Bevin's Blog I'm blogging the relentless pursuit of my joy

2018-04-06

My Uphill Battle to Interrupt Fatphobia with Tee Shirts

A few weeks ago I was at a three day seminar about building up businesses. I won a tee shirt from her merch table and I went to go pick it up. The business guru had about a dozen shirt designs and several styles to choose from. However, when I went to select my shirt there was no choice available for me because there wasn’t even a unisex shirt that came in a size that fit me.

This is not an unusual experience for me, or for many fat folks. It sucks to feel left out of the inventory of 95% of stores. I don’t like this feeling and I totally don’t want this experience for my customers for Fat Kid Dance Party. I’m interrupting fatphobia and it’s an experience where fat people are centered!

PDX tour stop day two!

I started Fat Kid Dance Party by thinking about who was left behind in dance aerobics. I started my tee shirt journey from the same mustard seed. Who is left behind with traditional tee shirts?

In justice circles, the general call is for shirts that go up to size 6X. This is difficult to find but I basically made it my mission to do it. I feel especially hurt by so-called intersectional feminist stores that don’t carry plus sizes, or barely make it to a 2X. I wanted to create a different experience for my customers.

It is really hard to find a size inclusive line of tee shirt blanks. Different size bodies need different fit configurations and a unisex shirt isn’t particularly comfortable for me as a person with boobs. Even a unisex size 2X basically only fits up to a size 24W. It’s not enough. If you’re in justice movements and you want to validate intersectionality, you need to offer a size range that includes fat people.

Me and Jake in Seattle!

“Women’s” cut shirts are almost never truly size inclusive, a 2X in that cut tends to fit someone who is more like a size 14 not a size 24. Plus size bodies require a different fit and most shirt manufacturers are lazy about it. Often people printing shirts for their merch aren’t focused on inclusion and aren’t accommodating actual human diversity. (I would say a full 15% of attendees at that business seminar wouldn’t have been able to fit a single shirt at the merch mall.)

I hunted around last August for my sized to 6X tee shirt blank solution and luckily Rachel Kacenjar was already creating that.

Rachel has been designing and curating plus size clothes for well over a decade. She was on the hunt for a really good plus size tee shirt blank and knew she needed to design one. A bigger neckhole, a better shape. She found a manufacturer whose minimum order was $50,000 and by cobbling together orders (mine was $1,000, I’m sure other folks had more) and doing the labor of fulfilling all of those sub-orders, she managed to get it done.

With Julia who won my MVP for “traveled the longest to get to class” award in Minneapolis!

It was no small feat, Rachel had lengthy back and forth with the manufacturer to get the fit right and we didn’t get our shirts until the beginning of February. However, the shirts are incredible and so worth the wait!!

I worked on tee shirt designs with Genuine Valentine, a tee shirt company that primarily serves non-binary and queer folks and their allies. GV is a print on demand tee shirt service so as orders come in they are printed and fulfilled by a behind-the-scenes third party. That third party only allows you to buy their blanks and they only go up to 4X in unisex.

Minneapolis!

Fat folks have likely experienced a vendor charging more for a 2X or above tee shirt! True, it costs more to produce because of slightly more fabric and I have experienced the customer annoyance of having to pay $3-$10 more than a thin person. Not surprisingly, the slow as molasses manufacturer charged $2 additionally between the 1X shirts and the 5/6X shirts.

Since my primary goal is to interrupt fatphobia for my customers as much as I can, I just calculated what my cost for all the shirts was and divided it by the number of shirts to determine my cost. I also extended the same price to the print on demand shirts so the cost of all shirts is evenly absorbed.

The nice thing about Genuine Valentine as the home for my online print on demand tee shirt sales is that I can easily do kids shirts and non plus size. (It’s referred to as “straight size” isn’t that funny?) I included some wording in the description letting customers know extended plus sizes are available through my website.

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The shirts are made in the USA in ethical factory, screen printed by queers of color, graphic designed by a non-binary person and in every way as diverse as I could make them. The shirt material is really soft and I love mine. Best tee shirt I’ve ever owned, actually. I LOVE that the printing takes up a lot of space on the tee shirt because the best part of having a larger body is more landscape for art! Tattoos! Clothing! More landscape looks great decorated! #moreismore

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Yay tee shirts helping me interrupt fatphobia—YET—having two sources for shirts is so confusing! I’m still working on the customer experience buying them online. Anyone anywhere can buy the print on demand shirts through Genuine Valentine, but how to get the internet the limited edition fat 4 fat designed babe adorned version?

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Since I got the shirts printed by Stuzo clothing I have been selling them in person at Fat Kid Dance Party classes and on my tour! It is validating and exciting to see my shirts out in the wild! I love the shirts so much I bought all the stock that Rachel the designer had left of them and am printing a fresh run.

My dream is to have people go up to people they see in a Fat Kid Dance Party shirt or with an enamel pin, water bottle or whatever and high five for self care! (Jazz hands are the no touch high five if you don’t like high fiving!)

Jenny, Dara (in the non crop top version from Genuine Valentine), Kristen and I didn’t plan to all wear the Self Loving AF crop tops at the same time.

The beautiful Fat Kid Dance Party website is still under construction. Once that’s done I’ll have a merch section. In the meantime I’ve struggled figuring out how to sell my on hand special plus size shirts in a temporary capacity without confusing things too much with the side piece that is the print on demand option. But nevertheless I persist and I’ve heard that if you’re not embarrassed by your first iteration you waited too long to launch.

I really know how to do a Facebook live sale like a QVC show! I’m excited to sell some of my cute fat vintage hoard and all the tee shirts I have on hand! I’ve been going live weekly with the Plus Bus for several months selling plus size clothing and love doing it!

So if you want a tee shirt, tune in live on my Facebook at 6PM PDT on Monday, April 9, 2018! Turn on notifications so you get reminded when I go live every day to talk about loving yourself more!

2013-08-26

Getting a Rapid HIV Test at the LGBT Health Clinic

My straight BFF says she’s annoyed when she gets screened for STIs because it’s often as a result of a break-up and she thinks you should get banged after you get a clean bill of health, as a reward. Except you sometimes get this stuff taken care of at the end of the road because maybe you were cheated on or you realized you had some miscommunications with someone about fluid bonding and probably you should get tested for your own peace of mind. And then there’s no one to bang you when it comes back clear. Just maybe a little bit of relief and an iced coffee when you don’t get a call that anything is wrong.

Herstorically I have gotten my Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) tests as part of my annual pap smear. And I say annual but I really mean when-I-was-sure-it-had-been-over-a-year-and-I-got-around-to-scheduling-it. So probably ever 18-24 months, unless there was a risk factor situation like a break-up, cheating, etc… I haven’t had health insurance for almost two years and in these lean times I often regret all the time I had health insurance and I squandered it by not doing things as much as possible that at the time I had the financial ability to get done.

If you ask me I'll say yes please to you today. #anicat
My cat, ALF.

I’ve always had similar experiences. Small office, used to seeing straight people, who are monogamous/married/parents or otherwise not particularly sex positive in any way. I have had to explain why I wanted a full panel of STI tests many times. I don’t think you should have to explain why, if you’re at the doctor you should just be able to get tested for what you ask for. It’s mildly infuriating but I’m at a point in my life now where I don’t let it get to me. I just calmly say, “Because I’m a responsible sexually active adult, that’s why, now test me.”

So this time I needed to get screened, I took my uninsured responsible sexually activish* self to the local LGBT health clinic that I feel fortunate to have as a resource. I was curious what it would be like to get screened there, in an environment that is actually sex positive and won’t look shocked when I tell them I’m a lesbian. They even have all of the check boxes about sexual orientation on the intake form. I even felt free to check off both lesbian and queer.

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Me, in a Midwestern pharmacy!

After the intake I saw a counselor who asked me a lot of questions I didn’t expect. This was my first experience at a sex positive environment getting tested, I’ve barely ever talked about my safer sex practices in a doctor’s office, let alone at length with a counselor. It was kind of cool, because even if you know all the stuff you think you should know sometimes you wonder and it’s nice to have someone give you feedback.

She asked me some startling questions about what my support system was and whether or not I was suicidal. I didn’t expect it to get into my mental health. But that’s part of the risk factors when doing an HIV screening and they cover their bases at the health center. She asked me if I wanted to have a rapid HIV test, where the results are available that day or if I wanted to do a blood draw. The difference was that the rapid test would only cover me through April, not through present day and the blood draw would cover me through the week prior. I decided to do both, to “cover the spread.”

She pricked me on the finger for blood and it unexpectedly hurt pretty bad. I was bruised for a couple of days. I said, “Ow ow ow, sex hurts.” Because I make a lot of jokes when I am feeling awkward.

After my poke test, I went in to see a doctor for blood draws and urine for everything else.

Macy.
My dog, Macy.

I didn’t schedule a pap at the same time because I was afraid I couldn’t afford it and there’s a sliding scale that the clinic doesn’t determine until you go in. But the doctor suggested I come back to do a pap because I had an abnormal pap two years ago. Callen Lorde is now suggesting paps every five years based on the CDC’s recommendations about waiting up to five years for a pap smear, but not if you’ve had an abnormal screening.

I had to meet with the counselor again, once all of the blood was drawn, to go over the results of my rapid test. It was nice to get the results in person, since usually test results are “if you don’t hear from us it’s clear.”

I made another appointment to go in for the pap (now that I knew how much it was it was significantly less scary financially) so I scheduled my follow-up results appointment for the blood draw with the same counselor. The pap was interesting because the new doctor was a lot more brusque and not compassionate in any way. I have a lot of coping mechanisms around the medical industrial complex but times like that, when your doctor is kind of cold and not very nice about you not having prior medical test results with you (no one asked me to bring them in), it feels extra vulnerable when you’re doing a medical exam that is as personal as a pelvic.

Also at that visit I had a new weird interaction about weight at the doctor’s office. No one mentioned my weight at all except when the nurse asked me how much I weighed last time I weighed myself. I had a break-up (I usually can’t eat much when I’m devastated) and I’ve been doing this anti-candida eating so I’ve lost some weight and I’m at a pretty low number for me. I told him the number without the background and he looked me up and down and said, “I don’t see it.”

It was weird. Like a backhanded compliment of “Your number is high but you don’t look like you carry that much weight.” I used the moment to casually say, “Everyone carries weight really differently, it’s impossible to eyeball someone’s weight.” But still, so weird, that I’m at this low for various reasons that aren’t really by choice and he’s indicating the number is still high. But luckily he didn’t tell me I had to lose weight or die or anything. Just such a weird interaction. Can’t just getting my weight be the only conversation we have about it? Or can it be accompanied by the health practitioner asking, “Do you have any concerns about that number?”

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Me with my friends’ adorable baby wearing pants as a hat. Maybe when she’s older doctors will tret the whole patient and not just numbers on a scale. Photo by Suzanne.

I’m still waiting on those results and hoping the pap finds nothing abnormal. I hope that writing this up helps encourage other folks who need to get screened (or have been nagging themselves about getting screened) to call up wherever and make it happen. I find these things much less scary when I know what’s going to happen.

I also wanted to pass along this personal narrative from Scarleteen about safer sex practices amongst folks who have queer sex, it touches on a little how-to, barriers to talking about safer sex and advocating against the invisibilizing of STI risk amongst female assigned at birth folks who have sex with other female assigned at birth folks.

*When the nurse asked if I was sexually active I said “sorta.”

2011-07-27

Visible Homophobia

Remember after Pride when News 12 interviewed me about gay marriage and how they reported as news at 11 that I was single? Well, it was with great pleasure that I gave twitter the exclusive breaking news about my relationship status changing.

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Photo by Nogga Schwartz for Rebel Cupcake.

At the time of the news report we had started seeing each other but it was early. “Don’t worry, I’m not afraid of the competition,” she texted me after she saw the report.

We met at Rebel Cupcake when a mutual friend of ours brought her along to the party. We’ve been hiding in plain sight, running in different crowds in NYC.

Cougar is kind, attentive, clever, perceptive, sweet, hot and treats me really well. She also has really great style.

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Photo by DrivenByBoredom.com.

We’ve been having a lot of fun together and are both always up for adventure. We decided to celebrate a month of dating by going away for an overnight. I suggested Fire Island, since I love a good gay beach day, but she suggested the more adult and swanky Atlantic City. AC is only two and a half hours away from NYC and it seemed like fun.

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Cougar found this really cute hotel that is total gay bait. The Chelsea. I mean, it’s lit with purple lights, like a gay batman signal. It’s exceptionally well-decorated with a 1950s/60s era theme. Our room was gorgeous, with a fuzzy leopard print chair, a corner ocean view, and not one but two vanities (perfect for the Fag/Femme romance).

There are two pools in the hotel. The rooftop pool is very swank, with each set of reclining chairs two-by-two separated by planters for a bit of privacy. There are also private cabanas, a disco ball dangling above the pool and a poolside bar. I mention the set-up of the place as an adult area as it is relevant to the following story.

Cougar and I got into the pool and went to the deep end because there were a couple of children swimming in the shallow end and I didn’t want to get splashed. We floated around for awhile treading water and chatting and then settled next to the wall on the side of the deep end, Cougar with her back to the wall and me with my arms around her neck floating about a foot away from her (imagine a Junior High slow dance). We were talking and punctuating sentences with smooches the way you do when you are being affectionate.

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The kids had started bringing their splashing to our end of the pool, getting out and jumping back in, creating a lot of waves. Three teenagers had also gotten into the pool, a visibly heterosexual couple was also showing affection.

All of a sudden this woman comes over to me and Cougar and leans down to us and says “Excuse me would you stop gyrating and making out? My children are in this pool. This is a hotel. You should get a room and go up there.” She had a couple more snide remarks that I can’t recall. Her tone (and content) were extremely condescending.

I was flabbergasted. I had no idea what to say to her or whether her comments had merit. Of course any romantic mood fostered by the adult playground of Atlantic City or the adult setting of the poolside bar was completely ruined by what she had said. I said to Cougar “Were we doing something wrong? Don’t talk to her, I don’t want this to get bigger.”

Cougar went to the restroom and I continued to float in the pool, stunned. I typically react to hostility by letting people stew in their own juices and not giving them the benefit of a response. Usually people who are mean or aggressive are also insecure–they will imagine the worst possible response and their imagination is likely the worst thing they could do. When I realized she hadn’t said anything to the heterosexual teenage couple I became livid and wished I had something clever to say in the moment.

Cougar went over to her and talked to her. I couldn’t hear what Cougar was saying (but I could totally hear the woman as her response became shrill) and decided to get out of the pool and just leave the area. I was so upset.

Later, Cougar recounted what she said to the woman, which was (in a calm voice) “If you would like to talk about this like an adult I am in room 1814. We were nowhere near your children and not doing anything inappropriate. You have no right to speak to us like children. If you had a real problem you could have addressed it with hotel management.”

The woman got defensive. She asked Cougar if she had any children, to which Cougar said “That’s none of your business,” and then she tried to backpedal and say that her child came up to her and said she felt uncomfortable. Cougar repeated again, “If you want to speak to me like an adult, I’m in room 1814,” and walked away.

At the time I was really upset by the incident and didn’t express this to Cougar at the time, but the more space I get to think about this I am really proud of Cougar for standing up for herself/us with that woman. Especially knowing the woman didn’t bring her affection policing didn’t to those teenagers.

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Adults should get to be affectionate in public. Gay adults should get to be just as affectionate as straight adults. I don’t feel we were being at all lewd or inappropriate. We were far more like playful otters in that pool and not at all like the people on Jersey Shore.

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Otters showing affection.

Atlantic City is a city for gambling and drinking. The hotel we were staying at isn’t exactly kid-friendly, if it had been a child promoting environment I would never have wanted to go there for a getaway like that.

I kept running through whether the Chelsea hotel is gay-friendly or not. Perhaps other than the decor, it isn’t. I mean, if it had been overtly gay-friendly, in that way where establishments have gay rainbow stickers on their doors or overt diversity policies, would that have stopped that woman from trying to police our queer affection? Caesar’s Atlantic City advertises an explicitly gay-friendly environment. Do people run into this at Caesar’s? Would she have policed us if there had been other queer couples there as well?

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And I also wonder if she even knew we were queer or how she was perceiving us? I fly under the radar a lot, despite being 100% out of the closet, because my gender is flamboyant but on the normative spectrum for a lady. I’m also a lot more visibly tattooed in a bathing suit than I was a year ago. And maybe it was fatphobia?

Cougar doesn’t fly under the radar. She had a double radical mastectomy* which just made her already dapper gay good looks even more androgynous and people throw her shade in the ladies room a lot. She’s also super swishy in that way that I’m sure some well-meaning stranger will tell me “Honey, do you know your boyfriend is gay?”

Regardless, that woman was entirely out of line. If she had a problem with people smooching, she should have taken her kids to someplace expressly for kids.

I was upset about the incident most of the evening. I kept looking around suspecting everyone of being homophobes and searching for my people. My people who were sadly absent from Atlantic City. It was depressing.

I walk the world typically thinking the best of people and try to remember people are doing the best they can with what they have at any given time. And I also understand that this kind of stuff happens all the time, it’s really difficult to live life and prevent it from happening and I would rob myself of a lot of experiences if I kept my life exclusive to a fat queer bubble. And that’s certainly not what I want.

However, I know my gay dollars are important and I do prefer to patronize places that are explicitly queer-friendly. So there’s a balance.

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It’s so interesting that everyone I’ve told this story to has had a different idea about what they would have done if they were me in that situation. I had a straight friend who said she would have just taken her top off. Someone else would have suggested she take her children and leave us to our gyrating. Another person suggested a John Waters quote, which I had thought of in the elevator going back up to our room and wished I’d had at the ready.

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Sometimes my life looks like a John Waters movie.

I’m content with how things worked out, night of being upset aside. When I was able to dissociate from the incident for later processing, I had a wonderful getaway with my wonderful girlfriend. We looked at the ocean, I won $30 on a slot machine called “Kitty Glitter” and we had really good stuffed french toast for breakfast.

COMPLETELY UNRELATED:

I wrote an article on Autostraddle.com about the value of getting a prenup. I feel that a strong prenup makes for a strong marriage ready to stand the test of time. It’s also got the best title of any legal article I’ve ever written.

If You Ain’t No Punk Holla Gays Need Prenups GAYS NEED PRENUPS

Check it out!

*Cougar is working on this amazing book project called Champion: My Photo Journey with Breast Cancer.

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