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

2015-10-08

Saying Goodbye to NYC: On Leaving, Change, Grief and Anxiety

I have this grief about leaving Brooklyn that hits me in waves. I am profoundly curious and excited about this new chapter in my life. I haven’t experienced a drastic geographic change in 15 years. I’m a totally different person than I was when I left CA. I’m so curious what it is going to be like. But also, I’m bummed about leaving a lot of the things I love about NYC behind. I’m working really hard not to let my grief and anxiety interfere with my ability to love the process and let go of NYC in a mindful way.

bevinatnybgOn my NYC Bucket List was going to the New York Botanical Gardens, which currently features an amazing Frida Kahlo exhibit. It includes fourteen pieces of her artwork and a whole recreation of the gardens of her famed home, Casa Azul.

When I was 29 and my fiance had just broken up with me and I was kind of a disaster, my friend Kelli Dunham gave me a cd about the grief process. I didn’t realize at the time that you could have grief about things that weren’t death. I just thought you powered through yucky feelings by ignoring them. Learning how to deal with grief and anxiety has been a long road and I’m still working through it.

I am going to miss my friends. I’m going to miss all of the tremendous cultural opportunities living in NYC–mostly all of my weirdo Downtown artist friends’ shows. I am going to miss Fall foliage (strategically moving just after foliage, when the gorgeous Gaywitchmas decor lines the streets and just before deep snow times). I’m going to miss the ability to skip car traffic and hop in a subway car to get places. There is grief about leaving that behind.

FridapyramidSince I’m moving someplace in a warm climate I got a lot of great ideas for my future gardens in LA. I love the way the colors of the plants popped against the bright colors of the buildings and pyramid at Casa Azul.

I want to approach this move in a mindful way that is as low stress as it can be. Last night I mentioned to Dara my anxiety level and she’s like “What are you anxious about?” I said, “Um, how about my impending move across the country?” Even the best laid plans and the most time you have to execute them still come with lots of unknown anxieties and that’s kind of buzzing along in the back of my head. I do all the things I know to do to handle my anxiety, including buckets of self care, meditation, faith that the Goddess has a plan for me and is taking care of everything behind the scenes on my behalf and still more self care. Yet still, part of having feelings that are difficult to experience is just acknowledging them. Hi anxiety. You are there still.

So my anxiety is telling me “Do ALL the NYC things you might possibly miss! Schedule ALL the hangouts with your friends! Fill up ALL of your time with moving prep!” But my self care mind is telling me, actually, slow the fuck down you started getting sick this week. Do what you can. It will all be okay. It will all be okay. It will all be okay.

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Ever since I stopped doing monthly queer parties, I definitely changed how I interact socially. Going through chemo as Dara’s support was a big part of recentering myself towards hanging out at home. At first it was out of necessity and then it became part of how I interacted with the world. I think this is also a product of getting older, and have heard queer friends in their thirties, forties and fifties talk about shifting priorities and not focusing on nightlife for socializing any longer.

There’s also this thing where everyone in NYC is really busy. There’s a necessary hustle to living here because it’s not cheap and my friends tend to be working artists. So they hold down day jobs/day hustles, side hustles, artwork, gigs, rehearsals, etc…

Remember that line in Clueless where Cher’s dad says “Everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes!!” In NYC I think that’s more like 45 minutes. The subway is convenient but it takes awhile, and busses take forever–often they just don’t show up. So if you factor in 45 minutes to get to Crown Heights from South Brooklyn neighborhoods it is hard to squeeze that into an evening. Am I naive to hope that things are a little bit different in a town where most folks drive?

bevinmacvictoriaThe other day I got to do one of my favorite things which was a spontaneous dinner hang with two of my favorite people at once! Mackenzi and Victoria!

I also just got kind of fatigued with how much work it takes to schedule a hang out in NYC sometimes. When people are busy and you get to the third round of times that don’t sync up… This summer I made plans with a couple of friends of mine 2 months out to go to Spa Castle. I totally guarded that time like a precious jewel because it was so hard to get it on the calendar and I wanted to see my friends.

I have also been on a journey to move towards centering self-care into my life–making taking care of myself a priority. Having blank space on my calendar to work on my day job work or my art work is important, it’s also important that I get to the gym, and not to burn myself out running around. Where I used to say yes to everything and fill up my calendar with back to back plans, now I’m more hesitant because I want to conserve my energy for the work I want to be doing in the world. I changed the way I eat, which means I cook for us a lot. It’s much easier and cheaper to eat a whole foods diet* if you cook at home, but that also means I spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning.

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So I had all of these shifts in my life, many of which contributed to my decision to move in the first place, but it also means so many of my precious NYC friends became people I see only every 4 to 6 months.

When I was doing my “should I or shouldn’t I” thinking about moving I realized that if I move away and am still working somewhat bicoastally, I’ll still see my NYC friends about every 4 to 6 months, just in more concentrated doses during visits rather than sporadically during our busy New Yorker lives. I’m hopeful that will work out.

Each time I catch-up with a friend I haven’t seen in 4 to 6 months (or sometimes longer) I am struck at how connections don’t necessarily have to have time limits. I love the experience of having so many friends with whom I have connections that time does not expire. That’s radical, beautiful abundance. It’s kind of weird to be like “Okay, so in the past 6 months all this has happened” with someone who is not a friend from out of town, but that’s a totally legitimate way to sustain connections with people we don’t get to see day to day. And in NYC there are few folks we get to see day to day unless we work or live with them, roll in a crew that prioritizes group hangs, or you see your neighbors often. (I have some neighbors I really love who I rarely see because our schedules don’t overlap.)

meandamandaAmanda moved away from NYC years ago and it is always a joy to get to see her again! Photo by Sarah Jenny.

So in part, my handling of moving anxiety and grief is going with the flow when it comes to getting my last minute NYC enjoyment in. I can’t possibly go to all the museums I’d like to see before I go, I probably won’t get to squeeze everyone before I go. Having an abundance mentality, where I know I can try to see folks as much as possible, putting it out there that I want to have hang outs while I’m decluttering and packing, sending around potluck invites, prioritizing quality time AND self care… Even looking at my life and being able to acknowledge that I’m having grief and anxiety is huge progress compared to who I was just 8 years ago. That’s what I’m experimenting with to handle my grief and anxiety.

That and remembering that I get to see lots of people I love once we are headed to LA. Both on the trip out through the South and once we get there. Life is change, the Goddess is change, and with change comes grief and anxiety.

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*It is also not cheap to eat a whole foods diet and food justice programs that work towards making whole foods more accessible to low income folks is work I really admire and want to amplify. Do you do food justice work and want my help amplifying? Please get in touch!

2015-03-19

I’m Presenting at the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in DC, SEXx Interactive in Philly and Deadline in NYC

Hey dear readers! One of the things I love most is teaching workshops about body positivity, authenticity and sex positivity. It’s a great combination of my passion for performance and information sharing. I have some upcoming appearances I want to share with you in case you happen to be in the area and want to come by.

(P.S. Please introduce yourselves! I promise I will be just a normal amount of awkward. And nobody ever died of awkward.)

10860953_734925559936428_5472055412046050292_oAll photos here are me doing a reading from my almost finished memoir at Drae Campbell’s TELL, a queer storytelling show, last December. Theme was holidays, so that’s why the Santa beer sweatshirt. Photos by BGSQD because it was at the BGSQD, the queer bookstore in NYC.

Washington, DC Area March 21st (this Saturday) I’m on a panel at the annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA.

Sex-Positivity: Educate, Empower, and Self-Define

Time: Saturday, 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Description: Sex positivity is the belief that consensual sexual expression is both healthy and important in contributing to a safe and inclusive campus climate. Sex positivity is grounded in comprehensive sex education, exploring and deconstructing gender norms, and promoting body positivity and self-love. Implementing sex positivity is transformational on a multitude of levels, ranging from your relationship with yourself, to relationships within your community, to influencing policy. Join us for a fun-filled conversation that explores how your feminist club can bring sex positivity to your campus!

Moderator: Kelsey Carroll, Feminist Majority Foundation

I’m excited to join the following panelists: Natalie Dibo – President, Goucher College Feminist Collective, Ponta Abadi– blogger, Sex and Privilege, Bevin Branlandingham, blogger, QueerFatFemme, Sophia Kerby, State Policy & Partnerships Coordinator, Advocates for Youth.

10842183_734927129936271_3649774888158777087_o (1)Me with (L-R), Drae Campbell, Kelli Dunham, Topher Gross and Robin Cloud. All of us performed at Meow Mixx back in the day when it was still a bar on the Lower East Side and when I told that to the audience Robin said it meant we were old. But I thought it was kind of beautiful, to perform in this new amazing space and bring that energy of the old bar poetry/comedy/drag/queer performance scene into that space together. Maybe we are kind of old, but at 36 I still feel like I have a lot of life left to live.

Philadelphia, Friday, May 8th, SEXx Interactive Conference.

My talk is last in the 1PM slot (scheduled for 1:36). I’m presenting a TED style talk entitled “Reclaiming Sexuality From a Society that Wants You Disappeared” about my journey to embrace my sexuality as a fat person who was really disembodied for my entire adolescence and into my young adult life.

SEXx Interactive: a journey for the mind, heart and body taking place in Philadelphia May 7-10th. This event is sponsored by GALAEI, a queer Latin@ social organization, in collaboration with a team of sex-positive community members. We seek to: connect the complexities of the intellectual, spiritual, and physical dimensions of sexuality; create spaces for interaction and conversation across gender, race, and sexual orientation; and support the empowerment of the curious and seasoned alike. This interactive forum will engage participants with informational presentations, sexuality-based performances, “how-to” workshops, and sexually-themed art exhibitions. We expect this forum to expand the viability of a sex-positive culture by uniting those of like mind in the pursuit of knowledge and comradeship.

10644320_734925399936444_1684985250348298_oSpeaking of being old, when I saw the logo for one of the presenting organizations for the SEXx Interactive conference it looked very familiar and then I realized that my graphic designer ex partner, Seth, designed the logo when we were together over a decade ago! Small queer world.

New York City, April 3rd, 7PM Deadline: Works In Progress from Cutting Edge Queer Artists. Facebook event here.

Deadline is at the amazing queer bookstore, Bureau of General Services: Queer Division, that now has a permanent space inside the NYC LGBT Center on 13th street.

I’m performing the work in progress of my TED talk from above at this incredible event curated by Sabrina Chap, the roster of former performers at Deadline is really incredible and inspirational.

LA: May 13-27th–I am going to be in LA for two weeks, visiting family and accompanying my partner while she does some education policy conference stuff and a stunt driving course for her 40th birthday. Since I’m in town if you have a college or retreat center or want to produce a thing and want me to perform or present or do a reading or facilitate a discussion, let me know! queerfatfemme at gmail.com

2014-05-22

All Bodies Deserve Health Care: Great Video Resource!

My friend Kelli Dunham, a stand-up comic and nurse, posted a video she made about planning for unplanned health care and I think it is one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen about how complicated it is to have a non-normative body while trying to navigate the health care system. I absolutely had to share it with my readership.

If you can’t watch a video right now–repeat this mantra, “I deserve health care.” Then keep repeating it until you have six minutes to watch the video and receive some really great, practical, funny advice.

I think a lot about how much worse Dara’s cancer treatment would be if she had waited. Believe me, it sucks a lot, but it could be worse… Luckily right now her care is considered “curative.”

240134641_117c66a8d5_o (1)Here’s Kelli Dunham with her late partner, Heather MacAllister, who worked to inspire all folks to take care of their minds and bodies. Her parting words are in this blog post I wrote five years ago about my own medical self advocacy.

I’m really thankful Dara’s lump was found when it was. But if she had waited to get her annual GYN exam she might not have caught the lump in time for it to be stage 2. I mean, Dara is not boob identified so even though once I knew it was there I could feel the lump it wasn’t super likely it would just get found on its own, and without her doctor’s insistence she might not have had it biopsied for quite some time.

It really touched me in Kelli’s video when she talked about how even folks who haven’t gotten “that lump” checked out deserve health care. Because they do! It’s so hard to advocate for yourself and it takes time to realize that you probably need to deal with the hassle and cost of health care.

The more hassle you get being a fat, disabled, gender non-conforming, otherwise marginalized person in the health care system the more likely you are to need your health care situation to actually feel or seem extremely urgent to get health care. Which, sadly, means that health care issues that are easier/cheaper to address if they’re caught early, are much harder to deal with and sometimes no longer curable.

One of the biggest motivating forces behind my work as a body liberation activist is getting people to love their bodies enough to take care of them and to dismantle the system that pathologizes fat people just for their fat. My beloved step mother died at age 48 after being prescribed fen-phen–she was being treated for her fat not her actual symptoms. What a fucking hassle to have a body that is immediately targeted and treated incorrectly because people buy the myth that fat is automatically unhealthy. This happens far too often.

11873829985_1d0d81bcc4_zMy step mom Liz, in Yosemite, sometime in the early 90s.

I also know way too many fat, gender non-conforming queers who have passed before their time because of a lack of healthcare that can squarely be blamed on systemic fatphobia.

So watch this video. Pocket this info. Regardless of what your own situation is, maybe you’ll learn something that will be helpful to pass along to a friend when the time comes. And repeat the mantra, “I deserve healthcare.”

10290632_10152377167780340_6190868267996805814_nKelli designed this awesome low-fi photo of Glenn Marla with his iconic phrase!

2013-07-02

Book Review: Freak of Nurture by Kelli Dunham

“Have you read my dead girlfriend’s book?” I heard near the end of the NYC Dyke March while a flyer for a book I’ve read (and reviewed on my blog) was thrust at me from behind, followed by the familiar meaty arm and dolphin tattoo of my friend Kelli Dunham. She had made fliers for her deceased girlfriend’s book as well as her own book on a reversible cardstock. It was really good looking and didn’t seem at all like it used any graphics software from Vista Print, one of Kelli’s favorite design aesthetics.

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An example of this design aesthetic from my archives.

Kelli continued her pitch, “Cheryl was my second girlfriend who died in five years. They both died of cancer.” At this point I was laughing hysterically, which is something Kelli has always been able to do to me, make me laugh uncontrollably. Once I threw her a birthday party potluck and I encouraged everyone to bring dishes named for her comedy. Mine was Spotted Owl Casserole, from her joke about not being invited to any more lesbian potlucks.

Probably most people wouldn’t be able to make seamless jokes about something so awful–the opposite of a miracle, she says, in her book Freak of Nurture. But that’s Kelli, she’s somehow got an incredible sense of humor and an incredible sense of humility, both are huge themes in the book.

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Kelli is very good at being from the Midwest and makes great casseroles.

Kelli’s book is a collection of essays from the life of an ex-Catholic nun, butch lesbian who is often mistaken for a boy of varying ages, a working stand-up comic with a penchant for misadventure, someone who readily and often talks to strangers, who had a really tender D/s partnership with a burlesque queen and legend of her time who passed in 2007 using Oregon’s right to die laws, who, against all odds, found love again and her girlfriend died of an incredibly curable form of cancer, who speaks Haitian Creyol and used those skills to go to Haiti to help after the earthquake and is left with little patience for hipster problems in New York City. And who once peed on the B train and makes comedy about it.

Kelli told a friend at the Dyke March, “Bevin and I have known each other for about a million years.” Which is almost true, where a million years is 12. I’ve found it really hard to “review” Kelli’s book. It’s amazing. It’s my friend who is hysterical and whose dysfunctional family stories alone are book-worthy. It’s a lot of stories I know because I was in Kelli’s life while they happened but still made me so wrapped up in them that I missed my subway stop two different times while reading it.

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Kelli and Cheryl at the Dyke March in 2009. Cheryl loved the Dyke March. You should totally read Cheryl’s book, too, if you haven’t.

I cried a lot, multiple times, especially at the chapter about her Queen, Heather MacAllister. It’s so clear how much they loved each other and what a beautiful and rich relationship they had until Heather passed.

Kelli is sarcastic and has great timing. There’s a chapter where she teaches a nun how to masturbate and a really endearing story about how she was working at a school for kids with disabilities in Haiti and they kept teaching her really lewd terms in Kreyol and she, to this day, has to tell people “I’m sorry, I learned Kreyol from children, is there a more polite way to say that?”

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Little known fact about Kelli: She will almost always say yes to a dare, especially when on stage. This is from the NO PANTS NO PROBLEM Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

I guess I keep waiting to have the “perfect” thing to say about Kelli’s book but I can’t so I will just say she is incredible at making very difficult things to hear easy to absorb. She speaks from a place of compassion for anyone who has felt like a freak in mainstream society (i.e. just about anyone). You should totally get her book from Topside Press! It makes a great gift for the lesbians, ex-nuns and intense nerds in your life or people who just like to laugh.

2013-01-31

Casserole Party

My BFF Brian told me about an annual party thrown during the summer by his friends in New Jersey. A casserole party with prizes! Encouraging folks to bring casseroles to compete in competitions for expensive cooking gear. It’s a huge gay hurrah with over forty people and a theme. Brian noted that this year’s winner (chicken kiev or something) did not adhere to the theme (carnival).

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Me and Damien. Vintage Aprons, Damien Luxe Private Collection, my navy blue dress courtesy Brooklyn Boobala.

I had this nugget in the back of my mind for months when I asked my roommate if she wanted to throw a mid-Winter get together for our friends. I thought it was a great Winter theme because casseroles are typically served warm and are great comfort food. Our apartment is especially good for parties in the Winter because it gets pretty warm from the living room’s abundant heat and we can easily seat 20 folks on our glamorous couches.

As we prepared our own casserole offerings for the evening, Damien and I discussed what we would have done if we were Baller Lesbians. (Which I like to relanguage, Law of Attraction style, as “When we are Baller Lesbians.”) Like bought some party favors of cute pot holders for everyone. Had a Le Cruset casserole dish as the big prize and a few other kitschy kitchen items for the runner-up prize categories. Like best name, most compelling casserole transport saga, best vegetarian dish, etc…

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We made numbered index cards for fauxnonymous voting. There was a big discussion about whether people should know who made what because popularity might be a factor.

What we did, instead of a Baller Lesbian Prize, was a $1 buy-in, winner take all. I think the total was $13. We also told everyone who came to either bring a casserole or a beverage. Everyone who tasted the casseroles could vote.

It was sort of necessary to define casserole for some of our attendees. Since our friends consist of folks from all over the country and the world, not everyone is familiar with the concept of casserole (or “hot dish” as my friend Victoria, a Minnesota native, calls it). This is what Damien came up with and I really loved it:

Not just a combination of sticky and cooked foodstuffs, the casserole is a wintery dish that sticks to the ribs AND the heart, just like your favorite femmes who would love you to attend!

I was once engaged to marry an Iowa native and have dated my fair share of Midwesterners, so I know folks have really strong opinions about what makes a casserole legitimate (often “cream of whatever” soup is that legitimizing ingredient) and whether or not Jello can be considered salad.

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Cole and Amanda, clean plate club.

I once made up my own casserole recipe in honor of my favorite dyke stand-up comic, Kelli Dunham. She had a birthday and I encouraged folks to bring food inspired by her comedy and she tells a joke about being asked not to bring her Spotted Owl Casserole to the dyke potlucks anymore. I made up Spotted Owl Casserole based on a tater tot casserole recipe I read on a blog in 2002 but it’s actually vegetarian so there you go.

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This is Kelli Dunham, unveiling her casseroles.

Early on in the evening our friends wondered if the vegetarian dishes would have an advantage over the meat dishes, since everyone attending would be able to eat the veg dishes and not everyone would be able to try the dishes.

In that realm, I thought that perhaps Jess bringing a lamb and beef shephard’s pie might be a risky entry at a queer potluck, as both of those are controversial meats.

I made Oklahoma Baked Cheese Grits, adding a bit more Worcestershire sauce to them, using half parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese, and forgetting to put in the eggs. Thankfully, it did not suffer for the omission. I also made Chicken and Dumplings Casserole, but I used a Paula Deen chicken stock recipe and free range chicken legs for the meat instead of just commercial chicken stock and chicken cubes called for in the recipe. I think it was a wise choice, and the extra chicken stock I made has helped the leftovers. I think it made the recipe extremely flavorful.

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Damien made her famous Food Bank Casserole in three versions: vegan, gluten-free vegan, and full-meat. She describes food bank casserole as the use of typical food bank treasures. Usually you get a can of mixed vegetables, a can of “cream of whatever” soup, a can of tuna or fish, a container of biscuit mix. My understand of how the casserole comes together is to mix all canned ingredients, prepare the biscuit mix and layer it on top. Bake it at the typical casserole degrees (350) and voila! Deliciousness!

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Other casseroles brought to our home were: Asses of Fire, Kelli named this hot as hell vegetarian dish. The secret ingredient was some kind of chili. She also made Midwesterner’s Socially Awkward Meaty Surprise which was careful layers of cheese, sliced potatoes, chicken and bacon. A vegetarian casserole of black bean tostada variety. Carnivore’s Vegan Disaster which was sort of like a vegan pate’ and something was definitely off in the texture. Emily, who brought the dish, had two major items that were missing in the preparation and I can’t remember what they were.

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This one was Carnivore’s Vegan Disaster.

We had everyone vote at a certain point and then we had another round of guests arrive before we tallied. Jessica Halem even brought a salad which was certainly welcome after all of those carbs. Also, we had a latecomer casserole that was a braised beef shephards pie that was incredible but hardly anyone had room to eat it. Sam left me the leftovers so I felt like I really won a grand prize.

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This is Emily, showcasing a very Virgo-style tasting method. She ate this plate clockwise.

All of our guests sat around digesting casseroles and chatted about many things, including a long story about San Francisco performance art, food bank policy, a redux of the epic Myth party the weekend before and social justice strategies.

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When it came time to announce the winner of Best Casserole we did a couple of side categories, Toddlers and Tiaras style. We had “Best Casserole Transportation Saga” because it was snowing that night and transporting casseroles on public transit in New York is hella harder than you think. Kelli had this epic thing where everything was wrapped in towels, ace bandages and packing tape. Jess won, though, because she lives near where that dolphin was stuck in the Gowanus Canal, she found out the dolphin died, the casserole was leaking on the subway and then when it got to our place it almost set our oven on fire and set off the fire alarm in the hallway of our building.

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Creative transport via cardboard. Sam and Jessica Halem.

We also gave an award for best name and Kelli won that for Asses of Fire, though I believe Carnivore’s Vegan Disaster was a close second.

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The overall winner of the potluck was… the Lamb and Beef Shepherds Pie! Jess really took home a lot of glory on that fine Winter’s evening!

I hope some of you out there are inspired to have a warm and inviting party for your friends this Winter!

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2012-10-25

Book Review: Cheryl B.’s My Awesome Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-09-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-07-17

Rebel Cupcake on Thursday! Sarah McLachlan Tribute Show Next Week! Queer Memoir Decades, too!

July is a fun month to be a queer New Yorker! I’m doing some really cool shows and I’m excited to tell you about them.

First, as usual, is Rebel Cupcake! A couple of RC regulars asked me to do a Classic Rock Cupcake, so here it is! Thursday, July 19th at Sugarland, 221 N. 9th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

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Nath Ann Carerra is doing Fleetwood Mac’s “Sisters Of The Moon” and the psychedelic gender variant black mass chanting number “Coven In Charing Cross” by Coven. “It’ll be a thematic 60’s psychedelic lesbianic occult whirlwind,” says Nath Ann. I’m so thrilled!

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Glenn Marla and Hana Malia have been preparing for their upcoming theatrical piece “My Wife’s Ass” and will present a dance excerpt from it. “In a tale of the bravery and imagination required to fall into fat love, My Wife’s Ass explores agency over and fear of the fat queer body, the ‘headless fatty,’ unabashed consumption, ‘fat panic,’ the backlash against gender non-conformity, and how the ‘war on obesity’ is experienced at street level.”

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Photo by Patience Owens

And Miss Mary Wanna, the reigning Miss Rebel Cupcake, and just general sex-pot shimmy queen is turning up to strut her stuff to classic rock.

More info at the Rebel Cupcake page. Pre-cruise on Facebook!


On July 23, a Monday night, I am performing a lesbolesque interpretation of Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession.” My act is based on a tie die bandanna I bought at Michfest in 2001 and about Femme identity.

The entire show is a queer performance art tribute to the album Fumbling Toward Ecstacy, with each track on the album represented. It is truly a one of a kind show that should not be missed.

Check out all of the info at the Facebook invite (along with clever performer bios).


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July 29th, dangerously close to when I leave town for three weeks, I am reading a chapter from my memoir at Queer Memoir: Decades. The show is part of the Fresh Fruit Festival and is going to be really fun and awesome. I hope you laugh at the memoir chapter because it is meant to be a funny tale of sex between queer generations.

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use code “MEMOIRIST” to get ten dollar tickets if you buy at least two.

2011-10-16

Introducing Gay Sex Week and Some Everyday Glitter

Hi friends! Life has been steady rolling lately. I am trying to lean into the big changes in my life as best as I can. Working with a lot of fear and scarcity stuff but being gentle, really really gentle with myself. Self-care is my dreamy boyfriend right now. My steady, number one priority. This is a moment by moment choice and requires an awful lot of checking in with myself, honesty and sweetness.

The great part of doing all this self-care is that I am able to really enjoy life. I’ve been up to fun things!

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Poppies! Morgan made these for Rebel Cupcake. Possibly the best cupcakes I’ve ever had.

ITEM THE FIRST: Next week is GAY SEX WEEK at QueerFatFemme.com. I’ve been working on a bunch of blog posts about queer sex and sexuality. I read this article about the status of LGBT movement in the media by Cathy Renna at Huffington Post that was a call to action, essentially, to queer up the voices of the LGBT movement. (In my opinion the whole essence of Queer is that it’s anything but simple.)

[I]f our movement were braver and more open about what actually sets us apart from the rest of the world (they call is sexual orientation for a reason, right?), it would seem more genuine and honest. Talking about sexuality without talking about sex in an honest and appropriate manner often seems to be the order of the day, and it seems like a flawed long-term solution to talking about ourselves. I think it ties in to the age-old debate over whether to argue that we are “just like everyone else” or that we are “more alike than we are different.”

The “LGBT Movement” in the media is missing hella representation by really important aspects of our communities. This is just a couple examples of a billion, but other than Beth Ditto can you think of one Queer Fat Femme in the media? Or how about one Transman of color in the media?

So, get ready for lots of GAY SEX for NATIONAL QUEERFATFEMME.COM GAY SEX WEEK which also will include participation in National Fisting Day [this link is clearly NSFW] on October 21.

I hope it helps “queer up the movement in the media” and I also hope it helps some folks who are critically underbanged at this time to shake the dust off their sex lives.

ITEM THE SECOND: I gave my workshop “Love for EveryBODY” at NYU for their Pride Week on Wednesday. It was so awesome! I love giving that workshop and teaching self love and body liberation. Often when I teach I learn stuff, too, and this was no exception. What a great, heartwarming group!!

ITEM THE THIRD: Rebel Cupcake was on Thursday and the Wizard of Oz theme brought my friend Drae Campbell (the reigning Miss Rebel Cupcake and Miss Lez) out to do some butchlesque. The character was the Dandy Lion, a cowardly lion take-off, using the song The Lion Sleeps Tonight and just thinking about that act makes me smile. I love it when performers take a Rebel Cupcake theme and run with it to create something amazing. I also hope I can get this act on video!

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Dandy Lion!

ITEM THE FOURTH: I went out last weekend to Hey Queen. I love that party. I got dressed up in this duster, which is as seen on Blanche on an episode of Golden Girls. I made a headpiece from scratch. I took lots of pictures, danced like crazy and chatted a bunch. It’s nice sometimes to just get to take a break from big stressors and shake it loose.

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I am go-going at next month’s Hey Queen! November 19th at Public Assembly. I’ll post all the details on my calendar page, but save the date! I hardly ever go-go dance. I’ve been promised a glitter cannon.

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Miss Mary Wanna is my co-go-go.

ITEM THE FIFTH: My friend Kelli Dunham just started a new online project called Grief Sucks. Because it does.

Kelli performed at Rebel Cupcake on Thursday and it’s incredible knowing someone for ten years and watching them evolve as a human and a performer. She also told a sex story about me (Kelli and I never had sex with each other but we did have sex near each other once) on stage, which I suppose is a great inauguration for NATIONAL QUEERFATFEMME.COM GAY SEX WEEK.

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Vintage me and Kelli from 2006.

2011-06-20

So Much Loss

Filed under: Queer Oprah — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Bevin @ 10:07 pm

First of all, I am renaming Gay Pride Month. I am now calling it Gay Stamina Month. Everyone goes out twice as much, there are three times as many events. (The LGBT Bar Association had not one but FOUR pride events this month–that’s not even touching on the abundance of nightlife!)

And in the midst of this whirlwind of pride events and Real L Word people behind a velvet rope on exhibit at a nightclub, our community is rocked by the tragic and sudden loss of an incredible artist. Our friend Cheryl B. has passed away.

Cheryl B

I knew Cheryl first as a poet and the performer behind Poetry vs. Comedy, but I didn’t really get to know her until she dated my friend Kelli Dunham. She was a remarkable person and their love story is dorky and awkward and tender and glorious. I loved that Cheryl could be both sarcastic and sweet, which is a difficult combination. She was also an incredibly talented writer, evident most recenltly in her fabulous blog chronicling her journey with cancer called WTF Cancer Diaries.

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At Nerd Love with Cheryl, Diana Cage, Molly Dykeman and Kelli.

But mostly I knew that Cheryl really loved Kelli and she made Kelli very, very happy, which was the most important thing to me. I remember the first few times I saw her with Kelli I could tell how much she loved her. Sometimes when I go into people’s homes I can sense how much love there is and with Cheryl and Kelli it was palpable wherever they were. On stage being dorky and reenacting their first dates as the bears in the XTraNormal videos at Nerd Love in February, and in the hospital during visits. It was quiet and beautiful and shared glances and dedication to positive thinking and letters to hospital staff posted on their door about being responsible for the energy they brought into their space.

When Cheryl first got sick it was really shocking, and my heart leapt to Kelli and Cheryl. And I cried because it was so unfair, just like right now I am crying because it is so unfair that someone as loving, generous and wonderful as Kelli should have another loss like this.

This marks the third person I have known personally to pass away in the last three months, all under 46 years old. I am so shocked at how much loss my communities have experienced and grateful for how much love there is going around.

I am a person of faith but not religion. I had this beautiful image a couple of months ago after my friend V passed away of all of the beautiful women who are waiting for me beyond the veil or whatever you want to call the passage from this life. V was a Femme mentor to me–I knew her from afar the very first moment I laid eyes on her at Michfest. She was a beacon of Fat Femme adornment and I saw in her hope for myself. At the time I was so lost with my identity, with my body, I felt so isolated in the lesbian community and there V was, self-confident and strutting through a community she clearly belonged in.

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Here is V atop the truck in the Femme Parade a couple of years ago. Our friend VA is next to her on the left.

We met personally years later and she eventually, and often, called me her fashion icon. I was flabbergasted–how could someone whose own fashion inspired my emergence from my self-hating shell call me an icon? It was some sort of circle of admiration bending over onto itself and it was beautiful.

V was so full of love and joy for life. She was tender with everyone. Here’s a confession: I was still so intimidated by V that I never once asked her to take a photo with me. I am a person who obsessively photo documents my life. I am always asking people to take photos with me.* But for some reason I kept being intimidated about asking V, I have no idea why. I guess I once put her on a pedestal and it was hard for me to take her off. Also, hence why I have taken over two months to write about her passing because I was waiting to be able to say something “perfect” even though I know better–I know there is no such thing as “perfect” expressions of love or grief.

So the day that V died I vowed never to let my intimidation stop me from taking photos ever again.

I remember the last NOLOSE conference I was hanging out by the pool and everyone else was in a workshop but V was floating in the pool near my ex-lover Luscious. I was talking to V and she asked if I would take her photo with her iphone floating there–she was so happy, she wanted to capture that moment. So I went to her room and got her iphone and took the photo and won’t forget the look on her face and how she soaked up that bit of life like a piece of bread in a bowl of soup. I wish I had that photo, too!

And another moment. V was a really talented quilter. She brought a quilt she made and displayed it at the worker craft fair and sat in front of it. It was yellow and now when I think of her I often think of that image of her in front of that quilt.

Last week marked one year since Luscious passed away. I realized I am not partial to remembering birthdays or anniversaries of death. I think about Luscious every day and actually have been thinking a lot about her lately anyway. And then when people on Facebook** started talking about it, there I was hit with Big Feelings. It’s as though I don’t like the pressure of the one day that is supposed to hurt more than others. Or one day where you have to feel it bigger, like the feelings aren’t already there or something. But then it is that day and it does feel bigger and you don’t know why.

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Me and Luscious. Photo courtesy of Tanja Tiziana.

But that’s it. There are feelings and there are losses and shit is just sad. I used to be so afraid of grief and feeling sad. There was this time in my life where I made the decision to not be sad anymore. I spent most of my teenage years in this intense depression, mostly stemming from feeling very very bad about being fat. I read this book where the main character just hated herself and was miserable and I realized that I didn’t want to live that way anymore. That was the beginning of my life-long journey to love myself.

But what I unintentionally added to that was a judgment of myself about being sad. I worked hard to escape from feelings of sadness and grief. I learned how to rebound like a pro when I got dumped. I was so sad about my step-mom dying when I was 19 I couldn’t talk about her for three years without crying so I just didn’t talk about her. And she was and is one of the most important people to me. I learned how to not let myself feel sad. I learned how to cut people out and cut myself off from conflict when it hurt too bad.

I just read about Akhilandeshvari: The Goddess of Never Not Broken and it reminded me that all of the things I’ve gone through in my life are really important parts of my strength now. When I forget about that and when the sad, angering or frustrating things happen I fight against them because of the injustice.

Since last Fall I’ve been working really intently on healing losses from my childhood and my life. I had a devastating heartbreak and I didn’t try to romantically rebound for the first time since I started dating. I am learning how to grieve. How to really feel my feelings. How to trust my instincts. How to love myself through not feeling things “perfectly” and how being sad is really okay sometimes but that also gives me a huge impetus for joy in the little things. Being in the moment and present. Everything is temporary–and that’s the beauty. When you are sad it will pass. The crying jag in the car, it will be over. And it is so necessary.

I am sad at the loss all around. I think it is really unfair and I feel so much sadness for the partners and family and close friends of the people who have passed.

But I am in awe of all the love in these losses. I am so inspired by the love Kelli and Cheryl had for each other. I am so inspired by the love V had for everyone around her and the life she revelled in. I am comforted knowing that I loved Luscious as best and as broken as I possibly could and she loved me as best and as broken as she could during the time we had together.

And this is me, my process, my looking at the glass half-full. Because I’ve got just one wild and precious life and I choose to have a positive one, and see V in my spiritual posse of Femmes on the other side looking out for me and ready for me when my time comes.

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And I felt this loss, and the heaviness and busy-ness of last week and all the disco floors and ceilings and too many repetitions of that terrible Katy Perry song and my instincts are telling me to take a break from Gay Stamina Month. I’m going away. Wednesday and Thursday it’s me, my dog Macy, and some alone time at my favorite beach. And I’ll be feeling my feelings, my grief and my joy and my awe and my love for women who inspire me.

And here are three things that have brought me great joy in the last two days.


This video.

Prize Pig Shirt
This photo. The Prize Pig shirt from Heart Attack Culture is incredible.

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Finding this photo I took in San Francisco while filming for Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s Fierce Fat Femmes documentary. I was doing a performance art piece in this donut shop. I love this photo.

*I think our queer and fat and otherwise different communities are beautiful and this is the vision of the world I want to capture. Mainstream culture gets the magazines and tv shows and news reports and I think we should get as much exposure as we can–hence my drive to create media that inspires self-love for all people, regardless of their differences.

**Facebook grieving still feels hard for me to participate in, but I still totally read all of the things people post about V, Luscious and now, sadly, Cheryl.

2011-02-26

Valentine’s Day Weekend Non-Stop Queer Style

This year’s Valentine’s Day weekend was glamorous and non-stop. There was an intense agenda of queer happenings and what better way to get my feet back into the Brooklyn swing of things after my extended sojourn in San Francisco* than to try to do everything? It began with Rebel Cupcake 10: Erotic City on Thursday, February 10th.

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My friend Trent who is one half of That’s My Jam.

The theme selections for Rebel Cupcake are a truly scientific process.**
It goes like this: I thought Valentine’s day is four days later… fuck Valentine’s day, let’s get dirty. Erotic stuff…. Erotic City! I love Prince.

The cupcakes were vegan this time, orange/chocolate and cappuccino flavor, made by Rebel Cupcake fan Mannie.

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It was a wild show that involved an impromptu punching demo by traveling Portland punching Booth Wyatt Riot, the drag Prince stylings of fresh face LeRoi Prince and capped off by the incredible performance of Epiphany. She sang a couple of songs and her version of Fuck You brought down the house.

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LeRoi Prince.

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Epiphany.

After truly getting down to a Prince-heavy dance party (the floor was still packed at 2:45 AM, definitely the latest I’ve seen the dance floor at Rebel Cupcake thrive at that level), my weekend kept rolling.

Friday night was the closing party/ritual for Into the Neon, a group collaborative show between many queer artists I know and some I don’t. The exhibits were incredible. I was especially moved by Daniel Lang/Levitsky’s piece about the murder of a gay man in a park in Newark. I loved Amy Agony’s reading nook with a zine library to pore through. I was honored to be included so many times in Quito Ziegler’s exhibit, she pointed out to me that me and my posse were especially prevalent on her row themed “tenderness.”

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Daniel’s piece was a hand-cranked movie with a soundtrack you listened to. It was very haunting.

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Quito’s exhibit.

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Drag station.

There was a tree in the middle of the room surrounded by foam and blankets, which was the best place for me to enjoy the evening considering my long Thursday night dancing and nine and a half hour Shop Girl day.

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With Marcy and Natalie.

Glenn Marla decided to have an all day open house for his birthday party, where I rolled in at 9:30 (another nine and a half hour Shop Girl day). My thoughts are in this episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket. I went home to get ready for Hey Queen, my favorite dance party that isn’t Rebel Cupcake. I decided to change because Wyatt Riot and Jessika Fancy were planning to wear spandex and I knew I needed to up my fashion game. I did pretty well considering I dressed in 5 minutes.

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With my friend LJ. Photo by Jose Figueroa Fotog for Hey Queen.

I chatted with Justin Vivian Bond a bit about Femme fashion and wearing two pairs of tights on the brutal party nights (it has been an especially horrible winter in NYC). V performed a three song set at 1:30 that was just glorious.

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I love Justin Vivian’s storytelling. Photo by Jose Figueroa Fotog for Hey Queen.

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Accompanied by Nath Ann. Photo by Jose Figueroa Fotog for Hey Queen.

The next day was another Shop Girl day that found me sharing a leftover cunt cupcake from Glenn’s birthday party (made by Damien Luxe) with plus size super model Tara Lynn. She’s really nice and fun and was shopping the vintage racks at Re/Dress. Even a work day can be glamorous!

Sunday night was a work night, where I met up with my neighbor and co-creator Heather. She is directing and I am producing an all queer 10 minute staged reading of the Outsiders at Rebel Cupcake on March 10. We needed to watch the movie and prepare for the auditions.*** My BFF Brian just moved in around the corner from both of us and we used his big tv and our friend Michael made us chicken parm. It was perfect.

Monday was Valentine’s Day/Validation Day. I was asked to be a celebrity judge for a Nerd-Off competition at Nerd Off Production’s Nerd Love event. Since my current relationship status is Window Shopping**** I thought it would be fun to ask one of the other celebrity judges to be my Valentine.

Molly Equality Dykeman
is a piece of work. She’s a poet, butchlesque performer, a security guard, a lady chaser. I thought it would be fun shtick to banter about while we were judging nerds. Having a celebrity date was pretty awesome.*****


Maybe everything you need to know about Molly is in this video?

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Photo courtesy Molly.

I required Molly to wear her finest butch accessories (in this instance a Love tie from the dollar store) and bring me a flower from the dollar store or a bodega. After exchanging gifts we took photos with Syd London for Time Out New York. She gave me a box of chocolates, a card that complimented my boobs and the flower.

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Photo courtesy Molly.

I brought for her scratch-off lottery tickets, a diet coke and a cookie decorated with haiku by Kazi, a poet who works inside a Lotto stand on 53rd and Lexington.

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Photo by my BFF Brian.

The nerdiness of the Nerd Off was ridiculous. It was hosted by Kelli Dunham and Cheryl B. I had to ask a lot of nerd to English clarifying questions. It was a joy to be part of and award prizes with the other celebrity judge, Diana Cage, for such talents as “Best Use of Math Teacher Blog to Perform Erotica.”

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Photo courtesy Molly.

Check out more photos from the event on the Time Out New York website.

Some of you might be wondering how I can maintain this stamina. The key is that I don’t drink much (one or two well-timed drinks max) and I wear flat shoes when I intend to dance a lot. At the end of this whirlwind weekend my feet were actually quite sore, but I felt deliriously happy and incubated in this amazing community of artists and friends that make Brooklyn my home. A community kind of love, really.

*I have been in the Mission so much in the last 9 months that Yahoo news (benignly) falsely reported that I live there.
**April’s theme is I Love Lucy (an old school show biz style line-up) because I scored a great vintage dress that is very Lucy. I just have to work on the hair style.
***Watching that movie is sort of like watching porn. It’s so hot and bromantic!
****Window Shopping is my current approach to dating given the amount of emotional work I’m doing on myself. After being totally off the market for several months, I am approaching dating again with extreme caution. I’m not going into any stores, I’m not asking how much something costs. But if something pretty catches my eye and the shop keeper comes outside I might ask about it. If the shop keeper is willing to transact right there on the sidewalk, okay. Basically, I’m not doing any pursuing and I’m letting things happen if they happen but not concerned one way or another.
*****I’m still open to a date for March 14th’s Steak and Blow Job day.

2010-01-18

FemmeCast Video Podcast Episode 2: Heather MacAllister’s Embodying Fat Liberation

I have switching the FemmeCast Video Podcast hosting to Blip.tv because you tube no longer allows videos longer than 10 minutes.

I really hope you’ll pull up a cupcake and cozy in for 13 minutes. Heather’s piece is very accessible, chronicles the history of the Fat Bottom Revue (the fat burlesque troupe she founded) and also speaks to the need to use the body in order to work against fat oppression.

“We will never have our freedom if we only live from the neck up, yet that is the way that many fat people live, even, or especially, the fat activists and academics among us… The oppression of anti-fat hatred is sited on the body, and it is in the body that these wounds can be healed.” —Heather MacAllister

On the video the piece is read by Kelli Dunham, butch comedien correspondent for FemmeCast.

You can read the piece in its entirety, as well as 50 other pieces in the Fat Studies Reader. You should try to get it at your local indie bookstore (and make sure they order an extra copy for their shelf). If you buy anything from Amazon through my links my website gets a small referral fee, which basically gets me more books and music. (I got a free copy of the next Femme Book Club book, Leather Daddy and the Femme thanks to my reader’s clicking generosity.

Heather continues to be a huge inspiration for me. I am working on an oral history project collecting people’s stories about Heather.*

I am also collecting a slide show of photos of her for the Heather MacAllister Memorial Community Lounge at Re/Dress NYC–please send any digital photos you have.

We will be having a naming ceremony for the lounge on Friday, February 12 at 9PM as part of the Glutton For Fatshion Zine** Release Party at Re/Dress NYC. It’s a free event!

*If you knew her, would you please get in touch with me?
**The Glutton For Fatshion Zine call for submissions is going on through January 22. Read it at the link and submit!

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