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

2017-06-20

The Commodification of LGBTQ Pride: How Capitalism Co-Opts Movements

I was cruising through Target the other day, and I saw a field of rainbow gear in the clothing section. At the same Target a year ago, there was one wall of Pride stuff and I thought that was a lot. An entire clothing section dedicated to rainbows for June was pretty remarkable growth within a year. There were pool floats, pride flag shawls, so many tanks and tee shirts with a lot of clever pride sayings, and a whole unicorn costume onesie that I almost called Dara to beg to buy. There were even tee shirts for couples to wear together to complete a rainbow for the ultimate dykealike experience and… PREFERRED PRONOUN PINS. At Target.

It is totally possible to hold multiple conflicting emotions at once and I had a bunch in the Target Pride section.

Surprised! In 1997—just twenty years ago—my gay mom would take her upside down triangle rainbow window cling off her car before I drove it. She didn’t want me to have to take the risk of homophobic hate crimes and I wasn’t out of the closet yet. It surprises me how far the acceptance of LGBT folks has come in my lifetime.

Validated! Listen, it’s capitalism. They are doing this because there are gay dollar$ to be made off of this and they want to cash in on this market. In the 70s being gay could get you fired or killed, and while that is still true today in many places, it is pretty amazing that you can come out and a big box store is giving you a high five by supplying your Pride gear.

My friend Franny at Dyke Day LA.

Delighted! I love rainbow stuff. In school I was very into school spirit, dressing up and rah rah for the team and I feel like my inherent cheerleader tendencies come out a lot when it comes to Gay Pride stuff. I love a good rainbow outfit, I love to wave a Pride flag in the right environment.

Heartened! I genuinely appreciate the show of support Target is giving the queer community by putting out this Pride section. Their show of solidarity in this instance is certainly well-intentioned. And in this political day and age when our rights could be dumped literally any minute, it’s nice to have entities give us that high five. (Though I do wonder if the Targets in Red States have big ol’ Pride sections.)

Annoyed! It always feels a type of way for me when businesses co-opt a movement. It used to be that I could only buy Pride gear on a special trip to a store in the Castro, and now those stores have all shut down and big box retailers are selling our Pride gear. It appears that more and more straight folks are going to Pride events because queers throw the best parties (we do) and they’ll put on a rainbow because it doesn’t matter, love is love! Rainbows aren’t just for queers anymore.

Maybe you’re not rainbow identified and you just want to be queer. Here’s a great shirt for that, available up to 3X, from queer non-binary owned Genuine Valentine!

Angry! At the commodification of Pride. Maybe Target should take a dollar (not even ten percent) of each of the shirts/Pride shawls they sell and give it to an LGBT non profit that benefits the most marginalized in our communities. But they’re not. The webpage selling their Pride gear sports a hashtag but not anything about donating to LGBT causes. The gay + ally dollar$ spent in that rainbow section are going to Target stockholders.

Big businesses mean well, they really do. They think they are helping when they have a big rainbow Levi’s store window or put together a social justice advertisement and slap their logo on the end of it. And in this day and age where most of the US spends their waking hours hypnotized on TV, those social justice commercials do make a difference. I really believe for it. However it does take most of the moxie out of the movement when it goes corporate.

Unbought and Unbossed! I love this Shirley Chisholm Lapel Pin from Radical Dreams–all products benefit community organizations.

Capitalism is a system that centers the privatization of resources. Movements are not owned by one person and are an amalgamation of ideas. Pride started out as a rebellion against homophobic and transphobic policing of queer people.

That general idea of “LGBTQ people deserve rights” pushed Pride forward annually and then as the movement grew, certain facets became privatized. Pride festivals became privatized in lots of ways, I would venture to say most common is someone in the first collective who started a Pride event in a city managed to be the last person standing so now they own it as {Whatever City} Pride Inc. and make curation choices with or without community input, charge admission, get sponsorships and make money off of producing Pride.

I brought my Femme Protection candle from (Queer Fat Femme owned) Last Craft with me to anchor my altar at Dyke Day! I charged a Femme Resilience magical incense blend while galavanting on my blankets with my pals. This candle is fabulous for Femme magic work and my new go-to gift for Femme birthdays.

Now corporations are putting rainbows all over things and making money off of what our Pride symbols mean to us–that same general idea that LGBTQ people deserve rights. They are taking an idea from a movement and privatizing resources associated with expressing it.

As I watch the body positive movement continue to be co-opted by corporations for their profit, it also heartens/validates/disappoints/angers/annoys me. Fifteen years ago when I was yelling Love Your Body on stage it was a revolutionary stance and now Lane Bryant just uses it to sell stuff.

At the same time, it is still revolutionary for people to hear that loving their fat body is an option so I guess net positive? While cashing in on Pride and body positivity feels kind of icky, it is still awesome that so many corporations are standing in solidarity with LGBT people in this political climate, and it is revolutionary that fat teenagers are getting the message however it comes to them that loving their fat bodies is an option.

I got this FEMME shirt at The Plus Bus. It was originally produced by Forever 21. Did they mean to print my gender identity on a shirt as a Pride thing or just coincidence?

Pride events over time have become so corporate. What began as a rebellion—honoring what happened at Stonewall, where trans women of color were tired of being harassed by cops. As Pride events gained notoriety and acceptance, corporations started sponsoring them. I remember my first Pride in San Francisco in 2000 leaving with swag bags full of corporate logos and fans promoting Queer as Folk (remember that show?) about to debut on Showtime. It’s only gotten more intense and it has been years since I’ve gone to a Pride event with corporate sponsors.

Instead I have gravitated towards Dyke Marches, which at least maintain a separation from corporate sponsorship, are community run and funded. You see almost everyone you know or have slept with in town which is why some call it “The Ex March.” In LA it isn’t even a march, it’s just a park hangout and it is THE BEST. (I’m still so fresh to LA so I only see people I am excited to see.)

Dyke Day LA was SO FUN. Epic overlapping hangouts with so many rad folks. (Here, EK, Dara, Kean and Corina.)

Dyke Day LA costs thousands to produce and that money is raised through community fundraisers throughout the year. Community organizing is exhausting work and I am so grateful for the folks who put in the time to carve out space in Pride month that is totally separate from a corporate agenda.

It’s nice that we have this space that is maintained because of the values of the Dykes that came before us. We only have it when there are community members willing to do the work and others willing to donate towards it. (It’s also a great way to meet folks—I met a group of people who completely changed my life when I worked on the Philly Dyke March committee.)

In a Kristen and Tristan sandwich!

I have been thinking a lot about how we resist the capitalism that has seeped into Pride. I think it’s by continuing to push the envelope. Queer means a lot of things but one definition I like most is queer as in weird.

Once you’ve opened up to a sexuality that steps outside of the heterosexual paradigm I think you’re more likely to think outside the box in other ways. Most queers keep things weird and push towards justice, whatever they believe that to be. When corporations grab ahold of what used to be chanted from the streets it ends up this kind of washed and faded version of something we have in full color. I love that queers keep making great anti-capitalist signs for Pride and showing up for resistance.

Philly has pushed the Pride envelope this year by changing the Pride flag to add Black and Brown—a sign of solidarity with the too often marginalized LGBT people of color who are and have been essential to this movement. The backlash is as you would expect from White LGBT folks who don’t see how important this move is to queers of color. I’m here for anything that makes POC feel more supported in the movement–and it’s so new that it’s not reflected in the Pride section at Target.

I’ll admit that I totally bought that $12 Pride shawl (before I knew there was a new rainbow flag!) after much hemming and hawing. I’ve never seen a rainbow shawl for sale and I ultimately want to give a thumbs up to Target’s gesture of (economically beneficial to them) solidarity. But I also spend lots of dollars directly to queers for their hard work and craftspersonship.

I know that Pride can’t actually be bought, and you can’t monetize the feeling of a young queer person at their first Pride parade, because even if Absolut is sponsoring the float that baby queer is paying way more attention to their crush or cruising.

If you want to sport your Pride in a more dapper and baller way, consider purchasing exquisite gender equal footwear designed by my pal NiK Kacy a very active member of the LGBTQ community.

I wonder how long it will take for corporations to adjust to the new Pride flag? I wonder what is now chanted in the streets that twenty years from now will be sanitized for the masses? I hope we keep pushing the envelope and I hope we keep prioritizing real queer people over corporations.

BTW this is NOT a sponsored post (I would tell you) but if Target wants to pass some of their profits to a queer artist out here speaking my truth I am open to sponsorship as long as it is my words and ideas!

2015-07-24

Additions to the Queer Lexicography: You’ve Got Toptions

Wow things have been a little hectic around here! It’s summertime in NYC and I am working hard on my East Coast bucket list. Last weekend I went to a Bluegrass festival in the Catskill Mountains about 2 hours North of NYC, this weekend I head to Atlanta for pre-wedding preparations for one of my besties, I went to two queer weddings in June (one of them at a summer camp in PA!), did NYC Pride (aka Gay Stamina month), produced Rebel Cupcake for the last time and a couple weekends ago took an overnight trip to Fire Island! On that trip I caught up with my friend Avory who loves a clever turn of phrase as much as I do and inspired this edition of Additions to the Queer Lexicography!

AvoryAvory on their birthday after the incredible Bjork concert! Avory serves great fashion and great turns of phrases.

Toptions. This is the idea that you have a lot of different Tops to choose from. And yes, I’m talking about Tops in a sexual way not a sartorial way, but feel free to use it that way too, especially when talking about fat friendly crop tops! Being open to Toptions means being in a mindset of abundance. I think a lot of people out there lament that they do not have a lot of Tops to choose from. Believe me, as a Femme who is Top leaning, especially when it comes to public play, I know that there are lots of Tops out there. I feel like going into any situation where you may want to play, you’ve got to be open to possibilities, talk to lots of folks, explore your Toptions (or bottom possibilities) and have a mindset that there are lots of people out there waiting to be explored!

I spent so much of my early twenties totally convinced no one would be attracted to me that I barely tried. I often clung to the edges of play parties, dance parties and whatever other cruising environments I was in not interacting with folks. I’ve learned that there are lots of Toptions out there, you just have to leap into small talk with folks and feel things out. Being there is often not enough to open the door, you gotta break the ice. Small talk doesn’t cost anything but time and maybe a little annoyance. And, as Rachael says, if you’re going to have to get through 9 rejections to get to 1 yes, get through them as quickly as possible!

You booed up with the first person you met on Fire Island? You are really missing out on all of your Toptions!

Related post–my theory of Butch abundance!

abundanceI believe in abundance so much and want to be reminded of it all the time so I have it tattooed on my wrist! A scarcity mentality is draining to me! Also, I’m repping Wide Eyes Open Palms my favorite latte makers, in Long Beach, CA!

Fuckit List. It’s like a bucket list of who you want to fuck! I have a few people on my Fuckit List and I know we’re all going to be gay for a real long time so that helps me to have some perspective and patience. Also I’ve talked to a lot of older queers about their sordid pasts and have heard many juicy stories about finally being single/available at the same time and getting to do it to that person they’d had their eye on for 15 years.

Also when going to a queer event or place and you know who you’re going to run into, having a Fuckit List in mind of possexibilities is a good way to be prepared and manifest abundance.

Freddy is monogs now, but I’ve got them on my Fuckit List.

nailsMy nails from the cold brew photo… relevant to my abundance mindset and inspired by sunsets in LA!

Shark Week. An incredible euphemism for your period. It’s vicious and bloody! Lasts about a week. Get it? I loooove it. It’s also great because it can be kind of masculine (though Femmes shark it up pretty magnificently) and it’s always nice to have a masculine version of a period euphemism!

200069_10150172750922079_5109552_nI can’t talk about Shark Week without Miss Mary Wanna doing her shark burlesque act! Photos by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake!

This one has been spinning out there for awhile and somehow I always thought people were talking about the Discovery Channel. I don’t know, I don’t have cable, I know people really like Shark Week. But when I heard it multiple times during a few months I was like, wait a minute, Shark Week? And I finally asked.

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OMG it’s Shark Week and all the ibuprophin is gone. This is a nightmare.

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Manses. I can’t believe I never talked about Manses before, but Glenn Marla introduced me to this awesome masculine of center euphamism for period. Get it.

It’s my manses and I hate that all of the products come in pink. Get it together Kotex, people of all sorts of genders get periods!

MacyBevinbeachReading on the beach at Fire Island (Cherry Grove) with my dog Macy!

2015-05-20

On Activism, Capacity and Seeing Yourself as “Enough”

I’ve been thinking a lot about capacity, self care and activism lately.

This morning I got one of my daily spiritual emails* that talked about directing our energies without regard to the need to be successful in an outward way. It told a story about Mother Teresa, who was asked why she devoted herself to such a massive problem as alleviating the suffering of the poor, when obviously she wasn’t going to solve poverty. Where did she get her dedication, “knowing that all the poverty and sickness would still be there long after she had died? Didn’t she realize she couldn’t win?”

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“Her explanation was simple: Of course she knew the task was immense, but “finishing” wasn’t her purpose.” Since Mother Teresa was a person of faith, she was willing to do what she believed was the right action for her, regardless of the outcome. She was focused on the task itself, not the completion of it.

This resonated with me today, as I’ve been focusing on learning my capacity for work, developing systems of self care, and thinking about activist burn out. I think the tendency as one is socialized in systems of oppression, is to give and give of oneself until there is nothing left. This is a value often taught to women, the idea that you have to put everyone else’s needs before your own.

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Activist movements, as in almost all things, can suck you dry—there is always more to be done, more people to reach out to, more actions to plan, more art to make, more reaching out. But at a certain point you have to be able to say, this is my limit. But we’re not socialized in a way to know what our limits are, to think thoughtfully about our capacity, and how to use self care in order to build our capacity. We’re not socialized to be able to say, “Enough, I can’t do this any longer.” I’ve seen it wear down on people until disease forces them to make big life changes.

I had to learn how to start saying no to things, how to learn how to ask folks for time to respond to them (I usually take at least 24 hours to say yes or no to volunteer work), and how to assess whether I wanted to continue working on things that were pulling a lot of my energy. I have flares of my chronic digestive disorder whenever I start getting really stressed out emotionally or with work.

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Today I went for a walk on Venice Beach. My partner is in LA for a work conference and I got to stay with her at the conference hotel. I’m so grateful for a super flexible day job where I can work remotely from a hotel! I took an hour and a half off for lunch and a drive to the beach. I was very charmed by the beach but so troubled by the amount of trash that was washing ashore. I grew up as a Girl Scout in Northern California and we were always doing eco events, picking up trash in wetlands and things like that. It’s a great way to have intimacy with nature and be of service.

Whenever I’m in nature I can’t help it, I just start picking up trash. I get so troubled by seeing it, imagining plastic wrappers wrapping around the necks of birds and things like that. I am 36 years old, I’ve been hearing about environmental conservationism my entire life. It feels so sad that beach clean-up and litter in the ocean is still an ongoing issue. And don’t get me started about the Pacific Trash Vortex. I can’t even.

17721574790_ee6a1b7bc8_zSome kind of corporate stress ball that looked like it could have been a jellyfish from afar. The weirdest trash I found today was an empty bottle of Patron Silver.

My brain is wired in this way where I just start to go there, I think about how big the problem is, how futile it feels for me to walk on the beach and pick up trash without a trash bag. Just gathering things in a found Starbucks cup or precariously clutching them in my paws. I had to think about what I was doing with my time. Was I going to spend my entire walk on the beach picking up litter? Or would I take the relaxing walk I had originally intended?

I decided to asses my capacity and go from there. So I focused with the intensity of a Capricorn for two ten minute bursts, and spend the rest of my thirty or so minutes on the beach in contemplation of birds in the surf and walking along. It felt like a great way to put into practice just doing something I felt called or compelled to do, without regards to the fact that my twenty minutes of litter removal was not even a drop in the bucket compared to trash island. I needed to see it as good enough and let go of the outcome.

17906139372_6e7f32ce97_zI’m obsessed with this bird. Did it ever find the fish it was looking for today? It didn’t the whole time I watched it but I hope it found something delicious later on.

I want to be the kind of person in the world who is of service, and also a person who enjoys life. I think that enjoying life and being person who is receptive to good in the world makes me better able to dismantle systems of oppression that say that fat people, queer people, and women, folks raised working class should not be free to enjoy their bodies. That by being a living example of a fat, embodied, sexually liberated person enjoying life is a form of activism. And that enjoying life is a way of increasing my capacity to do good.

I also know that I can use my privilege as a White person, a person with higher education, a cisgender person, temporarily able bodied, some level of “pretty privilege**,” and a person who has access to media privilege to help causes that are important to me. I never believed that by posting a blog post about Lyme Disease that I was going to somehow cure it. But I did know that by raising awareness of it, encouraging even one of my followers to watch that documentary about Lyme might make someone more sensitive to it and make the experience of Lyme for someone they know easier because someone “gets it.” That’s something. Or maybe just one of my readers has $50 to throw at my friend Jessica’s Lyme fund.

17288704433_242a2f15b2_zWhen I’m a rich lesbian I will have lots of money to give to all sorts of great organizations doing good in the world, and will create a foundation dedicated to funding projects that mainstream funders avoid–like fat stuff, radical queer stuff, sex worker organizing–and building capacity in those movements to make them more effective and support their self care matrixes. Also I will have a baller house on the beach and all those windows will have a giant mural that says “All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.”

It can feel so daunting to be an activist and want to work to make the world better. To get stuck in spirals of inactivity because you don’t feel effective. To get stuck in spirals of inactivity because you’re depressed, anxious, need to focus on making money or just survival and feeling so helpless. Getting used to seeing what you are doing as enough, learning that because you are human you are worthy of love and it’s not about what you “do” that matters it’s more about who you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the matrix of success lately, as I struggle through yet another round of letting go of my need to “accomplish” and “prove my worth.” I spent an entire session in therapy trying to talk about how I can get more done and my therapist arguing with me about how I am way too hard on myself. I have had to go through this so many times in my life and it usually ends up the same. I learn to let go of how much I accomplish, learn to feel worthy in spite of my ideas of success, and release blocks that enable me to find deep bursts of energy, creativity and the ability to work more effectively.

That airplane idea about putting your oxygen mask on first before helping others? I want to help create movements with folks where that is the norm and we help each other learn what our oxygen is.

17722918699_c035db8ea3_zLearning about my self care and what is effective self care has been really important for my journey to building my capacity and refilling my tank. Being at the beach really helps me. Such cleansing energy, with the wind (air), earth (sand), water (obvs) all that is missing is fire for a full four element cleanse.

*The one I am referring to is Today’s Gift from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which supports my work in a twelve step program for families and friends of alcoholics. I also get a daily email Note from the Universe which is super cute and whimsical.

**It feels really weird to say that you have pretty privilege when you are talking about yourself. I have so much to talk about in a subsequent post about that, but there’s definitely an element of being someone who has some level of conventional attractiveness that affects your privilege in the world, even as a fatty.

2015-05-04

How Castro Valley is Not the Castro

Among my army of incredible friends and community, we have a few aesthetic tropes that are common–tattoos chief among them. When I was younger and still shedding muggle ideas of normalcy I remember being sort of shocked when someone would just get a tattoo on a whim. You didn’t plot this for years and meticulously scour for the right artist? You got it off the wall?

Not everyone thinks like a Capricorn with a Virgo rising. I’m an Earth sign. Permanency is a big decision. Some people tattoo on whims and some people tattoo with great plans and down payments and sessions. Most folks blend a bit of both.

That’s not the tattoo point I wanted to make. There’s a pattern in my tattooed friends’ bodies. They get home state nostalgia tattoos. They come in lots of types, an esoteric homage, a sign, but most common is a map outline with optional home city starred.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

17184687429_3ff3439afa_zHeart where the hometown is. Photo courtesy Amanda Arkansassy. You can check out the livefeed of the show she is co-curating on June 13th, Y’all Come Back Now: Queer Stories of Southern Migration.

17368951392_f4c6b7bee4_zHere’s one of just the region–Southern Illinois. Photo of Matthew Baccus.

17184687499_f1bbe5117f_zMatt and his best friend Meade have matching soil tattoos to indicate Southern Illinois. A home town tattoo is a great mile marker to get when you leave someplace.

This tattoo trope is so common that, when crowd sourcing for an image to use I got enough offers to start a whole USA collage art piece. And Victoria said her tattoo artist told her she would cross over into hipster in a forever way when she got her Minnesota outline.

It’s a Thing.

But it’s not really a Thing I can get behind for myself. I’ve thought about it a bunch, as an ex-patriate Californian of Bay Area origins. I moved to the East Coast in early August 2000. I needed a good dose of time and space from where I grew up and it’s not all healed yet. I created survival tips for returning to my home town. I don’t want a tattoo of my home town.

I do love and appreciate California, especially anywhere but my hometown. The redwoods, San Francisco, Yosemite, Santa Cruz… I even developed a deep appreciation for Southern California, which was a steep climb considering the regional disdain for our So Cal neighbors that Northern Californians instill. (Not all folks feel this way but it is an attitude you’d notice.) I kind of love LA now. I adore Palm Springs, where my beloved Grandmother lives.

When we were driving to Northern CA for my partner to have a work meeting in San Francisco during our post-chemo road trip last Fall, she made the mistake of confusing my hometown of Castro Valley, CA with the famous district of The Castro in San Francisco. The two places are only a 30 minute drive apart, but could not be further from one another in many ways.

I wasn’t so excited to show Dara my hometown, but it was very important for me to dispel any confusing thoughts she had about the two places. I share below some of the highlights.

Castro Valley is known by most folks who live or have lived in the Bay as a place on interstate 580. Coming in from the Central Valley, it’s just past Pleasanton/Dublin, just before Hayward/San Lorenzo. This is what it looks like to enter Castro Valley.
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In contrast, The Castro, is known the world over as a hive for gay liberation and historically was a haven for queer folks who needed a place to be accepted. Now it’s a lot more expensive to live there, but is still a destination for LGBT tourists. This is what you see when you drive into The Castro. Very different from Castro Valley.
15818102011_b0dcdda220_zNote the mega giant Pride flag on the right, the legendary Castro theater ahead to the left.

In Castro Valley, I had Dara drive down the main drag, Castro Valley Boulevard. “The Boulevard” as it is known. Here’s one of my favorite spots from when I was a teen. The Starbucks. (Back in 1995/1996 Starbucks was not yet ubiquitous.)
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In the Castro, we strolled across the street from yet another cute new indie coffee shop in The Castro.
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Things in Castro Valley are pretty regular and suburban looking. Because it’s the suburbs. 15634168219_7eaba6c0e2_z

Things in The Castro look like a vibrant neighborhood in a major metropolitan city, because it’s the city. “The City” is what we would call San Francisco in Castro Valley.
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When I was a teenager my best friends and I would hang out at this McDonald’s a lot. Hanging out at fast food places and Lyon’s were kind of the thing to do. There’s not even a mall in Castro Valley, we would have to go to Pleasanton or Hayward for that.
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When I was a teenager I didn’t find any girls to make out with in The Castro, but we could have smooched here. I don’t think we would have even been able to hold hands safely in Castro Valley.
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The most significant landmark in Castro Valley is the three crosses leaping up from the hill at Three Crosses church, one of the two (maybe more now) mega Christian churches in town.
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The Castro, as seen from Twin Peaks, has a very different significant landmark.
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On my visit to The Castro I was sad to note that the place I bought my first Pride rings is closed… But that was almost twenty years ago so it had a good run.
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In Castro Valley, the streets are just streets.
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In The Castro, the streets are actually paved with rainbows.
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Anyway, now you know why The Castro and Castro Valley are not the same thing. And this is only just a whisper of why I’m not leaping to get a Castro Valley hometown nostalgia tattoo. My mom’s house is cute, but when she talks about selling it to downsize for her and her wife’s retirement… I’m okay to let it go.

I see my friends who have so much pride in and love for the places they come from inked on their bodies. And I’m sure they also feel some complexity, too. Hopefully this is a piece of solidarity for those folks who feel really great to let their hometowns go, and hope to do healing work around it.

2015-05-01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015-04-24

You Should Read Michelle Tea’s Book How To Grow Up

I love Michelle Tea. I can’t say much more than at 22 years old I read Valencia and finally found a literary voice that sounded like my own. Kind of breathless excitement about life, stories and a fascination with other people and my feelings and how they affected one another. Reading Michelle Tea told me I could be a published writer, too. It also told me I could maybe one day be an artist and have an amazing group of inspirational kind of reckless friends and all of those things came to pass.

How to Grow Up is her latest memoir. I have read much of her work over the years and I think it is my favorite. Her writing has evolved a bit, it’s still chatty like a friend telling you a story over coffee rather than writing a story and letting you read it. But the sentences are tighter, shorter and the sentiments are clearer. Also, she has a lot of really deep self-reflection and self-compassion that sharpens what she says through lessons learned. It is familiar to her early work but it is a different and more developed literary voice.

It’s written in essays, which makes it easy to read in chunks, but it is also very difficult to put down!

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I thought at first that the book was basically going to be an almagamation of her great column in xoJane Getting Pregnant with Michelle Tea. (I remember a road trip a couple of years ago where I would take breaks from driving at gas stations and read a couple of articles on my phone.) I was totally wrong about that, the pregnant stuff is only a couple of chapters and it is in a more nuanced, self-reflective tone than the columns.

Her book covers so many topics like doing the work on yourself so you stop dating people who stomp all over your heart, going to Paris fashion week, deciding whether or not to drop being a full-time artist in exchange for steady employment, getting over a huge break-up, having a wedding without spending a fortune, and so much more. I related to so much of it on such a deep level.

1937764487_495d6304f0_zIn November 2007, I had just been dumped by my fiance. I was devastated. My friend Mamone was in DC (I was in NYC) at the Sister Spit show and, knowing what a huge Michelle Tea fan I was, asked the group to pose with this sign to make me feel better! It was such a wonderful gift to receive this photo!

If you out there are reading this blog post, I think you should buy Michelle’s book How to Grow Up. However, these people in particular are going to love it:

Working class folks.

I love how much Michelle Tea talks about money, her feelings about it, growing up working class and oh my goddess how being an artist with an uncertain income is affected by that working class upbringing. I have never read anyone talk about the intersections of those two realities about money–working class/poor childhood and taking the leap to freelancing. It is scary as shit and I need a lot of tools in order to navigate this. I’ve already begun using one of her tools, which is to invite her higher power into

Spiritually curious people.

Michelle opens up about her spirituality, including a Stevie Nicks higher power that helps her through things. Tarot readings, how she meditates, explores Buddhism and explains some Buddhist principles in terms of hilarious real life examples of her love life. She also talks about how meditation has really helped her navigate life with more stillness. And the weird fears we get when we venture into a new kind of deeply religious or woo place with ritual and worrying about getting it “right.” I related so intensely to that I put that sentence in “we” and I’m not going to edit it.

I’m a super spiritually curious person, I’m always interested in hearing folks spiritual practice and woo modalities, so I loved that thread throughout the book.

XO-lv4KJThis amazing photo was taken by my friend Sophie Spinelle of Shameless Photography fame.

12 Step People.

I’m paraphrasing Michelle in a blog post I can’t find that I read a few years ago that she breaks the 11th tradition of AA about being anonymous at the level of press, radio, TV and films–being transparent about where her tools for sobriety came from–because she couldn’t have gotten sober without it. Not telling people about her work in AA would be like lying and acting like she could have done it all on her own.

Anyway, she has so many great recovery gems going on in the book in some ways I felt like I was reading really engaging sobriety stories. I found a lot of good tools for my work in my own 12 step program (for family and friends of alcoholics) and I will recommend this book to my pals in recovery.

I have been thinking a lot about whether or not people who don’t like 12 step language or tools would be put off by the book and I don’t really think so. (I know a lot of folks who had parents or former partners in recovery who have been really damaged by recovery language and don’t like it.) It doesn’t overwhelm the content, and if you take what you like and leave the rest you’ll still enjoy it.

Political people like queers or femmes who critique the fashion industrial complex but also love it.

There’s a whole chapter about Michelle buying her first designer piece, a leather hoodie, and all of the feelings that come up about it from her working class background and history being a vegan punk. How her deeply committed political beliefs are complex and how she had to learn to lighten up a little in order to actually enjoy life and eat enough food to live off of. Um, also there’s a whole chapter about Michelle deciding whether or not to get BOTOX.

20150212_015937Macy’s ankle broke while I was reading the book.

On a personal note, this was the first time I read a Michelle Tea book and actually knew some of the people she talked about because our queer worlds are very small. I had always wondered if I would read a Michelle Tea book one day and know people in real life, and then it happened. Knowing who they were did not change how I perceived them independently of the book and also it did nothing for deepening the story since Michelle writes very well from her own perspective and experience. I kind of thought if I knew someone and read about them it would be a thing but it wasn’t.

(I am always curious about how people talk about people they know and use pseudonyms and all of that because of my blog and the memoir I’m working on. My privacy ethics are very nuanced after years of blogging, but I still sometimes feel nervous about people’s reactions to being in print.)

I highly encourage everyone to buy Michelle Tea’s How to Grow Up and savor it. You will love it.

And then consider picking up Valencia because it rules.

2015-04-23

I’m Back on Facebook after they De-Activated My Account Asking for my Government ID

For background of this piece, read the piece I wrote two weeks ago about the de-activation without notice.

I wanted to tie up the loose ends about this because I don’t like leaving a story hanging and also I want folks who are not using their government name on Facebook to know my story and get prepared.

Photo Collage Maker_jbsNPuI decided it made going to the vet for Macy’s diagnostic work more fun to dress her in costume. The ultrasound techs thought it was really cute.

I thought long and hard about whether or not to engage with Facebook ever again. On principle, I don’t like that they require legal names or name authentication like this. But I have several friends who pointed out I’ve worked hard to get where I am and the body liberation work I do is best served by connecting with folks who I already know.

My connections are important to me and Facebook facilitates them very well. I know people from high school better than if we just occasionally have drinks. I can meet someone and still keep up on their artwork and their lives or whatever. Also, as a queer connector in the world it makes me feel good to help my friends moving to Providence meet my other friends in Providence (real life example). Also, I am a kind of “safe” ally to lots of different communities that my friends can come to for resources. Like a friend’s friend’s child just came out as genderqueer and my friend (who is not in the queer community) came to me for stuff her friend could read. That’s such an amazing thing to be able to do in the world! Improving the coming out process around someone’s gender by being a person with a reach beyond a specific type of community.

I have been off Facebook now for a couple of weeks. A few friends emailed or texted worried about not finding me there. I have missed some event announcements and life stuff for people but I kind of trust that people know how to get ahold of me if they need to. Plus, I trust the Universe/the Goddess and this happened for a reason and I just let it go as long as I needed to.

I was so worried that people thought I blocked them on Facebook! (This is a great reminder to always assume people’s best intentions!)

What I ended up submitting to Facebook on Monday night was a picture of my Driver’s License, which has my government name, birthdate and photo like Facebook asked for. I submitted two supporting documents showing my name as Bevin Branlandingham. One was the Curve Magazine article about me, which I think proves I’m a real person. The other were two pieces of mail. I get a lot of mail to Branlandingham, it’s almost always super awesome.

20150412_174540I’ve been using my time off Facebook to do new things like posting outfit of the days to Instagram with lots of item detail.

I also had a friend of a friend who worked at Facebook and a couple of other people on the inside, but I’m not sure if any of the connections folks offered helped my case or not.

Given what happened to me, folks should be prepared to give Facebook an ID at a moment’s notice. If I had some notice, I probably would have tried to get an alternate something (all of their requested documents are in the screenshots below:

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20150421_172611So, I’m back on Facebook, maybe a little checked out of it, for now.

2015-03-19

I’m Presenting at the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in DC, SEXx Interactive in Philly and Deadline in NYC

Hey dear readers! One of the things I love most is teaching workshops about body positivity, authenticity and sex positivity. It’s a great combination of my passion for performance and information sharing. I have some upcoming appearances I want to share with you in case you happen to be in the area and want to come by.

(P.S. Please introduce yourselves! I promise I will be just a normal amount of awkward. And nobody ever died of awkward.)

10860953_734925559936428_5472055412046050292_oAll photos here are me doing a reading from my almost finished memoir at Drae Campbell’s TELL, a queer storytelling show, last December. Theme was holidays, so that’s why the Santa beer sweatshirt. Photos by BGSQD because it was at the BGSQD, the queer bookstore in NYC.

Washington, DC Area March 21st (this Saturday) I’m on a panel at the annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA.

Sex-Positivity: Educate, Empower, and Self-Define

Time: Saturday, 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Description: Sex positivity is the belief that consensual sexual expression is both healthy and important in contributing to a safe and inclusive campus climate. Sex positivity is grounded in comprehensive sex education, exploring and deconstructing gender norms, and promoting body positivity and self-love. Implementing sex positivity is transformational on a multitude of levels, ranging from your relationship with yourself, to relationships within your community, to influencing policy. Join us for a fun-filled conversation that explores how your feminist club can bring sex positivity to your campus!

Moderator: Kelsey Carroll, Feminist Majority Foundation

I’m excited to join the following panelists: Natalie Dibo – President, Goucher College Feminist Collective, Ponta Abadi– blogger, Sex and Privilege, Bevin Branlandingham, blogger, QueerFatFemme, Sophia Kerby, State Policy & Partnerships Coordinator, Advocates for Youth.

10842183_734927129936271_3649774888158777087_o (1)Me with (L-R), Drae Campbell, Kelli Dunham, Topher Gross and Robin Cloud. All of us performed at Meow Mixx back in the day when it was still a bar on the Lower East Side and when I told that to the audience Robin said it meant we were old. But I thought it was kind of beautiful, to perform in this new amazing space and bring that energy of the old bar poetry/comedy/drag/queer performance scene into that space together. Maybe we are kind of old, but at 36 I still feel like I have a lot of life left to live.

Philadelphia, Friday, May 8th, SEXx Interactive Conference.

My talk is last in the 1PM slot (scheduled for 1:36). I’m presenting a TED style talk entitled “Reclaiming Sexuality From a Society that Wants You Disappeared” about my journey to embrace my sexuality as a fat person who was really disembodied for my entire adolescence and into my young adult life.

SEXx Interactive: a journey for the mind, heart and body taking place in Philadelphia May 7-10th. This event is sponsored by GALAEI, a queer Latin@ social organization, in collaboration with a team of sex-positive community members. We seek to: connect the complexities of the intellectual, spiritual, and physical dimensions of sexuality; create spaces for interaction and conversation across gender, race, and sexual orientation; and support the empowerment of the curious and seasoned alike. This interactive forum will engage participants with informational presentations, sexuality-based performances, “how-to” workshops, and sexually-themed art exhibitions. We expect this forum to expand the viability of a sex-positive culture by uniting those of like mind in the pursuit of knowledge and comradeship.

10644320_734925399936444_1684985250348298_oSpeaking of being old, when I saw the logo for one of the presenting organizations for the SEXx Interactive conference it looked very familiar and then I realized that my graphic designer ex partner, Seth, designed the logo when we were together over a decade ago! Small queer world.

New York City, April 3rd, 7PM Deadline: Works In Progress from Cutting Edge Queer Artists. Facebook event here.

Deadline is at the amazing queer bookstore, Bureau of General Services: Queer Division, that now has a permanent space inside the NYC LGBT Center on 13th street.

I’m performing the work in progress of my TED talk from above at this incredible event curated by Sabrina Chap, the roster of former performers at Deadline is really incredible and inspirational.

LA: May 13-27th–I am going to be in LA for two weeks, visiting family and accompanying my partner while she does some education policy conference stuff and a stunt driving course for her 40th birthday. Since I’m in town if you have a college or retreat center or want to produce a thing and want me to perform or present or do a reading or facilitate a discussion, let me know! queerfatfemme at gmail.com

2015-01-02

Queer and Body Positive Calendars for 2015

I cannot believe it’s already 2015. Where does the time go? I’ve been lost in a holiday/birthday/travel time vortex and I’m scratching my head about being 36 already and have so much I want to get done this year!

What better way to set goals and mark time than with a calendar that acknowledges queer bodies and lots of different bodies! I think it is incredibly powerful self-love to surround yourself with images of hot queer and fat folks who have diverse bodies. Sensitizing yourself to queer and fat bodies that look like yours and the people you love is an important part of loving yourself and/or being a good fat/queer ally.

Like my 2014 Queer Fat Femme gift guide, I am not being compensated for these listings, I just want to get folks connected to great artists and support queer and body positive projects!

Q-were Calendar
I’m really excited about the Q-were project. I met Patience, the photographer, this summer and got to look through the 2013 and 2014 calendars and I was like daaaaang these are basically hot queer stroke books. I loved it. And I was doubly, maybe even triply, thrilled to find out my queer fat femme pal Rahjah is the centerfold for 2015!! Buy the calendar for $25 and support queer body positive diverse art!
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qwere2015
Q-were Instagram
Q-were Website
Link to buy the 2015 Calendar on Etsy

Queer Porn Star Calendar
Another hot queer, sex positive, body positive calendar is the Queer Porn Star Calendar. Included in the spread are April Flores, Courtney Trouble and Chelsea Poe, three of my favorite queer porn stars and really awesome people. (I had brunch with April Flores recently and she’s so wonderful.) I absolutely love what Courtney is doing with their queer porn femmepire at Trouble Films and the amplification of authentic and fun queer sex. If I had been able to see queer porn like what Trouble Films puts out when I was a baby queer it would have changed my life.

queerporncalendarAprilFlores

chelsea-poe-1bTake a minute to sign Chelsea’s petition to ask mainstream porn sites to cease using the term shemale.

Link to buy the 2015 Queer Porn Star Calendar
The Trouble Films Porn Empire

Adipositivity Calendar
The Adipositivity project is a fat acceptance project that goes back several years. “Part fat, part feminism, part fuck you.” Substantia Jones is still clicking away, preserving bigger and better images of fat bodies. The calendar is $19.99 and supports this great art collection of fat bodies.
The Adipositivity Project: The 2015 Adipositivity Calendar is here! &emdash;
Link to the Adipositivity project
Buy the 2015 calendar

Pudge PDX Calendar
I did a little googling to make sure I wasn’t missing any body positive calendars and found the Pudge PDX plus size pin-up calendar! Queer heartthrob Melody Awesomazing is seen in the below photo (far left) as a lumberjack! “Pudge PDX’s body positive calendar includes 13 months with lunar cycles and wacky holidays. Fawn over these fancy folks while staying up to speed with your schedule!”

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Buy the calendar for $25!
Link to Pudge PDX

2014-12-17

Introducing Hell’s Bells, Handbell Butt Choir

One of the things I am most grateful for about my living situation is that my roommate is one of my favorite artists. The things that this femme creates are incredible. Like, stick in your head remember for a bunch of years incredible.

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Last month Damien started getting a bunch of packages and I was wondering what they were. She casually said, Ariel [Speedwagon] and I were thinking of creating a handbell butt choir. I responded, “Oh, really?” But didn’t get to all of my questions about it. Which were many. How are you going to get the handbells to stay in the butt? Do you know how to play the handbells? (Damien has churchy origins so I figured some time in a youth handbell choir was likely.)

Then the night came when Ariel was over (and Lizxnn) and the handbells were opened and I could hear them in my bedroom… clear as a bell. And this was clearly a thing that happened.

So much work went into this choir. Figuring out the mechanics of making butt plugs out of handbell handles. Casting the bell ringers–finding people who were okay with Christmas stuff, playing a handbell with their butt, and at lease slightly musically inclined, plus the more difficult aspect, whether their schedule permitted both performance dates and a couple of rehearsals. Artists in NYC are busy, especially during the holidays!

1907875_734849713259779_1475339536878244670_nPhoto by Zachary Wager Scholl for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

They had to select the songs to play out of the thousands of holiday songs out there. They had to rewrite the music for the songs in some sort of music software Damien learned, and arrange it for handbells in the correct key. And learn what a key was. And decide which four notes were the best for the butts…

10445597_734849459926471_6872289149922360399_nPhoto by Jacqueline Mary for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

I was impressed during this entire endeavor as it unfolded at my house and excitedly went to both performances. The finished product is in the below video. (You can see my little head cackling away with Heather, I’m in the bow in the front row doing backup videography for the first performance.) TOTALLY worth a watch this holiday season!

Not safe for work (unless your work is butt friendly). It’s really funny and heartwarming. Hell’s Bells Handbell Choir!

(Also I was definitely already calling the handbell player second from the left “Jingle Bells” because of their important role in that song… but then after you see the video you know why that name will be seared for life!)

For further holiday related video wonderfulness, allow me to remind all about the amazing Leo Christmas Hammer video from last year. It still makes me cry. Miss you Leo!!

2014-12-05

Black Lives Matter–Aggregating Information and Resources for White Folks to act in Solidarity

I’ve been feeling really impotent around the recent injustice where white policemen killed unarmed black men and grand juries failed to indict them. This is not a new story. There has been systemic killing and imprisonment of Black folks for a very long time.

IMG_20141205_125422From the Instagram feed of Mx Justin Vivian Bond at last night’s NYC protests.

Two songs keep running through my head the last week since the Ferguson grand jury failed to indict, the verse of the 1983 Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel song White Lines that goes “A street kid gets arrested, gonna do some time/He got out three years from now just to commit more crime/A businessman is caught with 24 kilos/He’s out on bail and out of jail/And that’s the way it goes/Raah!”

And the song by Le Tigre, Bang Bang! where they count the bullets that police shot into unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo in 1999, I just keep counting to 41. “There is no fucking way this is not about race./Who’s gonna call 911/When they can’t tell a wallet from a motherfucking gun?”

I feel really impotent because I don’t really believe the system is going to change and I don’t know what to do. Some people take to the streets and protest. I get really freaked out in huge crowds, especially protests. So while other people are taking to the streets to protest I’m wondering what to do to act in solidarity with Black folks and talk about the fact that Black lives matter and the disproportionate imprisonment of Black folks and the killing of Black folks by police officers is genocidal and it is wrong.

I think “justice” system is a misnomer. This shit has happened again and again why is it still happening? Why are the prosecutors who work with the NYPD all the time responsible for grand jury indictments? Why aren’t we addressing systemic racism in the police force? Why aren’t these police officers being imprisoned for murder? This article kind of sums up how I feel about the “justice” system, with the exception that I took criminal law and it made me sick to my stomach to realize criminal prosecution is basically a chess game where people’s lives are at stake.

What seems different now is that there is more more public outrage than ever before and more movement. Yesterday I saw a white plus size model I follow on instagram post about her outrage about the Ferguson grand jury and the Eric Garner grand jury results. I realized that by not saying anything I was not doing anything. So I needed to at least say something.

Something I know that I have the ability to do is signal boost, so here are some of the writings, actions and movements that have meant something to me that I want to bring to my readers. It’s important to keep reading and staying engaged in things, even when we feel powerless. There are still things to do. Maybe the system won’t change but we can open up people near us. We can call in folks who are doing and saying racist things, especially right now.

As Chris Rock tweeted, “Just found a new app that that tells you which one of your friends are racist. It’s called Facebook. #FergusonDecision”

December 18thHealing Justice for Black Lives Matter: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha started this by deciding to donate all of her proceeds from tarot readings the day of December 18th to the Black Lives Matter movement. She has catalyzed healers from all over the US to do the same (now they’re up to 50+ healers, in NYC, Toronto, Chicago, Oakland, Minneapolis, etc…). Check out the ever evolving event page to connect with folks in your town or who are offering herbal medicines, etc… to benefit this cause.

Read the Herstory of the Black Lives Matter Movement: It was started by three queer Black women and has since been twisted and co-opted. Know the herstory when you use the hashtag.

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

10835209_827282524012516_9146511200801306480_oFrom the Humans of New York Facebook page.

Check your language, and speak out even when it’s scary: I like when folks remind us that Stonewall was a “rebellion” not a “riot”–language matters in these movements and I think that the Ferguson protest was/is a rebellion. I also think it’s important to continue to signal boost Black lives matter. Sure, every human is worth dignity, but right now Black folks are being targeted, and we’re acting in solidarity with them.

Read 12 Things White People Can Do Because, Ferguson: “I am challenging white people to consider carefully whether failing to speak out or act because of those fears is justified when white silence and inaction mean the oppression and death of black people.”

Stand-With-Monica-Jones-web-lrg1

Read about Monica Jones: Monica Jones is a Black transwoman who was arrested last year just for walking down the street by two undercover cops. The cops decided that because she was a Black transwoman she was soliciting sex work. This article breaks down “Walking while trans” as “a succinct summation of the interconnected biases against trans women (and trans people more broadly, sometimes called transphobia) and against people who trade sexual services for money or other things (sometimes called whorephobia) and bound up in that special sauce of racism.” Further, it talks about why it’s so important that Monica Jones is fighting back.

She was just deported this week by Australia when she arrived for a speaking engagement in a way that seemed clearly pre-meditated by Australian Immigration Officials.

Read about why our “justice” system is not about justice. If you’re feeling apathetic about what is going on, it should rile you up.

If you get freaked out about talking to people about racism, confronting folks or calling them in, read this masterpost about talking about Ferguson. It’s dense and full of info, and you need to give it some time, but it could really help you have these conversations that are scary and hard. It’s important to confront racism when you read it (on facebook) or hear it (at work/in your family/etc). As white allies, it is important to not just say we’re allies but do the work.

We want to give you tools to support that work and that dialogue. If you’re facing tough questions from friends, family, colleagues, or even perfect strangers, we hope this will help you answer them. We need to collectively build support and awareness to build a better society, and part of that means challenging those who assume “we are already there,” exposing those who would further marginalize already disenfranchised communities, and educating those who do not see why any of these things are issues in the first place.

Redistribute wealth: If you have means and want to redistribute wealth to help the grass roots folks on the ground, this google doc has info on various 501(c)(3)s mobilizing to help.

I was really moved by what the widow of Eric Garner had to say about the officer’s “apology” for killing her husband. So far the video has already got over 5 million views. If you can’t watch a video there’s a transcript here.

“No, I don’t accept his apology. No, I could care less about his condolences,” she continued. “He’s still working. He’s still getting a paycheck. He’s still feeding his kids, when my husband is six feet under and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids now.”

Marianne Williamson wrote a great article about the deficit America has regarding race relations after the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson.

We need to apologize, and we need to make genuine amends. America needs to pay long overdue war reparations, and until we do, we will not move forward in any meaningful way. America needs more than forgiveness; we need genuine repentance, and restitution for our national sins.

A black person is killed by police every 28 hours. We need to do something. Confronting racism in our workplaces, families, communities, everywhere is something we can do to begin to create change.

In the words of my friend Mizz June, “Fight darkness with light. Combat rage with love. Unexpected reactions create change.”

If you have other articles/resources that have things white folks can do about racism, please post them in the comments.

2014-12-01

Queer Fat Femme Holiday Gift Guide

It’s Cyber Monday (I kind of hate that it’s a thing now but it’s a thing now) and I am fresh from watching so many movies about how the spirit of the holidays is not about capitalism it’s about feeling warm and generous. I, personally, love all things glitter and magical and really appreciate the holidays in a take what you like and leave the rest sort of way. I love that people decorate their houses in glitter and lights. I also enjoy supporting small businesses and queer owned businesses. So if you’re going to participate in gift giving, I’m super into connecting people to small businesses. I’m also into giving people good gift ideas.

My holiday gift guide this year is not compensated–I included small businesses owned by folks I know and indie businesses suggested by my followers who commented on my instagram and facebook posts asking for their favorites. I also threw in a couple of wild cards from more corporate origins that were just good gift suggestions for folks struggling with what to give. I’ve got ideas for the femmes, queers, masculine of center, pets and woo/spiritual folks on your list!

My astrologer once told me that money is energy in 3D form and I totally believe in being mindful about putting your energy out there, especially when you’re doing holiday shopping. So here is a big list of possible holiday gifts for all kinds of folks on your list, enjoy!

IMG_20141201_151407The Medusa Bustier modeled by Art Queen Caitlin Rose Sweet from the Leather Coven Instagram.
Leather Coven, “LUXE LEATHER AMULETS FOR ALL BODIES by chicano FTfeMme papi Mateo” was by far the most popular suggestion when I crowd-sourced gift ideas, but they were already on my list! I met Mateo at Hampshire College at a queer conference I performed at with Heels on Wheels and was impressed forever with the design Mateo was wearing! I’m so excited to see Leather Coven taking off lately, with queer babes of all sizes sporting some of these gorgeous designs. I love the Pentagram Harness ($56 and up depending on your choice of hardware) and the Medusa Bustier ($52+) and love love love that the designs work well both for fashion and for kink!

Leather Coven takes Etsy gift cards, which is great if you don’t know your intended’s measurements, or you can just order the gift and send the measurements in when you give the gift. (Their instagram is worth a follow–@leathercoven!) Cyber Monday savings through 12/1 (that’s tonight!) enter code CYBERSAGITTARIUS at check out.

IMG_20141201_151436Vinyl & Sequin Bow Tie as seen on GNATGlitterKink Instagram in the Gender: Queer photo series with Jacob Tobia and Sunny Frothingham. Photo by Chelsea Pieroni.
GNAT Glitter Kink. For vegan kink & fashion harnesses and for other accessories in an array of flamboyant glitter vinyls! I especially love the Vinyl & Sequin Bow Tie for the flamboyant Dandy on your holiday giving list! $25. Use code CYBERME for 25% off through December 1st!

Brownstargirl Tarot! I’ve had my tarot read by Leah Lakshmi Piepzana-Samarasinha many times since 2008 and she’s so amazing! She offers readings all over the world via skype, google hangout, phone and in person where she might travel (based in Toronto right now). Tarot, one and a half hours: $60-140 sliding scale, Tarot and numerology combination reading: $100-160 sliding scale, Group, couple or two-person readings: $80-130 sliding scale. I love what she says about sliding scale: I appreciate my clients with access to financial wealth sharing it as a form of economic justice and accountability. I appreciate this because I love working with other raised or currently poor and working class folks, and if you’ve got money, honey, your paying at the higher end of my sliding scale allows me to make a living while providing high quality divination to badass broke geniuses who have access to less cash.

If someone you know loves woo, get them a reading with Leah! It’s going to help center them for the New Year, or gird them for the Winter ahead!

bobby-pins-print_thLockwood Shop is owned by my friend Mackenzi, who has exceptional taste in gifts. I’ve successfully shopped for 90% of my holiday gifts at her store over the past few years. For bobby pin identified femmes what about this bobby pin print? ($28)

Whisky stones ($22.95) are a great choice for the drinker on your list. For the little one (or space inclined one) on your list, the Galaxy Night Light is so magical. ($8) You should cruise the website to see all of the other things they have, including lots of Queens and NYC inspired gifts. And if you’re in Astoria definitely stop by and get one of the Shop Keeps to help you shop!

il_570xN.681311055_io9hJessika Fancy is a queer femme in Portland, OR with some amazing jewelry and fashion designs as well as gem essence blends. I adore the Full Moon earrings (out of stock right now) and the Queer Magic Femme Hands patch ($11). Maybe someone you know is going through a rough patch and a protection blend aura spray for $14 might help them out a bunch?

Jessika Fancy is also part of the Spinning Wheel Apothecary, that makes seasonal woo boxes!

il_570xN.603522703_jbzvAdam Rabbit Jewelry: So many raw crystal designs at really great prices! These raw amethyst chunk earrings are only $15! Raw crystals are so powerful. Amethyst is great for healing and developing patience and calm. I really appreciate crystal jewelry designs that leave the crystals looking like a rock.

Peacock_necklace-berryKelly Horrigan Handmade! Kelly is really great queer designer and I love all of her stunning pieces of jewelry and clothing. Her peacock feather leather designs are so striking (I’ve seen them in several colors) and for my queer holiday gift guide I had to highlight her new Yoni necklace design.
Yoni_necklace2Regardless of whether or not you identify with a yoni, you can totally wear one as a necklace. Through December 2 you can get 45% off in her online store with code CYBERWOW.

slide3The IRing is a little kickstand device that you adhere to the back of your smartphone case and it acts as a vertical or horizontal stand for your phone. My partner Dara has one and it’s actually really handy. The adhesive doesn’t screw up your phone case, allows you to take it on and off though it is very sturdy once applied. You can hang your phone from a hook, a carabiner, or watch videos. It’s such a great stocking stuffer.

The reason Dara is involved with it is that there is a special fundraiser benefitting a non-profit supporting school improvement in the urban school community. If you buy an IRing for $20 and enter the code “SchoolsThatCan” (all one word) $8 of your purchase price goes towards Schools That Can.

P.S. I star in a video Dara made to promote the fundraiser.

il_570xN.540347972_el51Mister Sister NYC is a vegan bakery run by a queer in Queens. I’ve had the vegan fudge and it’s so delicious! You can get a vegan fudge gift pack for $12! Would make a great stocking stuffer for your vegan or non-vegan pals.

il_570xN.691982428_6iplFemme Anarchist. So much amazing queer and feminist schwag! I love the above glitter queer broaches for queer visibility! ($9.99) Or the Femme necklace for Femme visibility! ($12.99) I also love the trans inclusive feminism always pin, cats against cat calls pin, riots not diets patch, pizza slut necklace (to my friends: no one else get that for Miss Mary Wanna, I already ordered it), or baby got books necklace. A stocking stuffed with prizes from this shop would rule! Use code FEMMEFATALE for 10% off!

IMG_5032Age of Eleven. A friend of mine has been raving about the concept of a crystal dick. That’s right, crystal power in the form of a penis and insertable. So imagine the healing power of a quartz phallus. For $249 you can use it as a toy or a massage wand or an altar piece or whatever you can imagine doing with a penis shaped crystal. They also sell yoni eggs, earrings, necklaces and other jewelry.

cats-are-the-new-kids-3Best in Show SF has a great online store with tons of unique dog and cat items. I especially love the Cats are the New Kids / Dogs are the New Kids tee shirts. ($29.95, sizes S-XXL) Also comes in tote bags and coffee cups.

Paco Collars: I absolutely adore this word bracelet ($40-$50) for a simple way to say something custom to a person in your life. I think the leather is sooo handsome and I really like their font choice. Paco Collars also has a custom dog collar feature on their website and some really great leatherwork for dog and cat collars.

image6For the woo person in your life who loves affirmations, I really enjoy the I Can Do It page a day calendar from Louise Hay. A friend turned me onto it a couple of years ago and I find it really uplifting and enjoy writing folks notes on the back of the pages. It’s $8 right now on sale at the link above. If you need it to be on sale later I just got a circular in the mail that offers free shipping and holiday savings with the code 6124.

Self Serve Toys: Literally anytime someone mentions Albuquerque to me I tell them they need to go to Self Serve Toys and say hi to my friend Matie (even people I’ve never discussed sex toy shopping with). She’s owned and operated this store for five years! It is a gorgeous store and very well-curated.

My gift suggestion is the NJoy Pure Wand from Self Serve, but pretty much anything you need from them you can call and get recommendations. The NJoy Pure Wand is a great indulgence present ($109) that is a welcome addition to a sex toy supply, especially for people who enjoy a g-spot or p-spot stimulation. Check out Matie showing you how wonderful this toy is in this video. “This toy feels different than anything or anyone you’ve ever had inside you.” Shipping is free for $100 orders or over, or flat rate $5 for anything less than that.

il_570xN.683521950_cge4Right in the Childhood has cute masculine of center accessories, like this Lego Wonder Woman Tie Bar. ($17)

il_570xN.679721099_7cshYes Ma’am Designs (you know I love that name!) has fantastic accessories, including this flagging red duct tape clutch!

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