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

2016-10-11

My Coming Out Story

Happy Coming Out Day! Every year on October 11th the LGBTQ community and our allies celebrate Coming Out Day as a way to commemorate and sanctify an important moment in the lives of queer people. It’s also an important way to help our children, families, friends, co-workers and communities know that you are a safe space for LGBTQ folks to come out to.

bevinchrisamandadamienFor this post I’m using photos I found in my archives from the Femme Family Pride Coming Out as Femme party that Femme Family produced in June 2009 at Stonewall Inn. L-R, Damien, Me, Amanda and Chris.

Coming out is such an intensely personal decision, since being queer is somewhat of a seemingly mutable way of being different. (“Passing” as straight is easier for some than others, and it is often tied to gender presentation.) I thought in honor of the occasion, and the fact that I told this story to my friends Jenna and Rick at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner on Friday, I would share it here!

Coming out is easier said than done, and for me it was really difficult. I am 37 years old, which means I grew up in a pre-Ellen era. I noticed a pretty big cultural shift when Ellen’s character came out as a lesbian on her then sitcom in 1997. It was a watershed moment when, more and more, people were aware that LGBTQ folks were openly living their lives queerly. I feel like most kids who came of age after Ellen came out have a different experience within American culture.

bevinrachelsophieMe, Rachel (check out her work getting Queers, Women and POC into tech sales) and Sophie (check out her incredible body positive pin-up photography business).

I didn’t know gay was a thing that you could be until I was 14 years old. I had literally never understood that any of my mom’s friends were gay, that any celebrities were gay or that people throughout history had been leading queer lives.

I met the first lesbian that came out to me at Girl Scout Camp when I was a Counselor-in-Training. At the time that was a big no-no (even when I became a counselor a few years later it was very understood that lesbianism was don’t ask don’t tell) but we were friends and it came up. I felt a huge paradigm shift knowing that people were gay and it started helping me understand myself better. I wasn’t the kind of kid who grew up knowing I was attracted to other women, mostly I was attracted to gay men. (Hello, Keanu Reeves and George Michael.)

bevinbridgetMe and Bridget, who just launched her amazing business coaching! She’s been a little bird supporting me with branding, web stuff and business for years, so excited for her new venture!

I began questioning my sexuality when I was 15. I had no one to talk to about this so I just kept it as a running wonder in the back of my mind. My mom came out for the second time around then.* It was not a bonding experience for us. My Junior and Senior year of high school was really difficult for our relationship, since mom was going through a divorce and my grumpy selfish step dad was still living with us because we couldn’t afford to sell the house (recession) and mom didn’t want to risk me having to leave our great school district. Not a recipe for anyone to be at their most compassionate emotional self. In my perception at the time my mom was not a safe person for me to discuss my sexuality with because we were not safe people for one another emotionally. My mom is awesome and she has been a great safe space for queer kids for years and years as a teacher but we were very much water and oil in high school.

I know now that a teacher at my school was gay (she’s friends with my mom!) and if only teachers were allowed to be openly gay in the mid-90s, my life would have been a lot easier.

miasiaMiasia is an incredibly talented belly dancer from Washington, DC and whenever I possibly could get her up for a gig in NYC I did just that! You should check out her classes and performances!

I came out to myself for real when I was 16 years old and could actually articulate internally that I was attracted to another woman. I told three very close friends who were not in my day to day life. When I got back to high school for my senior year I shoved all of that internal realization deep inside, in spite of a low-level crush on a girl in high school, and tried to keep fitting in even though I never actually fit in.

katestonewallLaurence and Kate Huh, a really vital archivist photographer of NYC queer life.

I never dated anyone in high school, all dance dates were strictly platonic and even though I had some flirtations with boys here and there nothing ever happened. I knew how to keep my armor up as a trauma response to intense bullying I experienced in late elementary and middle school. To this day I still have to work to let my armor down where sex, attraction and flirtation are concerned.

damienstonewallperformanceOne of my favorite performances of Damien’s is “Femmes Bash Back” based on the Femme trans women of color who began the Stonewall uprising by throwing purses and heels at the cops raiding the Stonewall. Let that fictional Stonewall movie be forever proved wrong, since they rewrote history so some white cisgender gay dude threw the first brick. Stay tuned for Happy Birthday Marsha! It is important that our history be preserved accurately and not white-washed.

In college I met a lot more gay folks, especially gay men, and almost everyone was in the closet for some period and eventually came out. It’s so weird to think about that time because now it’s so normal for people to be openly gay that I forgot that I knew a lot of these folks before they came out formally. Even though I knew in my heart I was attracted to women (I identified as bisexual at the time because I hadn’t realized all my big crushes were on gay dudes) I didn’t think I should come out because I hadn’t dated or even kissed anyone romantically. It was all wrapped up in fat girl body self loathing and not feeling like I deserved access to my sexuality. Why bother coming out if I was inherently unfuckable?

shomidjingOur Femme DJ Shomi Noise.

Now I know that my identity has nothing to do with anyone other than myself. I know I’m Femme regardless of whether or not I am partnered with a Butch, I know that I am fuckable whether or not I’m presently having sex, I know that I am kinky even when my floggers are collecting dust.

bevionstagestonewallIf my college-aged self could know how I would turn out, coming out of the closet would have been way easier.

At the beginning of my Junior year of college, at 19 years old, I was really thinking about coming out for real in spite of not having kissed a girl, and then just days later I met my first girlfriend. I was her Resident Advisor, she was a resident on my floor, she had Ani DiFranco posters all over her room (a very late ’90s tell). She wasn’t out to her roommates but as we became friends she came out to me and then we held hands while watching Mary Poppins late one night and it became wildly easy for me to come out because I was young and in love and wanted to tell literally everyone I knew about it. Plus saying, “I have a girlfriend!” is way easier than saying “I need to let you know I identify as LGBTQ.” Since being Femme presenting is invisibilizing to many folks, coming out is Groundhog Day repetitive for me. I tend to drop a “My partner/my girlfriend” or when I was single “My ex-girlfriend” as a way to come out rather than just telling people directly. Somehow that is more seamless for me.

arielbevinEarly photo of me and my friend Ariel Speedwagon.

I’ve had a few more coming outs in my life, like when I got to law school and decided to come out as a lesbian instead of bisexual, when I came out as Fat and Femme, and when I shifted to using queer to identify my sexuality because it better encompassed non-binary gender identities. There’s also coming out as a medical marijuana user (as Melissa Etheridge says,”I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally, whether they consider it so or not”), and coming out as non-monogamous which for me just means I like to be a little free to ethically explore connections with people as they pop-up and adhere to agreements with the person I am partnered with.

melissasjMe and my friend Lissa and Sarah Jenny.

I just can’t endorse coming out enough. I was scared, so so so scared before I came out because I thought I was going to lose friendships, loved ones and access to my dreams. For me, living life authentically, and loving myself for all of me, allows me to feel so free and relaxed that I am more able to focus my energy on making the world safe for other people to do the same. I have had SO MANY DREAMS COME TRUE because I am openly 100% of the time my authentic self. I think global peace starts with inner peace, and we need to be committed to doing the self care and self expression we need to feel at peace.

femmefamilyintention

Our logo intentionally had wings hugging the heart. Sophie designed it and Chris designed our flier.

Queer allies: amplify queer voices on your social media. Tell people you are a safe space and show your support for LGBTQ people. Work to learn how to be a better ally. It’s still dangerous in many spaces to be out as a queer person. Queers who live in countries that are more accepting of queers, learn more and more about LGBTQ refugees and borders and how being queer is sometimes the fight for your life. Offer your resources. I’m hoping to amplify more ways to do that in the coming months as I learn more about displaced LGBTQ folks.

Let’s all make the world more survivable for LGBTQ people and work to make “coming out” obsolete. Wouldn’t it be cool if people got to just grow up to be whoever they really are and love whoever they love and do it to whoever they feel attracted to and have consent and all that stuff?

Happy Coming Out Day!

*It turned out that my mom herself had come out of the closet for a few years in the early 80s. She even rode in Dykes on Bikes in the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1980! After a really traumatizing relationship with a horrible woman, my mom went back in the closet when I was four, dated men and married said step father who started out cool and then got awful and selfish and then after her second divorce she dated a woman and came out for good. So complicated, right? I didn’t come out to her until I came out publicly when I was 19.

miasiaonstageI love that in this photo Miasia is holding herself much like the wings of our logo are holding the heart.

metaueretandjesseTaueret and Jesse were both at the Femme Family Coming Out Party but somehow not in my batch of photos so here’s a cute one I found at a party in the same time period when hunting through my archives. TT made that beautiful hair fascinator herself. She was so talented.

 

 

 

2016-04-27

LA Transition Month 3: I Started Swimming

We’ve officially been LA residents for three months! I got my CA Driver’s License finally. I got my DL when I was 17 and living in the Bay Area, so they managed to find my old record and give me my old number. (Big Brother is real.) I had a little disagreement with the entirely pleasant clerk who took my application. I stated “red” on the hair color question. However, I actually identify my hair color as “Ginger Spice.” She had to fight me about whether I am blonde because when I was 16 and got my permit I was blonde. I don’t identify as blonde but I guess because of bureaucracy that’s what is happening on my ID. Lots of people don’t have their true identities on these documents and I’d rather work towards a third no gender marker on IDs than self-selected hair color.

IMG_20160413_194959I guess with the bangs now I look more blonde than ever, other than in high school.

I was stressing about taking the test because I know some folks who have flunked the first try, so I wanted to just get it. I needed my license in order to go to the Medical Marijuana dispensaries to use my prescription I got back in February. I’ll post about the process, it is fascinating and has really helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. For anyone getting their CA DL I suggest reading the manual once through and doing the practice tests online. I’ve had to take written tests in most of the states I’ve been licensed in, having hopped from CA to NJ to PA to NJ to NY in my life, but never felt as stressed as I did this time. I think I’m just tender right now and prone to stress.

I passed on the first try after reading the manual a few hours leading up to my DL appointment, and while I was waiting. It still took two hours of waiting in lines to get my license in spite of the appointment, so definitely make an appointment.

IMG_20160413_174934794I made this dog bed for Macy out of a vintage suitcase from Goodwill ($10), an old pillow (free dollars) and a vintage blanket with a stain on it I got at the World’s Longest Yard Sale ($0.50).

You know that old chestnut “I’ll do it when things settle down.” I started saying that to myself a few weeks ago when we were dropping everything to prepare our house for the Seder for Dara’s family and then preparing the Seder and then the tea pre sale and then preparing my Schedule C info for my accountant to file my taxes (this is like a week of non-stop accounting and bookkeeping) and then… I’ve had so many projects back to back and not achieved any semblance of balance and I’ve been reminded (I’ve realized this before and forgot) that I need to bring my own serenity to every situation. And that I can’t just keep dropping everything to focus all of my attention on one thing with a deadline.

This is how I lived in Law School, it’s how I have lived when I’ve been the most high strung and I can’t live like that. I need to plan, sort, execute, and let go of the stuff that’s not that important. I need to live in alignment with my values!

I decided that I would start organizing my schedule around my self care. And the thing that is the best at helping me chill the F out is exercise. I do it primarily for my mental and emotional health, but it also really helps with my physical and spiritual health as well. Since I haven’t joined a gym yet, waiting for the body positive gym Everybody Los Angeles to open somewhere around here, I decided to start going to lap swim at the community pool. Because we have those here, and some of them are outdoor heated pools.

I had to do some clever searching because the LA website just gives you addresses not neighborhoods, and some of the pools close in the “Winter” here. But the Glassell Park pool, just a six minute drive from my house, was a great candidate.

bevinatpoolMe at the Glassell Park Pool.

When I showed up for the first time and paid my $3.50 I was amazed to see that the locker room looked just like it did in the community pools in the Bay Area where I grew up. I remember as a kid those cement floored, wooden benched locker rooms with modesty changing areas that only cover you from the neck to the calves. So that means this locker room hasn’t been updated in thirty+ years. Amazing. And when I went out to the pool after giving my bag to the locker room attendant behind the window in exchange for a safety pin with a number on it, I marveled at how huge the Olympic size pool is. And how few rules there are.

My recent public swimming experience is from swimming at the Bed Stuy YMCA in Brooklyn. An indoor year-round pool with strict rules and schedules. Lap swim means lap swimming only, you must wear a cap, when more than two people are in a lane circle swimming is mandatory. These are all spelled out on a long list of rules.

Here there are very few rules other than no running on the pool deck. No caps required! No lap swim guidelines except the lifeguard’s half-hearted “You have to share the lane” when a man was super rude to me. Lap swimming and recreational swimming are at the same time. It’s a bit intimidating to go swimming in public for the first time, especially as a fatty, so I brought Dara as my body positive ally. It was great, I swam for almost an hour, alternating between swimming and aqua jog moves. I love aqua jog, that will be another post.

I have kept going, managing three times a week most weeks for the past month. It’s still cheaper than going to a gym and it’s been helping me. I need to add yoga to my routine to stretch more, but this is a nice way to center.

IMG_20160412_191109Unfucking the guest room.

The house continues to come together. Sadly my Mariah Carey closet hasn’t been sorted out, so once my friend Taylor helped me get everything upstairs and put on the floor or hung on the pipes, that’s where it has laid. I can’t wait for it to be in full working order. Every time I go up there to get dressed I’m kind of drawing from my red suitcase or various piles. It’s pretty much the opposite of what I imagine it can be.

Dara and I were dissatisfied with the orientation of our bed. We paid to move a bunch of my mom’s hand me down furniture from the Bay to LA (I detailed this in a previous post) and the movers set it up originally. I didn’t find it accessible for me to walk around a CA King size bed to the other side of the room so Dara took one for the team. The snuggle position required from that orientation had me on Dara’s left side, which is the side she had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast. It’s more sore, it had radiation and surgery. So we decided to try the bed against a window. (Not my favorite aesthetic choice, but definitely an improvement in snuggle land.)

sleepnumberbed

Here’s some advice about moving a sleep number mattress. Make sure it is completely zipped up before you move it. If you do not do this step, it will fall apart into a bunch of pieces and look like a play space for 3 year olds. There will be foam and air mattresses everywhere, because all a sleep number is is a very expensive air mattress with foam on top of and surrounding it. This bed cost $4,000 apparently and is an air mattress. It took us over an hour to put it back together and get the bed set-up again. I’m excited to someday buy a Casper or a Tuft and Needle mattress–if you know anyone who sleeps on one ask them if you can lay on it, they are exquisite and much less expensive than standard retail mattresses.

sleepnumberbed2Dara is physically in that mattress in this photo.

Anyway, so far the bed in the new spot is fine, but we have to sell and replace the nightstand we had because it is way too big to fit on either side of the bed. Two steps forward one step back is going to be the title of the memoir about moving cross country into a house without a bunch of money or the correct furniture.

IMG_20160408_133050515_HDR

We finally moved everything into the guest room from the staging area in the dining room before the Seder. While Dara was away on business again for 8 days, I tackled the guest room and made it so we could blow up our fancy air mattress (that cost $100, which is literally pennies compared to a sleep number mattress…) for our second overnight guest, Jacqueline. This just meant a lot of stuff got Tetrised against the wall but progress not perfection is my motto. To be transparent, though, it feels hard for it not to be perfect.

IMG_20160426_221241373The wall of the guest room looks like this right now.

I set up all of my tea stuff in the dining room because for now I am in and out of it a lot and need it accessible. On the long-range plans are to convert our cellar (presently storage) to a tea studio.

IMG_20160416_133608285_HDRFemme Tea Party offerings: Hibiscus Coconut iced tea (I’ve added Nettles to the blend and it’s amazing), Self Love iced tea, Dolly Mint iced tea, Feelings tea served hot.

I’ve been getting amazing feedback about my first round of Reiki Infused Teas that I sent out. Only one got lost in the mail, which did eventually find its way to the intended recipient along with the replacement tin I sent–she joked that she must have needed a lot of Feelings Tea support. I believe in the Universe and so maybe yeah. That Scorpio Full Moon was extra difficult. I learned a LOT about the process of starting a product based business and am learning a lot in B-School.

B-School is good but slow going. Marie Forleo gives all this bonus content when you sign up and one of them, Start the Right Business, is required reading before you begin her modules. With 60 pages of reading and exercises, that itself was a lot of work. I’m glad they tell you right away to go at your own pace because I needed my own pace.

IMG_20160414_214512721Jacqueline is the first person to wear a bikini as an outfit on our porch.

Jacqueline and I did a bunch of stuff while she was in town. We went to In-N-Out Burger and the Pleasure Chest on her first night. We had Korean BBQ with my favorite plus size porn performer turned incredibly sweet, smart and wonderful person I know in real life April Flores (we called it BBW BBQ). We went to Disneyland with our friend Jenni, James Darling, Jenni’s sweetie Fin and her friend Michele. It was epic, there’s another forthcoming blog post.

IMG_20160416_182418Femme Tea party part one!

IMG_20160416_182219Femme Tea party part two!

I hosted a Femme Tea Party where I served four kinds of my tea blends and made some delicious rice crispie treats with Good For Me Lifestyle’s amazing Energize Me Better Butter. My guests got Reiki infused tea and delicious superfood supplement treats–I love being that woo kind of hostess.

IMG_20160416_133634312_HDRAlso included in the snacks were gluten-free scones made by Jenn and guacamole from my avocado tree.

I kind of ran away to visit Grandmother this weekend. I knew I owed her a visit having not been since early March, but also I wanted to get away. Sometimes running a house and not having the house set up completely feels overwhelming. The Scorpio Full Moon was in full effect and making me feel at odds with lots of things, including Dara. It’s nice to have family you can go visit in someplace beautiful. This guy at a pizza place asked why I wasn’t at Coachella (it’s really close to Palm Springs) and I said I was going to have a lot more fun swimming in my Grandmother’s pool listening to Guns and Roses.

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All in all I would say that LA is gorgeous, I love living here, the transition is hard, I’m not sure if I miss NYC, I’m overwhelmed with how much I have left to do to settle into my house and I’m really excited to get my tea company running so I can make a living off being a tea proprietress. The next pre sale will probably start on Monday. I had been hoping for this week but there’s a lot going on here. Dara got a grant to throw a 30 person Seder dinner in our backyard. Even as I’m not in charge of it, there’s still a lot for me to do.

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