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

2016-09-30

I Promise My Personal Tragedy Will Not Interfere with My Ability to Do Good Hair: Remembering Amanda Arkansassy

It happened again. The phone calls and texts started, trying to give me news of a friend’s suicide before I found it on Facebook. This is what we have now. Who knows the protocol?*

bevinarkansassyMe and Amanda at a dance party in 2010. Yesterday I met someone who had tiny flying birds coming from a tattoo on their head and it reminded me of her shoulder tattoo.

This is a post about my friend and it’s a post about my messy grief process. I don’t know what to do right now, but I think modeling how I am grieving may be of some help to other folks out there who are bewildered and confused and don’t know how to keep processing these suicides of bright light Femmes.

My friend Amanda and I became close in 2008/2009 when she was a member of Femme Family, a Femme organizing group that sprung to life after the Femme Conference in August of that year. We wanted Femme community in NYC, and me and Damien, Amanda, Sophie, Chris, Taueret, Bryn, Bridget, Rachel, Hana, Dylan, Erica, Heather, and a lot of other Femmes who popped in and out, made it happen. Mostly we were cultural organizers, throwing dance parties, fundraisers, Femme poker nights, a Femme literary reading series, we had a book club and published a zine.

femmefamilyClockwise from top left: Bryn, Sophie, Damien, Amanda, Rachel, Me, Chris, Dylan, Erica. We were all so busy working our party that we had to do a group photo in stages.

femmefamilygroup2webTaueret, Heather, Me, Bridget, Amanda.

Amanda was the Madam of Country Glam, me and Damien weren’t yet roommates but we were Co-Head Madams. Taueret was the Madam of Ferocity. I forget which Madam title Bryn had. Taueret took her life in February of last year and Bryn just this past January. The last time I saw Amanda was when she was out for Taueret’s memorial (on Amanda’s birthday, October 3rd) and the last time we spoke on the phone was after Bryn passed and Amanda needed advice about posthumous art curation. It was such a beautiful moment, we talked for an hour while I was in a park at sunset, Dara and I having just seen what would become our quirky house in LA. I watched the beauty transform around me in my new neighborhood, we processed about Bryn and she filled me in on her new romantic adventures.

Amanda had the biggest heart. She was so sweet and welcoming. She was from Arkansas and it was a huge part of her identity. She was brilliant and political and knew how to show up for people. She always drove a huge SUV and made it look really easy in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She was a little younger than me and in some ways I think that played into our dynamic. A couple of days ago a friend of hers told me Amanda referred to me an inspiration but to me she was my fiercely loyal Femme friend.

birthdayamandaI’ve known so much grief and loss for so long that I know that even in sad circumstances we need to celebrate life. So even though it was the day of Taueret’s memorial and that was the reason for her visit, I knew our Femme Family reunion brunch needed to include birthday candles for Amanda.

I was still rebuilding myself after my painful break-up with my ex fiancé and she witnessed and held space. She showed me solidarity. She loved Steel Magnolias and Dolly Parton as much as me. She loved to get dressed up and take pictures. She loved other Femmes and loved to peacock for and with us.

0008_ability-to-do-good-hairThe title of this post is an homage to a shared favorite movie.

She started performing burlesque as Lola Dean and I think her first performance ever was at my Queer Family Holiday party. Taueret’s first burlesque act was at my previous party, a Queer Zombie Cabaret, and they both bonded over learning burlesque. When I competed for the title of Miss LEZ I asked them both to be my back-up dancers for my “talent” (hosting a gameshow/being surrounded by hot Femmes) as the Baconettes.

arkansassywiththosepastiesAmanda loved these pasties so much, she bought them special for the show on Etsy. Photo by Alison Picard.

Amanda was amazing backstage at the pageant. She was a former pageant queen in high school and gave me great advice about my interview portion and poise and other pageant stuff. Taueret was also amazing and told off a former date of mine who had recently stood me up. I remember leaving with Taueret after losing the pageant and feeling both physically famished (they don’t feed you backstage) and emotionally supported while kind of crushed that I lost.

misslezbevinamandaIf you want to read about my pageant platform and my play by play of that night check out this blog post. Photo by Syd London. Shout out to original Baconette Melissa Davis!

We brought the Baconettes back together the following Spring. I was Queen of Honor at Hey Queen, a queer dance party that was a staple of Brooklyn nightlife for five years. I was “Size Queen” and wanted to compose a really hot number to Madonna’s “Hanky Panky.” Me, Taueret, Amanda and Hana met up in my tiny living room to practice. We did it again at That’s My Jam the next month and from the buzz off those events I started Rebel Cupcake at Sugarland on International No Diet Day, May 6, 2010. Amanda performed as Lola Dean along with Taueret at the first Rebel Cupcake and once more before she moved to San Francisco.

bevinbaconettes

She, Sophie and Rachel all moved to San Francisco at about the same time. I felt really sad that they left but felt kind of okay, too, because I knew they had each other and no doubt they would do magical things out there.

rebelcupcakequeerrootWatching the blossoming friendship of Rachel and Amanda was really special. Photo from the photo booth of Rebel Cupcake, by Nogga Schwartz.

I think a lot about how Femme Family was this beautiful incubator for those of us involved. It gave us confidence in our abilities and we got ideas that were firmly based in our Femme identities. I started Rebel Cupcake, a body positive dance party for fat kids and fabulous weirdos. Damien started Heels on Wheels, a Femme art tour, show series and now a book with Heather. Sophie started Shameless Photography a feminist body positive pin-up photography business and many of the Femme Family were her first models.

Amanda went on to create Femme Space, a reclamation of space for Femmes and a beautiful portrait project. The stories and photos are stunning, I highly recommend a deep dive into them.

Long distance took an understandable toll on our friendship, but it never lost all of its love. I would see her and have epic conversations about all the things but mostly romance gossip because it was a fav of both of ours. Just six months ago she got on snapchat and she posted the sweetest thing on Facebook about how she loved my “snapchat stories” and for a bit there we would have girl talk and lingerie sharing over snapchat private message 10 seconds at a time.

bevinamanda2015

As our friend Elisabeth said memorializing Amanda, she was the ultimate “Hi Femme!” which was her actual license plate. She had to appeal a bunch to the CA DMV to get it–they thought it was about drugs and she schooled them that it was an actual identity. She was tickled every time she caught someone taking a photo of it behind her in traffic.

We constantly bonded over country music and I still think of her every time a good block of country music sung by women is on the radio (which is rare). When I was in LA last year learning my way around I heard a whole hour dedicated to women in country music and was so excited to tell her about it.

A couple of years ago she told me her plan after she moved to San Francisco was to eventually go back and head an organization for Southern Queers in Arkansas. I loved seeing Arkansas through her lens on social media. I loved seeing places she had told me about.

sfcrew2011Visiting San Francisco with Mackenzi, outside of the Lexington with Sophie, Dagger and Digg. Amanda was always a poly-identified Femme and there are a bunch of really good looking folks that had the pleasure of knowing her romantically in mourning. She was so special as a friend and I think she was extra extra special as a lover.

Another toll of long distance is when your friends throw parties you hella want to be at. She had a birthday party at the Madonna Inn one year and I was SOOOOO SAD I was too broke to go because I had always wanted to go to the Madonna Inn and they were taking lingerie photos with all the theme rooms! It was going to be Femme Slumber Party birthday magic. And I got to go to Dollywood which I know she always wanted to do and I wanted to do it with her! And she had a Dolly Parton themed getaway birthday party.

rachelamanda2010Femme Conference 2010.

Now that I’m in LA I am closer (wouldn’t ever turn down an invite to the Madonna Inn now!) but her housewarming party in Crockett, where she just moved to get more rural, was a night when I’m doing a big event here. I remember thinking “SOMEHOW SOMEWAY we will have a party we can both attend.” She died before I could even pester her to come be my photographer for Dollypalooza next month.

One of the things that is most beautiful in Femme friendships is seeing yourself reflected in one another. Amanda was positive and upbeat, like me, and sparkly. She was the kind of Femme who threw herself into activism and organizing and also had good hair and impeccable nails. I always told her she was my nail inspo and had stiletto nails long before they got really mainstream popular. She kept a few fingers on the right hand short, for sex. I was living for her ombre. Honestly, her hair just kept getting better and better.

arkansassyNashville fans, she declared Juliette Barnes one of her fashion icons. Amanda left behind a perfect shiba inu/chihuahua rescue named Memphis and her cat, Kitten Butt. And a gorgeous white bedroom set she moved cross country.

I’m taking this death really hard. I am replaying all of the ways in which I feel like I could have done things differently. Like what if I hadn’t flaked on hiring her to photograph me at my high school reunion reclaiming space that felt alienating to me as a teen. Would we have had a heart to heart two weeks ago that could have changed things? Should I have finished writing my book already since it’s mostly about how I survived this epic heartbreak and betrayal and bloomed even bigger and brighter than I ever thought possible? Could it have been a road map for her?

I shared these feelings with a friend yesterday who said, “You can’t put your lightness in someone else’s darkness.” And then confessed that they must have been channelling Spirit because they would never have said that. I’ve also gotten similar messages about Bryn and Taueret when I asked my psychic Alex about their possibly related suicides.

queerfamilyholidayallofusPhoto by Alison Picard.

I feel like there’s this way that when you shine really bright like Amanda did, like Bryn did, like Taueret did, that the world doesn’t want you to survive. Just being a bright light superstar that by your very identity challenges the white heteropatriarchy is dangerous. That manifests in the experiences of trauma caused by oppression, misogyny, heterosexism, ableism, fatphobia, transmisogyny, slut shaming, classism, and on and on. It’s hard to stay sane and positive when the world is relentless with heartbreak, police brutality, apartheid, and all of the other horrific things you see just by turning on the news.

The world is made better and sweeter for me by activists and artists like all three of them. I try like hell to take care of myself. I try like hell to model self care for the corner of the internet where people pay attention to what I say. When I’m modeling self care, I am saying “This is how I am staying alive today.” Because self care is vital and survival is vital.

amandaonthemuniThe same month she took her life her face was on the side of a Muni bus. Her light was shining bright. But it goes to show that we can have a good face on and be battling darkness really deep.

And let’s talk about our fucked up mental healthcare system. Why don’t we have walk in clinics, where you can start treatment without a giant ball of red tape and bullshit. Why don’t we fund this? Is it because the people who are in charge find our bodies disposable? We have such a fucked up world we need to make it more survivable. Instead the fuckedupness is making it harder and harder to stay alive.

It’s important and good we know about what’s going wrong in our world. We have to see it to change it, right? But we also need to recognize the toll that takes on everyone’s mental health.

We need to stop treating self care like it’s optional. Take care of yourself and take really fucking great care. And fund easy to access free mental health for everyone because we need it . All three of these friends of mine were brilliant women with different access to help and different ways of soliciting it. What about the people who aren’t as resourced or good at self advocacy as Bryn, Taueret or Amanda? Somehow we need to do better at getting mental healthcare into the hands of people who need it. The amount of people who need it is mounting.

speakingoffemmegroupSpeaking of Femme.

I keep thinking about the idea of feminizing the world as a means of creating world change and world peace. Amanda even mentioned it in the article announcing her as one of KQED’s 20 Women to Watch.

In response to the question, “If you could live in a book, TV show, movie, play or painting, what would it be?” She replied, “It hasn’t been written yet (to my knowledge), but I’m looking forward to media exploring a futuristic femme oligarchy. Until then, Steel Magnolias will do.”

Maybe that’s how I need to womanifest my thoughts about how to feminize the world. Write a TV treatment for a show exploring a Futuristic Femme Oligarchy. If Femmes ruled the world? It would be amazing. Amanda dedicated her Femme Space project that was poppin’ off to the memory of Taueret and Bryn (check the footer on the page) and I would dedicate that TV show treatment to all three.

amandaspeakingoffemmeblue

In the meantime we need to figure out how to survive. This is why I blog. This is why I talk about the things I’ve figured out for self care and to take good care of myself. I’m writing a self care zine so I can brain dump to whoever wants it all the stuff I know about self care. Because we don’t live in a world where mental and emotional healthcare is free and easily available. ’Til we do we need to be taking care of each other and ourselves.

I talk a lot about becoming a rich lesbian. I mostly want to be rich because I want to start a foundation to support the kind of hard to fund amazing grass roots edge of social change groups that don’t usually get grants. I want to give them cash and provide support for their sustainability and helping have the kind of structure that ensures the legacy can move forward if the founders either move on, burn out or have shit go down in their lives. My friend Jenn and I brainstormed that I need to have a social worker on staff who can provide therapy for supported organizers, coaching people in self care.

bevinandthebaconettes

I see a lot of activists whose work and care taking is dedicated to the point of compulsion. There’s always more to do and not enough money or resources. I see people who are broke who give what little they have to folks who are broker than they are. It’s in the giving nature of people dedicated to world change. I wonder if Amanda needed more care than she was capable of receiving. I wonder if there’s a way to teach people to receive the love that is around them. Because Amanda, Taueret and Bryn were all beloved.

These deaths rip open the wounds that I work hard to heal. I’m grieving hard the loss of all three, grief compounded upon grief. I was putting dishes away and a wave came. I was literally sobbing into my kitchen cabinet when I came to. I find it’s easiest to grieve when I just open myself up to it. I don’t try to pretend that I’m cool when I’m not and I work to practice radical honesty with people who ask me how I’m doing.

femmepicnicWhen I was doing my deep dive into my photo archives I realized that right after this Femme picnic in Dolores Park I met up with my queer Femme friend Melissa Tracy who also took her life this year.

I’ve learned a lot about grieving over the years. I was sending a blog post about break-up grieving strategies to a friend and I realized a lot of it was very applicable to death. Try to be present. Try to let it flow. Commit to your plans so you don’t spiral out for too long. For me, preventing the darkness is easier than being swallowed by it and having to crawl out, so I’m trying really hard to not fall into that place.

This week I asked for a lot of help. Dara has been out of town for work for almost two weeks. On Saturday Amanda’s suicide hadn’t been announced yet and I had to figure out how to get the help I needed without doing the endless phone calls and messages thing, so I put an all call on Facebook. I don’t give a fuck about seeming vulnerable. I think we should be more vulnerable with each other, it’s a sign of strength.

amandaonstageatbellhouse

In some ways it’s been good that Dara’s not here. I have been relying for primary support from my friends and it’s important to lean out of your primary for support. I’m also crabby and listless, and I’m actually feeling shitty about how I am not a pile of sunshine for Dara right now. So being independent from her has been helpful.

Yesterday I knew I had a ton of work to do and in the in between times might need brightening. So I asked Facebook once again for sweet memories. Remembering connections to other, living folks is a sweet way to remind me that I am loved, and taking breaks from work to sit with a few at a time has been so helpful.

queerfamilychristmasstage

I keep remembering all the hot people I was going to set her up on dates with. I keep thinking about all of the collaborations I wanted to do. Over the past year I thought a lot about what Amanda would do my Femme Space photo about. I thought maybe my rainbow mumu and me in a Home Depot because I am definitely a power tool wielding Femme, I do not let stereotypes about women and femininity stand in the way of me getting what I want to get done. And then I definitely thought it was going to be me teaching my new fitness class at the body positive gym opening up in LA. But whatever it was, it’s a collaboration that won’t happen. Because something about the world was too painful for her.

I want to make the world more survivable. I wrestled with the choice to not go to her funeral on Wednesday but the thought of making the travel plans was so overwhelming I was paralyzed. So I took that, and my big chronic digestive disorder flare as my signs that I needed to stay put and take care of myself. I can’t make the world survivable unless I take care of my own survival.

*For me, just in case this is relevant to any of my friends reading this, I prefer a phone call. Almost all of my calls are scheduled because that’s how I roll, so if you call me twice in a row and text “Call me ASAP” I know what that means. So that’s my preferred protocol. I changed my number to a 323 number when I moved to LA so check your phone and delete that old Jersey 201 number!

wafflesinbmoreI have all these new friends I just made and I wonder if they think it’s weird that I say I love you literally every time we part ways. It’s because I’ve known so much loss and I’m only 37 and I know it might be my last opportunity to say it. So I always do when I feel it. Grief is an unfortunate side effect of love, and I love really big. I loved Amanda a lot and my grief reflects the size of that love. There is no timeline on grief, I will never get over missing her. I will never get over Bryn and Taueret. I will only do what is the best case scenario and get used to the idea that they aren’t here. 

More Amanda Love:

Go Fund Me Campaign to help with Amanda’s memorial costs.

KQED Holding Space for Amanda (lists a lot of her artistic accomplishments if you want to learn more about her prolific work)

Femmes Before Literally Everything

To be added: Memorial information for next month’s memorial.

2015-05-01

The Power of Authenticity: Bruce Jenner, Kanye West and My Lesbian Sorority Ice Cream Wrestling Party

I watched the Bruce Jenner interview on 20/20 last week and had a lot of feelings. It’s complex to have your transition made public before you are living 100% of the time as your true gender. Most folks begin to “go public” with it with a letter to friends and family requesting a pronoun change and a new name. But not Bruce Jenner! A Friday night Prime Time TV interview!

As my friend Avory put it, “Bruce Jenner is a rich, white American who could not escape his truth.” As Americans we need to learn how to hear hard truths from people different than us, and for folks who are not trans accepting (like many of Bruce’s fellow Conservative Republicans) this interview and the rampant publicity around it, is another seminal moment for trans liberation. This moment is only made possible through the incredible work of queer and trans activists, allies and movements. Many leaders in these movements are incredible people of color who did not have the monetary or other privileges Bruce Jenner enjoys.

Here’s hoping this interview can help Americans learn how to hear hard truths from people who are different in other ways.

My favorite takeaway was the authenticity quote by Kanye West. He had told Kim Kardashian West, his wife and Bruce Jenner’s step-daughter, this anecdote.

Look, I can be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am. I can have the most beautiful little daughter in the world, and I have that. But I’m nothing if I can’t be me. If I can’t be true to myself, they don’t mean anything.

Kanye is exactly right. When you aren’t authentic to yourself, it is nearly impossible to enjoy your life. I spent a long time being depressed, suicidal, self-hating and body hating. It robbed me of the pleasures of the everyday. Making choices and taking risks to be my authentic self has saved my life.

I remembered an ice cream wrestling party with my sorority sisters when I was in college. It was June of the year 2000. I’m pretty sure our president, Sam, came up with the idea of getting a blow up pool, putting it in the backyard of our sorority house and inviting a bunch of women over to wrestle.

17128193937_7361eb21e7_zSomehow this is the only group photo I have from our sorority, taken at our winter retreat in Lake Tahoe, which includes friends of ours not in the sorority. I’m far right in what I believed was a “Winter coat” when I still lived in CA.

I think it’s important to mention at this part of the story that I was a member of a lesbian sorority, Lambda Delta Lambda, and our sorority house was a 3-4 bedroom ranch house just off the UC Davis campus that was shared by a few members of our sisterhood. Other formal Greek organizations on campus (the panhellenic sororities, as they were known) had pretty big houses with towering Greek letters attached to the second story. Ours was just a regular rental house but it was super cute and special because our membership was pretty small.

I was only a member for one school year. I came out during my Junior year in college and by the time Senior year rolled around I realized that my friends consisted primarily of straight women and gay men. I knew I needed a way to meet lesbians and so I decided to rush the lesbian sorority. I was so into the Greek system at Davis, having a lot of friends who were in sororities and going to events all the time.

16715377943_1a1311be88_zMy friend Dianna at a sorority produced charity event pageant for fraternity brothers to win a Mr. Some Sorority Name title. One of the contestants handed out cookies. I used that technique in my 2009 bid for Miss LEZ.

My roommate Jill was rush chair of Alpha Chi Omega and invited me to the rush event I’d been hearing her plan for weeks just to support her and get a free meal. When my friend Dianna came with me to the event just to check it out they sent their best sisters over to rush us even though I was just there to support Jill. Some of them thought I was there to do an expose for the college newspaper. (True story, I did write a women and gender studies term paper about the Greek system on campus, but it was never published.)

17309657576_b13e543019_zMe and Jill in our apartment! I was still learning how to have the bravery to wear sleeveless shirts

Despite the Alpha Chi Omega sisters’ best rush attempts I was never going to join a panhellenic organization. I definitely felt too fat to join a sorority where matching outfits bought at the Gap (which didn’t produce ANY plus size clothes in those days) were de rigueur and the dues were the equivalent to another quarter’s tuition per year. This was true of all of the panhellenics. I could barely afford college–I paid for my public university experience through student loans I’m still paying back, working three jobs, and my teacher mom’s couple hundred a month to help out. By the end of each quarter when the loans ran out I bought my burritos on credit cards.

But Lambda Delta Lambda’s dues were totally equivalent to an active club and they seemed really nice. And I needed to make lesbian friends if I was ever going to get laid with my newly minted out bisexual lifestyle. (In those days, I identified as bi because I didn’t know queer was a thing and my complex attraction to masculinity remained unexplored.)

My friend Dianna, great straight ally that she is/was, came with me to my first Lambda Delta Lambda rush event. I think it’s really awesome when you do ally work to be willing to blend into a marginalized group. Adopting an attitude of “who cares if people think you’re gay at gay events” is definitely an ally pro-tip.

The lesbian sorority rush event was very different, just a casual hang out at a local pizza place with the sisters and some of their friends and partners. I don’t remember being nervous about whether I would “get in” like the deep selection process of traditional sororities. Being part of a sorority was a great experience even though it was only for one year of college. I’m really glad I made the choice to risk doing it. There were no matching outfits, and I went to the local Greek letter schwag shop and bought myself a sorority letter sweatshirt in an XXL. I wore it for years, until it was threadbare.

17147837458_353da1e27a_zJill and I threw a fake fraternity themed house party that year. Fraternities on our campus LOVED decorating with spray paint and trash bags. Our parties were an amazing amalgamation of my LGBT friends, women and gender studies friends, Jill’s Greek friends and our mutual dorm friends. Here are a bunch of my sorority sisters and my friend from Girl Scout Camp, Cole, visiting from Sacramento.

Okay, so back to authenticity. At this point in my development towards becoming the fully actualized authentic human I am today, I was not a person who knew how to show up and be present. I hated my body, I never thought I was good enough, and was gearing up to attend law school after graduation because “everyone” told me I should go to law school. I had no idea how to know what I really wanted or to give myself permission to throw myself into things with the wild abandon I do today. I definitely did not feel okay risking looking foolish.

I was 21 years old and just about to graduate when Sam suggested an end of the year ice cream wrestling party. I went along with it because it’s what everyone else wanted, I wasn’t sure how I felt about watching girls wrestle in ice cream.

17335641065_e36aefa5e1_zOne of my sisters outside our retreat cabin by the snow woman doing some topless snow angel making. I deeply wanted to go join her but no way was I okay with being topless around anyone when I was that age.

I was informed that as the graduating senior among us I was going to have to wrestle (ugh) and I would get to select who I would wrestle against from my sorority sisters. I remember knowing immediately who it was going to be, I figured if I picked the strongest member it would be over quickly and I could move on.

Even though I was not yet aware of the true magic of the gender spectrum amongst queers (in the culture of UC Davis in the late 90s/early aughts Butch and Femme were frowned upon, most folks were on the andro/hippie spectrum of gender presentation) if you lined up our sorority based on gender appearance, I was certainly the farthest in the feminine spectrum and the girl I wrestled was on the other end. I think it’s a testament to how deeply I wanted to be Femme because I would wear clothing from the men’s section of Old Navy, as there was no plus size women’s section yet, and enough make-up to have it be girly.

17335640255_ce20b5a1c4_zThis is a great/terrible example of the kind of men’s clothing I loved to swim in because I thought it camouflaged my fat. This is my BFF Mary (we had so much fun together) and Dianna on our way home from our women’s honor society trip to Tahoe.

I don’t remember what I wore to wrestle but I’m absolutely sure it wasn’t anything special. I brought extra clothes to change into. I noticed with dread and extra humiliation that the girl I had a mild crush on was there (she worked in the same building as my academic advising job). I was first to wrestle and my sisters sweetly and deviously surprised me, the graduate, by making me “ice cream sundae” wrestle, pouring chocolate syrup, nuts, whipped cream, marshmallow fluff and lord knows what else on me as well as ice cream before I was quickly defeated by my masculine-presenting opponent. I remember standing there becoming a human ice cream sundae and feeling so embarrassed and nervous about what other people thought of me. After wrestling, I immediately ran into the shower for the wrestlers, got cleaned up and tried to enjoy the rest of the night. But I kind of couldn’t. I didn’t die of awkward that night, but I thought I might.

17147845358_e79c1a955e_zThis is me winning an award for being an “outstanding senior” at UC Davis. I hated being on stage at that point in my life. So deeply insecure. Also, back then I dealt with insecurity by being an overachiever!

I think about that time a lot as a lost moment. I could have worn a bathing suit to wrestle, but I think at that time in my life I was still wearing a tee shirt over my bathing suits in pools when I went swimming. I could have really enjoyed the ability to wrestle with the person of my choice and I totally should have chosen the sister with whom I had a ton of sexual tension. Being not authentic and not particularly brave, I didn’t know how to make that choice or even acknowledge our sexual tension. I also could have hammed it up being in the spotlight, since it was a really beautiful moment of appreciation and love by my sorority sisters. AND, with the incredibly resilient digestion of my 21 year old self, I totally could have snacked on some ice cream sundae but sadly I was too afraid of being seen eating ice cream in the equivalent of on stage.

What would it have been like if I had been my authentic self at that moment? I would have been present, I would have enjoyed the moment and I would have had a lot more fun. My insecurities and my self-hatred kept me from the best of that moment.

I have no regrets in my life, I believe we all have a path, we’re all meant to learn what we can from what happens in our lives. But I know how not being fully authentic to who I was robbed me of enjoying what could have been a really incredible night for me.

16570741810_8633364659_zIf I could have that moment again, I know exactly what I would wear. This bikini, which was pretty cheap and could probably stand up to potential staining from maraschino cherries. I would also totally ham it up because I have learned how much I LOVE to be on stage and perform and people love performative wrestling.

So Kanye West is right. You can have the best of everything and never be able to enjoy it if you’re not fully yourself. Authenticity isn’t just about gender presentation, sexuality, or body liberation–it’s about taking the time to get to know yourself and taking the risks to let other people get to know the true you.

Not all of us are Bruce Jenner and do that with a 20/20 interview. But when you see that tender smile of Bruce’s in that interview, you can see the smile of someone who is SO excited to breathe freely, without being on guard. It’s worth it to step out and experience the tentativeness, the risks, the scary feelings of learning how to chip off your shell and expose your tender, true self to the world. Start with your closest, most trusted friends and body positive allies. Then move on to safer public spaces, then go bigger and bigger. It is worth it to be your whole, true self.

2013-06-18

Plus Size Pageant Documentary–There She Is and some questions for my readership about being fat and expressing gender

I was asked by the filmmakers of a new documentary released yesterday to watch a sneak preview. I was cuddled up in a cabin in the woods with a bunch of my queer besties and it seemed like the perfect activity for a rainy day. Now that it’s released world-wide for free on the internet, I want to share it with my readership.

From the press kit: “There She Is follows two plus size pageant queens as they prepare for an upcoming pageant. They discuss their lives as plus size women, including how they feel when others’ perceptions of their appearance clash with their own. The film challenges the viewer to examine his/her own definition of beauty and the ways in which it affects our everyday lives.”

It’s very fat acceptance 101 but also very human. It’s full of pretty dresses and watching girls do make-up (one of my favorite things to watch).

I have some thoughts about the film, so read on for my feelings or you can watch the movie and then read what I have to say. I’d love to hear your reactions, too.

Planning the next trip to the house.
I accidentally bought an evangelical christian guide to retreat planning when at the used book sale.

Here is the full film (about 20 minutes long)–the link to the website is here.

Or just watch the trailer:

I feel strongly that pageants can be a great thing for people. I think beauty, make-up, hair and clothes are art forms that are derided by mainstream culture as “frivolous” but can be very empowering. I think aesthetic arts are actually really helpful ways of reclaiming your body from what society expects from you. This is assuming that one understands that make-up/hair/etc are optional parts of aesthetic life and not compulsory. So I went into this documentary on the side of the contestants because I know beauty pageants are actually really fun hobbies/pursuits for folks.

I competed for the title of Miss LEZ and talk more about my pageant thoughts in this post.

A couple of things struck me about this movie. The first was that the blonde subject spoke about not wanting to run out to the grocery store without doing her hair, make-up and wearing cute clothes because she felt an unspoken expectation not to appear like a “fat slob.” I actually struggle with this myself. I challenge myself all the time to appear outside (and sometimes in photos on this blog) without wearing make-up. Sometimes I just physically don’t feel comfortable not wearing make-up and I am not sure if that’s because I just like to present a version of myself that is more in line with my vision or if it because I feel pressure to make myself more palatable for the outside world as a fat, queer person. I think it’s likely a bit of both, though I do work really hard to not let other people’s perceptions of me affect what and how I do things. I also never truly feel “in my gender” if I’m not wearing false eyelashes, red lipstick and some killer outfit.

I also was curious about the subject who talked about her weight loss at the end. It was actually kind of a bummer because as a fat loving person who is self loving I secretly want a fat acceptance narrative to not involve weight loss goals, but at the same time it’s unrealistic to expect fat people to not participate in ways of bodily self-determination. I rarely pursue weight loss goals myself but certainly make choices with regards to food and exercise that sometimes have a by product of weight loss.

I was curious and confused about the brunette’s reaction to her weight loss. In some ways I felt like her engagement was a byproduct of it from a man who wouldn’t otherwise accept her. (I.e. “It’s okay if you’re fat as long as you’re trying to lose weight.”) But I had a hard time understanding whether I was perceiving that correctly.

Cuddle pile.
Cuddled up watching the documentary.

For me, I try to make weight loss value-neutral and not focus on the scale about success. I focus on how my body is feeling. I don’t think losing weight will change who I am inside and suddenly make myself love me more. I’ve known enough formerly fat but still self-loathing people to know that’s not a narrative that works, you have to love yourself from the inside first regardless of how big your body is. As a body liberation activist, I also work really hard to not mind other people’s weight loss positively or negatively. I won’t judge them for it and I won’t celebrate it. I want to know if the person is feeling good in their body.

I’m wondering from readers what they feel like about wearing make-up, whether they find it compulsory, if they feel comfortable in public spaces or specifically queer spaces without it (if they are a make-up identified person)?

In what ways do you feel “in your gender,” and how does that present? How does that differ from day to day, moment to moment?

How do you respond to weight loss in your life? Are there ways that you make it value-neutral?

2011-08-21

News Items and Mr. Transman Pageant 2011, Sunday, August 28th in Brooklyn

Hi friends! I’m back from the woods and resuming normal life. As best as I can, of course, since it’s hot and it feels like everyone is still out of town.

photofromsina.jpg
Actually, neither life is “normal”. Photo by Miss M from the Femme Parade.

A few housekeeping items and then a showbiz announcement.

*The story of Cougar, Bevin and the Atlantic City Homophobe was published on Autostraddle. Thanks to everyone who commented or talked to me about it. I even had a close friend who was holding hands with a new beau and instructed in his own neighborhood “Just because you people can get married now doesn’t mean you have to flaunt it.” Oh, we’ve got a long way to go.

*Turns out fat people can be healthy! Thanks CBS news!

*Also, the fatosphere is helping people get healthy! That’s awesome!

*I’m super excited about the Fall Season of Rebel Cupcake and put a call out for performers. If you’re interested it’s over on my Tumblr. If you’re planning a trip to NYC, Rebel Cupcake is the second Thursday of the month at Sugarland in Williamsburg.

*New York Queers! Get excited, next weekend, August 28, at 8PM is the Mr. Transman Pageant at the Brooklyn Knitting Factory! Brought to you by Murray Hill, NYC Showbiz Icon, and my pal Trent Brooks!

The pre-show line-up is fabulous, which alone is be enough to drop $15 and devote your Sunday night.

The dreamy Princess Tiny & The Meats. (Did you know that’s fag slang for tiny penis?)
Princess Tiny Meats
His words and sweet sweet guitar will melt you. Photo by Nogga Schwartz for Rebel Cupcake.

The awesome Schmekel, a band with a great sound and AMAZING lyrics. (Did you know schmekel is yiddish for tiny penis?)

schmekel-pesach.jpg
Sometimes they pass out guides to the yiddish terms they use in their songs at their college gigs.

Kit Yan, the winner of Mr. Transman 2010. I met Kit through last year’s pageant and he’s now a favorite at Rebel Cupcake and a friend. He’s an incredible slam poet. I can’t wait to see him perform and pass the crown to his successor.

167739_491272854385_512354385_5672379_4520761_n
Kit Yan with Miss Mary Wanna in the Rebel Cupcake photo booth. Photo by Nogga Schwartz (of Schmekel) for Rebel Cupcake.

And speaking of successors! Recall from my bid for Miss LEZ in 2009 that there are many categories in Murray’s pageants:

PLATFORM (I hope they are thinking of catchy ones)
SWIMSUIT (this is nerve wracking–fellas if you get nervous be sure to have a schtick)
INTERVIEW (I hope the judges are thinking of interesting questions)
TALENT (we want to see genuine talent)
EVENING WEAR (I suggest something that glitters)

topher.jpg
Contestant #2 Topher, from his photo on the cover of GO Magazine. Check out the rest of the contestants on this write-up in Velvet Park.

Y’all, this pageant WILL sell out. Buy your tickets now!

MRT11_web.jpg

2011-01-18

Art and Soul Tomorrow/Cupcake Cabaret on Friday (as part of Quorum Forum)

Art & Soul on Wednesday!

Hey everyone!

Tomorrow night Glenn Marla and Princess Tiny & The Meats are featured in the artist’s salon at Art & Soul.

CultureFIX is an earnest, comfortable art gallery with a beer/wine bar and really good food. The party has a casual vibe and is great for chatting and meeting new people. If you introduce yourself to me and want to meet new interesting queers I will happily introduce you around.

The salon is from 8:30-9, we listen and dance to soul music, look at art on the wall and have fun until midnight.

See you there!!

P.S. It’s happening again next month on Feb 23, featured artists include World Famous *BOB*.

artsouljanfeb

Cupcake Cabaret at Quorum Forum on Friday, Jan 21!

I am really excited to be producing this celebration of self-love at this amazing free, community festival of queer magic in the middle of Winter. I’m calling Quorum Forum the Queer Winter Olympics. And thrilled to bring together this awesome line-up of performers. I hope you can make it! If anyone can video tape it please let me know!

Friday, January 21, 2011 * Brooklyn, NY
Quorum Forum & Bevin Branlandingham Present
Cupcake Cabaret
9PM-11PM * FREE (Part of the Quorum Forum Festival of Queer Magic)
Manifesta Loft, 315 Seigel St. (Bushwick) Brooklyn
(L to Morgan Ave.)

Bevin Branlandingham curates a free performance of Cupcake Cabaret, her self-love performance variety show that has been performed in NYC and San Francisco. Cupcake Cabaret celebrates the strength we get from what marks us different in this world. Size, gender, sexuality, class, race, dis/ability, age, religion and all numbers of identities bring the artists in the series a sense of power and esteem. Cupcake Cabaret features comedy, drag, burlesque, spoken word, film, performance art and all manner of genres celebrating the radical act of self-love.

QuORUM FORUM is a ten-day extravaganza of knowledge, skills, and talents for the purpose of creating and supporting sustainable community projects. It includes workshops, discussions, skillshares, performances, and parties. All events are FREE.

Detailed event schedule and descriptions can be found at http://quorumnyc.org/.

Performers include:

Kay Ulanday Barrett
Kay Ulanday Barrett
A CAMPUS PRIDE 2009 Hot List artist, Kay Ulanday Barrett is a poet, performer, educator, and martial artist navigating life as a pin@y-amerikan trans/queer in the U.S. with struggle, resistance, and laughter. Currently based in NY/NJ, with roots in Chicago, K’s work is the perfect mix of gritty city flex and Midwest open sky grounded in homeland soil. In Mango Tribe and in solo work, K. has featured in colleges and stages nationally and internationally; from the NJ Performing Arts Center to Chicago’s Hot House, The Brooklyn Museum to The Loft in Minneapolis, K’s bold work continues to excite and challenge audiences. Honors include: Chicago’s LGBTQ 30 under 30 awards, Finalist for The Gwendolyn Brooks Open-Mic Award, Windy City Times Pride Literary Poetry Prize 2009, and recently, a contribution in the anthology “Kicked Out” released by Homofactus Press in 2009. K. turns art into action, as a dedicated activist who works with LGBTQ youth and adores remixing recipes.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B
Cheryl B. is an award-winning writer, poet and performer. Her work appears in dozens of print and online publications, including; Ping Pong, Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution and BLOOM, among many others. As a performer she has appeared at numerous New York City literary evenings and toured the U.S. and the U.K. She is the co-curator/co-host of the monthly NYC reading series Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival, serious literature for ridiculous times. Her website is cherylb.com and she blogs at wtfcancerdiaries.com.

Kit Yan
Kit Yan

Recently Featured in the HBO Documentary Asians Aloud, Kit Yan tell stories through slam poetry from the lens of a transgender Asian American from Hawaii now lost in the big city of New York.

Kit’s work has been taught at universities coast to coast, from San Francisco State to Harvard. He spoke to over 200,000 from the stage of the 2009 National Equality March alongside Lady Gaga and Cynthia Nixon, performed on the San Francisco Pride main stage, Creating Change, and is a nationally ranking slam poet. Kit Yan is first ever and reigning Mr. Transman 2010.

“The eloquence of Kit’s spoken-word delivery lies in the anti-racist, anti-homophobic, gender-inclusive, language that ties his lyrics together.”- Bitch Magazine

Miss Mary Wanna
Miss Mary Wanna
This sassy southern creature of the night has been knocking over trash cans, causing hiiiigh-jinx along the east coast, and has once again found her way to the magical streets of New York City. She currently builds her den in Philadelphia, bumpin and grindin in the name of brotherly and sisterly love with other DIY queens and kings alike. Whether she’s peeling away fur or feathers, Miss Mary Wanna is certain to blow your mind and get you high!

Drae Campbell
Drae Campbell
Drae Campbell is a multi-genre performance artist who is as hysterical as she is handsome. The reigning Miss LEZ 2010, Campbell won the title with a performance combining her funny, poignant storytelling and legendary breakdancing. She starred in the short film “You Move Me,” which is touring the world winning awards and teaching life lessons about oranges and relationships.

Femmecee Bevin Branlandingham
IMG_6489.JPG
Bevin Branlandingham is “an ultra-rad warrior for self-acceptance.” [Autostraddle.com] She is the Host and Producer of FemmeCast: The Queer Fat Femme Podcast Guide to Life. She is a flamboyant femmecee, writer, drag king, burlesque and comedy performer. She is Co-Head Madam of the Femme Family, the New York Chapter of the Femme Mafia, on the steering committee for the Fat and Queer conference and the media committee for the Femme Conference. In 2008 Bevin received a Commendation from the Mayor of Jersey City for her work with the LGBT community. Her writing has been published in numerous periodicals and she has performed throughout North America. Her mission is to make the world a safe place for people to love themselves, regardless of their marginalizations. Her website (including blog, calendar of events and workshops) is found at QueerFatFemme.Com.

2010-10-23

Miss LEZ! Sunday, October 24th! Buy Tickets in Advance!

Recall the time that I competed for the title of Miss LEZ. I can’t believe it was a year ago already. Murray Hill is bringing it back again, better than ever!

Check out the hot contestants! (Not pictured, N–The Only Letter in Burlesque.)

MISSLEZ2010_web.jpg

MISS LESBIAN LOVE OCTAGON // VICKY SIN, a lipstick wearing, ballad belting, glitter loving Burlesque babe

MISS REBEL CUPCAKE // DRAE CAMPBELL, a performer, filmmaker, choreographer, comedic gender bending butchy with an adoration for bow ties

MISS CHOICE CUNTS // GOLDIE PEACOCK, a Bed-Stuy based genderblender, movement artist, go-go dancer and muse

MISS HEY QUEEN // ARIEL SPEEDWAGON, a performer, a dancer, a dandy, and a romancer whose work has been seen on Broadway, Lafayette, Chrystie, and other fine streets and avenues in New York City

MISS RE/DRESS // AFRO TITTY, a Power (For not Over) Bitch Femme Shark with fierce politics and a bangin’ rack/shimmy/shake

MISS WILDCARD // N, The ONLY Letter In Burlesque, is a kitty loving, graphic designing, burlesque dancing, drag queening, singing sensation! The show is going to be incredible. I’ve performed with every contestant within the last six months and I can tell you that no matter who wins it is going to be a fabulous journey.

My friend Drae (teeth bared in the photo) is representing my party as Miss Rebel Cupcake! I’m so excited that Rebel Cupcake is only 6 months old and already we’re presenting someone to become the queen of Lez nightlife. The little party that could. We got four of the contestants at the last Rebel Cupcake on stage (photos forthcoming) and it was a really fun to present them to the audience.

As part of Drae’s prep for the pageant I’ve been grilling her with potential judge’s interview questions. Apparently I’m a bit of a pageant mom. “No, that’s wrong. Always say this. No, no, do this.” Mostly I just hope Drae shows the audience and judges how weird she is, because I think her wit and weirdness are her strengths going into the competition.

Buy tickets in advance! The show sells out every year! And stay tuned here for a recap!

More info on the Miss LEZ Pageant here!

***

Other fun New York City things to take note of:

Justin Bond’s new play starring QFF.com favorites Glenn Marla and Heather Acs. More info on Justin Bond and the House of Whimsy: Re:Galli Blonde (A Sissy Fix) through the link. The play is running this weekend and next weekend only!

The Lesbian Love Octagon musical runs for one weekend only, November 4-7. It’s an incredible show and I can’t wait to see its current incarnation. The brainchild of Kimberlea Kressal, she’s been working on it for 11 years. I’m so proud of what she’s accomplished and the cast is extremely talented. Buy tickets in advance!

2009-12-07

No Bacon Left Behind

On October 11, 2009, I competed for the title of Miss Lez 2009. The pageant, founded by the legendary Murray Hill, is “a wildly provocative, insane, jaw-dropping alternative beauty pageant for queer womyn that blows the lid off of ‘gender representation’ and shines the spotlight on New York’s underground queer scene.” It was an honor to represent my favorite clothing store as Miss Re/Dress NYC. It was also really fun to use my art and my extensive wardrobe (I didn’t buy a single new outfit for the pageant) to express myself in this unusual performance art format.

Since the contest I have received numerous accolades for my performance and requests for the written version of my pageant platform. I don’t like to disappoint, and thus I present unto you, gentle readers, my pageant entry.

PLATFORM:

Each contestant was asked to come out on stage and deliver a short platform after showing off their outfit to the audience. My platform was well-rehearsed and proceeded as follows:

“My name is Bevin Branlandingham. My platform is No Bacon Left Behind. Bacon, like queers, comes in a myriad of forms. You have your standard pork bacon, middle of the road turkey bacon, and bacon from that magical Vegan paradise known as Morningstar Farms. Bacon is the symbol of our national queer meal, which is brunch, where we come together to nurse our hangovers as a community. If selected as Miss Lez 2009, I will ensure that No Bacon is Left Behind.”

It was my intention to be campy and to express my value for creating inclusive community.

I wore a satin Marilyn Monroe Dress with a bacon applique and a small bacon hair bling.

Fw:No bacon left behind
10423_574549700812_18101189_34278709_3040877_n
4027464763_53be87aed0_b.jpg
(Last photo by Syd London)

SWIMSUIT

Swimsuit was the most nerve wracking part of the competition for me and Contestant #2 (we discussed this backstage), Becca Blackwell. I was coached by World Famous *BOB*, who gave me her official endorsement for Miss Lez. Having a schtick made it much easier to be on stage in a bathing suit.

I came out in a red cover up with sparkly eyelash fur that looks great under stage lights. During the first pass I took it off to reveal my swimsuit, a black with white polka dots one piece halter with red piping.
4028379270_e8e94291df_b.jpg
10423_574549760692_18101189_34278721_7735988_n.jpg
First photo by Syd London

*BOB* said I should make sure I have matching cunty heels and purse. I chose a black patent leather clutch with black and white polka dot lip detailing from the Beth Ditto collection. I rolled deep in the Queer Fat Femme culture for my entry as Miss Re/Dress.

10423_574549775662_18101189_34278724_2694274_n

As a seasoned burlesque performer, *BOB* told me that she believes that every woman on stage in a swimsuit should eat something. To tie everything into my platform, I reached into my clutch and pulled out a piece of very crispy (and very tasty) bacon, and ate it on stage. The crowd went wild.

7430_155448593748_524523748_2674672_3895998_n.jpg

INTERVIEW

Backstage before the pageant I was practicing questions with my team of pageant moms, the Baconettes. I began every answer with “I’m glad you asked me that question, [insert name here]”. I learned a lot of good pageant tricks from watching Toddlers & Tiaras and Drop Dead Gorgeous. I changed again, this time into a red cotton wrap dress. I figured if I flubbed my question at least my cleavage would be a distraction.

4030577023_4fdab28df2_b.jpg
Photo by Syd London

Linda Simpson was the judge who gave me my question. She asked me if selected Miss Lez, if I would pose nude. I was genuinely glad she asked me that question!

10423_574549870472_18101189_34278742_3526629_n
10423_574549860492_18101189_34278740_2514734_n

I answered that I was already planning to pose nude for Fat Bottom Boudoir and that I was using those images for my forthcoming Fat and Queer Erotica Anthology. The working title is “Better than Cupcakes: Queer Fat Femmes Kiss and Tell” and that the idea was born because I was tired of not seeing any genuine body or gender diversity on the covers of all of the standard Lesbian erotica anthologies.

I’ll also have you know that I have completed my promise and posed nude for the very first time in front of Molly’s camera. Whether I’ll publish the finished work will be determined when I see the proofs.

TALENT

I had an interesting time determining what my talent should be. I do a lot of performance, comedy, humorious essays, burlesque, drag kinging… However, I am most excited about Femmeceeing. So I did a short game show on stage. I narrated it by telling the audience that I was multi-talented, and my first talent was Femmeceeing. I then introduced my Baconettes.

4007856502_1ae0b45536_o
Photo by Syd London

My outfit was a red wiggle dress and my very favorite boots in the whole world, red patent leather with white leather gussets. (I had them custom made from a pair of boots I got on ebay, total cost was about $60 for the shoemaker and the boots together.)

I then told the audience that a talent of mine was being surrounded by hot femmes, which is true.

The Baconettes were Black Amethyst, Lola Dean and AfroTitty. All fresh bottoms on the burlesque scene. I really couldn’t have held it together as well as I did backstage without their femmetourage support!

Each held a box with a number on it. I had a bacon spinner in my hands made by my drag dad Johnny Kingpin, who also made the bacon pieces worn in my hair, on my clothes and on each of the Baconettes.

8332_157276098748_524523748_2686544_6200388_n.jpg

I invited up an audience member to spin the wheel to tell their fortune.

It landed on Box 2 and the corresponding Baconette (Lola Dean) approached with the box. She opened it to reveal to the audience a box full of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I made those from scratch (another talent).

I then took one of the cupcakes and put it in my cleavage for Anne (I mean, my totally random audience member) to eat. The crowd went wild!

4030729495_d972c13fa1_b.jpg
Photo by Syd London

I sent Anne back into the audience with a box of cupcakes for her to share with her section of the crowd.

4031483950_350d35983f_o.jpg
Photo by Syd London

Murray Hill had told us before the pageant that there were no rules and we were allowed to bribe the judges. I sent the remaining two Baconettes over to give them some cupcakes and cleavage.

10423_574549915382_18101189_34278751_2024514_n

I also bribed Murray with a polyester tie (one of his passions) from Re/Dress.
4030642717_84f8e99ded_o

EVENING WEAR

The last section was evening wear. I went with another red dress, this one a floor length lingerie dress with a sheer back for the reveal aspect. I also upgraded my bacon hair bling to a bigger hairpiece.

4007864444_30ffe0f51c_b(2)
Photo by Syd London

The majority of my evening was spent backstage. It is a really fast paced show and we had 5 outfit changes. Since I was contestant #1, I never got to go outside the stage door to see what the other contestants did, but I hear everyone was absolutely fabulous. It was really fun to get to know the other performers and hang out backstage.
misslez4

Fw:The lineup
L-R: Miss Butch Mamas: KS Stevens, Miss This is Burlesque: Helen Pontani, Miss Choice Cunts: Sarah Jenny, Mx. That’s My Jam: Becca Blackwell, and me, Miss Re/Dress: Bevin Branlandingham.

After a long intermission, the judges’ results were announced.
4035287655_98809fe5fa_o

I was second runner up. That means if Miss Lez (Miss Butch Mamas) or the first runner up are unable or unwilling to fulfill their duties as Miss Lez, I will totally step in. My goal for competing was not to win, though, it was to be unforgettable. Considering all of the press for the show mentioned my platform, I think I did just that.

4007102799_24d9b3a0a1_o
Photo by Syd London

I was consoled by the fact that everyone performed really well, and apparently all of the contestants’ scores were apart by just one point.

Brian, my interview coach and Gay Boy BFF has charged me with becoming the Clay Aiken of Miss Lez.

My whole No Bacon Left Behind platform is really all about inclusivity and creating space in the queer community for the myriad of forms that queer comes in–just like bacon manifests in all different forms on our brunch tables. Undeterred by my loss, I will carry on my mission as Miss Re/Dress NYC. I styled a photo booth at a Brooklyn queer dance party (That’s My Jam), encouraging people to get flamboyant and do a little hipster cross-dressing. And this week I am producing Maxi Craft, a free community craft fair, giving many queer vendors the opportunity to sell their stuff. I’ll continue to do more community building using the title of Miss Re/Dress, and expressing my love for bacon every chance I get.

IMG_1312
In the That’s My Jam Photobooth by Bloodhound Photography

2009-09-22

Making My Pageant Dreams a Reality

First thing’s first. October 10 I am making my halloween party dreams a reality with this Zombie Queer Cabaret!! I have wanted to have a big queer bar halloween extravaganza for a long time, so it’s happening in NYC at Stonewall, in much the same format as the Femme Family Coming Out Party.

I called it Zombie Queer Cabaret & Spooky Dance Party because it was a little too early for it to be a for real for real halloween party. And Zombies are so hot right now. You should bust out your favorite costume and come party the night away with a great Femme line-up of performers!!

zombieflierSMALL

*******

I’m reading the second book for Femme Book Club (entry about the first book coming soon) and I am resonating so much with Amber Hollibaugh’s My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home that sometimes I have to put down the book because I am flinching. Sometimes it cuts close to the quick, seeing your own feelings in print like that.

Thinking about my desires and what I dreamed about when I was in high school… a lot of it was pretty simple stuff. I wanted love. I hated myself so much I couldn’t even recognize how much I hated myself. I wanted so desperately to fit in and feel comfortable with my body. I wanted access to all of the cheesy girl stuff like the cheerleading squad, dance team and running for homecoming queen. (Being perky, loud and wearing matching outfits? That is still my thing.)

I didn’t feel like I was allowed access to even try out for any of those things, since I believed what everyone told me about my size–that I wasn’t beautiful and had to rely on my personality and smarts.

I also really loved beauty pageants. I have always had a thing for them. I like watching people perform, I like sparkly outfits, I like good hair and ritual. As a feminist my love for these things is always tempered with critique of mainstream standards of beauty and I love it when they are usurped in some way. I get very excited when a fat girl is on Tyra’s model show, for example.

I feel funny about people competing for something really shallow, like appearance, and for me it’s not really about who wins (though I love when they cry) as the pageantry itself. Flamboyance for the sake of flamboyance.

I never saw myself included in those shows. For one, I’m not a natural blonde, for two in my wildest dreams I couldn’t be (and wouldn’t be) a size 2. Even the plus size pageants they have (and I’ve seen them) are just not the right place for me to live out my pageant dreams.

A few years ago my friend Glenn Marla won the Miss Lez Pageant and it changed my view on pageants forever. Best described here, in the words of the pageant’s founder, Mr. Showbiz himself, Murray Hill:

THE MISS LEZ PAGEANT is a wildly provocative, insane, jaw-dropping alternative beauty pageant for queer womyn that blows the lid off of “gender representation” and shines the spotlight on New York’s underground queer scene. Six contestants chosen from thousands of applicants will be competing against each other in the following categories: PLATFORM, SWIMSUIT, EVENING GOWN, INTERVIEW, and TALENT. There are no rules and the outcome is always worth the price of admission.

Y’all, it’s the emphasis on the pageantry and flamboyance I have always yearned for. For years I’ve been wanting to be a contestant. This year my dream has come true! I found out yesterday that I will represent Fatshionistas everywhere as Miss Re/Dress!

My BFF Brian was prepping me for the contest by firing interview questions at me over lunch today. “Bevin,” he said to me with an intensity only the gay boy BFF of a pageant wannabe can muster, “I can’t let you pull a Carrie Prejean* in this contest and ruin our–I mean your–chances at winning this.”

One of my favorite movies of all time is Drop Dead Gorgeous. I’m watching it obsessively to get tips.** Of course, I’m really just excited to get to compete, especially given the caliber of the other contestants (and my friend Sarah Jenny is also a contestant).

It’s Sunday, October 11, 2009, in Brooklyn. All the details are here. I hope I can count on your support of my bid, near or far.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_USA_2009_controversy
**Mary, the reigning Mt. Rose American Teen Princess says “With one week to go before the pageant, I was finishing my outfit, rehearsing my talent, brushing up on current events, and running 18 miles a day on about 400 calories. I was ready.” I am preparing by doing all of that, but sub in doing yoga and eating bacon for the running and anorexia.

Powered by WordPress