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

2013-10-24

FEMME SEX WEEK: My Experience with Getting Femme Visibility on the Streets

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!

This weekend I was in front of the camera for a lifestyle shoot for the New York Toy Collective (more on their products and a behind the scenes video from the shoot later on in FEMME SEX WEEK). One of my favorite parts of a photo shoot is the chance to hang out with folks I don’t see much and meet new people with an immediate ice breaker–working together on a photo shoot.

While I was getting my make-up done somehow the topic turned to people getting picked up on the street, namely how one of the other models had been picked up on the street and on the train, in the same day, by two different femmes. One of which they ended up sleeping with. I was so impressed! It feels like an urban legend, a hot Femme just rolling up on a cute queer and making their desire known in an intentional way–AND WINNING. (Where winning, here, is both of them getting laid.)

Erica singing about sex toys. @NYToyCollective
Erica, pictured here, is singing a song about sex toys on that ukelele.

I’ve noticed over the last year or so that I have had an increase in my own queer visibility on the street. I tend to tweet about it whenever it happens because I’m usually alone and it’s so remarkable to be a Femme presenting person getting a dyke head nod or a wink on the street from a queer presenting person. It rules! It’s like that inner 20 year old in me who wore nothing but baggy Old Navy men’s clothing to appear more “andro” because I thought that’s what would get me attention from other queers is finally getting what she always wanted. To be seen.

I’m also an intrepid queer explorer so as soon as this visibility started happening to me I went into self-examination mode to determine what I was doing differently.

My dyke head nods, winks and smiles happen usually when I’m alone and lots of places I don’t expect. Especially at the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, when I’m wearing no make-up and some kind of “running around”outfit, I feel like I see all kinds of masculine of center queers who give me the nod.

I delight in the queer acknowledgement and then sit back and examine what I was wearing, doing, or “coding”to be queer. I’m feeling my most authentically queer when I’m really performing my gender, and that is in a huge, over the top kind of way that I mostly only do at certain parties. (See:every Rebel Cupcake, Swoon and Hey Queen.)

Lifestyle. @tuckmayo backstage at @NYToyCollective
Me and Tuck during the photo shoot.

Then I think about my hair. Is it because I have weird, loud hair (that’s about as loud and weird as I can get away with and still be a practicing attorney)? And I see other hot Femme presenting people out in the world with loud hair but it doesn’t necessarily code them as queer.

But what I have figured out is that it’s not so much how I present it’s what I do. And it’s that I finally learned how to casually flirt with people with an eyebrow raise or a smile or a wink, which is what is eliciting this response of “I see you and I wink back.”

I spent a decade trying to figure out how to flirt and express desire. Being called “too much”or “coming on too strong” many times, I kind of put the kibash on it. And before I was “too much” I would let my fear of rejection stop me from asking people out, flirting or being at all forward with people. Up until a couple of years ago, I had no idea how to be in the middle ground. And, as in all things, expressions of desire are a balancing act.

What I’ve done is finally,, finally absorbed my own advice of “Nobody ever died of awkward,” and what Rachael was always trying to teach me about flirting. “It’s never a bad time to make someone feel good.”

Backstage at new york toy collective @NYToyCollective photo shoot.

Flirting with someone on the street is not a big deal. And I’m not talking about catcalling, harassing or yelling at someone. I’m talking about a little eye contact and a smile to say, “I see you queer and I think you’re hot.” This often goes unnoticed by the person, but sometimes it doesn’t. And I get that head nod or acknowledgement. It’s kind of like that awesome Butch/Femme “dance” dynamic that people talk about, only here it’s queer on queer and it’s just about really seeing and appreciating each other.

So as I relaxed into the understanding that expressing desire didn’t mean I was proposing marriage, that I’ve done the work on my self-esteem to know that my self-esteem doesn’t rely on other people, I have nothing to lose in thst circumstance. It’s now become a kind of reflex, I see a hot queer on the street and I do the head nod or the smile that let’s them know that I see them. And sometimes they see me seeing them!

Maybe I’ll work up to the kind of impressive work that the Femme used to pick up that hot model on the train (they are really hot, by the way). But in the meantime I’m appreciating the ways in which I’ve eroded my own feelings of Femme invisibility in this tiny way and I’m maybe brightening the day of some anonymous hot queer on the street by non-verbally acknowledging their hotness.

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

If my site has ever helped you get a date, learn how to love yourself more or feel at home in your body, would you consider donating? My fund drive has some really amazing prizes and I’m working to fund my art so that I can finish my memoir and keep putting the kind of energy into this blog that I love to do. For $100 you can get a laptop dance from Drae Campbell. (This prize is too hot for Go Fund Me, so donate the $100 through paypal to queerfatfemme at gmail).

2013-09-19

Free Book and Booking Workshops for 2013-2014

I’m booking workshops at colleges, universities, retreat centers, retail stores for the 2013/2014 school year. If you’d like to book me take a look at my workshop roster and shoot me an email! I really love traveling and teaching. I would love to come talk to you about body positivity, sexuality, community organizing, performing, living your dream, and so much more.

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Also, if you are into FREE stuff, there’s a free book giveaway for Kindle (or using their cloud reader app which is free to read on your computer). Visible: A Femmethology, Volume 2. It was released in 2009, and I did an interview on the blog tour that you can read here.

The publishers are offering a FREE download of Visible: A Femmethology Volume 2 through September 21st so get it while the getting’s good! The other volume is only $6.99 for Kindle if you want to spring for that, too.

2013-06-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or just watch the trailer:

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

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

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

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

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

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Cuddled up watching the documentary.

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

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

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

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

2013-04-19

My Time With the Heels on Wheels Glitter Road Show

Early in March I had the opportunity to attend two gigs with Heels on Wheels at a couple of colleges in the Northeast. I have known about HOW since its inception, mostly because two of my besties (Heather Acs and Damien Luxe) conceived it. Much like the Sister Spit tour, I always wonder what it would be like to “get in the van” and bring my work around. I’m lucky that part of my income comes from going to colleges to do workshops and performances, so I get a bit of that, but never in the big group. Getting to do those two gigs was a little taste of the road-trip-meets-art-adventure without ever having to forsake a shower because there were too many people and too few showers available in too little time (the greatest road show complaint I hear from everyone who goes on any tour).

Ever relentlessly documenting my life, I made a little photo essay of our trip to Hampshire College to present a workshop on confidence (Femmepowerment–from the stage to the street) and perform as the evening entertainment for the Five Colleges Queer Conference. I had a really great time and it was an honor to be in such extraordinary company for our 16 hour adventure.

We got in the van. All nine of us, Femmes, in some way or another.
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There was the HOW Production team, Heather and Damien. The HOW touring artists, DJ Shomi Noise and Lixznn Disaster. The folks on the East Coast leg of the tour (me and Kirya Traber). The photographer for the day, Nicole, and the amazing Cristy Road, catching a ride with Heels on Wheels to go to her own workshops/readings.

I'm on tour for one day. #howroadshow Cristy Road, @shominoise @kiryat Damien Luxe not pictured heather acs Nicole and Lixznn.

Our fearless driver & navigator. Lixznn disaster & Nicole ayla mules. #howroadshow

I learned early on that Lizxnn drives the van like a boss. Seriously, not at all intimidated by the size and power of that huge van, as we rolled over curbs as needed and got where we needed to go (Northampton, MA) safely.

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The van was a pretty amazing experience. Imagine how wonderful, inspirational and loud it is to be surrounded by chatty Femmes. It is the most at home I ever feel. When my too much is exactly as much as everyone else’s. We learned that all of us had been raised with working class single moms. We had a spontaneous performance art moment where those of us who had no dad were told by those who had bad dads all the things we wished we’d heard growing up.

For example:
“You’re so pretty exactly as you are.”

“Here, let me show you how to build a bookshelf.”

“I support you growing up to be a working artist.”

“I love you unconditionally, no matter what.”

(As an aside, it’s really powerful work to reparent yourself as an adult when you learn what unconditional love can look like.)

We decided we were going to perform that at “Fuck You Dad,” Damien’s annual father’s day/birthday party performance show.

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Shomi did some casual community organizing from her wifi hot spot on her phone.

As a former drag king troupe producer, I am familiar with traveling with a group of folks and creating itineraries. We were given explicit timing instructions of when we would leave and could expect to return. We knew it would be a long day. Our lunch stop ended up being a dunkin donuts in the middle of who-knows-where Massachusetts because of timing.

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They were pretty amused with us flowing in and out, getting breakfast sandwiches and using the bathrooms in turn. There was a delightful little flier on the counter.

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We also went through the workshop we were going to give that day, confirming who would do what. It was great to get to create with those amazing minds. It was also just so incredible to roll up to the various pit stops we made with this group of Femmes nine deep. Being a weirdo out in the world is pretty usual for me, but being a weirdo with other weirdos is a spectacle is empowering beyond words. That’s Femme visibility.

This is a laminated copy of the hanky code I got from an ex lover that I gave to Damien for her van warming party in 2010 and now hangs in the van. The ex lover was a Butch Virgo, if that explains the lamination and lengthiness of the code.

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There was considerably less gear than we would have had if the tour was for more than a 16 hour trip with no overnight.

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We stopped at this crazy natural foods store in Northampton (?) that had more fruit and Easter candy than I expected to see.

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After snacks we got into the conference and set up for our workshop.

I always like to give folks the option to follow us on the internet, so I created this intensely detailed situation on the white board during our workshop.

#howroadshow

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(Photo by Nicole Myles.)

At the beginning of the workshop we each told a two minute story of our journey to self confidence. I like to begin my workshops and performances at colleges telling people how glad and grateful I am to do this work. I explain that when I was in college if I had access to seeing a queer fat femme teach me about self-confidence (or, let’s be honest, just seeing a queer fat femme) it would have changed my entire life.

Accidental selfie. #howroadshow

After the workshop we made our way over to this barn where there would be the Heels on Wheels performance and a QUEER PROM.

We spent some time backstage eating dinner and getting ready. Heather and I did some yoga stretching where the financial aid office is. No doubt, where a lot of stressed out students line up every semester like I once did. I tried to invoke some healing and patience energy to those students.

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Being a performer means that the term “backstage” is a loose idea that includes kitchens, storage rooms, alleys behind bars, bathrooms, a sheet tacked up to the ceiling bisecting a part of the room that is the performance space and many, many other weird permutations.

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The merch mall. Buying merch at shows is a fabulous way to support touring artists. I’m super stoked to wear my new purple v-neck Heels on Wheels shirt.

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(I still have those Rebel Cupcake hankies, $8, and hair flowers, $5. If you want them, email me queerfatfemme at gmail.)

It’s impossible to summarize the work presented by the HOW artists that night, but here’s my attempt to give you the diaspora. Heather did her performance “This is What We Have,” about adventures, freedom, longing and stardust. Damien did her piece “Exorcise” a comedic act about a process for embodiment from trauma. It’s very empowering. Shomi did some singing and storytelling about immigrant adolescence and coming out. And Kirya did this incredible piece using Beyonce moves about growing up, gender and body hair. My piece is about what it is like to spend 34 years in a body bigger than what society deems “average,” and I think it’s a good piece for college shows because it’s very body oppression 101, personal and empowering.

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Photo by Nicole Myles.

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Photo by Nicole Myles.

After the show we hung out listening to DJ Shomi Noise DJing. We went out to the van for a brief hang out and imagined that we were sailing through the air in the van with Cristy Road’s image of the night sky floating by us.

Matteo made this bling himself! I was so excited about it.

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We arrived home at 5:30 in the morning. Getting a little lost in some giant state park and only had to stop once so someone could pee behind a car.

After our adventure to Hampshire and New Paltz, the part of the tour that was going to the West Coast (Heather, Damien, Shomi and Lizxnn) went from LA up to Vancouver and back down again. Sorry to anyone who saw me on the posters and thought I was going to be out there! I got a lot of emails from people thinking I was in town. It made me seriously consider my own tour of the West Coast. I’m happy to do it if anyone wants to help me book a couple of college gigs!

The Heels on Wheels had a rough time out there, to say the least. Read here about the trauma they experienced while in Olympia.

I can’t tell you how much love I have in my heart for all of the artists involved with Heels on Wheels. They mean so much to me personally and as a queer femme in the world.

Heels on Wheels is an amazing organization that is working-class lead, feminist and femme empowering. HOW is fundraising through Indigogo to create sustainability for the organization and to support future work by the organization. You can give for the next eight days through this link. You can also get a bunch of really sweet prizes, but contributing to Femme magic, like the road trip I just described above, is also prize enough.

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You can get this ultra-rad carabiner mug for only a $20 donation! I’m totally stoked about my forthcoming mug that can easily clip to my purse.

Here are a bunch of artists from the Brooklyn homecoming show. It’s such an honor to perform with HOW.

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Photo by Chaska Sophia.

2013-04-15

Cupcake Cabaret, a Performance Celebrating Self Love at Stonewall, 7PM on Thursday, April 18th

My mission in life is to make the world safe for people to love themselves. One of the ongoing projects I keep is very dear to my heart, which is a performance art series celebrating the radical act of self love. It is definitely very radical to love yourself in a society that tells you that you aren’t worthy of any love or appreciation, or conditional love and appreciation (like, if you lose 20 pounds, etc…). One of the things I love most is to hear how artists have used their differences to become empowered. That’s what I curate in this series.

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Photo by Laura Sawchuck.

I’m super excited to have Ivan Coyote, the dreamy professional storyteller, author and multi-award winning bad ass, in NYC from Canada and featured performer at the upcoming Cupcake Cabaret.

First, here’s all the information on the show:

Thursday, April 18th, 2013 * New York, NY
Bevin Branlandingham Presents
Cupcake Cabaret Featuring Ivan E. Coyote
Doors 7:15p, Show 7:45 * $7-$15 sliding scale
53 Christopher St, NY, NY
W 4th St. / Christopher St. Stations

Cupcake Cabaret is a performance celebrating the strength we get from what marks us different in this world. Size, gender, sexuality, class, race, dis/ability, age, religion and all numbers of identities bring the artists in the series a sense of power and esteem.

Featuring Ivan E. Coyote, storyteller, author of many incredible books, and heartstring puller all the way from Vancouver, Canada!
[http://www.ivanecoyote.com/]

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Ivan is an incredible storyteller. If you aren’t familiar with their work, you need to dip into the treasure trove of youtube.

From Dear Younger Self (the video above):

“Do not cave into the pressure from mainstream society to fit in. You do not and will not ever fit in. And one day you will realize you don’t even want to anymore. And that your difference is inherently tied to your beauty and your bravery. And your giant, mystical, invisible brass balls. You will grow to love these balls, younger self, and they will swing majestically between your ears inside the head you will hold up proudly.”

I basically can’t hear anything Ivan reads without crying a little (or, sometimes, a lot).

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Photo by Jah Grey.

Another out of town miracle visiting NYC and performing Thursday night is my friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha! A queer, Sri Lankan, disabled writer, performer and cultural creator, Leah inspires me to no end. Her poetry is incredible.

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Felice Shays, living in Brooklyn, NY, is a Femme feminist performance artist and author of Brutal Affection, her forthcoming book about the magic of rough sex (among other things). She radiates strength, sweetness and glamour and not just in a rhinestone cowboy boot kind of way but in an I want to do whatever she wants me to do kind of way. Her performance work is personal, empowering and delightful. She once fisted a watermelon at Rebel Cupcake wearing a bridal gown.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

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Photo credit Stacie Joy.

LeRoi Prince is one of my favorite gender performers in NYC right now. Their butchlesque acts are charming, their Prince numbers are dead-on (read: sexy, sultry, entertaining), and political work is heartfelt and incisive. They read a piece at the Forest of the Future calling forth the importance of our queer ancestors and what they fought in order for us to be who we are as a community today that made me weep. Everyone was weeping, though, it wasn’t just me.

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LeRoi Prince is obviously my favorite Prince impersonator. Photo credit Nogga Schwartz for Rebel Cupcake.

Bevin Branlandingham is also performing, which is me! I’m reading from my memoir! I’m almost done with the first draft. Whatever section it ends up being the themes are empowerment, rebirth, dishy dyke drama, spiritual awakening, sex, and dirty Brooklyn dance floors.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey. (With my friend Sam, singing a little R. Kelly.)

You shouldn’t wait to RSVP on Facebook, you should do it now.

And if you haven’t seen Ivan’s piece “To All the Kick Ass Beautiful Fierce Femmes” and you are a Femme or you are in relationship to Femmes, I highly recommend it. A friend of mine is newishly out of the closet and newishly dating Femmes and I’m putting together a curriculum for her to learn about Femme and this is required watching.

2013-02-11

FAT SEX WEEK: Courtney Trouble’s New Porn “Lesbian Curves”

After the success of GAY SEX WEEK on my blog in October 2011, I decided to produce FAT SEX WEEK to celebrate sex for all bodies. This is especially inspired to counteract all of the media about sex around Valentine’s Day that’s all heteronormative/couplehood-oriented/body hegemonic. It’s a week of body liberation and sex and it’s going to be really fun! Check out all of the FAT SEX WEEK magic!

(All the photos in this post are Safe For Work as long as fat girls in lingerie are safe for your work. Fair warning.)

The best thing in the world to launch FAT SEX WEEK here at QueerFatFemme.com is a review of a totally QUEER FAT FEMME ON FEMME porn! Lesbian Curves was just released by that bombshell Courtney Trouble from her indie body positive porn production company TROUBLEfilms.

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This is hot babe Courtney Trouble wearing an outfit of lingerie I wrote in my porn review notes “Need to find those underwear and buy them.” Femme reviewer realness.

I have long admired and appreciated Courtney Trouble’s porn femmepire. She says in her blog, “My audience may be smaller than most, but knowing that my art is on track with a larger scheme of the adult industry makes me feel like I’m working towards a goal of normalizing, representing, and respectfully erotizing what may seem like a ‘fetish’ or a minority in mainstream sexual ideals.” This is exactly in line with why I think sexual content in identity work is so important–it is really powerful to own our sexual liberation and represent it in a way that is both sexy and honest. I love Courtney’s art!

On to the review! Courtney sent me a review DVD of Lesbian Curves and I watched it a little differently than I usually watch porn, which is usually picking and choosing scenes based on my mood. This time I went beginning to end, on the couch like a movie, and we even went into the special features the next day!

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Betty Blac. All of the stars of Lesbian Curves are hardcore babes.

Here is Courtney’s summary of Lesbian Curves:

Sultry body worship, sensuous kissing, playful taunting, sex toys, chemistry, and hard core lesbian fucking are what make Lesbian Curves the genre-busting adult film you’ve been craving. This full length feature is full of luscious skin, bodacious bodies and intense orgasms, brought to you by the fiercest femmes in porn, soaking wet and thirsty for passionate, curvaceous, gritty, real lesbian sex.

Starring Courtney Trouble, Kelly Shibari, Betty Blac, Sophia St James, Sandy Bottoms, Kitty Stryker, Peppermint Fatty, and Eden Alexander and shot in full HD.

I really adored that the cast is size diverse throughout the range of “fat” sizes–from inbetweenie on up. Check out the cast photos here (NOT safe for work). It’s also racially diverse, including a scene that is just two queer women of color.

It’s clear that the porn performers have real chemistry. Especially the scene between Kelly Shibari and Betty Blac. I had a long conversation while watching it about whether or not they were a couple in real life.

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The music is good, especially during the first partner scene. It’s almost like someone was DJing the porn. I like it when porn music actually flows well. It’s also luxuriously edited. There aren’t a lot of story lines in this movie except the scene between Kitty Stryker and Eden Alexander.

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There were no safe for work photos of Kitty Stryker from the press kit so I borrowed this from Kitty herself. She has two-toned hair and cute glasses in the movie. I had a long conversation during her scene about how to get Kitty to make out with me.

Sophia St. James has been a favorite of mine for a long time, ever since I saw her in Bordello (another amazing work by TROUBLEfilms). She has a great scene with Peppermint Fatty that involves a juicy strap-on. I’m interviewing Sophia later this week as part of FAT SEX WEEK.

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I’m pretty sure no nipples makes it safe for work.

A lot of the scenes are best described as “Sweet and hot.” There’s a deep tenderness and body appreciation between the performers. Not a lot of kink involved in the movie, which is a little bit of a bummer because, to be frank, a lot of those sweet asses could have used a vigorous spanking and/or some good biting. (Just saying. Kitty Stryker, call me.)

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I never consider time wasted watching porn if I learned a sex technique I can fold into my repertoire. Courtney does this thing in her scene where she holds her tits together and has her scene partner suck both nipples at once. This is not easily accomplished in real life but is fun to try!

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Watching porn that represents people whose bodies look like yours and who are doing sex the way you like to do sex is incredibly self-affirming. I thought that the intro to the video, where a fat girl (Courtney) is engaged in some serious self-loving body worship, was extremely powerful from an artistic and embodied point of view. And also just totally hot.

It can be hard to find porn that represents your body or how you like to do sex, which is why it is so crucial to support indie porn makers like Courtney and TROUBLEfilms (which has a pretty incredible queer, race, gender and size diaspora).

Lesbian Curves is $28 on dvd (which includes lots of extras, that I enjoyed greatly). You can download to own Lesbian Curves for $26.

I was talking to my friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasina in my kitchen the other day about Lesbian Curves and she said, “Were there queer fat femmes getting tied up? That’s what I want to see!” And we went on to basically write the sequel, Lesbian Curves Two: Femme on Femme Action and it involves a scene where LLPS whips someone while they recite the Femme Shark Manifesto. Courtney, if you want me and Leah to help you vision this we’re happy to get coffee.

A copy of Lesbian Curves is the perfect present for your lover, partner, bestie, future sexcapade for Valentine’s Day! Also, you can give the gift of a QueerPorn gift certificate from Courtney’s website!

Stay tuned for the next installment of FAT SEX WEEK tomorrow!

2012-12-19

How to Stuff a Femme’s Stocking

I only intend the title of this post to be a slight double entendre. It’s not Gay Sex Week, so this post is mostly just about last-minute shopping for Femmes who have a stocking you’re either creating or participating in. I was inspired by a conversation this weekend with a friend who is stuffing a Femme stocking for the first time (first time seriously dating a Femme who celebrates Christmas/Gaywitchmas). I was spilling my guts about what it is delightful to find in that stocking and I thought it would be helpful to share with you, dear readers. And if you’re the person who wants to receive these treats, Femme or otherwise, you could always print this out and leave it lying around.

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Important and perpetual disclaimer–I subscribed to the umbrella term for self-identified Femmes. All Femmes are different and there are a million ways to be a Femme and receive gifts as Femmes. So look through this list and see what strikes your fancy about the Femme in your life. Pay attention to what they like and you won’t go very wrong.

Okay, so I think a stocking should be delightful and diverse. A hearty mix of useful, whimsical, practical and shiny things.

Make-up

I have always loved treats from Sephora. You can usually get them from the end caps near the check-out line. They have lots of great things.*

A favorite of mine is the Philosophy lip gloss. (That link is to a set but I know they sell loosies at Sephora for about $6/$8.) It tastes amazing and it’s extremely shiny. Probably if you’re kissing the Femme you’re stocking stuffing, you might want to purchase a flavor that works for you. Other flavored lip glosses work well, too, but I am a devout believer in the Philosophy ones.

Nail polish is always a winner, and totally something you can grab at the drug store when you’re scrambling last-minute. The Femme folks I know who use nail polish tend to have quite a stash and it’s always fun to add to it. You can get the NYC brand nail polishes at Target for like $3. Glitter polish is always a charmer and I would be impressed if someone dropped the $9 for an OPI Shatter. Or if you know the Femme is hella into nail art, get her a nail art set! SHANY Nail Art Set is $25.

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A cute compact mirror is also a rad neutral stocking stuffer. If you don’t know what a compact mirror is, they look like this. Sephora has them. Get the Femme a design that seems to speak to their personality. All of the compacts I’ve ever had came as gifts and I really appreciate them.

Any other tiny sample of something fabulous and chichi is nice, too. I got a great sample of mascara once from my ex-GF that I loved (also from Sephora).

Fun Jewelry

Maybe the Femme in your life is a big fan of glamping and partying in the woods. Put in the stocking some glow in the dark earrings or a battery operated light-up necklace! Both bring the party to where you are.

A cute pair of earrings or a big bracelet (make sure it will fit their arm) also make a great stocking stuffer!

Bath Products and Pampering

LUSH is where I send anyone to get things for me and I know they won’t go wrong. All of their products are handmade, not tested on animals, natural, and they smell phenomenal.

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If the Femme is a bath taker (and you’ll probably know if they are or not) Bath bombs are amazing. I’ve gotten them with glitter, confetti, fragrance, soap flowers in them. You just pop them in the bath tub and they do their magic fizzy thing and create an incredible experience. The Sex Bomb is my favorite.

(I generally steer clear of those bath sets from the drug store. Most of those products aren’t great for the skin and could be toxic to the delicate flora of the vagina if this Femme has one of those. Just some Femme real talk for you.)

Massage bars (from LUSH or elsewhere) are great! They melt right on the skin since they’re mostly cocoa butter or something similar to that.

Massage oils are also rad! My mom just gave me a couple of bottles of arnica massage oil she got when she was in Spain last Spring and it’s actually really great. I mean, it’s nice to have someone to give you a massage, but even for the Femme without that, I used it on my heel when I hurt it during a work-out, since arnica helps sore muscles. But any massage oil with some good essential oils would be rad. Mall staple The Body Shop has some, too.

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I made this ornament myself in honor of my friends’ first Christmakkuh together.

Practical Gifts

I highly suggest you tread lightly in this arena. Part of stuffing a stocking is not filling it with useless junk that your recipient is never going to use. So I know a bunch of folks who all agreed that some practical stuff is really helpful. My friend’s mom always gives her a pack of razors, deodorant, other drugstore type purchases which would save her money over the year.

As a Capricorn I appreciate a dose of practical in the context of something larger (as long as there’s still plenty of whimsy involved). If you snoop in this Femme’s medicine chest or bathroom and find out the exact moisturizer they use (I’m talking exact, take a photo of the bottle and compare at the drug store) or the exact lotion, that could be rad. Why stuff a stocking with “filler” when it can be rad and useful?

Sexy Gifts

Are you doing it with this Femme? Do you have an open sexual kind of friend relationship? Lots of sexy stocking stuffers available to you!

Panties! A lacy thing is really nice to find in the stocking. One year a partner bought me lingerie that was too small but we ended up using it for ripping off. But do try to get the sizing right. A quick peek in a lingerie drawer can answer all the questions you might have.

Cute small sex accessories! Swing by your local small feminist sex toy store, like Self Serve Toys in Albuquerque, NM and ask them for stocking stuffer ideas! A magic bullet vibrator or a butt plug might make it a really happy holiday for both of you.

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My friend Leo took off her bowtie at a Christmakkuh party this weekend and several Femmes made audible noises. It was like watching Magic Mike in person, only Leo had no idea. This is why it is good to learn how to come correct and tie a bow tie proper!

Kitchen Stuff

If the Femme you’re shopping for is kitchen-identified, a couple of clever kitchen accessories are a greast way to go. I love this owl kitchen timer from my friend Mackenzi’s store in Queens. And this Vespa Pizza Cutter!

Big Fillers

If the Femme in your life is a crafter, you could stuff the stocking with fabric samples, like big swatches of tulle or even a poofy crinoline skirt. For those of you who don’t speak Femme, this is a crinoline skirt.

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Photo by Randi. This is me and Victoria, showing our pal Clare where baby tutus come from.

You can get tulle at a fabric store. I have a stockpile of it for various craft needs at my home. Also, as a knitter, I love yarn but you should be sure you’re getting the right kind of yarn (something soft and natural fibery is a good choice) and stop by your local yarn shop or craft store to get it.

Also, body glitter or a big pile of craft glitter is never a bad idea, either.

And for whimsy, why not a coloring book with a set of crayons? Last year my BFF Brian and his BF Arnulfo got me the Cunt coloring book. It was hours of fun!

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Arnie colored that himself.

Feet Warmers

Socks (like these moustache socks!) and slippers are classic stocking stuffers! You can easily grab slippers at a small local gift shop or Target. Another great idea is a pair of tights! Tights are vaguely sized and at Target there are only like 3 sizes and you can probably guess which size the Femme falls in. I find the 1X/2X Target tights fit my 5’7″ 24W bottoms well.

I also love Avenue tights and personally don’t feel I can ever have enough textured tights in my life. But this is another lesson in paying attention which is the kind of thing that makes one a great date or good at courtship. Does the Femme wear tights in the first place? What kind do they usually wear?

And if you’re in a situation where you’re providing the stocking, you can get them at lots of places, like Target, any drug store, etc… I suggest pinning a brooch or a letter to the stocking for a personalized touch!

*My ex fiance hit the jackpot in my stocking the last Christmas we spent together when he just showed up at Sephora and said “I need stocking stuffers” and the shop girls really helped him out and everything he bought me was a winner. That was the last time I got a stocking but this year I got the cutest stocking-style Femme care package that really made me feel all glowy inside.

2012-10-25

Book Review: Cheryl B.’s My Awesome Place

I am totally delinquent posting this book review since I read a preview copy from the publisher a couple of months ago during my Summer of Memoir. I’ll be honest, I’ve had a really hard time writing this review because Cheryl B., the author of My Awesome Place, was my friend and she is dead. This is not a spoiler alert, it’s in the first line of the foreward by Sarah Schulman. “Cheryl Burke died of medical malpractice in June 2011 at the age of 38.”

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Cheryl B., Diana Cage, Molly Equality Dykeman, Me and Kelli Dunham at Nerd Love in February 2011, Kelli and Cheryl’s Valentine’s Day show.

But the book is out and Cheryl’s friends and her literary executor put together her memoir work so that it could be published and we can know more about her life. Like what it was like to grow up in Staten Island and New Jersey in an alcoholic home with a controlling mom and a dad who broke a plate of spaghetti over her head when she told him she got into NYU. How she drowned her feelings in alcohol and drugs but also learned how to trust her creative spirit. How she became this amazing poet and performer and made a name for herself in the 90s on the slam poetry scene, touring the country and writing plays.

How she dealt with continuing a relationship with her family even though it wasn’t at all easy. Working through her father’s death. Watching her good friend go through cancer and acting as his caretaker. How she bounced back from a guidance counselor who told her to be a toll taker on the NJ Turnpike and clearly she is a genius artist (that part of the book actually made me angry).

It sounds like everything in the book is heavy stuff. And even though a lot of it is, Cheryl moves through the words with such energy it becomes easy to understand, move through it and laugh a lot. Cheryl’s really well known for her sarcasm and wit and that blankets the book.

I felt like it was such a gift, to get to know her better through this book. I had no idea what she lived through and how she managed to become the caring and wry person I knew. I knew she had been ten years sober but I didn’t know the extent of her survival.

I also enjoyed her journey to her sexuality. It’s trite to say it’s a coming out story, but it is a really compelling path to dating women and starting to have serious girlfriends and then having a boyfriend and navigating people’s reactions and judgments around queerness and bisexuality. I think folks who have experience dating across the gender spectrum will find this aspect very relatable.

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Similarly, she was fat as a teenager she talks about navigating in a world when she went to college and lost all of her weight and got skinny. I wish the book had gone into that more, but it is relevant to her story and dealt with sensitively and not like some kind of narrative where the main character gets skinny and suddenly everything is okay. Everything is certainly not okay with Cheryl when she loses weight.

Her cat is also a central character and I deeply appreciate that aspect. It seems sometimes that Sabrina the cat is the only thing keeping her alive.

Kelli Dunham, my friend and Cheryl’s widow, wrote the afterward about her cancer and finding the support network of her friends.

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Me and Cheryl at the Spelling Bee for Cheryl B. I organized with my fellow Re/Dress Shop Girls. She was heartily nerd identified and this was a great way for folks to show their support for Cheryl both monetarily and spiritually.

Writing this review I had a memory of Cheryl before the spelling bee coming to Re/Dress and changing behind the counter into these black patent leather stiletto boots and I remember thinking “Man, Cheryl is such a bad ass.” And there is a scene in the book where she walks up and down Manhattan in black stiletto boots looking for a job as a cocktail waitress and I thought “Man, Cheryl is such a bad ass.” And maybe that’s the message of this book. Cheryl was a bad ass and you can be, too.

It’s hard to promote a book when the author isn’t around to do a book tour or go on the Today Show or whatever. It’s also really awesome to support small publishers and Topside Press is really awesome and providing a venue for a bunch of queer and trans authors to get their voices heard. Buy Cheryl’s book! (If you order it before the end of Friday you can get a free ebook in addition to the paperback.)

2012-10-23

Window Shopping with Simply Be

Hi friends! This featured post is brought to you in partnership with Simply Be, as an introduction for my readers. The words are all mine, but Simply Be and I both believe everyone deserves to look amazing at every size!

Simply Be offers clothing in UK sizes 10-28, US 8-26.

I’m super into the Gok Wan retro lingerie collection for Simply Be!

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This bra and high waisted brief combo is so killer! I also really appreciate that the photographs for the retro collection are pin-up styled because, lez be honest, that’s the look I’m going for with my underthings!

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I also love the Gok Wan Divine Outline shaper. I love shapers used as tools and not for body shame. Last night I performed in a performance art tribute to Taylor Swift and reinterpreted the Taylor Swift song “Speak Now,” her wedding busting up song. And I dressed like a bride. And dressing like a bride means bridal shapewear and that kind of stuff is no joke. I came home with some intense marks on my body. I was actually longing for a piece like this outline shaper that’s just about squishing in the right place and not about digging into me with a ton of extra boning. Fashion! (P.S. Shapewear is great for staying warm in the Winter!)

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A friend of mine was just raving about Simply Be bras and I deeply adore a Marilyn Plunge bra. I think the essential garment I wear every day is a plunge bra, regardless of how cleavagey an outfit happens to be.

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This Joe Browns Honeycomb Knit Dress is to die for! I love this for workwear or hanging out. I actually am totally adverse to regular sweaters and prefer sweater dresses where I get to choose where my waistline is.

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Great for going out, the Stud Detail Tunic Dress! I think it’s super sexy and edgy but is still something you can wear to your significant others’ corporate cocktail party.

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I love retro looks in modern fabrics and the Ring Printed Dress With Collar blends this well. The peter pan collar is so sweet and I still think the dress is sophisticated and not totally twee.

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The Joe Browns Fur Collar Coat is really close to the coat I wear all the time in the Late Fall. I created mine by pairing a vintage fur collar with a jaquard coat, but this is actually all the work done for you. And I get compliments every single time I wear it. This coat with the rose details is incredible.

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Simply Be also carries a ton of wide calf boots, including Legroom Boots Extra Ultra Large Calf Width. That’s a lot of superlatives but they are super foxy!

2012-10-09

Queer Artists Make Great Queer Gifts

I have had the privilege of some Blog Benefacting lately and I want to share with you these gems from queer artists, either to gift to someone or to treat yo’ self!

Elisha Lim’s New Calendar and Portraits

Elisha Lim, the dapper illustrator and author of 100 Butches, has been making these incredible queer calendars for a few years now and this year’s creation is highlighted in the following tender you tube video that actually made me cry.

“I call it the Comfort of Queer Family Wisdom and it’s for anyone who could use a little tender love and history because we are not alone.”

We can all use tender love! The calendar is beautiful and full of queer faces.

“This is all-out, gloves off, direct action TLC. These are the voices and role models that I sought out for comfort and strength. This is the calendar that I’d wished I’d had: full of family trees and loving words to remind you that you belong. A lot of the advice is also for facing racism.”

The 2013 calendar is only $20 and is available now in Elisha’s Etsy Shop!

Also, Elisha is offering custom portraits for only $100! What a great gift for yourself or someone else. Elisha has been promising to draw a portrait of me for years and here it is!

Artwork by Elisha Lim

When you hire Elisha you get your portrait in black and white, a choice of colours (because Elisha’s Canadian, your colours get an extra u for free), and jpegs that you can print, multiply and use anywhere you like. And up to 3 changes!

I love supporting queer artists and this is a great, very personal gift!

Brownstargirl Tarot: snarky, compassionate intuitive reading, by a brown, queer, disabled babe

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Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a good friend of mine and an incredible Tarot reader. She has given me a few readings over the last four years and it always helps me to understand my life a lot or a little bit better. A reading once predicted my girlfriend was about to dump me! True story!

Leah can read tarot from anywhere. “Video Skype has broadly expanded things for me, and I have read for clients in Germany, Toronto, New York and more- so anybody, anywhere, can get a phone or Skype reading. And folks in Oakland can still come see my in person in my gorgeous North Oakland home.”

Leah charges sliding scale rates, $40-$100. She also does Numerology! She uses the Collective Tarot which is my favorite deck ever, it includes lots of people of color, fat folks, dis/abled folks, people of all walks of life and the cards were reconceived by a Collective of folks interested in taking the patriarchal and oppressive elements from the Tarot.

Late night tarot reading for myself with new deck. Fleshed out some but mostly what I had intuited. Going through a dark time right now that turns fabulous.
The Collective Tarot cards are so beautiful! I totally used them to help me decide to go to the Bay for Thanksgiving.

I don’t do readings where I tell you, “You’re going to meet someone with red hair at 7-11 next Tuesday who’s going to change your life.” Instead,what I offer is an intuitive reading that can clarify what’s going on in your life, how your past history, legacies and choices are affecting your current decisions, and what your sources of strength and options are as you move into your future. If you have questions about lovers, healing, money, moving, destiny, work, school, depression, big or little life decisions- or if all hell is breaking loose in your life – tarot can help you figure out what is going on. For me, the idea that the future is unwritten, that we write it with our choices every day, and that we have personal and collective power while still living within systemic oppression, are important political beliefs that infuse my work.

Get a tarot reading from Leah! You can email brownstargirl at gmail dot com to inquire and read more information and testimonials at her tarot webpage.

Feminist Playing Cards

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My pal Mamone from Riot Grrrl Ink gave me a copy of the Feminist Playing Cards to review. A production of Homoground, they are super rad! 56 feminist musicians drawn by 14 artists! Including the incredible Cristy C. Road!

The illustrations are gorgeous and include the following bad ass artists: Patti Smith, Beth Ditto, Poly Styrene, Nina Simone, Kathleen Hanna, Robyn, Brontez Purnell, Liz Phair, Yoko Ono, Loretta Lynn.

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I love playing cards and it can be really hard to use “novelty” cards because often they change the suits (I tried playing a game called “Swish” with my friends with my A Bug’s Life cards and was vetoed because the suits were acorns). But these are totally traditional suits (with the addition of women’s symbols) and are super easy to work with.

So much work, collaboration and love went into this project and it is clear when you take a gander at the spread.

Each deck is $25 and totally gorgeous and worth it. What a wonderful gift for the musicians, feminists, or poker afficianados in your life! Buy them here!

If you’re interested in becoming a blog benefactor on QueerFatFemme.com, which helps me run the site, let me know! QueerFatFemme at gmail dot com

2012-09-06

Guest Post: Today I Took it Personally by Jessica Luxery

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

xo,

Bevin

Jessica Luxery in a Bikini

I wore this bikini to the lake today.

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

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

But today it did.

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

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

Today was not the goddamn day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-09-05

This is What Happened for Bevin at the Femme Conference 2012

My story about the Femme Conference 2012 is completely informed by what it took to get there and my frame of mind. Thus, it begins with the epic journey.

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The Goddess was really on my side getting me to the Femme Conference this year. I knew it was going to be sort of bananas, having been on a road trip and off the grid camping for the 17 days prior to Femme Conference, stopping home for one night only to throw Rebel Cupcake: Lonely Girls (the periodic slow songs were a big hit). This is really a cornerstone characteristic about me, seeing possibility where other folks would see “too much” or “too hard.” Because the option existed to roll all of these travels together I decided to do it.

I had set-up travel arrangements, accommodations and timing before I left, but then one of my pals had to bail the weekend before we were to leave. I was trying to get in touch with our other travel buddy but couldn’t really do anything about it until I was on the road. While on the road Wednesday, barely back on the grid, I touched base with my other travel buddy and she was able to easily solve her conundrums without me, which seemed right. Cut her loose and maybe not go. It seemed like doing the whole Michfest/Rebel Cupcake/Femme Con plan could work if I didn’t have to stop to strategize but problem-solving made it feel too overwhelming and stressful.

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One sort of pleading/processing post on Facebook yielded a room to stay in and a ride (the ride part was hard because most folks I knew were leaving on Thursday). Then, at Rebel Cupcake, 1:45AM, just hours before we were supposed to leave I got a text saying my ride had a family emergency so I was again at square one in NYC. I decided to leave it up to the Goddess about whether and how I would get down there. (Here’s the other thing about this multi-leg travel lifestyle–I didn’t have a ton of money to throw at solving these problems.)

I woke up Friday and booked the only available mega bus to Baltimore ($25, leaving at 1:30) knowing I might not make it to the stop on time. I re-packed in light of taking the bus instead of a car, making some intense clothing and beauty product compromises for the sake of space. I headed out and had big re-thinking thoughts on my way to the subway station knowing I probably was going to miss this bus. I decided nothing worth doing isn’t worth fighting for, so I would head out in search of Femmes ’til I got a real “No” from the universe and not just me second-guessing myself.

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Spoiler alert–I made it to the conference. Here’s Emma.

I took a cab from the subway to the weird, block-long MegaBus situation on 42nd Street and was told that the bus I was looking for was already gone but to “stand at the back of the line.” I was actually pretty surprised when, an hour later, I was herded onto a half-empty bus headed for Baltimore.

The bus stop is not anywhere near Baltimore itself, it is somewhere in the suburbs. Given my waning cell phone battery life and the 90 minutes of public transit I would have to contend with, I took a $50 cab ride to the hotel. It was sort of ironic that the Amtrak ticket probably would have cost me about $75 if I had jumped on it during their fare sale. That was no matter! My pal Hadley was waiting for me at the hotel to grab my bag from the trunk and whisk me away to our hotel suite and offered me booze.

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Bridget and her alternative housing arrangement.

I saw from the car a few Femmes parading in party dresses and got a little nervous. In that about to jump into a new culture way. I’ve been in this culture before but it always makes me a little jittery. I like to think it’s nervous like stage fright–because your audience matters to you. It’s really special to peacock for other Femmes. Put on what makes you feel the best and admire others. For me it is not at all about Femme competition, it’s about how one piece of glitter sparkles on its own but how hundreds of pieces of glitter shine infinitely more brilliantly. But here at Femme Conference we’re shining for each other and it’s ablaze and beautiful.

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Miss Mary Wanna.

So, back at the hotel I put on the opposite of a party dress. My Aerosmith groupie realness outfit packed really small and didn’t require ironing, so it made the cut. I had my share of whiskey to take the edge off the travel and get a little silly. I was still a little nervous. I also needed to eat dinner and know that self-care is essential in the life of a conference-goer. It is so easy to get caught up in trying to get to everything that you forget to eat, sleep and take care of your basic needs.

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We picked up Emma, Jenna and Nomy Lamm from the hotel (ours was about a 5 minute walk away). Nomy’s keynote was on Friday so I missed it but I have heard the themes self-comforting and resilience come out of my chats with friends. We got sandwiches and had a sandwich caucus.

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Nomy and a wrap.

Another session I missed was “In Fierceness and Vulnerability: Deconstructing and Resisting Femmephobia.” Kim Crosby, the presenter, has made the powerpoint available online and it is incredible.

The evening event at Ottobar was the FemmeSPEAK spoken word night. It is such a blessing to have so many incredible performers at one weekend, which means the evening events are epically long. I missed the first few performers but I did get to catch the tail end of my roommate Damien Luxe‘s Exorcism piece, a shortened version of Heather Acs “This is What We Have,” and a featured set of Fran Varian, whose piece in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation is my favorite.

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Heather, performing. I was toting merch from her piece, a lavender tote that says “This is what we have.”

I felt so grateful to be on the floor and present for an actual anthem from Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha called “Femme is For Free.” She is going to post it on her blog really soon, but the power in her voice and the cadence and the words. It was why I was there. In that. Sometimes poetry just breaks you open and Leah’s done that for me before and she did it this time.

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I also enjoyed Dacia Holliday‘s featured performance. There’s a great quote from one of her poems.

“…fem(me) identity means: I love as hard as I fuck, and I fuck as hard as I fight.”

(Thanks to Jessie Dress for catching that.)

Settling into the event I was so caught up in the sparkle that before I got to the front to really immerse in the words I was in the back just seeing people, trying not to talk when folks came up to greet me so as not to distract from the performances. It was awkward, since I was so excited to see folks and triumphant that I arrived but so hearing the siren song of the words that are spoken. I remember turning around and seeing this total BABE behind me and doing a slow creep looking up and down her outfit when I noticed her seeing me and I was like dang, I’m caught being a creepster!* There were BABES GALORE at the Femme Conference.

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I mean like, daaaaang. It was also the hair, Elisabeth has this amazing queer pompadour!

After the show was over we stayed and danced a bit. With no prepared DJ we were enjoying the grace of sound guy at the booth plugging in for us but at the mercy of folks’ iPhone playlists for tunes and a lot of La Roux happened. But it didn’t matter! We were in a frenzy of Femme on Femme adoration and swirling around each other was exactly what we wanted. (Of course, as soon as the Gossip came on Bridget nearly died of excitement, fans of the Lesbian Tea Basket know her feelings.)

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Jenna and Hadley.

After the dancing we retired to our hotel suite, me, Hadley and Emma, with a guest Nomy. We had some great conversations in the suite and even though I missed out on some intriguing invites.

“SLUT PARTY AT THE SKANK PALACE ROOM 256! Bring yr slutty self and somebody else’s slutty self too. Lingerie and lace encouraged but not required. Xo.”–Actual text from my phone.

But a ten minute walk is a long walk after a long day of travel at 1AM and with a full day of conferencing to begin at 9AM the following morning. So I just settled into bed with Emma (totally platonically unless you want to imagine something else but your imagination is without consent from me or Emma) and cruised Facebook on my phone until I fell asleep.

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Sleeping soundly.

The next morning we naturally overslept for the first workshop session, though Haddles was up and at em and out the door before me or Emma got to getting. We scrambled to make it to “Mean Girls” in the 10:30 slot, a workshop given by my friend Amanda Arkansassy (aka Lola Dean) who moved to San Francisco two years ago and her hair is long and ombre now, like happens to Femmes in San Francisco. Their hair gets long and ombre! It’s a thing! Not for everyone, but lots of them go long and ombre!**

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The workshop was great, but full of process because it had like 75 people in it and it’s hard to put all of what you need to talk about when debunking Femme competition and mean girl behavior into 90 minutes, and how to maneuver that with the people and space allotted. Also I had given up coffee not long before and was still trying to get conscious so I spent most of the workshop actively absorbing not participating. First we broke down the whys and then the hows and then we talked about how to heal it. By consensus we actually spent an additional fifteen minutes into the lunch hour finishing the workshop. Amanda’s blog has a really great write-up from the workshop, I encourage you all to go read it. I’ll be here when you get back.

Porch talk, isn’t that an adorable blog name? I love it.

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Afterwards we were going to get lunch. I sort of tagged along into two groups that became one giant group, all of us chanting about getting cheeseburgers. We went for a ten minute walk and then we found a restaurant and by group consensus missed the next keynote in favor of having a sit-down and not rushed lunch. Sometimes I find these informal get togethers, the social aspect of conference-going, to be the most valuable. We did a go around*** at the table and talked about what we wanted to get out of the conference. We made tender connections, Rachel offered to do a rap duet with me as I am dipping my toes into song-writing to create a theme song for Rebel Cupcake.

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On the way back to the hotel we were in a clump of ten and seeing the reactions of the Baltimorians on the street was amusing. At some point a young man asked me (towards the back of the group) “What is going on? Y’all are looking fine!” I just smiled and kept going on our mysterious, babely way. It’s really powerful to roll ten deep.

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We got back to the conference for Caucus time, since Jessie Dress was slated to chair the Fat Caucus. We began with 25 folks that then bloomed to easily 45 while we were doing the initial go around. I was getting a little bit diet-talk-squigged-out because the go-around involved where people were with fat activism. This incites some folks to talk about diet history but when I’m facing a room of so many people talking about diet history I feel overwhelmed and like I’m in a Weight Watchers meeting. I like talking about diet history in context of healing and solutions and strategies, and is ultimately what I prefer to get out of these gatherings (along with community and naming struggle). Luckily, our moderator noticed when the go around had taken fifteen minutes and not even gotten a quarter of the way through the participants and we moved on.

By group consensus we agreed to address fat and health first as a large group and several folks talked about struggles with being fat activists who were addressing health issues and learning how to approach exercise from a Health at Every Size perspective and how that is either effective for them or not. There were a lot of things said but I didn’t take any notes.

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Deeply babely. I didn’t take photos at the Fat Caucus, either.

We decided to break into mini-groups for the last fifteen minutes and I took the role of facilitator for the small group on desire. Having to come up with questions on the fly I just asked the eight or so participants in our group how they have been hurt or healed dating while Fat and/or Femme. We also expanded the topic to discuss what it is like to be Fat dating a not-Fat person. Fifteen minutes felt very short but was also really nice to get the tender tiny discussion to round-out (ha) the Fat Caucus.

Other small group topics were health/disability, race/class, inbetweenies, your size is not my size.

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After the caucus I was heading to another workshop when I was enticed to stop by and visit with Diana Cage and Jessica Halem, two brilliant comic babes and we sort of folded into the Cocktail Caucus. We discussed many important things, including bad dating behavior and our lives.

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I made the wise decision to head to my hotel room around 5:30 knowing I was performing that night and was leaving for the venue at 6:45. I had the room to myself for a brief rehearsal and got as dolled-up as I could before going backstage. I knew sharing the stage that night with forty people (for real) was going to mean cramped dressing room space.

FemmesWerq, the burlesque show, was four hours long. The upstairs of Ottobar is a little bizarre. It’s a rock venue, so there are the typical graffitied walls and a million penises.

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The author may have borrowed a sharpie and left her mark.

It’s like two floors and there isn’t a real bathroom, there is a toilet on a raised stage inside one of the dressing rooms. Peeing in a public space not in a stall is a recurring nightmare of mine and so I feel, having done it backstage at the Femme Conference, it’s one of those things that I will now have exorcised from my psyche or something. Hopefully. With 28 acts to wait through, we definitely were going to need to pee a couple of times.

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Watching Femmes rehearse waiting for my tech needs to be met.

My act was squarely in the middle of the show, right after the intermission we never had. Watching all of that incredible burlesque got me uncharacteristically nervous before performing. My Lesbolesque is highly earnest and hilarious, not the studied art of seduction so many other burlesque performers were putting up. Notable performers were Vagina Jenkins, Dr. Ginger Snaps and a third performer doing an homage to Femmes of Color burlesque. Each performer took a Black burlesque performer and performed an act in homage to her, and then after the three performed there was a slideshow. It was stunning, I am a longtime fan of both Vag and Dr. Snaps with renewed vigor.

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Backstage with Vag, addressing the performers.

My friends the Miracle Whips, a feminist performance group from LA did an incredible piece in homage to vaginas and the various wobegone fates we can have in them. UTIs, yeast infections/bacterial infections and period cramps. It was magical performance art and hilarious and I loved it and want to see it again.

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Me and The Miracle Whips.

Two words: SNAIL BURLESQUE. To Rihanna’s “We Found Love.”

Snail Burlesque
Photo by Nicole Myles.

Backstage before my act my friend Miasia and I had a moment. When I get stressed I like to pray and I find it is really helpful for me to pray before shows as I find creating and performing an act of spiritual connectedness. So we had a wonderful moment, the two of us, asking for guidance and letting the love in and having authentic and beautiful performances. Miasia, of course, killed it. She’s such a fox and an incredible belly dance performer.

My act was the Lesbolesque act I created for Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession,” track one from Fumbling Towards Ecstacy. It is about coming out, finding myself, and finding my place in the Lesbian Community through Femme and Queer. The Miracle Whips were my surprise lesbian back-up dancers and I have no photographs.

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More backstage ambiance with Cameron.

Afterward I played matchmaker with a friend of mine, made out with a date, potentially hit on a Femme from far away who understood I was hitting on her but I was leaving for my date so I wasn’t sure if she really understood, and reveled in the incredible Femme on Femme babely energy of the place. Everyone was a Femme that probably liked other Femmes and everyone was visible. After the final act the place erupted. Folks were leaving for the conference play party, hotel room numbers were being texted around, my very drunk friend tried to tell me how to get to their house for the after after party. But I had booked some alone time in my hotel room and my thoughtful roomies had left safer sex supplies on the pillow.

Emma

Things at the Femme Conference got wild on Saturday night and there aren’t a lot of folks I know who didn’t get action if they wanted it on that balmy Baltimore evening.

The next morning was rough getting to the hotel in time, especially because we had to check out of our hotel and pack our garments. Hadley, Emma and I had a really fun time and decided to get brunch to go so we could at least eat and watch the Femmes promenade. French toast is better with Femmes.

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I had a fifteen-minute power catch-up with Leah while she prepared for her workshop, “Femme of Colour Survivors: Badass Resilience.” I genuinely appreciate that our friendship is often made up of soulful connecting, 90 minutes at a time.

I headed to the “Beyond Classy: Working Class Femme Power” workshop facilitated by Blyth (who you may recall from her guest post on this blog). I think Blyth is just amazing and I also know that class identity is something I struggle with talking about, even though I am so open about the other intersections of my identity. The structure was very thoughtful. Channelle was the moderator, Blyth, Kirya Traber (an amazing spoken word performer), and Arti were the panelists. Each panelist took about fifteen minutes to tell their story about growing up poor or working class and how that intersected with their Femme identity. Then there was a Q & A for the panelists, and the last twenty minutes or so was open to the voices of working class or poor Femmes in the room to talk about how Femme had intersected with their class identity (I hope I am remembering that prompt correctly) and then finally, one word or phrase that was a takeaway of strength from their upbringing. (For me it was “Living on the edge.” Other folks said “Independence,” “Looking fabulous on a dime,” “Beauty pageants,” “Resilience.”)

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The crowd for the workshop swelled from the initial twenty to at least seventy folks, crammed in. Blyth was so overwhelmed she threw herself on the floor.

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Blyth passed around banana bread made by her grandmother and I called it “Working Class Femme Communion.”

Let me tell you, it was an emotional hour and a half. I learned new things about other peoples’ experiences but the stuff that was hardest was the naming of experience that was so much of my own. Like moving thirteen times before I turned thirteen. I had never thought about how that was about being poor or working class. And Chanelle called out experiences of internalized classism in a way that blew my mind.

I was really grateful I made it to the workshop and I have so much to unpack from it in my creative work, in my personal life. I am so grateful to Blyth for creating that space and so grateful to Arti and Kirya for being on the panel.

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Before the workshop got full.

Afterward was the second caucus time but I needed to get caucused with some Feelings cake and ended up spending some good time at the cafe next door to the hotel with some Femmes processing the workshop. The closing plenary was next where we talked about the Femme Collective and how the conference went. Did you know you can get involved on the Steering Committee for the 2014 conference? It is a bunch of work to make it happen and the conference is entirely volunteer-run.

The ride home was great. I was with Hadley and Emma and we got sandwiches from Charmington’s, which is now my favorite Baltimore haunt. It was a good debrief and I was so grateful I got to go to the Femme Conference and participate in this soul-opening, glitter encrusted experience.

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*The hilarious-we-became-friends-later-that-weekend post script to that is she didn’t notice me being a creepster, she recognized me from my blog so she was having an “OMG it’s Bevin!” moment while I was full-on checking her out. Hi Elisabeth!

**Side note, should I have ombre hair? Should my hair be tri-colored? Maybe I should do that instead of cutting it shoulder-length again? I know I’m a Brooklyn Femme but what if I go SF Ombre??

***Go Around is conference-speak for doing a round table of everyone’s name and some other information about them. Often/always at Femme Conference they involved Preferred Gender Pronoun, where you were from and something else related to the topic at hand.

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