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!

2012-08-01

50 Shades of Glitter: On Self-Examination and Shifting Desires

I know some folks whose dating histories are full of first timers on the road to Lesbianville. I have plenty to teach a queer newcomer but that just has not been my path, I’ve never been the first queer for a straight person. However, I am often the first Femme folks have ever gone on dates with or slept with. It’s kind of fun to introduce people to what Femme can be and shattering stereotypes. I find most folks who haven’t dated Femmes before me had a lot of really intense ideas about what Femme is or is not and what Femmes do or do not do.

This also has the bummer byproduct of hearing a lot of femmephobic things from folks who are otherwise attracted to me but who are somehow intimidated or otherwise put-off by my Femme characteristics. This has happened a few times and I’m always left wondering if folks really mean they don’t want to date Femmes or they just don’t want to date me. Frankly, I would be less offended if it was the latter because I think most of the time it speaks to unexamined misogyny and Femmephobia to declare that you don’t date Femmes or aren’t attracted to Femme characteristics. Further, just because you might not be into Bevin’s brand of Femme doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be into other brands of Femme.

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Here I am dressed like a gay Narwhal on a queer booze cruise in May. Heather is also pictured.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I see Femme as a diaspora of femininity. There are a lot of definitions of what Femme means to folks, sometimes this is an identity that is static and sometimes it is fluid and only applies some of the time or to some elements of peoples’ identities. I think Femme is a really sparkly umbrella big enough to fit over all of us. Femme is a venn diagram of femininity and empowerment and the way it manifests on different bodies and sexualities is extremely varied. For some Femme is a gender. For me Femme is how I fit into my sexuality but my gender is something else entirely, much more Muppet.

If we’re coming from a place of acknowledging there are so many different ways to be Femme, why is it valid to make a blanket statement that people aren’t attracted to Femmes at all?

I also want to make it clear that this post is as much addressed to Femme-identified folks who don’t do Femme on Femme Action (FOFA) as much as non-Femme identified folks.

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I’ve addressed this tired line before, focusing on debunking Femme as high maintenance. Now I want to focus on shifting desire and whether the idea that one can actually say they all the time never are attracted to Femmes.

Also, gender presentation is such a mystery. Sometimes it changes! And chemistry and desire are such mysteries, but I think desire is the kind of thing that can be cultivated.

I was talking about this with my pal Quito on a boat cruise on the East River a couple of months ago. Quito is someone who I said once their gender was Gonzo and they enjoyed that description. They were really sweet, openly sharing about being intimidated about dating Femmes. Quito said that the Femmes they know are really ferocious and embodied in their identity. Quito’s eyes got big when they said it and there was more and I wish I had taken more notes. But I understood that they were intimidated.

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I really adore Quito so very much.

It’s an interesting statement because while there’s a lot of ferocity there is also a lot of tenderness. Most of the fiercest Femmes I know are pussycats on the inside. I also am reminded of the constant drone of hearing “You’re too much” as a reason to not want to date someone.

I think there’s also an element of inexperience that impedes folks from feeling like moving toward Femmes. Like, if you’ve always done it to the same kinds of folks maybe you don’t know what the experience of certain feminine elements you’re not familiar with is going to do or how it might be different from sex you’ve had before. Maybe you might be bad at it. Maybe it might not be something you like.

For example, one time I got to inaugurate the first time someone had done it with someone who was wearing fishnets. There was some fumbling but it was incredibly hot. I think that’s true for any kind of new sexual experience. I, personally, intend to continue having new and hot sexual experiences well into my golden years. With new and hot things I don’t understand in my present erotic consciousness and new and hot people.* It’s also really exciting and fun to tell the person you’re with that you’re new to something. Perhaps instead of being intimidated by Femme, you confess to your potential new lover “I’ve never done this before.” People love to be the Marco Polo of sex and turn you out. I always give out sexual first time/best time awards when they are earned. Honestly, if I found the right boy scout I’d actually create patches.

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Also doing something for the first time, while fumbly, might just tell you something is not your thing and that’s cool, too. So maybe that’s desire that comes out of trying something that’s not for you.

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And maybe it’s the person who you don’t want to explore with. But if it’s the person just say “I’m not into you like that” or “I’m not feeling chemistry with you” or something along those lines.

But maybe before you say it’s the person interrogate your desire for a second. Are you balking because of them or because you’re feeling intimidated by a new desire? Or feeling some internalized shame for being attracted to femininity and you have some internalized misogyny to work out?

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For every Femme who wears fishnets and heels there are just as many Femmes who wear sneakers and jeans. And also! Also! Femmes who wear fishnets sometimes also are the Femmes who wear sneakers and jeans. For me I feel Femme all the time, no matter what I’m wearing and maybe sometimes people aren’t Femme identified in their sneakers and that’s cool for them. But I think that all permutations of Femme or not-Femme right this second all desireable and can be desireable.

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So, can desires change? Can folks who have never really found Femme attractive or maybe find a Femme attractive in spite of never being attracted to Femmes before shift their desires or get over the shock enough to pursue it?

I was really compelled by this quote by the late Mark Aguhar.

is desire an unacceptable weapon because so many people refuse to believe desire can be controlled

What Mark said popped into my mind a bunch of times while I’ve been pondering this post the last couple of months. I think this can mean a lot of things but here I find it resonates that desire can be directed. Maybe your fear and intimidation by something new is hard to wrap your head around?

Cherry Poppins, a friend from the Bay Area, came to town not long ago and she told me that when faced with a dearth of tops in her town decided to abandon her bottoming only lifestyle and learn how to top in order to get laid. She said she shifted her desire in order to expand her dating pool and it worked. She believes very strongly that desires can change.

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For me, when I examined my internalized fatphobia and began the journey to loving myself and loving fat bodies, I became very attracted to fat people. They were my primary interest for a long time, for a sense of personal safety and kinship. Now my desire is much more body diverse since I can look on a fat person and find them attractive because I am not plagued by my own internalized shame triggered by seeing another fat person.

And I think there’s a lot to plain old chemistry. As someone who has gotten a lot more selective about who I am attracted to (and how much bullshit I will put up with), chemistry can be really hard to find. I don’t want to squander opportunities for hotness with someone because they are triggering something in me that is bringing up shame. I want to work through that and get to a place of hotness.

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There is an undeniable amount of masculine desirability privilege in queer communities. It’s far more socially acceptable in most circles to go after a masculine of center person or a genderqueer person than a Femme. My roommate Damien Luxe is quick to point out this is misogyny and femmephobia at work.

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I wonder if we, as a community and as individuals, start to interrogate our desires and work to unlearn our ableisms/racisms/sizisms/homophobia/misogyny/femmephobia/ageism (etc…) if desire will change? I think it can.

I also think we can be more intentional and mindful with each other in the ways we express our chemistry and desire. I know it would sting a lot less and feel a lot better if folks said something that sounded like they gave a rejection more thought than the same old line of “I’m not interested in Femmes.” It just sounds like a punishment for an identity that is perceived as mutable but for many of us it is absolutely not.**

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Gay Narwhal is not mutable.

*Monogamies permitting, etc…
**Let’s talk about this at FEMME CONFERENCE 2012! Clickie for more information on the conference, August 17-20, 2012 in Baltimore! I’m performing Saturday night and I would love to meet all of my blog readers who are in attendance!!

2009-05-21

The QFF Guide to dealing with social situations with a potentially fatphobic acquaintance

TO: Bevin
FROM: Sarah
RE: I know you don’t write an advice column, but…!

I couldn’t think of anyone else to ask. :\ Bevin, my bright and compassionate role model, how would you handle yourself at a social event with an acquaintance who hates/dislikes/at the very least disapproves of you based on something as stupid and arbitrary as weight? You see, I’m going to an event and I just discovered that the person I was most looking forward to hanging out with is part of an online social networking website group about fat hatred. I’m not willing to skim through the BS to see if she actually contributes to it, but somehow I doubt she joined just to view the posts from a critical, detached perspective. It shocked me to discover that she harbors this sort of prejudice, especially since she never displayed similar forms of asshattery like hating someone based on race, sexual orientation, etc.

I doubt she will directly comment on my weight, but somehow dealing with silent fat phobia in a social situation is scarier to me than dealing with the occasional snide comment from an asshole I don’t know on the street. How do you deal with people like this? Do you try to focus on the things you did have in common with them? Do you hope that you can make them question their prejudices simply by being fat and awesome? Somehow I feel that if I’m super friendly to her, I’ll be condoning her fat phobia or trying to pretend it doesn’t affect me or something. Gah! So confusing!

It would be awesome if I could get your perspective on this issue, but I know you’re busy. Thanks for creating something as positive and amazing as Femmecast. It helped me through a tremendously crappy breakup and continues to infuse my days with femme magic. 🙂

Oh Sarah! Though I do not technically write an advice column, I totally would if even one publisher gave me the chance.

This is a pretty intense situation, but I think first we need to step outside the direct issue and look a little bit at fat oppression.

Fat oppression is insidious. It’s the kind of thing that affects everyone intensely in ways they are rarely aware of. Mainstream media teaches us that fat is aesthetically and sexually undesirable and the rhetoric around the obesity epidemic will teach you that fat = death. Like many other kinds of oppression, fat oppression is fear-based. But rather than just being afraid of fat people, often thin people get freaked out by fatties because they are afraid, themselves, of becoming fat.

Oppression also acts as a way that people get power and control over other people using social constructions. People actively engaging in fat hatred are using the arbitrariness of body size to get a sense of power over fat people and also over the fear they have of getting fat. Though of course, I doubt the people in that internet group have ever discussed the arbitrariness of the line between thin and fat the way fat activists have.

In the first episode of FemmeCast Zoe talked about how some fat activists say things like “Fat is the last acceptable oppression”. This is completely untrue, because racism, sexism, homophobia, etc… is alive and well. Now, just because someone hasn’t said anything to you about being racist or homophobic doesn’t mean that they aren’t, it just means they’ve learned to use coded language and aren’t as out about it. There are totally internet groups for those kinds of phobias, too, just not likely as closely associated to social networking profiles like you’ve found with this girl.

Since you asked what I would do, I’ll answer that part first. Given my understanding of oppression and acts of hatred to be fear-based and power-seeking, I don’t engage in it. Sure, it would really suck for me to be in a situation where someone was being vocally fat hating (or gay hating, misogynist, femmephobic, queerphobic), but at the same time I find it a really comforting coping mechanism to remember at all times that no one has any power I don’t give them and that fear makes people weak.

I also tend to be a bit of a Pollyanna about people. I know that people change. And I do believe that just by being a fierce at home in my skin fat girl I make a difference. In fact, I know I’ve changed people’s hearts and minds about fat oppression by just being who I am.

I also model the behavior I want to see, which is fat accepting and loving. This is totally just part of my personality now, but it took a lot of conscious effort for me to move into the kind of person who uses fat positive language and behavior. I also use a lot of humor in my activism, and my daily parlance, which I think tends to break down people’s barriers. So while I am sure there are acquaintances of mine who are fatphobic (skinny and fat alike) I think they also know better than to say anything fatphobic to me or around me. I also am pretty intolerant of racist, transphobic, antisemitic (and other oppression) remarks and will call people out, gently and with humor.

And on a Pollyanna note, it may be possible that the acquaintance you’re talking about isn’t a fat hater. I mean, there are lots of times I’ve joined weird online communities I have no affinity or affiliation with to look for a girl I have a crush on or to read a particularly salacious string of e-dramaz or whatever and then completely forgotten I was a member of them. (Or, for that matter, old personal ad profiles I had forgotten about–I was only single for 6 weeks in 2005 and somehow I left a profile dangling until LAST WEEK. I don’t know whether to be more mortified that I had an old profile or that no one responded to it in 3.5 years.)

But, if it is true, and she’s a flag bearing member of this community and is actively engaging in fatphobic stuff, well, that gives you all the information you need to know about her to rule her out as a friend or someone to be trusted. And nothing says you have to be friends with her.

Further, just because someone is a fat hater it doesn’t mean that they are actively hating on you. It’s a lot easier to be mean to people on the street (like the street harassment you talked about) than it is to say something to someone’s face when there might be social consequences. Further, she may not even be that actively conscious of her fatphobia while interacting with you. But ultimately, there’s no telling what is going on in her head when she’s around you and frankly IT DOESN’T MATTER. What matters is what is going on in your head, because you have all the power and control over how you act.

So, given all that, I have some practical advice for you. I tend to feel the way you describe (sort of panicky and awkward if I’m reading you right) when I’m going to be in social situations with people I have emotional issues with. Former friends I’ve had falling outs with or ex lovers, particularly. A practical way of dealing with this situation, is to just be as fabulous as you can muster. Nothing eases yourself into a new or awkward social situation like a good wing-femme or femmetourage and a fabulous outfit. I would also just practice your winningest smile. It’s really disarming to people when you smile at them and compliment them. Model the behavior you want to see, which is detached positivity.

Just because you’re friendly to someone doesn’t mean you condone all of their behaviors, values and judgments. How can you possibly have that kind of queer dossier* on someone already? Further, there are so many moral turpitudes in the queer community, if we were to be unfriendly to everyone we knew who had done something bad, well, every queer event would be absolutely unbearable. Being friendly and positive is easier than being bitchy and mean, and it makes everyone have a better time. You don’t need to become BFF with everyone, but having a smile for people isn’t anything more than just adding to the positive energy of an event.

Thanks, also, for your kind words about FemmeCast. I’m trying to get the next minisode done soon!

I hope everything works out! Let me know what happens!

xoxoxox,

Bevin

*That’s a phrase I learned from my friend Bryn, which describes that method by which you remember all the nitty gritty details of people, whether or not you know them. Used in a sentence “I don’t know that person very well, but my queer dossier is full of her indiscretions and she’s had a lot of messy break-ups.”

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