Bevin's Blog I'm blogging the relentless pursuit of my joy

2010-01-25

I Try To Love Myself As Much As She Loved Me

I met Liz when I was 11 years old, when she decided to marry my absentee father.

Dad and Liz got engaged 9 days after they met as adults. They both grew up in the same mid-size city in California’s Central Valley and were high school classmates. An accident at the factory Dad worked at brought him to the emergency room where Liz was an intake clerk.

Once they were engaged, Dad called me to tell me about it. I remember speaking to Liz on the phone, she was so excited to finally “have a daughter”. She said it over and over again, that she’d always wanted a daughter.

Liz had two sons, 19 year old Richard Luke was living in Germany with the army. (I could never wrap my head around why that kid had two first names.) The youngest, Shawn, was almost 14 still lived at home. My Dad moved in with them right away.

At this point in my life my dad was intermittently in the picture. My parents separated by the time I was 15 months old and my mom worked really hard to make sure he had a presence in my upbringing, even though we lived two hours away in the Bay Area. My mom ran out of steam covering for my dad’s lazy parenting by the time I was 6 or so, and I hadn’t really seen him more than a couple times a year. The logistics of getting a kid for a weekend when you live two hours away is a little complicated for someone who doesn’t make a lot of money and barely pays his child support as it is.

By the time I was 11 I was horribly shy. I was always a fat kid and being a fat kid turns from cute to, well, graceless around the Tween years. Of course they didn’t have that cutesy word “Tween” in the 80s, back then it was just fat and awkward.

I was well-aware of my fat by then, everyone in my life teachers, peers, relatives and my beloved television wanted to remind me of the fact that I was fat. I was a total bookworm. In books I didn’t have to see the differences so starkly between me and the main characters. I could easily blend into the Baby Sitters Club. I always identified with cosmopolitan native New Yorker Stacy. She had fluffy blond hair and good fashion sense.

In real life I had fluffy golden brown hair with streaks I got in the summertime at camp. I longed to be normal and thin.

Liz was fat, too. Not just sort of in between fat, either, like my mom and other female relatives were at the time (though now, of course, most of them are around my size). She was short and round, with a round face, black curly hair and a mouth that was always smiling. She was half Italian half Mexican and very girly.

The first time we met, Liz was ready to be a huge part of my life. I was mistrustful and didn’t understand why she loved me so much already. I was used to adults liking me, since as an only child I learned to socialize well with grown-ups and I was very bright. But the way she just immediately loved me, in that I-loved-you-before-I-knew-you way that parents talk about felt so weird. As I continued into adolescence and hated myself more and more, the more suspicious I was of her unconditional love.

My mom wasn’t what I would call emotionally nurturing. She was a stressed out single mom putting herself through undergrad. There was always a contingency and a reward to meet. Usually it was “get good grades and you’ll get this” and “lose weight and you’ll get that”. I was exceptionally good at the former. The fact that Liz was so proud of me regardless of my latest accomplishment felt bizarre. My weight was never an issue.

She had lived in the same town almost all of her 40 years. Everywhere we went when I visited she either already knew someone or got to know someone new. She would always introduce me as her daughter. I would blush when she said this because I thought it wasn’t true and it never made sense to me. I also felt a little weird because she was so open and friendly with strangers. She had a huge heart and was extremely welcoming to strangers. She was proud of being friends with all sort of people, including a big biker crowd from her younger days. I was jealous of her self-confidence.

I didn’t get to go to Dad and Liz’s wedding because of some last minute drama having to do with some friend of the family who was supposed to be my chaperone on greyhound that didn’t work out. I went for Thanksgiving a few weeks later and watched the wedding video so many times over the next few years each frame feels like my own memory.

Her family was huge. Five girls, all fat, most of them had five kids of their own. Everyone would gather at Liz’s mom’s house the day after Thanksgiving to make tamales. It was a huge ordeal, making hundreds of them, with many different stations going at once and different groups responsible for different parts of the assembly.

The house was cozy and humid, smelled sweet with a tang of chili and meat and filled with talking and laughing. I was placed in the masa station, spreading a white dough made from cornmeal dough, lard and salt on the insides of damp corn husks. Liz and one of her sisters or her mom would put meat and an olive inside each one. One of the kids would fold them into little pockets. They would then go into a steamer for awhile and then placed into freezer bags by the dozen.

I remember my step brother Shawn complaining that the other kids in the family had to be teenagers before they got to spread the masa, but somehow I was the exception. Liz ignored his complaint, and I kept assembling tamales.

They treated me like one of their own, and I came back year after year with Liz to spread the masa.

My visits to my Dad increased exponentially once Liz was there to motivate them.

Liz loved to go garage saling, where she taught me to haggle and bought me lots of stuffed animals I didn’t need but I certainly wanted. We would pile into her car with her friend Terry, who was a little fatter than Liz. I remember one time Terry pulled out a seat belt extender so that she could use the seatbelt in the car, they were both very excited that their older cars with seat belts made for very small people were just a little bit safer for them.

We spent a lot of time crafting. She would set me up with a cross stitch or a beading project and we would sit at TV trays side by side watching TV and laughing. When I let my guard down around Liz I felt very comfortable. She talked about what it would be like when I had babies and how she couldn’t wait for me to have a daughter. I was just being adolescent and contrary when I claimed I would refuse to let her put my babies in ruffle butt tights.

She loved clothes. I remember when she got approved for a Lane Bryant credit card she was ecstatic and immediately maxed it out on new things from the catalog.

She loved the color pink. She collected elephant everything. Whenever I was at a loss for what to get her for Christmas I would get her a blinged out elephant knick knack and she would love it.

Richard Luke got married in Germany. Liz was devastated that she couldn’t go to the wedding, but a transcontinental trip was entirely out of the question financially. I promised she would have a lot of fun at my wedding and was already working out in my head how I would handle the mom/step-mom dynamics.

Liz told me about her ex husband a few times. Richard Luke was born out of wedlock and later she married Shawn’s dad. He was abusive. Her struggle to leave him was epic and she had to work her way off welfare.

Liz and Dad loved each other a lot, that was clear. My dad hit my mom, which was why she left. I am unsure whether or not Dad was ever violent with Liz, though I remember a screaming fight I witnessed when I was 16 or so that drove Shawn out of the house with me in hot pursuit. From what I could tell they mostly fought about money and Dad’s drinking. They also expressed their love pretty regularly, too. She saved one dried flower from every bouquet Dad ever gave her in a jar under the TV.

While Liz was outgoing and confident, and dressed as well as she could manage with not a lot of money or access to cute plus size clothes, she did talk about losing weight. Not as regularly as my mom, but of course I didn’t live with her so I’ll never know for sure. She had a lot of chronic health problems that her doctors always blamed on weight. She was regularly dealing with asthma, bronchitis, diabetes, among other things. She also complained of aches and pains and trouble walking.

Being fat was hard for her, too. She didn’t always fit in seats. Had she ever made that transcontinental flight she would have been in a lot of pain from the armrests.

I remember one time we were in our pajamas and I saw her belly peak out from under her loungerie. It had a dimple in it, below the belly button. I thought it was so odd and was slightly horrified. I developed the same dimple myself by the time I was 20. I hadn’t been exposed to naked fat women before, I didn’t know what that kind of flesh was supposed to look like.

She dealt with being fat very differently from my mother. Mom switched us to nonfat milk really early in my childhood, I don’t remember ever having butter instead of margarine. We stocked our pantry with diet food. Things could have tasted so much better if we focused on moderation, vegetables and using real ingredients.

Liz would cook full force with fat. One time when I saw the giant bucket of lard from the tamales I was shocked. But she never really stopped, and her cooking was incredible. I think she would occasionally diet.

Around 1996 the drug Fen-Phen started making its rounds. It was a weight-loss drug made from fenfluramine and phentermine. It was heavily marketed and people were seeing pretty immediate results. I was about to graduate from high school and my mom suggested I start taking it. I blew her off, as I often did, especially about weight loss stuff.

A year or so later Liz told me over the phone that she had been taking Fen-Phen to help with her medical issues and was losing weight pretty quickly. She was excited about that.

In early 1997 valvular heart disease and pulmonary hypertension started showing up, mostly in women who took the drug. It was taken off the market in September of that year. While I was in college I saw Liz and Dad less because I was busy with school and my social life. She stopped taking Fen-Phen and I never did notice any difference in her weight.

In mid-1998, toward the end of my Sophomore year of college, I went to visit Dad and Liz for Dad’s graduation from Community College and his 50th birthday. It was really important to Liz that I be there. We did all of our regular stuff, crafting, hanging out. She told me that weekend she was trying to get in touch with the child my Dad fathered in high school but was put up for adoption, and that Dad was putting up resistance.

Just three months later I was coordinating move-in at my dorm. That morning I had been getting ready and looked outside my window at the sky and felt really peaceful and happy, which was unusual for me at the time—I was starting to come out of a several year long depression and was taking steps to stop hating myself. I got a message from my mom to call home right away. When I talked to my mom that night she told me that Liz had died.

Liz woke up, kissed Dad and went out to the living room. About and hour later he got up to join her. She was on the couch, dead from a heart attack. She was 48 years old. That week she had been complaining that her asthma was acting up. Her heart was weakened. Probably from the Fen-Phen.

I was devastated and in shock. Mom offered to come with me to the funeral but I said no. I didn’t want to add to the confusion and weirdness with the ex-wife dynamic. The weekend was bizarre and hard. I had never been to a funeral before. My dad was drinking again. He had me sleep on Liz’s side of the bed, and I didn’t know how to say no, that that was weird and bad boundaries and I didn’t want to sleep on my dead step-mom’s side of the bed.

We’re all Catholic, at least mostly. The Rosary was the night before the funeral and it was open casket. I walked up the aisle and burst into hysterics that I didn’t want to see her like that. My Dad’s mom, who had been really cruel to me as a child, was the nicest and most nurturing I’d ever known her to be that night. She brought me into the pew and told me I didn’t have to see her like that if I didn’t want to.

The mass was big and weird and there were hundreds of people there. I felt this obligation to stay with my dad, even though I probably should have just gone with my grandparents. His house became this huge party with all of this drinking and pot smoking and at 19 years old I was still pretty square and still wasn’t drinking a lot in college. I felt uncomfortable, unsafe, and scared. I didn’t know how to articulate what I needed because I didn’t know how to advocate for myself.

I went back to school. I tried not to deal with it. I did pretty well.

I am angry that I only knew Liz when I was an adolescent and didn’t appreciate her the way I wish I had. I am angry that her physical heart was affected because her doctors treated her weight and not her symptoms. I am angry that Liz never got to go to any of her children’s weddings. I am angry that Dad never joined the class action suits against the makers of Fen-Phen. They paid out over $14 billion in settlements. But at the same time I certainly didn’t want to have to think about it or interact with him that much to do the work of making it happen.

Over the years little things occur to me. The way Liz always wanted to make people feel special and at ease, the way she was welcoming. I get that from her. I loved that about her. Her huge metaphorical heart cannot be weakened by a pharmaceutical company’s greed and exploitation.

I think about the plus size resale store I work in now and how much she would have loved it. I work hard at body liberation activism because I want to make it easier for people to live in this world and I don’t want Fen-Phen to ever happen again. I think about Liz every time I see an elephant tchotchke. I can’t wait to have a daughter.

*I feel compelled to share this story now, as an initial draft, as a way of honoring Liz and bringing her into my adult life. Especially in light of the perpetual crop of weight-loss drugs on the market, the fact that I keep hearing ads for them on the radio and in side-bars on websites, and the fact that on Friday the LA Times and New York Times reported that the FDA in America chose to recommend “stronger warnings” on the sides of Meridia bottles while the European Union recommended a ban of the product. I guess posting this story is my way of turning my rage over that news into productivity.

2010-01-17

The Winter Blah Blah Blahs

I have alluded subtly before that I suffer from the Seasonal Affective Disorder. It fucking sucks. I am a very logical person* and there are so many real things in life that bum me out, so it is made ever so worse to feel so very all alone, anxious and sad just because of my body’s reaction to the time of year.

Never one to suffer in silence or suffer without trying to do something about it, I have sought out a few remedies, both from my vast experience dealing with significantly terrible life altering changes and from my friends. Below I share them with you, cherished reader.

Most of these tips are good to use whenever life is getting you down, for many other reasons than just lack of light. They are also super low cost/free.

Tip One: When you feel like things are out of control, figure out what you can control and control the hell out of it.

A friend of mine told me this about two years ago and it works wonders when I am feeling anxious or worried, both of my own creation and because of external madness. Small ways I take control are to stop what I am doing and think about micro steps where I can get something small done immediately. “What do I have control over right this second? What can I do to exercise control?” Seeing progress, even a little bit, is really helpful.

Another way to establish control is on my environment. I am not a born-organized person. In fact, I am a bit of a “clean slob” (things are always clean, but I tend toward clutter strewn about). I am an avid follower of FLYLady, who teaches you how to get organized in baby steps–for free**. In just three days, 15 minutes at a time, I transformed my really messy and cluttered desk into a clean workspace.

I then proceeded to write a really amazing piece of art I had been procrastinating writing down for almost a decade.

When I am feeling ever so sad and I can’t motivate myself, I think in terms of just a few minutes, just fifteen minutes, whatever I can do to get something done. It really does make me feel better.

Tip Two: Live your life according to the quotes on your tea bags.

I got this tip from World Famous *BOB*. She was having a tough time and decided to do this for one week. Such small but magical quotes as:

“On with the dance, let joy be unconfined” -Mark Twain

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” Cesare Pavese

And “A romance without friendship is like a mansion built upon the sand.” *BOB* credits this for asking out her current beau again. I’m happy to say they are still going strong.

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*BOB* enjoys a cupcake on the chaise at Re/Dress NYC.

There’s something to the generally benevolent and uplifting sentiments on the sides of those tea boxes and the little tags hanging out of coffee cups. They are meant to help you feel better about the world, and help you connect a little bit more with the world around you.

In my entire Lesbian Tea Basket I couldn’t find a single quote on a tea bag. I should stop buying my tea from Trader Joe’s.

Tip Three: Come up with a cutesy way to describe how you’re feeling.

Previously in this blog I presented Glenn Marla’s definition of Tragic versus Depressed. I have decided to call my Seasonal Depression the Winter Blah Blah Blahs. It’s just far more adorable and easier to combat when the scary monster is something you can change your relationship to by renaming it.

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Me and Glenn Marla at his performance series Heavy on Thursday night. He is wearing a glittery ascot. I am wearing a Looks Good From the Front hairpiece.

Tip Four: Get light anywhere you can.

What I did was to amp up the volume on my nail color. My day to day color is Fuschia. I think I made a big leap the time I decided to go for fuschia at the nail salon about two and a half years ago. I kept noticing that every time I looked at my nails I smiled. So I committed to it. I like the Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear-fuchsia Power.

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It really doesn’t matter if your manicure is perfect or messy, the joy is all yours. That’s my niece Etta Pearl grabbing my finger when she was 30 days old. She’s almost one now!

Given my Winter Blah Blah Blahs, I decided to amp it up a little bit. I went to the nail salon for my $7 manicure and got day glo pink. It is insanely bright, and definitely doing its part to impart a little more light on the world.

Get creative and find something that you can make a little bit brighter!

Tip Five: Asking for help.

Asking for help is a skill. Vulnerability is a sign of strength. I’ve talked about this before. I asked for help and got a lot of really useful tips from my friends. A reminder from Golda at Body Love Wellness to take a walk everyday when the sun is at its highest. I try to walk 30 minutes a day, and instead of doing it at night with Macy I am doing my best to get out there at noon. It has made a huge difference. So has taking more Vitamin D and an emergen-c in the morning. My butch ironworker roommate is loaning me a UV lamp to bask under for additional help.

Its been about two weeks since I started getting really bluesy and I am feeling much much better. It takes a lot of diligence on my part, which sort of sucks, but anything worth doing is worth working for.

Happiness is always worth working for.
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*And a Capricorn with a Virgo Rising, if that kind of thing matters to you, which it does to me.
**I know a lot of queers who follow FLYLady and it really applies to all lifestyles, though at first glance it seems just for ladies with kids.

2009-12-11

The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Not Blaming it on the Fact That You Don’t Like Femmes

Backstage at Cupcake Cabaret, World Famous *BOB* told a story about how a (now former) beau had called her high maintenance.

“I called my drag mom and asked if she thought I was high maintenance. She said ‘Of course you are but you maintain yourself. You’re like a classic car, if someone is going to drive a 66 Caddy they will. If they want a Honda they should drive a Honda.'”
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World Famous *BOB*. Next Cupcake Cabaret is February 7, 2010! Photo by Syd London.
I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. It is so frustrating when people comment on how I am high maintenance.

Number One: Yes I am high maintenance, and take your value judgment off of that, it has nothing to do with you.

Number Two: I don’t expect my partners, lovers or anyone to bear the brunt of this and do any more for me than I would ask of a friend.

Number Three: I really hope that anyone who wanted to date me or be my friend would, in some way, be excited about the shows I put on, the art that I create and the other amazing whirlwinds that happen around me. Not to mention how fabulous I look while doing it. The most work that manifests for lovers of mine is a high impact social schedule and if I’m carrying more stuff than you I’d love it if you offered to help.

Number Four: I think everyone can be high maintenance in their own ways, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a matter of whether or not your maintenance is compatible with another person’s, really.

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I do admit to often running late but that has more to do with Farmville and my lack of time consciousness than how high maintenance I am.

In fact, as a woman with high self-esteem and a lot of confidence, I probably require a lot less emotional work and support than a typical partner.* I am really low maintenance in a lot of ways.

I also have news for you–Femme does not automatically equal high maintenance.** Most of the powerhouse Femmes I know are, in fact, pretty self-sustaining. The most high maintenance thing about going out with us is scheduling dates!

Dating situations have been broken off with me and many friends before because the person “Just doesn’t date Femmes”. Often this is accompanied by an explanation that Femme is high maintenance and they don’t have those kinds of resources to date a Femme.

Historically I’ve always accepted that, too. You can’t do anything about someone’s preference for or against Femmes. And I am certainly not going to argue myself into someone’s bed–I don’t chase once I get “No”. I gave that up many years ago. The “Yes, no, yes, no” game is something straight girls are taught to play and I don’t do that.

But frankly, “I don’t date Femmes” is a flimsy excuse and used far too often as something to hide behind when the true reason is something different.

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I love Cherry Poppins.

Formerly I understood “I don’t like Femmes” to be a preference, after dating for a few dates I never stopped to say “Wait a minute, why don’t you tell me what’s really going on?” When I sat back and looked at the situation I realized “I don’t like Femmes” was an excuse generally hiding emotional shit or other bars to dating that had nothing to do with my Femme identity.

If you have paid even a little bit of attention to this blog, you will know that Femme comes in a myriad of forms. Femme is fat, skinny, born boy, born girl, born whatever, wears high heels, wears stompy boots, wears flats, wears sneakers, wears boots at a construction site. Femme always wears make-up, Femme never wears make-up, Femme surprises you, Femme is emotionally giving, Femme is emotionally needy, Femme is emotionally stone, Femme is pretty middle of the road, actually but sometimes has the Seasonal Depression.***

You get it. Just like there is no one right way to BE Femme, I refuse to further support anyone’s blanket assertion that they “Don’t like Femmes”. I feel like I’ve met enough different kinds of Femmes that there for sure is a Femme out there who would fall under the realm of who you might be attracted to.

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Femmes at Femme Camp.

There are those who say “I just don’t do the Butch-Femme thing.” Oh honey, me neither. I can’t stand anything compulsory and if someone is doing chivalry out of a sense of role or antiquated obligation I can smell that shit a mile away. I like people who treat me right because they like to make other people feel good and they have good home training. Chivalry is not exclusive to boys or butches, I know plenty of chivalrous Femmes and friends who are sweet, caring and nurturing

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I don’t know a person more chivalrous than the very Femme Jessie Dress. She beats all at catering to my every desire before I even know I have it out of a genuine love for hospitality.

It’s not the 50s anymore. And while Butch/Femme couplings are, of course, alive and well, there is no one out there telling you how you have to be if you’re in a Butch/Femme partnership (and if there are, please direct them to me as I’d like to have a lively debate on my podcast).

Femme, for me, is stand alone. It does not rely on my partnership with anyone, butch, genderqueer, trans, whatever. Just as, I would hope, your identity doesn’t rely on who you happen to be fucking at that moment, too.

I date lots of different people and that occasionally includes Femmes. While it is true that I have a few “types” there are plenty of people I’ve been attracted to who meet the characteristics of what I am looking for and presented and were embodied in super different ways.

Also, just because you have a bad experience with one Femme does NOT mean the way she/he acted has anything to do with how another Femme will act in a relationship.

In sum, this is a call to those out there who are using the generalized “I don’t date Femmes” as an excuse for whatever is going on that makes you want to run away or never give Femmes a chance, here are some things to think about instead of blaming it on Femme:

1. If you’re not into someone, try just saying “I’m not feeling chemistry for you.”
2. If you’re not feeling emotionally available, try doing the work you need to do on you BEFORE you start dating.
3. Recognize that dating someone who is more like you (for example, when you are a genderqueer who only dates genderqueers) is sometimes a default to what is easy and familiar. A doppelbanger.
4. Femmes are not all “high maintenance” –I challenge you to redefine what you mean by “high maintenance” and put words to the ways in which you find someone’s relationship needs hard for you.

(Some of the above are direct responses to recent actual incidents in my Femme friends’ lives.)

And the following I say to everyone with all the gentle, loving, kindness, I-know-this-work-is-hard sweetness I can muster:

5. Think about the ways in which Femme phobia and anti-Femme bias in your attraction might have more to do with internalized misogyny, fear of loss of power, loss of visibility and other marginalization in the queer community versus just a “preference” as the CraigsListers likes to say.
6. Being queer is about having choices and having a non-default sexuality (as opposed to the heterosexual paradigm).
7. If you’ve never dated a Femme before, challenge yourself to look past your perception of anyone’s identity and onto their characteristics as a human, see if there’s some sort of road block in your attraction that manifests as Femme, fat, race, dis/ability, age, transition status or any other characteristic that might have more to do with your own unexamined bias.

Anyway, I’m not trying to sway the tide or anything. Some people really just aren’t into something/a gender presentation/body whatever, I get that. But having heard of so many people lately running into the “I’m not into Femmes” thing and also know plenty of primarily faggot identified butches/transmen dating Femmes that I see a disconnect. I want people to broaden their horizons, that’s the best part about being a queer!

This post is especially dedicated to the genderqueer friend of mine (who shall remain forever anonymous) who had dated other genderqueer and transguys exclusively for so long that they were intimidated by Femmes because of the bra situation.

*Of course, that always comes with the sweet side-effect of inspiring other people to “do the work” to get to my level of confidence and emotional maturity, which often means they are “not ready” to date me or whatever other euphemism for that I’ve gotten.
**Lest we forget that butches/boys/bois/men can often require just as much if not more preening and primping. My ex, a genderqueer named Seth, required 45 minutes after her shower start to finish on her hair and fashion for the day. She looked good, though, and I always appreciated it.
***If you’re still confused about what it means to be Femme, buy the Femme Family Coming Out Zine. It’s cheap and it supports the Femme Conference. It will also teach you a thing or 20 about Femmes. Promise.

Femme Family Zine #1: Femme Coming Out NOW AVAILABLE

I’ll have some of the excerpts from the zine that I recorded at the launch party on later episodes of FemmeCast. Until then you should get a hard copy of this GORGEOUS piece of work.

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Me & Damien, Kinky at Kinkos.

Femme Family NYC is ever so proud to announce our Femme Coming Out zine. It includes work from 20 femme contributors ranging from poets, activists, illustrators, photographers, performance artists, musicians, students and more! We’re also sending all proceeds from the sale of this zine to The Femme Collective, to help fundraise towards the next Femme Conference!

Contents include prose, personal narrative, poetry, illustrations, love letters to lost Femme friends, photography and more!

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It’s gorgeous. Ally & Sophie at Kinkos. We were on a deadline.

To order a copy online, email paypal [at] femmefamily.com, or just go to PayPal.com and donate $8 or more for hardcopy, or $6 or more for a digital copy, to paypal [at] femmefamily.com. Be sure to include your address if you want your copy mailed.

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Chicago, reading his piece from the zine. All contributors are Femme identified and give you just some of the amazing breadth of Femme talent out there.

We hope you enjoy reading this zine as much as we enjoyed making it! We’re really proud of all the contributors. Our next zine is on the theme of Art – Femmes who make art, critique art, and/or live art. Deadline is March 1, 2010. Send questions or submissions to info [at] femmefamily.com

Thanks and femme ferocity,
NYC Femme Family | femmefamily.com

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Taueret leads us in a moment of rage after the moment of silence for Trans Day of Remembrance.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Femmevolution | Corrine A. Schneider | p 3
Welcome Home: Femme Wading in the Queer Sublime | Lainie Dalby | p 4
When I Was a Wee Little Thing | Alysia Angel | p 6
From Fox to Femme | Jordan Fox | p 8
Revolutionary Steps | Rachel Schiff | p 9
I Think I Came Out the First Time I Didn’t Fuck Someone Back | Hana Malia | p 10
Gender Wishes | Sparkle | p 12
Crunchy Granola Femme | Stacey Langley
Albright | p 13
Words for Femme | Hadassah Damien | p 14
Art | Beth Slutzky | p 16
Poems | Taueret Manu | p 18
Something in My Closet | Sophie Rogers-Gessert | p 20
She Doesn’t Believe in Labor Unions | Lola Dean | p 22
One Day in My Early Thirties | Rexy Radical | p 22
An Omen of Good Faith | Chicago | p 24
Queer Femme Pop Diva | Nicky Click | p 25
Low Femme Low Life | Gaby Cryan | p 26
Prototype | Sarah Pinder | p 27
Shameless Portraits | Sophie Rogers-Gessert | p 28
A Different Kind of Herstory: Longing for Femme Mentors | Amanda Harris | p 30
The Missing | Bevin Branlandingham | p 32

2009-11-24

FemmeCast Video Blog #1: Activist Stretches

Filed under: FemmeCast,Video — Tags: , , , , , , — Bevin @ 11:38 am

During the last terrible no good very bad Mercury Retrograde, my pink desktop computer bit the dust. It was a shame, especially because I had just gotten comfortable using Audacity to edit FemmeCast, and also I have all of my backlog of podcast recordings on there.

I was given a technology upgrade in the form of a permanent loan of a Mac by my friend and hardware savior, Chris La Femme. The bonus awesome of the Mac is that I can finally start doing video podcasting, since the editing on the PC required expensive software my no-budget with no advertising podcast doesn’t allow.

The learning curve is steep, even on the rumored to be intuitive Garage Band, so the next episode of FemmeCast has taken longer to churn out. But I was able to do my first video!

This is me and Taueret, my new Ferocity Correspondent. We’re doing a stretch she taught me that she learned on the Equality Ride.

I’m now working on a series of “My favorite tattoos” starring many of my favorite queer fat femmes. Stay tuned!

2009-11-20

Turning Rage Into Productivity: Transgender Day of Remembrance

In case you haven’t heard, there were two brutal murders of queer people of color this week (details below). The same week as Transgender Day of Remembrance. I can’t really articulate my feelings, mostly, they are a mix of rage, overwhelm, sadness, grief, irritation and helplessness–a lot of crying while reading twitter. I also can’t believe shit like this is still happening. Matthew Shepard was murdered over a decade ago. I remember those vigils, but for some reason these hit closer to home. Maybe it’s because I have been out of the closet so much longer, maybe it is because more of my friends and lovers are gender nonconforming now. Maybe I am more wholly in my body and self so I feel entitled to express the rage in my heart when it happens instead of dissociating.

Vigils are important to mourn and act in solidarity with people. I encourage all of you out there reading to turn your rage into productivity. Have dialogs about how hate crimes legislation and more prisons might not be the answer. Make art. Talk to people who don’t know what it is like to walk the world as a gender nonconforming person. Take a stand against violence against sex workers. Do something.

This is what my heart friend Leah is doing in Oakland. It’s so fucking articulate.

PRESS RELEASE

TIME: Sunday, November 22, 3:30pm
LOCATION: Mac Arthur and Grand Ave. at Lake Merritt

CONTACT: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Liz Latty
PHONE:
EMAIL: morethanavigil at gmail

BAY AREA COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO HOLD VIGIL FOR QUEER AND GENDER NON CONFORMING TEENS MURDERED IN MARYLAND AND PUERTO RICO

OAKLAND, CA – Outraged at the murders of two queer and gender non-conforming teenagers last week, Bay Area queers and allies will gather at Lake Merritt this Sunday for a candlelight vigil and open mic to mourn and brainstorm ways to keep their community safer from violence.

Last Friday, 19-year-old Jorge Steven López-Mercado got into a car with Juan Martinez-Matos, 26, who later said he had been “searching for a prostitute.” Martinez-Matos murdered, beheaded and dismembered López-Mercado after, he said, he discovered that López-Mercado had male genitalia and was wearing feminine clothing. Martinez-Matos then set fire to Lopez-Mercado’s remains and left them on the side of a road. Martinez -Matos is now in custody and has confessed to the murder. His bail is set at $4 million.

The same week, in Baltimore, Maryland, queer fifteen-year-old Jason Mattison, Jr., was raped and stabbed to death in his aunt’s home by an adult male, a family friend with whom, according to a Baltimore police spokesperson, Mattison allegedly had a “forced sexual relationship.”

Queer activists say they worry that López-Mercado’s murderer will successfully invoke the defense of “gay or trans-panic” to justify the brutal killing. “The fact that Martinez -Matos is saying that López-Mercado was ‘wearing women’s clothing’ indicates that he might try to say he was ‘fooled’ and therefore ‘forced’ to kill López-Mercado for their gender identity,” Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, one of the organizers of the Oakland vigil said.

“This is completely inexcusable,” Liz Latty, another organizer of the rally this Sunday, said. “It’s blaming the victim. We unequivocally denounce the way that the lives of queer and transgendered people, sex workers, people of color, women and low-income people are devalued and seen as disposable. We especially denounce the ways in which feminine-presenting sex workers of color are incredibly targetted for violence.”

Referring to López-Mercado’s murder, police investigator Ángel Rodríguez Colón told Univisión, “These types of people, when they enter this lifestyle and go out into the streets, know that this could happen.”

“We are outraged at the murders of López-Mercado and Mattison,” Oakland vigil organizer Latty said. “We, queer and transgendered people in Oakland, are mourning these senseless deaths. Yet we are also a resilient community. We wish to stand in solidarity with those in Puerto Rico and Baltimore who are surviving despite this invisibility and injustice.”

Bay Area organizers of the vigil have been in contact with friends of López-Mercado and are hoping to coordinate memorial events and future actions with the Puerto Rican and Baltimore queer communities.

Harry Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the FBI in Puetro Rico, said that the agency will monitor the investigation since federal statutes regarding hate crimes are implicated. Puerto Rican lawmaker, Charlie Hernandez, who authored the Hate Crimes Act of 2002, has been asking officials to consider charging Matos under that law. It would be the first time in Puerto Rico that a murder would be classified as a hate crime. According to the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, López-Mercado is the tenth murder victim of a hate crime in Puerto Rico in the last seven years.

But Oakland vigil organizers say they want a different kind of justice that doesn’t rely on increased policing or punishment. They say that the prison system has not made life safer for victims of violence, especially those who are queer and transgendered people of color. Organizers say that violence against queer youth of color is only exacerbated by increased police enforcement, which disproportionally targets and locks up low-income people, people of color, sex workers, and gender non-conforming people.

“Hate crimes legislation and more police patrols would not make our communities safer. It would not have prevented the murders, and no punishment will bring these two men back,” organizer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha said. “Systemic homophobia and transphobia killed López-Mercado and Mattison, who like other queer or gender non-comforming youth of color, faced barriers like street harassment and discrimination in every facet of life. What could’ve actually saved the two young people’s lives are things like free or affordable public transportation, an end to housing and employment discrimination against people of color, queer and trans folks, and the decriminalization of sex work.”

“We don’t know how Lopez-Mercado identified, gender-wise, right now,” added Piepzna-Samarasinha. ” What we do know is that transphobia is a huge part of why they were murdered. As we continue to receive information from Lopez-Mercado’s friends and family members about how Lopez-Mercado saw their gender, we will change their pronouns to the ones they preferred. We want to work to create a world where all people are free to live in safety with any gender expression they desire.”

Vigils mourning López-Mercado and Mattison will also take place this Sunday in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Amherst, MA, Tara Haute, Abilene, TX, Atlanta, and Durham.

2009-10-14

Guest Post: My Queer Community

Filed under: Guest Post — Tags: , , , , , — Bevin @ 1:28 pm

This is a guest post by Melissa D’Andrea, fellow Girl Scout Gold Awardee and radical queer organizer. Melissa wrote this in response to some HRC Glamdalism on her Facebook page.

I’m gonna use ‘I’ statements on this one, cuz everyone who’s commented on this status is more than familiar with that model. I am not a part of the “gay community.”

I’m queer, and what I do with my cunt has EVERYTHING to do with what I do with my cash. I am my sexuality, and I am my politics. For me, I cannot and will not separate them. That would be lethal.

MY queer community is anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-genderist, anti-heterosexist, anti-sizeist, anti-capitalist, anti-ableist, pro-immigrant, pro-healthcare, pro-worker, sex positive, against police brutality, the prison and miltary industrial complexes, and the list continues.

My queer community believes that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” for real… It’s not just a quote that would be found on an HRC t-shirt.

In my community, standing up to injustice means standing up to injustice. Regardless of whether the perpetrator is HRC or the Mormon church. I don’t give a fuck about what it looks like to the outside world. The political, middle of the road, half-assed solutions that only benefit the white, the privileged, the cisgendered and cissexual are not and never will be good enough for me.

If you take out gender identity from a bill in order to get the sexual orientation part passed, it’s selling out, it’s not a victory and it’s not a stepping stone. It’s shitting on your neighbor to benefit yourself. I do believe that changing legislation is extremely important, but in what is such a flawed system, I do not support the idea that it is the only solution, nor is it always the most important solution.

Most great social justice movements involved illegal activity, many of them, the stonewall riots (being a very popular one for all LGBT folk) included, involved acts of vandalism. The law is not on the side of the oppressed, the lawmakers tend to be the oppressors.

I am willing, and ready, and have already fought for your right to get married (even though I believe the institution of marriage should be dismantled altogether) because it is your right. I will stand by you if you wish to have the right to join the military. (Even though I would prefer it if beautiful queers stood up and fought back against the killing machine that is the U.S. Military.)

But it is my obligation as a citizen of my queer community to stand side by side with those who publicly challenge the largest organization that claims to be the authority on fighting for LGBT rights, and claims the title “human rights campaign” and in actuality is only fighting to protect the rights of a gay,white, affluent, male,cisgendered,cissexual, American, adult population.

-Melissa D’Andrea, SophisticuntSupremeFemmetacularSisterfriendLoverGrrrl

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Melissa at the International No Diet Day BBQ I threw in May

2009-10-01

The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Breaking Up and Declining a Date Invite

Yesterday the fabulous Vagina Jenkins posted a Facebook Status that said the following:

“Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowbois!”

My response was “I disagree. The cowbois raised today will be cougar fodder for you and me when we’re 50, Vagina Jenkins.”

Vag: “Hmmmm, true! I revise my previous statement to say ‘Mamas, do let your babies grow up to be cowbois, as long as they keep it packin’ and know how to treat a lady…'”

Bevin: “How about ‘Mamas, do let your babies grow up to be feminist cowbois with good hair, appropriate equipment and manners.'”

Vag: “Yeh, but now it sounds like it might be offbeat….BB you are an amazing woman…you know that?”

Bevin: “I do know that, but I never ever tire of hearing it. Especially during my currently highly jaded and annoyed attitude towards my romantic life. This is when I turn to my art and just do shit so that the tiny queers coming up now know how to love themselves, treat a grown ass woman and be good ethical humans. Even if things aren’t going well for me now they can go well for a sassy 30 year old queer fat femme in 2019.”

IMG_2329

I’ve had a hard time articulating a way in which I can turn my latest rage into productivity. In the absence of some flowery prose, I will tell you what is giving me the rage lately:

People who don’t know how to break things off with someone properly and/or who cannot gracefully turn down a date.

First, I will give you a list of real life examples from my life and my friends lives in the last couple of months to illustrate why my rage is at a boil.

Example A: You go out with a girl on two proper marathon* dates with a total of 3 hook ups that involved going all the way. You break up with her via picture text message. A picture text from a popular nighttime drama set that films in New York City.

“[This show] is filming by my work again, it made me think of you. Also you’re awesome but I don’t want to go out with you anymore can we be friends?”

Rage.

Example B: You get a cutesy email from a Femme asking you out on a casual date because you have been flirting for a month and she’s trying to cut to the chase. You respond with a five paragraph emotional dump going on some long tangents about your private emotional business, including some massively hurtful assumptions about the Femme’s relationship to food, along with about four excuses as to why you can’t go out with her including that you’re not really interested in dating anyone anyway. Follow that up with going on a date with her roommate 2 weeks later. Just for good “I was lying about that stuff anyway” measure.

Rage.

Example C: You’ve been dating a girl about six months. You publicly claim to be very chivalrous, but instead of breaking up with her in person, you call her on the phone. While she’s at brunch with her friends. Break up with her then.

Rage.

Example D: I was just reminded of this tonight, so I’m just going to reiterate it here. Get the full story on Episode 2 of FemmeCast. But how about you’re engaged to be married to a Femme, due to your made up depression (to conveniently explain away your affair with her friend) you’ve decided you need some space to sort your emotional mess out so you move away to a place with no lease so you can move back in with your fiance again. Oh, and she’s moved to another place that she can afford on her own but has made all of these accommodations because you are supposed to move back in with her in a couple of months. So you take her out of your top friends on myspace and the same day dump her in an email.

Rage.

Listen up, people. This goes for Femmes and non-Femmes alike, even though all the above examples were butch identified women or transguys. There are, unfortunately, a million more examples every queer who has ever dated can come up with just plain rude and ridiculous behavior. Scoundrels and bad manners come in all gender presentations, and while curing scoundrelhood is beyond the scope of this blog post, I am going to teach you bad manners queers a little something.

A little something about acting right.

When a potential suitor complimented another girl’s cleavage on my facebook page, Alysia Angel gave me the term “That’s just no home training!” I’ve found that phrase really apt and helpful in the last few months.

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Look, everyone makes mistakes and everyone screws up, especially with regards to other people’s feelings. But it doesn’t take more than a moment’s consideration to figure out how to best handle a sticky situation where someone wants something from you, romantically, that you can’t or won’t give. Mostly, it just takes courage.

The easy way out is to text a girl instead of having a conversation with her about how you don’t want to see her anymore. But seriously? If you live in the same metropolitan area as someone, you need to go see them and break up with them. If you’ve had more than one date with a girl that involves sex, same deal. Meet over coffee. Yeah, it’s awkward. Nobody ever died of awkward.**

And sometimes it feels like in New York City everyone has to have a long distance relationship because interborough travel can take up to 2 hours. But seriously? Your girl is at brunch and you can’t just hustle your ass to meet her afterwards if your breaking up with her is so ridiculously urgent?

Chivalry does not end during the courtship phase. It goes all throughout the relationship and on into the break-up.

And as for how to decline a date invite graciously? A simple “No thank you, I don’t feel that chemistry between us” will suffice. Nothing you can do about lack of chemistry. It’s inarguable. Way better than some bullshit “I’m not over my ex” or “I just don’t feel like dating right now” because that only makes you look like an asshole when you start hitting on her friends on OK Cupid.

And for crying out loud, please don’t go into WHY you don’t feel like chemistry is there. I don’t want to hear some convoluted story about why you don’t like fat girls or why you don’t like people who love themselves or why you’re threatened by a girl with an advanced degree or a high IQ. No chemistry is fine. I’ll just assume you don’t like femmes or tall people or glitter or whatever I need to in order to preserve my pride.

In defense of the majority of people I have dated or tried to date will say I have been party to plenty of graceful “no, thank you’s”. My ex, Seth, drove all the way up from Philly to break up with me. We’d been together for three years and at the time I didn’t stop to think about what a class act that was, but it was. It was really classy to make that 90 minute drive. And I’ve had a few date declines that even involved semi-colons and nice words about how hot I am. Semi-colons are my favorite punctuation. A good date decline is awesome and makes me feel really good about having those people in my life as friends.

Someone told me tonight “It’s cowardly to break up with your fiance in an email.” Yes. Yes it is. So I just implore all of you out there reading to cowboi up and don’t be a coward. Do the right thing and just be the best version of yourself when you’re delivering news someone doesn’t want to hear. Respect her and respect yourself. Take a couple of breaths before you respond to hysterics with more hysterics and use your “I” statements.

Keep in mind when you’re breaking things off with someone you’ve had the luxury of thinking about it a long time before she has, and give her the chance to catch up by being clear-headed yourself.

There are lots of hot people out there who read my blog, I know because some of you are my friends on Facebook. (Damn, you’re looking good.) Anyway, you all need to do right by each other so that we can have a little more peace in the queer community and a little less rage.

Oh, and by the way? Girls talk. Do wrong by one and a network of 10, 20, maybe more girls will hear about it. It is the blessing and the curse of our community.

Since I know there are plenty of you out there who are all “But Bevin, I have this oh so complicated situation and I can’t do anything but this douche move*** in this instance” I challenge to by saying NO! There is still a classy way out of it. Email me and I’ll help. My service to the community or whatever. Femmecast at gmail dot com. I’ll get the Gay Dr. Phil, one of my very favorite cowbois, to help me out.

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Why do all the classy boys in my life drink cheap beer?

*Marathon is 6 hours or more. Basically when you go out for a solid part of a day.
**Rachael gave me that one. It’s my motto.
***The show Greek on hulu.com is better than Gossip Girl.

2009-09-15

The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Surviving Getting Stood Up

I got stood up on Sunday night. Since one of my Queer Fat Femme values is to turn rage into productivity, I decided to share with you my Stand Up Survival Guide.

First, we need to define what Standing Someone Up really means. I feel like a date canceled on the same day, either by previous communication or a no show is a stand up. Of course, if a date is canceled with proper notice AND explanation (they have a health issue, unanticipated legitimate conflict) AND apology AND offer to reschedule, that’s not being stood up. Disappointing for sure, but life sometimes happens. I also want to point out that communication issues run rampant in dating and sometimes scheduling snafus come up. This is why I like to text a few hours before a date to make sure we’re still on*.

Mercury is in retrograde right now, which puts an additional cramp on communication, so I like to indulge that with extra benefit of the doubt.** However, even when loosely planned, if a time and day are blocked off to see one another in a romantic context, I consider it a date. When rejection is coupled with the additional disrespect of my time and energy, the offense is quadrupled.

So what do you do when you realize your date isn’t showing up? First, I always text and then call.*** This is where the pre-emptive text is helpful, because when you’re not hearing from them it gives you more time to create a back-up plan.

The best back-up plan is to corral a big group of people to go out and have a really killer night, whatever that means to you. My favorite night of being stood up was when I was 23 and in grad school and dating this girl who lived about 45 minutes away. We had a scheduled date planned for weeks and she called three hours ahead of time to cancel because she had to “study”. She didn’t need to study, but it was a flimsy excuse and I saw right through it. So I made some calls and had the kind of night out she would kill for and took lots of pictures. This was before myspace, but I’m sure if we had been socially networked I would have posted them. The best revenge is living fabulously.

I also like to take steps to move forward in my dating life. Often being spurned by one person helps me get past my completely irrational fears of rejection and is an impetus for bravery. So whether it’s asking someone for a date (on that fateful day in 2002 I totally asked out this 19 year old fledgling drag king at a workshop I was doing and she said yes) or just sending a flirtatious Facebook message to a friend of a friend, it’s important to take steps to keep your dating life moving past the disrespectful douche who stood you up.

Occasionally, you can’t come up with a killer night out back-up plan, or maybe you’re not up for it, so thus I propose a Personal Pity Party. This is especially good for those of us who identify as Pollyanna Optimists. We have to occasionally indulge in self-care and boo hoos and maybe that’s soaking in a bath, reading a sad book, watching a ridiculous movie that will absolutely make you cry*****, talking on the phone to a long distance bestie and whining about the “why me” of it all and dating disappointment in general. It’s really important if you have a Personal Pity Party that you commit to snapping out of it the next morning.

Since my weekend had already been quite whirlwind and fabulous and I was a bit under the weather with an irritating cough, I came home from an incredibly productive Femme Family meeting, ordered soup, talked to my BFF Spunky (who sadly predicted the truth of “She’s just not that into you”) and watched the Patrick Dempsey hit “Made of Honor”. Since I had already asked someone out (who said yes, btw) this weekend, I figured that was enough moving forward and I committed myself to doing things to enhance my wallowing for Sunday night only.

I woke up Monday feeling much better emotionally, though with a lingering cough, and still went to yoga to make sure my body was going to be feeling good this week, too.

I have a lot to say about rejection, which I will save for another post. However I am a big believer in “the sooner the better” in terms of ending something you know isn’t working and not wasting time. Time is a precious resource–my dates should show me respect first and foremost and always respect my time. Salvaging the time wasted by an irresponsible date is definitely turning rage into productivity.

*In fact, my Wednesday date texted me tonight to ask if we were still on, as she had written down the wrong day.
**Mercury’s Retrograde is like the Michelle Trachtenburg character Georgina Sparks on the hit show Gossip Girl. Comes to town and leaves everything all effed up for her own amusement.
***Sunday’s standing up was so out of left field I actually believed the girl might be in the hospital. That’s how benefit of the doubt/Mercury retrogade I was going with.
*****A few titles come up with at the Re/Dress counter last week were Steel Magnolias, It’s My Party, Hope Floats, Beaches.

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