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

2012-08-01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I really adore Quito so very much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gay Narwhal is not mutable.

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

2011-05-12

Queer Book Worm Parties

So it’s 7PM on the second Thursday of the month, which means I’m at Re/Dress and since all the go-backs and tagging are done and all the custies are happy* I am sitting here daydreaming about my make-up and hair for Rebel Cupcake tonight. Every second Thursday I leave the store at 8 and have exactly an hour and fifteen minutes to get home, walk Macy, do my hair and make-up and do any last-minute Rebel Cupcake thingies.

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Photo by Allison Michael Orenstein.

This ritual has lasted for a year now, I am so happy and thankful to get to keep producing this party, that this party is so genuine/fun/not sceney/feel-good/flamboyant/queer/body-positive, to have work that is flexible enough that accommodates me doing all the different gigs I do.

I don’t usually perform in addition to Femmeceeing and producing the event but since it’s the anniversary party I’m doing my Lesbolesque act. Which means I’m also mentally rehearsing my act, a ritual that is as old as my drag king days. Did you know I used to perform as a drag king? That was really where I found myself a decade or so ago, on the drag king stage.

Also coming up within the week are two parties I’m excited to have a hand in. Total queer book worm parties.

Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, the anthology just released from Arsenal Pulp Press, is doing it’s NYC launch and it’s not just a reading! There will be music performed by the amazing Rae Spoon. Rae is Canadian. Rae was featured on FemmeCast. Rae is my friend-in-law and beloved by many of my favorite people.

Also, Ivan E. Coyote! Such a heart-string pulling story-teller! Author extraordinaire! Canadian! Have you watched the video To All The Kick-Ass Beautiful Fierce Femmes Out There? Watch it and cry a little.

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Ivan!

Also, Zena Sharman! So smart, sassy and funny. And a (you guessed it) Canadian!! There is so much maple at this event I just cannot wait.

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A few of my favorite things, Canadians, BBQ and making foolish faces. Zena on the left, hotties Ashley Aron and Smith on the right.

And also me! Reading a story that is a cousin to what I have in the book because I want to give people an incentive to buy the book to read more about debunking the femmephobic notion that Femmes are high maintenance. My friend who is a women and gender studies professor told me it’s a “highly quotable piece” and will be required reading for future classes he teaches so I feel super excited about making contributions to academia (even though in my opinion the book is so much more colloquial than academic).

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To cap off the readings/music/book launch a queer book worm DANCE PARTY!

When I was a little kid I was so shy and awkward and hardcore bullied for being fat so I just stuck to myself during recess, standing alone reading books. Literally standing in the playground, Baby Sitters Club or Nancy Drew or Christopher Pike in hand. So now all of this queer book worm dance party action, marrying my love of books and dancing is really like this amazing full-circle situation.**

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DJ Polar Sounds, hot butch magic times on the decks until 2 AM!

Not to be outdone, next Friday, May 20th is the Feminist Press (swoon, right?) dance party fundraiser FASTER PUSSYCAT!***

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The raffle is a fat girl’s dream–a gift certificate to Domino Dollhouse and a Re/Dress gift certificate are both up for grabs!

The party is at that 116 space I talked about in my last entry!

It’s queer summer, the book worms are using party fliers as bookmarks, and hitting the dance floor!

*Hey Deb!
**What would I put on a bookmark if I were able to slip it into ten-year-old tiny fat Bevin’s beloved books? “It’s all going to be okay.” A photo of a cute faggy gender queer with an age-appropriate explanation of queer sexuality. (I didn’t even know that people could be lesbians until I was 14, how’s that for in the closet?) Or maybe not because maybe it was easier just being fat, and better to be ignorant of being queer for awhile? Maybe just a photo of me at 32 having so much fun and loving life?
***We watched that movie in my feminist filmmaking class in undergrad. Love it!

2009-12-11

The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Not Blaming it on the Fact That You Don’t Like Femmes

Backstage at Cupcake Cabaret, World Famous *BOB* told a story about how a (now former) beau had called her high maintenance.

“I called my drag mom and asked if she thought I was high maintenance. She said ‘Of course you are but you maintain yourself. You’re like a classic car, if someone is going to drive a 66 Caddy they will. If they want a Honda they should drive a Honda.'”
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World Famous *BOB*. Next Cupcake Cabaret is February 7, 2010! Photo by Syd London.
I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. It is so frustrating when people comment on how I am high maintenance.

Number One: Yes I am high maintenance, and take your value judgment off of that, it has nothing to do with you.

Number Two: I don’t expect my partners, lovers or anyone to bear the brunt of this and do any more for me than I would ask of a friend.

Number Three: I really hope that anyone who wanted to date me or be my friend would, in some way, be excited about the shows I put on, the art that I create and the other amazing whirlwinds that happen around me. Not to mention how fabulous I look while doing it. The most work that manifests for lovers of mine is a high impact social schedule and if I’m carrying more stuff than you I’d love it if you offered to help.

Number Four: I think everyone can be high maintenance in their own ways, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a matter of whether or not your maintenance is compatible with another person’s, really.

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I do admit to often running late but that has more to do with Farmville and my lack of time consciousness than how high maintenance I am.

In fact, as a woman with high self-esteem and a lot of confidence, I probably require a lot less emotional work and support than a typical partner.* I am really low maintenance in a lot of ways.

I also have news for you–Femme does not automatically equal high maintenance.** Most of the powerhouse Femmes I know are, in fact, pretty self-sustaining. The most high maintenance thing about going out with us is scheduling dates!

Dating situations have been broken off with me and many friends before because the person “Just doesn’t date Femmes”. Often this is accompanied by an explanation that Femme is high maintenance and they don’t have those kinds of resources to date a Femme.

Historically I’ve always accepted that, too. You can’t do anything about someone’s preference for or against Femmes. And I am certainly not going to argue myself into someone’s bed–I don’t chase once I get “No”. I gave that up many years ago. The “Yes, no, yes, no” game is something straight girls are taught to play and I don’t do that.

But frankly, “I don’t date Femmes” is a flimsy excuse and used far too often as something to hide behind when the true reason is something different.

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I love Cherry Poppins.

Formerly I understood “I don’t like Femmes” to be a preference, after dating for a few dates I never stopped to say “Wait a minute, why don’t you tell me what’s really going on?” When I sat back and looked at the situation I realized “I don’t like Femmes” was an excuse generally hiding emotional shit or other bars to dating that had nothing to do with my Femme identity.

If you have paid even a little bit of attention to this blog, you will know that Femme comes in a myriad of forms. Femme is fat, skinny, born boy, born girl, born whatever, wears high heels, wears stompy boots, wears flats, wears sneakers, wears boots at a construction site. Femme always wears make-up, Femme never wears make-up, Femme surprises you, Femme is emotionally giving, Femme is emotionally needy, Femme is emotionally stone, Femme is pretty middle of the road, actually but sometimes has the Seasonal Depression.***

You get it. Just like there is no one right way to BE Femme, I refuse to further support anyone’s blanket assertion that they “Don’t like Femmes”. I feel like I’ve met enough different kinds of Femmes that there for sure is a Femme out there who would fall under the realm of who you might be attracted to.

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Femmes at Femme Camp.

There are those who say “I just don’t do the Butch-Femme thing.” Oh honey, me neither. I can’t stand anything compulsory and if someone is doing chivalry out of a sense of role or antiquated obligation I can smell that shit a mile away. I like people who treat me right because they like to make other people feel good and they have good home training. Chivalry is not exclusive to boys or butches, I know plenty of chivalrous Femmes and friends who are sweet, caring and nurturing

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I don’t know a person more chivalrous than the very Femme Jessie Dress. She beats all at catering to my every desire before I even know I have it out of a genuine love for hospitality.

It’s not the 50s anymore. And while Butch/Femme couplings are, of course, alive and well, there is no one out there telling you how you have to be if you’re in a Butch/Femme partnership (and if there are, please direct them to me as I’d like to have a lively debate on my podcast).

Femme, for me, is stand alone. It does not rely on my partnership with anyone, butch, genderqueer, trans, whatever. Just as, I would hope, your identity doesn’t rely on who you happen to be fucking at that moment, too.

I date lots of different people and that occasionally includes Femmes. While it is true that I have a few “types” there are plenty of people I’ve been attracted to who meet the characteristics of what I am looking for and presented and were embodied in super different ways.

Also, just because you have a bad experience with one Femme does NOT mean the way she/he acted has anything to do with how another Femme will act in a relationship.

In sum, this is a call to those out there who are using the generalized “I don’t date Femmes” as an excuse for whatever is going on that makes you want to run away or never give Femmes a chance, here are some things to think about instead of blaming it on Femme:

1. If you’re not into someone, try just saying “I’m not feeling chemistry for you.”
2. If you’re not feeling emotionally available, try doing the work you need to do on you BEFORE you start dating.
3. Recognize that dating someone who is more like you (for example, when you are a genderqueer who only dates genderqueers) is sometimes a default to what is easy and familiar. A doppelbanger.
4. Femmes are not all “high maintenance” –I challenge you to redefine what you mean by “high maintenance” and put words to the ways in which you find someone’s relationship needs hard for you.

(Some of the above are direct responses to recent actual incidents in my Femme friends’ lives.)

And the following I say to everyone with all the gentle, loving, kindness, I-know-this-work-is-hard sweetness I can muster:

5. Think about the ways in which Femme phobia and anti-Femme bias in your attraction might have more to do with internalized misogyny, fear of loss of power, loss of visibility and other marginalization in the queer community versus just a “preference” as the CraigsListers likes to say.
6. Being queer is about having choices and having a non-default sexuality (as opposed to the heterosexual paradigm).
7. If you’ve never dated a Femme before, challenge yourself to look past your perception of anyone’s identity and onto their characteristics as a human, see if there’s some sort of road block in your attraction that manifests as Femme, fat, race, dis/ability, age, transition status or any other characteristic that might have more to do with your own unexamined bias.

Anyway, I’m not trying to sway the tide or anything. Some people really just aren’t into something/a gender presentation/body whatever, I get that. But having heard of so many people lately running into the “I’m not into Femmes” thing and also know plenty of primarily faggot identified butches/transmen dating Femmes that I see a disconnect. I want people to broaden their horizons, that’s the best part about being a queer!

This post is especially dedicated to the genderqueer friend of mine (who shall remain forever anonymous) who had dated other genderqueer and transguys exclusively for so long that they were intimidated by Femmes because of the bra situation.

*Of course, that always comes with the sweet side-effect of inspiring other people to “do the work” to get to my level of confidence and emotional maturity, which often means they are “not ready” to date me or whatever other euphemism for that I’ve gotten.
**Lest we forget that butches/boys/bois/men can often require just as much if not more preening and primping. My ex, a genderqueer named Seth, required 45 minutes after her shower start to finish on her hair and fashion for the day. She looked good, though, and I always appreciated it.
***If you’re still confused about what it means to be Femme, buy the Femme Family Coming Out Zine. It’s cheap and it supports the Femme Conference. It will also teach you a thing or 20 about Femmes. Promise.

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