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

2016-10-11

My Coming Out Story

Happy Coming Out Day! Every year on October 11th the LGBTQ community and our allies celebrate Coming Out Day as a way to commemorate and sanctify an important moment in the lives of queer people. It’s also an important way to help our children, families, friends, co-workers and communities know that you are a safe space for LGBTQ folks to come out to.

bevinchrisamandadamienFor this post I’m using photos I found in my archives from the Femme Family Pride Coming Out as Femme party that Femme Family produced in June 2009 at Stonewall Inn. L-R, Damien, Me, Amanda and Chris.

Coming out is such an intensely personal decision, since being queer is somewhat of a seemingly mutable way of being different. (“Passing” as straight is easier for some than others, and it is often tied to gender presentation.) I thought in honor of the occasion, and the fact that I told this story to my friends Jenna and Rick at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner on Friday, I would share it here!

Coming out is easier said than done, and for me it was really difficult. I am 37 years old, which means I grew up in a pre-Ellen era. I noticed a pretty big cultural shift when Ellen’s character came out as a lesbian on her then sitcom in 1997. It was a watershed moment when, more and more, people were aware that LGBTQ folks were openly living their lives queerly. I feel like most kids who came of age after Ellen came out have a different experience within American culture.

bevinrachelsophieMe, Rachel (check out her work getting Queers, Women and POC into tech sales) and Sophie (check out her incredible body positive pin-up photography business).

I didn’t know gay was a thing that you could be until I was 14 years old. I had literally never understood that any of my mom’s friends were gay, that any celebrities were gay or that people throughout history had been leading queer lives.

I met the first lesbian that came out to me at Girl Scout Camp when I was a Counselor-in-Training. At the time that was a big no-no (even when I became a counselor a few years later it was very understood that lesbianism was don’t ask don’t tell) but we were friends and it came up. I felt a huge paradigm shift knowing that people were gay and it started helping me understand myself better. I wasn’t the kind of kid who grew up knowing I was attracted to other women, mostly I was attracted to gay men. (Hello, Keanu Reeves and George Michael.)

bevinbridgetMe and Bridget, who just launched her amazing business coaching! She’s been a little bird supporting me with branding, web stuff and business for years, so excited for her new venture!

I began questioning my sexuality when I was 15. I had no one to talk to about this so I just kept it as a running wonder in the back of my mind. My mom came out for the second time around then.* It was not a bonding experience for us. My Junior and Senior year of high school was really difficult for our relationship, since mom was going through a divorce and my grumpy selfish step dad was still living with us because we couldn’t afford to sell the house (recession) and mom didn’t want to risk me having to leave our great school district. Not a recipe for anyone to be at their most compassionate emotional self. In my perception at the time my mom was not a safe person for me to discuss my sexuality with because we were not safe people for one another emotionally. My mom is awesome and she has been a great safe space for queer kids for years and years as a teacher but we were very much water and oil in high school.

I know now that a teacher at my school was gay (she’s friends with my mom!) and if only teachers were allowed to be openly gay in the mid-90s, my life would have been a lot easier.

miasiaMiasia is an incredibly talented belly dancer from Washington, DC and whenever I possibly could get her up for a gig in NYC I did just that! You should check out her classes and performances!

I came out to myself for real when I was 16 years old and could actually articulate internally that I was attracted to another woman. I told three very close friends who were not in my day to day life. When I got back to high school for my senior year I shoved all of that internal realization deep inside, in spite of a low-level crush on a girl in high school, and tried to keep fitting in even though I never actually fit in.

katestonewallLaurence and Kate Huh, a really vital archivist photographer of NYC queer life.

I never dated anyone in high school, all dance dates were strictly platonic and even though I had some flirtations with boys here and there nothing ever happened. I knew how to keep my armor up as a trauma response to intense bullying I experienced in late elementary and middle school. To this day I still have to work to let my armor down where sex, attraction and flirtation are concerned.

damienstonewallperformanceOne of my favorite performances of Damien’s is “Femmes Bash Back” based on the Femme trans women of color who began the Stonewall uprising by throwing purses and heels at the cops raiding the Stonewall. Let that fictional Stonewall movie be forever proved wrong, since they rewrote history so some white cisgender gay dude threw the first brick. Stay tuned for Happy Birthday Marsha! It is important that our history be preserved accurately and not white-washed.

In college I met a lot more gay folks, especially gay men, and almost everyone was in the closet for some period and eventually came out. It’s so weird to think about that time because now it’s so normal for people to be openly gay that I forgot that I knew a lot of these folks before they came out formally. Even though I knew in my heart I was attracted to women (I identified as bisexual at the time because I hadn’t realized all my big crushes were on gay dudes) I didn’t think I should come out because I hadn’t dated or even kissed anyone romantically. It was all wrapped up in fat girl body self loathing and not feeling like I deserved access to my sexuality. Why bother coming out if I was inherently unfuckable?

shomidjingOur Femme DJ Shomi Noise.

Now I know that my identity has nothing to do with anyone other than myself. I know I’m Femme regardless of whether or not I am partnered with a Butch, I know that I am fuckable whether or not I’m presently having sex, I know that I am kinky even when my floggers are collecting dust.

bevionstagestonewallIf my college-aged self could know how I would turn out, coming out of the closet would have been way easier.

At the beginning of my Junior year of college, at 19 years old, I was really thinking about coming out for real in spite of not having kissed a girl, and then just days later I met my first girlfriend. I was her Resident Advisor, she was a resident on my floor, she had Ani DiFranco posters all over her room (a very late ’90s tell). She wasn’t out to her roommates but as we became friends she came out to me and then we held hands while watching Mary Poppins late one night and it became wildly easy for me to come out because I was young and in love and wanted to tell literally everyone I knew about it. Plus saying, “I have a girlfriend!” is way easier than saying “I need to let you know I identify as LGBTQ.” Since being Femme presenting is invisibilizing to many folks, coming out is Groundhog Day repetitive for me. I tend to drop a “My partner/my girlfriend” or when I was single “My ex-girlfriend” as a way to come out rather than just telling people directly. Somehow that is more seamless for me.

arielbevinEarly photo of me and my friend Ariel Speedwagon.

I’ve had a few more coming outs in my life, like when I got to law school and decided to come out as a lesbian instead of bisexual, when I came out as Fat and Femme, and when I shifted to using queer to identify my sexuality because it better encompassed non-binary gender identities. There’s also coming out as a medical marijuana user (as Melissa Etheridge says,”I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally, whether they consider it so or not”), and coming out as non-monogamous which for me just means I like to be a little free to ethically explore connections with people as they pop-up and adhere to agreements with the person I am partnered with.

melissasjMe and my friend Lissa and Sarah Jenny.

I just can’t endorse coming out enough. I was scared, so so so scared before I came out because I thought I was going to lose friendships, loved ones and access to my dreams. For me, living life authentically, and loving myself for all of me, allows me to feel so free and relaxed that I am more able to focus my energy on making the world safe for other people to do the same. I have had SO MANY DREAMS COME TRUE because I am openly 100% of the time my authentic self. I think global peace starts with inner peace, and we need to be committed to doing the self care and self expression we need to feel at peace.

femmefamilyintention

Our logo intentionally had wings hugging the heart. Sophie designed it and Chris designed our flier.

Queer allies: amplify queer voices on your social media. Tell people you are a safe space and show your support for LGBTQ people. Work to learn how to be a better ally. It’s still dangerous in many spaces to be out as a queer person. Queers who live in countries that are more accepting of queers, learn more and more about LGBTQ refugees and borders and how being queer is sometimes the fight for your life. Offer your resources. I’m hoping to amplify more ways to do that in the coming months as I learn more about displaced LGBTQ folks.

Let’s all make the world more survivable for LGBTQ people and work to make “coming out” obsolete. Wouldn’t it be cool if people got to just grow up to be whoever they really are and love whoever they love and do it to whoever they feel attracted to and have consent and all that stuff?

Happy Coming Out Day!

*It turned out that my mom herself had come out of the closet for a few years in the early 80s. She even rode in Dykes on Bikes in the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1980! After a really traumatizing relationship with a horrible woman, my mom went back in the closet when I was four, dated men and married said step father who started out cool and then got awful and selfish and then after her second divorce she dated a woman and came out for good. So complicated, right? I didn’t come out to her until I came out publicly when I was 19.

miasiaonstageI love that in this photo Miasia is holding herself much like the wings of our logo are holding the heart.

metaueretandjesseTaueret and Jesse were both at the Femme Family Coming Out Party but somehow not in my batch of photos so here’s a cute one I found at a party in the same time period when hunting through my archives. TT made that beautiful hair fascinator herself. She was so talented.

 

 

 

2013-04-19

My Time With the Heels on Wheels Glitter Road Show

Early in March I had the opportunity to attend two gigs with Heels on Wheels at a couple of colleges in the Northeast. I have known about HOW since its inception, mostly because two of my besties (Heather Acs and Damien Luxe) conceived it. Much like the Sister Spit tour, I always wonder what it would be like to “get in the van” and bring my work around. I’m lucky that part of my income comes from going to colleges to do workshops and performances, so I get a bit of that, but never in the big group. Getting to do those two gigs was a little taste of the road-trip-meets-art-adventure without ever having to forsake a shower because there were too many people and too few showers available in too little time (the greatest road show complaint I hear from everyone who goes on any tour).

Ever relentlessly documenting my life, I made a little photo essay of our trip to Hampshire College to present a workshop on confidence (Femmepowerment–from the stage to the street) and perform as the evening entertainment for the Five Colleges Queer Conference. I had a really great time and it was an honor to be in such extraordinary company for our 16 hour adventure.

We got in the van. All nine of us, Femmes, in some way or another.
IMG_4850.JPG

There was the HOW Production team, Heather and Damien. The HOW touring artists, DJ Shomi Noise and Lixznn Disaster. The folks on the East Coast leg of the tour (me and Kirya Traber). The photographer for the day, Nicole, and the amazing Cristy Road, catching a ride with Heels on Wheels to go to her own workshops/readings.

I'm on tour for one day. #howroadshow Cristy Road, @shominoise @kiryat Damien Luxe not pictured heather acs Nicole and Lixznn.

Our fearless driver & navigator. Lixznn disaster & Nicole ayla mules. #howroadshow

I learned early on that Lizxnn drives the van like a boss. Seriously, not at all intimidated by the size and power of that huge van, as we rolled over curbs as needed and got where we needed to go (Northampton, MA) safely.

IMG_4836.JPG

The van was a pretty amazing experience. Imagine how wonderful, inspirational and loud it is to be surrounded by chatty Femmes. It is the most at home I ever feel. When my too much is exactly as much as everyone else’s. We learned that all of us had been raised with working class single moms. We had a spontaneous performance art moment where those of us who had no dad were told by those who had bad dads all the things we wished we’d heard growing up.

For example:
“You’re so pretty exactly as you are.”

“Here, let me show you how to build a bookshelf.”

“I support you growing up to be a working artist.”

“I love you unconditionally, no matter what.”

(As an aside, it’s really powerful work to reparent yourself as an adult when you learn what unconditional love can look like.)

We decided we were going to perform that at “Fuck You Dad,” Damien’s annual father’s day/birthday party performance show.

IMG_4839.JPG

IMG_4837.JPG

Shomi did some casual community organizing from her wifi hot spot on her phone.

As a former drag king troupe producer, I am familiar with traveling with a group of folks and creating itineraries. We were given explicit timing instructions of when we would leave and could expect to return. We knew it would be a long day. Our lunch stop ended up being a dunkin donuts in the middle of who-knows-where Massachusetts because of timing.

IMG_4843.JPG

They were pretty amused with us flowing in and out, getting breakfast sandwiches and using the bathrooms in turn. There was a delightful little flier on the counter.

IMG_4841.JPG

We also went through the workshop we were going to give that day, confirming who would do what. It was great to get to create with those amazing minds. It was also just so incredible to roll up to the various pit stops we made with this group of Femmes nine deep. Being a weirdo out in the world is pretty usual for me, but being a weirdo with other weirdos is a spectacle is empowering beyond words. That’s Femme visibility.

This is a laminated copy of the hanky code I got from an ex lover that I gave to Damien for her van warming party in 2010 and now hangs in the van. The ex lover was a Butch Virgo, if that explains the lamination and lengthiness of the code.

IMG_4845.JPG

IMG_4854.JPG

IMG_4848.JPG

There was considerably less gear than we would have had if the tour was for more than a 16 hour trip with no overnight.

IMG_4852.JPG

IMG_4855.JPG

We stopped at this crazy natural foods store in Northampton (?) that had more fruit and Easter candy than I expected to see.

IMG_4857.JPG

IMG_4858.JPG

IMG_4859.JPG

IMG_4860.JPG

After snacks we got into the conference and set up for our workshop.

I always like to give folks the option to follow us on the internet, so I created this intensely detailed situation on the white board during our workshop.

#howroadshow

IMG_4864.JPG

860899_10151289258537327_1840683895_o.jpg
(Photo by Nicole Myles.)

At the beginning of the workshop we each told a two minute story of our journey to self confidence. I like to begin my workshops and performances at colleges telling people how glad and grateful I am to do this work. I explain that when I was in college if I had access to seeing a queer fat femme teach me about self-confidence (or, let’s be honest, just seeing a queer fat femme) it would have changed my entire life.

Accidental selfie. #howroadshow

After the workshop we made our way over to this barn where there would be the Heels on Wheels performance and a QUEER PROM.

We spent some time backstage eating dinner and getting ready. Heather and I did some yoga stretching where the financial aid office is. No doubt, where a lot of stressed out students line up every semester like I once did. I tried to invoke some healing and patience energy to those students.

IMG_4868.JPG

IMG_4869.JPG

Being a performer means that the term “backstage” is a loose idea that includes kitchens, storage rooms, alleys behind bars, bathrooms, a sheet tacked up to the ceiling bisecting a part of the room that is the performance space and many, many other weird permutations.

IMG_4870.JPG

IMG_4872.JPG

The merch mall. Buying merch at shows is a fabulous way to support touring artists. I’m super stoked to wear my new purple v-neck Heels on Wheels shirt.

IMG_4874.JPG

IMG_4875.JPG
(I still have those Rebel Cupcake hankies, $8, and hair flowers, $5. If you want them, email me queerfatfemme at gmail.)

It’s impossible to summarize the work presented by the HOW artists that night, but here’s my attempt to give you the diaspora. Heather did her performance “This is What We Have,” about adventures, freedom, longing and stardust. Damien did her piece “Exorcise” a comedic act about a process for embodiment from trauma. It’s very empowering. Shomi did some singing and storytelling about immigrant adolescence and coming out. And Kirya did this incredible piece using Beyonce moves about growing up, gender and body hair. My piece is about what it is like to spend 34 years in a body bigger than what society deems “average,” and I think it’s a good piece for college shows because it’s very body oppression 101, personal and empowering.

883489_10151289256077327_1700021218_o.jpg
Photo by Nicole Myles.

861326_10151289256277327_1891431342_o.jpg
Photo by Nicole Myles.

After the show we hung out listening to DJ Shomi Noise DJing. We went out to the van for a brief hang out and imagined that we were sailing through the air in the van with Cristy Road’s image of the night sky floating by us.

Matteo made this bling himself! I was so excited about it.

IMG_4877.JPG

IMG_4878.JPG

IMG_4879.JPG

IMG_4881.JPG

We arrived home at 5:30 in the morning. Getting a little lost in some giant state park and only had to stop once so someone could pee behind a car.

After our adventure to Hampshire and New Paltz, the part of the tour that was going to the West Coast (Heather, Damien, Shomi and Lizxnn) went from LA up to Vancouver and back down again. Sorry to anyone who saw me on the posters and thought I was going to be out there! I got a lot of emails from people thinking I was in town. It made me seriously consider my own tour of the West Coast. I’m happy to do it if anyone wants to help me book a couple of college gigs!

The Heels on Wheels had a rough time out there, to say the least. Read here about the trauma they experienced while in Olympia.

I can’t tell you how much love I have in my heart for all of the artists involved with Heels on Wheels. They mean so much to me personally and as a queer femme in the world.

Heels on Wheels is an amazing organization that is working-class lead, feminist and femme empowering. HOW is fundraising through Indigogo to create sustainability for the organization and to support future work by the organization. You can give for the next eight days through this link. You can also get a bunch of really sweet prizes, but contributing to Femme magic, like the road trip I just described above, is also prize enough.

901991_444228312321922_1501742941_o.jpg
You can get this ultra-rad carabiner mug for only a $20 donation! I’m totally stoked about my forthcoming mug that can easily clip to my purse.

Here are a bunch of artists from the Brooklyn homecoming show. It’s such an honor to perform with HOW.

Heels on Wheels April 12 2013.jpg
Photo by Chaska Sophia.

Powered by WordPress