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

2017-07-26

Overcoming Stereotypes and Busting Out My Own Style

When I was eleven years old, I remember vividly the relief of exiting the school bus while girls viciously taunted me. This time the impetus was not my fat, my usual crime. It was having the audacity to wear a half ponytail with several different colored fuzzy ponytail holders on it—and the fuzzy ponytail holders did not match. I was in middle school and my greatest longing in the world was to fit in and go unnoticed. On that excruciating bus ride, filled with shame and regret for my bold choice, I learned that I better not try to have fun with my style. Folks who have been bullied on a bus know how endless the ride can feel, and how painful it is to endure taunting, staring straight ahead pretending it doesn’t bother you.

Fitting in when you’re already wearing adult sizes in sixth grade is basically impossible, especially in the early nineties. Plus size fashion is limited today, but before online shopping and Torrid in the mall, we had nothing but boring career wear to work with. The idea of looking like the typical American pre-teen girl, with her Guess jeans, hypercolor tee shirts and high top name brand shoes was my dream but I neither had the funds or access to make that dream happen.

As I absorbed the other lies I was taught about being a fat woman—that I was not sexually attractive, I better not wear anything revealing and I should try not to draw attention to myself—I lost any desire to discover my own style and perform my gender. Performing gender is a way of showing your internal gender identity externally—usually through clothes, accessories, and maybe make-up.

When I got to college and started the coming out process, I let the same kind of limiting beliefs affect how I presented myself. Due to femmephobia and anti-butch sentiment in my collegiate LGBT community, I learned that having a strong expression of masculine or feminine gender was not acceptable and it was better to lean towards an a-gender or hippy outdoorsy look. I thought that in order to get a girlfriend and be attractive I should be as androgynous as possible. This was kind of a relief because shopping in the men’s department at Old Navy made it marginally easier to find clothes that fit me (this is before Old Navy carried plus size women’s clothes).

I never actually pulled off androgyny, my inherent Femme presentation busted through no matter how many times I heard the term “Lipstick Lesbian” thrown around in a derisive way.

When I moved to Philadelphia for law school I fell into what I like to call the “right” crowd. These friends were supportive, believed I was a babe in a fat body and wildly applauded all of the new things I was doing to express my style and my gender. I began slow, in cute dresses, wearing sleeveless tops, showing cleavage.

Going sleeveless was a revolution for me. I had always believed that stereotype that a fat person I shouldn’t show off my arms, I have no idea how that rule came to be. Arm fat isn’t dangerous, it’s just a benign part of your body. It took a lot of work to get comfortable going out without sleeves on, but having that “right crowd” was really helpful to develop my confidence.

As I began performing on stage first as a drag king and then as a dual drag king/Femme queen I began really pushing the gender envelope. Leaning into different gender presentations I began to figure out what was expressing who I was and what I felt an inherent aversion to.

Far beyond fitting into the standard American womanhood, whatever that is, my actual gender expression is a sort of exaggerated femininity. Like Dolly Parton and Miss Piggy, I feel the most myself in bright make-up, big hair and sexy clothes.

Many queer women (and people) cannot relate to the standards of beauty and femininity that society promotes. Queer folks come in all shapes, sizes and gender presentations and the standards of beauty are not representative of actual human diversity.

Legendary storyteller Shonda Rhimes is partnering with Dove to shift the power of media representation from Hollywood into the hands of real women. Using an all female crew, Dove is helping open up the conversation about the effects of gender stereotypes. Meet Kylee!

Kylee Howell’s story is the second film from Dove Real Beauty Productions and empowers others to find their real beauty. It is a powerful message of non-conformity, self-assurance and shedding the narrow definitions of beauty imposed on herself and other women in her community. It also has a really sweet message from her mom.

I love this video—Kylee is a dapper stylish barber who had to unlearn gender stereotypes to become herself.

Quentin Crisp said, “Style is being yourself on purpose.” I really believe that you have to let go of everyone else’s expectations of you and fitting into stereotypes in order to truly discover your own style. This is so difficult in a culture that commodifies insecurity and prizes fitting in. Thank goodness for the internet and the ability to see so many gorgeous people out there working their own looks, their own gender and their own idea of how to be a woman/man/limitless gender they want.

If you have been struggling to overcome stereotypes and let your unique beauty shine, I highly recommend figuring out who the “right” group is for you. When you’re feeling good, write down who your body positive, supportive, style encouraging friends are. Who in your life believes in an expansive definition of beauty? Write it down and put that list someplace you can see it next time you need encouragement, or some folks to go out with wearing your first sleeveless top (or whatever your equivalent of a sleeveless top may be).

When I walk into the room doing my style and not stereotypes, I’m writing the conversation instead of landing in a narrative laid out by stereotypes. I am showing people I am bold, I take risks, and I am confident. I know now that fuzzy ponytail holder thing I was rocking in sixth grade was a stylish risk and it was fiercely nonconforming.

Photo by Jes Baker.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

2017-04-12

FAT SEX WEEK XXL: A Queer Couple Reflects on Their Nude Adipositivity Photo Shoot

Welcome one and all (who are knowingly entering into this adult-themed conversation)! This is Fat Sex Week XXL, the second edition of QueerFatFemme.com Fat Sex Week where I explore many facets of fat sex. Named for Magic Mike XXL, which was even better than the first Magic Mike, I’m hoping this edition is louder and fatter than ever before! Check this tag for all of the posts!

I love the Adipositivity Project! Photographer Substantia Jones has been tirelessly taking gorgeous art nudes of fat bodies for over a decade. As Jenna says below, seeing naked fat bodies helps normalize body diversity and is a gateway for fat acceptance.

Photo (of me!) by Substantia Jones. From the Adipositivity.com website: The Adipositivity Project aims to promote the acceptance of benign human size variation and encourage discussion of body politics, not by listing the merits of big people, or detailing examples of excellence (these things are easily seen all around us), but rather through a visual display of fat physicality. The sort that’s normally unseen.

I love this project and have so loved my collaborations with Substantia. I really value shooting with photographers multiple times over the course of years. It’s so fun to develop as artists and continue to check in.

When I shot with Substantia in LA last summer I did my first with my partner for the annual Valentines Day series. (You can dig around the Adipositivity website to find it!) A series intended to show that fat people are totally worthy of love, it always gets a lot of media attention. Substantia said that she suspects that most couples get busy after their shoot and it got me curious about the experience of a fat couple in the Valentines series.

Jenna and Sam were kind enough to answer my questions in honor of Fat Sex Week XXL!

What was the process behind your decision to pose for Adipositivity?

Sam: I had found Adipositivity before I met Jenna, and was already a fan. I got a bit starry eyed when Jenna mentioned she knew Substantia online. We joked for a bit that she should pose at some point, and the joking got a little more serious. I thought Jenna would make a great model, so I was all in favor. Then Substantia posted a call for couples, and we decided to jump in with both feet.

Jenna: Sexy pictures of other fat people set me on my body love journey. Among these pictures, I came across Adipositivity. Seeing Substantia’s work meant a lot to me, especially since her work included fat people just being. For me, being visible is part of my activism and of course someday dreamed for posing for Substantia. Then the day came when she was looking for couples for her VDay series. It was fairly soon and we made our schedule work so we could go to NYC and do it. Most of me couldn’t believe I was going to do it, but I knew it was something I had to do. Letting other people know that fat love, fat bodies are important and valued and beautiful. I did have a moment of “I won’t be able to be president if I’m naked on the internet”.

Jenna and Sam for Adipositivity! Photo by Substantia Jones.

How did you feel after the shoot? After the photos were released?

Sam: The shoot was honestly one of the most positive body-related experiences of my life. We had so much fun doing the shoot and hanging out with Substantia, that it was really just kind of a high for a couple days. The photos actually being online, though….that was both exciting and little anxiety inducing.

I don’t know if other communities talk about this, but for public speakers in the LGBTQ community we have a concept of “oversharing” – this feeling when you’ve talked about very personal things in front of strangers, and you’re left feeling kind of vulnerable and drained afterwards. For me, I had to learn my boundaries around this, and also to accept that this was cost of my activism. In a way, I felt the same way about our Adipositivity pictures. I felt a little overexposed and vulnerable, but I was aware that I was going to feel that way, and I was okay with it. I felt the change we were helping make in the world was worth the cost.
Primarily, though, it was thrilling. I was so excited to be an Adiposer, and to see which pictures were picked up for which sites. It was also really fun when someone who knew us would send us a link and ask “is that you??????”. We enjoyed the experience so much we did it again the following year!

Jenna: Substantia made us feel awesome. We read over her information she provided before the shoot and we kind of just paced around until she got there. Once she was there, it was really easy to get naked. I felt awesome after the shoot, never really knowing how I got to this place in my life where I was naked and proud. After the photos were released it was just so neat to see us through Substantia’s eyes. How she posed us, how we looked at each other and how my body looked. I saw the stretch marks and lumps and my hangy breasts but thought it looked great and I was so happy that I didn’t spend hours going over my imperfections. I was just really
content with all the photos and loved seeing our love translated into images.

This question is specifically for Sam. You included a rare model statement with your photo for this year’s Adipositivity Valentine’s Day series. Will you tell me more about how you feel at home in your body after taking T and how this has interacted with your feelings about your size?

Photo by Substantia Jones.

Sam: Being fat with a female body I think was particularly difficult for my dysphoria. A fat female body is especially soft and curvy – something I love in my partners, but it was the opposite of what I wanted my own body to be. Taking T helped a lot with that – I’m still soft, but I have firmer muscle underneath, and my fat has shifted on my body to a more male distribution. So, it was easier to not hate my body so much, when it looked at least somewhat closer to what was in my head.

Being fat has been both a blessing and a curse in terms of passing. I still have fat rolls, and those can still be perceived as a feminine shape. When I had breasts, they were large and difficult to conceal. I had (and still have) quite an ample ass. Those things combined really made it difficult to pass consistently, even after I’d been on T for quite a long time. However, being physically larger has always seemed to make people think I was stronger and tougher than I was really was, and definitely made it so I was challenged by transphobes less often than my slighter brothers.

When I think of myself in relation to body positivity, I definitely think of it in terms of both my physical transition, and my lifelong struggle with my size. My gender dysphoria was so much easier to deal with, honestly. Even though I transitioned quite a while ago (twenty years as of last month), there was a pretty clear path for how to change my body to match my mind. There were definitely difficulties, of course, but it was pretty easy to see how I could “fix” the problem. Learning to be comfortable in my fat body, in a fat phobic society, has been a much more difficult challenge. There is so much internalized crap around size that’s reinforced every day. The body positivity community provides some help here, but I find it so heavily tilted towards the feminine (with good reason, of course, women bear the brunt of our fat phobic soceity) that it’s not really as much of a support system as I could use. Online, at least, I find the most comfort in the gay bear community. There is something very powerful in seeing men who look much like myself being viewed as sexual objects of desire.

As what I would affectionately call a “Fat on Fat” couple, do you have any fat sex tips for my readers?

Jenna: I really like being naked as much as I can. That has really helped me feel comfortable in my body and Sam compliments and loves on me all the time about it. It’s nice to hear that and know he is so attracted to me.

Sam: I think it starts outside the bedroom. We both have baggage when it comes to our
bodies, so it’s not always easy to climb into bed and feel instantly sexy. Having Jenna make sexy comments about my body in passing does a lot towards making me feel like she actually likes my body, and makes me feel safer when the clothes come off.
I also think our queerness and openness around sex itself helps a LOT, as does our acceptance of ourselves as fat. We don’t have as many preconceived notions about what constitutes sex, and that makes us more willing to experiment with what works for us, and to be honest about what doesn’t work. Sometimes we have to change an angle, or move a fat roll out of the way, or whatever. We laugh if we feel silly, and then get back into it.

Photo by Substantia Jones.

How do you keep the spark alive in a committed relationship?

Jenna: I think accepting our sex life as it is has kept the spark alive. It may sound strange, but not worrying if we still love each other because we haven’t had sex in a month has really been affirming for me. We achieve intimacy in so many other ways that I feel really fulfilled in my life with Sam.

Sam: Like Jenna said, intimacy seems to be very important for us. We probably don’t have actual sex as often as other couples, to be honest, but we are always very intimate with each other. We’re always touching each other, kissing, holding hands. That seems to be very satisfying for both of us in a way that only sex achieved in past relationships. Not that we don’t enjoy a good sexy romp, but I don’t think we *need* it nearly as much, because we always feel connected.

Substantia works so hard to keep this self-funded project going! Consider buying prints for your home (both helping to normalize body diversity and supporting fat art)!

2016-10-11

My Coming Out Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

shomidjingOur Femme DJ Shomi Noise.

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

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

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

arielbevinEarly photo of me and my friend Ariel Speedwagon.

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

melissasjMe and my friend Lissa and Sarah Jenny.

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

femmefamilyintention

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

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

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

Happy Coming Out Day!

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

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

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

 

 

 

2016-04-27

LA Transition Month 3: I Started Swimming

We’ve officially been LA residents for three months! I got my CA Driver’s License finally. I got my DL when I was 17 and living in the Bay Area, so they managed to find my old record and give me my old number. (Big Brother is real.) I had a little disagreement with the entirely pleasant clerk who took my application. I stated “red” on the hair color question. However, I actually identify my hair color as “Ginger Spice.” She had to fight me about whether I am blonde because when I was 16 and got my permit I was blonde. I don’t identify as blonde but I guess because of bureaucracy that’s what is happening on my ID. Lots of people don’t have their true identities on these documents and I’d rather work towards a third no gender marker on IDs than self-selected hair color.

IMG_20160413_194959I guess with the bangs now I look more blonde than ever, other than in high school.

I was stressing about taking the test because I know some folks who have flunked the first try, so I wanted to just get it. I needed my license in order to go to the Medical Marijuana dispensaries to use my prescription I got back in February. I’ll post about the process, it is fascinating and has really helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. For anyone getting their CA DL I suggest reading the manual once through and doing the practice tests online. I’ve had to take written tests in most of the states I’ve been licensed in, having hopped from CA to NJ to PA to NJ to NY in my life, but never felt as stressed as I did this time. I think I’m just tender right now and prone to stress.

I passed on the first try after reading the manual a few hours leading up to my DL appointment, and while I was waiting. It still took two hours of waiting in lines to get my license in spite of the appointment, so definitely make an appointment.

IMG_20160413_174934794I made this dog bed for Macy out of a vintage suitcase from Goodwill ($10), an old pillow (free dollars) and a vintage blanket with a stain on it I got at the World’s Longest Yard Sale ($0.50).

You know that old chestnut “I’ll do it when things settle down.” I started saying that to myself a few weeks ago when we were dropping everything to prepare our house for the Seder for Dara’s family and then preparing the Seder and then the tea pre sale and then preparing my Schedule C info for my accountant to file my taxes (this is like a week of non-stop accounting and bookkeeping) and then… I’ve had so many projects back to back and not achieved any semblance of balance and I’ve been reminded (I’ve realized this before and forgot) that I need to bring my own serenity to every situation. And that I can’t just keep dropping everything to focus all of my attention on one thing with a deadline.

This is how I lived in Law School, it’s how I have lived when I’ve been the most high strung and I can’t live like that. I need to plan, sort, execute, and let go of the stuff that’s not that important. I need to live in alignment with my values!

I decided that I would start organizing my schedule around my self care. And the thing that is the best at helping me chill the F out is exercise. I do it primarily for my mental and emotional health, but it also really helps with my physical and spiritual health as well. Since I haven’t joined a gym yet, waiting for the body positive gym Everybody Los Angeles to open somewhere around here, I decided to start going to lap swim at the community pool. Because we have those here, and some of them are outdoor heated pools.

I had to do some clever searching because the LA website just gives you addresses not neighborhoods, and some of the pools close in the “Winter” here. But the Glassell Park pool, just a six minute drive from my house, was a great candidate.

bevinatpoolMe at the Glassell Park Pool.

When I showed up for the first time and paid my $3.50 I was amazed to see that the locker room looked just like it did in the community pools in the Bay Area where I grew up. I remember as a kid those cement floored, wooden benched locker rooms with modesty changing areas that only cover you from the neck to the calves. So that means this locker room hasn’t been updated in thirty+ years. Amazing. And when I went out to the pool after giving my bag to the locker room attendant behind the window in exchange for a safety pin with a number on it, I marveled at how huge the Olympic size pool is. And how few rules there are.

My recent public swimming experience is from swimming at the Bed Stuy YMCA in Brooklyn. An indoor year-round pool with strict rules and schedules. Lap swim means lap swimming only, you must wear a cap, when more than two people are in a lane circle swimming is mandatory. These are all spelled out on a long list of rules.

Here there are very few rules other than no running on the pool deck. No caps required! No lap swim guidelines except the lifeguard’s half-hearted “You have to share the lane” when a man was super rude to me. Lap swimming and recreational swimming are at the same time. It’s a bit intimidating to go swimming in public for the first time, especially as a fatty, so I brought Dara as my body positive ally. It was great, I swam for almost an hour, alternating between swimming and aqua jog moves. I love aqua jog, that will be another post.

I have kept going, managing three times a week most weeks for the past month. It’s still cheaper than going to a gym and it’s been helping me. I need to add yoga to my routine to stretch more, but this is a nice way to center.

IMG_20160412_191109Unfucking the guest room.

The house continues to come together. Sadly my Mariah Carey closet hasn’t been sorted out, so once my friend Taylor helped me get everything upstairs and put on the floor or hung on the pipes, that’s where it has laid. I can’t wait for it to be in full working order. Every time I go up there to get dressed I’m kind of drawing from my red suitcase or various piles. It’s pretty much the opposite of what I imagine it can be.

Dara and I were dissatisfied with the orientation of our bed. We paid to move a bunch of my mom’s hand me down furniture from the Bay to LA (I detailed this in a previous post) and the movers set it up originally. I didn’t find it accessible for me to walk around a CA King size bed to the other side of the room so Dara took one for the team. The snuggle position required from that orientation had me on Dara’s left side, which is the side she had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast. It’s more sore, it had radiation and surgery. So we decided to try the bed against a window. (Not my favorite aesthetic choice, but definitely an improvement in snuggle land.)

sleepnumberbed

Here’s some advice about moving a sleep number mattress. Make sure it is completely zipped up before you move it. If you do not do this step, it will fall apart into a bunch of pieces and look like a play space for 3 year olds. There will be foam and air mattresses everywhere, because all a sleep number is is a very expensive air mattress with foam on top of and surrounding it. This bed cost $4,000 apparently and is an air mattress. It took us over an hour to put it back together and get the bed set-up again. I’m excited to someday buy a Casper or a Tuft and Needle mattress–if you know anyone who sleeps on one ask them if you can lay on it, they are exquisite and much less expensive than standard retail mattresses.

sleepnumberbed2Dara is physically in that mattress in this photo.

Anyway, so far the bed in the new spot is fine, but we have to sell and replace the nightstand we had because it is way too big to fit on either side of the bed. Two steps forward one step back is going to be the title of the memoir about moving cross country into a house without a bunch of money or the correct furniture.

IMG_20160408_133050515_HDR

We finally moved everything into the guest room from the staging area in the dining room before the Seder. While Dara was away on business again for 8 days, I tackled the guest room and made it so we could blow up our fancy air mattress (that cost $100, which is literally pennies compared to a sleep number mattress…) for our second overnight guest, Jacqueline. This just meant a lot of stuff got Tetrised against the wall but progress not perfection is my motto. To be transparent, though, it feels hard for it not to be perfect.

IMG_20160426_221241373The wall of the guest room looks like this right now.

I set up all of my tea stuff in the dining room because for now I am in and out of it a lot and need it accessible. On the long-range plans are to convert our cellar (presently storage) to a tea studio.

IMG_20160416_133608285_HDRFemme Tea Party offerings: Hibiscus Coconut iced tea (I’ve added Nettles to the blend and it’s amazing), Self Love iced tea, Dolly Mint iced tea, Feelings tea served hot.

I’ve been getting amazing feedback about my first round of Reiki Infused Teas that I sent out. Only one got lost in the mail, which did eventually find its way to the intended recipient along with the replacement tin I sent–she joked that she must have needed a lot of Feelings Tea support. I believe in the Universe and so maybe yeah. That Scorpio Full Moon was extra difficult. I learned a LOT about the process of starting a product based business and am learning a lot in B-School.

B-School is good but slow going. Marie Forleo gives all this bonus content when you sign up and one of them, Start the Right Business, is required reading before you begin her modules. With 60 pages of reading and exercises, that itself was a lot of work. I’m glad they tell you right away to go at your own pace because I needed my own pace.

IMG_20160414_214512721Jacqueline is the first person to wear a bikini as an outfit on our porch.

Jacqueline and I did a bunch of stuff while she was in town. We went to In-N-Out Burger and the Pleasure Chest on her first night. We had Korean BBQ with my favorite plus size porn performer turned incredibly sweet, smart and wonderful person I know in real life April Flores (we called it BBW BBQ). We went to Disneyland with our friend Jenni, James Darling, Jenni’s sweetie Fin and her friend Michele. It was epic, there’s another forthcoming blog post.

IMG_20160416_182418Femme Tea party part one!

IMG_20160416_182219Femme Tea party part two!

I hosted a Femme Tea Party where I served four kinds of my tea blends and made some delicious rice crispie treats with Good For Me Lifestyle’s amazing Energize Me Better Butter. My guests got Reiki infused tea and delicious superfood supplement treats–I love being that woo kind of hostess.

IMG_20160416_133634312_HDRAlso included in the snacks were gluten-free scones made by Jenn and guacamole from my avocado tree.

I kind of ran away to visit Grandmother this weekend. I knew I owed her a visit having not been since early March, but also I wanted to get away. Sometimes running a house and not having the house set up completely feels overwhelming. The Scorpio Full Moon was in full effect and making me feel at odds with lots of things, including Dara. It’s nice to have family you can go visit in someplace beautiful. This guy at a pizza place asked why I wasn’t at Coachella (it’s really close to Palm Springs) and I said I was going to have a lot more fun swimming in my Grandmother’s pool listening to Guns and Roses.

IMG_20160424_201350

All in all I would say that LA is gorgeous, I love living here, the transition is hard, I’m not sure if I miss NYC, I’m overwhelmed with how much I have left to do to settle into my house and I’m really excited to get my tea company running so I can make a living off being a tea proprietress. The next pre sale will probably start on Monday. I had been hoping for this week but there’s a lot going on here. Dara got a grant to throw a 30 person Seder dinner in our backyard. Even as I’m not in charge of it, there’s still a lot for me to do.

2016-03-18

LA Week 7: Femme Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Week seven was pretty sweet. Our weekaversary in our LA home is on Saturday, and that Saturday we put up all of our hard work on the house and went to a pool party! It’s definitely too cold for summertime style pool parties out here. But when your friends heat their saltwater pool to 95 degrees you drop everything and show up with flowers, red vines and a beverage.

Here are some things I didn’t know about pools until recently. The unheated pool temperature will be an average of the daytime and nighttime temp. So even if temps soar into the 80s, if they’re dropping to 50s at night (which is possible here, and lately we’ve been more early 70s and sometimes 40s at night) that means the pool is way too cold to swim in during the day at about the 60s. Brrr. Heating a pool is mad expensive if you do it all the time, so most folks do it on special occasions. My grandmother has a pool and even though she’s been in her house in Rancho Mirage (by Palm Springs) for 15 years I’ve literally been in the pool twice.

taylorglendaleGot to hang with my friend Taylor Black last week!

So back to the pool party. How lucky I feel to have gotten to hang so much with Barb since we moved to LA! She’s buying a house here and keeps visiting from Fresno, about 5 hours North in Central CA. Barb has been staying with Tristan and Colten, and Anne and Susanna were in town and so were some other friends I didn’t know from NY. So it became a party, my very favorite kind where I know 50% of the people in attendance.

annebarbsusannaBarb, Susanna and Anne drinking prosecco from the Red Vines I brought. Red Vines are the licorice of my youth and I don’t like Twizzlers. They’re decidedly West Coast.

I know most people perceive me as an extrovert and totally socially confident but there’s a reason I love to throw parties and have something to do! I love people and I love talking but I was an only child and get super socially awkward and nervous in un-facilitated interactions. So when I have a “job” I feel better. Pro-tip: I’ve found volunteering at parties a great way to take my anxiety down a notch and an easier way to meet new people. Once I know more than 30% of the people at a party it is way easier for me. All interactions become kind of facilitated because you already know and are comfortable with people!

We had been working hard on our attic the previous two days so getting to soak in a 95 degree pool was perfect. It was like taking a luxurious bath with a bunch of awesome people.

I dropped Dara off at the airport that night to go to NYC on business again. She’ll be going once a month for the foreseeable future because one of her biggest clients is out there. It’s interesting having moved with a partner. I’ve never had that experience. I’m usually Captain Solo, Queen Independent and can do quite well on my own. In Brooklyn, when we would spend time apart at our different houses (this house in LA is the first time we’ve ever lived together for real) I was great. All those years I spent single I really cultivated a way of being with myself and being fully present and excited in my life.

Sometimes if we were apart I would stay up super late just… fucking around? Just like watching bullshit TV or reading or doing tarot cards. (Even now, sometimes I stay up later than Dara because I just like to do those things solo.) I was so good at being independent that it would actually be hard for me when we hung out again to let down my guard and do that couple comfort mesh thing that happens.

poolpartybevindaraThis fatkini is from Modcloth and I love it. Also, when you’re in a 95 degree salt water pool and you get out steam comes off your body. Also also I was stung by a bee and Colten gave me excellent poolside nursing care and it was itchy and hurt for days after but was totally worth it for the magic of that pool party.

It was interesting when I dropped her off and was alone again because I didn’t experience the joy of independence again. Just like her first trip to NYC I was left alone feeling my feelings. It was hard and lonely without her and it was because I have all this discomfort with new things happening. Having a partner comes with benefits and drawbacks. A huge benefit is a support system that makes you feel good and hopefully mitigates discomfort. An all the time social safety net. I’ve never really noticed needing that before (Queen Independent) but noticing that I felt it missing made me feel vulnerable and it was hard.

I think that’s a warning sign to me that my self care game is off. I mean, I already knew that, but if I am with someone and not feeling my feelings that means I’m not setting aside enough time to work through stuff while we’re together. I know I could be journaling more, setting aside more time for reflection and going to more Al-Anon meetings. In NYC I had a great therapist and that was an hour each week I had to ]let off my steam pipe of feelings, plus I did Al-Anon weekly and so many other things to work through my feelings.

To my credit I’ve been meditating and now that my kitchen is at 90% capacity I am cooking nutritious food. And having only been in the house seven weeks that’s good.

joyI painted a lot of intentions into the attic. Casual woo.

Setting up a sanctuary is hard work. My friend Morgan said on instagram “Femme Rome wasn’t built in a day” and she is totally right. You might remember Morgan as the gorgeous Femme who baked gourmet cupcakes for Rebel Cupcake when I was hosting it in Brooklyn.

131170_4067480605562_1576758754_oPhoto by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

It’s a nice thing to remind yourself when you are frustrated with things not going at the pace you would like them to go. Having this deadline of getting the house together is actually not as nice as I said in my last post. It’s actually creating a lot of stress and time pressure.

My mom was visiting my Grandmother in Palm Springs that weekend of Dara leaving town. Because Dara’s flight was right in the middle of the visit I couldn’t make it work to go out there (I also thought my mom was leaving on Sunday, not Monday as it turned out). I had plans with my Aunt Shari to watch the finale of Downton Abbey Sunday night. I knew I wanted to watch with Aunt Shari because she loved the show so much she deeply spoilered it for me even after I said I was really behind on this season because of our travels. Mom surprised me by asking if she could join me and Aunt Shari in spite of the six hour round trip it would take to go do that.

So I went with the choice of fostering intimacy over perfectionism and asked mom if she and Grandmother wanted to come see the house in it’s totally not “mom clean” or finished state on their way to my Aunt’s house. (I am 50 minutes to Aunt Shari’s and 2 hours to Grandmother’s.) Later that night our impromptu hat party for the Downton finale (with a special cameo from two of my cousins) was a fabulous memory!

downtonfinalehatpartyI haven’t 100% come out to all of my family about my blog but I’m getting there. They know I’ve been in the New Yorker and stuff like that but I don’t think any of them read it except my mom.

I spent the better part of Wednesday last week working on buying packaging for my Reiki tea pre-sale. It started with physically measuring out 20 servings of two types of tea (the herbal blends take up more room than the tea blends) and then using a tape measure to see what kind of capacity I need.

teaforscale

Buying tins and packaging is not as straightforward as one would believe and I’m definitely not at “scale” yet for cheaper prices. I need to be buying about 300 tins per order to get even a small discount. But the tins were important to me and my vision (they are truly the very best way to store tea for longevity). I also bought all the herbs and tea I needed to get the blends going. They just arrived, I’m really excited to get my hands herby!

B-School has been going slowly. I’m glad they give you a pretty generous time module for it (it is go at your own pace). Just like in my AP classes in high school with their over the summer homework and reading lists you need to do before school starts, B-School had a whole pre-course module for follow-through success AND an e-book for “Starting the Right Business.” The book itself has lots of homework so I’m doing all this very necessary guided research (it’s a pretty brilliant method, but I wish it had just a touch more guidance and samples) to identify who I admire who does something similar to what I do and what and how they did it. So if you know of a tea company, woo modality company or other small product based company you like let me know in the comments because I’m deeply researching what makes them successful!

Thursday and Friday of last week I really buckled down and finished the painting upstairs. We had Dari and Jen come over again on Saturday and they helped so much with the final touches in the attic. Installing my closet rods and shelving while Dara mopped the hundred year old dust a shop vac, many many sweeps didn’t get, and I used my staple gun and 80 yards of gold glitter tulle to fill in the gaps in the wood so stuff doesn’t fly into an unreachable space.

closetinstall

I definitely had the place okay enough to have someone stay for tea. But we still have a lot to do in order to get things together to host Dara’s mom overnight tomorrow night and meet our artificial deadline of having the place in order enough to host Seder. The hustle is real in these parts right now.

“Optimism expresses itself in the persistence and resilience of living things.” I found that quote once more while unpacking and it is a good one I am pondering. Even though my self care game is kind of a flat tire right now, even though I’m stressed and I know stress is an optional emotion, I know that I can get back to feeling serenity and joy. And I know the power of six months means that in six months, this period of trying to get stuff together for the house will be just a memory.

2016-01-14

Remembering Bryn

Second update: I was approached about this piece and asked to do a rewrite that, among other things, altered some language I used, clarified some of my language and directly addressed my interactions with Bryn around Michfest. I’m truly sorry if my piece caused anyone additional pain. The rewrite was reviewed and commented on by two of my friends, Mira Bellwether, who is a trans woman and a Femme, and a genderqueer identified Femme. It is important to me that the work I put out in the world helps the world become more survivable for trans women. It’s very important to me to respect the voices of trans women and work towards the most respectful and loving way to communicate about this devastating loss.

Update: The response to this post has been beautiful and overwhelming. I would love to keep adding links to more memories of Bryn, more of her writing and information about the memorial service on her birthday, February 7th (especially for folks not on Facebook). If you have links to more memories please comment or send me an email queerfatfemme at gmail.

From Sarah Schulman:
Dear Friends and Community:
We will be gathering on February 7 to remember our beloved friend Bryn Kelly, to recognize the beauty and depth of her life and to support each other in our love and grief. Details will be forthcoming from her family, her partner Gaines Parker, and from Kelli Dunham and other friends. Please share this information. Thank you.

Fundraiser for memorial costs.

This Friday Bryn’s birth family will be having services in Huntington WV.
Friday, Jan 22, 12p visiting, 1p service
Expression Church of Huntington
1539 18th St, Huntington, WV 25701
A group of WV/OH folks are attending, feel free to join, it will not be only birth family, you will not be alone.

I woke up this morning to two text messages from friends asking me to call them. I’m a Capricorn, I know a pattern. I know that means another queer friend of mine has passed. We love each other. We’re always in a race to beat Facebook to tell one another the important stuff. I never want someone to have the experience of finding out something devastating like this on Facebook, and I’m glad my friends think so, too.

I’m on West Coast time now, so I know I might always luck out and get a phone call before Facebook, because even though I’m gone from Brooklyn I still have patches on that quilt of Brooklyn queer community (as Quito so aptly said, today we have a Bryn sized hole).

brynhardfrenchnyc2010Bryn in 2011ish at Hard French in NYC.

I talked to Kelli, got the news, and had the awkward and necessary next step of figuring out who I am close to that I want to try to beat to Facebook. Bryn was in my dream a couple of nights ago. Fleeting. And since I had a dream about Glenn and Hana last night (we were on vacation) I took it as the Goddess’ sign that I should call. Glenn asked immediately if it was violence or did she take her own life. We ask these questions because it’s the lived experience of so many of us.

And also so is cancer. Ellie died two weeks ago. I have lost countless friends to cancer, heart attacks, stupid disease stuff and suicide. I am all about body autonomy and the choice whether to live or die is one that everyone should get to make. And at the same time, I’m not even through processing Taueret’s suicide less than a year ago.

bevinglenntaueret2009Found this photo of me, Glenn and Taueret in 2010 at Hey Queen while looking through my archives.

Anyway, I don’t usually eulogize right away but I wanted to make sense of this and also I wanted to let some friends and exes know about Bryn whose contact info I don’t have but who I suspect still read my blog. I use writing to make sense of things and, you know who you are and I hope you didn’t have to find out on Facebook.

brynatparty2010

I met Bryn almost ten years ago at a Mixer party (I think that’s what it was called) at Levi Braslow’s loft apartment. I was immediately captivated by her. She was hard to get to know.
Bryn was a trans woman. I identified with her as a fellow Femme and woman and someone who adored conventional masculinity delivered in a queer way, who loved parties and socializing but wasn’t actually comfortable at parties all the time.
She didn’t tell me she was HIV positive until years after we met (she got progressively more open with the world about it). She moved from rural Ohio to Michigan to New York City, if I’m remembering the whole trajectory. Even though she was from Ohio she was in rural Appalachia and definitely identified strongly with my West Virginia loves. She was queer country, through and through. She also told me moving to NYC when she did saved her life, because of the HIV services available there.

My friend Mamone shared a post Bryn wrote in January, 2015 to the facebook page for the Marshall University LGBTQ Office, in Huntington, West Virginia. Mamone knew her 20 years, from that time in 1996 through to present time Brooklyn. “Hi all. I just wanted to introduce myself. I visited the MU LGBTQ Office when I was a scared teen in 1996, and found tremendous community and support. Now I live in New York, where I am a writer and performing artist. So, if anyone is thinking about grad school or just moving here after graduation, feel free to friend me and ask me questions! Huntington still holds a very special place in my heart. ❤ http://www.brynkelly.com
Bryn emceed and performed at the queer country monthly night in Brooklyn the whole time it was running.

brynsummerspeakeasyoffemme2010At Speakeasy of Femme, a Femme Family event, in 2010?

Bryn was slow to get to know. I was in the phase of my life when we met (around 26/27) that I was quick to make friends. If I thought you were awesome I would trust you right away. She was more like a cat who comes into the room you’re hanging out in, scopes it out, but it takes a long time to hang out and chill. We talked about that, years later, when I realized that my overly trusting nature was getting me fucked over by people. She and I agreed there was probably a healthy middle between her inclination and mine. I wonder if that shifted for her?

She was an Aquarius, like Michelle Tea and Oprah (her words). Her birthday is coming up soon.

We were friends and we liked to party. I have a ton of summer drunk sweaty selfies with her. She was definitely a Winter hibernator. I rarely saw her then.

One of my favorite Femme moments with Bryn was when we were both flirting with the same out of town boy at a party who was hardcore flirty but being kind of vague with both of us. I found out later she eventually took him home. I high fived her when I found out, a win for one is a win for all. A lot of people default to Femme competition but I didn’t feel that way with Bryn.

brynatbuffe2012Me and Bryn at the August 2012 party Buffet.

A homebody who took such great joy hosting dinners and parties with amazing food. I am not a big football fan but anytime she invited me for the super bowl I said yes because of her food. She was the first Femme I knew our age who would cook a pork shoulder and helped me get over my fear of cooking large hunks of meat.

brynchrisokelly2008Bryn doing Chris’ hair for my 30th birthday party, Ascots and Bouffants. Miss you, Chris.

She cut great hair. She was a traveling hair stylist who could come to your house to give a cut. Like many of us who work in the queer community, she offered a sliding scale. She was extremely talented. Bryn eventually got a salon chair and started cutting in her house, which became a more intimate beauty parlor experience.

She was always a late arriver at parties. Going through my photos looking at memories of Bryn, I always know to look towards the end of the photos because Bryn was beyond fashionably late.

brynbunny2009

She was stylish, loved side boob and deep cleavage, had ever shifting hair, usually somewhere between reddish or blonde. For a brief period of time she went brunette and looked a lot like Snow White, she thought it was hilarious when I said that. One time I was late to Submit and saw her outside approaching. Her hair was mermaid blue because she had been experimenting with toner. She is one of the only people who I know who still had a consistent aesthetic even though her hair was always evolving.

brynheathernewyear2010ishThis was a super late night find of Bryn, something like 3AM on New Year’s Eve at Sweet Revenge which is now known as One Last Shag. We hung outside in the snow, drunk, celebrating. Yelling.

She was part of Femme Family–an important part. She trusted us enough to organize with us. She showed up.

Early at a Femme Family organizing meeting she said she had just gone to queer/trans yoga at Third Root and said she felt so free. I just remember the look in her eyes, we were in the lounge at Re/Dress. She was so relaxed and happy. She was usually kind of on edge, socially, as I think she loved being social and like many of us, had some social anxiety.

femmefamily2At the Femme Family coming out party in June 2009.

femmefamily1The other part of some of the organizers of Femme Family at that party.

She was a powerful witch, she was a great gossip and loved to throw shade. She was the kind of person you got dish from and dished to in a beauty parlor way and I knew she both loved me and talked shit about me and… whatever. We were honest with each other. Sometimes we were both Femme wolves who kept to our own and got over ourselves whenever we saw each other. Recently, when I ran into her, she had been up all night doing edibles and she had the sweet glow of someone who was high on socializing and on THC.

brynsweetbitch2008She was so delighted to give me this bottle of Sweet Bitch wine.

My friend Mira pointed out that in reading the eulogies for Bryn, most people knew a lot of Bryn but not all of her and I found that to be the case. She and I were both kitchen witchy but we never practiced together. I knew there was a lot more possible in our friendship but it didn’t all gel.

And then there’s the Michfest stuff. Trans women are women. Period. Folks who read my blog know I’ve been involved in working for trans women’s inclusion at Michfest for over a decade. The organization of the Festival intended that the Festival not include trans women. I’ve been working from the inside, working within a community, trying to change that.

Bryn was working from the outside, participating in Strap on dot org for years and attending Camp Trans, the protest camp across the street from the Festival grounds. The summer of 2008 we were both in Michigan at the same time, and we joyfully reunited at a Camp Trans “love-in across the road from the gate” as she put it. It was an educational and artistic workshop working towards inclusion, where attendees of the Festival were invited to attend. She performed a duet on her recorder with her boyfriend at the time.

Later that week she was given a ticket to the Festival by an attendee who wanted to pay for some trans women to attend the Festival. She came in with her boyfriend and I showed her around, with the joy of getting to show someone I loved a place that I loved. That summer, with lots of trans women on the land, felt like trans women’s inclusion was really possible and so very likely. I truly believed in my heart of hearts the Festival could be inclusive of all women, and I worked hard at it.

Bryn wrote a piece about attending the Festival, read it for a couple of performances and read it for my then podcast FemmeCast. (My audio archives are packed in a box en route to California right now, but I will link to it when I have it.)

Over time, after that Summer, Bryn became less convinced that it was possible and we didn’t have that many more discussions about it. On that issue we ultimately disagreed.

She was an incredible writer and performer, filmmaker and actress. She performed at Gayety, the performance series I curated with Kelli Dunham, and at Rebel Cupcake.
brynheelsonwheels2013After performing together at Heels on Wheels in 2013.

Her breakup with her physically abusive ex Scott Loren Moore a few years back was really hard on her. She did some amazing art about it, including a film for Elizabeth Koke’s epic performance art tribute to Sarah McLachlan’s Fumbling Towards Ecstacy in 2012. She won a Lambda Literary fellowship. She was always up for some deep gay weird art.

brynsweatysummerdrunk2008One of my earliest photos with Bryn. Sweaty, summer drunk, 2008.

I have gathered some links to her writing below, because you should hear from Bryn in her own words if you didn’t know her. She was special and magical and I’m really sad to not be able to read more of her amazing art. Hers was an important voice. She made a difference.

Bryn’s Website
Bryn’s Tumblr
Bryn’s Twitter
Captive Genders on Original Plumbing
Other Balms, Other Gileads
Bryn in the Golden Age of Huslters Video (she also did Kate Bornstein’s hair for the video!)
Dapper Dan and the Rise of the AIDS Punchline
Bryn’s work on Pretty Queer
Bryn was The Hussy on Pretty Queer. I always suspected it was her and she confessed in one of our gossip sessions. It’s good stuff.

bryncelebrationofpersonhood2008In 2008 I had a “Celebration of Personhood (as Opposed to Couplehood)” party on the same date I was originally planning to get married. I made these chicken wings as a reclamation of the chicken wing recipe my fiance and I had used.

I hope that if any of you are ever considering suicide, you consider at least paging through this mini version of Kate Bornstein’s important book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and other Outlaws.

katebornstein2013ishAuntie Kate.

As someone who gets really internal when I get depressed to the point of suicidal, I need to remember that my self care is a daily choice and is a choice that helps me stay alive. Today, even though I’m still on the road, I went and worked out because it’s the best thing to do to keep my brain functioning away from depression. And it’s deep Winter, a friend just committed suicide and there’s all this change going on. Self care. All the texts with my thirty something Femme friends today are about self care.

bryntaueret2009I posted this photo of me and Taueret and Bryn after Taueret’s suicide last March. I never thought we would lose Bryn to suicide, too.

I’m sending out lots of woo and prayers to Bryn, that her passage to the other realm is smooth and easy. That she feels love and relief and peace. I pray for all of her friends and family, that they be held and know love in this shitty, unfathomable time. That all of her former friends and lovers know peace and light. That we can figure out ways to shift the world so that it is easier on people. That staying alive does not have to be a struggle. That we can destigmatize mental health care. That crisis centers that are financially accessible and queer and gender and fat and disabled friendly develop because we need them.

You are loved.

You are worthy.

You are important.

Please stay.

2015-12-29

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

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

victoriamovingsavior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joandbevinMe and Jo!

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

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

bevinmissmarywannaLove this babe so hard.

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

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

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

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

wavingparty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015-04-24

You Should Read Michelle Tea’s Book How To Grow Up

I love Michelle Tea. I can’t say much more than at 22 years old I read Valencia and finally found a literary voice that sounded like my own. Kind of breathless excitement about life, stories and a fascination with other people and my feelings and how they affected one another. Reading Michelle Tea told me I could be a published writer, too. It also told me I could maybe one day be an artist and have an amazing group of inspirational kind of reckless friends and all of those things came to pass.

How to Grow Up is her latest memoir. I have read much of her work over the years and I think it is my favorite. Her writing has evolved a bit, it’s still chatty like a friend telling you a story over coffee rather than writing a story and letting you read it. But the sentences are tighter, shorter and the sentiments are clearer. Also, she has a lot of really deep self-reflection and self-compassion that sharpens what she says through lessons learned. It is familiar to her early work but it is a different and more developed literary voice.

It’s written in essays, which makes it easy to read in chunks, but it is also very difficult to put down!

54ac92e6ce1cd_-_elle-how-to-grow-up-v-elv

I thought at first that the book was basically going to be an almagamation of her great column in xoJane Getting Pregnant with Michelle Tea. (I remember a road trip a couple of years ago where I would take breaks from driving at gas stations and read a couple of articles on my phone.) I was totally wrong about that, the pregnant stuff is only a couple of chapters and it is in a more nuanced, self-reflective tone than the columns.

Her book covers so many topics like doing the work on yourself so you stop dating people who stomp all over your heart, going to Paris fashion week, deciding whether or not to drop being a full-time artist in exchange for steady employment, getting over a huge break-up, having a wedding without spending a fortune, and so much more. I related to so much of it on such a deep level.

1937764487_495d6304f0_zIn November 2007, I had just been dumped by my fiance. I was devastated. My friend Mamone was in DC (I was in NYC) at the Sister Spit show and, knowing what a huge Michelle Tea fan I was, asked the group to pose with this sign to make me feel better! It was such a wonderful gift to receive this photo!

If you out there are reading this blog post, I think you should buy Michelle’s book How to Grow Up. However, these people in particular are going to love it:

Working class folks.

I love how much Michelle Tea talks about money, her feelings about it, growing up working class and oh my goddess how being an artist with an uncertain income is affected by that working class upbringing. I have never read anyone talk about the intersections of those two realities about money–working class/poor childhood and taking the leap to freelancing. It is scary as shit and I need a lot of tools in order to navigate this. I’ve already begun using one of her tools, which is to invite her higher power into

Spiritually curious people.

Michelle opens up about her spirituality, including a Stevie Nicks higher power that helps her through things. Tarot readings, how she meditates, explores Buddhism and explains some Buddhist principles in terms of hilarious real life examples of her love life. She also talks about how meditation has really helped her navigate life with more stillness. And the weird fears we get when we venture into a new kind of deeply religious or woo place with ritual and worrying about getting it “right.” I related so intensely to that I put that sentence in “we” and I’m not going to edit it.

I’m a super spiritually curious person, I’m always interested in hearing folks spiritual practice and woo modalities, so I loved that thread throughout the book.

XO-lv4KJThis amazing photo was taken by my friend Sophie Spinelle of Shameless Photography fame.

12 Step People.

I’m paraphrasing Michelle in a blog post I can’t find that I read a few years ago that she breaks the 11th tradition of AA about being anonymous at the level of press, radio, TV and films–being transparent about where her tools for sobriety came from–because she couldn’t have gotten sober without it. Not telling people about her work in AA would be like lying and acting like she could have done it all on her own.

Anyway, she has so many great recovery gems going on in the book in some ways I felt like I was reading really engaging sobriety stories. I found a lot of good tools for my work in my own 12 step program (for family and friends of alcoholics) and I will recommend this book to my pals in recovery.

I have been thinking a lot about whether or not people who don’t like 12 step language or tools would be put off by the book and I don’t really think so. (I know a lot of folks who had parents or former partners in recovery who have been really damaged by recovery language and don’t like it.) It doesn’t overwhelm the content, and if you take what you like and leave the rest you’ll still enjoy it.

Political people like queers or femmes who critique the fashion industrial complex but also love it.

There’s a whole chapter about Michelle buying her first designer piece, a leather hoodie, and all of the feelings that come up about it from her working class background and history being a vegan punk. How her deeply committed political beliefs are complex and how she had to learn to lighten up a little in order to actually enjoy life and eat enough food to live off of. Um, also there’s a whole chapter about Michelle deciding whether or not to get BOTOX.

20150212_015937Macy’s ankle broke while I was reading the book.

On a personal note, this was the first time I read a Michelle Tea book and actually knew some of the people she talked about because our queer worlds are very small. I had always wondered if I would read a Michelle Tea book one day and know people in real life, and then it happened. Knowing who they were did not change how I perceived them independently of the book and also it did nothing for deepening the story since Michelle writes very well from her own perspective and experience. I kind of thought if I knew someone and read about them it would be a thing but it wasn’t.

(I am always curious about how people talk about people they know and use pseudonyms and all of that because of my blog and the memoir I’m working on. My privacy ethics are very nuanced after years of blogging, but I still sometimes feel nervous about people’s reactions to being in print.)

I highly encourage everyone to buy Michelle Tea’s How to Grow Up and savor it. You will love it.

And then consider picking up Valencia because it rules.

2015-02-27

Half the Self Hate: Denise Jolly “Self Love is my Life’s Work”

For years I’ve been noticing the People Magazine annual “Half Their Size” issue. It comes out around New Year’s Eve and the cover is always the same: before and after photos with big graphics about how much each person has lost. People Magazine devotes pages and pages of a feature story to readers who have lost over half their body weight. They ask them how they did it, what motivated them, what their “rock bottom” was as a fat person.

I kept thinking, What if we talked to people about how they lost more than half of their self-hatred? What would it look like? I find it so inspirational to hear how people have risen out of oppression and cultures that don’t value their bodies/identities and have learned to love themselves in spite of that.

I reached out to several artists and activists whose work and self love I admire to ask what practices they employ to love themselves and how they defy a culture that commodifies self hatred. I wanted to know what inspired them to work to reduce or eliminate their self hate.

This is a series about self love triumphing over self hate, and valuing yourself as a radical act of resistance.

The Half the Self Hate series continues next week with my video interview with plus size porn performer, size activist and feminist April Flores.

16456735267_5290011166_z

I first learned about Denise Jolly through friends in San Francisco and Brooklyn who said that I should meet her. After this happened three times, I started doing some googling and found the treasure trove of her work. Denise is an artist living in Berkeley, CA who shot to notoriety with her Be Beautiful project, a social media exploration of loving her body for 30 days. She’s an incredibly powerful performer, self-reflective and vulnerable writer and I’m thrilled to have her as part of the Half the Self Hate series.

How do you identify?

That’s a fun question.

In the most universal context I identify as a fat, kinky, queer, working class raised, community educated, white, femme.

What does that identity mean to you? How do the intersections of it help you bloom? What are your struggles?

My goodness I feel as though I could write an entire book trying to answer these three questions. I’ll do my best to be succinct.

My identity means the world to me. It is fluid and constantly evolving. It is the intersection of judgment and projection, the merging of what I am socially prescribed to be with how I see myself. It manifests in my crass tongue that loves words like cunt and fuck. It is big in all its 6 ft tall 300 lb 5 inch heel, red lip, big hoop wearing glory! Everything that I do is big yet somehow I love to hide in dark corners in cities everywhere I go with an astute awareness that I embody a level of safety most do not experience. My identity is an active and working understanding of when and how to leverage privilege. Unpacking, honoring and growing my identity has become a massive part of my life practice.

At this point in my relationship to self and social analysis I can say with great certainty I move through the world with a very high level of privilege. Even with the oppressions I have experienced in my life which to be clear there have been plenty. That said, I am a large bodied, feminine presenting, cis gendered, white, femme. Which means I am afforded social fluidity in nearly all communities. I am the mama archetype. My queerness is celebrated and highly visible within queer community and moot in straight community. Especially dominantly white straight community. Which is where I was raised by my fiercely loving, working class, single mother in a house filled with trouble making boys. I was groomed to know how to care for myself and others from birth. I learning how to work hard, have compassion, and always aspire to do and be better from my working class roots. I am not college educated. I learned critical thinking and writing in community spaces. Those roots are invisible to most unless I state them. This is what free agency looks like. The intersection of how I look and the way I speak affords me the opportunity to see the world in a lot of different ways. No matter the struggles or oppressions I have experienced I am extremely blessed.

As for my struggles my critical brain wants to name my greatest struggle as my internalized beliefs around class division that are steeped in a capitalist agenda. My vulnerable heart wants to name my greatest struggle as depression that can manifest in addictive and self- destructive behaviors. My body wants to scream at my brain for thinking so much it interrupts its ability to be free. Even in all of this it has become glaringly clear that any “struggle” I experience is a blessing.

denisesubwayThe final photo in the Be Beautiful series. Photo by Airial Clark.

When you were younger did you have a period of self-hate? If so how did that affect you internally and in the ways you expressed yourself or interacted with others?

Truthfully I hated myself most days until I did the Be Beautiful project. That was not even two years ago and I am currently 35 years old. I fear saying this but in the spirit of honoring vulnerability there are still so many days self-hatred creeps in like a destructive lover. The hatred no longer wins but it sure does work hard to hold its place in my life.

Throughout my teens and most of my 20’s I aspired to be loved by everyone. So I showed up in service to the needs of those around me rather than working to actualize my own greatness. I was sweet and congenial. Hell I was even prom queen. I was simultaneously highly visible while feeling completely invisible and alone. No one knew much of anything about my life and if they did it was compartmentalized to a singular aspect and
never the full spectrum.

What helped you decide not to hate yourself? What were the circumstances, how old were you?

A want for love was my primary motivation. I was constantly in shared space with my Bestie and platonic life partner Sonya Renee Taylor who founded The Body is Not an Apology. Her life’s work is about creating social change through empowering radical self-love and acceptance. She and I were invited to be part of a Body Politic think tank at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and asked the question “What sits on the other side of your bodies shame and your bodies joy?” I was 33 and had never really experienced being seen as desirable, partnerable, or lovable. I realized I had never shared sexy photos with a lover or even stopped to look at my gorgeous body in the mirror. I had no clue I was sexy or amazing. I knew part of that was something I had to navigate internally but was also clear there were social constructs that instilled those beliefs in me so I started Be Beautiful as an active inquiry to the question and now my life’s completely different.

sonyacarriesophiedenise(L-R) Sonya Renee Taylor, Shameless SF photographer Carrie Lynn, Denise, and Shameless founder and photographer Sophie Spinelle. Photo by Miki Vargas.

Where has your journey to living a life geared towards self-love taken you? How has your work as an artist been influenced by this journey?

It has become my life’s work. Outwardly my journey toward self-love has literally taken me all over the world. Honoring the vulnerability through public discourse and artistic process has afforded me the opportunity to speak, perform, and share my work with audiences globally. I am now a fulltime artist and activist who’s work specifically engages the process of actively learning to love myself. My goodness, as a working class girl who was told she’d never be nothing I still weep with gratitude at what my life has become.

Inwardly my journey towards self-love has taken me through a tumultuous and impassioned series of love affairs. I have and continue to build intimacy while dismantling the internalized beliefs that lead me to 33 years in isolation from love. I had never known beauty, body and heart break the way I do now. As a writer I live a life that lends to a shifting narrative. Which means everything I do informs my artistic practice.

Your Be Beautiful project was a huge step towards leaning into self love. Can you give some background to my readers who are unfamiliar with the project and the reception?

Be Beautiful started as a 30 day exploration into loving my 6 ft tall 311lb body. Each day I took a photograph of myself nearly naked in public and private spaces with beautiful written across the parts of my body I had internalized shame about. I then posted the images on social media. When the 30 days were complete I wrote an article about my journey that was published on The Body is Not an Apology. The Article and photographs have since been republished and cross-posted all over the world. I then had the remarkable privilege of working with Shameless photography. We flew to Brooklyn and recreated the shot of Madonna hitchhiking nude only this time I was the model wearing only high heals and a handbag. Mind blowingly that image went more viral than the Be Beautiful series. For instance in a single day it was shared with Cosmopolitan.com, Redbook, and MTV under headlines naming my 311lb body as gorgeous.

Having major markets and social institutions like Cosmo name a body like mine as gorgeous was a remarkable moment. That said what I continue to experience, as most impacting are the personal stories people share. Last year on tour a young woman told me when the project was released she was in treatment for an eating disorder and the project saved her life. So many women have written just to tell me in seeing my body they are considering themselves as beautiful for the first time in their life. My god that’s amazing.

denisemadonnaThe recreated Madonna shot (my first missed connection with Denise–Sophie invited me to the set to help this last March but Dara had chemo that day!), photo by Shameless Photography.

Since the Be Beautiful project ended have you continued the practice of looking in the mirror at your body? How has your conception of your body changed?

I most definitely have continued the practice of looking at myself in the mirror! There of course have been periods wherein I have not but I do
prioritize doing so.

I love my body now. Every inch, every stretch mark, my face, my breasts, my ass, I love it! The most important evolution has been learning to share and celebrate my body with lovers.

Is there anything you think you could say to your younger self to turn away from self hatred or do you think it was an inevitable path that had to run its course?

To be real I think our cultural constructs around self hatred and destruction lend to most people having to navigate and work through some level of it. That said I certainly believe it can lessen with every generation.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to surround yourself with people who affirm and validate your power and possibility. Regardless of age or station that can be hard but if you identify potential role models that challenge any perception of internalized shame or self-hatred, invest in that relationship. I have been blessed to meet a slew of powerful women in my life and have worked very hard to prioritize being in shared space with them as much as possible. My closest friends are my greatest influences and anyone I work in collaboration with or support of is someone that is investing in the actualization of my greatness as much as they are of their own. This is imperative.

What practices do you employ now to be more self loving and less self hating?

I have many. I think the most important is practicing active awareness. Self-hatred did not just disappear when self-love finally made its way into my life. When hatred comes I have to honor its arrival, unpack why its here, and invite the possibility of other experiences. This opens my life up to moments of levity without shaming the absolute truth that I was indoctrinated with a deep belief that I should hate and work to destroy myself and everyone else.

I wrote an article that offers 5 rules to start being beautiful that I think can speak more extensively to this.

What’s your favorite self-care activity?

My favorite activity is writing love poems in chalk while listening to music and dancing around my neighborhood in the middle of the night.

denisesmiling

Thank you so much, Denise, for your thoughtful and incredibly powerful answers for the Half the Self Hate series!! You can invite Denise Jolly to speak, teach or perform! All the information is at her website. You can also follow Denise on her Instagram, Facebook fan page and Tumblr!

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

Half the Self Hate Instagram and Twitter contest challenge:

The contest is over, thanks to the folks who shared and posted, and many many thanks to two great feminist, queer owned, body positive sex toy stores for sponsoring, Sugar in Baltimore, MD and Self Serve Toys a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Albuquerque, NM (both have online stores). They believe, as I do, that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are!

I still want to know how you’ve lost half your self hate! Write a tweet or an Instagram post about one practice you have employed to lose half your self hate. Or commit to employing one practice to lose half your self hate! (You can borrow a practice you learned about in this blog series!) Hashtag your post with #halftheselfhate.

I can read something and it kinda sinks in, but if I read something and then apply it to my life by writing something reflective, that’s when it really begins to work for me. The great thing about blogs and social media is the archive. I’ve really loved reading what people have said so far on the hashtag and I’d love for it to continue as a reflective space for folks to remember what they’ve done to cut half their self hate! It’s difficult to speak openly about loving yourself and I’d love to keep moving forward to cut that social stigma!

2014-12-01

Queer Fat Femme Holiday Gift Guide

It’s Cyber Monday (I kind of hate that it’s a thing now but it’s a thing now) and I am fresh from watching so many movies about how the spirit of the holidays is not about capitalism it’s about feeling warm and generous. I, personally, love all things glitter and magical and really appreciate the holidays in a take what you like and leave the rest sort of way. I love that people decorate their houses in glitter and lights. I also enjoy supporting small businesses and queer owned businesses. So if you’re going to participate in gift giving, I’m super into connecting people to small businesses. I’m also into giving people good gift ideas.

My holiday gift guide this year is not compensated–I included small businesses owned by folks I know and indie businesses suggested by my followers who commented on my instagram and facebook posts asking for their favorites. I also threw in a couple of wild cards from more corporate origins that were just good gift suggestions for folks struggling with what to give. I’ve got ideas for the femmes, queers, masculine of center, pets and woo/spiritual folks on your list!

My astrologer once told me that money is energy in 3D form and I totally believe in being mindful about putting your energy out there, especially when you’re doing holiday shopping. So here is a big list of possible holiday gifts for all kinds of folks on your list, enjoy!

IMG_20141201_151407The Medusa Bustier modeled by Art Queen Caitlin Rose Sweet from the Leather Coven Instagram.
Leather Coven, “LUXE LEATHER AMULETS FOR ALL BODIES by chicano FTfeMme papi Mateo” was by far the most popular suggestion when I crowd-sourced gift ideas, but they were already on my list! I met Mateo at Hampshire College at a queer conference I performed at with Heels on Wheels and was impressed forever with the design Mateo was wearing! I’m so excited to see Leather Coven taking off lately, with queer babes of all sizes sporting some of these gorgeous designs. I love the Pentagram Harness ($56 and up depending on your choice of hardware) and the Medusa Bustier ($52+) and love love love that the designs work well both for fashion and for kink!

Leather Coven takes Etsy gift cards, which is great if you don’t know your intended’s measurements, or you can just order the gift and send the measurements in when you give the gift. (Their instagram is worth a follow–@leathercoven!) Cyber Monday savings through 12/1 (that’s tonight!) enter code CYBERSAGITTARIUS at check out.

IMG_20141201_151436Vinyl & Sequin Bow Tie as seen on GNATGlitterKink Instagram in the Gender: Queer photo series with Jacob Tobia and Sunny Frothingham. Photo by Chelsea Pieroni.
GNAT Glitter Kink. For vegan kink & fashion harnesses and for other accessories in an array of flamboyant glitter vinyls! I especially love the Vinyl & Sequin Bow Tie for the flamboyant Dandy on your holiday giving list! $25. Use code CYBERME for 25% off through December 1st!

Brownstargirl Tarot! I’ve had my tarot read by Leah Lakshmi Piepzana-Samarasinha many times since 2008 and she’s so amazing! She offers readings all over the world via skype, google hangout, phone and in person where she might travel (based in Toronto right now). Tarot, one and a half hours: $60-140 sliding scale, Tarot and numerology combination reading: $100-160 sliding scale, Group, couple or two-person readings: $80-130 sliding scale. I love what she says about sliding scale: I appreciate my clients with access to financial wealth sharing it as a form of economic justice and accountability. I appreciate this because I love working with other raised or currently poor and working class folks, and if you’ve got money, honey, your paying at the higher end of my sliding scale allows me to make a living while providing high quality divination to badass broke geniuses who have access to less cash.

If someone you know loves woo, get them a reading with Leah! It’s going to help center them for the New Year, or gird them for the Winter ahead!

bobby-pins-print_thLockwood Shop is owned by my friend Mackenzi, who has exceptional taste in gifts. I’ve successfully shopped for 90% of my holiday gifts at her store over the past few years. For bobby pin identified femmes what about this bobby pin print? ($28)

Whisky stones ($22.95) are a great choice for the drinker on your list. For the little one (or space inclined one) on your list, the Galaxy Night Light is so magical. ($8) You should cruise the website to see all of the other things they have, including lots of Queens and NYC inspired gifts. And if you’re in Astoria definitely stop by and get one of the Shop Keeps to help you shop!

il_570xN.681311055_io9hJessika Fancy is a queer femme in Portland, OR with some amazing jewelry and fashion designs as well as gem essence blends. I adore the Full Moon earrings (out of stock right now) and the Queer Magic Femme Hands patch ($11). Maybe someone you know is going through a rough patch and a protection blend aura spray for $14 might help them out a bunch?

Jessika Fancy is also part of the Spinning Wheel Apothecary, that makes seasonal woo boxes!

il_570xN.603522703_jbzvAdam Rabbit Jewelry: So many raw crystal designs at really great prices! These raw amethyst chunk earrings are only $15! Raw crystals are so powerful. Amethyst is great for healing and developing patience and calm. I really appreciate crystal jewelry designs that leave the crystals looking like a rock.

Peacock_necklace-berryKelly Horrigan Handmade! Kelly is really great queer designer and I love all of her stunning pieces of jewelry and clothing. Her peacock feather leather designs are so striking (I’ve seen them in several colors) and for my queer holiday gift guide I had to highlight her new Yoni necklace design.
Yoni_necklace2Regardless of whether or not you identify with a yoni, you can totally wear one as a necklace. Through December 2 you can get 45% off in her online store with code CYBERWOW.

slide3The IRing is a little kickstand device that you adhere to the back of your smartphone case and it acts as a vertical or horizontal stand for your phone. My partner Dara has one and it’s actually really handy. The adhesive doesn’t screw up your phone case, allows you to take it on and off though it is very sturdy once applied. You can hang your phone from a hook, a carabiner, or watch videos. It’s such a great stocking stuffer.

The reason Dara is involved with it is that there is a special fundraiser benefitting a non-profit supporting school improvement in the urban school community. If you buy an IRing for $20 and enter the code “SchoolsThatCan” (all one word) $8 of your purchase price goes towards Schools That Can.

P.S. I star in a video Dara made to promote the fundraiser.

il_570xN.540347972_el51Mister Sister NYC is a vegan bakery run by a queer in Queens. I’ve had the vegan fudge and it’s so delicious! You can get a vegan fudge gift pack for $12! Would make a great stocking stuffer for your vegan or non-vegan pals.

il_570xN.691982428_6iplFemme Anarchist. So much amazing queer and feminist schwag! I love the above glitter queer broaches for queer visibility! ($9.99) Or the Femme necklace for Femme visibility! ($12.99) I also love the trans inclusive feminism always pin, cats against cat calls pin, riots not diets patch, pizza slut necklace (to my friends: no one else get that for Miss Mary Wanna, I already ordered it), or baby got books necklace. A stocking stuffed with prizes from this shop would rule! Use code FEMMEFATALE for 10% off!

IMG_5032Age of Eleven. A friend of mine has been raving about the concept of a crystal dick. That’s right, crystal power in the form of a penis and insertable. So imagine the healing power of a quartz phallus. For $249 you can use it as a toy or a massage wand or an altar piece or whatever you can imagine doing with a penis shaped crystal. They also sell yoni eggs, earrings, necklaces and other jewelry.

cats-are-the-new-kids-3Best in Show SF has a great online store with tons of unique dog and cat items. I especially love the Cats are the New Kids / Dogs are the New Kids tee shirts. ($29.95, sizes S-XXL) Also comes in tote bags and coffee cups.

Paco Collars: I absolutely adore this word bracelet ($40-$50) for a simple way to say something custom to a person in your life. I think the leather is sooo handsome and I really like their font choice. Paco Collars also has a custom dog collar feature on their website and some really great leatherwork for dog and cat collars.

image6For the woo person in your life who loves affirmations, I really enjoy the I Can Do It page a day calendar from Louise Hay. A friend turned me onto it a couple of years ago and I find it really uplifting and enjoy writing folks notes on the back of the pages. It’s $8 right now on sale at the link above. If you need it to be on sale later I just got a circular in the mail that offers free shipping and holiday savings with the code 6124.

Self Serve Toys: Literally anytime someone mentions Albuquerque to me I tell them they need to go to Self Serve Toys and say hi to my friend Matie (even people I’ve never discussed sex toy shopping with). She’s owned and operated this store for five years! It is a gorgeous store and very well-curated.

My gift suggestion is the NJoy Pure Wand from Self Serve, but pretty much anything you need from them you can call and get recommendations. The NJoy Pure Wand is a great indulgence present ($109) that is a welcome addition to a sex toy supply, especially for people who enjoy a g-spot or p-spot stimulation. Check out Matie showing you how wonderful this toy is in this video. “This toy feels different than anything or anyone you’ve ever had inside you.” Shipping is free for $100 orders or over, or flat rate $5 for anything less than that.

il_570xN.683521950_cge4Right in the Childhood has cute masculine of center accessories, like this Lego Wonder Woman Tie Bar. ($17)

il_570xN.679721099_7cshYes Ma’am Designs (you know I love that name!) has fantastic accessories, including this flagging red duct tape clutch!

2014-01-15

Guest Post: How to Be a Good Ally to My Crippled Arm

My bestie Jacqueline Mary is disabled in a way where it is not readily apparent to the naked eye. Her arm was shattered in a bike accident a couple of years ago and the initial surgery restored only a small percentage of function in her arm. But because she still has her left arm and most people aren’t particularly observant, it’s not obvious right away that there’s anything different about it. She often has to tell people not to touch her arm, especially strangers in public, and sometimes people we know don’t even believe her and continue to poke, touch, even punch her in the arm because they think she’s joking. She’s also in a lot of chronic pain that has gotten worse over the last couple of months.

1003276_10152970507165702_1054438517_n

She posted the following note to Facebook and I really loved it. Not just because she’s my friend, but also because I thought it was an exceptional example of stating your needs and asking for help–I believe vulnerability is a sign of strength.

What was a huge bummer about it was that she reposted it several times to her Facebook feed and it only got 10 likes. Whereas the day before when she posted about being hungover she got 30 likes. It speaks to a lot, especially to how uncomfortable people are about disability and vulnerability.

I’ve learned a lot from Jacqueline about disability lately and the most distasteful one was that men often use it as an opener to hit on her. GROSS!

Blanche side eye

So here’s a dating pro-tip: if you see someone has an injury or a cane, don’t use it to make conversation to hit on them. Hit on them in a different way. Get creative. Here are some ideas.

Every person who has chronic pain or a disability has different needs and asks around it, but most folks really want to be heard. So if a friend of yours is asking for help or being vulnerable, a simple “like” to say you heard something, or even (my favorite) a comment heart (<3) is a sweet gesture. I hope you like the following piece by Jacqueline Mary.

This is a brief PSA about the status of my arm – I’d appreciate some likes on this (aka- i read this, that sucks).

Things are not at all great. My radius is no longer attached to my wrist, which means it’s just kind of floating around in there. My hand is quite literally dangling off my ulna. In the last 6 weeks, my pain levels have risen pretty dramatically and my mobility has lessened even further. I’ve been to the clinic several times for this, but since I’m going to Bellevue and they’re seeing me for next to nothing, this is going to be a long process. They’re looking into surgical options and trying to see if anyone is crazy enough to cut me open without knowing what’s really happening in there. My MRI failed because of the amount of metal in my arm (which I’m told over and over again is exceptional).

The result of this is that I need my friends to understand. Guys, I’m tired. Fucking exhausted. Being in pain every moment is a huge head trip in so many ways, but the most noticeable is that it sucks all your energy away. Aside from actual physical fatigue, I’m mentally fatigued. What I need to do for my arm and what I need to do to survive are at war. The strength it takes to not just quit my life and stay in a comfy bed with my arm elevated is really wearing on me. This makes me, basically, bitter and cranky. I apologize.

1170939_10153126759785702_1094842878_n

In addition, my arm is extra fragile these days. Even a tiny bump creates big pain. This means that I don’t want to go to things where I’m sure it will be jostled. I’m actively trying to avoid anything with crowds (especially shows, unfortunately). I’m driving most places these days. I can’t ride my bike anymore. The train, when it’s busy, is pretty awful for me. Please still invite me to things, but understand that I may decline for what looks like no good reason.

I’m wearing ace bandages a lot more these days, and it’s looking like I may turn back to the sling. Both of these are scary and stressful, as it’s much more of a physical indicator of my disability than I’ve had in a long, long time. This results in even more unwanted attention from assholes on the street. It also creates an appearance of being weak, which is extra scary because, well, I am, and it makes me feel like a bigger “target” to be attacked. However, if any of my creative, DIY, or textile manipulating friends want to make me a beautiful sling and/or wrap, I would seriously love that. Especially if it didn’t look like a sling and therefore made me feel a bit safer.

I know that most of my friends don’t have experience with disability, but I appreciate that you’re trying. Here are a few things you can do to make life a little easier on this crip:

1. Don’t touch my left arm. Ever. Don’t push it, don’t pull it, don’t try to hold my hand on that side, and don’t insist I hug you with both arms. Don’t be insulted if I pull away from you, I’m most likely in pain, aka not trying to get away from you. (And, for the love of god, don’t fucking tell me my scars are beautiful and/or give me character. Don’t downplay my disfigurement.)

2. Help me out. Offer to carry things for me. Insist. Help me open jars, doors, envelopes, even my coat. If you see me trying to do something stupid and struggling, offer to do it for me. I know, I know, I can get pissy when you offer, but offer anyway. The pissyness is a result of feeling bad about needing help, not a result of your offer.

Another GREAT way to help is walking on my left side if we’re in a crowd. I’d much rather have a trusted friend on my bad side than for it to be open to whatever dickbag wants to knock into it. Take the lead, guide us to a safer place, and don’t be afraid to yell CRIPPLE COMING THROUGH!

Also, feel free to call people on their shit if they’re not being kind or a good ally to me. I’m so worn out from having to tell people “Don’t touch me there, don’t push me, that hurts, THAT REALLY HURTS,” just to be met with giggles. It’s not a game, I’m not playing, and it’s not funny to me. Think of it as a matter of consent.

3. Be understanding. If I’m cranky, late, or cancel completely – I’m sorry. I can’t do all the things I want to do as it is, but it’s getting much harder lately.

4. Be kind. I’m tired. I’m sensitive. I’m touchy. Just be sweet to me. I try to not be sensational about these things, but I still have pushback where people seem to think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I know I mostly look fine, which is why things have gotten to this point before doctors would take me seriously.

Guys, I’m fucking scared. There isn’t really any other way to say that. Every time I go to the doctor, they manipulate it which makes it hurt even worse. I will not go back on painkillers. The “best” option I have is a surgery where they will take apart my entire arm (from the elbow down) and completely restructure it. This means another hospital stay, recovery time, physical therapy, and a bunch of other things I don’t have the time or money for. I have no idea how I’m going to manage that, but I trust that I’ll figure it out when the time comes.

So yes. This was a “brief” PSA about the status of my arm. Thank you for reading. Feel free to ask questions if you have any, but mostly I’m just very grateful to have friends who will read this, get it, and try their best to accommodate my bullshit.

1441213_10153545409605702_544246962_n
Photo by Kelsey Dickey for the Rebel Cupcake Leather Family Photo Booth.

Jacqueline is going in for major arm reconstructive surgery tomorrow morning. She’s going to have a piece of her hip inserted into her arm! The recovery period is going to be intense and require a lot of cabs. It’s so hard to know how to help, but here’s a concrete ask you can probably help with (or signal boost)!

Folks reading this in any city served by Uber cabs–a smart phone cab hailing service that allows you to call a car with your smart phone, which is actually a lot easier in NYC than calling a car service. Uber is offering a special where if you sign up now, as soon as you use your first free $20 ride (that’s right, it’s free for the first ride with this sign up), Jacqueline’s account will get a $20 bonus. Which means a free ride to or from work for her! You can help her just by taking a free cab ride!

Sign up for Uber here, Jacqueline’s referral code is uberjacqueline but should be automatically entered when you click that link!

These are the North American cities Uber serves–I love it and it’s pretty easy to use, especially the UberX service, it’s even just a little bit cheaper than a standard Brooklyn car service.

ATLANTA BALTIMORE BOSTON CHARLOTTE CHICAGO COLUMBUS DALLAS DENVER DETROIT HAMPTONS HONOLULU INDIANAPOLIS JACKSONVILLE LOS ANGELES MINNEAPOLIS MONTREAL NASHVILLE NEW JERSEY NEW YORK CITY OKLAHOMA CITY ORANGE COUNTY PHILADELPHIA PHOENIX PROVIDENCE SACRAMENTO SAN DIEGO SAN FRANCISCO SANTA BARBARA SEATTLE TORONTO TUCSON WASHINGTON D.C.

And if anyone has a lead on how to build a clamshell for Jacqueline to lounge in during her recovery, or the money to finance putting 100 pink and white balloons in her bedroom let me know.

2013-10-25

FEMME SEX WEEK: Femmes Behind the Sheets

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

People who are not Femme are often mystified by Femmes in this kind of reverent and beguiled way. There’s some good mystery in the classic Femme tropes that even I sometimes fall under the spell of (like, “How does she get her hair to look like that?” I wonder with stars in my eyes) but I have a tag on my blog about the secret lives of Femmes for a reason–to kind of take the intimidation factor down a couple of notches.

IMG_5323.JPG
Weird anonymous photo series I took in Vegas.

For FEMME SEX WEEK I wanted to talk about masturbation and desire in a way that kind of pulls back the sheets on what turns Femmes on. There’s no one way to be Femme (there’s, in fact, approximately 1,467,987 ways to be Femme) so obviously there’s no one kind of sex or fantasy that turns on all Femmes.

I’ve collected a sampling from some anonymous Femme sources, some I know personally, some are friends of friends, and I’ve put them together below. They represent a cross section of race, sexuality, body size, Femme presentation and gender, with about a fifteen year spread on age. From a Latina Hard Femme Switch to a Cis White Straight Femme.

In response to the question What do you think about when you masturbate:

All sorts of things! butch & femme & genderqueer daddies punishing me for being bad, humiliation, face riding, all manner of power dynamics (locker room scenes, the overwrought trope of teacher/student, once I even thought about my boo & I playing out some kind of kinky red riding hood scene in which they were the big bad wolf & I was “fleeing” from them.. hot!). Femme on femme action: glitter, messy lipstick everywhere, those beautiful glass octopussy dildos, big heart pillows, a canopy bed. Shower sex: with those suction handcuffs! sex in a big ass clawfoot tub full of bubbles & petals sometimes rocks my self-fucking world.

I often think about a scene I want to be in. Being tied up, getting so close to coming, then not getting permission to. In my hottest masturbation sessions I’ll edge so close a few times then finally “get permission” to come in what will be a all over convulsing, feel the bottoms of my feet throb, shattering orgasm. I’ll sometimes think of a sweetie that I have a crush on and what making love to them might be like.

IMG_5321.JPG

What I think about when I am masturbating depends on the day and the mood. I don’t watch much porn anymore. If I am watching anything it’s medical videos which have always done the trick. I’ve always been turned on by the physiological responses of arousal, in particular. The quickening of someone’s heart – It’s something that just can’t be faked.

Without multimedia, I think of physical sensations. The tickle of coarse beard hair on my inner thigh. The drag of tightening rope against my skin. The surge of power I feel when a cock hardens in my fist. Hands all over me. Arms and chests and necks and smell, that drunk feeling I get putting my face against someone’s skin and breathing in.

Sometimes I think about what I hear too. A sharp intake of breath. The plaintive sound of a man begging, and when words disjoint themselves and turn into unintelligible sound. I love and adore and get off on the pleasure of others.

And sometimes I think about nothing at all — like a sky without clouds. Sometimes when I masturbate I am a body, not a brain. That’s the mindset I need to be in to come with a partner as well. I remember the first time a boy went down on me (my second partner, but the first one who ever cared if I had an orgasm). I was putting on a big show but I couldn’t quite get there. He stopped and looked at me, and said, “I don’t care what happens because I am enjoying myself. So don’t worry about me. Just think about you.” I stopped trying to fake it and cleared my mind completely. That was the first time I came in front of someone else and I realized the blank mind is what I do when I am alone. I have nothing to worry about and no one to perform for. It’s just me.

IMG_5319.JPG

My fantasies can change a lot from day to day, but I fantasize a lot about power play. Being raised Catholic, I still have a lot of mental blocks to asking for sex or making choices about what I want in the moment, as doing those things can immediately put me on a path of self-shaming (how dare I actually want sex?!) that shuts me down. So when I’m masturbating I tend toward scenarios where one player (it’s rarely “me”; I don’t actually think of my own physical body when I fantasize, instead choosing to mentally inhabit one or more characters in my fantasy) is enjoying being sexually dominated or even coerced into sex that they end up enjoying.

During the course of a fantasy, I usually switch perspectives multiple times. I may even align myself with both/all the players in quick succession, which might sound confusing, but plays out mentally a bit like some good camera work in a well made porn.

I also read a lot of fan fiction, and must admit that it has influenced my masturbatory fantasies. I’ve recently become quite enamored of tentacles, lately. They fit in well with the “you don’t want it until you’re getting it, and it’s suddenly the only thing you want” theme of my fantasies, and I love that thinking of them makes masturbating feel a bit like a sci-fi novel.

****
FEMME SEX WEEK continues through next week with some exciting interviews, toy reviews and porn!

Does my artwork help you feel better in your body and more alive? I’m doing a fundraiser to help sustain my website, blogging and finishing my memoir. If you can donate at the $15 level I’ll send you a postcard with an affirmation on it! There are lots of other prizes, too, check them out here! Thank you for reading and being part of this community.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress