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

2016-09-08

REALITY Storytellers: Flying While Fat and Preparing for My First International Trip

Welcome to a blog series about my experience with REALITY Storytellers traveling to Israel. For more about the trip and why I chose to go check out this post. I look forward to sharing with you what I learned and the personal, political and creative growth I experienced.

I’m a Capricorn. In short, that means I like to be in charge. As anyone who has traveled in a group with me can attest, I love an itinerary and I love to be prepared. Before my trip to the Florida Keys I was obsessively watching tourist videos about the area and crowd-sourcing my Facebook so that I could curate the coolest and best trip possible. 

bevinbikinitoastFatkini and Toast. Photo by Dara.

Faced with a trip to a country I’d never been, and not speaking more than a couple of words of Hebrew or Arabic, I would have normally spent six months preparing. Because the trip is planned and curated entirely by the Foundation, I did the opposite of my inclination and entirely surrendered to it, which was not super hard because life has gotten so hustle bustle. It’s been a practice for me to learn let go and let things happen.

I read the suggested preview articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (here, here and here), but I didn’t read any of the books. (My reading list is LONG, I’m a slow reader, I select books judiciously.) Based on what the other REALITY Storytellers have reported about the suggested books, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel is now in my to-read list. 

We got a draft of the trip itinerary but that was also long and said DRAFT all over it and maybe I just have DRAFT training to barely pay attention until I have a final version. I was kind of worried I would get attached to outcomes and if things were canceled or moved around it would discombobulate me so in my mind I was going to wait until we got the final itinerary and look at it on the plane. (We ended up getting it when we had already done one of the leadership development exercises in Israel.)

I regret not reading that draft. I would have understood a lot more what we were up to and it turned out our draft itinerary only changed slightly. Once I realized that the itinerary not only had timelines but writing and articles about each adventure I would try to cram them before each stop but there was never enough time. The itinerary for the trip is the size of a novella.

The size of that final printed itinerary is the first of a series of realizations that “there’s obviously a lot of work, passion and thought that goes into curating the REALITY trips.”

Dara is so go with the flow about her travel that she is a great counterpoint to my overpreparedness. She did a lot of eye rolling during my obsessive research about the Keys. When she went on REALITY Global last summer she totally surrendered to the trip and I don’t think she read her itinerary the whole time. She just let the bus take her wherever and experienced it. I think that different ways of being in the world are totally valid.

REALITY sent a suggested packing list and I remember last year going through it with Dara and regendering it for her because masculine presenting women, feminine presenting men or genderfluid people don’t fit neatly in “For men you should pack two pairs of slacks” kind of lists. Since we didn’t know exactly what she was doing we guessed at what she wears that could work for the packing list and hoped for the best.

img_20160903_180448956-animationPhoto of me and Ryan, half of the duo that created the photo booth at Dollypalooza NYC by Shoog McDaniel. Check out the photo booth in real life at Dollypalooza LA October 29th at Los Globos.

I don’t fit neatly into suggested packing lists either. My gender is flamboyant not binary. My only shorts are these tiny denim things with big ol’ fringe on the side and I’m pretty sure that’s not what they meant by shorts for hiking.  I just wear dresses all the time, even when hiking. I know how to dress “modestly” when asked  (for two stops on our trip we were asked to prepare for modesty). I think I did a pretty okay job packing. I have a couple of “In hindsight I would have worn this other thing” moments I’ll describe when I get to those parts of the trip story but I felt comfortable subbing “dress” for pretty much everything they mentioned in the packing list.

My friend Jenn came over to hang out the day before I left and it was great to have her company as I meticulously went through everything before I packed it. I travel so much that I have a lot of systems in place to make it easy for me. I have a “go pack” of toiletries that has an easy in and out pouch if I don’t anticipate washing my hair or taking a real shower. I have a second set of make-up for travel. That kind of stuff.

I wanted to make extra sure I was packing as light as possible knowing that we were going to go from hotel to hotel often. I harbored the idea I could pack as light as my friend Vera did when she went to Vietnam earlier this year for two weeks with only a daypack. She said her secret was travel cubes and not caring how her hair looked. I got cute travel cubes and aspired to getting it all in a carry on size suitcase but changed my mind last minute because it was going to be way easier for me to pack quickly each morning with a bigger suitcase. That was a kind choice I made for myself. This was the first time I ever had checked luggage weigh in at less than 32 pounds! So my meticulousness was worth it in the end, it made life easier to not have a ton of extra stuff and I wore everything at least once. 

I was nervous, which is why I spent so much time working on packing. I had never been out of North America, never been to a country where I didn’t speak the language, I had never used my passport. In fact, I let my passport expire in 2013 and didn’t renew it because forking out $100 for an aspirational passport renewal hadn’t been in my budget so being accepted on the trip required me to do it. Since Israel doesn’t stamp passports I still don’t have any stamps. (By the way, they just redesigned the US Passport. If you don’t count Mount Rushmore or the Statue of Liberty, there are only two people represented in it, both White men, one a farmer and one a cowboy. The graphic design is beautiful but the representation of actual US diversity is wildly lacking.)

During the Desiree Alliance conference I co-facilitated the fat caucus with the fabulous Joëlle Ruby-Ryan. During it one of the participants talked about asking for priority boarding as an accommodation and it empowered me to think about what accommodations I might need while flying to Israel. It’s a long flight, six hours on the first leg and nine on the second. (Longer still on the way home.)

joellebevinMe and Joëlle at the Fat Caucus.

Being fat on an airplane is a nightmare. There are plenty of places fat people go that remind us that the world is built for people who are small, even though in the US the average size is 14 and considered “fat.” Those tiny airplane seats with the arm rests are awful. The leg room doesn’t allow for tall people and the seat belts are not at all consistently sized. I can be on the same airline with two legs to a flight and one flight the seatbelt will fit me fine and on another I’ll need an extender. Same exact body, inconsistent seat belts.

If you’re a person with thin privilege feeling annoyed that a fat person is next to you on a flight, please know that the fat person is likely feeling 1,000 times worse. A whole myriad of feelings are possibly coming up. They are probably doing everything in their power to make themselves small, scrunch over to the side and get out of your way. They are possibly having a ton of shame triggers because a fatphobic society reminding you that you don’t fit in the world is just a current corporeal reality opening a pandora’s box of a lifetime of fat harassment and societal ridicule. They are maybe even totally checked out of their bodies because disembodiment is a response to trauma and it is traumatic to hold the level of oppression fat people have endured. If shame actually worked to cause weight loss there wouldn’t be a billion dollar diet industry because believe me, fat folks are conditioned to feel shame and beat themselves up way worse than the outside world does.

My fat experience on a plane is fairly average because I’m not super fat (a chosen self descriptor for a larger fat experience than mine) and I’m not an inbetweenie (a term to mean those folks between plus size and straight size). I prefer a window seat because in them I feel I’m the most out of the way, I can lean into the window away from the middle seat person and I don’t have my arm bumped every five minutes by flight attendant carts (my arms are fat, too). Some fat folks I know like to travel with a thin friend who can be in the seat next to them and therefore a buffer to other airline passengers. Plus you get to raise that arm rest that isn’t giving anyone any actual personal space. Folks will also travel with another fat friend and then split the cost of a third ticket so they get extra space with the empty middle seat. If you’re a fat person and interested in learning more about coping mechanisms for flying while fat, there’s a great Facebook group.

I had to actively check out from worrying about what my experience flying for so long would be like. As soon as the worry would pop up I would use tools I know to redirect my thoughts. Like repeating a mantra, or solving for the worst case scenario.

A lesson I’m working on learning is that I am valuable enough to ask for what I need. So I decided to ask for the accommodation I needed and I emailed the Schusterman Foundation (the folks sponsoring the trip) and said that as a person of size it would make my trip easier if I had a window seat. They were very nice about it and got in touch with the travel agent right away. I got a window seat for both cross country legs of the trip but unfortunately the travel agent couldn’t make it happen for the longer legs from Newark to Israel. I was stressed but decided to just do my best to make it work and ask at the ticket counter as she suggested.

bonvoyagebevinMy bon voyage photo at the airport where Macy would not cooperate. Photo by Dara.

With that, I was all packed up and had a friendly email and text message chain from the trip facilitator who would meet us at the gate to our LAX leg of the flight. It felt a lot like the first day of summer camp, not knowing anyone from the trip and being nervous about whether or not I was going to make friends.

After Dara dropped me off I had to do International travel things on my own. Checking in for an International flight is kind of the same but they tell you to be there 3 hours early, except if you have a domestic leg the first time then you just come the normal 2 hours early. Security was bananas but I think it was due to construction on the United terminal.

My first stop outside of security was Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for iced tea and I saw this really cute hip dude in a cool hat and jean jacket with lots of enamel pins including a Golden Girls and several Hillary pins. When I saw him again in front of me waiting for the water fountain I hoped that he would be on my trip.

halanbevin

It was the first time I ever saw H. Alan Scott, writer, comedian and co-host of Out on the Lanai, the Golden Girls podcast and he, in fact, was on my trip. When he showed me his Golden Girls tattoo during the layover that’s when I really knew it was going to be an amazing adventure.

More on my experience flying all that way and how the adventure immediately began on the ground in my next post!

halantattooH. Alan plans to add the banana leaf pattern from Blanche’s bedroom wallpaper to complete the sleeve and I can’t wait to see it!

2012-09-11

Glitter Spank! Brooklyn Dance Party Rebel Cupcake Thursday September 20th

Y’all, I found a gif on Tumblr awhile ago and was inspired to try it out. It involves two really fun things–glitter and spanking!

A friend of mine in Texas said it’s harder than it looks but I’m all about trying! And lots of glitter.

Anyway, creating a party from a spanking gif is a lot easier than this Blanche side eye.

I booked a couple of notoriously good spankers for the party’s entertainment.

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Felice Shays is a Femme feminist performance artist and recently returned to New York City. The number she’s performing is her most ubiquitous.

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The last time I performed with Kelli Dunham she referred to Rebel Cupcake as being “in the middle of the night” whereas I still maintain that starting the show at 11 means it’s actually early for a nightlife show. We might actually have entirely opposite circadian rhythms. But even if she might show up in pajamas and a snuggie, Kelli will still be hilarious. And I’m sure a glitter spank is exactly up her alley.

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Fancy Feast, our stage kitten, is forever ready, willing and able to do the odd things required for the Rebel Cupcake stage. In the last few months she’s held an umbrella for Kate Bornstein (pictured), acted as back-up go go dancer while I told a story from middle school, was substitute door person while Hana was on vacation, and is this month acting as demo bottom to make all my glitter spank dreams come true. Laura Delarato, our incredible videographer, will be taping it so hopefully the demo will make it into an webisode of Live from Rebel Cupcake!

This month the cupcakes are vegan! Lizxann Disaster is stepping in as a sub!

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey. (These bacon cupcakes were amazing, by Morgan Hart.)

Rebel Cupcake: Glitter Spank all goes down September 20th at Sugarland, 221 N. 9th Street in Brooklyn. All info, accessibility notes and transit directions on the Rebel Cupcake page!

2009-02-14

Unicorn Dick

Zoe and Tara and I decided to head to Toronto for a crazy Femme adventure and somehow fate landed us each a hottie to have as a date on NYE. Despite our burgeoning Canadian trysts, we had an amazing Femme bonding weekend*. We went to a women’s only spa called Body Blitz, lounged in their salt pools, hot tubs and saunas for a few hours for only $35 Canadian! We ate brunch, our favorite meal, every day at a new place. We got to indulge in one of our favorite activities, sexcapade redux on the road trip home, as it is rare that the three of us are getting it simultaneously.

During our trip we plotted out the details of our Golden Girls retirement home. You see, our plan is that we are each others’ life partners, and we intend to retire someplace warm (I oppose Florida because humidity is not a friend to my thick tresses) and to seal our bond we are going to adopt a new last name. This last name is an amalgamation of all of our Femme Besties’ last names put together, O’LowErlelisshamwinsonsonlee-Murphy. Rolls right off the tongue! We can’t wait for the telemarketers to get a hold of that one.

I had a big crush on the Toronto Hottie I hooked up with, who I propositioned for a make-out ahead of time with a clever Facebook message. Rendering me shy is the sure sign that I am monstrously attracted to you, and even though I’ve known Toronto Hottie for years, I’d never mustered the gumption to flirt with her and thought the Facebook proposition was the surest way to overcome my shyness.

The proposition was very well-received. She was even better, nicer, and more talented than I had thought, and we connected in a way I crossed my fingers might be more than a one night fluke. A couple of sweet text messages on my ride home, and a few dirty Facebook emails the following weekend told me the chemistry was still there. It took a week to muster up the courage to ask her for a phone date. Or rather, a week and Zoe’s Consiglierie insistence “JUST TEXT HER AND ASK”. Our phone date was the same night, three hours long, I got off the phone and my cheeks hurt from smiling.

There’s just so much to talk about and I have a lot of fun even on the phone with her. Since I’m funemployed, I’ve got a lot of extra time on my hands these days, thus much more traveling flexibility, as I can look for a job using the internet even in another country. Anyway, it didn’t take much beyond her first couple jokes of “You should come visit next week” for me to seriously ponder this as a possibility.

I debated this pretty hardcore for the better part of a day. In some ways it seemed very practical–a fact-finding mission. Did we have chemistry beyond the first date? Was she as fabulous as she seemed and was she more than just a friend? Could she make the amazing deviled eggs she promised? Naima answered the practicality for me. “Bevin, the way I see it, there is nothing more sane than traveling for good sex.”

I got further support from my friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. “I completely support you traveling to the Dot** for Unicorn Dick.”

So I drove my Prius up to Toronto again and had a really great date. I learned a lot about her and had a lot of fun in all the best ways. The sex was still amazing and so was hanging out an watching our favorite movies.

The next few weeks and follow-up visit have had me thinking a lot about Unicorn Dick in the context of the Queer Fat Femme lifestyle. Anyone who has done the dating thing as a Queer Femme knows how hard it is to find someone that embodies the killer combo of personality, looks, chemistry, smarts and timing.

I asked Leah to define Unicorn Dick further, and here’s her dispatch:

“Unicorn Dick is lust and sexual skill. It also refers to the almost mythological perfect butch/trans guy cock / love / brain package that we often believe is as rare as a Unicorn Dick. When we find it, we can sometimes go insane, elevate the degree to which which value it above our life and our girls, and try to hide it / protect it / get crazy over it / everything in the world pales next to the Unicorn Dick.

This is unhealthy and is counter to the Femme Shark principle of ‘His dick is not gold plated, but you goddamn well are.'”

It’s hard to avoid a scarcity mentality when you find something you don’t come across very often. As in, you want to absorb as much as possible because you’re afraid it won’t come around very often. But it’s important to remember that if the Unicorn Dick is worth it, s/he is going to realize how crucial your besties are to you and support your priorities. Further, if you’re a badass Queer Fat Femme, you can’t become any less badass to please someone. In past relationships I usually deferred to the sensibilities of my partner because sometimes I was “too much”. I remember Zoe reminding me when I was broken up with my ex, John, how much he held me back. I’m not doing that again.

You can get excited about Unicorn Dick but you can’t let your inherent amazingness suffer. Because, ultimately, Unicorn Dick won’t hold you up the way your inner strength does or your besties do. Maybe over time, maybe when things develop Unicorn Dick becomes part of your support system–but even then it should be part of it and not everything. I know from losing the man I thought was my forever how crucial it was that I kept my friendships strong. Even when I didn’t even have the resources to get up off my kitchen floor while I was crying, I knew I could call someone to be there with me while I fell apart.*** That’s what besties are for.

The reason why my Toronto trip was so wonderful wasn’t just because I got laid or uncovered Unicorn Dick like a lusty archeological dig, it was because I was having such an amazing time with my closest friends. And you can’t let years of friendship suffer because you find something shiny.

While I remain very excited about this Unicorn Dick, I’m still letting things unfold and in a data gathering phase. I enjoy the time we spend together, am appreciative of our connection and the chance to learn more about her and have great sex when we can make time for one another. Leah calls this attitude a “Zen Buddhist slut move”. But what I’m really grateful for right now is the support of friends like Zoe. Knowing I have been having a really horrific unemployment/housing situation right now, Zoe sent me the following love letter.

“dear Bevin [a femme love letter]

sometime around spring 2002 i went to see this philly drag troupe perform and watched wistfully as all these hot [thin] femmes performed on stage alongside the kings. and i so wished to be one of them but i knew that as a fat girl, i wasn’t good enough to do so. and then you came out and you unhinged my world in … Read Morethe best of ways…

7 years later you are one of the best BFFs a girl could ask for. not only did you help me get on that stage myself (and so many wonderful, crazy, lascivious, hilarious adventures ensured), but you have been there for me through the good, the bad and the downright fucked up, steadfast in your love and loyalty.

over the past 7 years i’ve watched you grow and change and unfold unto the fucking dynamo badass force of glitter, muppety smiles, cheer, snark, wit, glamor, smarts, performance art, social hub and social change that you are. and you did so even through serious strife and hard times. i am so fucking proud of you.

one of the things that so amazes me about you is not only your ability to stay strong and positive and to focus on your joy in the midst of bullshit, but to be able to ask for help and reach out when times are hard and when you need support.

and so i just want to remind you, openly and here on facebook and for posterity, that i will always be there for you, by your side, whether it’s on stage in matchy-matchy glittery outfits, holding your hand through hard times, or being next to you on the couch, cuddled up next to you and laughing while you torture me by playing Bob Seger songs on repeat.

you are an inspiration and you are my heart.

golden girls forever.
xoxoxoxoxo,
Z”

It is my wish for all Queer Fat Femmes that they find the kind of community, love and support I’ve found with my QFF besties. It’s really the most special, magical thing you’ll ever find–even more magical than Unicorn Dick.

*We were having such a great time Anna hopped a $70 flight from NYC to join us. She did not hook up on NYE but is pretty much awash in pussy in her new social circle in Portland, though technically still single and looking for dates.

**Why do people call Toronto “T Dot”?

***This happened to me again recently, for reasons not related to romance.

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