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

2017-03-30

FAT SEX WEEK XXL: Meet Fancy Feast Who Made Fat Sex Into a Career

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

Rebel Cupcake was a monthly body positive queer dance party and cabaret in Brooklyn I produced. It was at a divey club/bar called Sugarland with the triple threat of sound system, lights and a stage and it was all mine one night a month. I think that a performance sets an energetic stage for a specific experience; I wanted to produce empowering acts that made people feel good about being weirdos. I began every night with an hour or so of 90s R&B and Riot Grrrl music for mingling, then had a brief stage show, then cleared the chairs for a dance party. The shows were about 15 minutes but some nights were longer, like the staged reading of the beauty shop scene from Steel Magnolias. I booked burlesque, Bearlesque, butchlesque, drag queens/kings/gender performers, live music, belly dance, poetry (only knock your socks off great poetry, it was a nightclub), fire performance, readings and whatever else I found in the realm of body positive/weirdo positive/queer and fat performance realm.

Fancy Feast fit right in with the unicorns.

I used to have to hustle every single month to book a stage kitten. I was always relying on the kindness of last minute serendipity. Somehow I would find someone who willing to wear a cute outfit and be on stage picking up clothes from the previous performers in exchange for drink tickets. Fancy Feast walked into Re/Dress, the vintage plus size and resale clothing boutique I worked at, she said she had taken a burlesque class at the New York School of Burlesque (it’s a real thing) and she volunteered to stage kitten if I ever needed one. It was as though the Goddess heard my plea to get someone consistently available to fill this role and here she was.

“We fear not being beautiful.”

After a couple of months and a theme that would work for her (I curated the show themes very thoughtfully) I gave her a slot. She was great, but what was even better was watching her develop as a performer over time. Fancy Feast works really hard and she’s very smart, she thinks things through. She’s always improving. She also has a lot of fun on stage and she owns her body. That, to me, is ultimate sexy right there. It literally doesn’t matter what your body looks like, to me it is how you embody yourself fully that makes you hot on stage.

On being fat on stage: “I walk in the fat one and I get to choose how I walk out.” Photo by David Byrd.

Fancy has flown to the top since her glitter beginnings at Rebel Cupcake. She’s been Miss Coney Island (which is a big deal in New York City and a perfect title for her) and is well-recognized. And now there’s a documentary about her!!!

If you are interested in hearing a smart woman talk about owning her body, performing erotic dance, selling sex toys, living a very realistic NYC performance artist life, subverting beauty standards, and finding a place to express yourself while being weird or exaggerated, you should watch this documentary.

On performing to a not body positive crowd: “I don’t want to walk into a room and know everyone is going to agree with me.” Photo by Ellen Stagg.

Or if you want to be inspired as an artist by another artist’s practice, watch this documentary.

Or if you just want to watch a hot fat woman take her clothes off a lot, watch this documentary.

Glitter spank at Rebel Cupcake, photo by Kelsey Dickey.

Maybe a little bit of all of those things? Leon Chase made this amazing one hour film about what it’s like to be a fat burlesque artist and sex educator, but from the very one of a kind perspective of Fancy Feast.

Fancy Feast also often said yes to other random gigs I had. Go-go dancing at my off-shoot dance party (no performance) Yes Ma’am. Here I am with co-founders and co-producers DJ Average Jo and Nicky Cutler and Fancy Feast is working it even though we were in an art gallery and didn’t know what exactly to use as a go-go box.

I make a brief appearance as Bevin Branlandingham of Rebel Cupcake (major points for spelling my name correctly, Leon). He chose the exact right photos and video clip for Rebel Cupcake. Me in a “Yes Fats Yes Femmes” glitter tank top of my own creation in a still shot with Fancy Feast, and a video of me recreating a gif of a Glitter Spank I saw on Tumblr. Using Fancy Feast’s ass.

Kate Bornstein & her amazing partner Barbara Carellas performed at my Rebel Cupcake second anniversary party. Fancy Feast, as Stage Kitten, was called upon to hold Auntie Kate’s umbrella. Sometimes volunteering has its own glamour! (I’m similarly briefly in a documentary about Kate Bornstein, while introducing her and Barbara at Rebel Cupcake. That documentary is also quite incredible.) Photo by Nogga Schwartz.

People who feel weird among other folks will identify strongly with Fancy Feast. For her and me being weird is a really beautiful thing. You know, being the swan among the ducks, looking for other swans. It just feels so good to me to watch someone on TV (well, chromecasted from youtube) who is reflecting what I believe about all bodies being valuable. About sex being a normal part of human communication that should not be shamed. That glitter is a really important part of self expression.

“Ugly is not the worst thing you can be. Being boring is. Be ugly, not boring.”

Fancy Feast is more than 100% of the time working to advance fat sex, at least by being a fat presence in multiple facets of the sex industry. I felt like it was remarkably appropriate to kick off Fat Sex Week XXL celebrating this incredible documentary. Grab some popcorn and watch it!

Follow Fancy on Twitter @fancyburlyq on Instagram @fancyfeastburlesque and find her on Facebook as Fancy Feast!

2016-01-14

Remembering Bryn

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

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

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

Fundraiser for memorial costs.

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

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

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

brynhardfrenchnyc2010Bryn in 2011ish at Hard French in NYC.

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

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

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

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

brynatparty2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

brynatbuffe2012Me and Bryn at the August 2012 party Buffet.

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

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

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

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

brynbunny2009

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

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

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

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

femmefamily2At the Femme Family coming out party in June 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

katebornstein2013ishAuntie Kate.

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

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

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

You are loved.

You are worthy.

You are important.

Please stay.

2015-02-13

Half the Self Hate: Kate Bornstein Wriggling Towards Fun

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

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

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

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

The Half the Self Hate series continues Monday with my interview with Be Beautiful Project founder and poet, Denise Jolly.

kateauthorphotoKate with her pug, Mollyanna.

I discovered Kate Bornstein when I was 17 years old and taking my first Women’s Studies class (this was 1996, before it was renamed Women and Gender Studies). How lucky I feel to have known Kate’s work for almost half my life! Her book Gender Outlaw radically shifted how I saw gender, people and identity and I have continued to learn so much from her work ever since. Kate works to make the world a better place, whether that’s through her engaging keynote speeches on achieving world peace through gender anarchy and sex positivity, her numerous books, social media work preventing suicide with #stayalive, or just one on one over fried chicken and good conversation.

I knew I wanted to include Kate in this blog series about battling self hate because her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, is an incredible book that delves deep into how Kate’s mind works. She writes very candidly about working through feelings of strong self-hate and how she wiggles through that to become both profoundly accomplished and self-actualized. On top of all of that, Kate is also one of the kindest people I have ever met. I’m so thrilled to bring her words to you as part of Half the Self Hate.

How do you identify?

Currently, that’s in flux. It’s something like genderqueer BDSM asexual transsexual diesel femme dyke crone.

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

It means I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules about gender and sexuality—rather, I can explore the non-binaries of me. The struggle? I’m a double Pisces. I don’t struggle so much as I wriggle. I’m wriggling toward being the most fun me I can be. The challenges all seem to come down to someone else’s respectable rules, regulations, standards, and values. I’m wriggling away from all that, as best I can.

Do you identify as someone who loves themselves or something else? Maybe just working on not hating yourself?

Love myself? Oh goodness, no. Well, rarely. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally come to a place of having compassion for myself.

kate_bornstein santiago felipePhoto by Santiago Felipe.

Do you remember when it became obvious to you that you had a self-hating internal monologue? Was there ever a time before that you loved yourself?

Ummmm. Since the moment I was self-aware, I’ve always felt that I’m less-than. Less than a real boy was the start of it all. My life from that point on has been all about how I don’t measure up, how I get it all wrong, how I never get enough done. And that’s been the state of me until quite recently—say a couple of years ago—when, in one of the very early crowdsourcing campaigns, thousands of people raised over $100,000 so that I could pay for two years of wriggling through lung cancer to the point where I’ve now been in remission for over nine months.. That many people helping me stay alive, well, that marked the end of my low self-esteem and self hatred.

Can you create work as an artist when you are having a bad self esteem day? If so, what is your process of working through it? If not are you able to let yourself off the hook about it?

Oh yes! Art got me through a LOT of suicidal periods of my life. A lot of art gets made that way. There’s a wonderful collection of essays by me and others who do exactly that: “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,” edited by Sabrina Chap. Now, doing art hasn’t always made me love myself, but it almost always has gotten me through periods of my life when I just might have acted on that self-loathing.

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

Over the past four years, I’ve been doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy. When I’m lost or losing my way, that’s a huge help to returning to a place of compassion. DBT is a therapy developed by Marsha M. Linehan. As I understand it, it’s part Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and part Zen Buddhism. I love Zen. Along with Sufism, Zen is one of the world’s last remaining slapstick spiritual paths.

What’s your favorite self-care activity?

Cuddling with Maui, the Siberian cat I live with.

IMG_20150212_183722Kate and Maui. Photo from Kate’s Instagram.

You do so much work helping others Stay Alive. Your #stayalive hashtag on social media, your book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, and virtually all of your other work helping people feel at home in their gender(s). How has doing that work influenced your self love journey?

In addition to Zen, I’m also a follower of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Love him. Studying his take on Buddhism, I’ve become familiar with the spiritual path of bodhisattva. Google it. It gives me a lifetime to lifetime goal and focus of ending suffering for all sentient beings, by means of becoming as wise as I can possibly be. During the moments that I’m aware of that goal and life focus, yeah… I love myself.

Kate-infront-of-books1byDavidHarrisonPhoto by David Harrison.

You can find Kate Bornstein touring on the lecture/workshop/performance circuit (her schedule is here and you can also book her for your college/conference/retreat/etc…) as well as touring with Sam Feder and the film he made about her, Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger. I was so surprised, thrilled and honored to have my femmeceeing included from Rebel Cupcake in May, 2012 in the film about Kate. I’m wearing a cute dress.

I also want to second Kate’s book recommendation for the anthology “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,”, it has helped me come to a lot of understanding of how my depression (I get seasonal as well as just regular depression) affects me as an artist, and helped me not feel so alone in my struggle.

You can follow Kate on social media, her Instagram and Twitter are fantastic, and sometimes she tucks you in bed with a sweet benevolent message. If you haven’t read her books, start with her riveting memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, then explore My New Gender Workbook, Gender Outlaw, and Hello Cruel World.

If you or a friend are in need of alternatives to suicide, there’s the free Hello Cruel World lite and if cost is an issue, you or your friend can reach out to Kate directly to get a full copy of Hello Cruel World.

Thank you so much Kate for your insights!! I love you!!

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

Half the Self Hate Instagram and Twitter contest:
**Contest extended!!**
I want to know how you’ve lost half your self hate! Write a tweet or an Instagram post about one practice you have employed to lose half your self hate. Or commit to employing one practice to lose half your self hate! (You can borrow a practice you learned about in this blog series!)

Hashtag your post with #halftheselfhate and make the post by February 20th at midnight Eastern time. Two winners will be chosen by a random draw.

One winner will receive a $50 gift certificate from Self Serve Toys a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Albuquerque, NM with a great online store!

A second winner will receive a Vesper vibrator worth $79 from Sugar, a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Baltimore, MD which also has an online store!

Self Serve Toys and Sugar believe, as I do, that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.

*To qualify to win your Instagram or Twitter needs to be public! The winner will be selected by random number generated by random.org of all entries to the contest between February 11th and February 20th February 24th Midnight Eastern time.

2014-03-04

Seven Strategies to Curb Anxiety

Towards the end of January I had a little bit of a break-down. I just felt completely overwhelmed and anxious. I wasn’t sure why. I had spent most of the weekend doing self care activities and was walking home from the gym on the phone with Jacqueline saying, “I just don’t know why out of nowhere I feel so anxious and it won’t go away!” And Jacqueline wisely told me that sometimes when she does self care like yoga or something very relaxing she ends up with more anxiety. That resonated with me. It feels like when I don’t acknowledge my feelings of anxiety and overwhelm, it’s like a cork that releases all this pent up stuff I haven’t been looking at and poof! I can’t get away from it.

As a result of this little mini-breakdown, I am obsessed with self care right now. I’m talking to people about their self care regimens, being more methodical about what I need from myself in order to be the person I want to be in the world. I now acknowledge that when it comes to taking care of others, the more I have the more I can give. My well has to be 100% full in order for me to give water to anyone else, and I’m in the role of primary caregiver to my girlfriend (yeah, we went there) who is going through chemo treatment for breast cancer right now.

12417512173_a30b444fb5_zI went away for a birthday retreat with my friends in February and it was all about finding a place with a hot tub. I love to meditate in a hot tub when it’s cold outside.

I am going to do a mini-blog series about self care and in this first post I detail what I do to handle anxiety when it comes. There are lots of ways to deal with anxiety, of course, but this is what has worked for me and what works for some of my pals. Obviously, there are varying degrees of anxiety and some folks should consider seeing a mental health professional, but for those who have kind of spotty occurring anxiety like me, hopefully these tips will help.

1. Pay attention and course correct.

I treat feelings of anxiety and overwhelm as warning signs. They’re my own personal “check engine light,” some kind of acknowledgement my body, mind and/or spirit needs attention. If I’m having anxiety come up more often than usual than I know something is wrong and I need to do the work to assess what’s going on in my life and where the imbalance is. If I were on Car Talk and talking about running a diagnostic, I would do the things I know to do when I need to diagnose what’s going on with me. Journal, phone a trusted friend, stop and look at what’s going on in my life. In the January example, I knew what was going on–I had three friends and one of my cats pass away in a three week span in December on top of being primary caregiver for someone with cancer. Any one of those things is a lot! I needed to be gentle with myself and take care of myself and the check engine light came on!

When I’m feeling anxiety, it’s hard to know in the moment that I need to do something differently, in the moment all I can do is think “Fuck, how can I make this stop?” Then I turn to more immediate solutions.

2. Drink stress relieving tea.

Over my Christmas trip to visit my mom and grandmother I woke up feeling intense anxiety one morning. (I think this was another moment where I was relaxing and the cork popped out and all the grief and anxiety I was feeling came out.) I didn’t have anything that could cut the anxiety in the moment, so I went rummaging through Grandmother’s tea cabinet to see if she had any chamomile. Lo and behold, she still had the tea sampler I created as a hostess gift for my cross country road trip two years ago. Fully intact, it held in it four kinds of loose tea including “Stressed Out Tea.” It was like a gift to myself from the past. I drank that tea like I was chain smoking, one cup after another and within a couple of hours it started to work.

I bought the Stressed Out Tea from PS Coffee and Tea in Park Slope, but here are the ingredients if you want to create it yourself. Stressed Out Tea (blend of lots of herbs to calm down including rosemary, peppermint, chamomile, lady slipper, catnip, violet, feverfew, wood bettany herb, blessed thistle herb, white willow bark, stevia herb, raspberry leaf and flavored with peppermint oil).

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3. Treat self care like a job.

Self care is a really important aspect of my anti-anxiety routine. The best thing I can do for my anxiety is to prevent it from happening. I like to say self care is a full time job, which it kind of can be, especially in the Winter when we have all the Winter Feelings and seasonal depression.

The other day I was staying with friends and they told me, “We go to bed at 9:30.” Which is an amazing example of prioritizing getting the sleep they need and having a mellow, unrushed morning. I have so much admiration for people who prioritize their self care.

Since my breakdown in January I have been very strict about doing all the core self care things I do every single day. I knew I hadn’t been doing the things I usually do every day, I was skipping some. I was in love jail, snuggled up with my sweetie in Winter and mistaking those temporary good feelings with the things I need to do for my own sanity in the long run.

4. Cut the caffeine.

Eliminating caffeine from my diet has been great for keeping my anxiety at bay. Some days I have none, some days I have a little, but I keep it in check as much as possible. I started the Lesbian Tea Basket web series when I gave up coffee for digestive reasons. Replacing my passion for coffee with tea wasn’t exactly a substitute (I still dearly, desperately, love coffee) but I do now feel very passionately for tea in a way I didn’t expect. I think the herbal aspects of tea are medicinally great but I also think the ritual of brewing and consuming a hot beverage is very soothing.

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5. Exercise.

It’s such a hassle sometimes, but exercise is so crucial to my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It soothes everything for me. If I can keep it up at least twice a week it’s great to keep me from getting depressed or anxious.

6. Medicate.

There are a lot of people I know who medicate for anxiety. I’ve never gotten a prescription for anything mental health related, but haven’t ruled out the possibility. There’s so much stigma associated with mental health prescriptions but honestly, I think stigmas around what people need to do for their mental health are bullshit. If you have a headache you take an advil, if you have anxiety and a pill will help, maybe take the pill? I’m definitely a follower of the Kate Bornstein philosophy of living:

Do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. Anything at all. It can be illegal, immoral, unethical, self-destructive… anything at all if it makes your life more worth living. There’s only one rule to follow to make that kind of blanket permission work: Don’t be mean.

I just got some Rescue Remedy to see if an herb tincture (they also have pastilles/candy and gum) could help me in those moments where in emergency I need to break glass. So far it seems to work though I’ve only done it a couple of times when I was mildly stressed and haven’t had a major anxiety bout since I got the tincture.

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I have some friends who medicate with klonipin (one of them just nibbles a little on a pill to take the edge off an anxiety episode), ativan, and xanax. Obviously you’ll go see a mental health professional or general practitioner who can advise about prescription meds.

Other friends I know with chronic anxiety use medical marijuana. For those who don’t know there are like a billion kinds of marijuana and there are lots of different ways to use it. Depending on your body chemistry there are kinds that just take the edge off the anxiety and you can still function (“cleaning the kitchen” weed) or others that make you want to sit on the couch. I am into watching documentaries about the medical marijuana dispensaries on Netflix and what it can do for folks. Again, this is totally something to go talk to a professional about if you’re in a jurisdiction that has the medical marijuana.

7. Meditation.

I am a shitty, inconsistent meditator. However, if I can take a minute to stare at some birds and ponder what they are up to, look up at the sky for thirty seconds, or close my eyes and just notice what sounds I hear, that will do me as much good as sitting in a chair with my eyes closed trying really hard to think about nothing. It’s really not much more for me than a way to ground myself in the present and remind myself that I am safe. When I’m feeling anxious I am not feeling safe.

12919812773_f0c6e5949d_zThis bird feeder was right next to the hot tub at the house we stayed at!

I hope this not comprehensive list helps out when folks are feeling frustrated by bouts of anxiety. Leave your tips in the comments!

2013-12-17

Link Farm: Marriage is not a Coupon to Redeem, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Supporting a Loved One through PTSD

I have three things to share with you today that I’m pretty excited about. The first is an article I wrote for Autostraddle to celebrate the launch of their fancy new redesign! It’s all about marriage rights for queers and how marriage isn’t our only option.

“Marriage is like a chlorinated community pool that we now have access to. I think that people forget that queers have been swimming in the ocean the whole time. We have always had to be creative about how we create our love relationships and, now that we don’t have to be creative, I hope we still can be.”

Check it out on Autostraddle!

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This dress is the closest thing I have to a wedding gown right now and I love it so deeply. Gratuitous shots of two of my favorite people and heroes, Barbara Carrellas and Kate Bornstein. The documentary about Kate is available to tour to schools and festivals, get in touch with Sam the director–I saw it last weekend and it is phenomenal.

The second thing is that it is December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. It’s a day of remembrance and solidarity for folks lost this year. Sex work is work, and it can be extremely dangerous as media, laws and other social constructs create a society in which sex workers are not seen as people who deserve protection and are disposable. Working to legalize sex work is something I’ve been interested in since I was in law school over a decade ago. Right now I work with Desiree Alliance, an organization that brings together harm reduction, direct services, political advocacy and health services for sex workers.

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Me and Jacqueline at the Desiree Alliance Conference last summer. The next one is in the Summer of 2015.

To borrow from my friend Fancy Feast, who says it so eloquently:

I would be nowhere without the sex workers in my life. Today and every day we need to be doing what we can as allies and advocates to make their work safer. That means all sex workers everywhere, not just the white ones, not just the cis ones, not just the ones with college degrees. Every. Last. One of them.

You can learn more about December 17th events and projects here.

The third link I wanted to share was this article about Supporting a Loved One Through PTSD or Panic Attacks. I’ve been going through a lot lately both on my own level with many deaths (three in total) and then also as a caretaker and supporter of a person with breast cancer. As of this morning, I’m maybe going through the process of putting down my other cat (I put down Bear six months ago). It’s a lot! And the last three weeks have been kind of a huge emotional roller coaster. I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a difference in care and support and I liked this article and thought it might be useful for folks who look at someone going through a hard time and wonder what to do. For me, right now, it’s just folks being there and being willing to listen.

Often in the midst of the episode, the distressed person doesn’t necessarily have their full vocabulary and can’t articulate exactly what they need in that moment. Afterwards, they may avoid talking about it out of embarrassment, fear, or a desire to preserve the peacefulness of the present.

So how do you learn what is helpful?

If you’re like my partner, mostly through trial and error. However, this cartoon inspired me to draw up a list of tips, taking from my own preferences as well as those of some friends. They’re not universal, but they’re a starting point, I think, for the right mindset.

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My friend Avory cuddling ALF on Friday night.

2013-11-28

Free Download of Kate Bornstein’s Hello Cruel World Lite

It’s Thanksgiving here in the US and folks are either gathering with family of origin or choice and maybe having feelings about that, or NOT gathering with those folks and maybe having feelings. Sometimes there’s no winning! The feelings just come no matter what you do!

As part of the THX4SUPPORT hash tag project happening today on Twitter, I wanted to point readers to a resource I think is totally invaluable! Kate Bornstein, gender warrior and auntie to so many of us, provides this free pdf of the “Lite” version of her book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.

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Me and Kate and Carmelita Tropicana at a reading for the Feminist Press in 2010.

Head to this link for the free pdf download.

I just want to say about suicide that I’ve been there. I’ve thought that life wasn’t worth living anymore and gone to great lengths before to end it all. And I’m so grateful that each time I even started down that road that there was something by the grace of the goddess that got me to reconsider, or at least procrastinate about it long enough to decide not to. I’m so grateful.

If there’s anything that you can do (and hopefully Kate’s book can help you come up with things to help procrastinate) to stop yourself, even just for a few minutes, do it. Reach out for help if there’s someone out there you might be able to talk to. Reaching out for help doesn’t work for me in the moment, though. I haven’t ever been good about asking for help when I’m that dire because the shame of that shit getting so dire, the gremlin thought of, “I should know better how to manage my depression that I shouldn’t want to kill myself,” is a pretty deep and hard gremlin.

BUT, there are a lot of things you can do and Kate’s book does a great job of outlining a lot of them (101, in fact). Go for a walk, write down 10 of the most awesome things you can think of, write a mini vision statement “If I were supreme ruler of the universe…” Look your dog square in the eye and promise her you’re going to fulfill your life commitment to her.

And on a personal note, I want to say that you are valuable, wonderful and your body is exactly right the way it is because all bodies are good bodies and the culture that tells us otherwise is just trying to make money off of us. We need you here, because the more freaks, outlaws and body warriors we have the better and more fabulous this world is for all of us.

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I’m pretty stoked to have stayed alive to see this little munchkin grow-up! Joey’s almost two now and I’m spending Thanksgiving with her.

Follow hash tag #stayalive on Twitter any old time for lots of good reasons to stay alive. Thank you, Auntie Kate, for everything that you do.

2013-02-20

FAT SEX WEEK: Three Books To Help You Have Better Sex While Fat (Regardless of Whether Or Not You’re Single)

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.)

On Friday I discussed seven ways to be a good ally to your fat lover. Now I want to give some tools for folks to become better lovers to themselves–as in, learning to get in touch with your body so you can have better sex.

Growing up fat (or having a body that is in any way non-normative) in a fatphobic society is very damaging. It was very traumatic for me to feel like my body was always “wrong” and I definitely did not feel like I had access to owning my sexuality. In some ways I completely dissociated from my body and interacted with it as little as possible. (I write more about my experience of disembodiment in this post.)

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Look it’s me and my new pal Devin who was kind enough to loan me her ass for this photo when I saw how hot it was. Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

I used to feel afraid to leave relationships because I was afraid the sex would never be as good as it was with the person I was with–a deep scarcity mentality. “So and so knows my body so well, so and so does this trick how can anyone replicate that?” Those kinds of thoughts. It was as though all those years I wasn’t getting laid because I was checked out from my body I needed to make-up for by staying with the wrong kinds of partners. Like I might never get banged properly again.

I’m here to let you know, dear reader, that these fears were false. If anything, sex has gotten better and better as I’ve gotten older and I know the reason is that I am the common denominator in the good sex I have.

I think each break-up from a relationship with good sex is like getting a gift bag! You learned how to have new and improved sex with that lover. You learned how your body responds to different stimuli, you got to experience someone’s body in new ways and come up with more party tricks to bring to other lovers. Hopefully you explored more your capacity to flourish under someone’s touch. This partying gift is amazing!

You can keep the learning going, single or while in relationships, with a cadre of lovers or while between regular bouts of getting banged. Doing the work of getting to know your body and getting to know yourself sexually is a gift you give yourself for the rest of your life. There are lots of different ways to learn about sex–there is so much knowledge available to willing explorers. Below are three body positive resources that will help you get in touch with your sexuality from a body positive perspective!

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Holly Amory at Rebel Cupcake in February, NO PANTS NO PROBLEM. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

Mind Blowing Sex: A Woman’s Guide by Diana Cage

For people who have bodies that are female in origin, or who have sex with people’s whose mechanics are female in origin, this book is an amazing resource. I’ve read a lot about sex and sexuality but I still learned so much from it.

“Desire, sexual satisfaction, and orgasm truly are fraught more often for us than for men… [T]he ways in which we have been taught to fuck don’t always serve our needs and desires.” Diana talks about the female body from a place of empowerment and learning about the mechanics of your body physically, mentally and emotionally.

It is written from an incredibly feminist perspective. It is woman-empowering and body positive. I didn’t realize how much of our eroticism and what we learn about sex is based on male-centered desire. Ugh, patriarchy is such a boner-killer!

The book includes lots of work book sections where you get to explore your desire and what turns you on. And physical exercises! I felt more in tune with my body and my desires after I read it. (I also got some funny looks on the train while reading it…)

You can get it through my amazon link here, but request it from your local feminist sex toy shop! I’m always surprised when I go into Babeland and I don’t see it on their shelves, mention it to the people who work there but they don’t stock the shelves.

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Me and author Diana Cage.

Fucking Transwomen Zine by Miranda Bellwether

For folks who have transwomen bodies or who partner with transwomen, this zine is incredible! So many great tips for sex and the ways to have fulfilling interactions in a body that is not taught in sex ed and is ignored in the vast majority of mainstream sex how-to literature.

I also think it’s great for anyone who has sex that involves a penis whether or not they identify with it presently. Miranda spends several pages of the zine talking about the soft penis, which is basically ignored in sexual literature but “You can actually do more with a soft penis than a hard penis–if you are creative.”

The zine is full of sex how-tos, body knowledge and autobiography.

Buy it here for only $5! All of the money goes to Miranda!

Ecstacy is Necessary by Barbara Carrellas

I did a book review of this book last year, but I wanted to give it special mention here. This is basically a body love “you are worthy of erotic pleasure exactly how you are” goldmine. It’s a workbook, so you’ll need a notebook to go along with you on your sexual exploration, but the work it gives you is worth it.

People of all body types and levels of sexual exploration, especially if they feel cut off from their own sexuality, will totally benefit from a trip into this book. I did most of the work in this book while not getting laid regularly and it really helped me feel more in touch with what I wanted from sex when I was having it again rather than be caught up in the ideas of what I wanted from sex. Really cutting through your own bullshit (and the bullshit we are fed from society about what we should want) and identifying what our desires are is incredibly liberating. It also makes it much easier to find the right partners to explore with!

Read more at my book review and interview with Barbara Carrellas.

Buy the book!

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Me, Barbara and her partner Kate Bornstein at Rebel Cupcake in May, 2012.

Stay tuned! FAT SEX WEEK wraps up tomorrow!!

2012-05-30

SUMMER BEACH READS: Kate Bornstein’s A Queer and Pleasant Danger

Hey friends! I’m starting a new blog series about Summer beach reads–I’ve got a nice stack of books to recommend for you.

To kick this Summer series off, I have the honor of hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Kate Bornstein’s new incredible memoir

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Kate Bornstein is probably one of the sweetest and kindest humans I have ever met. She is iconic, inspirational, and gorgeous. In her memoir she describes herself as a puppy dog and I think that is absolutely correct; she brings that level of joy and excitement to interpersonal interactions and onstage.

The book is what I would describe as a “Chatty Memoir,” the kind that is written as though she’s sitting across from you lounging in your living room telling you her life story. It’s so engaging. She often addresses the reader as a pal, telling us to go ahead and google things while she waits. I’ve read a lot of Kate’s theory and seen her perform and keynote events but never got the full scoop of what she’s gone through. I mean, the process of getting to be a charming babe like Kate Bornstein is no less than spectacular. She went to an all-boys prep school and is one of the only two women degree holders from Brown University prior to 1970. She totally could have been a Normal and she isn’t. She chose to follow her truth and live an extraordinary life, often with great opposition, but by following her heart she came out on top.

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And beyond just telling us the who, where, what and how of her life, she’s extremely revealing about her process. Not just some of the deepest parts of her personality (as Kate says in the book, “Life’s better without secrets,”), like her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, but also the internal process of what it was like to be here. She cracks open her heart and shows us the internal realities of growing-up and adulthood prior to transitioning, many ongoing touchstones of what it was like knowing she was “girl,” how she related to it and how she either leaned into it or away from it with facial hair, sex, weight and clothing. Her lifelong battle with anorexia, how she learned to starve herself and then how she learned to think she could be pretty while being voluptuous. What it is like as a cutter, the pain and relief and how she used it to get through. Vivid plans for suicide attempts.

I’ll be honest, parts of it were a little hard to read, but for me not the ones you might think. She describes the above processes in detail and I found those confessions comforting–we’re raised in this culture not to talk about that and not a lot of artists are brave enough to talk about all of this at once.

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Me, Kate and her girlfriend Barbara Carrellas at Rebel Cupcake.

What I found hard to read was the huge section on Scientology! You guys, don’t ever take that free personality test! Did you read that 26 page article in the New Yorker about Scientology? I did and it freaked me out. I learned even more about what goes on in Scientology from this book and I had a crazy nightmare a few nights ago while in this section that Tom Cruise was trying to kill me. Kate’s memoir will convince you to never take that personality test for real.

Another thing that stuns me about how awesome Kate is as a human and a writer–the perspective of compassion she writes the book from. Having compassion for ourselves and others is probably one of the best places to live a life of peace. (I learned that from my friend V’s last blog post and it has changed my life.) There is a sweetness to Kate’s memoir that is as kind and charming as Kate herself. No matter all of the awful things she’s gone through, she’s come out of it stronger and more interesting, and to maintain that perspective of compassion is truly inspirational.

I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Queer and Pleasant Danger ASAP and schlep it with you to the beach. It’s so worth the weight of a brand new release. (And it’s also available for Kindle or whatever other e-reader you use!)

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Kate reading the section from the memoir about being a 24/7 slave to a Butch/Femme couple in Seattle on an iPad. Maybe an iPad’s not great for the beach, but whatver, read it en route.

I leave you with this quote I found incredibly touching from Kate’s mom. “No matter how your world falls apart–and honey, that’s what happens: we all build ourselves a world and then it falls apart–but no matter how that happens you still have the kind heart you’ve had since you were a child, and that’s what really counts.”

SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE: Here I am introducing Kate and she reads a little piece from the memoir. This video shot by Rebel Cupcake videographer Laura Delarato!

But you don’t have to take my word for it! Here are the other stops on the blog tour:

Monday, May 28th: en│Gender

Tuesday, May 29th : io9

Wednesday, May 30th: Queer Fat Femme (That’s Me!)

Thursday, May 31st: Large Hearted Boy

Friday, June 1st: Random House Blog

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2012-05-07

Thursday Night! Brooklyn Queer Party Featuring Kate Bornstein and Barbara Carrellas!

OMG, Kate Bornstein is on the cover of the Village Voice this week!

She is also reading from her new memoir at Rebel Cupcake on Thursday, May 10th!

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I’m super excited. I love Kate, I can’t wait to read the new memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today.

And also Barbara!! You recall her from the book review I did of Ecstacy is Necessary. She’s doing a demo on stage! And hopefully Bluestockings will be able to come to sell books so you can get them signed by Kate and Barbara!!

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Kate at Rebel Cupcake in September, 2010.

It is also our second anniversary! Two years ago on International No Diet Day I started a queer party to celebrate all sizes and flamboyance and it is still going strong! We’ve had tons of performers from all walks of the LGBTQ and ally lifestyles, traveled to Oakland, CA, and won awards! Come celebrate!!

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All that, plus the same dancing/antics/joy/flamboyant good times you can always expect from Rebel Cupcake!! See you there!

Thursday, May 10th, 2012 * Brooklyn, NY
Bevin Branlandingham Presents
Rebel Cupcake 25: Night of 1,000 Cupcakes (Second Anniversary)
10PM-2AM Dancing; show 11ish * $7
($2 off admission if you are on our texty texty list)
Late night dancing til 4a
Sugarland: 221 N 9th St @ Roebling, Brooklyn, NY
(3 blocks from the Bedford L subway stop)

Rebel Cupcake: a flamboyant dance party for all shapes & flavors!

Performers:
*Kate Bornstein
Gender theorist, Performer, Playwright and Author of the new memoir A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today.
[http://katebornstein.typepad.com/]

*Barbara Carrellas
Sex Educator, Sex/Life Coach and Author of the new book Ecstasy is Necessary.

[http://www.urbantantra.com]

*& More!

*Sugarland DJ Bryan Black spins slow jams & riot grrrl favs to get you going, dance beats all night to keep you moving at a house party level–perfect for dancing and mingling!

*Nogga Schwartz ready to decorate your facebook page with antics from our wild photo booth!

*Hella foxy Hana Malia, our stylish and charming door captain.

Suggested dress: Wear that outfit you don’t have the occasion to wear otherwise. Old bridesmaid dress? Someone else’s old bridesmaid dress? A prom dress? A tux? Some combination of both? The very sluttiest thing you can imagine? Leather and Lace?

We’ll have chairs out during the performances and there is a lot of seating available in grottos and at the bar. This is a great party to be loungey and social or dancey. There is also a smoking deck! The show will be over by midnight so earlybirds can make it home–the show is about 30 minutes long.

As always, free gourmet cupcakes while they last! Morgan Hart is our Cupcake Princess.

Accessibility notes: The stage area and bar are wheelchair accessible. Coming into the venue is a little narrow but there are no stairs to enter or to get to the main seating area for the show. Lots of street parking available. (Please let me know if you need any accommodations!)

2012-03-06

Get Me Embodied: Ecstasy is Necessary Book Review and Interview With Author Barbara Carrellas

Barbara Carrellas radically changed how I saw my sexual identity without even knowing it. I went to a workshop she gave at the Lesbian Sex Mafia on fire play. Even though I had existed in community with tons of kinky folks, I never thought it was for me. And then I saw how empowering and beautiful it was to set someone on fire for pleasure and connection. All of my fire safety skills from Girl Scouts were so thrilled about the care and attention put into the act, and I was immediately drawn to the kind of connection and trust created through those acts.

Barbara is an author, sex/life coach and sex educator. Her new book, Ecstasy is Necessary: A Practical Guide, is on a blog tour and today is my day! Welcome to the blog, Ecstasy! Would you like a cup of tea?

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Me and the Miracle Whips, a feminist performance troupe from LA.

I said hell yes to the blog tour mostly because I think Barbara is awesome and also because I want to learn how to have better, more fulfilling sex, I identify as being in the relentless pursuit of my joy and getting a galley copy of her new book is a pretty rad perk of being a blogger. This book was beyond anything I imagined it was going to be.

This book is an empowerment manual for embodiment. It is a road map to learn how to go into your body and get to know yourself on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. I spend at least 6 hours a week diligently working on these connections for myself and there was a lot I learned about myself within the first seventy pages.

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Photo and body paint by Camrose Artes Infinitae.

You begin to examine your values, needs and desires are right away. I was really surprised when I was working through my values, since this timing coincides with my thinking and talking about how I find balance and settle on my priorities. Distilling your core values to six main tenets tells you what your priorities should be, gives you some guidance as to how to align your life.

Get a cute notebook when you’re getting the book. You’ll need it for your work going inside and becoming the expert about your own body.

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It can be frustrating as a single person without many regular sex partners to want to improve your sex life and not really know where to start. I am a big believer in the power of attraction–that you attract what you put out. This book is a great place to work from within to draw to you what it is you want from a partner. I felt not once alienated by my single status. Barbara also begins the book by giving a shout out to “they” as a gender neutral singular pronoun and the book is explicitly queer positive.

I was able to ask Barbara a few questions that I thought the readers of Queer Fat Femme would enjoy and also really just wanted to pick her brain for things that were going to help me on my ongoing journey for body self-love. It’s win-win, we’re all on the same team!

What is one great thing that folks who feel disembodied can do to open themselves up to ecstasy?

Breathe-often and deep and full. Send your breath down into your torso so deeply that you can tickle your genitals from the inside. Use your breath to experience your body from the inside out. When we feel disembodied we often feel like we can’t place our bodies comfortably in the world. Go within. Try and sense the universe inside your own body. When you orgasm, instead of trying to blast out of your body, dive deep within. Revel in the love and dark mystery of your inner-verse.

Do you have any advice on learning to feel comfortable with a new sex or play partner?

I like the Tantric approach. Accept what is the way it is. Don’t fight it, use it. Sit across from your partner, gaze into their eyes and breathe. This will no doubt be uncomfortable at first. Don’t fight it. Giggle and squirm if you need to but don’t speak. Just keep breathing and eye gazing. As you breathe, gently allow your feelings of nervousness or fear to begin to move toward excitement and anticipation. You will both soon feel an emotional space open up that is safe and comfortable to occupy together. You might want to follow that with some wordless, safe sensual touch. Then you can begin to speak. Whatever kind of speaking follows (negotiation, limits, safer sex, desires, etc.) will be much more easily spoken and received.

How can we help ourselves feel worthy of joy & ecstasy?

Ask yourself, “If I did feel worthy of joy and ecstasy what would that look like? What would that feel like? What would I do or do differently if this were true? If you can’t imagine this for yourself, imagine how someone you admire would feel or act. Then fake it till you feel it. I mean it! Act “as if.” Think of this practice as your emotional rehearsal space and show up for rehearsal daily. You will eventually-probably soon-feel some measure of joy and ecstasy. That will lead to more joy and ecstasy. The joy and the ecstasy will eliminate any feeling of unworthiness. One caveat: this is not a one time transformation. It’s a skill. Once you’ve learned the process you can use it whenever the not-good-enough feelings threaten your joy.

Isn’t Barbara so smart and grounding? I feel calmer just reading her responses. Imagine how great it would be to see her live! Check out her book tour schedule here.

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Me, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Kit Yan, Drae Campbell, and Miss Mary Wanna at Cupcake Cabaret, a show about the radical act of self-love and empowerment I produced last winter.

The book is out and you can buy it! I, of course, as always implore you to get it from your local feminist sex toy store or indie book store. But if you want to buy it online you can do it through this link. Ecstasy is Necessary: A Practical Guide

And there’s so much to read about Ecstasy is Necessary all along the blog tour! Here’s the schedule below:

1 March Kate Bornstein : Kate Bornstein’s Blog for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws.

2 March Viviane : Viviane’s Sex Carnival~A Blog about Sex and Sexuality.

5 March Betty Herbert : Love in the Long Run

6 March Bevin Branlandingham : The Queer, Fat, Femme Guide to Life (That’s me!!)

7 March Kendra Holliday : Striving to bring shy folks out of their shell, and offer a safe haven for those exploring their sexuality and creative side

8 March Sinclair Sexsmith : The sex, gender and relationship adventures of a kinky, queer, butch top

9 March Nancy L. Hill : Cultivating a Beautiful Life

12 March Andrea Zanin : Thought on Sex and Life

13 March Rubyyy Jones: Love Lust & Light

14 March Jill Boyd: Smart-ass Virgins Make Better Whoopie

15 March Heal Your Life: Live blogging with Barbara!

2011-06-07

Everyday Glitter

After months of seemingly endless rain/fog/end of times weather, we’ve finally got summer in full swing here in Brooklyn. I thought I’d celebrate this by doing a round-up of the little things that are delighting me lately.

ITEM THE FIRST: Hot Summer

Summer always starts so suddenly, like she throws you up against a wall and gets you all flustered, making you forget your own wardrobe. That you do, in fact, own 90 degree weather appropriate fare, except you begin scrambling. Before the Trans Women Belong Here dance party (we made $379!) last week it was so incredibly hot. I tried a new outfit three times and ended up wearing a dress I’ve owned for at least five years. I’ve learned that once I try three unsuccessful permutations of a new outfit I must accept that it is not happening, and thus I need to turn to a tried and true favorite. Same thing happened with my hair, I had an idea in my head of what I wanted it to look like but after three attempts I just did my femmepadour and called it a night. The following photo is not what I wore to the TWBH benefit (still waiting for the photographer’s shots).

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This was my favorite going out outfit in May–a black and gold rosette tunic with teggings and black and gold boots. Sadly it’s too hot to wear that now.

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Speaking of hot summer wardrobes, Cristy Road introduced these shorts as “nightlife shorts.” Too short to take the bus in Bed Stuy, just short enough for the dance party. Photo from Rebel Cupcake.

Since as I write this it is Prince’s birthday (June 7), he has released a new song called Hot Summer. It’s a good listen. Google for it, as the link I’ve had keeps going away.

ITEM THE SECOND: Monday Funday

Since I work a non-traditional schedule and Mackenzi owns a store that is closed on Mondays we often partake in Monday Funday activities. This ranges from mani/pedis to going to the beach to trips to the suburbs for soup and breadsticks to meanders in local neighborhoods. This Monday Funday we went to Park Slope for lunch and had a delightful stroll. I didn’t realize how much walking we would be doing but we ended up clocking a lot of blocks. By far the most awesome part of our day was getting glitter tattoos at Exit 9 in Brooklyn.

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Mac had her existing tattoo glittered. The shop keeper expertly and quickly filled it in.

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I just went all lesbian cliche, with a rainbow glitter dolphin on my dominant wrist.

We capped off our adventure by getting burritos at the new taqueria on my corner and ate them on my stoop. It was so peaceful and lovely.

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No Mexican food for Macy.

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ITEM THE THIRD: More Stoop Sitting

Stoop time is really my favorite part of the beginning of summer. My friend Heather lives around the corner and one night at 11pm she texted “Come have a beer on my stoop with me.” I was already in my loungerie and settled in front of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy* but something about the ability to be outside and have a heart to heart compelled me to throw on real clothes and walk Macy over to Heather’s. And it was exactly what I needed. We talked about being artists and summer and love lives.

You know how sometimes your friends tell you something really simple and it’s exactly what you need to hear? Heather said “Bevin you have to remember that you’re really pretty. Don’t forget that.” You do all this work around self-love and unlearning the hatred and feelings of ugliness and whatever and yet sometimes the scared little kid inside you forgets and you just need someone to remind you that you’re pretty and you’re worthy just because you’re alive.

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So that’s what good friends are for. That’s why you let people in. That’s why you show people the tender underside of yourself because you need them to help. To remind you of the basics. When you’re different in a way society deems unpalatable you need ways to undue that armor that gets built up just to exist. You need ways to develop tender connections to other people. My relationships with queer femmes and other folks who are supportive of my identity was crucial to becoming an actualized human being and not just a robot going through the motions before I die.

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Anyway. Heather. Magical. Thank you.

ITEM THE FOURTH: Femmespiration

Speaking of Heather, she invited me to be on a panel of young** Femmes that was going to compliment a panel of Femme performance artists from NYC and London as part of the MUSING MUSES: A FeMUSEum conversation with Lois Weaver, Carmelita Tropicana, Amy Lamé and Bird la Bird.

The panel was so inspirational! And in such a meta way, too, because the panel was about the muses for each of the participants. Dolly Parton, Divine and everyone’s grandmothers were mentioned. Sometimes it is really helpful to hear other artists talk about how they find their motivation to create in order to rev your own mojo.

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Each of the artists on the panel has done so much, too, it was very femmespirational. I am especially excited to see Lois Weaver’s work on femmes and aging, see a performance of Carmelita’s, and visit Bird La Bird and Amy Lamé in London. Um, Amy is producing a pageant called Burger Queen. What I wouldn’t give for a patron to fund my trip across the pond so that I could compete. I really love the artistic format for pageants and one of the categories is cooking–I have a great recipe for Spotted Owl Casserole. And Amy is gorgeous and accomplished and I just want to follow her around.

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Amanda Cheong as a giant vagina. Amanda’s writing something new for Rebel Cupcake: Love Long Distance on Thursday.

Amy interviewed Kate Bornstein on stage. I couldn’t love Kate more. She makes me want to be a better artist. She, as an artist and a human being, truly has the ability to make her audience feel safe and loved.

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Kate’s Femme swagger is killer.

ITEM THE FIFTH: A Pig Grows in Brooklyn

Almost as quickly as we said hello to Penelope the pet piglet that my roommate was raising here, she moved upstate to my butch ironworker roommate’s boyfriend’s farm. Turns out my roommate is allergic to her, and Penelope was a lot happier being able to roll around in real mud instead of scratching herself on our (turned off) radiator.

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Silas, Penelope and Macy.

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Brian, Arnulfo and Penelope.

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It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday, Penelope. We’ll miss you. Hopefully I can go upstate to visit her in her new digs with the baby goat and the baby ducks.

ITEM THE SIXTH: Random Hotness

I was surprised and delighted to find out I was listed as one of the Autostraddle’s Hot 100 Real Gay Ladies***. It’s an honor that such a rad popular website is so supportive of my mission to promote self-acceptance. I’m also pleased to be on a list with so many other hot queers.

And just today I found out I am nominated for a “couple” of awards at the Go Nightlife Awards. Won’t you join me on June 15th? What I love about it is that it brings out such a cross-section of NYC nightlife. I went to the event last year and it actually did end up getting me a couple of dates with a steamy 20 year old. I’m bringing Taylor as my date so we’ll see how I do rustling up some casual action this year. He is an excellent wing man. 1,000+ people on the dance floor…

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*I have recently rediscovered this show. I never liked Grey’s Anatomy before but it is watch instantly on netflix now and for some reason it is speaking to me. In a month I’ve watched 50 episodes.
**I love to be reminded that 32 is young.
***Yes, I made it on an internet hot list and I still need my friends to remind me sometimes that I’m pretty. Self-love is a daily practice!

2010-10-06

Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation Book Review

Oh friends, I’ve been gone so long and yet not gone anywhere but inside my big, sweet heart and head. I’m doing The Artist’s Way and life coaching and as Lynnee Breedlove, my coach, says “Filling the well. Putting gas in the tank.” I’m still brewing some interesting mind blowing blog topics, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I have a book to recommend to keep you company! It’s Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. Just released on Seal Press it is extremely accessible and interesting.

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The term “anthology” makes me think of things that are stuffy or academic. However, this reads more like an extremely well-edited and organized zine, which I believe is to its credit. Transgressing the anthology format, as the editors and authors transgress gender and sexuality. Some of the contributions are only a couple of pages and pack just as much punch as their lengthier counterparts. I love having something to read that can fit well between subway stops, which is where most of my reading takes place.

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Kate, reading at Rebel Cupcake: Sci Fi Cupcakes.

The editors use an AOL Instant Messenger format (old school!) for the introduction, intermission and conclusion of the book. They also discuss the topic of the next genderation, usage of the controversial terms “tranny” and “cisgender” and the reactions to both Kate and Bear when they came out as transgender during different genderations. I love that they’re not afraid to say what they think in this conversation and they really go there.

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Me, giving Kate an umbrella sheathed like sword with a sword handle from SITE Design at Rebel Cupcake.

I also loved the organization of the anthology. I love systems of creative organization and this just tickled me.
Part One: Do I look like an outlaw to you?
Part Two: Being reconfigured is not the same as being reimagined.
Part Three: …which is why I’m as cute as I happen to be.
Part Four: It might not be a picnic but there’s a great buffet.
Part Five: And still we rise.

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S. Bear Bergman hasn’t performed at Rebel Cupcake (yet!).

Several of the contributions resonated with me, including a touching account of “The Manly Art of Pregnancy” by J Wallace, which did a lot to counter the version of the “Pregnant Man” propagated in the media a couple of years ago.

I really loved the comic Transcension by Katie Diamond and Johnny Blazes. I love words and their application of language theory to finding a place within and without identity labels was extremely well-illustrated, both in text and pictures.

Scott Turner Schofield’s intense and powerful “The Wrong Body” has been swimming around in my head for weeks. It’s such a stunning and succinct narrative of why, as a fetus, he chose to be born a baby girl. “I saw that I would have time to appreciate my journey, with the head to understand it as a gift and the heart to achieve my whole self through all the trials it takes.”

And there are contributions to this anthology by trans allies as well. The piece that had me crying on the subway was Fran Varian’s “Daddy Gets the Big Piece of Chicken.” She weaves a gorgeous comparison to preparations for a date with her gender-variant lover and her working class family’s gender roles.

She shows the beautiful nuance of the unspoken dance between gendered energy and the ways in which we care for each other in our gender queer (and queer in other ways) relationships. “You walk on the outside, closest to the street. You do this because we are moving targets, even in San Francisco. You do this because you have been attacked for the masculinity you have constructed and because I am precious to you.” How lucky to have someone tell you how precious you are to them; luckier still to have someone show you how precious you are.

While I always want you, precious reader, to shop at a local feminist bookstore, if you buy Gender Outlaws: TNG on the internet and clickie through my link I get a tiny referral fee and it goes to buy me books and other delights.

NYC Readers! There is a reading at Bluestockings by some of the authors of Gender Outlaws: TNG (including Kate!) on October 8!

Rebel Cupcake photos by Nogga Schwartz for Rebel Cupcake.

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