it never feels great. Here’s a list of how I’m gathering my acorns:

Desiree Alliance: I am so fortunate to work with an incredibly bad ass activist, Cris Sardina, who runs Desiree Alliance, a sex worker’s rights non-profit. Things got really busy before our biannual conference in July in New Orleans. We bring together activists working for decriminalization, direct service providers, professionals, academics, current and former sex workers and allies for five days of programming. We had some extraordinary keynote speakers, like Miss Major who is one of our surviving elders from Stonewall. She’s a trans woman of color dedicated to supporting trans women of color in the prison system through her non-profit TGI Justice (trans women of color are disproportionately incarcerated due to transmysoginy, racism and classism). Miss Major is a source of strength and resilience inspiration and just such a sweetheart. There is a movie about her that is winning awards all over the documentary circuit called Major! and you should prioritize seeing it. Her story is important and so inspirational.

I don’t make a ton of money as the finance officer of Desiree Alliance but it is meaningful work I feel honored to do. I’m looking forward to writing more grants with Cris to set up a sex worker activist mentoring program.

crisbevindararueMe, Cris, Dara and her baby granddaughter Rue, named for Rue McClanahan from Golden Girls.

Social Media Party Monitor for The Militant Baker: My friend Jes Baker is what I would call a “more famous body positive activist than me” and has hundreds of thousands of followers. That’s a lot of folks who comment and interact with her on social media and since her work challenges the concept of body currency the trolls who have nothing better to do than hate on awesome fat women uplifting people come out from under their bridges to say shitty things. I feel like a guardian who gets to make it easier for Jes to do her great work in the world. Read her book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls (I’m quoted in it!!!). 

Dara wondered how I do it without having it affect me since I do the same kind of activism. I don’t know, it’s just easier for me partially because I get paid and partially because it is not directed at me and I know it makes Jes’ capacity greater. One of my life dharmas is to support activist resilience and somehow the purpose makes it easier for me read and delightfully block shit. And one day I’ll be influential enough to hire my own body positive activist friend to do that work for me! It’s great to have a job that is literally in line with your activism, however small it is.

jesbakerbevinchangetheworldHelping Jes change the world is an honor.

Law: I’m still maintaining an office in NYC so that I can practice real estate closings and estate planning for returning clients and friends in NYC. Most of my work is remote anyway and I have a great closing attorney who works with me when I can’t get to NYC for a closing. I just binge watched a ton of Continuing Legal Education classes in June and it was kind of fun learning about cannabis law, a very fascinating area I have no desire to practice in (still working on retiring from practice not starting something new) but as a media maker it’s helpful to have a fuller understanding of the evolving legal climate around cannabis.

The class about substance abuse for lawyers was fascinating, it taught me about how the qualities that makes one an effective attorney lends itself to suicide (the third leading cause of death among lawyers) and really highlighted for me why I am retiring.

Bevin’s Tea: I am still working on my Marie Forleo’s B-School course work and developing my business. I went to the World Tea Expo and cannot wait to have capacity to video blog about all the great teas I learned about. It’s both fun to be working towards a business I am extremely passionate about and frustrating about how long it takes to start something with no capital.

I have been learning so much both in practice and in B-School about creating a product-based business. Supporting artists and activists who maybe don’t have time or money to go get energy healing to take the fifteen minutes to prepare and consume a cup of reiki-infused tea is definitely part of my dharma. Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered tea, it really helps a lot to learn the business by doing and I love the feedback. Can’t wait for you to see the product packaging I’m developing with my graphic designer!

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I also had no idea how much work it takes to start a new business and am taking each failure, mistake and triumph as necessary stepping stones to becoming the wildly successful energy healing mogul I know I can be. Also I want a line of clothing on QVC someday. As Dolly Parton says, Dream More!

Blog: My blog is a source of trickling income. I get gift cards for Amazon.com. When readers click links and buy literally anything on the site I get a commission. That helps me buy stuff for the house.

I get cash money from Bandelettes, the single sexiest form of chub rub prevention on the market (I used to spend all my commission on fatkinis but lately it’s gotta pay the bills).

The blog leads to the occasional speaking gig or sponsored blog post. If you want to reach a bunch of awesome people about your product or service, hit me up queerfatfemme at gmail.com. A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has pre-ordered tea through my blog or used the Amazon referral link. Seriously helping right now.

everybodyeverybootyMe in my EveryBody tank and Dara in her Everybooty tee-shirt. East Coast West Coast queer lifestyles. Gym vs pride party.

OMG how many people have told me I “should just get a job” when I have a lot of them and am working towards being a full time body positive artist/activist/healer. But… I am getting a job, in addition to all the other jobs I have. I had to write my first resume focused on body positive activism! There’s a new body positive gym opening up 6 minutes from my house in Northeast LA. EveryBody is revolutionary, I’m honored to be part of the team.

It’s my deep pleasure to announce that I got a job as a fitness instructor doing body positive, accessible movement classes. I don’t think I would have ever thought in my whole life I would move to LA and become a fat femme Richard Simmons without the diet talk, but I’m really cute at it. I had done two different drag acts where we did fitness routines and those were for revolution not movement motivation but I’m stoked to get to be doing it for cash. I’ll give you more info when I have it.

Friends who visit LA–keep me updated because part of the class will involve interviews with artists and activists. Imagine a drag queen special guest star in a fitness class? I can’t wait to blow your mind. It’s like the next step to my body positive dance parties is to facilitate a dance party as part of moving and loving our bodies and healing collectively.

TRAVEL

I love to travel and have had some great opportunities this summer. I went to New Orleans for the Desiree Alliance conference and my friend Dana just happened to be staying at the same hotel after a bachelorette party. There’s nothing better than being at work at a conference dealing with the complaints of the AV guy and have a hot butch friend wearing a Dolly Parton tee shirt interrupt to hand you the best fried chicken in the world. I ate that fried chicken later on naked in my hotel room and it was the best moment.

danadollyshirt

I went to Columbus a couple of weeks ago to visit my close friends Christie and Becky and their daughters/my nieces Etta and Joey. Our friends Erica and Amy joined us from Philly with their kids August and Ani. Yes, I have lesbian friends whose baby’s nickname is Ani and I think that’s a #lesbianlevelup. It’s such a gift to be close to children and get to be part of their growing up. My heart swelled with pride when Etta and Joey were on a meditation pillow showing me how they find “Inner peeeeessss.” I love those kids so much.

Next week I head to NYC for Dollypalooza for my first time back since we left in late December. My heart is happy and also breaks a little because I know I won’t get to see nearly everyone I want to while I’m in town.

Last week I was overseas and I have an epic series of blog posts about that a comin’.

auntbevinettaandjoeyMy goal is to always have it be THE MOST FUN EVER when Aunt Bevin comes to town. I taught them how to hop train cars using this long cart at Target.

BEVIN <3 DARA

Dara and I never formally lived together before we moved to LA. Shit has been rough for us externally but we continue to find one another as a source of strength. Every time we hit a rough patch, we get through it and things get even stronger between us. We’ve talked about marriage obviously (and the legal protection offered would be really cool) but we’re waiting until we have the cash to have the blow out epic wedding of our dreams to pursue the level up. Queers have been finding creative ways of honoring our love connections for years outside of marriage and I am having a great time creating family culture and ritual with her based around our super woo spirituality and her Jewish cultural heritage.

bevindarathemedressI don’t support colonial imperialism but I do love red white and blue. How lucky that Dara loves theme dress as much as me?

Our house is cute as fuck and I’m learning how to let go of my perfectionism about it. House projects are constantly mounting and my Mariah Carey closet is still not finished. I was making myself suffer mentally and emotionally because I had this idea that everything “should” be done by now. I know now I had expectations that weren’t aligned with reality and given lack of cash, time and capacity we can’t have everything done yet. Houses are a lot of work, it’s like having another pet but way more demanding. I’m relying now on the power of six months and sitting in gratitude for what is done. We have a fridge (that wasn’t always true). I have my dream kitchen faucet we paid for through a rent reduction when the last one burst.

Now I just let it go, trust the universe and sing that song I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times

My goodness it feels good to be back to real talk on the blog. More soon. Sending love out to all who need it.

2016-08-08

Dollypalooza NYC is September 3rd, Here’s How to Get a Free Dolly for President Poster

Dara and I have been so hard at work expanding Dollypalooza, the epic fan tribute to Dolly Parton I started in 2014.

dollypaloozagroupsingLast year’s big finale! All photos by Ves Pitts for Dollypalooza unless otherwise noted.

First expansion: we moved to a bigger venue in NYC and doubled our capacity! We sold out last year and hope to get even more Dolly fans in the door. Tickets are on sale now for the September 3rd show (Labor Day weekend) and if you buy them by August 10th (Wednesday) you’ll get a free Dolly for President poster! Pick it up at our merch table, it will be under whatever name you give when you buy your tickets.

Second expansion: we added an LA show! October 29th, we’re calling it “Dolloween” because we hope people will dress like Dolly or related Dolly characters/country cuteness. Tickets are not yet on sale, I’m still booking it out. If you know a performer in LA or willing to come to LA, send them the online form to apply! I especially want to curate a diverse cast, so folks of color, queer folks, older folks and folks of size are highly encouraged to apply. I cast drag queens, burlesque artists, performance artists, tap dance, puppetry, anything campy or fun and in the spirit of Dolly Parton. Application deadline is August 23rd.

ladyquesakimberlydarlindaLady Quesa’Dilla, Kimberly Clark (who played accordion with Doll Parts last year!) and Darlinda, Just Darlinda.

Here’s all the good stuff about NYC:

This is the first year we’re having a photo booth! My incredibly talented artist friends Ryan and Matt are driving in from St. Louis to install it with 40+ props! Including Dolly wig cut outs, boobs, quotes and other memory makers. One of my favorite queer photographers, Shoog McDaniel, is taking portraits!

We added a trivia component! I always wanted to play Dolly trivia so I am putting it together. The webmaster of the longest-running Dolly fan website, Dollymania.net has agreed to write the trivia. The winning team at trivia will get a basket of Dolly goodies to divvy up between them.

The performers are amazing as always.

♥A full 45 minute set by the very fun and gifted Dolly Parton Tribute Band, Doll Parts. The enthusiasm they play with is from the hearts of people who love Dolly at level 10.

dollpartsfinale

♥My hero/friend/legendary burlesque super star World Famous *BOB* joins me again as Femmecee. Dollylujiah!

♥Sequinette you’ll remember from the Double Dolly act and last year’s epic Backwoods Barbie/Dolly signature cape act.

sequinettedollyback

♥ Lady Quesa’Dilla, teacher of the children and much like Dolly herself, a charming storyteller.

♥Darlinda, Just Darlinda, a fabulous cutting edge burlesque star, producer and teacher at the School of Burlesque.

♥NathAnn Carrera joins us again as Dolly DJ and will serenade us with 60s era Southern Gothic Dolly tunes and gossip about Dolly and Judy’s moonlight naked runs on her estate.

♥Not on stage but a very talented performer herself, Camille-Bettina Atkinson is my wildly indispensable stage manager. If you know her, get her to belt a few lines of “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”

camille

New this year to the NYC stage:

♥ I am very excited to bring Sweetie–a legendary New York City drag queen (drag mom to my friend Glenn Marla). This article from Paper Magazine about Sweetie is great, I especially love how she talks about how things are opening up around age, femininity and size in the gay community due to the Bear movement.

sweetiePhoto from Paper Magazine.

♥Tammy Cannons!!! I always wanted to bring a small town gay bar drag superstar to Dollypalooza and Tammy is a bright, passionate light and the kind of glitter beard Queen who makes you rethink your ideas about gender.

In addition to our marvelous performers, we have a fan costume contest! I highly encourage folks to dress as Dolly or as a related character (Carl Dean, Burt Reynolds, Judy Ogle), a country queer, or HIGH DOLLY FAN EXTREME whatever that means to you. You can win a cash prize based on audience hollerin’!

nathannNathAnn.

A big part of the show is the benefit for the Imagination Library, Dolly Parton’s early literacy charity that sends books to kids in need from age 0-5 every month. We have some merch for sale (Dolly for President posters and buttons, Dolly Mint reiki infused tea) and some raffle prizes in addition to our silent auction.

Last year we raised over $7,000 and this year we’re aiming for $10,000! We have Dolly fan art from all over to go to the highest bidder, in addition to a trip for two to LA for the LA Dolly Parton show at the Hollywood Bowl, and trips to Dollywood!

Do you have fan art you want to donate? Do you have airline miles you want to donate to help us make awesome silent auction prizes? Do you want to be a matching donor? We would LOVE to talk to you about it. Email me queerfatfemme at gmail and we’ll coordinate.

For both events I have the honor of working with Jessica Scarlett for graphic design (she’s amazing, I’m having her work on Bevin’s Tea as well!) and my friend Bridget Sweetz for web and branding work (also amazing). I love doing work and getting to collaborate with my talented friends!

Here’s the Facebook event

Sign up for the Dollypalooza email list!

Purchase tickets here. Get ’em by August 10th to get your free Dolly for President poster.

dollypalooza_pc_backweb dollypalooza_pc_frontweb

2016-03-01

Dolly Parton taught me to Dream More and I’m Doing It!

You all know that Dolly Parton is one of my heroes. She taught me to Dream More. It’s part of her four pillars of success, as she outlined to the University of Tennessee graduating class commencement speech and then elaborated in her book Dream More. (I highly suggest the audio book read by Dolly herself.)

jessbevindollymatiequinnI met Dolly last summer because I work hard, dream more and have generous friends.

Anyway, I’m dreaming. Those of you who have been reading my blog over the past few days know that I’m hustling a pre-sale of my Reiki infused tea blends in order to make tuition for B-School, an online business school whose sign-up ends tomorrow. It’s a stretch to make the money needed to go to the school when you are a freelancer living off savings after a cross country move but I am working on it!

The great news is that I have sold a bunch of tea and gotten a few donations, so I am now officially 30% funded!! Thank you to everyone who has purchased tea so far and donated, and thank you to all of my friends who have shared the fundraiser!

I need your help to get closer to my goal!
Would you consider posting the link to my pre-sale on your social media, emailing friends you know who love tea and/or healing modalities?

If you’re on Twitter here’s a tweet to copy and paste: Help Bevin @queerfatfemme get to #BSchool! Buy some #reikihealing infused tea! Sale ends Wednesday! http://queerfatfemme.com/reiki-tea-pre-sale-ends-march-2nd/

I know I’m on the right track for a business because I am excited to blend the teas! I’ve already started to dry the tangerine peels for my Rooibos Citrus blend, carefully carving out the pith so that the peels brew sweeter.

I’ve gotten great feedback about my tea through this process, too!

Jes Baker of the Militant Baker said when sharing the tea sale with her readers, “Bevin of Queer Fat Femme is a healer and one of the most inspiring people I know. She’s launching a Reiki tea line and is starting a pre-sale now. She left ‘Feelings Tea’ with me last month and it changed my life. Go support a rad chick and get rad tea, my loves. Everyone wins.”

dollyquotemugI got this mug at Dollywood! The quote says, “If you don’t like the road you’re walking start paving a new one!”

Dari, a friend of Dara’s, came over and said my Self Love tea (I served it iced, it is great both ways) has a good flavor that lingers in the mouth.

My little niece Joey (4 years old, her favorite music is “Dolly Parton” and I have her saying that on video) said “Yum!” when her mom Christie gave her my Find Your Chill blend. I got a cute video text about it.

My friend Holly said she loved the Dolly Mint I served her when we were hanging the other night and followed up by buying a tin!

bevinmilkbobMe, backstage at the first Dollypalooza in 2014. Right between World Famous *BOB* and MILK (RuPaul’s drag race). I never knew my life could be so awesome and I am really excited to see where it can go! There’s another Dollypalooza happening in NYC in the Fall and one planned for LA next Winter, so BOLO (Be On The Lookout) right here or at Dollypalooza.com.

I’ve also heard some amazing things about B-School since I launched the fundraiser and gotten support from folks who love Marie Forleo’s work and, in the words of Paul Thomas (a follower of the Militant Baker, who heard about my tea from her), “Marie Forleo is the real deal.”

I’m so excited to get this business off the ground using my blog and to share the progress with my readers. I would love your support by sharing, buying tea or even just thinking good thoughts that I can womanifest this goal by tomorrow evening!

Dolly says, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” That’s what I work to do with this blog, and that’s what I’m hoping to support with this Reiki-infused tea business!

2016-02-10

LA Week Three: Overwhelm, Gratitude and You Can’t Make Old Friends

We’re in our third week in LA!

Dara went on her first business trip back to NYC on Saturday. She’s in leadership development consulting and packed up her sleeping bag coat to go back to the frigid temps for meetings.

I had a visitor for the weekend–my BFF from Girl Scout Camp, Spunky came down from Sacramento to help out at the house. When we planned the trip I told her, “This whole thing is probably going to be just house projects.” I had no idea the gusto with which Spunky would throw herself into the tasks before her.

spunkymopShe became very focused on giving us a bedroom that was cleared out and calm. Much appreciated!

Since I don’t have a guest sleeping situation yet (we’re still on the airbed), Spunky stayed with Rachel, her BFF from childhood. I actually feel like I’ve known Rachel for the entire 18 years I’ve known Spunky but we’ve never met in person. And now we have and she’s only 10 minutes away from me and is giving me her spare banjo! The top of my bucket list is to learn to play the banjo, and I had to sell my old one a long time ago. Life is really beautiful and opening up here in this new place.

I had three big tasks for me and Spunky on Sunday and we whipped through them in an hour. She kept looking at me and saying, “What’s next?!” I have never felt her intense glitterdone energy before, usually when we hang out we go out to eat or sit on the couch eating pie in loungewear and watching TV shows.

647924206_9e607c9da3_oAt my graduation from law school in 2003.

I had visioned for a house with lots of daylight. I lived on a second floor of a six floor apartment building surrounded by other four and six floor buildings for four years. I had no natural light and could barely keep houseplants alive. In the new house we are surrounded gloriously by windows and light. There’s a house behind ours on this lot so with that comes an intense lack of privacy. Dara and I have been discussing our $2400 furniture budget at length. We’re spending a huge chunk of it to move furniture down from my mom’s place, but getting blinds for privacy and insulation became really big priorities in the end.

My friends Lexi and Jamison have been huge inspirations to me in the moving process. They bought their dream home in September (I got to be their lawyer!) and I visited a couple of times before we moved away. They’re a couple hours North of NYC in the Hudson Valley. A STUNNING farmhouse with lots of gorgeous nooks and a tremendous garden. It was great to visit people who had just gone through the moving process because they gave me great advice and better expectations about how much work and money goes into setting up a house. Lexi said, “There’s just always something else you need.” And Jamison told me how good she got at going to IKEA.

15964179982_44222df845_zI met both of these babes separately, Jamison in 2004 at a conference for fat queer activists and Lexi through my then-roommate when she stayed on my couch. Now they are making a home together! It’s pretty magical when two of your favorite people get together like that!

Along with those inspirations, I loved their honeycomb blinds. They are simple and beautiful and insulating and filter in daylight. Hoppvals were the best and most economic choice for blinds, even as it is $300 to put them on all of our windows. Jamison said she got really good at installing them so that helped me feel not intimidated by the idea.

I’ve learned a lesson from my Mariah Carey closet installation process already, which is that my first idea might not work so it’s probably best to start small. (I returned $76 worth of supplies to Home Depot after that lesson, $40 in supplies I’m going to use for other parts of the closet.)

daraikeaThat’s Macy in her backpack.

Dara and I went to IKEA last Thursday for blinds, sundries and to explore ideas for future furniture upgrades. (We really want these desk chairs.) We set an intention to enjoy our time together, explore and have fun. This was to prevent IKEA Fighting which is apparently a Thing people do. (As seen in Season 6, Episode 6 of 30 Rock, here’s a cute snippet of IKEA Fighting on youtube.) I didn’t know IKEA Fighting was a Thing until Jacqueline sent me the episode after Dara and I got into That Huge IKEA Fight of 2014.

We spent 6 hours in IKEA Burbank and had a great time. Setting the intention and having clear boundaries and expectations was super key. So was making sure our human needs were met. We went to the restaurant twice, once for coffee and water, once for a meal. The vegetarian meatballs are really good–sweet potato, quinoa and black beans. And if you join the free IKEA Family thing you get a free coffee or tea every time you go to IKEA.

Because of my “start small” lesson about big projects, we only bought blinds for the front bedroom where we were planning to relocate. Spunky whipped through installing them and we discovered our measurements didn’t account for enough overlap so we needed different size blinds. Since she was so fast I had her measure out the kitchen and meditation nook for blinds, too, since that is the windiest room in the house because of the old windows.

spunkypowertoolSpunky was disappointed I didn’t relentlessly take more photos, as I had forgotten how much she enjoys Bevin Paparazzi. Next time I will be more diligent!

On Sunday evening after working on the house all afternoon, she left me with a list of blinds to purchase from IKEA. I was able to be in and out of the Burbank IKEA on a Sunday night in an hour, including returning stuff and having to get stuff on the Showroom and Marketplace floor. I set an intention to be fast and had taken the time to really acquaint myself with the store last week.

ikeabevin

Spunky came back the next morning ready to work in a tank top, we are having surprise summer temperatures during Winter here in LA. This is great for our really cold house with not great insulation. She knows a lot about windows and home improvement as a homeowner. Apparently there’s all this lingo and anatomy to windows, who knew? It reminds me of when Spunky lived in Minnesota for a few years and became an expert about farming.

Spunky surprised me with a bag full of cleaning supplies from Target. In addition to these amazing hand embroidered tea towels she made me, her generosity literally made me cry. Especially as she left town and gave me a chalkboard, something Dara and I have been wanting for the kitchen but haven’t found one on Craigslist in our budget. Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers are right, you can’t make old friends.

spunkyceilingShe got us this ceiling duster thing I never would have splurged on, but seriously you can dust ceiling fans, baseboards and ceilings in 95% less time. And then you can throw the microfiber dusters in the washing machine. It’s the future.

Spunky said she had fun doing work on the house. I’m having a really hard time finding it all fun, my feelings of overwhelm and frustration have kind of clouded stuff. I can’t wait to have her back in March to help me get our garden going. AND I can’t wait for it all to be done so I can throw a party, THAT is what I find fun!

Turns out moving furniture from the Bay Area to LA is really expensive! When I said yes to taking stuff from my mom I didn’t think it would cost much and I was again wrong wrong wrong about an element of this move. Hiring movers ended up costing roughly the same as renting a one way uhaul, gas, insurance and saved the time and effort of doing it ourselves. Not only the monetary cost–the logistics of going through the moving quotes and coordination process once more after having moved into this place and dealing with things on this end was not an efficient or practical use of my time or money and even moreso, threshold for frustration. In the end, we will end up with way nicer furniture than we would have gotten on craigslist, but I’m really at a deficit for mental and emotional health right now.

bellpeppers

Since Dara’s been gone, I’ve been able to really sit with my feelings and notice what’s going on. Everything is new and hard. I don’t have the day to day confidence someone has when they know where everything is. Even simple things like getting the dog’s eye medication prescription refilled is a long process. I’m literally creating new neural pathways every day mapping out my new life.

The closest I’ve ever felt to this in my life was when I moved to Camden, NJ from Davis, CA for law school. Everything was new, scary, exciting, full of possibility. But I was 1,000% less checked into my body, my mental, physical and emotional health. At least then I moved into a fully furnished dorm and didn’t have to deal with setting things up.

dishrackspraypaintSpray painted the best rated dishrack on Google under $25 to prevent rust, the biggest complaint in the Amazon reviews.

dishrackJust one of the amazing tea towels Spunky hand embroidered as a housewarming gift!

When Spunky was here it was a good distraction, but in her absence I’m breathing and realizing. I decided I need to take a break from working so hard on the house. Part of moving out here was to let myself have a break from seasonal depression and have easier access to good mental health. I don’t want to overwhelm myself. I don’t want to feel stressed out. Stress is supposed to support us when we are in danger and the rest of the time just floods you with toxins, spikes your blood sugar and wreaks havoc on your health!

Today I’m writing, did a great tapping meditation for turning overwhelm to calm, and putting myself in a better place. Once Dara gets back I will go spend some time doing what I know will reset me to a calm place and head to a $20 day spa and soak it out in a hot tub. (Macy has been having stress diarrhea and one of the best ways to keep her calm is not leaving her alone, so I couldn’t run off to the day spa yesterday like I otherwise would have.)

I’m also working on sitting in gratitude about everything. In one day I received a bag of citrus from my neighbor (a mix of lemons and grapefruit) and from my aunt (tangerines). I got to go have dinner with my aunt and learn all sorts of new things about my family. My friend Andy came over and helped with power tools and a saw! It is so hot I’m wearing summer dresses and it’s not below freezing like in Brooklyn.

andysawMy friend Andy was our very first houseguest and came over to support projects in the closet installation!

The gifts of LA are tremendous. It is my overwhelm that is making it hard to enjoy them! Gratitude practice, meditation, focusing on self care is not the exact antidote for being overwhelmed, but they are good helpers.

I’m also reminded of the power of six months! Spunky and I used to use this for heartbreak, but it’s true for all major life changes. In six months my house will be together, my Mariah Carey closet will be finished and all of the boxes will be unpacked.

citrusgift

2015-12-29

See You Laters instead of Goodbyes: My Last Moments as a New Yorker and First Stop on the Road

On December 18th the moving truck came and took all of the belongings we decided were important enough to ship to California. For me, this involved my beloved high heeled shoe chairs and four wardrobe boxes of hanging clothes. For Dara, her karaoke machine, keyboard and guitar. Thank the Goddess for the incredible help of Victoria in that process.

victoriamovingsavior

Pro-tip: if you know someone going through an intense cross-country move, text them “How can I help?” Pro-tip: if you are going through a cross-country move and someone asks how they can help, take them up on it. I have had to work through some intense “I’m an independent babe, I need to appear perfect” in order to be in a place to receive help. I’m so glad I have done that work because we really needed that help. If I had said, “No, we’re okay!” I would have lost out on hanging out with Victoria AND likely devolved into sobbing and fighting with Dara. I did neither of those things in our last few days in NYC. (The closest to a fight we got into was snipping for a few minutes and I thought that was a giant victory.)

I feel like Dara and I said “We’re almost done!” way too prematurely but there was no way to actually know what we had left to do in the packing process, it was all whack a mole dealing with the next right thing. So with the help of Victoria disassembling my desk, unscrewing things in the wall, taping up boxes, showing up on moving day with coffee and breakfast sandwiches, we managed to get through the final firestorm of stress and get ready for our road trip.

highheelshoemovingI worked hard to have the moving process be as low stress as I could manage but just seeing the photo of the high heel shoe chair wrapped for the moving truck only a week and couple of days later I can feel my stress hormones ramping back up again! Probably a good occasion to employ tapping.

So here’s the thing, typically you plan a road trip across the country and it is your primary activity for a period of time before you hit the road (I did this in 2011). Or at least if you are a Capricorn like me, you do it that way. This time, packing for the road trip was the first thing I did after the moving truck left.

Somehow, (I have no idea how this happened…) when planning my wardrobe for this trip I kind of overdid it. As I packed up the clothes in my dresser and vanity (two pieces of furniture I could hold onto until I left that weren’t going with the movers) I just kind of shoved what I thought was going to fit into my two suitcases. Clothing that would have to work for multiple climates (from below freezing to 90 degrees, potentially), professional meetings, possible dressing up, casual hangouts and comfy clothes that can handle being in the car for 12 hours. This is the type of sartorial challenge I excel at, yet still required more edits than I allotted before the movers took the last box. So, we had to pack a bonus box to ship ahead of us. Victoria was great at editing this with me while Dara ran our last minute leaving town errands like returning the Optimum online modem and router–why the return place has to be in the far reaches of Brooklyn is beyond me–picking up prescriptions, etc…

hollyaliceMe and Holly and her pup Alice B Tokeface. Holly just moved to NYC from the Bay a few months ago and was full of great advice for me. So sad we won’t be living in the same city anymore!

The last night in town my friend Topher hosted a really cute mixer right near my apartment. If you’re in NYC and want to meet people, Select All is the party to go to. I walked in and there were tons of people I knew and literally all of them were quality awesome people you would want to meet. It was a great last chance to hug people I love. DJ Average Jo was spinning and played me a 20 minute block of Hall and Oates for old times sake. (During the Yes Ma’am parties we always had a couple of Hall and Oates songs for dance floor nostalgia.)

joandbevinMe and Jo!

My good friend Miss Mary Wanna came up from Philly for the last night to hang out and help with the transition to the new Femme roommate in the Haus of Femmespiration–MMW is a Virgo cusp Femme professional organizer, office manager and apropos to this, mega house cleaner. Paying halfsies for a deep clean was an act of self love my roommate and I did to ease the transition. No question about whose mess was whose or me having to clean after I got everything out of the apartment. Also bonus–keep money in the queer economy. Double bonus–she’s a friend who won’t judge our lifestyle, who we can trust to leave the house while she’s working.

After we got back from Select All, Miss Mary Wanna and I sat up in my living room hanging hard. We don’t get to see each other often and our slumber parties are some of my favorite memories. We met in 2009 when I threw a Zombie Queer Cabaret and she came up from North Carolina to perform. I booked her a bunch after she moved to Philly and we became friends. We were up reminiscing about my favorite memories in the apartment and I was loving talking to MMW and kind of procrastinating going to bed on my last night as a New Yorker. Though I was ready to leave I was also kind of sad.

bevinmissmarywannaLove this babe so hard.

I had all the feels. Excited. Sad. Nervous. Overwhelmed. Relieved that the packing and moving part was pretty much over. Nostalgic. Ready. Exhausted.

Victoria and I had packed our car for the road trip and it seemed liked Dara and I had plenty of room for all the stuff we had left in the house (our “go” bags, overnight stuff, Macy’s cooler with her frozen homemade food in it and my reiki tea making supplies). We parked it overnight in a garage and when we took stuff downstairs on Saturday morning for our departure it was a cluster fuck trying to get everything in there. There were some last minute items ditched and we did the best we could to make it work.

reikiteaArt works well with a deadline, so having decided I was going to give samples of many of my reiki infused tea blends to friends as hostess gifts while we travel cross country gave me a deadline… So naturally I was blending tea the last night in Brooklyn. I’m pretty stoked about how they all came out, though, and can’t wait to get feedback from my friends as they sample the tea. The Feelings blend supports going through Feelings and has a tart flavor as an acknowledgement that even things that are a bit uncomfortable can ultimately be delicious.

Jacqueline made a joke about wanting to be at my last-minute waving goodbye party and it ended up manifesting even though she didn’t come. Like, I couldn’t leave town without saying a real goodbye to my BFF Brian even though we had just had dinner during the live broadcast of Dolly Parton’s TV movie Coat of Many Colors on NBC. (My girl got the highest ratings of any TV movie since 2011!) But every time we saw each other we said we’d see each other one more time, so it was super sweet that Brian and his huzz Arnolfo came by to wave.

wavingparty

None of this is really goodbye, I will see everyone again, just in different permutations and more intentionally as we become out of town visitors or as I convince people to move to LA, too. (So far mostly just Miss Mary Wanna, Sequinette and Victoria.) I am trying really hard to just say, “See you later.”

All of the see you laters has been kind of overwhelming in a good way. Moving really gets people saying how much you mean to them in a way that I didn’t expect. I am still really moved (pun intended) by some of the incredible things people said about how knowing me has touched their lives. Impacting so many people I respect, admire and love is incredibly humbling.

We drove for what seemed like forever that first day. We hit a bunch of traffic in DC and Richmond, VA, on our way to my friends’ Farmlet in North Carolina. Fae and E have this amazing homestead I’d heard so much about over the past couple of years. Fae’s blog Species Confusion is awesome, I’ve read the whole thing.

The blog is great recipes and stories of homesteading. The amount of knowledge that goes into farming for one’s family is the equivalent of a graduate degree. Both in research and what is learned in trial and error. I love to learn new things and we spent the whole morning on their Farmlet feeding the critters and learning about the mechanics of the Farmlet.

In fact, Fae posted that pigs love pumpkin and I never carved my pumpkin from Halloween so instead of getting rid of it in the last swirls of moving I decided to save it to bring to their pigs, Tofu and Tempeh.

farmletI saw my three year old niece Joey the night I wore these pants and she said, “Aunt Bevin you’re wearing pants.” I’m not much for pants but was trying something for this tee shirt.

They have rabbits and chickens, too, as well as Hamster whose farm product is love. He’s a tiny yorkie Fae rescued years ago who I had only seen in photos on Facebook and was happy to introduce to Macy. They got along well, Macy even tried to play with Hamster, and I seriously regret not getting photos.

Dara and I are working on an adventure video blog and I’m very stoked to have some of Fae and E’s Farmlet tour on the first video! Our 40 day trip West will hopefully have some stops that will allow Dara time to edit the videos.

Right now we’re paused in Normal, IL, waiting out an ice storm at Dara’s brother’s house. More soon!

hopestatueOn our last week in town we stopped at the HOPE statue in Midtown. I thought it was an appropriate bon voyage NYC photo!

2015-09-03

Dollypalooza is Friday, Look at Our Amazing Silent Auction

You guys, last year I produced Dollypalooza on a faithful impetus after a really profound and spiritual visit to Dollywood during a difficult time in my life. (Dara was going through chemo, my super generous friend and philanthropist Jess whisked me off to Dollywood, we went to Night of 1,000 Dollys in Knoxville and couldn’t get into the club it was so crowded.) So I risked literally every penny I had to secure the $2,000 bar minimum at the venue and the stipends I promised all of the best Dolly performance artists I knew in NYC and Philly. It ended up being a huge success, even though the show started at 11PM! We also raised $1,400 for Dolly’s Imagination Library charity through our raffle and Jess, our matching donor!

Dollypalooza-061-IMG_2230-20140906Me, West Vargina and Sequinette backstage at Dollypalooza last year. I love that my abundance tattoo is above not one but two beauties in Perfidia wigs. Photo by Tinker Coalescing.

This year I wondered if I got the venue for an earlier show (7PM doors, 8PM show) if we could get more folks in the house and if we could raise even more for the Imagination Library. I am aiming for $10,000. Maybe that’s bananas, but we worked really hard to get silent auction prizes and raffle prizes that might get us close! Like Dolly says, “You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you’re brave enough to try!”

The show is on FRIDAY! I can’t believe I got so wrapped up in planning I forgot to BLOG about it and tell my readers to save the date. (To be fair, I have been relentlessly talking about it on instagram and snapchat–queerfatfemme on both.)

IMG_20150902_164503This is what you see when you flip through Time Out New York this week!

I am so excited about our line-up this year. My incredibly talented friends who I am always dying to get on stage World Famous *BOB*, Darlinda Just Darlinda, Lady Quesa’Dilla, Sequinette, Merry Cherrie, Nath Ann Carrera West Vargina, Shomi Noise are all performing–Shomi and West Vargina are doing Melissa Etheridge & Dolly Parton’s duet for “Come to My Window.” Crimson Kitty, a longtime NYC drag producer and performer, is a huge Dolly fan, I can’t wait to see what she is creating for the night. Ula Uberbusen is a TN native and I’m really excited to have someone from Dolly’s home state performing burlesque! Luz performed a tap dancing routine at the Heels on Wheels Open Toe Peepshow and I immediately put it into my secret part of my heart to want to see them tap dance to a Dolly number.

Darlinda Just Darlinda is a burlesque performer and producer who is known for her goofy, outrageous and wildly charismatic acts. Darlinda gave me four Dolly acts to choose from I and I chose the one she said was edgiest. It’s New York City, I love to make a crowd remember about how performance art should push your buttons sometimes. Also, as a producer, I know that edgy doesn’t mean racist, misogynist, oppressive, sizist, etc… and I ask each of my acts to acknowledge a performer respect clause when I book them. In addition to anti-oppressive stuff I ask that they not spray anything into the audience without checking in with me first. This way, no one in my audience gets non-consensually sprayed with hair gel, water, melons, kit kat bars–all things I’ve had to duck to avoid at shows I’ve attended! My hair takes a lot of work!

I’m really excited for Lady Quesa’s story telling. At Everybooty at BAM, a huge 5 floor pride event I went to this summer, I saw her perform a 10 minute storytelling act followed up by a drag queen act that just had me rapt.

Nath Ann Carrera is going to do two numbers and DJ the dance party after the show! Her co-consipirator on the Woahmone parties Nica Ross is doing a custom Dolly visual for dancing! (My friend Jess made a playlist of 60 Dolly videos to be used for the visuals.)

tammyworldfamousbevinbeachAt the gay beach with World Famous *BOB* in her custom donut bikini, and my friend Tammy Cannons visiting NYC from Carbondale, IL–she managed to perform three times and get in the Village Voice dancing at a concert. She did NYC right! (And got me to be out after 2 AM two nights in a row on a Monday and Tuesday! We had a great time!)

I’m so honored to co-femmecee the show with one of my idols. The way I feel about Dolly is very similar to the way I feel about World Famous *BOB* as an artist and mentor I truly adore, feel connected to, especially with gender and positivity. I loved her from afar and have since been so blessed to work with her onstage several times and develop a friendship with her. She is such a positive, radiant light in our world and I’m so excited to watch all of the ways she continues to do it on and off stage. She started as a burlesque artist, having worked her way up in the New York City scene. Now in addition to being genuinely world famous, she is going to college for her degree in gerontology studies, she “volunqueers” (her word) at a queer teen program in NYC and producing burlesque shows at the elder queer center in NYC. The way Dolly gives back to people, BOB does that, too.

I kind of structured the whole night so I could be free to just hang and watch the 45 minute set by Doll Parts, the local Dolly Parton tribute band. They are so great!!! I went out to see their sold out show in Park Slope for Dolly’s birthday with Dara and Avory and immediately approached them about booking Dollypalooza! It’s a really fun Dolly upbeat show.

meperfidiaandmywigMe, Perfidia, and my wig who I have named “Darling.”

As a gift to myself for the show I bought a wig created and styled by Perfidia. Perfidia does World Famous *BOB*’s wigs, and Lady Quesa’Dilla, Sequinette, West Vargina’s, too. Perfidia also does the wigs for Hedwig on Broadway. When I went to pick mine up (by the way each picture he showed me with my wig had a different piece of Dolly memorabilia), he showed me the signed photo he has from when he did the wigs for 9 to 5 on Broadway!!! I have been lusting after a Perfidia wig for 2 years and never knew these were the hands that did Dolly’s hair for Broadway. (Since she produced the show, she was responsible for all that hair being good!)

Behind the scenes I have even more help this year. Camille Atkinson (who sings Light of a Clear Blue Morning on the sizzle reel for 2014’s show) is stepping in and “playing the clipboard” as my stage manager. Her work streamlining the performance preparation and venue logistics has helped my sanity soooo much!

I could not be producing this show without the incredibly capable and thoughtful work of my partner Dara. She went to town assembling our selection of silent auction prizes (see below), sending press releases, creating tool kits and trainings for flyering and soliciting prizes. She’s also helping me figure out logistics… I am bananas right now as part of last minute event stuff, but she has taken on so much to ensure it is successful. She is truly a blessing beyond my wildest dreams!

bevindaraprideMe and Dara doing our first karaoke duet (this is a big step in a relationship!) during Pride 2015 at Everybooty. We did Islands in the Stream, naturally. Photo by Tinker Coalescing.

My roommate Damien Luxe is doing karaoke on Dara’s little vintage home karaoke machine from 7-8pm at the venue while the silent auction is getting warmed up. Here’s hoping the Dolly Karaoke cds arrive in time, but we have lots of cute things to choose from if not!

Also I thought since the show is long (three 45 min sets with 15 min intermissions) I thought people would get hungry so I got the Empanada Lady to come cater. She sells empananadas at Khane Kutzwell’s party SWEAT and Dara realized we should text Khane and get her info! Even though I’m gluten sensitive I will be popping a LOT of probiotics and eating a dinner of empananadas!!

If you’re coming to the show, remember the FAN CONTEST: Cash prize for the best fan outfit of the evening! Last year Posadas won! Who will take it this year?

fan-contestPhoto by Tinker Coalescing

I am really excited to have all of this Dolly Parton fan energy in one spot! We’ve gotten some really great press so far. We’re in this week’s issue of the New Yorker magazine! We’re a full page article and photos in Time Out New York. (Performers, send your producers super hi res photos when asked it really helps get great layouts!!)

I officiated a wedding this past weekend–my first gig as a vendor, not as the friend who was asked to officiate a wedding. The couple knows how I feel about Dolly Parton and in addition to my fee for the customized ceremony I wrote for them, they donated $50 to the Imagination Library in my honor! I consider it $50 raised through Dollypalooza, and hopeful for the remaining $4,950.00 to present for our matching donor to meet our $10,000 goal!

merriecherrydollypaloozaMerrie Cherry will always love you. This is her bringing down the house last year, photo by Tinker Coalescing.

And if you want to buy any one of our silent auction prizes, I am taking proxy bids via email–queerfatfemme at gmail. Just send me your name, phone number where you can be texted at 9PM on Friday night and your max bid for the item. We’ll text if you win and arrage for you to call with your credit card number. You’ll pay shipping (if applicable) for the item.

Here’s what I wrote up for the silent auction on the Dollypalooza website!

I believe like Dolly believes that folks ought to Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More. Part of loving Dolly is giving back. 100% of the proceeds from the silent auction will go to Dolly’s charity, the Imagination Library, which gives one brand new book per month to kids in need all over the US and in a couple other countries.

All of the prizes are donated or created by Dolly Parton fans! Through a generous matching offer from a donor, all of the proceeds from the silent auction will be DOUBLED, so your money goes twice as far!

We also couldn’t stop there. We wanted to give the Dollypalooza fans the opportunity to throw five dollar bills at the Imagination Library so we are also doing a Raffle! Each ticket is $5 and you could win:
A 2 night stay in the Dollywood Cabins (a one bedroom condo) plus two tickets to Dollywood
$100 gift certificate to Sam Ash Music Stores
6 tickets to Dollywood!! Tickets to Dollywood

(ALSO I FREAKING LOVE TO SAY “YOU GO TO DOLLYWOOD” AND “YOU GO TO DOLLYWOOD” AT THE END OF THE SHOW. Living the Oprah Dolly Mash-up dream onstage!!!)

SILENT AUCTION PRIZES

1. Trip to Dollywood
Including tickets to the park, a stay at the brand new DREAM MORE resort and airfare from NYC to Knoxville!
Donated by the Dollywood Foundation & Jessica Milligan
*Airfare through United airlines, subject to limitations on availability of flights through United Mileage program, and offer of flights expires on September 4, 2016.

Dream More Resort

2. “All you gotta do is smile that smile”
Teeth Whitening Procedure
Location: West Village
Donated by: Excel Dentistry (see photo below of the actual dentist!)
Value: $500

excel dentistry

3. “Dolly of Many Colors”
Original Painting of Dolly
Harvey Del Rey, Los Angeles-based pop artist
16 x 20
DollybyHarveyDelRey

4. “It Takes a Lot of Money to Look This Cheap”
One of a Kind Handmade Needlepoint Pillow
by Jessica Milligan
Renegade Butch Arts & Crafts

JessCheapPillow

5. Dolly Silhouette
One of a Kind Handmade Needlepoint Pillow
by Jessica Milligan
Renegade Butch Arts & Crafts

JessSilhouettePillow

6. “Tough Titty” Saw
Hand painted saw based on Dolly’s quote, “If you don’t like my language, all I can say is tough titty!”
Original Art by Nik Scarlett

toughtittysawnikscarlett

7. “Last Night’s Lovin'”
Her Name is Rio Vibrator Set
Part of Je Joue’s innovative “mix, match, and play” collection, includes the motor plus two attachments: the Pebble, which offers pinpoint vibration to the clit (or other erogenous zones), and the Classic, which offers both clit and G-spot stimulation. The motor offers multiple speed settings, plus is easily removable making clean up a snap.
Donated by Babeland
$105 value

4652-a-ooh-her-name-is-rio-set

8. Autographed Occasions Cookbook (includes recipe for Dolly’s birthday cake!) & $40 gift card to Baked
Dolly’s Doughnut Bundt Cake recipe!
Donated by Baked
$75 value

Dollys_BDay_Doughnut_Cake_web_jpg_315x2000_q85

9. Dolly Make up bag, Cropped Leggings or Low Top Sneakers
Donated by Kayci Wheatly
“I love to illustrate my favorite people, but sometimes I illustrate people I don’t even like. I’m a whore like that. But that’s not the case with Dolly!”
Make up bag valued at $28
Cropped Leggings valued at $48 (only available size medium)
Low Top Sneakers valued at $82 (custom size)

dollysneakers

10. Cup of Ambition Screen Print
Hand Printed Silkscreen Poster
PatchworkPrintshop
Valued at $40

dollycupofambition

11. Dolly Saint Art Print
Portrait of dolly as a saint while smoking…
Donated by: Dirty Lola

saintdolly

12. “People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair”
Cut & Blowout or Blowout & Styling
Brooklyn, NY
Donated by Topher Gross Hair
Valued at $125

13. Love is Like a Butterfly
Original painting by David Shouse Mitchell @dsmitchellart and @davidshousemitchell #dsmitchellart

davidmitchellbutterflypainting

14. Glittered Vintage Dolly Record Albums
Six hand glittered vintage Dolly albums in frames donated by Michel Rosenthal, glitter is hard to photograph, here’s a video.
Valued at $75 each

glitterdollyalbum

15. 90s Vintage Country Singers Framed Poster
Includes Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Reba McIntire, The Judds, Dwight Yoakem, Clint Black and Randy Travis among others!
We looked everyplace we stopped along the World’s Longest Yard Sale and this was literally the only Dolly-related thing we could find. Dolly fans really hold onto their memorabilia!!
Donated by your co-femmecee for the evening & show producer Bevin Branlandingham & Outreach Coordinator Dara Barlin

90svintagecountrysingers

16. Dolly Cufflinks and a Dolly Necklace
Donated by Dan Dana Designs.
$15 + $20 value

17. Dolly altar candle and print
Donated by LastCraft
$25 value

dollyaltarcandle

18. Dolly Parton name necklace
Intentionally sized to accomodate big boobs, the chain can be adjusted as needed.
Donated by Geeky and Creepy who can do custom journals, frames and other art for any Fandom!
$20 value

geekyandcreepydollynecklace

19. Painting of Young Dolly
Original Print w/ Frame
Donated by Adriana Raby
Valued at $117

adrianarabydollypainting

20. Dolly Flask
Donated by Miss Marcie Online
$20 value

dollyflask

MERCH
A limited number of Flaming Idols Dolly votive candles will be on sale at the event for $10!

flamingidolsdolly

**About the 6 tickets to Dollywood Raffle Prize: Tickets are good through 1/3/16, can also be used as a discount towards a Dollywood Season Pass ($40 off season pass). Pro tip: If you buy a season pass in November & December it’s good for the following year, so you can go back again (it’s worth it). A Dollywood Season Pass costs less than 2 day’s park admission so get a season pass if you’re going to Dollywood for more than one day. It’s totally worth it. The Smokey Mountains are SOOO beautiful. $420 value!!

2015-04-08

Facebook De-Activated My Account Demanding a Government ID

Monday was not a cute day for me. I visited my accountant to do my taxes, the preparation for which is a lengthy process as someone who is self-employed and doesn’t use Quicken. (Ugh bookkeeping. Ugh working class background/money fears/so much stuff to work through.)

I got my tax bill (UGH) and then… we finally heard back from the vet. Macy, my beloved Shih Tzu, broke her ankle in February. She had ruptured disc surgery in July and several months of recovery so the chip fracture was an emotionally and financially difficult set back.

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Part of the ankle treatment was having her sedated for an x-ray. Pre-sedation blood work meant we found out by accident that her calcium levels are high. Which could be an indicator of cancer or parathyroid disease or just high calcium which, if left untreated, can deposit minerals in her organs and then cause more disease. The process of figuring it out is one test after another. When your vet calls something an “Easter egg hunt,” that’s not a great sign.

Monday we got the results from her recent special hypercalcemia blood test (this required a special lab and a 7 day wait for the results) and her thyroid is normal but the calcium is still high. Next up, yet another ultrasound. (She’s 13 pounds, they couldn’t ultrasound her neck WHILE they did the abdomen? So fucked up.) It is stressful, expensive, sad and poor Macy.

After the day’s events, I went to Facebook, thinking I could maybe talk to some friends who have been on lengthy dog diagnostic journeys. Or talk to some of my working class femme friends about being self-employed. Like so many times I’ve gone to Facebook, a nice aggregate of people I actually know in real life, I went to my phone browser and popped it in. I was greeted with a login screen, which is odd because I generally stay logged in to Facebook.

Once I logged in, Facebook asked me for my driver’s license. Until I provide them some kind of identity verification from their list, I am locked out of Facebook. Not only am I locked out, but my friends report that they cannot find me, cannot message me and cannot see my profile. Facebook has made it so I no longer exist on their system.

This was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am just trying to live a positive life and right now it’s like death, death, money stuff, illness, now Facebook.

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The problem is, I use a different name, a chosen name, to interact with people in social media. Bevin is my government first name, but because I have a super googleable name, I choose to use a made-up last name on all forms of social media. Bevin Branlandingham is my stage name, but it also provides a great invisible wall between my day job and my life online. I think it is extremely reasonable to make this distinction and I would, in fact, encourage other people to do this with social media, no matter the “privacy settings.”

I would not have the same issue if my name was very common, like Jane Smith, but I still think social media is not a place where your government name should be required.

There are lots of other reasons a person might not use their government name on social media. Here are some reasons that I came up with the last time I wrote a blog post about the Facebook legal name requirement:

1. Trans people and other people for whom their legal name does not represent their gender(s).
2. People whose name is extremely googleable. The John Smiths of the world don’t have the same issues with online content that the Bevin Branlandinghams do.
3. Performers who use facebook to connect with their performance community.
4. Roller Derby folks who want to use their derby name to connect to their community.
5. People whose jobs or careers would be jeopardized by interaction with social media.
6. People for whom a legal name change is a barrier of time/access/money.
7. People who use social media for a specific group that utilizes nicknames.
8. People who don’t want people knowing their legal name in a casual setting.
9. Folks who are hiding from abusive exes/parents/relatives or stalkers.
10. Folks whose countries of citizenship would punish them for speaking about their country.

facebookalias

After the last hullabaloo over Facebook and real name requirements, I thought Facebook actually listened to the LGBT activists and drag queens who went to them and had meetings with them. Schooling them without being paid tuition. I GUESS FACEBOOK DIDN’T LISTEN.

I had a lot of feelings about being denied access to my Facebook account, on a day when I was already full of lots of difficult feelings.

Lately I’ve also been using Facebook to connect with my communities because not one but two of my friends in different crowds passed away suddenly this past month (one was suicide). It has been really helpful to connect with people around this, lots of whom are old friends who only get in touch with me through Facebook.

It felt really shitty to be isolated from my friends on a day when I kind of needed to reach out. It continues to feel shitty to have to figure out how to get Facebook to verify my “authentic identity” when I have a ton of other stuff that’s more important.

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For example, my allergies are super bad and I need to sit on hold with Callen-Lorde and get an appointment with my provider. I also think dying my hair is more important than going through the debacle that will be the uphill battle to reactivating my Facebook profile.

Since Facebook deactivated my account I have discovered that anything I used Facebook to login to is no longer available to me. For example, I pay monthly for Spotify because it is so easy to stream all the music except now I can’t get into it because my Facebook login won’t work. Same with my meditation program. I will NEVER use a third party login for a website again. By the way, Spotify doesn’t have an email or contact form for customer care–I’m having to contact them via Twitter. I don’t feel comfortable giving my money to places that don’t prioritize customer care so I am going to have to figure out a new music situation. The amount of agita piling on with this Facebook suspension is astounding.

Here are some screen caps:
FBSubmityourdocsScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.51.24 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.51.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.51.46 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.52.11 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.52.23 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.52.39 PM

Since I don’t ever intend to make my stage name my government name, I don’t have any of the documents they are asking for. Why would I bother? I’ve never subscribed to a magazine as Bevin Branlandingham… but I’ve been featured in magazines as Bevin Branlandingham, presented at conferences, run a successful website, etc… On principle I also think this is shitty. Facebook is kind of the first place people go to to announce a new name, what if they haven’t done anything other than tell the people they love about a new name? Or what if they just (like me) don’t want to use a government name for social media?

I’ve done security measures with Facebook before, answered security questions, verified the identities of my friends in tagged photos. What happened that Facebook now wants to shut down my account and see my library card? I feel like I’m trying to go to a nightclub and the bouncer is demanding my ID.

The ironic thing is that I have a Facebook page with a fake name that is still totally accessible to me! (Rebel Gateau, a loose French version of Rebel Cupcake.) I use it for nightlife promotion so I can friend folks who wanted to get party invites. Facebook I can still get in the back door!

My therapist called me a “woman of my time” because of all of the ways in which I use Facebook. When doing my expenses for taxes in 2014 I paid more money to Facebook for advertising than I paid for printed fliers. We live in a different time. But I guess Facebook doesn’t want my money because it’s money from someone who doesn’t use an “authentic name.” And maybe that’s how they got me in the first place, because my credit card info doesn’t match my Facebook screen name.

I have a lot of rage about this, and it is probably just a place for all my other rage about how mad I am that my friends died and confused I am about my feelings, how frustrated I am about the process about Macy’s diagnosis and how worried I am that if I don’t keep shoveling dollar bills at it that she is going to die. Oh and feelings of helplessness about money, taxes, bookkeeping, getting rid of stuff (the latter being that Queer Exchange is a great place to get rid of stuff).

It would be nice to have access to my friends on Facebook at this time, but I’m just taking a break. Hopeful that most folks have my email or at least remember to google me and get my email from my blog. (It’s on the sidebar.) So far three people have texted asking why they can’t find me on Facebook, so that’s something.

In the meantime, I got a nice Fuck You from Facebook in the form of an email telling me all I have missed in the 48 hours since they deactivated my account.
FB email after suspension

I’m totally not kidding. I cannot actually log into my Facebook account, but they email me what I’m missing. Just like being inside a nightclub and coming out to the line of folks waiting outside fruitlessly arguing with a bouncer about IDs telling them what fun everyone is having without you. Facebook, you are an asshole.

I want to tell Facebook “You can’t fire me, I quit” and figure out how to live the social media life I want to without them. And yet, I’m still wondering how I can crowd source my incredible pool of friends so efficiently without Facebook. And I miss creeping my departed friend Laura Mulley’s Facebook feed because I’ve been learning a lot about her since she passed away last month and really appreciated that process and moving through grief.

The intention of this post is to warn folks who don’t use their government name on Facebook–they will come for you. And it will be without warning. So don’t rely on Facebook messenger to get info because poof, out of nowhere, Facebook will rip it from you unless you want to prepare all of these docs ahead of time. Maybe if I had a couple of weeks’ warning that they were going to ask me I could have tried to get a library card in my chosen name.

I can’t manage my Queer Fat Femme Facebook Fan Page now because I can’t get to it without my Facebook account. So I will simply have to use other social media outlets to tell people about my performances and life.

If you want to find me: Twitter (good articles/media recommendations), Instagram (my dog, my partner, my babely friends and adventures) and Tumblr (whatever goes on Tumblr).

I’m still a positive person (my motto about my attitude is to not allow my personal tragedy to interfere with my ability to do good hair, where good hair is ultimately believing the good in life) so I can’t leave it on an FU Facebook note. Instead, here’s a great Dolly Parton quote.

dollyism

2015-01-09

Five Ways I Shake Off Body Oppressive Rhetoric During the New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon

Having spent the last three weeks traveling, between a road trip for a meeting at Dollywood and a family trip to Seattle, I’ve been really off my game. I find it so challenging to travel and meet my self-care needs.

I manage a chronic digestive disorder (Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the Western diagnosis, but I know it’s more complicated than that) with food restrictions and I can feel when my digestion isn’t working. I can get away with not eating in alignment with my body for a little while but eventually it adds up and I’ll pay a price with intense flares and body pain. It’s hard to not want to eat all the amazing food you’re exposed to when traveling. Moderation works for me until it doesn’t.

I also manage my mental and emotional health with exercise. I am still not sure what alchemy I need to carve out time for more than walking the dog when I travel, but more often than not if I pack my gym clothes and shoes I won’t use them. I’ll end up cranky and spiraling by the end of a trip from not getting my angst out on the elliptical. I know that setting better boundaries and time management when I travel is a growth area for me.

15889385960_a7632fe2fa_zWe already had the Seattle trip booked when we got a meeting with the Dollywood Foundation to partner with them for silent auction prizes for Dollypalooza in September… We decided to just go for it and took a road trip, and fulfilled my bucket list dream to see Dollywood at Christmastime. It did not disappoint.

As I was preparing to leave Seattle I found myself really excited to go to the gym and drink green juice, smoothies and detox from sugar. And as I heard the same kind of “drink all the green juice!!!” and “get a new gym membership!!!” trumpets from the anti-fat mainstream media and billion dollar weight loss industry in conjunction with the new year’s resolution influx of people working to lose weight for the umpteenth time, I felt gross about it. Like, here I was wanting to participate in something that is also being used as weapons against bodies like mine.

I thought a lot about what was going on in my head about this stuff and how it was that I have herstorically dealt with the new year’s uptick in relentless weight loss commercials, before and after I began eating in alignment with my body and going to the gym. I came up with some ways that I’ve used to make sense of the complex and seemingly contradictory relationship I have with loving my fat body, hating the sizeist media and making choices that help my body feel its best. I share them below.

1. Run your own race

I like to remember that everyone has their own life and their own life challenges. It’s really difficult to live in a society that literally has a war on body types like yours. In my case, the war on obesity hits home, but other bodies are under attack–people of color, disabled folks, transfolks, aging people. It’s also true that oppression of any body affects all, so the fear of becoming fat, or old, or disabled affects the narrative and creates a society where no body is safe.

So that said, people who need to focus on diet and exercise to lose weight, I just let them do their own stuff. That’s their life path, not mine. I am very self aware and know that my choice to go to the gym doesn’t mean I think my fat body is bad. I also don’t expect some kind of wild body transformation. I do expect that as I keep going back I’m going to feel calmer and more at peace with my surroundings and the onset of Winter and the Winter Blah Blah Blahs (aka Seasonal Depression). (P.S. I’m writing this blog post while sitting under my NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy LampUV Happy Light.)

16085137075_a651db95c4_zSpeaking of lights, that’s a hologram of Dolly Parton playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Dollywood production of A Christmas Carol.

2. You are worthy of love exactly as you are.

All of the “NEW YEAR NEW YOU” rhetoric (actual graphic I saw on the itunes store app center thingy this morning) is basically shorthand for you’re not good enough. Remember there are multiple billion dollar industries that require you to feel insecure in order to sell you products. It is not in their best interest that you feel good about yourself.

But here’s the thing. Today, right now, you sitting right there. You are actually good enough because you are human and you are worthy. That’s something you can choose to believe.

There’s a myth that losing weight and modifying yourself is going to make you feel worthy, but self-acceptance is actually the surest way to make yourself feel that way. I know a lot of people who have lost weight in a myriad of ways, and the thing that seems the most common among them is that people who started out hating their bodies had a lot of self hate left once the weight was gone. Wild insecurities pop up when you lose weight and haven’t lost the hate for your body.

It’s not like we don’t all have ways we want to grow and change, change is the only constant in life. I’m a lifelong learner and self-developer. But I know even as I have “areas for growth” (I’m always working on improving my language to be more gentle with myself) I’m worthy right now. It’s just choosing to shift your perspective to believe that you’re worthy and accept yourself as you are. Maybe that’s a change you can work on for the NEW YEAR NEW YOU.

15897718658_474ccf4ff1_zThis kettle corn that I watched get made in front of me was very inflammatory and very delicious. Moderation in all things, including moderation, said Maya Angelou.

2. Be critical of the media you consume

When I was first getting involved in size acceptance I went on a complete media diet. I focused only on size positive or size neutral things. I obsessively collected pictures of cute fat people and put them around my house so I could see them. I trained myself to see fat as positive.

Now I’m able to employ lots of techniques for consuming mass media (that’s probably a whole other blog post). I work to be very critical of what I consume.

I was in the airport and saw the new Self magazine with a big headline of “Love Your Body.” I didn’t have the chance to read it because I was too busy being paranoid because I was accidentally high, but I went onto the website to find out if they were really joining the bandwagon of loving your body as it is. And I saw that the Love Your Body headline right where every other month has weight loss tips, and I looked through their website and saw all of their weight loss articles, so I realized they were just co-opting language to sell weight loss! Real classy Self magazine!

This time of year especially, I work my hardest to remind myself that mass media is not the boss of me and try not to get defensive or mad every time I see something that advertises quick weight loss or uses headless fatties to scare folks about fat. Getting defensive or mad is totally a valid response, though, and my rage does flow through, but rolling my eyes is better for my stress level. I remind myself that lots of fat people are really healthy. Health at Every Size is all about people at all sizes having access to activities that are good for your health. And that is an inconvenient truth for magazines that rely on fear of weight gain in order to sell copies.

I know that choosing to go to the gym is all about me loving my body and not about me losing weight in order to love my body, a complexity that seems contradictory but is actually not at all to me. I worked really hard to make peace with that.

I also know that people who are fat and don’t choose to go to the gym or restrict their eating are totally worthy of love, too! There is no “good” or “bad” way to have a body, it’s just a body!

16076930595_5d2229e69f_zMe and my fat friend Santa just hanging out on a porch in front of the Christmas buffet. I actually found the buffet meals to be full of food options for lots of dietary restrictions. In addition to a mac and cheese station.

4. Replace should with could

This is a wonderful strategy for treating yourself with kindness. I used to be the kind of person whose resting thoughts were always on the ways in which I needed to improve myself. “I should learn Spanish. I should eat better. I should be working on my book. I should get back into working on neurolinguistic programming.” That’s an actual transcript of my inner self abuser that I just tapped into. I can go DEEP into self-shaming with shoulds.

Because I’m still a work in progress and I believe language is so powerful, I have been working for about a year on replacing my shoulds with coulds. “I could learn Spanish. I could be working on my book…” It’s so much gentler. This constant New Year’s chatter of all the ways you should change keeps reminding me of the ways I want to change. But instead of hearing “You should go to the gym” I am hearing, “I could go to the gym.” I am hearing, “I could organize my room.”

5. Every BODY is different

Dr. Phil is full of complexities and I don’t love all of his messages, but he said one thing that really hit home for me when I was early in my fat activist days. I was in a place of “I’ll eat a cupcake whenever I want” as a way to express fat rage. (That’s still a totally valid place to be, of course, but I like to be strategic about my fuck yous and eating a cupcake more than once in awhile will cause me a lot of pain so I don’t.)

Dr. Phil said something on his show specifically about sweet tea that I haven’t ever forgotten. It’s that, basically, all bodies are different and he drinks a glass of sweet tea and gains weight and lots of folks drink a glass of sweet tea and stay thin.

His point was that he had no control over the type of body he has and he had to accept it. And that’s just kind of how things are. Like, it feels really shitty that I got this amazing huge gift basket from a professional colleague for the holidays and pretty much everything in it, wine, crackers, pretzels, caramel corn, hot cocoa, is all food that will make me sick. That fucking sucks. But I’m at a place where I am choosing to accept and love myself for who I am and that means cherishing the complex body I was given.

And I would love to eat a fuck you mass media cupcake, and I probably will eventually. But in the meantime I’m going to accept my body and do the work it needs to do to feel good, so that I can do the work I want to be doing in the world to change it. To create media that helps people feel good in the bodies they have and become the people they want to become by cheering them on instead of shaming them.

15890219499_633f4fb47f_zHow about a fuck you 25 pound apple pie from Dollywood?

Do you have additional ways you choose to shake off the body oppressive media this time of year and/or manage to strike a balance with your own personal wellness goals?

2014-10-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Get ready to do things differently

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

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

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

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

2. Go shopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Identify confidence anchors on your body

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

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

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

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

4. Practice at home

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

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

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

5. Identify your body positive allies

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

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

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

6. Identifiy your “safer” spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

3683063609_4ce737edc2_zPride parade 2009 with the Femme Family NYC.

8. Instagram or tumblr body positive images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7310063030_3093c1724a_zRebel Cupcake second anniversary party, 2012.

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