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

2017-05-03

Why Authenticity is so Vital: In Celebration of Ellen’s 20th Coming Out Anniversary

“As long as you stay true to exactly who you are, you will be rewarded in ways you cannot possibly imagine.”—Ellen DeGeneres

The 20th anniversary of the coming out episode of Ellen’s sitcom was April 30, 2017. It was the first time a lead character on a TV show came out; it was before Will and Grace, the Logo channel, and Modern Family.

For those of you who don’t remember, it was a BIG DEAL. Media was covering it before it aired and endlessly discussing and debating afterward. There was an all star cast of supporting characters and extras, including gay icons George Michael, k.d. lang and Melissa Etheridge.

I found out from my friend H. Alan Scott that Ellen was celebrating the 20th anniversary of her coming out on her talk show because he was invited to be on it! His story about how he watched the coming out episode is detailed in this piece he wrote for Newsweek and on the below video from the show. (Believe me, I hinted hard that I wanted to be invited as a plus one to go to the taping but sadly he didn’t get a plus one.)

“It’s easy to forget now just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages… Not just for the LGBT community but for all of us to see somebody so full of kindness and light remind us that we have more in common than we realize and push our country in the direction of justice.”—Barack Obama on the occasion of giving Ellen the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

1997 was an interesting year. We didn’t have the internet like we do now. We didn’t have smart devices or social media. You had to call people or email to make plans and if you wanted directions somewhere you pulled out a map.

Ellen joked on her show that since we didn’t have Facebook yet in order to make a big pronouncement about your sexuality you had to get a sitcom.

They called the episode “The Puppy Episode” because when the writers told the executives she needed to be in a relationship by the fourth year of the show an executive at the studio said, “Well get her a puppy, she’s not coming out.” You can watch it on youtube in parts, starting here.

I spy Laura Dern, k.d. lang, Dwight Yoakam, Demi Moore, Gina Gershon, Jenny Shimizu, Billy Bob Thornton.

I feel like for gay people in 1997, it was kind of like the Kennedy assassination—people remember where they were when they watched it.

I remember very viscerally what it was like for me watching Ellen come out. I was 18 years old, in my dorm room at UC Davis. Wearing my bathrobe, alone on the couch I shared with my suitemates watching the cable that I paid for because TV was an escape drug for me at the time. Life was really painful, I was depressed and felt very alone. I knew I was gay but couldn’t be open about it. I was still so convinced that if I acted like everyone else and hid in giant, formless overalls I would somehow appear normal and being gay went against that idea. I also didn’t think I was going to get to own my sexuality because I was fat. Fat was, in my deluded opinion, not attractive and I didn’t think people who weren’t having sex should bother coming out.

I was super wrong. Owning your truth, that’s hot. Owning your body, that’s hot. Being true to who you are? That’s priceless and so liberating.

I don’t have any pictures of my Freshman year at UC Davis available but here’s one from two years later when I was out but still working through my relationship with fashion. Deepy appreciate this rainbow beanie. Pictured here with my very supportive through my coming out process friends Mary and Dianna.

“Your whole calling is about you being what you were meant to be.”—Oprah Winfrey

It’s very lonely being in the closet. When you don’t feel like you can be your authentic self, it’s hard to live freely because you’re always keeping a secret. If you’re out there and you are in the closet now, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone and you’re okay. When it’s time for you to come out, it will suddenly feel more uncomfortable to be in the closet than the risks you take to come out. But, like Ellen says, the risks to be your true self are totally worth it.

Sitting right next to H. Alan in the audience was documentary filmmaker Alexis Fish, who had a big party for Ellen’s coming out episode. (I wonder if they overlapped at all at my birthday party last December since they were both there.) I couldn’t believe what an amazing experience it was for Alexis and her friends to watch the episode with community. I’m so glad I get to have that community now, and I’m so grateful for social media for enabling community to be even more accessible to folks in the closet these days.

Oprah Winfrey played Ellen’s therapist in the Puppy Episode, which I had completely forgotten about. She was a guest on this special episode of Ellen’s talk show. Needless to say, I immediately texted H. Alan “YOU WERE IN THE SAME ROOM AS ELLEN AND OPRAH.”

Oprah mentioned that she said yes to appearing on the Puppy Episode immediately, and she gets credit for that. There was so much backlash, the world was reeling because of something that today seems so pedestrian. We needed that backlash in order to start a very important conversation.

Laura Dern was in the episode and she didn’t get another acting job for a full year after the episode—because people thought she was gay. “I hurt straight people for this,” Ellen joked.

“It was hard, I lost everything. I got to be stripped down of everything and start all over again. And that was a wonderful gift to be able to start all over again and to realize that I was strong enough to come back.”—Ellen

Laura Dern said it exactly right while on the couch with Oprah and Ellen. “How incredible to be sitting between the two people who have walked us toward our truth in such extraordinary ways… To celebrate the bravery to remind people to be who they are. And whatever the consequence is of doing that, it brings everyone with you when you’re willing to be that true to yourself.”

Why, in our society, is it brave to be yourself? Because of the White Hetero Capitalist Patriarchy, that wants to keep us small, to punish difference and to make people feel ashamed of who they are. Media creates a feeling of insecurity for your benign human differences so that they can sell products to you to help you feel better.

On the talk show episode there were lots of celebrity messages of congratulations. “You widened the circle of understanding, connection and kindness,” Diane Sawyer said to Ellen.

Me and H. Alan doing partner yoga. I love that he’s always game for a silly photo.

There’s a power in being openly who you are. I continue to practice that by talking openly about things most people don’t talk openly about. Part of my impetus for using this openness is to eradicate shame. I truly believe shame leads to stress, which leads to cancer and other disease. It makes me feel so much better and happier to be open about who I am, how I struggle and the tools I use to move through the struggle. I can’t do it alone and I want to help you all know that you don’t have to do it alone, either.

Last summer, my friend Jeff Scult inducted me into One Golden Thread, a whole movement about being connected to other humans with a golden thread bracelet. He said when yours falls off you should pay attention to what you’re thinking about in the moment. I have been working on staying in gratitude as much as possible in order to eradicate the effects of trauma from the past few months.

With Ellen’s coming out on the brain, I was walking through my house thinking about how grateful I was to be out, to be living with my incredible partner Dara, to have our beautiful new home and how cute my closet is going to be when it’s finished. Then I got to our bed and was super grateful for my weirdo cat Biscuit Reynolds. As I leaned in to give him a belly rub he attacked the string from my golden thread and in one movement ripped it off of me.

I have now watched Ellen’s 20th anniversary coming out talk show episode twice and can’t get through it without crying multiple times. I’m so grateful for all she did to make the world a lot easier for the rest of us.

2016-03-08

LA Week 6: The First Doctor’s Appointment is so Stressful

I kind of accidentally started titling my LA transition posts about the week I was in rather than the week I had passed. It always bugged me a little bit. I like the process of earning time passed rather than counting time passing. It’s also kind of like how annoyed I am that Time Warner makes me pay for the month of internet service ahead of time instead of like credit cards and electric bills you pay after the month has passed and the service has earned its money or whatever. This adventure just turned six weeks old on Saturday!

eaglerocklumberWe went to a lumber yard that was playing Adele in the warehouse. Also, I love love love the old vintage signs all over LA.

The biggest thing that happened last week was enrolling in B-School! I earned enough money through pre-sales and donations to take a big chunk out of it (saving lots more than I’ll need for materials because I might need to order stuff expedited and I’m not yet selling enough to buy in deep bulk) and the remainder left to pay for B-School was the equivalent of less than one month’s expenses here in LA. I’ve had lots of times where I had no idea how I was going to pay for next month’s expenses and I have at least three month’s savings still. I am feeling really called to this B-School experience and really have faith that what I learn will make my business flourish–before I use up my savings. So thank you thank you thank you to all who pre-ordered and who donated and who shared the page. I cannot wait to show you how great my teas are and keep you updated about the progress of building this business!

Last week Dara and I doubled down on making progress in the Mariah Carey closet attic renovation. We spent all of Thursday afternoon and Friday during the day working on walling up the sides of the attic. We have this beautiful stand-up space that slopes pretty steeply and I realized that the unusable space would be better off walled up. Boy was that an adventure. After the whole rennovation is over I’ll do a recap DIY blog post like all those people on Pinterest do and show you how we did everything.

femmeswithpowertoolsMe wielding a power tool!

atticinprogressProgress!

The very first moment I stepped into the attic when we saw the house I immediately saw the vision for the Mariah Carey closet. But having never taken on any home renovation projects I didn’t vision for the HOW. Luckily, Dara’s friend Dari and his wife Jen came over last weekend and Dari gave us a prescription for how to wall up the sides.

Jen kept me company while I continued to paint the ceiling and looked really cute.

Dari and Jen moved to LA from Brooklyn a little less than a year before us and it was great to hear about their transition process! It made me feel really good to hear what it was like for them to hit the six month mark and realize there were no further boxes and everything was set-up. It also made me feel SOOOO grateful for all of the friends I already have out here. It has been very grounding and reassuring to have people I know visiting and hanging out here. I think if absolutely everything including all of my friends were new it would make my transition even more difficult.

dariandjenWe already had a bunch of friends in common and yet never met in Brooklyn!

I’m actually feeling more settled as the weeks move on. I know our neighborhood pretty well now. We went to the farmer’s market and I found the humane farm to market meat I wanted to find! I made my first pork shoulder and bone broth. (That link is my go-to recipe from my health coach Vic, and my additions are a bunch of green onions/scallions and more salt than you think. My bone broth game is on point.) OMG it feels good to be getting back to how I like to cook! I never realized how much work it was to set-up a kitchen and I definitely thought it would be easier and cheaper and faster to get microwave safe plates I enjoy from thrift stores but that is actually not going as swiftly as I’d hoped.

My guacamole game is getting stronger! My friend Lauren suggested white onions, chopped ridiculously fine (I used a tiny chopper appliance) and garlic salt and so far that has been the best batch of guacamole yet! The next one I made had too much onion, not chopped as fine and was not as good. I’m still soliciting guacamole recipes so if you have one, leave it in the comments!

We have done a lot of weird clean-out projects here, a few weeks ago I cleaned out the cellar and found epic amounts of scrap wood in varied condition (we used a lot of it in the attic). Right now we’re using the cellar for deep storage–my mom is retiring and sent me all of my childhood ephemera. I’m choosing not to deal with it just yet. Before I could use the cellar for deep storage I needed to clean it out so there I was hauling wood and sweeping a hundred years of dust out.

bevininthecellar Pro tip: Tie up your hair or you will get weird dust all up in your hair.

Ideally folks have just one big life change at a time. I’ve talked to lots of friends about THE CALL, when their parents or guardians make a big life change and call to say “You need to get your crap childhood artifacts out of my garage/attic/basement crawl space.” Not everyone has living parents or family they are in contact with in that way, but for those of us who do, it is a rite of passage.

I went through all of that stuff on one visit to my mom about six or seven years ago. I thought I got it down to about six rubbermaid tubs but there were several cardboard boxes that I didn’t know about underneath my mom’s house and it all came when the moving truck with my mom’s hand me down furniture arrived and is now in the cellar. It’s big emotional life work, to go through and decide what to keep and what to get rid of, especially if you have experienced trauma as a child. So I am doing what I do well, and saying what is urgent isn’t important and what is important isn’t urgent and choosing to go through it slowly and not right now.

Because right now, Dara and I are planning our first Seder.

My friend Bridget and I had a great conversation where she told me her strategy to get settled into the Fox Den (her gorgeous Jersey City apartment) was to have a party where people were flying in for St. Patrick’s Day. That way it put enough pressure on her to get her apartment together.

constructiondaraDara is nervous about the ceiling of the attic (it’s a stand-up in the middle with some slopes that are prone to head hitting if you’re not careful). She loves wearing this hard hat up there. Plus it’s cute, she’s a fox!

I realized Dara and I unintentionally did that by saying to her out of state brothers, their kids/wives and her mom that we would host Seder dinner when they visit LA the week of March 20th. I’m very very excited about this, I love planning and executing major events, throwing parties and cooking for people. I also love encouraging Dara’s engagement with her Jewish cultural heritage and I love making things fun. We are going to have the most fun Seder ever. (As an aside, the last thing Dara’s Dad, Mel, ever said to me privately before he passed was after the family’s skype Seder dinner that I would be hosting Seder for the family soon enough… I know we will do Mel proud!)

One of the things I keep saying as I do stuff I am not enjoying to set up the house is that I can’t wait to throw parties here because that is fun for me. Methodically measuring wood, screwing things in until my hands cramp and painting until I get calluses on my hands is not that fun for me, but I know we’ve got to get this all done before the Barlins descend on us.

andymoviesMy friend Andy loaned us some movies and, more importantly, a saw! Totally saved our butts! Andy is going on tour with Chris Pureka soon, you can get the album pre-sale for the next 10 days, I hear it is great! I’ve loved Chris’ stuff as they’ve evolved as an artist.

So because of this deadline we realized we have had to be more strategic about getting stuff in order rather than just kind of picking at different parts of the house as we were doing. Dara declared this and she’s right, we need to finish the attic so my clothes can move out of the office and upstairs and then we can turn the office into the staging area and set up our living room at last.

In all of this, I am so in awe of my Virgo friends who move into a place and are unpacked and set up in a week. Virgos are the organized meticulous Zodiac sign. I have a Virgo rising, I may appear so organized and methodical but on the inside I’m not so much.

My friend Holly from Brooklyn & previously the Bay Area was in town last weekend. She moved to a new apartment with her sweetie Topher just before New Year’s Eve and she is a Virgo. So their progress was fast and furious AND it still felt reassuring that she said she had dropped wads of cash at IKEA every week for a couple of months getting set up. Having not had the wads of cash to get all that we need to make things work just yet is hard but we have no shortage of things to do in the meantime.

lissainstallationLast weekend I went to my friend Lissa’s installation as the Senior Minister at the Unitarian Universalist church in Pasadena. She’s the youngest Senior Minister of a large congregation and her congregation’s first female and openly queer Senior Minister. Red lipstick on the pulpit! I’m so proud of her! It’s so amazing to watch your friends flourish!! I’ve known Lissa for a long long time and it’s so great to see her living her dreams!

I hosted my first small dinner party here on Friday night when our friends Anne and Susanna were in town. Anne is Macy’s second family, she’s been her primary dog sitter for years and years. As someone who loves her dog and loves to travel, having a home she can go to where I know she has as much or more fun than she would with me feels so reassuring. Honestly, Anne was a big reason I was having pause leaving Brooklyn! And then she decided to move to Boston! She just got there last month.

Having Anne over was a big priority so Macy could get some Anne time on the couch. Macy was so excited to see her she actually fell off the couch because she wasn’t looking where she was going!

meannesusannadaraOnce the attic is done all the stuff on the staging area goes in the office and we install IKEA blinds over the windows instead of our temporary privacy drapes.

It’s so humbling and vulnerable to have people over to your house when things aren’t set up yet. I served dinner and didn’t realize I only have three dinner plates. (Again, working on only having things that spark joy, but a slow roll to getting plates apparently.) So Dara ate off of a really interesting platter we have.

I had my first doctor’s appointment with Kaiser. I went with Kaiser after I lost my health insurance in NY for failure to re-apply or something I didn’t realized I had to do because I didn’t get mail about it. I had Kaiser before when I was a kid and I like the concept of getting all of my specialists and doctors in one place. It’s the closest to universal health care I’ve ever experienced. Anyway, Kaiser called me and kind of pushed me to see a doctor right away for an intro visit. I felt kind of adult about it, since many times I’ve not seen my PCP until I had an illness. I figured this way if I need a prescription for an illness I could call her and maybe get it. I asked the Kaiser representative who called me for someone LGBT friendly just on a whim in case they had that and they did!

It was stressful, though, going to see a “health” practitioner for the first time. Not knowing if they were going to be fatphobic or not. I want a doctor who treats me as a human and not as a number on a scale. I wore a full face of make-up because that makes me feel better, and I was ready to recite to the doctor things about health at every size.

bevinatthedrFull face of make-up at the doctor.

I got nervous in the room waiting for her because there were not just one but three posters about weight loss stuff. They have SIX weight loss/”health” programs, and I’ll say I feel glad for it if simply because by offering them for free they are taking money away from the billion dollar diet industry. You can give Oprah your money at Weight Watchers (right now I’m not paying any money for Oprah things, she can just take her billions from toxic diet culture she doesn’t need my money), or you can get free nutrition counseling on the phone from Kaiser or one of the other five programs. Or, you can love your body as it is and work on your overall health and wellness and learning to be in loving communication with your body about what it needs because your size doesn’t need to change for you to be a whole, worthy human being. That’s the tactic I’ve been using and my happiness is pretty great.

ANYWAY, my new LGBT friendly doctor who might be younger than me didn’t mention my weight once and just did regular stuff asking about my family health history. I also got a tetanus shot because of working on the attic and those rusty nails.

Kaiser has a whole medical center in Hollywood (near the Scientology hive), and the one annoying part is that they charge you for parking in addition to your co-pays. But otherwise everything was pretty seamless.

After Kaiser, I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in Hollywood. It’s the closest one to our house (about 15 minutes away) until the one in Atwater opens up later this month. Dara and I love Dunkin, East Coast nostalgia, she loves their coffee, they have almond milk and endless flavors and solid iced tea. We have always had this thing since we got back together about “I love you a latte.” So I bought her a latte because we had been fighty on Wednesday.

I definitely don’t want to be a blogger who only reports the good stuff and acts like my relationship is perfect all the time. It’s not. We struggle and we work on our communication and sometimes we get into dumb fights over why the dishes aren’t clean enough. Wednesday was such a day (so ironic since I had just posted about those strategies we used to strengthen rather than stress out our relationship during our move). On Thursday, after my doctor’s appointment and before we headed into the attic, I wanted to start off on a solid “I love you let’s have fun together” foot, so I went to Dunkin and got her a latte. And as I pulled up to the house I saw her in the doorway, she had flowers in her hands for me! We were both on the same page about wanting to be in a good space with each other and make this project fun!

Which was great, because our muscles were soooo sore by Friday night. Progress!

dariteachesdara

2015-07-13

An Open Letter to Oprah about Crop Tops and Body Positivity

This is a letter I wrote to Oprah Magazine in response to a call for reader input in the August 2015 issue. It is in response to the totally banal and fatphobic response to a reader question in O Magazine that folks should wear crop tops “If (and only if) they have flat stomachs.” I generally skim or skip the style and beauty content in O Magazine every month because it’s written towards folks who are seeking a more neutral style than I am looking for. But given the deep internet controversy I thought this was a great time to offer Oprah some unsolicited advice about how she could be doing better.

Since posts are better with photos of lots of folks with different bodies, I have asked my friends to be part of a crop top army, their photos and links are throughout this post.

IMAG0213If I had a Bevin Magazine and I did it like Oprah with my photo on every cover this is what my cover could look like one month.

Dear Oprah:

I am writing this from the place of being very steeped in Oprah culture. Like many folks, I am a longtime fan. Growing up watching your talk show at my babysitters and getting more interested in your message of self-improvement once I got to college in the late 90s. I remember saving up to buy an Iyanla Vanzant book I saw on your show. I’ve always identified strongly with you and your interview style, my friends even started calling me “The Queer Oprah” about a decade ago because of my way of asking the right follow-up questions and getting deep into someone’s story, similar to your skillset. I like to ask questions until I really understand something and walk through the world with curiosity, which I believe you do as well and what makes you so good at what you do. I buy all the book club books. I’ve had a subscription to O Magazine for several years, and maintain a hoard of back issues for reference.

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Photo of Laura Luna, one of my favorite folks on social media. Her insights and vulnerabilities and fun are very inspirational. Here are her words as a caption to this photo. I highly recommend an instagram follow! “That time at #amc2015 when I got pulled up on stage by @leahrosegallegos from @lascafeteras to share a dance and everything around me felt magical cos femmes and a little of LA in Detroit and how because of seeing so many brilliant fats strutting their stuff at the conference I felt safe and even a little liberated to wear this outfit and dance dance dance in front of what seemed like a sea of people.#femme #queer #qpoc #qwoc #femmesofcolorvisibility #fat #xicana #latina #femmeofcolor #fatvanity #pocbodyposi #effyourbeautystandards #fatpoc.” Photo was taken at the Allied Media Conference by Ara Howrani.

Ever since you started OWN, I’ve been an even stronger fan, your spiritual programming really resonates with my eclectic mix of spirituality. I kept cable much longer than I could afford to because I wanted to continue to have access to OWN. (Because it streams online the parade of spiritual thought leaders on Super Soul Sunday is still part of my life, but if you made Next Chapter and Iyanla Fix My Life available for purchase like Bravo does with their shows I would be a very happy camper who doesn’t have cable.)

I say all of that to position what I’m about to say from a place of love and constructive feedback. I get what you do in the world, I get where you have been going recently, and I think you can do a whole lot better when it comes to talking about people’s bodies.

The original instagram post that started it all, according to news reports.

You were at the forefront of diet culture for decades, folks watched you openly struggle with controlling your body. Your value for your body echoed the dominant culture, that you should be thin. I think it’s important to recognize that the diet focus you had for many years influenced people, and caused harm by reiterating body shame and body hatred for all of the people watching who view you as a role model.

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Photo of Amanda Joy. Check out her art website and her instagram!

People change and people evolve, and I’ve noticed in the past few years much less emphasis on dieting in the Oprahverse–that has been a welcome shift.

I hated my body for so many years. So when I watched you dieting growing up, I identified with feelings of futility and wanting to try yet another thing to control my body. I hated myself so much that it consumed me. More often than not, my idle thoughts were spent berating myself, rather than focusing on bigger ideas or being open to seeing the world around me. I didn’t know how to be present. I was always focused on the future, the thin body I would one day have that would solve all of my problems. Or I was focused on the past, my failures, and deep depression.

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My friend Chavon modeling for Booty and the Geek. In Chavon’s spare time she makes geeky themed frames and journals, check them out on instagram.

Ironically, though the Oprah show reiterated my body hatred, it was an Oprah Book Club selection that helped me begin my journey to stop hating myself. Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone featured a fat main character who hated herself so completely I felt shame for identifying with her so strongly, and vowed to work to stop hating myself.

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Photo of Pizzacupcake, one half of the duo GAYMOUS, showing the important relative to the crop top–the side belly cut out. You can buy the incredible GAYMOUS EP here. (Their Let’s Pretend We Don’t Have Feelings video is also worth watching!) Photo by Danielle Billingsley.

It would be years until I got to the stop hating my body part of that journey, but once I did I was free to open my mind up to the world and step into an activist role working to help all people realize that they are worthy of love no matter what their body looks like. I really believe that my purpose in life was blocked and my spirituality was not accessible to me when I let myself stay obsessed with hating my body and myself. A big part of my spiritual awakening happened because I was able to love and inhabit my body, realizing that I was here in the body I was given for a purpose. Part of that purpose is to help folks heal the shame of a society steeped in body currency. (Body currency is a term coined by Jes Baker that I explain in this post.)

11202448_914884111888521_3032253831620096736_nI just started wearing crop tops this year. I’ve been slow to start wearing crop tops, even though I’ve been rocking a fatkini for a couple of years. I am forever indebted to my queer fat femme style icons for doing it for so long and helping me learn that it’s okay to flaunt and love your belly at any size. Photo by my friend Anne at Rebel Cupcake in June, 2015.

Now I’m present. I love my body and it frees me up to really inhabit this life. To focus on my purpose. To enjoy the world this time around. To have so much fun that it makes up for the years of depression, self-loathing and misery.

Fringe shorts on the Fire Island Ferry! Heading to Cherry Grove! 🍒

A video posted by Bevin (@queerfatfemme) on

Speaking of fun, press play on this video and see how much fun I’m having in my Diet Industry Dropout crop top!

The body shaming response to a reader’s question about whether she could wear a crop top, “If (and only if)” she has a flat stomach is causing public outrage for good reason. This is a chance to get on the right side of history. More and more folks are deciding to love their bodies and wear whatever they want to display those bodies.

I was disappointed that the public response from O Magazine (as printed on People.com) was trite and shallow. “We support, encourage and empower all women to look great, feel confident and live their best lives – in this case, we could have expressed it better. We appreciate the feedback and will be more mindful going forward.” Actually, doing what you did caused harm to folks, much like the constant diet chatter caused harm on the Oprah show. Not just “could have done better” but how about instead of being just mindful you really do something different?

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This is Al Benkin. “I’m a otherly abled gender non conforming queer working artist. I am a proud She. My bramd is Beautiful Mutant Art aka Mutantland.” You can follow Al on instagram!

This is an opportunity to move forward with utilizing your platform to include body positivity. I think you can acknowledge that every person has humanity–do all humans deserve dignity regardless of their body’s appearance? Can you be open to the fact that our culture creates a hierarchy of bodies and that race, class, gender, gender presentation, sexuality, culturally approved beauty, amount of cellulite, body hair, age, ability and a ton of other factors ranks us and pits us against each other?

That keeping us hating our bodies and focused on dieting is a way to hypnotize us while folks who have their body currency on lock (white, thin, straight, wealthy men) use it to profit off of us?

This is a chance for you to use your clout to actually change our culture. You are a thought leader. What you amplify in your media makes a difference in people’s lives. You know from your experience on the diet roller coaster that body shame does not help people lose weight. It simply helps people hate themselves.

IMG_4486Photo of Jenna Riot, amazing femme DJ and style icon! Jenna’s instagram is here. More fun than the Kardashians.

Here are some ideas I suggest to adopt throughout the Oprah media platforms, including O Magazine, Oprah.com, and the Oprah Winfrey Network programming.

1. You can talk about nutrition and body love from the perspective of “all bodies are good bodies.” You can do this from a place of knowing that working to eat in alignment with the comfortable functioning of our body and movement for so many great, body loving reasons don’t necessarily have to be focused on an outcome of weight loss. That weight has nothing to do with people’s value. You can do a whole show about Health at Every Size!

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Photo of very talented performance artist Shane Shane by Odalys Diaz. I love Shane Shane’s FANCY belly tattoo.

2. Continue to suggest foods, eating patterns and physical movement that is focused on nourishing the body. You totally do this about half the time. (The other half of the time is printing a bunch of intense dessert and indulgent food recipes. Both are great! Both can be about celebrating food and bodies.) When you do this, try to not assign value to the food and movement you talk about.

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Photo of Kelly Higgins, self identified body positive straight girl. (I definitely think fatkinis are cousins of the crop top.)

3. How about a lifestyle show about people loving their bodies? Doing loving movement at every size. Getting various body positive activists to work with folks one on one on the show to help them work through their body shame. I have a lot of ideas for shows celebrating body love. There is so much fun to be had celebrating body love!

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Marina wore her first crop top last week! Here’s her tumblr.

4. Place a thematic emphasis throughout the Oprahverse on body love and healing aimed at young people. I imagine how different my life would have been if the Oprah Show had talked about body positivity and loving your body where it is at when I was an adolescent instead of making me want to go on a liquid diet. It would have been so freeing. It can still be so freeing to so many teens if you make this turn now.

You know who should be wearing crop tops? Everyone who wants to be wearing crop tops. Non-normative bodies wearing crop tops are important because they help make the world safer and easier for other folks to feel comfortable in their bodies. I’d love to see you in a crop top, Oprah. I don’t care what condition your belly is in, I know it is beautiful.

xoxo,

Bevin

P.S. I want to mention in this letter, because it’s an open letter, that it’s important to talk about the fact that just because people with all bodies CAN wear crop tops they don’t have to. It’s okay to be somewhere on the body love journey (or fashion preference journey) to not wear crop tops. No one should feel shame about their body love journey because they’re not ready to Rock the Crop.

Side note: How amazing would it be that, instead of the shallow “We’ll try to do better!” statement they actually issued, Oprah instead issued an apology with a promise that she’ll be on a future cover of Oprah Magazine wearing a “Diet Industry Drop Out” crop top?

Just saying.

11747402_10155735014085702_614776046_oPhoto of Jacqueline Mary by Courtney Trouble. Jacqueline wrote a great guest post about how to be a good ally to her crippled arm. She also is a DIY smut artist inclusive of all bodies, the link here is totally not safe for work: Heartless Productions.

2015-01-23

Movies I’ve Seen: Selma, Spare Parts, Into the Woods, Inherent Vice, Wild

When planning to go to the movies recently I literally said to myself, “If I can’t live somewhere warm at least I can go see a movie about a warm place.” Ugh Winter. I’m never quiet about my attempts to pull myself out of Seasonal Depression. In the past two weeks movies have been a big part of it. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve seen and what I thought.

Selma Movie (2)

SELMA: Go see this movie! It’s so important! The story of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leading the march from Selma to Montgomery. I was glad I read the January issue of Oprah Magazine first so I was refreshed on the history and could watch the story and the actors a little closer. You can probably get a good refresher from the Selma website.

I thought Selma was brilliant in so many ways. Foremost for me is not thinking of people who are heroes as having to be perfect in order to be heroes. For me, it doesn’t diminish MLK Jr.’s work in the world because he wasn’t a perfect husband. They tell a real story about a marriage of a civil rights leader that was flawed. MLK Jr. had infidelities and that was a struggle. I think a lot of biographers and filmmakers about legends shy away from talking about ways in which they weren’t perfect and I think it loses humanity.

There is a lot of depth to stories that you don’t hear from dry history lessons and I really appreciated how much we got to know several of the activists involved and the politics of civil rights movements that we are still struggling with today. There was also a lot to cry about in the movie, again and again, especially the amount of police brutality that juxtaposed with today is heartbreaking. But still uplifting in a way because at least while you’re watching it you know that the Voting Rights Act passed and they got what they were working towards.

It’s impeccably acted and I also loved all of the attention to vintage detail. I also noticed a way of personifying the women who were feeding and tending to the needs of the activists while they were strategizing. I thought it was nice to not just have that be a mystery but to show that there were people working behind the scenes to make it possible for the activists on the forefront to do the work they were doing. Also also, there are a lot of activists’ stories told, including many women, which is often overlooked in historical films where there is a main male hero.

Listen to the new song Glory by John Legend and Common, which plays over the credits in the movie and rightfully brings Ferguson into the room. You can hear the song on the website, iTunes or Spotify.

selma-7

Bonus: Oprah, playing her third film role where she punches a man.
Bonus: Woman of color directed

Spare Parts: I had planned to go see another movie but it was sold out. We did a quick scan of what was playing and saw the trailer on my smartphone. I hadn’t even heard of it! I’m so glad we saw it, though, because it was heartwarming, funny and inspirational.

spare-parts-screen

George Lopez stars as a default because of no work as an engineer with a PHD substitute teacher and reluctant advisor to the robotics club. The club is assembled of a group of high school kids, all of whom are undocumented immigrants. I think it’s rare to see a strong plotline of undocumented folks in mainstream movies at all, let alone funny movies.

It’s a true story of a high school underwater robotics team that built a robot with not a lot of money to compete against MIT, Cornell and other fancy universities. The storytelling is a bit formulaic, like I could kind of see how they were writing the story, creating conflict and moving the plot along, but I also really liked it for the content. The acting was phenomenal. George Lopez was more understated clever funny, which worked great for the character. Esai Morales as the father of two sons, one of whom is documented and one who isn’t, was a total stand-out.

I’m not sure how much longer it will be in theaters (it opened last weekend) and I always think it’s important to see movies in the theater to tell the movie industry people want to see movies with strong characters of color.

Bonus: Dara cried real tears because it was so heartwarming.
Bonus: Jamie Lee Curtis as the hilarious principal of a school with no money. Many of the other characters are very dramatic. She’s just goofy.

Into the Woods: I’m a little dubious about movie musicals but this one was actually really well done. It’s based on a musical that weaves Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and a few other fairytales into one story. It was magical, mesmerizing, well-acted and fun to watch. A great escape from reality movie. I also enjoyed the way the typical fairytale endings were upended and revised. Dara said that the actual musical was much darker than the movie version, so if you’ve seen the musical expect that. Also, Meryl Streep’s hair is epic and I found myself wondering how they made blue hair look so great.

meryl

I did go on a rant after seeing the movie about why they didn’t cast at least a few of the main characters as people of color. I thought it was sorely lacking in racial diversity that could have fit in with the plot pretty seamlessly.

I saw it in a theater that had no heat, so even though it was a cute movie I was cranky afterwards.

Bonus: Johnny Depp as the wolf is a total babe, and so is the endearing chubby baker.

Inherent Vice: I saw this last night–after the movie I wanted my two and a half hours back. Here’s the thing, I love Joaquin Phoenix (aka River Phoenix’s brother, may he rest in peace) and I love Reese Witherspoon so I thought an adventurous mystery movie set in LA would be a great way to forget about how cold it is right now. I was sold by the trailer!

inherentvice

Joaquin Phoenix stars as a private detective searching for something. I could never really figure out what he was after. Was he after the real estate tycoon his ex girlfriend was boning who disappeared? Was he just being given mysteries to solve by seemingly random potential clients? If I had read the book maybe I would have followed the movie better. Maybe if I knew more about drug culture in 1970 I would have understood more of it.

The most noteworthy part of Joaquin’s character is that he is a hippie who smokes a lot of pot and does whatever other drugs come his way and he gets into mischief as a result. And then maybe I thought, if I were stoned would this make more sense? Would I follow the plot more? And the answer is probably not at all.

If I was at home I probably would have given up on it about a third through the movie but because I paid money for it I stuck it out. Dara didn’t like it either and this movie has prompted us to create a code word for, “I’m okay to leave if you want to.”

There was this one scene with the ex-girlfriend that might be hot or kinky if it wasn’t in the middle of such a terrible movie. But by then I was annoyed enough that I was just like, this movie is some kind of white guy film school fantasy sequence. But, it’s a mainstream movie that’s pretty sex positive so maybe that’s a plus? I don’t know. The hair was awesome. And the vintage sets and cars were really great. And a lot of people liked the movie on Rotten Tomatoes so maybe there’s some sort of redemption in this flick I’m not seeing.

Wild: I saw this a long time ago but it’s still playing and it’s worth a high five. As stated, I love Reese Witherspoon. You should also enjoy her if you go see this movie as she is basically the main thing you’ll see in every scene. I read the memoir Wild that the movie is based on and was super worried that it was going to not do the book justice. It’s not as good as the book. But it is a really beautiful adaptation of the book.

wild

The story is a woman who decides, with little to no experience or training, to backpack 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. I was excited to see the movie just for the scenery, that’s a gorgeous hike. And it was poignant and beautiful and fleshes out Cheryl Strayed’s relationship with her mother in a way that pays homage to the deep relationship in the book. The acting is great, and so is watching someone go camping in a way that has a real plot and conflict. Because it’s hard to make a movie about camping interesting. And yet, it totally is.

Bonus: Cheryl Strayed is in the movie and drops Reese off at the trailhead.
Bonus: A few unexpectedly hot sex scenes. They weren’t that hot in the book.

2014-10-10

Nine Steps to Be Ready to Wear Sleeveless Shirts or Shorts Next Summer

If you spent this summer consistently covering up your arms because you were ashamed to show that part of your body, now is a great time to start working on being ready for next year. You can unlearn the lies that people tell you about how you have to cover up in order to be socially acceptable.

I remember very distinctly an episode of the Oprah show I watched when I was a teenager where she waved her upper arm in the air and spoke derisively about the skin and fat “waddle” dangling there. I turned crimson with the recognition that I already had that “waddle” and that because Oprah was opposed to it then I should be ashamed of it.
2957045493_cb41415748_zI thought I’d do a little flashback Friday with photos of me sleeveless through the last decade. Here is a photo of me showing my arm waddle during a performance at the International Drag King Extravaganza in Columbus circa 2010. This is the dapper and amazing Heywood Wakefield.

Oprah is in a unique position—she’s so influential in US culture that many people listen to what she says with the same kind of attention that we might give to a parent or relative. My parents and relatives were also fatphobic and ashamed of their bodies and it was easy to internalize that the fat body I had all my life was wrong, with a hearty reiteration from Oprah.

We’re all human, though, and I recognize everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. My mom is now super supportive of my work with body liberation and Oprah is definitely much more body accepting in the twenty teens than she was in the nineties.

I don’t understand why our culture is so opposed to fat people’s arms. What is it about the arms specifically that makes us need to cover them up most of all? No fat person’s arm has caused more harm than a thin person’s.

I was on the phone with a body liberation coaching client and told her the story of how I got through my own shame about sleeveless shirts, and I wanted to share that with my readers. This is the same time of year I began that journey, so I thought it would be great to encourage others who are ready to take these steps to begin now for next summer.

I’m outlining here a process of self-acceptance and learning to be comfortable in the body you have right now. All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are AND they deserve to be comfortable.

14558700107_5d7497a1ae_oThese are my stickers! Aren’t they cute? If anyone wants some, make a donation via paypal of any amount to queerfatfemme at gmail and include your address.

1. Get ready to do things differently

I was 19 when I embarked on the journey to start wearing sleeveless shirts. I was at an interesting turning point in my life. After a many years long, often suicidal depression, I had decided to stop hating myself. I didn’t know what that meant and I had no identifiable role models for fat people who didn’t hate themselves, but I knew I needed to do something different. That summer, I met someone who basically made me promise to stop putting myself down and work on loving myself. Grant was a lifeguard at the Girl Scout camp I worked at and he wrote me the sweetest note in my camp yearbook. It meant so much to me. It was the first time I was ever able to hear that I was worthy of not hating myself.

I knew instinctively that I was wrong for hiding my arms. It was uncomfortable and annoying and I wanted to feel the freedom of my skinny counterparts. I had a couple of tank tops as layering pieces and I started to open myself up to the idea of wearing them, and set a goal to be wearing them outside by the next year. I wasn’t sure exactly how, but I was going to do it.

If you want to do things differently, you need only set your mind to it. If you’ve been spending your summers all bottled up under hoodies or wearing pants even though you would be way more comfortable in shorts, you can move past your fear and shame and start being more confident.

You just need to want it. It’s also okay to not want it and spend the next year or however long getting to a point to want to go sleeveless or wear shorts. That’s okay, too!

2. Go shopping

If you already have tank tops or shorts you want to wear, great, skip this step. If you’ve avoided them forever, this is a great time of year to get low stakes clothing that you’re not that attached to.

Now that I’m comfortable with my body I don’t have a problem investing in pieces that are armless and short legged (herstorically I’ve spent a pretty penny on vintage lingerie pieces). But if I wasn’t comfortable in a short sleeved shirt, I wouldn’t want to spend a bunch of cash on them just to see if I could learn to love myself in spite of all the lies people tell me about my body.

Right now Target has summer clearance hanging around—I got two really great sleeveless dresses for $12 recently. And a quick search online yields promising results (like this long tank top, I love a long tank top). I also totally adore Target’s Liz Lange maternity clothes–this sleeveless V neck cami marketed for “sleep” but totally not just for sleep is a great plus size sleeveless first step shirt.

Layering pieces are super helpful for this process, too, if you need some guidance for what to buy. The tank tops I started trying out when I was 19 were meant to go under overshirts. One of my favorite looks when I was in college in the late nineties were men’s dress shirts worn open over a frilly tank top. When I was ready to wear tank tops out of the house it helped to have the layers ready to go whenever I felt shy.

If you’re wanting to try shorts out, there’s a little less layering wiggle room, but it’s a great time of year to get clearance shorts, too.

15498653845_ffa838faff_zThis is a layering look I adored in 2011, a sleeveless dress with a cardigan on top.

3. Identify confidence anchors on your body

I didn’t do this when I transitioned to tank tops, but when I came out as Femme I used this a whole bunch. I found the part of my body I felt the most confident about (my cleavage) and I dressed around it. I could try pretty much anything if my cleavage was bangin’. The Lane Bryant Plunge bra was great for this. If your anchor is your cleavage, make sure you have a great bra for stepping your way into wearing tank tops next summer.

For some tips on bra shopping check out this article I wrote about getting a custom bra fitting.

So maybe your favorite part of your body is your calves or your forearms or something. Find a way to highlight it and use it as an anchor.

647924376_8cb8653c4f_o2002, at the IDKE showcase. Corsets were really good to me in the focus on the cleavage not the arms department.

4. Practice at home

Once you have the will to try something new and the new garments you want to try, start practicing at home. At 19 I was a Resident Advisor in the dorms, so this was an experiment just in my room at Thoreau Hall at UC Davis. I would just use tank tops as my around the house wear. Previous to this I was so ashamed of my arms that I wasn’t even wearing tank tops in the privacy of my own home, not even as loungewear.

What made the tank tops different than loungewear was that I would be all dressed for outside, but in a tank top. This is where layering pieces helped—I was able to just throw on an overshirt and go about my day. But in the house, I was wearing the tank top that I wished I had the confidence to wear outside.

If you’re trying on shorts, wear them around the house and get used to what your body looks like in shorts. I know a lot of folks who are super insecure about hairy legs, cellulite, weird skin stuff and leg size or shape.

5. Identify your body positive allies

This is a really great exercise whether or not you are already a sleeveless shirt and shorts wearer. Who in your life is a body positive ally? Your best friend? A certain group of friends? I sure hope you have some folks in your life who affirm the body that you’re in right now and don’t think you need to change.

If not, start making a list of the attributes of friends who will be body positive allies to you, and open yourself up to finding those friends.

9304102569_cdb266b898_oThis was the first time I ever wore a bikini, with my friend Jacqueline.

6. Identifiy your “safer” spaces

Once you’ve identified body positive allies, come up with a list of safe(r) spaces to try out wearing new clothes. This is a great technique for any kind of fashion risk. Places I like to try things out:

*Casual hang out with your allies.
*A body positive ally comes over and you just don’t cover up your arms.
*Brunch—this is my favorite petri dish for new fashion. Low stakes and early in the day.
*Going out in public with a body positive ally who can compliment you when you’re feeling nervous.
*Going out in public with a layering piece so you can quickly cover up if you need to. Challenge yourself to go without the layer longer and longer each time.

2504463608_9827babbb3_zA little chicken satay and body positivity with Rachael, one of my oldest friends, in 2008.

7. Fake it till you make it and act “as if” you’re already comfortable in sleeveless shirts

When I was trying out tank tops I remember the first time someone came over by surprise and I just didn’t cover up my arms. It was my not-yet first girlfriend and I remember feeling embarrassed about my arms showing but also really wanted to try to be okay with it. I was so crushed out on her that it was easy to forget to be insecure because my mind was absolutely full, and that’s exactly why I forgot to put on an overshirt in the first place!

What I did was I just faked it. I pretended to be okay with my arms showing. The more it happened with folks coming over the more I realized it wasn’t a big deal. No one was going to think differently of me with my arms showing.

3683063609_4ce737edc2_zPride parade 2009 with the Femme Family NYC.

8. Instagram or tumblr body positive images

I really like to reinforce positive body image for all bodies. I love Instagram and Tumblr for this. To consistently surround myself with people who believe all bodies are good bodies and who exude self-confidence is a really great antidote for our fat shaming society. Get used to seeing bodies like yours in sleeveless tops or shorts!

By the way—never read the comments. People are gross on the internet.

Remember throughout this process—so many of us have been there. The people you see in Instagram and Tumblr feeds are people who have survived the same body policing and fat hating society. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Just because someone seems confident doesn’t mean they are not vulnerable, human and insecure just like you.

9. Do what you need to do about beauty rituals to feel comfortable in sleeveless shirts

Again, this is a process of self-acceptance and learning to be comfortable in the body you have right now. However, if you need to do things to feel good in them that are achievable, maybe you try that. Maybe it’s a spray tan. Maybe it’s an arm tattoo. Maybe it’s shaving your legs every single day to wear shorts until you can get comfortable enough to go hairy legged one summer. Maybe it’s addressing a skin thing keeping you from showing your arms. I’m not saying modification of your body is necessary to body acceptance, but sometimes it’s helpful to baby step your way.

1393354441_e2bef3304b_zFound this photo of my friend Zoe’s leg tattoo–a great reason to wear shorts!

Dolly Parton’s character Truvy in Steel Magnolias says there’s no such thing as natural beauty, and I do believe that everyone should get to do exactly as much “work” as they want to on their appearance. For me, when I’m feeling nervous about something, I throw on a full face of make-up including fake eyelashes and big hair and it definitely ups my confidence.

When I was about 9 years old I started developing bumps on my arms. It looked kind of like chicken skin after feathers were plucked from them. I was super insecure about it, and my paternal Grammy told me it was genetic. Eventually I learned that this is a really typical skin condition and I could just exfoliate three times a week and it would go away. I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable trying tank tops if I hadn’t already addressed this skin issue I was having, but I’d like to think I would have still tried. (Right now I use Lush’s sandstone soap to exfoliate, and also a scrubby washcloth.)

Oh, and once I started exposing my skin to the sun more often, the bumps were way less prevalent.

Being self confident is a baby stepping process. I was 19 when I started trying to wear tank tops and it took me until I was 22 to start to embrace my fat body and fat as an identity. You can get there. Every single day is a great day to start.

7310063030_3093c1724a_zRebel Cupcake second anniversary party, 2012.

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