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

2018-05-11

Three Methods I Use to Have an Easier Experience with Life

One of the best things I have ever done for my mental health is to adopt the world view of Pronoia. This is the assumption that everything in the Universe is aligning to my benefit. It’s described as the opposite of paranoia. (The term was coined by Rob Brezny, spelled out in this great and giant book.)

Last weekend when Dara and I were looking at wedding venues near Dollywood in the Smoky Mountains, we realized we have different ways of dealing with potential homophobia. We were originally going to talk on the phone to potential venues about whether they were friendly to host a Queer Wedding. I decided instead to utilize my gut instincts. I find, in general, if I assume people are going to be loving and kind to me, most folks rise to that occasion.

Dara, however, was definitely steeling herself for some potential discrimination.

This is a great example of the dichotomy between paranoia (Dara being afraid we would experience homophobia) and Pronoia (me assuming that people will be kind and loving).

I’m not giving you a blanket idea of how to deal with oppression in general, I’m just offering what works for me as a Queer Fat Femme in a heterosexually centered fatphobic society. I still loudly remark at the end of a movie when heterosexuality is reinforced, I still notice overt oppression against me as a queer fat woman with an exaggerated gender presentation. I see and experience all the ways in which this world is not built for human size diversity.

However, in general, I find when I assume strangers are intending to be loving and kind it makes my experience of living in an oppressive world a lot easier for me.

I acknowledge my White privilege in this. I grew up poor but I learned how to class pass early on and that does affect how I experience the world and overt or covert oppression. People of Color, Black folks, trans and gender non conforming folks, disabled folks, poor folks, older folks and other oppressed people have different experiences than I do.

Pronoia helps me keep my brain decluttered from other people’s judgments. I could spend a lot of time micro analyzing how strangers look at me or if I hear an audible sigh from someone seated next to me on a plane. Most of the time I assume their looks and sounds don’t have anything to do with me or my size. Maybe that’s not true, but probably it is true the majority of the time.

What I’ve noticed is that most people are so concerned with themselves they aren’t thinking about me. And when they are thinking about me or overtly judging or oppressing me, what I think about is how hard it must be in their own head. Because most folks who are pointing a finger have three pointed back at them, and generally those folks have a really nasty, self hating and judgmental internal dialogue.

It doesn’t mean that I’m bulletproof. I still have that coding in my brain that makes me feel conspicuous when I’m standing up in the aisle of an airplane waiting for the flight attendant to move because I can’t really squish around her. I’m reminded sometimes that I’m fat in public when I’m eating, but I’ve long lost the shame around being fat. I don’t think a lot of thin people have the same coding. Some do and if they feel shame around eating in public or standing in the aisle of an airplane worrying about their perceived size—that shame is from Fatphobia. Fatphobia affects everyone, no matter their size, but the oppression lands on the fat people not the thin ones.

We are really excited to have a destination wedding in the Smoky Mountains! We get to share a favorite place of ours with all of our friends and family!

I find it helpful to think of oppression as systemic and not something everyone is intending to promote in their unconscious actions. The wedding coordinators at the venues we were looking at, if they had any hesitation about us as a queer couple or didn’t know how to be “cool” around us about our Gay Wedding, that was a result of systemic oppression. Systemic oppression doesn’t excuse bad behavior or overt oppression but it does help me assume best intentions from people on the ground doing the best they can with what they have.

Engaging in Pronoia helps my mental health. When I assume the world is ultimately a kind place, when I don’t assume people are judging me (or thinking of me at all), when I don’t get caught up in shame and defensiveness, I’m just happier.

This is the type of thinking I hope to impart on all of the small children in my life through my example because they really learn mostly by example. We could use a generation that is exposed to kinder methods of self talk and compassion for self and others.

Here are some things I do that help support my Pronoia:

1. I treat it like a practice.
I lived in NYC for a long time and it taught me how to walk through the world and pay very little attention to how people are reacting to me. I also generally work to stay in a self loving and compassionate place which helps me feel more loving and compassionate towards others and assume they are reflecting that back to me. Pronoia in action.

2. I assume best intentions.
Impact is more important than intent. But in general, the impact of oppression on me is lessened when I can get to the compassion place. It also helps me not notice oppression against me and sometimes that’s just easier for me to exist within. Pronoia is about me living my best and most peaceful life and not about what someone’s intentions actually are.

3. I pray for it.
A very successful real estate agent I met at a conference a couple months ago taught me a practice she does every morning. She visualizes everyone on her path that day working in her favor, even folks she doesn’t know. She then holds gratitude for that. I haven’t started doing it every day but I do it every time I go to the airport because flying while fat is difficult and I can always use people (and spirit guides) working behind the scenes on my behalf.

Oppression leaves a lot of scars, especially when you’ve experienced repeated oppression, hurt and judgment. It can be really hard to move into Pronoia! If it appeals to you, I suggest taking one tiny baby step towards it by using only one of my tips above at a time and slowly incorporating it into your life. Like a couple minutes a day of intentional practice to start, It took me many years to get to where I am now!

The wedding coordinators we met with were a mixed bag. The first one was great, enthusiastic about our wedding but at one point late in the visit, when we asked about having the restrooms be gender neutral, made the effort to reassure us that she believes all people in love who want to make a life commitment should get to. The second place we visited was immediately off my list because it was sold to us differently over the phone than what they deliver for services. But I still didn’t get a real friendly vibe off the proprietor. But maybe he was having indigestion and not about us being homos, I don’t know.

The wedding venue we ultimately selected had both the coordinator and her assistant at our site visit. They never blinked about our queerness, the gender neutral restrooms were an easy yes for them and they are already thinking about beautiful signage. And they were both overtly excited about our wedding plans—we’re really excited to work with them.

This is where we’re going to get hitched!

2015-07-13

An Open Letter to Oprah about Crop Tops and Body Positivity

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

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

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

Dear Oprah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My friend Chavon modeling for Booty and the Geek. In Chavon’s spare time she makes geeky themed frames and journals, check them out on instagram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A video posted by Bevin (@queerfatfemme) on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo,

Bevin

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

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

Just saying.

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

2015-01-02

Queer and Body Positive Calendars for 2015

I cannot believe it’s already 2015. Where does the time go? I’ve been lost in a holiday/birthday/travel time vortex and I’m scratching my head about being 36 already and have so much I want to get done this year!

What better way to set goals and mark time than with a calendar that acknowledges queer bodies and lots of different bodies! I think it is incredibly powerful self-love to surround yourself with images of hot queer and fat folks who have diverse bodies. Sensitizing yourself to queer and fat bodies that look like yours and the people you love is an important part of loving yourself and/or being a good fat/queer ally.

Like my 2014 Queer Fat Femme gift guide, I am not being compensated for these listings, I just want to get folks connected to great artists and support queer and body positive projects!

Q-were Calendar
I’m really excited about the Q-were project. I met Patience, the photographer, this summer and got to look through the 2013 and 2014 calendars and I was like daaaaang these are basically hot queer stroke books. I loved it. And I was doubly, maybe even triply, thrilled to find out my queer fat femme pal Rahjah is the centerfold for 2015!! Buy the calendar for $25 and support queer body positive diverse art!
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qwere2015
Q-were Instagram
Q-were Website
Link to buy the 2015 Calendar on Etsy

Queer Porn Star Calendar
Another hot queer, sex positive, body positive calendar is the Queer Porn Star Calendar. Included in the spread are April Flores, Courtney Trouble and Chelsea Poe, three of my favorite queer porn stars and really awesome people. (I had brunch with April Flores recently and she’s so wonderful.) I absolutely love what Courtney is doing with their queer porn femmepire at Trouble Films and the amplification of authentic and fun queer sex. If I had been able to see queer porn like what Trouble Films puts out when I was a baby queer it would have changed my life.

queerporncalendarAprilFlores

chelsea-poe-1bTake a minute to sign Chelsea’s petition to ask mainstream porn sites to cease using the term shemale.

Link to buy the 2015 Queer Porn Star Calendar
The Trouble Films Porn Empire

Adipositivity Calendar
The Adipositivity project is a fat acceptance project that goes back several years. “Part fat, part feminism, part fuck you.” Substantia Jones is still clicking away, preserving bigger and better images of fat bodies. The calendar is $19.99 and supports this great art collection of fat bodies.
The Adipositivity Project: The 2015 Adipositivity Calendar is here! &emdash;
Link to the Adipositivity project
Buy the 2015 calendar

Pudge PDX Calendar
I did a little googling to make sure I wasn’t missing any body positive calendars and found the Pudge PDX plus size pin-up calendar! Queer heartthrob Melody Awesomazing is seen in the below photo (far left) as a lumberjack! “Pudge PDX’s body positive calendar includes 13 months with lunar cycles and wacky holidays. Fawn over these fancy folks while staying up to speed with your schedule!”

pudgepdx

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Buy the calendar for $25!
Link to Pudge PDX

2014-10-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Get ready to do things differently

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

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

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

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

2. Go shopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Identify confidence anchors on your body

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

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

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

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

4. Practice at home

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

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

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

5. Identify your body positive allies

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

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

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

6. Identifiy your “safer” spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

3683063609_4ce737edc2_zPride parade 2009 with the Femme Family NYC.

8. Instagram or tumblr body positive images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7310063030_3093c1724a_zRebel Cupcake second anniversary party, 2012.

2014-04-18

Six Strategies to Not Care When People Stare at You

When my girlfriend started to go through chemotherapy, she shaved her head. She didn’t want to start losing her rock star style shaggy hair in great clumps so she figured she’d go bald on her own. She doesn’t shy away from flamboyance, so she did a whole head shaving party and got our buddy Khane Kutzwell from Camera Ready Kutz to do a whole fancy design, that you can see in the below video.

Shortly thereafter, folks started staring at her more than they used to. Especially as her hair thinned and she slowly went bald. She worried, when it got really obvious that she was balding, about what other people were thinking about her.

12762536225_3f2f5d8db7_z

I could relate to how she was feeling. I used to constantly stress out about what people thought about me, even when I was a more run of the mill fat girl when I was a late teenager and in my early twenties. (I did my best to blend in, but it’s hard when you’re 5’7” and fat.) As I started to come more into my own, I started dressing more flamboyantly and now I get noticed a lot. It’s actually kind of a relief in New York City because you get less stares when you look like a weirdo than you do outside of the city. I often forget how conspicuous I am until I travel.

13513393314_3d9cd2f604_zPhoto I took in a bathroom on a road trip through small towns when I realized people were staring at me and I remembered that I usually stick out.

A lot of folks do the long look to try to decide what’s going on with someone when they look unusual. And that’s way more noticeable when you’re not used to it. It feels weird. And when Dara started to notice it, she felt uncomfortable and insecure about it.

I surprised myself by rattling off a bunch of strategies she could use to get more comfortable with being conspicuous. So here, dear readers, is a cheat sheet for how to stop caring about what strangers think about you.

This is, of course, just strategies for your perceptions of people looking at you. This list doesn’t address the real danger of homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, femmephobic, ageist, sizist, antisemetic, racist, anti-erotic street harassers and jerks out there. For my readers out there blooming as the gorgeous weirdo flowers you are I send a lot of love and protective energy to you.

1. It’s not about you.

I like to remember that everyone in the world is running their own race. What that means is that everyone is on their own journey and you don’t actually know what’s going on in their mind. We’re all living in a beligerent society that commodifies insecurity. It teaches us to hate ourselves and our bodies. When I was at my most insecure, I rarely paid attention to anyone else except if it was in a way that I would put my own self down.

I would hazard to guess that most folks who you think are looking at you aren’t actually noticing you. And if they are noticing you and passing judgment or having thoughts about you, it doesn’t affect your value one bit.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to work on your own value internally. How much you are worth isn’t decided by the woman standing behind you at Starbucks who won’t stop looking at you. Even if she is judging you, which she might not be, her scowl could just be about how she’s not sure she can actually afford to pay her light bill and she’s wondering if this latte is a good idea.

If you’re familiar with the Four Agreements, I like to remember the second agreement in times like this. “Don’t take anything personally.”

2. Pretend they are thinking you are beautiful.

I read a tweet from Our Lady J that changed my life. She said something to the effect of pretending like the people staring at her were thinking she was beautiful. So many people might be looking at you because you’re beautiful but you might not have the ability to agree with them so you’re assuming it’s a negative judgment when it might actually be something positive.

I really like the call to assuming people’s best intentions and an affirmation of your own beauty if you can go there. And also, sometimes negative body comments are a way of masking folks’ own discomfort at finding nonconformative bodies attractive. That is really complicated for people.

Our_Lady_J_8Photo of Our Lady J by Santiago Felipe.

3. Remove your judgments about other people.

I believe true change on a global level starts from the personal. If you can transform the way you think it will help transform the world. I think this is true for how you feel about other people.

I used to comment internally on people’s bodies. I grew up wildly focused on my own body. Now I work hard to be really neutral with myself about my own body, but I had to stop my internal chatter about other people’s bodies before I could apply it to myself. When I found myself saying, “That person is thin, I wish I was more like that,” I would stop myself and remind myself of my core value: All bodies are good bodies.

We live in a society that teaches us that it is okay to pass judgment and value other bodies in hierarchical ways. The media is constantly critiquing people’s bodies and appearance–it’s so difficult to step away from that programming!

If you can replace criticism with compassion for other people it will transform the way you feel about yourself. Once I started learning more about how to apply compassion in my own life (I talk about this in the April write-up with Empowering Astrology) I mellowed out a lot and cared much less about what other people were thinking about me.

13416539085_5c6b735962_zDara’s alien as it started to fade.

4. Work on your own perception of yourself.

From about age 8-13 I was bullied relentlessly. I absorbed those terrible things kids and adults said about me and my body. I became the worst bully of myself and started a constant internal chatter of criticism. I believed those things. It took years and years of choosing to rearrange my thoughts to not berate myself.

Accepting and then eventually loving myself took a lot of time and intention on how to think about my body and then eventually my own self worth. There are a million strategies for this (I offer body liberation coaching to help folks work on loving their bodies), but one of my favorites is below.

Piggybacking on removing judgment about other people in number 3 above, is removing your own judgment. Often we look for things to reinforce the thoughts we already have. Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. When you walk around thinking about how awful your body is, that is what you reinforce with your thoughts about what other people are thinking about you–a toxic feedback loop!

Instead, try replacing your negative thoughts with positive affirmations. The deal with affirmations is that they are statements that may not be true in the present but that you will eventually begin to believe the truth of. (See Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life.)

Some good affirmations that you can splice into your thoughts when you get caught up berating your own body or worrying about what other people think of you are:

I approve of myself.
All bodies are good bodies.
I love myself.
My body is wonderful.
I am beautiful and smart and that is how everyone sees me.

5. Wear sunglasses.

As a nightlife performer in New York City–where venues with proper dressing rooms are a luxury–I have had to learn how to not worry about people openly staring at me because I’m wearing a weird costume and a lot of make-up. Once, on the way to the Dyke March wearing a Wonder Woman costume I put on a pair of sunglasses and I decided that if I couldn’t really see other people they couldn’t really see me. It worked, I stopped caring that much about whether people were looking at me.

6. Fake it till you make it.

This is also a great strategy for learning to love your body. It’s just acting like it doesn’t bother you when people look at you. Maybe it still does but if you pretend to yourself and maybe to other people that it doesn’t bother you, you’ll start to believe it.

13133225584_0696c9b086_zDoing Chemo karaoke.

It’s taken me many years to get over people’s perceptions of me. Ultimately, I know if what I am doing, wearing, writing about, living is in alignment with my core values, I know I approve of myself. And that’s the most important thing to me, being a person who knows who I am and lives that life authentically–no matter how people judge my body or my lifestyle.

2013-06-18

Plus Size Pageant Documentary–There She Is and some questions for my readership about being fat and expressing gender

I was asked by the filmmakers of a new documentary released yesterday to watch a sneak preview. I was cuddled up in a cabin in the woods with a bunch of my queer besties and it seemed like the perfect activity for a rainy day. Now that it’s released world-wide for free on the internet, I want to share it with my readership.

From the press kit: “There She Is follows two plus size pageant queens as they prepare for an upcoming pageant. They discuss their lives as plus size women, including how they feel when others’ perceptions of their appearance clash with their own. The film challenges the viewer to examine his/her own definition of beauty and the ways in which it affects our everyday lives.”

It’s very fat acceptance 101 but also very human. It’s full of pretty dresses and watching girls do make-up (one of my favorite things to watch).

I have some thoughts about the film, so read on for my feelings or you can watch the movie and then read what I have to say. I’d love to hear your reactions, too.

Planning the next trip to the house.
I accidentally bought an evangelical christian guide to retreat planning when at the used book sale.

Here is the full film (about 20 minutes long)–the link to the website is here.

Or just watch the trailer:

I feel strongly that pageants can be a great thing for people. I think beauty, make-up, hair and clothes are art forms that are derided by mainstream culture as “frivolous” but can be very empowering. I think aesthetic arts are actually really helpful ways of reclaiming your body from what society expects from you. This is assuming that one understands that make-up/hair/etc are optional parts of aesthetic life and not compulsory. So I went into this documentary on the side of the contestants because I know beauty pageants are actually really fun hobbies/pursuits for folks.

I competed for the title of Miss LEZ and talk more about my pageant thoughts in this post.

A couple of things struck me about this movie. The first was that the blonde subject spoke about not wanting to run out to the grocery store without doing her hair, make-up and wearing cute clothes because she felt an unspoken expectation not to appear like a “fat slob.” I actually struggle with this myself. I challenge myself all the time to appear outside (and sometimes in photos on this blog) without wearing make-up. Sometimes I just physically don’t feel comfortable not wearing make-up and I am not sure if that’s because I just like to present a version of myself that is more in line with my vision or if it because I feel pressure to make myself more palatable for the outside world as a fat, queer person. I think it’s likely a bit of both, though I do work really hard to not let other people’s perceptions of me affect what and how I do things. I also never truly feel “in my gender” if I’m not wearing false eyelashes, red lipstick and some killer outfit.

I also was curious about the subject who talked about her weight loss at the end. It was actually kind of a bummer because as a fat loving person who is self loving I secretly want a fat acceptance narrative to not involve weight loss goals, but at the same time it’s unrealistic to expect fat people to not participate in ways of bodily self-determination. I rarely pursue weight loss goals myself but certainly make choices with regards to food and exercise that sometimes have a by product of weight loss.

I was curious and confused about the brunette’s reaction to her weight loss. In some ways I felt like her engagement was a byproduct of it from a man who wouldn’t otherwise accept her. (I.e. “It’s okay if you’re fat as long as you’re trying to lose weight.”) But I had a hard time understanding whether I was perceiving that correctly.

Cuddle pile.
Cuddled up watching the documentary.

For me, I try to make weight loss value-neutral and not focus on the scale about success. I focus on how my body is feeling. I don’t think losing weight will change who I am inside and suddenly make myself love me more. I’ve known enough formerly fat but still self-loathing people to know that’s not a narrative that works, you have to love yourself from the inside first regardless of how big your body is. As a body liberation activist, I also work really hard to not mind other people’s weight loss positively or negatively. I won’t judge them for it and I won’t celebrate it. I want to know if the person is feeling good in their body.

I’m wondering from readers what they feel like about wearing make-up, whether they find it compulsory, if they feel comfortable in public spaces or specifically queer spaces without it (if they are a make-up identified person)?

In what ways do you feel “in your gender,” and how does that present? How does that differ from day to day, moment to moment?

How do you respond to weight loss in your life? Are there ways that you make it value-neutral?

2012-09-06

Guest Post: Today I Took it Personally by Jessica Luxery

I have loved the mystical creature that is Jessica Luxery for a long time. If you don’t know the incredible blog that is Tangled Up In Lace I highly recommend it for the well-curated mix of sex, witchcraft, feline adoration, great music, incredible vintage style and politics. Also Jessica lives in Canada and you all know how much I adore our Maple neighbors to the North and enjoy Maple Chasing as a lifestyle choice. This summer for me has been all about Ultimate Artistic Authenticity and when I read the following piece I screamed YES and asked JLux if she would allow me to share it with my readers as a guest post on the blog. I hope you enjoy!

xo,

Bevin

Jessica Luxery in a Bikini

I wore this bikini to the lake today.

Majestic has been working and going to school full time so we don’t get as much QT as we used to and when we’re spread thin (ha), we regenerate in nature.

The thing is, Mercury’s in Retrograde, I’m shedding my uterine lining and my idea of “going into nature” doesn’t ever involve (or rather, I’d prefer if it didn’t) thin white insecure teenaged girls.

But today it did.

Normally, I’d do what I do best. Sitting in unflattering positions, eating passionately and aggressively and deflecting everyone’s poor self image are my strong suits. (Right next to fucking, tying a pretty bow and swearing.) I like to incite and I love to be seen in my fat bawdy. It reminds me I’m alive… surviving and thriving.

But like I said before, Mercury’s in Retrograde, I haven’t gotten intentional time with my Lover and I’m on my motherfucking period.

Today was not the goddamn day.

Watching a couple different flocks of thin teenage girls whisper to each other and then stare at two magical creatures such as myself and my beautiful wife with a look like they’d smelled a ripe fart filled me with a fiery rage.

Fat people can’t just fucking go to the lake and move their bodies in public without repercussions. The majority of thin people CAN.

Now, because this is not my first rodeo and I do not want anyone to get it twisted, I want everyone to read my words carefully and I really want thin folks to GET REAL with themselves right now.

I know the thin folks who read my blog make some serious attempts at becoming more body positive and I know you all try to think more critically about the ways in which you participate in a culture that is out to kill me. I know a lot of thin folks in my real life care about me, love me and even find my devilishly good looks to be quite captivating.

So when I talk about my feelings and real experiences, I do not want to hear about how you’re not the bad guy and how you don’t appreciate my anger. I don’t care.

Today I took the countless stares, whispers and upset faces personally. Instead of challenging them, I started to shake with unadulterated rage and huffed off. I moved our blanket and snacks to a secluded inlet of the lake and sulked.

When Majestic and I started to process my feelings, I told them the reason I feel unsafe around thin folks at the beach was about me 1. seeing their fucking faces when they look at me and 2. remembering what it was like to hate my body and the gross awful things I thought about people then. Worse, the things I was encouraged by my peers to say and think about people and the way we bonded over mean and hurtful feelings like it would keep us satisfied until we allowed ourselves a small portioned diet meal.

I told Majestic that thin people are thinking a few different things about my body and I don’t like any of them. Are they disgusted beyond belief? Are they sad for me and my pitiful fat existence? Are they just staring because my body has become so abject and such a spectacle that they’re just interested in knowing what it looks like that unclothed? Are they scared about what my body makes them think about their bodies?

Majestic said, “They’re uncomfortable. They want you to be invisible, but you refuse. It would be easier for them if you hid, but you won’t and that’s upsetting.”

So maybe some of them are thinking about how ~*brave*~ I must be and that’s supposed to quell my upset over all the other thoughts they could be thinking.

As if them thinking its brave to have such a revolting body and still put on bathing suit and enjoy a swim just like them is a comforting thought.

But it is brave to know your body is scary and that people want to destroy it, but that it’s yours and you love it and you made the radical decision not to deny yourself a dip in a lake on a hot day or an ice cream cone or a lover who respects you.

Because I know it’s hard to be a teenage girl and if I thought they’d listen, I’d sit down with every last one of them and tell them I remember what it was like to be them and that I know what it’s like to carry that venom inside you.

Because as much as I want to tell the world how they hurt themselves by hating me, I really just want to fucking float around in the cool water like everyone else but you don’t want that for me.

And tomorrow’s just another day for me to be fat in your face and if that’s hard for you, TOO FUCKING BAD.

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