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

2017-02-13

Authenticity and Intimacy: Remembering My Relationship with My Grandmother

Some of the best gifts I have given myself were making decisions, even when I didn’t know how to move forward. The decision to stop hating my fat body. The decision to pursue an art career instead of law. The decision to move to LA. The decision to be myself, no matter what. Authenticity is freedom and the gateway to real connection.

In 2011 I made a decision to have a close relationship with my Grandmother. I had always loved her, of course, but our relationship was through the veil of family dynamic and not one-on-one intimacy.

Grandmother would always come with me to Crystal Fantasy, one of my favorite metaphysical shops. We shared an affinity for amethyst.

As you can imagine, when you have a Grandmother who you call “Grandmother” like it’s a Royal title or something, she’s unusual.

Grandmother is a title not a term of endearment. Flowers in the Attic is one of the only cultural references for that, and it’s not a warm fuzzy one. Even on Downton Abbey where they emote in the most British and subtle ways they call their Grandmother “Gran.” Emily Gilmore, that vestige of Connecticut upper class propriety, went by “Grandma.” Whenever someone outside of the family called her “Your Grandma” you kind of wince a little and correct them.

Calling her Grandmother was the first way I put her on a pedestal. I worshipped her, in a way. She was an icon: of femininity, fanciness, elegance, intelligence, independence and beauty.

My mother (who just went by “Mom”) raised me as a single mom in the Bay Area, about a seven hour drive from the rest of our family in Camarillo and LA. Grandmother lived Beverly Hills adjacent with Grandfather David. I only saw them a couple of times a year, and usually amongst the crowd of our family. I grew up knowing her as the Grandmother character in our family but not in a personally intimate way.

Rare shot of Grandfather David not wearing a suit.

I think if I had spent some time just the three of us (me, Grandmother and Grandfather David) it would have been great because we were all three Capricorns and loved to ask people questions. However, I’m super sensitive and my Grandfather could be crabby* so it was probably good we saw one another infrequently so he was always on his best behavior.

Our lifestyles growing up were so different! I lived in an apartment, my mom was literally always stressed about money and Grandmother was living in a big house finally doing well in her life financially as a Real Estate Broker in Beverly Hills. (Her 90210 office address was so cool to me in high school. I loved that show a lot.) Grandfather David was a professor of biochemistry at UCLA. Their house on Warner Drive looked huge to me. It had floor to ceiling bookcases, a standard of opulence I still appreciate today.

I have no idea who this dashing celebrity looking dude is but I wish I knew. I also wish I knew where that dress ended up!

It really mattered that I pursued higher education. Growing up I never questioned that I would go to a University, it was all I ever heard from my mom and from them. I went to Law School in large part because of their influence. They told me higher education was completely vital to credibility and that because I was smart there would be a yellow brick road of security paved after I got that JD.

I learned after charting my own course in life that security is not happiness. Having a JD made it way harder to get a job a lot of times, the complete opposite of what the Dean of Admissions said during 1L Orientation. When my “secure” law firm job of five years suddenly disappeared during the economic crash in 2008 that message finally hit home—nothing is truly secure. It became vital to me to live my truth and do what I’m passionate about.

So here I am a writer and making reiki infused tea and producing parties and working towards that talk show I am destined to host. I had an amazing, spiritual moment with an older man at a bus stop who, I realized in hindsight, was clearly channeling my Grandfather who told me I was a writer and he was proud of me. I know Grandfather could never have said that to me in this realm.

She really did a Norma Jean / Marilyn thing when she went from being a brunette bombshell to being a blonde bombshell.

I had to learn how to perform myself and not perform other people’s expectations of me. Grandmother did her own version of performing herself.

She created a persona for everyone she interacted with, she knew exactly how to get on someone’s good side and agree with them on the right points to put them at ease. I noticed this last year, she would be really positive with me and Dara because we are eternal optimists. I would hear a different story from other people and realized what she was doing. It’s a trauma response, to curate yourself to be the most pleasing to your audience as possible. I don’t think she did it intentionally to manipulate, I think she did it because she wanted to make people feel good. And people felt great around her.

Her with her hair stylist a few years ago.

When she was well into her 80s and it was convenient for her—bypassing those post-9/11 shoes off lines with her high heels still on, for example—she would proudly announce her age and provide her id. For years before that she hid her age with make-up, strategic plastic surgery and begging her children not to out her as their mom. She was a charmer and could command a crowd one by one, with each interaction and also with her fabulous looks. I’m bummed I never got to see her work a room in LA and learn how to network from her.

The fact that I didn’t feel particularly intimate with Grandmother when I was already in my thirties was what I made a decision to resolve. She had already given me glimpses of what she was like one on one in car rides, and she had been so accepting of my queerness that I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t know how exactly to create a deeper relationship, but from what I learned in Al Anon it was about trusting her with my authentic self and taking her off that pedestal. Pedestals are a huge barrier to intimacy.

Glamming together at my mom’s wedding in 2008.

I drove cross country in 2011 because I wanted to visit her alone for the first time and it was cheaper to gas up my Prius than fly and rent a car. I had run an emotional gauntlet by the time I got to her house, having just lost my job at Re/Dress when it closed, gone through a break-up, saw a beloved alcoholic ex-girlfriend who I had thought was going to drink herself to death for the first time post sobriety, and saw my estranged father. By the time I got to Grandmother’s all I could do was sleep and talk. My emotional risk paid off, she was so loving, sweet and accepting. It was very healing to be with her.

I never realized she hated Mexican food until I moved out here. Before that she would ALWAYS take me when I was visiting from the East Coast, which was a really nice thing to do. But once I moved here she knew she didn’t have any obligation quesadillas to eat with me.

That visit really opened me up to a lasting relationship. It’s interesting how when we are used to occasional visits with our families in big groups we don’t develop a lot of one-on-one intimacy. I loved that I felt like myself around her. We didn’t agree on everything, but she was always open to hearing me out.

One of my favorite moments recently was her complaining about seeing a woman doctor who hadn’t brushed her hair before their appointment. She equated sloppy personal aesthetic with not being a good doctor. Whereas I would prefer the doctor who was so consumed by her work that her hair was not at all a consideration. I told Grandmother that people have different value systems and no one here has to be wrong. Some people might think it was a waste of time for Grandmother to spend however long she did on her make-up in the morning (sometimes it was a full hour, sometimes she could be in and out with full face in 15 minutes**) but that they just had different values from her. I like to think that one sank in.

She told me I should date a Scorpio (her first husband was a Scorpio) and it turned out she was good friends with Lois Rodden, a famous astrologer, who my astrologer Katie Sweetman of Empowering Astrology confirmed made important contributions to modern day astrology. We had such great visits and I always longed to make enough money to be able to fly out a few times a year from New York City. Not having achieved that, making the decision to move ended up being the best choice.

I’m so grateful I moved to LA for a million reasons, but the ability to go visit her so often in her last year (we had no idea it was her last year, she was independent until she was felled by her only chemo treatment) was the best gift. We even spent last Valentine’s Day together! Being able to be so present for her illness and her Passing on to Something Awesome (POTSA) is something I’ll always treasure. Last Summer I shared with her a confidence I only shared with a small handful of besties. I’m so grateful that when she passed I had no secrets from her.

It all started with making a decision.

*I’m being kind; he could be a complete dick but at least he was nicer than her first husband.

**Our whole family could be waiting around for seemingly forever to go out to breakfast but Grandmother would take exactly as long as she wanted to get ready in spite of everyone’s protests. I loved her acts of defiance in service to her aesthetic.

2015-11-11

Call for Couple’s Finances Stories! / Mix Festival is This Week

Hey friends! My incredible roommate Damien Luxe has developed an amazing financial empowerment workshop series (more on that in a later post). I am doing a presentation at the Cross Class Relationships Workshop on November 22nd here in Brooklyn, where I will talk a lot about what I know professionally–prenups, buying real estate, creating agreements–and I will talk about what I know personally having been in cross class relationships. I would like to create a handout resource of personal narratives from folks who have come up with creative financial solutions to finances. Here is the call below:

medamienbedstuyMe and Damien a couple of Springs ago!

Couples’ Finances! Especially *Cross-class couples* or *Couples with Creative Financial Situations* or *Couples who are more than two people*:

I am looking for one or two paragraphs max about struggles you’ve had and creative solutions. This can be about:
*Budgeting together
*Setting and following through with financial goals (like buying property and having kids)
*How you value domestic labor vs paid outside the home labor
*How you work it out when one of you is more resourced
*How you work it out when one of you has higher income
*How you retain independence while comingling finances
*How you pay bills while NOT comingling finances
*Particularly helpful apps or websites for you
… or more things I haven’t thought of!

Email it to queerfatfemme at gmail. Please let me know if you are okay with me including your first name(s) and ages. This handout will likely be archived/available on my blog as a resource for other people! Need these no later than November 20th!

medamiencookiesMe and Damien at our holigay cookie party last year! Going through all of these old photos made me SO SAD to be moving out! It’s been so amazing living with such a kick-ass Femme powerhouse!

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This week in NYC is the 28th Annual Mix Festival. It’s a really fun installation art factory for five days only and opened last night. I just got a press release for it with the schedule and it looks dense and hard to figure out what to do. What I usually do with Mix is find out when my friends are screening films or performing, go to those and then just show up (it’s free to hang in the installations) the rest of the time and let the Goddess guide me. Honestly, there will always be something awesome happening at Mix and great folks to meet. Here’s the website, it’s on through Sunday. I cannot underscore how epic and life changing and cute Mix is.

One year there was a uhaul exhibit honoring the legacy of a gay cruising culture in the late 70s and 80s involving truck fucks where they would pop into unlocked trucks in the meat packing district and do it. I haven’t been to the factory yet this year (going tonight for Queer Rebels curated short films) but I am hoping for something as epic.

The week includes:

128 short films! And 15 short-film programs
Four Features!
13 Artist-built installations!
Six original performances!
Four late-night parties (Wed. – Sat.)
35 of the filmmakers themselves live and in person and stoked to answer questions and talk filmcraft!

I’m super excited about the digital archive project happening–I have a few videos I need to get digitized for performance art and for archiving and this is the perfect time to coincide with my move. It also got me to go through my tapes and dvds! You need to make an appointment to do the digital archive. If you want to see some of my feminist films from 1999 swing by tonight!

22010538922_02dfb4b9d8_zWatching the amazing MIZZ JUNE perform last year at Mix. Photo by Tinker Coalescing.

2015-11-03

I went to the DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum Conference and it was Rad!

“The most important office in government is the office of citizen.”–President Barack Obama

October 22nd and 23rd I attended the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum’s 22nd Annual National Issues Conference in Washington, DC. Say that five times fast. In short, it was wildly more awesome than I expected it to be.

bevindarawhitehouseIt was very close to the White House.

I had a friend on Facebook ask me what brought me to the event and that’s a great question. I’m not that involved in mainstream political activism. In college I worked for the CA State Attorney General’s Press Office and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I think it was the hybrid of policy and media that I found so exciting, plus a great boss who was inspirational, fun and liked his job a lot.

Once I went to law school, George W. Bush won that election through the Supreme Court, I realized how disempowering the legal system can be and I got burnt out on politics. I was exposed to more radical liberal politics and developed a passion for making change through personal narrative and DIY media. (Hence my work blogging, vlogging, podcasting and social media.)

When Dara brought up the idea of going to this conference I was lukewarm about it. My curiosity of what the Democratic National Committee was up to, the idea of attending as a person who is pretty far left though I always vote Democrat, and the low low price of $100 to attend as a person under 40 was what got me in the door. (Tickets for the over 40 crowd were $1,000 or having raised $2,500 or more for the DNC.)

WLFstepandrepeatI wore a vintage polyester dress from Re/Dress owner Rachel’s previous business Cupcake & Cuddlebunny vintage.

When we signed-up Michelle Obama was scheduled to speak and I thought it would be cool to take a Mishelfie while she was on stage. In my fantasy I would love to talk to her about how targeting fat kids for being obese doesn’t actually help overall health and wellness for kids and there is a lot of body positive rhetoric and Health at Every Size methodologies that would be more successful at creating a healthier United States.

The line-up changed a bunch and by the morning of the conference Barack Obama had replaced Michelle as the keynote speaker, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were scheduled in the morning and several panel discussions were in the middle of the day full of women who seemed like they could be impressive.

I was entirely blown away. The curation of the event was great. Not one of the sections of the programs was a snooze–I was shocked given how political it was that no one boring got stage time. Women of color were centered in the programming. The panel discussions were incredible–very smart, accomplished women, nearly all (or possibly all) of the panels were majority women of color. There was also age diversity and a diversity of economic backgrounds. Unsurprisingly there was not a lot of size diversity or visible ability diversity.

secretserviceAt one point I was surrounded by Secret Service. I want to acknowledge my privilege, that as a cisgender, White person being surrounded by law enforcement I feel delighted at how weird it is and can snapchat about it rather than being stressed or worried about it, like many POC in our country.

Hillary’s appearance was the day after her 11 hour Benghazi hearing. Did you hear about this? Apparently the Republicans on the committee have a wine club that celebrates how glacially slow their work has been. Anyway, her joke at the beginning of her fifteen minute speech was hilarious. (See below video from my Instagram.)

Hillary’s speech was charming and just what you would expect from her. The room was VERY pro-Hillary. I heard many times throughout the event about how much folks were looking forward to the reality of a woman POTUS. They were careful not to create an allegiance unless they were overt Hillary supporters (this is politics, after all) but the temperature of the room was Hillary degrees fahrenheit.

I kind of wish Hillary came off more genuine on stage instead of feeling like the kind of person she’s trying to get folks to think she is. Her speech reminded me of Tracy Flick’s speech from Election, where she spoke of having conversations with specific constituents. “I spoke with so and so, whose mom works in the cafeteria and he is concerned about xyz.” I generally agree with her politics though I wish she was a little more working class focused. Highlights for me included quality affordable healthcare for all (remember she’s been working on this since Clinton was elected in ’92), gun control, strengthening the middle class, fair wages, paid leave for all genders of caretakers, and funding women’s healthcare including Planned Parenthood. And maybe someday I’ll get to hang out in a hot tub with Hillary and she will be real with me and I can report back about genuine. I just feel like people get more real when hanging out in a hot tub.

hillary

Bernie Sanders was amazing. I really love that he brings the working class into the conversation every time. “Our government belongs to all of us not just a handful of billionaires,” is his rallying cry and it’s taking off. If you’re curious about what he stands for and love thinking about eradicating class disparity, especially with regards to taxation, go down the rabbit hole with videos on his website. “We need an economy that works for working class. So many rich people are pouring money into the political system.” I have so many thoughts about money and politics and the ways in which social media and personal connection are actually more valuable than money, I’m going to have to write another post.

We had some lively discussion at our table about Bernie vs Hillary (the college student, Eric, who was sitting next to me is a huge Bernie supporter) and someone said that Bernie + Hillary = Obama and I would say that seems pretty accurate. I’m curious to see what the primary has in store and how their disagreements will flesh out policy stands between them. Also I love that Bernie is pulling Hillary to the left. (Have you heard about Hillary going after the school to prison pipeline?)

bernie

By far my favorite speech was Nina Turner, a former Ohio State Senator who is an incredible public speaker. She left the podium with a wireless mic and spoke so passionately and vibrantly about honoring our inner purpose. (I wish more politicians left the podium! It gets very endless-graduation-speakers to see people speaking from a podium again and again.) Nina reminded the audience that fierce women shake the world and use both hands, one to reach forward and one to reach behind. “We are a country that lifts people. Everybody should have the right to live a good life. Not just decent, a good life.”

She focused her talk on living for your purpose and not for a title. “This world will be right if you live for your purpose. Many of our foremothers didn’t have titles but they had purpose.” I think it’s great to hear a reminder about being true to yourself in a room full of politicians. I think politics gets way too caught up with the horse race and the “winners” when it’s important that we have leaders whose discussions lift up issues that are significant, regardless of whether or not they hold office.

ninaturnerI really tried hard to find a full length shot of Nina Turner’s amazing gown but haven’t yet found one! Here’s a partial from Getty Images.

Bernie Sanders made a joke out of having to give his speech right after Nina Turner, who is so inspirational and really brought the house down.

The day began with breakfast that started at 6:30AM. Dara and I thought we were there early by arriving at 7:30. Ha! We had to sit on the far right side of the room. These women who were early birds? They were getting worms and by worms I mean really baller coffee service (three types of syrups including sugar-free vanilla), fruit and quiche. And an oatmeal station!

Nancy Pelosi gave a speech and reiterated a theme that was brought up again and again over the two days at the conference–that women politicians are more effective. She said, “If we reduce the role of money in politics and increase the role of civility we will elect more women.” And that the DNC has women running in half of their targeted races.

There were about 10 different times that they called to the audience to encourage those in attendance who wanted to run for office. There was an emphasis on the training programs available for women, (Emerge America training is a good example) and especially those trainings that support candidates and campaign staff of color.

The keynote speech closed the conference and was delivered by President Obama. I never thought I’d see President Obama speak while in office, this was like a dream come true I hadn’t even articulated. It was exciting to see him for the first time! His whole vibe was pretty casual since it was a room of friends, basically. He said he loved being in a room of Democrats and especially a room of Democratic women. It was like ultra charming because it was both super flattering to women but also not delivered in a way that was too flirtatious to be professional. Such a hard line to walk.

obama

He was so charming and engaging, I couldn’t believe his whole speech was 30 minutes long!

Obama focused on rallying the troops for the 2016 election, and definitely had a lot of harsh words for Republicans. “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

“America’s greatness doesn’t come from building walls it comes from building opportunities.”

Obama jumped on the theme of the evidence of effectiveness of women and Democratic leadership. According to Obama’s speech, empirical evidence shows when there’s a Democratic president & Congress that the economy does better.

He also told some jokes! “Republican politicians are down on America. They are gloomy. They’re like Grumpy Cat.” That was hilarious.

There were five 45 minute long panels after the first stretch of speeches and before Obama’s keynote. Some of my highlights from the panels are below–seriously could write a blog post about each one):

The one and only panel where size diversity was mentioned was the Women Breaking Barriers panel, through an audience question, as two of the panelists were in fashion. Moderated by Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama and assistant to the President, Tina Tchen (who is a bad ass, definitely go see her speak if you ever get the chance), an audience question about wanting more diversity in clothing sparked some great soundbytes about the need for fashion to represent all sizes.

Rebecca Minkoff said “Companies need to listen to their consumers and change to include everyone.”

Jana Babatunde-Bey, who works for Will and Jada Smith in their production company and in their Foundation, said, “You have to decide how you are comfortable in your own personal style. Be unapologetic.”

The WNBA President, Laurel Richie, is a plus size woman and had a lot to say. “We have the ability to show them how it will work by showing it is possible.” She wants plus size women to get a great tailor and not be limited by what’s available, and that continuing to be fashionable it will change the tide of limitations on size. As the response to a different question on how to exude power in the corporate world she said to find what works for you. For her, she wears red lipstick, it recalls the energy of her mom who exuded power.

bathroomfernsThe men’s restroom on the floor where the event was held became an additional women’s restroom for the day.

The panel also talked about work-life balance. Laurel Richie said you should take time to determine what work is important in the organization you’re working for and what is important to you and balance those two things.

A couple more valuable gems I found were Tina Tchen’s advice about when men are speaking to men in the room and ignoring women. “Don’t get thrown by it. Have confidence you have the answer.”

“I make it a point to speak first and I’m not afraid to contradict the popular opinion,” Jana Babatunde-Bey.

Another panel highlight for me was the Media Messengers panel. This was the first time feminism was spoken about. I was shocked at how, in a room full of folks who are where they are because of the work of feminism they didn’t use the word even one time except for this panel. They said “foremothers” a lot and spoke of the work of women before them but did not mention feminism.

The panel included the Editor of Feministing, Lori Adelman; Senior Editor from Ebony, Jamilah Lemieux (whose Twitter is great); and the “millenial voice” of Elizabeth Plank, a Senior correspondent at Mic News.

I loved that intersectionality was a big topic for the panel. In response to a question about intersectionality and poitics, Jamilah Lemieux said, “My feminism & race are not in conflict. Racism and sexism are in conflict against me.”

In a room full of White feminists, it was great to have this media panel dropping truth. Jamilah say that Black women are essential to feminism and how mainstream (aka White) feminism has herstorically erased the experience of intersectionality. Elizabeth Plank (29 year old White journalist) said it was important for White women to step back and listen to Women of Color perspectives. Lori Adelman reminded folks that three queer Black women started the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Lives Matter came up a lot all day long and Jamilah also used a great metaphor. Men who complain about feminism being about women trying to be above men are missing the point. Feminism seeks to make women equal to men–the things that we need to work on like paid leave for caretakers helps all genders. Just like saying Black Lives Matter naturally leads to all lives mattering, but saying All Lives Matter erases what we need from Black Lives Matter–the work to make all lives important in a society where that is not the case because of oppression. (Read more here.)

daraatpotusThere’s a great gift shop near the White House that lets you take some photos in their set if you spend $10. We bought a Santa sitting on Lincoln Memorial’s lap ornament just for the photo opp.

In the panel Why Women’s Leadership Matters, I was enamored of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who said, “The most powerful thing you can do is be heard.” And who talked about a bill going through Congress to remove barriers to LGBT people fostering children.

Ayanna Pressley, Councilor at Large from Boston, said “An advocate is greater than an ally–they bring up issues when it’s not convenient or politically expedient.”

There were men in attendance, too, but the majority were women. I get feminist offended when the media focuses on what women are wearing in politics, but this is a part-fashion blog so I gotta dish on these outfits.

I expected a lot of lady suits and while I saw several blazers I was impressed at how well-dressed and stylish many of the attendees were. I was a little too shy to do street-style photos of folks in the lobby (plus the lighting was terrible for equipment without flash) but I took a lot of notes about how to dress professionally stylish. There was a woman in a black dress with black leather details that reminded me of the Monif C line three years ago that I loved. Not that I needed any reason to lust after a Monif C dress, but calling something a work-appropriate investment is always more seductive.

I also want to shout out to Nina Turner who wore a stunning floor-length variegated green gown. I love when women in politics dress beyond the skirt suit!

The first day of the conference was a training program but I didn’t walk away with a ton of skills, though I got a lot of information. I loved the presentation by Jessica Byrd who began a consulting business focused on getting people of color elected to office!

jessicabyrdPhoto from JessicaByrd.com and definitely go see her speak if you can!

“Diversity is the people who are invited to party, inclusion is who gets to choose the music,” Jessica said. “What would it look like if people of color and women had a clear path to elected office?”

The rest of the day was a lot of facts and figures about women running for office and how to fundraise, the presentation of which gave me a lot of mixed feelings about the way in which folks who fundraise interact with class backgrounds and people who are not wealthy, but that is for another day and discussion of politics and money!

The things that were not addressed that could/should be, especially if folks in the DNC want to be in touch with the millenial generation (as many said they did):

Non-binary gender: If we’re talking about being inclusive, especially with regards to millenials, we need to acknowledge non binary gender identities. I know it’s hard at an event that relies on a binary gender but we can (and should) absolutely talk about womanhood in a context of a non-binary gender!

Size diversity only came up the one time, with regards to fashion. Weight based discrimination is still alive and well! It is not okay to discriminate against people about their body size. We have a long way to go beyond being included in clothing racks.

Sex workers’ rights: This wasn’t mentioned even once, in spite of this summer’s groundbreaking stance by Amnesty International supporting the decriminalization of sex work, and the raid on Rent Boy by Homeland Security. (Talk about a weird use of Homeland Security to go after sex workers, rather than maybe focusing on trafficking or actual threats to homeland security.) If you want a primer on what decriminilization means and a primer on sex worker’s rights, this is a good article. Sex workers’ rights are a passion project for me, and I work as an ally to sex workers for the Desiree Alliance, which, among other advocacy, creates a conference that brings together folks working for sex workers’ rights. The next one is in New Orleans, July 10-15, 2016.

Disability justice and access: This was only discussed in a cursory manner.

Immigration: This came up a lot but not in any meaningful ways that proposed policy changes.

Anyway, would I attend this event again? Hell yes. Did it make me feel more engaged in my role of the public office of “citizen” as Obama called it in his speech? Hell yes. Do I want a DNC “I hate Tea Parties” reusable mug to have on a future episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket? Hell yes.

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2015-04-08

Facebook De-Activated My Account Demanding a Government ID

Monday was not a cute day for me. I visited my accountant to do my taxes, the preparation for which is a lengthy process as someone who is self-employed and doesn’t use Quicken. (Ugh bookkeeping. Ugh working class background/money fears/so much stuff to work through.)

I got my tax bill (UGH) and then… we finally heard back from the vet. Macy, my beloved Shih Tzu, broke her ankle in February. She had ruptured disc surgery in July and several months of recovery so the chip fracture was an emotionally and financially difficult set back.

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Part of the ankle treatment was having her sedated for an x-ray. Pre-sedation blood work meant we found out by accident that her calcium levels are high. Which could be an indicator of cancer or parathyroid disease or just high calcium which, if left untreated, can deposit minerals in her organs and then cause more disease. The process of figuring it out is one test after another. When your vet calls something an “Easter egg hunt,” that’s not a great sign.

Monday we got the results from her recent special hypercalcemia blood test (this required a special lab and a 7 day wait for the results) and her thyroid is normal but the calcium is still high. Next up, yet another ultrasound. (She’s 13 pounds, they couldn’t ultrasound her neck WHILE they did the abdomen? So fucked up.) It is stressful, expensive, sad and poor Macy.

After the day’s events, I went to Facebook, thinking I could maybe talk to some friends who have been on lengthy dog diagnostic journeys. Or talk to some of my working class femme friends about being self-employed. Like so many times I’ve gone to Facebook, a nice aggregate of people I actually know in real life, I went to my phone browser and popped it in. I was greeted with a login screen, which is odd because I generally stay logged in to Facebook.

Once I logged in, Facebook asked me for my driver’s license. Until I provide them some kind of identity verification from their list, I am locked out of Facebook. Not only am I locked out, but my friends report that they cannot find me, cannot message me and cannot see my profile. Facebook has made it so I no longer exist on their system.

This was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am just trying to live a positive life and right now it’s like death, death, money stuff, illness, now Facebook.

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The problem is, I use a different name, a chosen name, to interact with people in social media. Bevin is my government first name, but because I have a super googleable name, I choose to use a made-up last name on all forms of social media. Bevin Branlandingham is my stage name, but it also provides a great invisible wall between my day job and my life online. I think it is extremely reasonable to make this distinction and I would, in fact, encourage other people to do this with social media, no matter the “privacy settings.”

I would not have the same issue if my name was very common, like Jane Smith, but I still think social media is not a place where your government name should be required.

There are lots of other reasons a person might not use their government name on social media. Here are some reasons that I came up with the last time I wrote a blog post about the Facebook legal name requirement:

1. Trans people and other people for whom their legal name does not represent their gender(s).
2. People whose name is extremely googleable. The John Smiths of the world don’t have the same issues with online content that the Bevin Branlandinghams do.
3. Performers who use facebook to connect with their performance community.
4. Roller Derby folks who want to use their derby name to connect to their community.
5. People whose jobs or careers would be jeopardized by interaction with social media.
6. People for whom a legal name change is a barrier of time/access/money.
7. People who use social media for a specific group that utilizes nicknames.
8. People who don’t want people knowing their legal name in a casual setting.
9. Folks who are hiding from abusive exes/parents/relatives or stalkers.
10. Folks whose countries of citizenship would punish them for speaking about their country.

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After the last hullabaloo over Facebook and real name requirements, I thought Facebook actually listened to the LGBT activists and drag queens who went to them and had meetings with them. Schooling them without being paid tuition. I GUESS FACEBOOK DIDN’T LISTEN.

I had a lot of feelings about being denied access to my Facebook account, on a day when I was already full of lots of difficult feelings.

Lately I’ve also been using Facebook to connect with my communities because not one but two of my friends in different crowds passed away suddenly this past month (one was suicide). It has been really helpful to connect with people around this, lots of whom are old friends who only get in touch with me through Facebook.

It felt really shitty to be isolated from my friends on a day when I kind of needed to reach out. It continues to feel shitty to have to figure out how to get Facebook to verify my “authentic identity” when I have a ton of other stuff that’s more important.

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For example, my allergies are super bad and I need to sit on hold with Callen-Lorde and get an appointment with my provider. I also think dying my hair is more important than going through the debacle that will be the uphill battle to reactivating my Facebook profile.

Since Facebook deactivated my account I have discovered that anything I used Facebook to login to is no longer available to me. For example, I pay monthly for Spotify because it is so easy to stream all the music except now I can’t get into it because my Facebook login won’t work. Same with my meditation program. I will NEVER use a third party login for a website again. By the way, Spotify doesn’t have an email or contact form for customer care–I’m having to contact them via Twitter. I don’t feel comfortable giving my money to places that don’t prioritize customer care so I am going to have to figure out a new music situation. The amount of agita piling on with this Facebook suspension is astounding.

Here are some screen caps:
FBSubmityourdocsScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.51.24 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.51.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.51.46 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.52.11 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.52.23 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.52.39 PM

Since I don’t ever intend to make my stage name my government name, I don’t have any of the documents they are asking for. Why would I bother? I’ve never subscribed to a magazine as Bevin Branlandingham… but I’ve been featured in magazines as Bevin Branlandingham, presented at conferences, run a successful website, etc… On principle I also think this is shitty. Facebook is kind of the first place people go to to announce a new name, what if they haven’t done anything other than tell the people they love about a new name? Or what if they just (like me) don’t want to use a government name for social media?

I’ve done security measures with Facebook before, answered security questions, verified the identities of my friends in tagged photos. What happened that Facebook now wants to shut down my account and see my library card? I feel like I’m trying to go to a nightclub and the bouncer is demanding my ID.

The ironic thing is that I have a Facebook page with a fake name that is still totally accessible to me! (Rebel Gateau, a loose French version of Rebel Cupcake.) I use it for nightlife promotion so I can friend folks who wanted to get party invites. Facebook I can still get in the back door!

My therapist called me a “woman of my time” because of all of the ways in which I use Facebook. When doing my expenses for taxes in 2014 I paid more money to Facebook for advertising than I paid for printed fliers. We live in a different time. But I guess Facebook doesn’t want my money because it’s money from someone who doesn’t use an “authentic name.” And maybe that’s how they got me in the first place, because my credit card info doesn’t match my Facebook screen name.

I have a lot of rage about this, and it is probably just a place for all my other rage about how mad I am that my friends died and confused I am about my feelings, how frustrated I am about the process about Macy’s diagnosis and how worried I am that if I don’t keep shoveling dollar bills at it that she is going to die. Oh and feelings of helplessness about money, taxes, bookkeeping, getting rid of stuff (the latter being that Queer Exchange is a great place to get rid of stuff).

It would be nice to have access to my friends on Facebook at this time, but I’m just taking a break. Hopeful that most folks have my email or at least remember to google me and get my email from my blog. (It’s on the sidebar.) So far three people have texted asking why they can’t find me on Facebook, so that’s something.

In the meantime, I got a nice Fuck You from Facebook in the form of an email telling me all I have missed in the 48 hours since they deactivated my account.
FB email after suspension

I’m totally not kidding. I cannot actually log into my Facebook account, but they email me what I’m missing. Just like being inside a nightclub and coming out to the line of folks waiting outside fruitlessly arguing with a bouncer about IDs telling them what fun everyone is having without you. Facebook, you are an asshole.

I want to tell Facebook “You can’t fire me, I quit” and figure out how to live the social media life I want to without them. And yet, I’m still wondering how I can crowd source my incredible pool of friends so efficiently without Facebook. And I miss creeping my departed friend Laura Mulley’s Facebook feed because I’ve been learning a lot about her since she passed away last month and really appreciated that process and moving through grief.

The intention of this post is to warn folks who don’t use their government name on Facebook–they will come for you. And it will be without warning. So don’t rely on Facebook messenger to get info because poof, out of nowhere, Facebook will rip it from you unless you want to prepare all of these docs ahead of time. Maybe if I had a couple of weeks’ warning that they were going to ask me I could have tried to get a library card in my chosen name.

I can’t manage my Queer Fat Femme Facebook Fan Page now because I can’t get to it without my Facebook account. So I will simply have to use other social media outlets to tell people about my performances and life.

If you want to find me: Twitter (good articles/media recommendations), Instagram (my dog, my partner, my babely friends and adventures) and Tumblr (whatever goes on Tumblr).

I’m still a positive person (my motto about my attitude is to not allow my personal tragedy to interfere with my ability to do good hair, where good hair is ultimately believing the good in life) so I can’t leave it on an FU Facebook note. Instead, here’s a great Dolly Parton quote.

dollyism

2014-07-16

Macy’s Surgery and the Power of Showing Up Imperfectly

The first time I visited my beloved Shih Tzu, Macy, after her ruptured disc surgery, I freaked out. I didn’t even realizing visiting in a vet hospital was a thing but once I found out I could do it I knew I’d be there every day. Macy’s there for me through thick and thin, I knew I needed to be there for her.

I couldn’t visit until the day after her surgery. When I went in, they put me in the same exam room we had seen the veterinary neurologist for her initial consultation, watching Macy painfully hobble around the room. Now I was in the room alone, waiting for Macy, who wasn’t even 18 hours post-op.

The vet tech brought her into the room cradled in a towel and set her in my lap. He left and I was staring at Macy. I didn’t expect her to look so crappy. There was the obvious stuff that I had never thought about, like the rectangle shaved over her spine with the frankenstein stitches woven across. But then there was the stuff I didn’t expect; the pleading, confused look in her eyes and the sour smell of a dog that has gone through it and bathing isn’t in the cards just yet.

IMG_20140708_161532Our first visit post-op.

I felt panic and shock as I held her. I began calculating in my mind how quickly I could leave. They said I could visit not that I had to. Would she even notice if I was gone? Did my being there matter?

This panic lasted for about a minute and I started to talk some sense into myself. I am the kind of person who believes we are more than just our bodies—our spirits matter. If I was in a coma I think I could still sense that people were in the room with me and that my loved ones would matter to me. I know that Macy’s consciousness isn’t developed in the same way as mine, but I also know that me showing up for her would matter in some way I couldn’t explain.

So I stayed. I sat with her, in a way we don’t usually do in our day to day lives. Quietly, lap sitting, togetherness. No TV, no work, no distractions. I cried a bunch, I told her it was going to be okay, and while doing so was half telling myself. I showed up for Macy.

20140713_190929I really appreciated everytime the hospital brought Macy in with a flamboyant blanket or towel because I felt like they really saw my gender.

I’m never really positive how Macy feels about me. She’s not a lap sitting dog, with the exception of butch laps. With me she prefers to be four feet away at all times—when I work she sits in her bed four feet to my right. When I cook she sits in the kitchen four feet away and watches me. When I’m in the living room she’s on the couch just out of arm’s reach. Sometimes I get a complex about how little she wants to snuggle me and how much she wants to snuggle Dara.

In the week after her surgery I visited Macy every single day. Some days we just sat together, some days we worked on physical therapy exercises her neurologist showed us. I got daily calls after her neurological exam. She stopped making physical progress for a few days (the vets expected this) but when I visited I could tell things shifted for her. One day she was much more “herself” again. Later she seemed to almost get excited about things, especially when I started bringing in high value snacks like chicken and sausage. I was glad I was visiting because I could tell from her spirit progress that was different than the surgeons.

20140709_143004 (1)This is Macy’s little walking tool–it’s a harness for her back legs to keep her moving and give her practice using her back legs as she acclimates to mobility.

It’s been really difficult during this time because my girlfriend is going through radiation therapy for breast cancer on the Upper East Side. If you don’t know NYC geography, she’s basically an hour away via train. She got an apartment around the corner from her radiation hospital so she wouldn’t have to endure a daily commute for her daily hour long radiation appointments. It’s sucked so much to not be able to be supporting her as I thought I would be doing this month, and to not have her support during Macy’s recovery. We did squeeze in a visit one night (benefits of the hospital being open 24 hours) and another visit the next day where we did some good walk therapy. Macy loves her Dad and will always come when Dara calls.

20140711_170632Dara’s mom was in town and came to visit Macy, too.

My initial discomfort with seeing Macy in the hospital really got me thinking about the power of showing up for people in their time of need. Showing up sloppily, imperfectly, but with a big heart and good intentions. It matters.

The shock of seeing Macy in that condition reminded me of how folks must have felt the first time they saw Dara with a bald head after the chemo hair loss began. How hard it must be to see how tired and out of it she gets. It’s easier for me because I’ve watched this happen gradually, but it is difficult for folks to witness it when they haven’t seen her for a few months.

Sitting in your own discomfort with shock and change, having faith that you’ll get through it is an incredibly powerful gift you can give to the folks in your life who are suffering.

I’ve seen how important it has been to Dara’s spirits during recovery from surgery, chemo and now raidation for her friends to show up for her. Sometimes all she can do is sit and watch TV with people but it means a great deal and definitely puts her in a better mood.

IMG_20140714_113430The hospital was really amazing and sent me photos of Macy in her crate.

People have been showing up for me in the past nine months in amazing ways. Little texts of, “Thinking about you, sending woo/prayers/love,” make me smile. I think that positive energy has so much power and being thought of is really nice. Folks have brought meals. Folks who keep inviting me out even though I haven’t been able to go out as much and often have to decline—it’s nice to be remembered. The people who relentlessly play phone tag with me in order to have a catch-up. It all matters.

Dara convinced me to take a few friends up on their offer to pitch in for Macy’s astounding medical costs, the whole thing is in excess of $7,000. When I first heard the price tag of what it might cost (we had to pay for a $1500 MRI to find out if she even needed surgery), I couldn’t even fathom how I was going to pay for it. I was lucky enough to know I could borrow the money. However complicated I felt about asking for help with pet medical expenses, I knew I had to open myself to whatever help we could get. We raised $500 in the first 24 hours, and it’s already up to nearly $2,000 a week later.

MacyEstimateThis is the initial estimate of her prognosis–the low end was if we only got the MRI, the high end was if we got surgery. It didn’t include the vet visits and blood work leading up to surgery.

And the thing about crowd fundraisers? It’s about opening the channels to letting people support you. I feel like sometimes we pass around the same $20 to each other when we need it. I think it’s amazing. Katie from Empowering Astrology blew my mind when she told me that money is just energy in 3D form. She’s totally right—we’re passing energy to each other. The person who donated $2 and said they wished they could pay for the whole surgery—that meant so much to me.

My BFF Spunky told me when I thanked her for donating to Macy’s fundraiser, “It’s literally the least I can do.” Because our friends, especially our far away friends, often want to show up for us in tangible ways that they can’t do. But money is energy. And for me, going through this, knowing that a great deal of the financial burden is taken care of? That blows my mind. It has enabled me to take some of the stress off the shelf and focus on caring for my beloved Macy.

It can be so hard to think that what you are able to do is not enough for your friend or loved one. I had no idea whether visiting Macy in the puppy hospital mattered to her or not, especially in those moments when I had to give her back to the vet techs. Saying goodbye was awful. It wasn’t perfect that I could only be there for an hour, or a half an hour, or whatever, but it was something. I had to trust it was going to help her get better and not feel so lonely.

IMG_20140714_145911Me with Macy on Monday when I got to take her home after a week in the hospital!

Since Macy was discharged on Monday I can’t leave my bedroom (where she stays in a playpen on bed rest for at least the next week) for five minutes without her barking her scared, “Please don’t leave me alone” bark. The vet said it’s normal for dogs who were in the hospital for a long time to feel really anxious and have a difficult transition home. What I’m realizing is that Macy missed being four feet away from me at all times just as much as I missed her being close to me. And I realize it mattered that I showed up for her.

2013-09-19

Raising Money for QueerFatFemme.Com

Hello, my beautiful and gentle readers. As you may know, anything that starts that way is obviously asking for something, and this is no exception. I’m reaching out to the readers of my almost five year old blog to help keep my blog running, keep my life moving, and keep my work progressing in the ways you’ve come to know and love.

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Working the door at Prime. Photo by Drae Campbell.

You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting as much lately. My laptop, which is the lifeblood to all of my creative and professional pursuits, has been on its last legs for almost a year. As a result, Queer Fat Femme, and my other endeavors, have suffered. The relentless documentation of my life is a huge passion of mine and I love populating my blog with photos, but I can no longer process new photos! Lesbian Tea Basket has been put on the back burner, as my computer will no longer play videos. I’ve also had to table some dire Word Press issues on the back end of the website (my RSS feed is still spotty), and cancel the hosting for the back issues of the FemmeCast podcast.

Aside from the laptop issues, I’ve had some life struggles that have made it difficult for me to focus on building my femme-pire. Life as a freelance lawyer is not always as glamorous as I make it look, and sometimes I feel that all I can do is hustle hustle hustle, which leaves little time for quality content.

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People laughing in the audience at Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

As you know, I strive for excellence in all areas of my life, and this blog is no exception. Each blog post takes between three and twenty hours to write, code, photo edit and publish, with most averaging about six hours. I want to keep bringing you the parade of abundance that you come here for, and I simply can’t sustain at the rate I’m going. So I’m asking for your help.

Asking for help is hard, but I know if I don’t get ahead, I won’t be able to do the work I feel so passionately about. After listening to my friends and my heart, I’ve come to the realization that I need to open this up to the public.

I have SO MUCH I want to bring you! I’m finalizing my memoir, have several episodes of Lesbian Tea Basket just waiting to be unleashed, have so much love to spread, so much to share about the turns of my life over the past 6 months, and I can’t wait to share with you!

If I have I made you smile, helped you cope, given you insight, helped you climb out of a bad relationship, threw a party where you met your sweetie, brought perspective to your messy breakup, or made your life amazing in any other way, that’s truly a reward of its own, but warm fuzzies sadly don’t pay my vet bills, medical bills or buy a new computer.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey from Rebel Cupcake.

SO: I’m starting a Go Fund Me campaign! I’ve put together some really fun prizes that might be of interest to you, and some of my amazing friends have volunteered some work of their own. Of course, I’m hoping you’ll contribute because this work is valuable and you want me to continue to be able to do so, but perks don’t hurt!

Please consider donating and picking up an awesome gift along the way! Maybe think of it as a subscription to something you love to read and want to sustain! Please consider signal boosting, as well! It’s cliche, but every little bit really does help.

I am so grateful for the life I live, and for all of you readers for your comments, affection, and strength. I’m also especially grateful for my amazing, worldwide queer family. We’re changing the world. Thank you for letting me be a part of it!

Here are the prize levels, with a little more flourish than the Go Fund Me site will let me do:

$10
I will drop good intentions on you via twitter! My benevolent wishes are totally powerful. (I saw an I will make a wish for you as a prize on a fundraiser recently and I loved the idea that for $11 I got someone’s good intentions. I take this really seriously! I will drop good intentions your way in a public forum!)

$15
I’ll send you a postcard with my benevolent wishes on it! Snail mail rules! Who doesn’t love getting mail? The postcard will be awesome. I made the below postcard to send to friends and it still lives on people’s inspiration boards.

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$20
I’ll guest list you to my event of your choice within the next year. Maybe you were going to go to Rebel Cupcake anyway? It’s kind of like buying a ticket pre-sale. This applies to events that I’m producing that I get a list for.

$25
One fat unicorn pink bandanna, silk screened by me. It will look very similar to this one that I produced a couple years ago!

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$30
One “You Are Incredibly Resilient” poster. Conceived by me, designed by James Leander (a dear friend and graphic designer), 11″ x 14″ full color and a great reminder to stay strong in an oppressive world!

$39
A tote bag that says “Fat on the inside.” It will be a bold print, and silk screened. I love tote bags and don’t fool around when it comes to them.

$40
A tote bag that says “All Bodies Are Good Bodies.” Another bold print, silk screened.

$41
The baker (we call her the Cupcake Princess) behind the delicious cupcakes at Rebel Cupcake will make a dozen for pick-up in NYC. They are incredible and this is a bargain! Generously donated by Morgan Hart.

$50
Receive an unpublished chapter from my memoir–dishy dyke drama, misunderstood fat politics and a lot of awkward in this piece. It’s a gritting teeth kind of chapter but also pretty powerful.

Bevin reading at the Lesbian herstory archives
Me reading at the Lesbian Herstory Archives from my memoir.

$69
It’s very important that this prize is at the $69 level. 30 minute Tarot reading or life advice from Miss Jacqueline Mary. Redeemable via Skype or in person in NYC!

Tarot reading with Jacqueline. #babestagram #lesbianteabasket

$75
Learn to play (or enhance your playing) the fiddle with Julia Read, an amazing musician! 30 mins, can be via skype or in NYC. Listen to her stuff she’s amazing!!!

$80
KCMO beer love package
2 bottles of Boulevard Bourbon Barrel quad (2013 and 2011). 2 bomber bottles from the smokestack series if your choice.
And a t-shirt or hat of your choice. Donated by a hot butch from Kansas City, MO, Jen!

$99
Lap(top) dance by Drae Campbell! Drae Campbell, butchlesque artist & comedian, will perform a laptop dance via Skype for you! Up to ten minutes. She’s hot as shit!

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Photo of Drae Campbell by Kelsey Dickey at Rebel Cupcake.

$100
Lap(top) dance by Miss Mary Wanna! Miss Mary Wanna will perform a private laptop dance via skype for you! Up to ten minutes of Southern shimmy! (Also redeemable in person.) We originally conceived this as a lapdance but it was definitely funnier if it was a laptop dance.
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Photo by Patience Owens.

$125
All the things! Both tote bags, fat unicorn bandanna and poster from earlier prize levels!

$130
Branding consulting! Marico Fayre offers marketing/branding consultation via skype! Up to 30 minutes of consultation with a professional who can take you from zero to hero! She seriously does this for a living and is incredible at it! Great for a small or big business!

$150
Life advice from ME! I give lots of advice on my blog but now I can tailor it directly to you one on one via skype which I will be able to use once I have a new computer! 30 minutes of life advice coaching via skype or phone with Bevin Branlandingham. Legal advice, self-advocacy, love your body, shopping, dating, self-esteem, etc… Whatever! I’m yours for a half hour!

$200
Stay for a week in a guest room (usually rented via Air B&B) with my friends Suzanne and Jen! They are two American queer women living in Mexico City and love football, happy hour and having a good time. Going to visit them in MC is totally on my own personal wish list and here you have the chance to slip in there! They need four weeks notice to make sure the times match-up so don’t book your flight until you talk to them!

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$500
I will put you on the VIP list to all of my events for the rest of your lifetime. Who knows where the universe will take me? This could be worth millions! Anytime you want to go to one of my events you just let me know and I will list you! What if I get to be a guest on Ellen someday? How about when I make it big and host the Oscars? You’re THERE! You’ll also get a signed copy of all of my books when they come out. Anyone I’ve ever dated can tell you I know how to make someone feel VIP!

Donate here!!

Thank you to my friends who have donated their time and services to this endeavor. And thank you, dear readers, for being on this journey with me. I’m super grateful to do this work and I really can’t wait for that work to be done easier on equipment and wordpress that’s not all buggy.

2013-02-07

My Reading with Empowering Astrology

I like to think of activities like having my astrological chart interpreted by an astrologer, visiting mediums, having tarot cards read, past life readings and other types of woo activities as a cross between spiritual practice and therapy. They often work better if you go in with a specific question or questions and have something to work through by the end. I usually feel relieved and understand my path better as a result.

Last week I had my astrological chart read by Katie, the bombshell behind Empowering Astrology. I had met her once before years ago and upon one glance at my chart she knew that the previous few months (because of Pluto sailing through my chart) had been “like a nuclear bomb went off” in my life. She had no way of knowing but I had lost a job of five years and my apartment became uninhabitable in that span of time. That little nugget stayed with me and I had always wanted to come back for a full chart reading.

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Your astrological chart is basically a map of the stars as they existed at the exact time and location that you were born. When people say “I’m a Capricorn with a Virgo rising and my Moon is in Scorpio,” what they mean to describe are aspects of their personality as dictated by the positions of certain celestial bodies when they entered this world. Lesbians and woo-oriented queers use astrology as code with one another all the time, so it’s helpful to know those basics. You can get a free chart at astro.com if you know your birth time and location.

I’ve had a free chart for years and am very curious about how the natal chart can give me information about my life. I totally believe in past lives and that our higher selves select certain natal information to structure our journeys in this life. My relationship to woo spirituality is on the “why not” spectrum and if it helps me understand my purpose here and helps me to more effectively do the work and art I do then this spirituality is doing exactly what it’s meant to do.

Even though we both live in Brooklyn, Katie and I met via Skype video chat. Number one, this helps with the whole “Scheduling is the hardest part” bit of coordinating with New Yorkers. Number two, Katie was able to record our session so that I could have an mp3 of our conversation and not have to rely on my notes to piece together what I learned.

Tea service is really helping me finish this trust document.
Bring your own tea.

I learned so much! There’s a lot to know about how an astrological chart works. It seems to me that a good astrologer is a combination scientist, mathematician and intuitive. Katie definitely has all three. She knows so much about astrology, the way the planets talk to each other and can distill it easily into real talk for people who don’t know what a progressed chart, Mars conjunct Sun or what each house in our chart means. And those are just some nuggets of things I learned about in our hour-long conversation.

She began by asking me what I was looking to glean from our conversation. As I tend to do, I asked about my journey in life and my higher purpose. When I was younger I was always mostly curious about romance and money and that’s not to say I’m not still curious about those things, but these days I want to find out how to make it easier for myself to stay on the path I’m meant to be on. I’ve learned a lot through the language of pain about how hard it is to try paths that you’re not meant for, I’m looking for a peaceful journey leaning into the lessons I’m meant to learn.

Party planning involves spreadsheets & hauling beer.  We're ready for Yes Ma'am on Saturday!

Katie had a lot of lessons to tell me about. We began with her overview of a few areas she noted in my chart, like the clusters of planets I have in the houses in the bottom of my chart and some heavy duty “relationship karma.” I was surprised at how much past life information could be gleaned from my chart and Katie had a lot to say about how the things we’ve worked on in past lives can affect this life.

We talked about the planetary positions and certain traumas I was going to need to recover from, which hit the nail on the head for me about what I saw as my work in this life. I feel very reassured about the work I’m doing after my reading with her.

I especially enjoyed talking about the transits I was about to go through in the upcoming months. Transits are those lines in the chart where the planets move and Katie was able to tell me certain things to look out for. She also blew my mind by saying “Money is simply a 3D manifestation of energy.”

The contents of my bra at the end of the evening : 2 drink tickets, $6 in cash, 1 splenda packet, 2 lifesaver wint-o-mints, my cell phone (not pictured), an 11 year chip found next to the bar.

Since my reading I’ve listened to it again via MP3 while in the bath, which has helped me glean more out of it. She highly recommends listening to the reading several times. Her approach values shaking things up by providing insights into the natal chart and she really is an “energetic midwife” as she describes on her website.

If you’ve ever been curious about having your natal chart read, I cannot recommend Katie enough. She is smart, warm and extremely insightful. Also, her website includes a rad blog with a lot of nuggets, including this Moon Ritual to Manifest (or as I call it, Womanifest) I’ve done before and it’s been awesome.

Katie also has an awesome Facebook fan page for Empowering Astrology where she shares nuggets of wisdom about the planets moving around. Honestly I’m much more interested in astrological forecasts that talk about what the planets are doing for everyone than just what the Capricorn horoscope for the week says. Astrological destiny is way more complicated than that! Also, isn’t it nice sometimes to realize “Ugh, I went to my friend’s birthday party and felt so terrible all night for seemingly no reason” and then finding out there was a MONSTER full moon that was throwing everyone for a loop, and especially Cardinal signs. Anyway, Empowering Astrology on Facebook has those kinds of forecasts and I like them.

Also, as a rule, I pretty much only go to therapists, tarot readers or spiritual folks if I have a personal recommendation by someone queer or they are queer themselves. I just feel more safe and there’s less language to translate about my life and loves and gender and sexuality to people in my community. Katie’s queer herself.

2012-12-17

Freelancer Realness and Vintage Clothing for Sale! Sizes Large through 4X!

As a blog reader myself, I know sometimes the question of “What does this blogger do for money” is mysteriously there. For me, finding a career out of a mix of activities is scary and helpful both at once because I’m able to take on big projects like writing a book and also have the flexibility to travel and have adventures to write about. To answer that question about me, I’m a part time lawyer with my own firm, I get a little revenue from blog sponsorships, I teach workshops at colleges and elsewhere, and party promoting is really something I do for the love of my community but it usually works out to about $6 an hour of work for each Rebel Cupcake and it’s too early to tell about Yes Ma’am.

Being a freelancer also means that when I have financial emergencies like my cat getting sick and costing me about $1,000 unexpectedly in October and then the hurricane killing real estate deals for awhile and the standard December/January transactional lawyer slowdown it can result in a shit storm of brokeness. Not having my part time job at Re/Dress, the fabulous vintage and resale store I worked at for three years (may she rest in power and in our hearts) means that these slow-downs are scarier than they ever were before.

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ALF has kidney failure and gets subcutaneous fluids every other day, a cheap pill for his hypertension and way fancy prescription kidney food. I genuinely never believed I would be the kind of cat mom who sticks her baby with a needle but it’s meant to keep him comfortable and not to artificially prolong his life so I’m doing it. Being a single mom is hard! It involves a little bit of wrestling and bribing and making really hard decisions on your own.

I learned a lot by being the kid of a poor/working class single mom in the 80s and 90s. One of those things was how to live on the edge and it does get easier the more practice I get at it as an adult trying to shift career paths towards what I really love to do, which is write books and have adventures and make the world safe for people to love themselves.

And, as a sidebar, if you’re a freelancer in Brooklyn and want a place to go work on Wednesdays, Liz of Rhino Girl Media has coordinated this awesome Queer Co-Working lunch from 11-4 on Wednesdays. I’ve been going for a couple of months and have gotten a date and a new client from it (not the same person). Plus it’s lots of fun.

I’m writing all this both because I think it’s important to talk about money so it is less mysterious and scary, and also to explain why it is that I am selling a ton of vintage pieces on the internet. I’ve amassed a great collection of vintage and resale plus size clothes since Re/Dress closed, mostly because I was going to start a pop-up shop with a friend of mine so we could keep access to this resource going. But, since I’m having a holiday money shit storm, I’ve instead decided to sell it all online. I wish I could have you all here to my home or a store to try on these lovelies and teach you how to style them ferociously, but sadly I cannot. Instead, I hope if any of these strikes your fancy you’ll buy them from me!

The whole set is through this link. The set is organized roughly in size order from largest to smallest (4X-Large). The prices widely vary, from $10 items that are damaged but too fabulous not to sell, to a $50 vintage brown coat with fur collar and cuffs. Most of the vintage dresses are about $30 and the tops are about $20.

1X/2X Light Blue Zip Front Poly Dress $40 (#16)
1X/2X Zip Front Poly $40

XL/1X/2X Blue peplum dress $30 (#7)
XL/1X/2X Blue peplum dress $30

2X/3X Leopard Silk Bomber Jacket $30 #32
2X/3X Leopard Silk Bomber Jacket $30

SEE ALL THE REST HERE!

All items for sale! Email queerfatfemme at gmail dot com with the item number you wish to purchase and I will send you an invoice via paypal.

Shipping is $5 per item, but if you buy 2 items or more I’ll ship them for free!

Each item is described in the first photo (each additional photo is for detail) and, unless otherwise noted in good used condition. All sales are final, please feel free to ask any questions!

1X/2X Vintage Brown Fur Collar & Cuffs Coat $50 (#10)
$50

Please check them out and if you have any questions, email me!

2012-05-14

Begin Again

One of my favorite concepts in meditation is the idea of it as an opportunity to practice beginning again. It’s a concept brought to me from a book I have been slowly creeping my way through, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program* by Sharon Salzberg. It was only ten bucks and came with a guided meditation cd and basically sets out why meditation is great and a gentle, 28 day program for becoming one of those daily meditating people you hear about and want what they have.

But, for me, like with all things, this meditation book has taken me way more than 28 days to get through and that’s okay. Sharon says in one of the very first meditations that as you get lost in thought you get to begin again. Come back to the breath. It’s very gentle. The practice of being gentle with yourself with something as simple as a thought coming into your head during meditation, when the idea is not to think, is a radical notion for someone raised in our culture of harsh judgment and perfectionism. Especially for me, where I relied on overachieving and appearing as perfect as possible as a survival mechanism through a difficult childhood and adolescence. Gentleness with yourself is a radical act. So is the idea that you can “begin again” even after you’ve done something wrong.

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When I was a fat depressed, often suicidal, teenage closeted queer I never thought I would be a New York plus size party girl making out with Zach Morris and gay AC Slater but maybe this was always my destiny. I wish I could tell early 90s awkward Bevin that it gets better. And also that her crushes on boys that looked like Zach Morris and AC Slater were just gaydar.

So, you see, dear readers, I am at yet another begin again crossroads. That law firm job I got in January that I was so stoked about? Totally bad fit. I won’t get into the specifics, but after about a month of thinking it was going well, it just wasn’t. My talents are manifold and were not a good fit for that environment. And I was miserable and working really hard. Certainly not making enough money to be worth the amount of stress I felt, though I believe that even one of those $150,000 a year associate jobs isn’t worth that kind of stress on your body and life. And so, after three and a half months, I am going my own way again. As a Capricorn overachiever I can be very committed to things and get mired into it even if I am not enjoying it, so to have it only be a three and a half month detour is significantly shorter than I otherwise would have stuck it out.

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Me and much of the cast of Bayside the Un-Musical at Rebel Cupcake. There’s one weekend left in their run (May 16-19th at the Kraine Theater in the Lower East Side), I saw the show and it was ridiculous and a MUST SEE for any fan of Saved By The Bell.

It was a shock when it happened, however the relief and peace I have felt since it was decided I wouldn’t be working at the firm anymore told me this was the right path. Decision making is a self-correcting process, I believe that even when you make a choice there is guidance about that. If you make the wrong choice, there will be a gentle (and then not so gentle) nudge away from it until you get on the path you’re meant to be on. Sort of like when I was engaged to someone who I know 4.5 years later was a terrible fit but at the time was undeterred and had no perspective. That was a self-correcting process. And, even though it was devastating at the time, I feel great about the life I have now.

The last 4.5 years have held a crazy amount of change for me. My life is radically different but so much more than I could have imagined. My Saturn Return was bananas–end of engagement, laid off from a job of 5 years, a terrible living situation necessitating a move while being on unemployment–and things keep on changing and upheavals keep happening. I sold my beloved Prius in April because I knew financially it was the right choice–good thing because then I lost my job and selling it has given me SO much flexibility.

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And today, I have a lot of possibilities and opportunities. I have been working on a new memoir, shelving the more difficult and emotionally fraught memoir for later, and it’s flying out of my hands and into a shitty first draft. (All hail the working through perfectionism enough to be okay starting with a shitty first draft!) I am feeling more creative than I have in months. I’m happy. It’s been two weeks and part time work and per diem jobs are sort of popping up. Enough to pay the bills.

I won a reader’s choice nightlife award from Go Magazine, the largest circulating free lesbian magazine in the world, as Best Emcee (and thanks to all of my readers who voted!). Rebel Cupcake won for Most Eclectic Crowd.

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The awards were really heavy. I felt like the Adele of the Lesbian Nightlife Awards. Also my Grandmother thinks I look like Adele since she went blonde and I don’t know whether it is because we’re both fat and wear big eyelashes but I’ll take it as a compliment.

Rebel Cupcake, a nightlife party celebrating all bodies and flamboyance, just turned two years old! At the two year anniversary one of my heroes, Barbara Carrellas, did a sex magic fire ritual and the demo bottom turned over and she made a cake out of foam on the bottom’s naked torso with two candles in it and the whole club sang Happy Birthday to Rebel Cupcake while the cake burned. That was an incredible moment.

I wrote a new workshop and debuted it at Columbia University for their Radical C.U.N.T.S. club about embodiment and learning to get into our bodies. (Called Get Me Embodied, like the series of embodiment posts I am continuing to write for the blog.) It was such a wonderful experience and afterwards I just thought “This is what I need to be doing.”

All of this happening literally on the heels of my last day of 9 to 5 work I am taking to be a sign that my artistic life is on the right path. It is terrifying trusting the universe and not knowing how I’ll have retirement or health insurance, but I am also very, very happy. And I know, somehow, I will figure it out. And I know there is power in letting myself begin again.

*I link to Amazon because I get a tiny referral fee for anything folks purchase from clicking through to Amazon from my blog but I suggest buying it wherever you can, it is a great read.

2011-12-21

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 4: Longmont, CO, Queers and Wealth

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.


To Longmont, Colorado from Chicago via Interstate 88, Interstate 80, Interstate 76, CO 52–through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado

I departed Suzanne and Jen’s around 6:15AM. I am a big fan of hitting the road early on long driving days for many reasons. Maximizing visibility by driving during daylight. Safety reasons (better to break down during daylight). Abundance of bathroom breaks (when alone I don’t stop at rest stops after dark). I freely admit to stopping to pee every 50-100 miles. Usually about every 100 but if I’ve had coffee it is more frequent. But the major benefit to me for leaving early is getting to arrive at my destination with some amount of the day left.

This driving day was going to be a big challenge, and I knew it. My AAA trip tik had estimated the drive at 16 hours, which was incorrect, as google maps GPS on my phone quickly alerted me when I plugged in the destination. I sensed there might be something up with the AAA estimate when Suzanne looked at me wide-eyed over the dinner table in Chicago “You’re going to Cam‘s tomorrow? I’ve driven there from here–we had three drivers! It took a long time!”

I’m not afraid to drive for a a great distance (obviously, taking this journey by myself) and know to add about two hours worth of stops when calculating the time it will take.

I believe one day google maps will create a feature called “Bevin time” where it knows I walk approximately 3 minutes slower than it assumes for public transit directions and transfers and when calculating road trip directions will add a 7 minute stop for every hour traveled, which I think it my average amount of stopping time including meal breaks and all the iced teas I require to go the distance.

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In preparation for the trip I had with me a printed AAA Trip Tik from the travel office, maps for every section of the country I was driving through, AAA guide books and a printed updated AAA Trip Tik from my computer (my route changed a little bit from when I had spoken with the AAA agent). All of these resources were free with my $55 yearly membership. However, despite all the trees used in the creation of my navigation safety net, 90% of the time on my trip I used google GPS for android. Tree-free.

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This was super helpful when I got within 30 miles of each destination, as obviously, most of the folks I was staying with lived near my route but not quite on it. Sadly, the GPS navigated me in a circle in Chicago’s early morning “Oh god I hope I get out of the city before traffic starts” commute. I felt like I was in a toilet bowl going in circles trying to get on I-88.

I sat in some traffic and the toilet bowl finally released me into the suburbs and onto the Illinois turnpike. Playing “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” was pretty perfect considering how gray and entirely un-enthusiastic that road was.

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The sunrise was entirely obscured by gray clouds and the overcast Illinois turnpike was really boring. All morning I worked with the spiritual tool of finding beauty in anything–here’s a gorgeous colorful train working its way across the landscape, here’s a pretty farmhouse I wonder what their holiday traditions are? Another game I like to play on the road (or on public transit) is writing stories in my head about people and what their lives are like. The more unexpected the better.

I was surprised to find at the rest stop that the line for McDonald’s at 7:30am was almost out the door but the line for Starbucks was non-existent. I happily bought some oatmeal and iced coffee and went back out on the highway.

We got to Iowa and highway 80, crossed the Mississippi with little fanfare. Maybe it’s years and years of Indigo Girls fandom but I have high opinions of the Mississippi River and the fact that it costs $12 to cross the Hudson into New York City, $5 to cross the Delaware River, and there’s barely a sign warning you that you’re about to pass across the colloquial demarcation of this country? I mean, I am not complaining that this was a toll-free crossing, I’m just saying get a bigger sign. Have some build-up. I barely had a chance to crane my neck looking for steam ships.

Iowa was hilly, as per Dar Williams’ foreboding, and a little more interesting than Illinois. I noticed here was where folks started staring at me openly at rest stops. I wasn’t even wearing something that scandalous.

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I stopped in Des Moines at a Panera (my favorite road food) for salad and a half sandwich. Walked Macy along a strip mall’s faux sidewalks and kept going.

I was delighted that the rest stops in Iowa had weather tracking tv screens and I was able to determine that the weather was going to shift to clear once I got to Nebraska.

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Before there was clearing, there was more overcast.

This was a Tuesday and Tuesdays for me are my spiritual homework day. I am in an anonymous fellowship that focuses on healing relationships through focusing on yourself. Keeping Tuesdays sacred has been an important part of my dedication. Driving as long as I was I hoped to take a moment with the sunset to do some reading and reflecting. I thought maybe I’d catch a rest stop in Nebraska for that.

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The break in the clouds was really dramatic for me.

Ten hours into my journey I was craving more coffee–good coffee–and the possibility of a Starbucks once I was long past Omaha seemed far-fetched. I pulled off for a McDonalds restroom break somewhere in the middle of the lengthy state and somehow the only Starbucks for 200 miles appeared on my right hand side. I stopped and had the aforementioned goddess rest break with Macy in the outside sitting area. It was sunny now and the sun was starting to perform her swan song.

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The rest of Nebraska went by in a blur, with a brief stop at a Goodwill to get my shop on for Double Chin Win (the pop-up vintage shop for all sizes I am developing with Leslie).

I got a little stressed out about timing my arrival to Cam’s. The GPS seemed to stretch on forever, but she texted that she was a night person. Preparing for my arrival she had asked what kinds of food I liked and had made a lasagna from scratch which she was going to pop in the oven when I was an hour away.

The last few hours were spent on I-76 into Colorado, total blackness on the road with big signs warning about “Big Game Crossing.” Yikes. My hitting a deer fear went into overdrive, brights on and heavy tears from the end of Just Kids alternately working for an against my clear vision.

Arriving at Cam‘s was amazing. Her house is so bright and lively, lots of vivid colors and interesting art to look at, sumptuous furniture just begging to lounge on. Not only had she held dinner for me, she offered a massage. She’s a professional massage therapist and this was the third state we’ve done massage work in. (We have set a mutual goal to massage in every state. I can’t wait for Hawaii.) In fact, I think she’s one of the only massage therapists I’ve used in the last couple of years.

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OMG the lasagna was extraordinary.

Her in-home massage studio is so incredible! It is just beautiful and warm and if you live near Longmont, CO you should book an appointment. She makes her own massage oil and I got my choice. Also Macy accompanied me. I was hoping she would settle down and sleep in the peaceful mood but we were practicing “Attachment Travelling.” She pretty much wouldn’t settle down until Cam put her on the table with me.

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I knew that my self-care in traveling required that an 18 hour drive day needed a morning off, so Cam had planned an omelette bar. She took post-it notes like a short order cook and we could pick pretty much anything we wanted. All the cheeses. Spinach. Red and green peppers. Onions. Top that off with a skillet full of bacon and sausage and it was probably the best breakfast I had until I hit Atlanta.

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I met her sweetie John and Macy met their gorgeous black cat and feisty puppy Riley who stood outside the back door holding a series of toys trying to entice someone to play with him.

The morning in Colorado was stunning. I arrived in the dark with no idea that the Rockies were just on the horizon outside of their sliding glass door.

I felt so warm and welcome at Cam’s. Beyond cared for. Wrapped in a tortilla of love and care.

Cam keeps a guest book in her massage studio and asks folks to sign as they come through–it’s an idea she got from our friend V and I think it is wonderful. So many of our tribe travels through it is nice to remember who stopped in.

The toll booth workers in Illinois were chatty–the first woman I gave my dollar and change to gave me two biscuits for Macy. The second toll booth worker told me, as I heaved my teal Cynthia Rowley bag I got for $20 onto my lap, “You must be rich to have such a big purse.” I told him I was just well-prepared.

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It’s so interesting folks’ perception of wealth and monetary ability. You can’t tell anything by looking at people about their net worth. Honestly. Even the “expensive shoes” trick is a farce. My big purse has more to do with being raised poor than it has to do with being of any means. A scarcity mentality coupled with wanting to feel secure that I am prepared for anything with a sprinkling of being captain distraction and not particularly good at editing. I battle this constantly. I genuinely appreciate when people do not comment how heavy my purse is when they hold it for me. Yes it’s heavy but I do have hand sanitizer and am prepared with a hanky when you need it. You need lip gloss? I have seven. Three shades of red lipstick.

I think wealth has everything to do with your attitude about life and how succulent you live rather than your monetary means. I say yes to opportunities and live on faith (faith it til you make it) and have far less means financially than I could if I just shut myself away in corporate America making someone else rich. I think that by living my life this way I am a wealthy person. Simultaneously, I genuinely do not know how I will pay my rent on February 1.

Obviously there is a balance–I am sad that I can’t be the Lesbian Bette Porter to every queer arts organization that needs $1,000 to launch something incredible. I wish I could fund all of my schemes. I don’t want to live without health insurance. But I am super grateful to have cultivated my adventurous spirit and find more fulfillment from that than I would from making a hundred grand a year. And goddess knows how much it is worth in dollars the quality and quantity of incredible friends in my life who enrich it daily through words of affirmation, kind acts and lots of other ways.

I also think there’s a significant issue with queers and other folks from marginalized groups valuing themselves and the work that they do. Job hunting like I am now I have to put a value on my time and my skills–it’s really hard! I have to remember just like I believe myself to be wealthy because of the value I put on my experiences and the wonderful life I have cultivated, I need to believe myself to be worth the money people pay me and valuing myself monetarily takes a lot of practice. It is important to remember that when I am hired for an event as a performer or workshop presenter or at a company as a lawyer or as a social media maven, I am selling not just my time but also all of the years of experience and education I have behind me. All those years working for free as an event producer in high school, college, girl scout camp, the drag king community, gay prides, etc… add up to someone who has an effective and valuable knowledge base.

That said, the wealth I enjoy in the life I have cultivated, on this trip of a lifetime, certainly womanifested when I visited Cam. There is no amount of American dollars that could have bought the love, comfort, sweetness and generosity I received visiting Cam. Our friendship is wealth. And for that I am eternally grateful.

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I am welcoming another QueerFatFemme.com Blog Benefactor on board! Domino Dollhouse is an online retailer of gorgeous, sexy and exciting plus size clothing. I have been a huge fan for a long time and got to paw through her collection recently. I was impressed at the quality of the garments and found them to be great value for the money.

My favorite piece from the collection came home with me.
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Birthday Bash dress. This one has a price point of $169 (worth every penny in my opinion). But most of her dresses hover around $60-$80.

The Ava Adorable dress is only $54.99 and sooooo cute.
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This Full Skirt looks so foxy on lots of different people (I watched folks try it on all weekend during the final Indie+ show at Re/Dress). $54.99 and comes in grey. There is a similar style in black as well.
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Marianne Kirby models the Minnie Day Dress $79.99.

I also own the Tail Feather dress. I received many compliments when I wore it on my road trip. It was easy to roll up in my suitcase and look cute and casual.

She sells vibrant clothes up to a generous 4X, totally boss leggings and accessories.

Tracy, the designer and total babe behind Domino Dollhouse, is offering a special coupon code for QueerFatFemme readers! Enter “QFF15” (case sensitive) at check out to get 15% off your Domino Dollhouse order!

Thank you for your support of QueerFatFemme.com, Tracy!!

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