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

2016-02-26

LA Week Five: Turning Social

I’m loving these weekly check-ins about the transition to LA. I keep reminding myself of the power of six months, that in six months everything will be different, settled, and all of this transitioning stuff won’t be in the forefront of my mind all the time.

There’s so much more to the transition than I thought there would be. I guess I thought I could prepare and plan enough, since I spent months preparing and planning for the move. But I don’t think I had any idea what kind of energy it requires to not know where anything is and get acclimated to a whole new place. Most of the time when I’ve moved in the past I had at least a passing comfort with the neighborhood.

heatherwithdollymintHeather, drinking my Dolly Mint Reiki tea blend by a fire pit. #blessed

The biggest thing that happened this week was the launch of my Reiki Tea pre sale. People tell me I’m “brave” all the time but I don’t necessarily feel brave. It’s so scary to put your dream out on the line and be open to failure. It’s really vulnerable!

The Reiki tea blend business was a great idea and was very “safe” in idea phase. The sweet and awesome news is that as soon as I put the post up I made a sale (thank you Allison!!) and I’ve gotten enough orders that I’m nearly 20% of the way to making the B-School tuition! (Including $100 from Grandmother she gave me for my birthday and Christmas.) I had been planning a pre sale at some point but having the deadline and the big goal was really helpful. I feel good that at least I’m trying and I get to share this awesome healing modality with my blog audience!

barbtommyselfieWith Barb and Tommy!

This fifth week in LA was all about turning social. Up until this point I’ve seen a couple of folks a week, having been so overwhelmed with setting up the house I had to lay low, but people have been in town and it is good to take breaks and see people.

We also had to have a major overhaul of our travel plans and intentions. We thought we’d be done with the house set-up so much quicker, but we weren’t. We were going to go up to Las Vegas to support Dara’s mom in the Nevada caucus last weekend (she was a precinct chair), but Dara ultimately decided that we should stay home and get more settled in. I was going to go up to the Bay Area this weekend to go to Bryn’s SF memorial and when another friend of mine passed suddenly last week I knew that my self care interest would be served by not traveling. The grief pile-on has been kind of a lot.

I think I can sometimes use socializing and traveling as a way to not stay present. I love both of those things, but I know I also need to balance it by feeling my feelings, doing my self care work, etc… Traveling is a lot of energy and disruption. Not traveling these two weekends has been great because I was able to find a humane butcher at the local farmer’s market and get a pork shoulder and bones. I feel like once I make bone broth, maybe that’s how I finally feel settled? Anyway, it has felt great to eat nourishing food I spent a long time brewing.

greenspartyGreens!

It also feels super nourishing to get to see friends I’ve known a long time and who are familiar in a new and not yet familiar place! That has been a nice antidote to the newness.

Friday night we did a little York Avenue taco tour in Highland Park with our friends Kristen and Madeleine. I met Kristen eight years ago at the Femme Conference with her feminist burlesque group the Miracle Whips. (The Miracle Whips are also featured in the Glitter and Grit Anthology, a brand new book I highly recommend from Heels on Wheels!)

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The four of us, rather than choosing one taco place decided to try first the Vegan taco truck (delicious), then we thought there were street tacos but instead was a woman selling sausages wrapped in bacon (extremely delicious), and then another taco truck across the street from the Vegan truck that was “conventional” tacos and also really delicious. A street dinner for less than $10 each. I’m still trying to figure out my exact right condiment preferences for tacos. Definitely cilantro, but which kind of hot sauce? Onions? Radishes or no?

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Saturday morning Dara went for her first and last run along the LA River (it hurt her knees which were weakened during chemotherapy) and I went for an aura cleansing class in Hollywood. I’m thrusting myself into the woo lifestyles of LA and I feel really great about it.

I moved out here to work on my spiritual gifts and I am super into any class for $15 that will teach me woo modalities. This was taught by the owners of the House of Intuition here in LA, which now has three locations and the stores and products are great. I visited when I was here in May and so many folks told me it was a must-see. (They also have an online store.)

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The owners are queer women of color (a couple) and I learned SO much. About starting a business based on your intuition, building altars, magic, and the promised aura cleansing methods, which involves a ritual bath or shower. It gave me a lot of great ideas for enhancing my ritual for tea blending!

My friend Heather (co-editor of the Glitter and Grit anthology) was in town this weekend so I visited her at the apartment she was staying in. It was like a gorgeous human terrarium, with a running brook through the complex, a grotto, a heated pool with a fountain, a community grill, an outdoor fire place and a dry sauna. We used all of those things with Caitlin, another LA transplant from Brooklyn and Heather’s friend Monica. It was awesome to be around Femmes for the afternoon and just hang hard and look really cute.

poolpartyThis pool party was also my first time in a bikini as an LA resident.

I wore a semi-slutty dress over there because I have gotten so tired of wearing the same ten outfits. All of my clothes are still in boxes pending the completion of my Mariah Carey closet in our attic, but due to my weirdo packing some clothes have surfaced, including this super cute dress that is just so low cut I only like to wear it when I’m feeling really confident or with a group of folks I feel safe and supported by. Femme gatherings are great for fashion risks.

The truth is, I haven’t felt as confident since we got here. Being in that constant state of “I don’t know this area I don’t know where I’m going” has left me a little more vulnerable and thus less inclined to take risks or draw attention to myself aesthetically. I just want to hang out with cats / not get cat calls right now.

Heather’s partner Silas came home before I left and it was great to squeeze him and catch up! He’s directing and doing some other work on Transparent Season 3, you totally need to check his instagram for the dish. I’m so excited for his work coming out. Did you see the amazing video he directed for Peaches that came out a couple of months ago?

Then we party hopped to dinner with my friend Tommy who was visiting LA with his girlfriend (and Dara’s good friend) Barb. We went to this place down the street from us, Links n Hops, a SAUSAGE RESTAURANT. I am committed to trying all of their many kinds of sausages.

barbtommyFirst time seeing Tommy since my going away party in December!

Monday I finally went to the beach for the first time since living in LA and that was great except for super sad reasons. My friend Melissa Tracy, who is just a little bit younger than me, passed away suddenly last week. I have very few regrets in my life but I now definitely regret not aggressively pursuing a hang out with her before I left NY. We met when she lived in Baltimore, she moved to SF, then back to Baltimore, then to Ventura, then to Nyack, NY (near NYC). I will probably write more later about Melissa, but whenever I imagined her in Ventura I imagined her on this very specific beach I love there. I met up with my old friend James Leander who also knew Melissa and we said a prayer and lit a candle. It was super windy at that beach and I felt it was extremely auspicious that we were able to easily find a tiny candle cave to keep it lit.

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On the way back from Ventura I stopped in Camarillo to visit with my Aunt Shari. It’s so nice to just get to drop in and see my family! I watched the full moon rise over the mountains near East LA from I-5 on the way home. Did you catch the full moon on Monday? Celestial gorgeousness!

Tuesday we drove Heather to the airport and because avoiding traffic is a huge hobby of ours, Dara had a meeting in the late afternoon in Marina Del Rey (beachside town near LAX) and it was an adventure we made a day of it. We did a post-airport drop off Panera work date, had a post-lunch stroll on the beach, then back to another coffee shop for more work and Dara’s meeting. It was a looooong day but totally worth it for the beach break.

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Tuesday night I reunited with a longtime Femme friend, Jenni, who is another NYC area LA transplant, but had a year and a half jump on me. I got to make her dinner, which we ate with a huge pile of “to sort” stuff looming in the living room, but it was a super sweet reminder of what me and Dara are working so hard on our house for. I cannot wait to have dinner parties and regular parties and social things.

In fact, we planned a painting party/mild carpentry party this coming Saturday for some friends to come over and help us work on the Mariah Carey closet installation. It’s been hard for us to carve out the time and I truly love throwing parties way more than painting. I figured combining the two would be a really great way to motivate. Even if three people show up the extra help would rule. And then I get to be social and feel like I’m making progress on our house.

Oh also, we played tennis outside yesterday. Though the transition is still rough and scary sometimes, LA is definitely really sweet right now. I think, among the laundry list of physical, emotional and spiritual work to do right now is to really feel that I deserve all of the tremendous blessings that LA is offering. The weather is beautiful, the things we have access to are so phenomenal. I mean, my friend invited me over to swim in a heated pool and lounge by an outdoor fireplace at a random apartment complex just six minutes from me. Like, making this change has been a ton of work and hard, and it’s so much easier to not make change and just think about or long for what it would be like to make change. But pulling the trigger and walking through the gauntlet yields some pretty amazing stuff.

I’m really praying that pulling the trigger on starting the Reiki tea business is not scary for long and is one more beautiful blessed thing that I get to do now that I live here.

2014-01-24

Five Ways to Begin to Love Your Body Right Now

In my interview with Amy McDonald at the Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit, she asked me for five tips people can employ to love their body more right now. I wanted to write these up and share them with readers who didn’t get a chance to hear the interview and for new readers who want to remember them from the interview. (If you missed the interview and want to listen to it–along with several other incredible talks with lesbian and queer folks talking about money, love, bodies, nutrition, travel, it’s available as a download. Click here to view more details.)

You don’t have to wait to have a good relationship with your body. Not after you lose weight or start going back to the gym or get a lover. Whatever space you’re in with it, you can start making peace right now.

1. Remember that you are not alone.

Everyone has a hard time with their body at some point or another. My friend Glenn Marla says, “There’s no wrong way to have a body.” And everyone can do better at loving their bodies right where they are at.

We’re in a society that commodifies insecurity–it serves the billion dollar beauty and diet industries if we hate ourselves so we buy all of their stuff. If you could really solve your own body hatred by buying something it would totally work but it doesn’t.

Even the most ardent body positive activist has “bad fat days,” and the struggle with our very human bodies is part of being human.

2. Be honest about your yucky feelings.

I am a big believer in naming our hard feelings and getting them out of ourselves. It helps expell shame. So if you feel complicated about a body part, be honest about it.

An exercise I’m a big fan of for a body part you feel complicated about is to talk to it. First, touch it, softly. If this were my stomach I’d rest my hands on it. Then I would talk to it. “Hey stomach, I’m feeling really complicated about you. X, Y and Z are making me feel really hard today.” Then, after you name the hard feelings, start thanking it for what it does do for you. “I know I feel complicated about you today, but I want to tell you thank you for being a soft place for my dog to rest, filling out my dresses, being a great canvass for a tattoo, etc…”

rp_7611841844_73be89d6d6.jpgFrom a Rebel Cupcake a couple of years ago. I felt sooooo complicated about that outfit.

3. Take excellent care of yourself.

When you don’t feel good about your body it is really hard to have the motivation to take care of it. Self care is really important for mental, physical, emotional and spiritual help, though, and it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle, negatively and positively. The more you don’t take care of your body the more you start hating it and the reverse is true, too.

Once you start taking care of your body by doing things like getting enough sleep or learning intuitive eating, it starts helping you feel more comfortable in your body.

It’s taken me years to learn how to take care of myself and I’m still learning. I just said to Jacqueline the other day, “I’m 35 years old and I just realized that I absolutely need to eat lunch within a couple hours of breakfast. As soon as I leave the house I end up in this spiraling vortex of not being able to get the food I need and I get hangry and want to kill someone.” It is so weird because my logic brain is just like, “I shouldn’t be hungry yet,” except that I actually usually get hungry and should just pay attention to my body.

Is there something for your body you could do to take good care of it today? Like an extra hour of sleep? A long bath or shower? Self care stretches time, according to Kelli Jean Drinkwater, and it really goes a long way.

rp_6051297793_7ca8fb97d1.jpgEveryone has a body! With the Miracle Whips.

4. Get value-neutral about your body.

I heard a spiritual thought leader say that the body was just a vessel for the soul. I have found that idea very helpful in coming to terms with my body changing when I don’t ask it to. It’s similar to the sentiment I expressed about How to be a Good Ally to Fat People Who Appear to Have Lost Weight. It’s just a body, in a different form.

Sometimes our bodies are doing things that frustrate us, as in a period of lessened mobility, or sometimes our bodies may feel absolutely great. Being really attached to one kind of outcome or another is a vicious cycle of not enough or worry about things changing. Weight naturally fluctuates a little bit, skin gets saggy when it gets older. It just changes, but it doesn’t have to change how much unconditional love you have for your body.

Part of learning to be body positive for me was learning my body was not my worth. The acceptance of your body without judgment is really powerful. It takes baby steps but repeating mantras of, “It’s just my body.”

5. Stop negative talk about other people’s bodies.

I absolutely love the expression, “When you point your finger you have three pointing back at yourself.” I have had to do a lot of work to stop judging other people’s bodies. When I hear myself begin to judge I stop and I change it to noticing. It’s a subtle difference but it does actually work. “I’m noticing that that person has amazing boobs. I’m noticing that that other person is very thin.”

We are conditioned in our diet/scarcity/commodified insecurity culture to judge other people’s bodies but that is actually not our job. So if I work to stop buying into that in my own head, and externally with my friends and family, I’m doing the work to change the culture I see as so damaging. I believe that change begins with me and I want to do my work to make the world more loving of all bodies.

I also think that we are our own worst critics. Whenever someone spends the time to say something really hateful I wonder what they are saying to themselves, alone, when no one is around. People who are terrible critics of other bodies are saying nastier things to themselves.

And the good news is as you get more value-neutral, compassionate and understanding about other people’s bodies it really helps to become compassionate about yours.

2012-09-05

This is What Happened for Bevin at the Femme Conference 2012

My story about the Femme Conference 2012 is completely informed by what it took to get there and my frame of mind. Thus, it begins with the epic journey.

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The Goddess was really on my side getting me to the Femme Conference this year. I knew it was going to be sort of bananas, having been on a road trip and off the grid camping for the 17 days prior to Femme Conference, stopping home for one night only to throw Rebel Cupcake: Lonely Girls (the periodic slow songs were a big hit). This is really a cornerstone characteristic about me, seeing possibility where other folks would see “too much” or “too hard.” Because the option existed to roll all of these travels together I decided to do it.

I had set-up travel arrangements, accommodations and timing before I left, but then one of my pals had to bail the weekend before we were to leave. I was trying to get in touch with our other travel buddy but couldn’t really do anything about it until I was on the road. While on the road Wednesday, barely back on the grid, I touched base with my other travel buddy and she was able to easily solve her conundrums without me, which seemed right. Cut her loose and maybe not go. It seemed like doing the whole Michfest/Rebel Cupcake/Femme Con plan could work if I didn’t have to stop to strategize but problem-solving made it feel too overwhelming and stressful.

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One sort of pleading/processing post on Facebook yielded a room to stay in and a ride (the ride part was hard because most folks I knew were leaving on Thursday). Then, at Rebel Cupcake, 1:45AM, just hours before we were supposed to leave I got a text saying my ride had a family emergency so I was again at square one in NYC. I decided to leave it up to the Goddess about whether and how I would get down there. (Here’s the other thing about this multi-leg travel lifestyle–I didn’t have a ton of money to throw at solving these problems.)

I woke up Friday and booked the only available mega bus to Baltimore ($25, leaving at 1:30) knowing I might not make it to the stop on time. I re-packed in light of taking the bus instead of a car, making some intense clothing and beauty product compromises for the sake of space. I headed out and had big re-thinking thoughts on my way to the subway station knowing I probably was going to miss this bus. I decided nothing worth doing isn’t worth fighting for, so I would head out in search of Femmes ’til I got a real “No” from the universe and not just me second-guessing myself.

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Spoiler alert–I made it to the conference. Here’s Emma.

I took a cab from the subway to the weird, block-long MegaBus situation on 42nd Street and was told that the bus I was looking for was already gone but to “stand at the back of the line.” I was actually pretty surprised when, an hour later, I was herded onto a half-empty bus headed for Baltimore.

The bus stop is not anywhere near Baltimore itself, it is somewhere in the suburbs. Given my waning cell phone battery life and the 90 minutes of public transit I would have to contend with, I took a $50 cab ride to the hotel. It was sort of ironic that the Amtrak ticket probably would have cost me about $75 if I had jumped on it during their fare sale. That was no matter! My pal Hadley was waiting for me at the hotel to grab my bag from the trunk and whisk me away to our hotel suite and offered me booze.

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Bridget and her alternative housing arrangement.

I saw from the car a few Femmes parading in party dresses and got a little nervous. In that about to jump into a new culture way. I’ve been in this culture before but it always makes me a little jittery. I like to think it’s nervous like stage fright–because your audience matters to you. It’s really special to peacock for other Femmes. Put on what makes you feel the best and admire others. For me it is not at all about Femme competition, it’s about how one piece of glitter sparkles on its own but how hundreds of pieces of glitter shine infinitely more brilliantly. But here at Femme Conference we’re shining for each other and it’s ablaze and beautiful.

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Miss Mary Wanna.

So, back at the hotel I put on the opposite of a party dress. My Aerosmith groupie realness outfit packed really small and didn’t require ironing, so it made the cut. I had my share of whiskey to take the edge off the travel and get a little silly. I was still a little nervous. I also needed to eat dinner and know that self-care is essential in the life of a conference-goer. It is so easy to get caught up in trying to get to everything that you forget to eat, sleep and take care of your basic needs.

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We picked up Emma, Jenna and Nomy Lamm from the hotel (ours was about a 5 minute walk away). Nomy’s keynote was on Friday so I missed it but I have heard the themes self-comforting and resilience come out of my chats with friends. We got sandwiches and had a sandwich caucus.

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Nomy and a wrap.

Another session I missed was “In Fierceness and Vulnerability: Deconstructing and Resisting Femmephobia.” Kim Crosby, the presenter, has made the powerpoint available online and it is incredible.

The evening event at Ottobar was the FemmeSPEAK spoken word night. It is such a blessing to have so many incredible performers at one weekend, which means the evening events are epically long. I missed the first few performers but I did get to catch the tail end of my roommate Damien Luxe‘s Exorcism piece, a shortened version of Heather Acs “This is What We Have,” and a featured set of Fran Varian, whose piece in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation is my favorite.

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Heather, performing. I was toting merch from her piece, a lavender tote that says “This is what we have.”

I felt so grateful to be on the floor and present for an actual anthem from Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha called “Femme is For Free.” She is going to post it on her blog really soon, but the power in her voice and the cadence and the words. It was why I was there. In that. Sometimes poetry just breaks you open and Leah’s done that for me before and she did it this time.

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I also enjoyed Dacia Holliday‘s featured performance. There’s a great quote from one of her poems.

“…fem(me) identity means: I love as hard as I fuck, and I fuck as hard as I fight.”

(Thanks to Jessie Dress for catching that.)

Settling into the event I was so caught up in the sparkle that before I got to the front to really immerse in the words I was in the back just seeing people, trying not to talk when folks came up to greet me so as not to distract from the performances. It was awkward, since I was so excited to see folks and triumphant that I arrived but so hearing the siren song of the words that are spoken. I remember turning around and seeing this total BABE behind me and doing a slow creep looking up and down her outfit when I noticed her seeing me and I was like dang, I’m caught being a creepster!* There were BABES GALORE at the Femme Conference.

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I mean like, daaaaang. It was also the hair, Elisabeth has this amazing queer pompadour!

After the show was over we stayed and danced a bit. With no prepared DJ we were enjoying the grace of sound guy at the booth plugging in for us but at the mercy of folks’ iPhone playlists for tunes and a lot of La Roux happened. But it didn’t matter! We were in a frenzy of Femme on Femme adoration and swirling around each other was exactly what we wanted. (Of course, as soon as the Gossip came on Bridget nearly died of excitement, fans of the Lesbian Tea Basket know her feelings.)

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Jenna and Hadley.

After the dancing we retired to our hotel suite, me, Hadley and Emma, with a guest Nomy. We had some great conversations in the suite and even though I missed out on some intriguing invites.

“SLUT PARTY AT THE SKANK PALACE ROOM 256! Bring yr slutty self and somebody else’s slutty self too. Lingerie and lace encouraged but not required. Xo.”–Actual text from my phone.

But a ten minute walk is a long walk after a long day of travel at 1AM and with a full day of conferencing to begin at 9AM the following morning. So I just settled into bed with Emma (totally platonically unless you want to imagine something else but your imagination is without consent from me or Emma) and cruised Facebook on my phone until I fell asleep.

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Sleeping soundly.

The next morning we naturally overslept for the first workshop session, though Haddles was up and at em and out the door before me or Emma got to getting. We scrambled to make it to “Mean Girls” in the 10:30 slot, a workshop given by my friend Amanda Arkansassy (aka Lola Dean) who moved to San Francisco two years ago and her hair is long and ombre now, like happens to Femmes in San Francisco. Their hair gets long and ombre! It’s a thing! Not for everyone, but lots of them go long and ombre!**

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The workshop was great, but full of process because it had like 75 people in it and it’s hard to put all of what you need to talk about when debunking Femme competition and mean girl behavior into 90 minutes, and how to maneuver that with the people and space allotted. Also I had given up coffee not long before and was still trying to get conscious so I spent most of the workshop actively absorbing not participating. First we broke down the whys and then the hows and then we talked about how to heal it. By consensus we actually spent an additional fifteen minutes into the lunch hour finishing the workshop. Amanda’s blog has a really great write-up from the workshop, I encourage you all to go read it. I’ll be here when you get back.

Porch talk, isn’t that an adorable blog name? I love it.

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Afterwards we were going to get lunch. I sort of tagged along into two groups that became one giant group, all of us chanting about getting cheeseburgers. We went for a ten minute walk and then we found a restaurant and by group consensus missed the next keynote in favor of having a sit-down and not rushed lunch. Sometimes I find these informal get togethers, the social aspect of conference-going, to be the most valuable. We did a go around*** at the table and talked about what we wanted to get out of the conference. We made tender connections, Rachel offered to do a rap duet with me as I am dipping my toes into song-writing to create a theme song for Rebel Cupcake.

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On the way back to the hotel we were in a clump of ten and seeing the reactions of the Baltimorians on the street was amusing. At some point a young man asked me (towards the back of the group) “What is going on? Y’all are looking fine!” I just smiled and kept going on our mysterious, babely way. It’s really powerful to roll ten deep.

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We got back to the conference for Caucus time, since Jessie Dress was slated to chair the Fat Caucus. We began with 25 folks that then bloomed to easily 45 while we were doing the initial go around. I was getting a little bit diet-talk-squigged-out because the go-around involved where people were with fat activism. This incites some folks to talk about diet history but when I’m facing a room of so many people talking about diet history I feel overwhelmed and like I’m in a Weight Watchers meeting. I like talking about diet history in context of healing and solutions and strategies, and is ultimately what I prefer to get out of these gatherings (along with community and naming struggle). Luckily, our moderator noticed when the go around had taken fifteen minutes and not even gotten a quarter of the way through the participants and we moved on.

By group consensus we agreed to address fat and health first as a large group and several folks talked about struggles with being fat activists who were addressing health issues and learning how to approach exercise from a Health at Every Size perspective and how that is either effective for them or not. There were a lot of things said but I didn’t take any notes.

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Deeply babely. I didn’t take photos at the Fat Caucus, either.

We decided to break into mini-groups for the last fifteen minutes and I took the role of facilitator for the small group on desire. Having to come up with questions on the fly I just asked the eight or so participants in our group how they have been hurt or healed dating while Fat and/or Femme. We also expanded the topic to discuss what it is like to be Fat dating a not-Fat person. Fifteen minutes felt very short but was also really nice to get the tender tiny discussion to round-out (ha) the Fat Caucus.

Other small group topics were health/disability, race/class, inbetweenies, your size is not my size.

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After the caucus I was heading to another workshop when I was enticed to stop by and visit with Diana Cage and Jessica Halem, two brilliant comic babes and we sort of folded into the Cocktail Caucus. We discussed many important things, including bad dating behavior and our lives.

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I made the wise decision to head to my hotel room around 5:30 knowing I was performing that night and was leaving for the venue at 6:45. I had the room to myself for a brief rehearsal and got as dolled-up as I could before going backstage. I knew sharing the stage that night with forty people (for real) was going to mean cramped dressing room space.

FemmesWerq, the burlesque show, was four hours long. The upstairs of Ottobar is a little bizarre. It’s a rock venue, so there are the typical graffitied walls and a million penises.

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The author may have borrowed a sharpie and left her mark.

It’s like two floors and there isn’t a real bathroom, there is a toilet on a raised stage inside one of the dressing rooms. Peeing in a public space not in a stall is a recurring nightmare of mine and so I feel, having done it backstage at the Femme Conference, it’s one of those things that I will now have exorcised from my psyche or something. Hopefully. With 28 acts to wait through, we definitely were going to need to pee a couple of times.

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Watching Femmes rehearse waiting for my tech needs to be met.

My act was squarely in the middle of the show, right after the intermission we never had. Watching all of that incredible burlesque got me uncharacteristically nervous before performing. My Lesbolesque is highly earnest and hilarious, not the studied art of seduction so many other burlesque performers were putting up. Notable performers were Vagina Jenkins, Dr. Ginger Snaps and a third performer doing an homage to Femmes of Color burlesque. Each performer took a Black burlesque performer and performed an act in homage to her, and then after the three performed there was a slideshow. It was stunning, I am a longtime fan of both Vag and Dr. Snaps with renewed vigor.

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Backstage with Vag, addressing the performers.

My friends the Miracle Whips, a feminist performance group from LA did an incredible piece in homage to vaginas and the various wobegone fates we can have in them. UTIs, yeast infections/bacterial infections and period cramps. It was magical performance art and hilarious and I loved it and want to see it again.

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Me and The Miracle Whips.

Two words: SNAIL BURLESQUE. To Rihanna’s “We Found Love.”

Snail Burlesque
Photo by Nicole Myles.

Backstage before my act my friend Miasia and I had a moment. When I get stressed I like to pray and I find it is really helpful for me to pray before shows as I find creating and performing an act of spiritual connectedness. So we had a wonderful moment, the two of us, asking for guidance and letting the love in and having authentic and beautiful performances. Miasia, of course, killed it. She’s such a fox and an incredible belly dance performer.

My act was the Lesbolesque act I created for Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession,” track one from Fumbling Towards Ecstacy. It is about coming out, finding myself, and finding my place in the Lesbian Community through Femme and Queer. The Miracle Whips were my surprise lesbian back-up dancers and I have no photographs.

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More backstage ambiance with Cameron.

Afterward I played matchmaker with a friend of mine, made out with a date, potentially hit on a Femme from far away who understood I was hitting on her but I was leaving for my date so I wasn’t sure if she really understood, and reveled in the incredible Femme on Femme babely energy of the place. Everyone was a Femme that probably liked other Femmes and everyone was visible. After the final act the place erupted. Folks were leaving for the conference play party, hotel room numbers were being texted around, my very drunk friend tried to tell me how to get to their house for the after after party. But I had booked some alone time in my hotel room and my thoughtful roomies had left safer sex supplies on the pillow.

Emma

Things at the Femme Conference got wild on Saturday night and there aren’t a lot of folks I know who didn’t get action if they wanted it on that balmy Baltimore evening.

The next morning was rough getting to the hotel in time, especially because we had to check out of our hotel and pack our garments. Hadley, Emma and I had a really fun time and decided to get brunch to go so we could at least eat and watch the Femmes promenade. French toast is better with Femmes.

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I had a fifteen-minute power catch-up with Leah while she prepared for her workshop, “Femme of Colour Survivors: Badass Resilience.” I genuinely appreciate that our friendship is often made up of soulful connecting, 90 minutes at a time.

I headed to the “Beyond Classy: Working Class Femme Power” workshop facilitated by Blyth (who you may recall from her guest post on this blog). I think Blyth is just amazing and I also know that class identity is something I struggle with talking about, even though I am so open about the other intersections of my identity. The structure was very thoughtful. Channelle was the moderator, Blyth, Kirya Traber (an amazing spoken word performer), and Arti were the panelists. Each panelist took about fifteen minutes to tell their story about growing up poor or working class and how that intersected with their Femme identity. Then there was a Q & A for the panelists, and the last twenty minutes or so was open to the voices of working class or poor Femmes in the room to talk about how Femme had intersected with their class identity (I hope I am remembering that prompt correctly) and then finally, one word or phrase that was a takeaway of strength from their upbringing. (For me it was “Living on the edge.” Other folks said “Independence,” “Looking fabulous on a dime,” “Beauty pageants,” “Resilience.”)

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The crowd for the workshop swelled from the initial twenty to at least seventy folks, crammed in. Blyth was so overwhelmed she threw herself on the floor.

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Blyth passed around banana bread made by her grandmother and I called it “Working Class Femme Communion.”

Let me tell you, it was an emotional hour and a half. I learned new things about other peoples’ experiences but the stuff that was hardest was the naming of experience that was so much of my own. Like moving thirteen times before I turned thirteen. I had never thought about how that was about being poor or working class. And Chanelle called out experiences of internalized classism in a way that blew my mind.

I was really grateful I made it to the workshop and I have so much to unpack from it in my creative work, in my personal life. I am so grateful to Blyth for creating that space and so grateful to Arti and Kirya for being on the panel.

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Before the workshop got full.

Afterward was the second caucus time but I needed to get caucused with some Feelings cake and ended up spending some good time at the cafe next door to the hotel with some Femmes processing the workshop. The closing plenary was next where we talked about the Femme Collective and how the conference went. Did you know you can get involved on the Steering Committee for the 2014 conference? It is a bunch of work to make it happen and the conference is entirely volunteer-run.

The ride home was great. I was with Hadley and Emma and we got sandwiches from Charmington’s, which is now my favorite Baltimore haunt. It was a good debrief and I was so grateful I got to go to the Femme Conference and participate in this soul-opening, glitter encrusted experience.

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*The hilarious-we-became-friends-later-that-weekend post script to that is she didn’t notice me being a creepster, she recognized me from my blog so she was having an “OMG it’s Bevin!” moment while I was full-on checking her out. Hi Elisabeth!

**Side note, should I have ombre hair? Should my hair be tri-colored? Maybe I should do that instead of cutting it shoulder-length again? I know I’m a Brooklyn Femme but what if I go SF Ombre??

***Go Around is conference-speak for doing a round table of everyone’s name and some other information about them. Often/always at Femme Conference they involved Preferred Gender Pronoun, where you were from and something else related to the topic at hand.

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!

2009-06-19

The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Starting a Community Group

To: Bevin
From: Someone on Myspace who lives in Idaho
Re: Question

Hi There!

Since the Femme Mafia website is under construction [It’s back up now] I thought this would be the next best place to find what I am look for. I have been reading your blog for a long time and was very impressed as always with your fabulousness and the success of Femme Pride 2009 this last week. This got me thinking about something I have been putting on the back burner for some time and that is starting a chapter of the femme mafia here in good old Boise, Idaho. Your blog post stated that Atlanta was also working as a big sister chapter to help get other chapters throughout the country get started but the link also directed to the under construction page and frankly I’m impatient lol!

A struggle I found in coming out, and recognizing my sexuality and gender identity was that in Idaho I couldn’t seem to find any lesbians who looked like me, dressed liked me, or understood the issues I was experiencing and found important to me. The social circle I run in I adopted from my partner who leans more towards a butch label and I find myself the only femme in a sea of dykes quite frequently. I KNOW THERE HAS TO BE MORE OF US OUT THERE! I was lucky enough to enter the queer blogosphere and find like minded femmes that helped me find my way and realize that just because I suffered from femme invisibility in my home town didn’t mean it had to be that way. A big motive for me is that I want to help extinguish that issue, as well as the other femme stereotypes that have been created for us here.

I guess what I was really wondering is if you could offer any advice on how to get started, a good way to find some femmes and to create an interest in forming a femme community for support, to open discussion and to hopefully create a loud sparkly place in Idaho for us.

Thanks so much for your time!

Hi [Name Omitted]! Thanks for getting in touch!

The first piece of advice I have for you is that community building only requires two or more people with a commonality, who get together to share it. So keep in mind that while you are one, as soon as you start making space for Femmes, they will join you!

I’m really happy to hear that you have found recognition of your Femmeness on the internet. It’s so hard to walk around in LGBT community and feel like you don’t belong. The first time I ever went to Michfest I felt like I was the worst lesbian ever, so alone and isolated because I didn’t know myself or have any language or touchstone to how I presented. In a sea of lesbians I felt like I looked straight. Of course, that was my own massive insecurity talking. There were lots of Femmes running around, I just didn’t know how to see them or identify with them.

The next year at Fest they started the Femme parade and it made all the difference to feeling included, represented and celebrated. Now it’s a huge, yearly event and while Femme isn’t the majority in the mainstream lesbian community, we’re certainly starting to stomp our stilettos and get noticed in lots of unlikely places.

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That’s me at this past year’s Femme Parade with Emma Riot of the Miracle Whips (an LA based a queer femme performance troupe that works to promote models of progressive femininity, to create radical erotic possibilities, and to disrupt conventional notions of sexiness).

The nice part about the internet is that it makes it easier to facilitate community building. I’m a big believer, though, in taking community offline and IRL*. There’s no replacement for the magic that happens when you see yourself (or at least parts of yourself), in person, across a brunch table, in a meeting, at a coffeeshop, wherever you gather. And making that happen, as a community leader, is a gift you give yourself and other people.

You mentioned that pride is this weekend. My suggestion is to pick a meeting place, date and time (public spaces like coffee shops work best, especially for shy newcomers who may not feel confident enough to come to someone’s home) and make a flier. Do it really DIY, on a copier, instead of doing expensive postcards. At big pride events we are inundated with flashy corporate BS** that the homemade 1/4 page copy on hot pink paper will really stand out.

Say something like “Are you interested in starting a Boise chapter of the Femme Mafia? Come to this planning meeting and meet other Femmes!” I would then include the mission statement from the Femme Mafia Atlanta***, which is what Damien and I did when we started the Femme Family in NYC. It gives people an idea of what you’re trying to do and what it can look like. I also strongly advise against using exclusively the term “femme lesbian” because Femme is so much more than that, and the Femme Mafia in particular is inclusive of bisexual, queer, lesbian, dyke, etc… femmes of all genders.

So pass out those fliers, post in craig’s list Women for Women, let other places on the internet frequented by Femmes know about it (the Butch-Femme.com buletin boards are a great spot to find people looking for community). Post it on Facebook and Myspace and have friends of friends tell people. You are absolutely right, there are lots of Femmes out there.

At the meeting, make plans for what people are interested in organizing. Group attendance at events (like drag shows or bar nights) are fabulous and easy to put together. It took us 6 months but the Femme Family did a fabulous coming out party to great effect, and we got to dress exactly as fancy as we wanted to. And our Femme Poker nights (which are Femme only events) are our smallest attended events but perhaps the most meaningful.

My favorite quote about Femme invisibility is from Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s keynote address at the 2008 Femme Conference. “Femmes aren’t invisible. People just don’t know how to look.” Your job, starting a Femme Mafia chapter, is to teach them how to look!

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What you need to know about the Femme Mafia main chapter is that right now it’s being run by Debby alone, who has to get through each chapter application. You can email her at femmemafia at gmail dot com for the application. But it will take a minute, so don’t let that stop you from starting a local Femme group in the meantime!
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Me and some of the various current and former Femme Mafia leaders, L-R Debby, Angela, Rachael, Jen and me.

*In Real Life
**Though, Absolut, Suburu, etc… if you’re reading this I would love your sponsorship for my Pink RV tour. Get in touch, femmecast at gmail dot com.
***In the words of my bestie Rachael:

“At its most basic, the Femme Mafia is a progressive, edgy organization of self-identified femmes open to all genders that seeks to foster connections between femmes, reinforce femme identity and provide members with the occasion to bask in their own fierce fabulousness and the fabulousness of others. In a larger sense, it provides us with a sense of community, a forum for the examination of our identities, of how each of us fits in the community at large and of how we femmes as a group can make a place for ourselves. The organization also does a lot to counter the many misconceptions and preconceived notions about what a femme is and what a femme does and to show none of those assumptions are true all the time. Being at a Femme Mafia event and seeing Femme reflect back at you in so many different forms can be a challenging and transformative experience. It can also be addictive. I find that Femmes are hungry for it, and so am I. For me, Femme is an umbrella under which we find solace, and not an exclusionary or restrictive predetermined formula. Femme Mafia is reinforcement, it’s challenging, it’s celebration, it’s discussion and it’s fucking fun.”

If anyone reading this is in Boise and wants to be put in touch for organizing purposes, comment here and I’ll send your info along!

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