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

2016-10-21

You are Stronger Than You Think: Grief, Resilience and Capricorn Resistance

Last week I was shaving my newly adopted cat’s legs in an effort to mitigate his pee smell from peeing on his legs. “Shaving Day” was not a success and continues to be the official low point in our three week relationship. Lucky for me, it was a very consumptive process because I missed the texts from my mother when Grandmother went missing.

biscuitreynoldsHe’s so cute but the pee smell is so gross.

After I released Biscuit Reynolds to his 18 hours of post-shave sulking, I checked my phone. Mom’s series of texts were heart-wrenching, but I was already relieved to have read the most recent one. “I called Eisenhower and talked to Grandmother. She was in the hospital getting tests. She’s being released right now.” The first texts talked of asking me to join the hunt looking for Grandmother. She lives independently and doesn’t love her cell phone so we have to catch her at home in order to reach her. Mom hadn’t reached her in too long and got worried. On a whim she called Grandmother’s favorite hospital and asked for her room—and got her!

bevingrandmothermay2015Me and Grandmother in May 2015 on a visit from NYC. Being closer to her geographically was a big reason I wanted to move to LA.

I’ve been kind of wrapped up in my grief around Amanda’s suicide, so I was glad for a happy and swift resolution. Then I recounted the story to my partner Dara and started weeping. A coping strategy I have from my traumatic childhood is to be able to stay separate from my Feelings during crisis. I’m a complete rock star in crisis, I can solve shit, I can organize, I can motivate—I know how to stay safe and I know how to keep other people safe. This is a great skill but not great for emotional health and the Feelings always come. The weeping while I was telling Dara gave me the warning bell that I wasn’t done having these Feelings about Grandmother going missing.

Later that day I walked into Target and then started melting down. Have you ever sobbed at Target? It’s not cute. Part of what has been hardest for me with Amanda isn’t just the loss of her, it’s how much I identify with her and it’s scary. If the world was too hard for Amanda, will it be too hard for me? This thought often propels me to make the phone call even though I feel awkward talking about my Feelings in Target. I know I need to not isolate and I need to ask for help. So I called Bridget (she’s been so amazing this past month).

grandmotherbevinshermansMe and Grandmother at Sherman’s on Friday. When I asked the waitress for Shabbat candles for the table she was very confused.

I got through everything and then talked to Grandmother. Her test was a biopsy on a mass on her lung. She had gone to urgent care because she was coughing up blood and then they sent her right to the ER who admitted her to find the mass, do the biopsy. Grandmother didn’t call us because she doesn’t get a cell signal at the hospital and “didn’t know anyone’s numbers by heart.”

The fact that Grandmother might have cancer was a lot for me to take. Dara just celebrated two years out of cancer treatment in August. I, unfortunately, know a lot about cancer from supporting her through it. In spite of looming work deadlines, Dara offered to come with me to Grandmother’s the next morning to keep her company while she got the biopsy results from the doctor.

cancersurvivorpark1In May 2015 we did this photo shoot at the Cancer Survivor’s Park in Rancho Mirage, CA. We had NO idea Grandmother would have cancer–that’s the one thing that doesn’t really run in our family.

That night I was snuggling with Dara in “the nook.” My thoughts started floating to the grief places and I was crying. I realized I was soaking her shirt with my silent tears and I rolled over to my side. I felt like I was getting away with something. When you’re grieving sometimes you think your sadness, hurt, confusion, anger, depression is too much for your loved ones. Because often, it’s too much for you. Normally I spit in the face of anything that says I’m “too much” but I’m an independent Capricorn and sometimes I like to seem more together than I really am. Crying silently on my side of the bed felt like I could be more of a mess than Dara thought.

I instantly related to Grandmother. Like me and Dolly Parton, Grandmother is a Capricorn. So is my Great Grandmother and my Great Great Grandmother. An epic line of Capricorn women who in each past generation with deepened misogyny had to seem together and not lose it in front of anyone about grief and abuse and alcoholism and who knows what other trauma legacies are in there. Capricorns are the goat climbing the mountain. Persistent, ambitious, success-driven, not showing weakness. The cardinal Earth sign. The Keep It Together and Look Good Doing It sign.

I understood Grandmother’s reticence to ask for help when she got swept away to the hospital, to sit in a bed by herself and not call her kids or grandchildren. Just to do it on her own and not bother anyone. Getting away with not seeming like a mess or like she needed anything.

cancersurvivor2

I felt glad to relate to her and understand her motivation to isolate. I understand it with love and not judgment. I was also glad to be forcing myself on her to support her through the diagnosis the next day. I was sure she didn’t need someone to be there. She is always so happy and grateful when I come to visit I knew it wasn’t an imposition.

Dara caught on to me crying eventually and got me tissues and was her rock star supportive self. She drove two hours with me into the desert to Grandmother’s house in Rancho Mirage. She sat at the table with me and Grandmother googling the diagnosis, a mass on her lung but possibly a type of adrenal cancer or maybe lung cancer I still don’t know. She showed Grandmother her chemo karaoke video from her cancer vlog “Cancer Can Be Cool” and talked Grandmother through her experience with cancer treatment and how Dara insisted on positivity from everyone in her life.

daragrandmotherchemokaraokeDara worked so hard on that Chemo Karaoke video–she filmed it on her birthday during a chemo infusion at the Memorial Sloan Kettering chemo center where she got her treatment.

My idea was to go out to Sherman’s, our family’s favorite restaurant, a Jewish deli. (Better than most places I’ve been to in NYC—there I said it.) I wanted us to have a celebration for Grandmother’s cancer survival and success. I believe in the power of positive thinking more so than just about anything in my faith arsenal. If you’re going to go for a positive attitude might as well celebrate and have fun.

celebrationfood

We’re in the day by day diagnosis phase right now, where we wait for the next test result, next doctor referral. It’s maddening to a Capricorn like me who wants to plan and know what’s happening. But that’s not how the world works and I have to keep using lots of tools to be cool with it. I’m on my second listen to the just-released audio book The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein and it’s got a lot of tools for working with the flow of the Universe, womanifestating and for finding serenity.

I told Grandmother that part of my vision for being a rich lesbian is having a big ol’ compound where she would be able to live in her own space in our house, hold court with my friends (who all love her or will love her, she’s so charming) and she won’t have to deal with telling the gardeners they are not doing a good job she can just tell my house manager. But since I’m not yet a rich lesbian I need her to hold on a lot longer. We gotta beat this.

cancersurvivorpark2The Cancer Survivor Park in Rancho Mirage is really great. Worth a visit if you are in Palm Springs.

There’s a lot to worry about, both me and her. She’s older than she looks and that means she gets a lot of ageism when people look at her chart instead of her whole picture of human health. I can certainly relate to doctors looking at weight and not the whole picture of human health. She is always concerned that she won’t get to live independently anymore. I want to be able to be there a lot for her treatment but we just adopted this cat and he stressed out with us gone for one night that he started pooping blood. I just recommitted myself to finishing the memoir I shelved during Dara’s cancer treatment.

I get that worry is a misuse of imagination. I’d rather focus on how fun it will be to make art projects and adventures out of her cancer treatment. We almost convinced her to sing a Dolly song for an instagram video to help me promote Dollypalooza LA on October 29th! She’s got cute stories about being almost famous early in her life, about being constantly mistaken for a celebrity while living in Beverly Hills and now I think everyone thinks of her as an older celebrity while she’s tooling around Palm Springs. We are hopeful she’ll consent to being part of Dara’s cancer vlog. Grandmother is basically a gay icon waiting to happen.

daragrandmotherwalkingHeart emoji. Literally every time I write a gratitude list Dara is at the top.

Before Amanda died, the phrase “You are stronger than you think” kept popping into my head. I didn’t realize it then but that was the Universe telling me I am ready and resilient, even as I don’t really feel either just yet.

cancersurvivorpark3

2016-09-30

I Promise My Personal Tragedy Will Not Interfere with My Ability to Do Good Hair: Remembering Amanda Arkansassy

It happened again. The phone calls and texts started, trying to give me news of a friend’s suicide before I found it on Facebook. This is what we have now. Who knows the protocol?*

bevinarkansassyMe and Amanda at a dance party in 2010. Yesterday I met someone who had tiny flying birds coming from a tattoo on their head and it reminded me of her shoulder tattoo.

This is a post about my friend and it’s a post about my messy grief process. I don’t know what to do right now, but I think modeling how I am grieving may be of some help to other folks out there who are bewildered and confused and don’t know how to keep processing these suicides of bright light Femmes.

My friend Amanda and I became close in 2008/2009 when she was a member of Femme Family, a Femme organizing group that sprung to life after the Femme Conference in August of that year. We wanted Femme community in NYC, and me and Damien, Amanda, Sophie, Chris, Taueret, Bryn, Bridget, Rachel, Hana, Dylan, Erica, Heather, and a lot of other Femmes who popped in and out, made it happen. Mostly we were cultural organizers, throwing dance parties, fundraisers, Femme poker nights, a Femme literary reading series, we had a book club and published a zine.

femmefamilyClockwise from top left: Bryn, Sophie, Damien, Amanda, Rachel, Me, Chris, Dylan, Erica. We were all so busy working our party that we had to do a group photo in stages.

femmefamilygroup2webTaueret, Heather, Me, Bridget, Amanda.

Amanda was the Madam of Country Glam, me and Damien weren’t yet roommates but we were Co-Head Madams. Taueret was the Madam of Ferocity. I forget which Madam title Bryn had. Taueret took her life in February of last year and Bryn just this past January. The last time I saw Amanda was when she was out for Taueret’s memorial (on Amanda’s birthday, October 3rd) and the last time we spoke on the phone was after Bryn passed and Amanda needed advice about posthumous art curation. It was such a beautiful moment, we talked for an hour while I was in a park at sunset, Dara and I having just seen what would become our quirky house in LA. I watched the beauty transform around me in my new neighborhood, we processed about Bryn and she filled me in on her new romantic adventures.

Amanda had the biggest heart. She was so sweet and welcoming. She was from Arkansas and it was a huge part of her identity. She was brilliant and political and knew how to show up for people. She always drove a huge SUV and made it look really easy in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She was a little younger than me and in some ways I think that played into our dynamic. A couple of days ago a friend of hers told me Amanda referred to me an inspiration but to me she was my fiercely loyal Femme friend.

birthdayamandaI’ve known so much grief and loss for so long that I know that even in sad circumstances we need to celebrate life. So even though it was the day of Taueret’s memorial and that was the reason for her visit, I knew our Femme Family reunion brunch needed to include birthday candles for Amanda.

I was still rebuilding myself after my painful break-up with my ex fiancé and she witnessed and held space. She showed me solidarity. She loved Steel Magnolias and Dolly Parton as much as me. She loved to get dressed up and take pictures. She loved other Femmes and loved to peacock for and with us.

0008_ability-to-do-good-hairThe title of this post is an homage to a shared favorite movie.

She started performing burlesque as Lola Dean and I think her first performance ever was at my Queer Family Holiday party. Taueret’s first burlesque act was at my previous party, a Queer Zombie Cabaret, and they both bonded over learning burlesque. When I competed for the title of Miss LEZ I asked them both to be my back-up dancers for my “talent” (hosting a gameshow/being surrounded by hot Femmes) as the Baconettes.

arkansassywiththosepastiesAmanda loved these pasties so much, she bought them special for the show on Etsy. Photo by Alison Picard.

Amanda was amazing backstage at the pageant. She was a former pageant queen in high school and gave me great advice about my interview portion and poise and other pageant stuff. Taueret was also amazing and told off a former date of mine who had recently stood me up. I remember leaving with Taueret after losing the pageant and feeling both physically famished (they don’t feed you backstage) and emotionally supported while kind of crushed that I lost.

misslezbevinamandaIf you want to read about my pageant platform and my play by play of that night check out this blog post. Photo by Syd London. Shout out to original Baconette Melissa Davis!

We brought the Baconettes back together the following Spring. I was Queen of Honor at Hey Queen, a queer dance party that was a staple of Brooklyn nightlife for five years. I was “Size Queen” and wanted to compose a really hot number to Madonna’s “Hanky Panky.” Me, Taueret, Amanda and Hana met up in my tiny living room to practice. We did it again at That’s My Jam the next month and from the buzz off those events I started Rebel Cupcake at Sugarland on International No Diet Day, May 6, 2010. Amanda performed as Lola Dean along with Taueret at the first Rebel Cupcake and once more before she moved to San Francisco.

bevinbaconettes

She, Sophie and Rachel all moved to San Francisco at about the same time. I felt really sad that they left but felt kind of okay, too, because I knew they had each other and no doubt they would do magical things out there.

rebelcupcakequeerrootWatching the blossoming friendship of Rachel and Amanda was really special. Photo from the photo booth of Rebel Cupcake, by Nogga Schwartz.

I think a lot about how Femme Family was this beautiful incubator for those of us involved. It gave us confidence in our abilities and we got ideas that were firmly based in our Femme identities. I started Rebel Cupcake, a body positive dance party for fat kids and fabulous weirdos. Damien started Heels on Wheels, a Femme art tour, show series and now a book with Heather. Sophie started Shameless Photography a feminist body positive pin-up photography business and many of the Femme Family were her first models.

Amanda went on to create Femme Space, a reclamation of space for Femmes and a beautiful portrait project. The stories and photos are stunning, I highly recommend a deep dive into them.

Long distance took an understandable toll on our friendship, but it never lost all of its love. I would see her and have epic conversations about all the things but mostly romance gossip because it was a fav of both of ours. Just six months ago she got on snapchat and she posted the sweetest thing on Facebook about how she loved my “snapchat stories” and for a bit there we would have girl talk and lingerie sharing over snapchat private message 10 seconds at a time.

bevinamanda2015

As our friend Elisabeth said memorializing Amanda, she was the ultimate “Hi Femme!” which was her actual license plate. She had to appeal a bunch to the CA DMV to get it–they thought it was about drugs and she schooled them that it was an actual identity. She was tickled every time she caught someone taking a photo of it behind her in traffic.

We constantly bonded over country music and I still think of her every time a good block of country music sung by women is on the radio (which is rare). When I was in LA last year learning my way around I heard a whole hour dedicated to women in country music and was so excited to tell her about it.

A couple of years ago she told me her plan after she moved to San Francisco was to eventually go back and head an organization for Southern Queers in Arkansas. I loved seeing Arkansas through her lens on social media. I loved seeing places she had told me about.

sfcrew2011Visiting San Francisco with Mackenzi, outside of the Lexington with Sophie, Dagger and Digg. Amanda was always a poly-identified Femme and there are a bunch of really good looking folks that had the pleasure of knowing her romantically in mourning. She was so special as a friend and I think she was extra extra special as a lover.

Another toll of long distance is when your friends throw parties you hella want to be at. She had a birthday party at the Madonna Inn one year and I was SOOOOO SAD I was too broke to go because I had always wanted to go to the Madonna Inn and they were taking lingerie photos with all the theme rooms! It was going to be Femme Slumber Party birthday magic. And I got to go to Dollywood which I know she always wanted to do and I wanted to do it with her! And she had a Dolly Parton themed getaway birthday party.

rachelamanda2010Femme Conference 2010.

Now that I’m in LA I am closer (wouldn’t ever turn down an invite to the Madonna Inn now!) but her housewarming party in Crockett, where she just moved to get more rural, was a night when I’m doing a big event here. I remember thinking “SOMEHOW SOMEWAY we will have a party we can both attend.” She died before I could even pester her to come be my photographer for Dollypalooza next month.

One of the things that is most beautiful in Femme friendships is seeing yourself reflected in one another. Amanda was positive and upbeat, like me, and sparkly. She was the kind of Femme who threw herself into activism and organizing and also had good hair and impeccable nails. I always told her she was my nail inspo and had stiletto nails long before they got really mainstream popular. She kept a few fingers on the right hand short, for sex. I was living for her ombre. Honestly, her hair just kept getting better and better.

arkansassyNashville fans, she declared Juliette Barnes one of her fashion icons. Amanda left behind a perfect shiba inu/chihuahua rescue named Memphis and her cat, Kitten Butt. And a gorgeous white bedroom set she moved cross country.

I’m taking this death really hard. I am replaying all of the ways in which I feel like I could have done things differently. Like what if I hadn’t flaked on hiring her to photograph me at my high school reunion reclaiming space that felt alienating to me as a teen. Would we have had a heart to heart two weeks ago that could have changed things? Should I have finished writing my book already since it’s mostly about how I survived this epic heartbreak and betrayal and bloomed even bigger and brighter than I ever thought possible? Could it have been a road map for her?

I shared these feelings with a friend yesterday who said, “You can’t put your lightness in someone else’s darkness.” And then confessed that they must have been channelling Spirit because they would never have said that. I’ve also gotten similar messages about Bryn and Taueret when I asked my psychic Alex about their possibly related suicides.

queerfamilyholidayallofusPhoto by Alison Picard.

I feel like there’s this way that when you shine really bright like Amanda did, like Bryn did, like Taueret did, that the world doesn’t want you to survive. Just being a bright light superstar that by your very identity challenges the white heteropatriarchy is dangerous. That manifests in the experiences of trauma caused by oppression, misogyny, heterosexism, ableism, fatphobia, transmisogyny, slut shaming, classism, and on and on. It’s hard to stay sane and positive when the world is relentless with heartbreak, police brutality, apartheid, and all of the other horrific things you see just by turning on the news.

The world is made better and sweeter for me by activists and artists like all three of them. I try like hell to take care of myself. I try like hell to model self care for the corner of the internet where people pay attention to what I say. When I’m modeling self care, I am saying “This is how I am staying alive today.” Because self care is vital and survival is vital.

amandaonthemuniThe same month she took her life her face was on the side of a Muni bus. Her light was shining bright. But it goes to show that we can have a good face on and be battling darkness really deep.

And let’s talk about our fucked up mental healthcare system. Why don’t we have walk in clinics, where you can start treatment without a giant ball of red tape and bullshit. Why don’t we fund this? Is it because the people who are in charge find our bodies disposable? We have such a fucked up world we need to make it more survivable. Instead the fuckedupness is making it harder and harder to stay alive.

It’s important and good we know about what’s going wrong in our world. We have to see it to change it, right? But we also need to recognize the toll that takes on everyone’s mental health.

We need to stop treating self care like it’s optional. Take care of yourself and take really fucking great care. And fund easy to access free mental health for everyone because we need it . All three of these friends of mine were brilliant women with different access to help and different ways of soliciting it. What about the people who aren’t as resourced or good at self advocacy as Bryn, Taueret or Amanda? Somehow we need to do better at getting mental healthcare into the hands of people who need it. The amount of people who need it is mounting.

speakingoffemmegroupSpeaking of Femme.

I keep thinking about the idea of feminizing the world as a means of creating world change and world peace. Amanda even mentioned it in the article announcing her as one of KQED’s 20 Women to Watch.

In response to the question, “If you could live in a book, TV show, movie, play or painting, what would it be?” She replied, “It hasn’t been written yet (to my knowledge), but I’m looking forward to media exploring a futuristic femme oligarchy. Until then, Steel Magnolias will do.”

Maybe that’s how I need to womanifest my thoughts about how to feminize the world. Write a TV treatment for a show exploring a Futuristic Femme Oligarchy. If Femmes ruled the world? It would be amazing. Amanda dedicated her Femme Space project that was poppin’ off to the memory of Taueret and Bryn (check the footer on the page) and I would dedicate that TV show treatment to all three.

amandaspeakingoffemmeblue

In the meantime we need to figure out how to survive. This is why I blog. This is why I talk about the things I’ve figured out for self care and to take good care of myself. I’m writing a self care zine so I can brain dump to whoever wants it all the stuff I know about self care. Because we don’t live in a world where mental and emotional healthcare is free and easily available. ’Til we do we need to be taking care of each other and ourselves.

I talk a lot about becoming a rich lesbian. I mostly want to be rich because I want to start a foundation to support the kind of hard to fund amazing grass roots edge of social change groups that don’t usually get grants. I want to give them cash and provide support for their sustainability and helping have the kind of structure that ensures the legacy can move forward if the founders either move on, burn out or have shit go down in their lives. My friend Jenn and I brainstormed that I need to have a social worker on staff who can provide therapy for supported organizers, coaching people in self care.

bevinandthebaconettes

I see a lot of activists whose work and care taking is dedicated to the point of compulsion. There’s always more to do and not enough money or resources. I see people who are broke who give what little they have to folks who are broker than they are. It’s in the giving nature of people dedicated to world change. I wonder if Amanda needed more care than she was capable of receiving. I wonder if there’s a way to teach people to receive the love that is around them. Because Amanda, Taueret and Bryn were all beloved.

These deaths rip open the wounds that I work hard to heal. I’m grieving hard the loss of all three, grief compounded upon grief. I was putting dishes away and a wave came. I was literally sobbing into my kitchen cabinet when I came to. I find it’s easiest to grieve when I just open myself up to it. I don’t try to pretend that I’m cool when I’m not and I work to practice radical honesty with people who ask me how I’m doing.

femmepicnicWhen I was doing my deep dive into my photo archives I realized that right after this Femme picnic in Dolores Park I met up with my queer Femme friend Melissa Tracy who also took her life this year.

I’ve learned a lot about grieving over the years. I was sending a blog post about break-up grieving strategies to a friend and I realized a lot of it was very applicable to death. Try to be present. Try to let it flow. Commit to your plans so you don’t spiral out for too long. For me, preventing the darkness is easier than being swallowed by it and having to crawl out, so I’m trying really hard to not fall into that place.

This week I asked for a lot of help. Dara has been out of town for work for almost two weeks. On Saturday Amanda’s suicide hadn’t been announced yet and I had to figure out how to get the help I needed without doing the endless phone calls and messages thing, so I put an all call on Facebook. I don’t give a fuck about seeming vulnerable. I think we should be more vulnerable with each other, it’s a sign of strength.

amandaonstageatbellhouse

In some ways it’s been good that Dara’s not here. I have been relying for primary support from my friends and it’s important to lean out of your primary for support. I’m also crabby and listless, and I’m actually feeling shitty about how I am not a pile of sunshine for Dara right now. So being independent from her has been helpful.

Yesterday I knew I had a ton of work to do and in the in between times might need brightening. So I asked Facebook once again for sweet memories. Remembering connections to other, living folks is a sweet way to remind me that I am loved, and taking breaks from work to sit with a few at a time has been so helpful.

queerfamilychristmasstage

I keep remembering all the hot people I was going to set her up on dates with. I keep thinking about all of the collaborations I wanted to do. Over the past year I thought a lot about what Amanda would do my Femme Space photo about. I thought maybe my rainbow mumu and me in a Home Depot because I am definitely a power tool wielding Femme, I do not let stereotypes about women and femininity stand in the way of me getting what I want to get done. And then I definitely thought it was going to be me teaching my new fitness class at the body positive gym opening up in LA. But whatever it was, it’s a collaboration that won’t happen. Because something about the world was too painful for her.

I want to make the world more survivable. I wrestled with the choice to not go to her funeral on Wednesday but the thought of making the travel plans was so overwhelming I was paralyzed. So I took that, and my big chronic digestive disorder flare as my signs that I needed to stay put and take care of myself. I can’t make the world survivable unless I take care of my own survival.

*For me, just in case this is relevant to any of my friends reading this, I prefer a phone call. Almost all of my calls are scheduled because that’s how I roll, so if you call me twice in a row and text “Call me ASAP” I know what that means. So that’s my preferred protocol. I changed my number to a 323 number when I moved to LA so check your phone and delete that old Jersey 201 number!

wafflesinbmoreI have all these new friends I just made and I wonder if they think it’s weird that I say I love you literally every time we part ways. It’s because I’ve known so much loss and I’m only 37 and I know it might be my last opportunity to say it. So I always do when I feel it. Grief is an unfortunate side effect of love, and I love really big. I loved Amanda a lot and my grief reflects the size of that love. There is no timeline on grief, I will never get over missing her. I will never get over Bryn and Taueret. I will only do what is the best case scenario and get used to the idea that they aren’t here. 

More Amanda Love:

Go Fund Me Campaign to help with Amanda’s memorial costs.

KQED Holding Space for Amanda (lists a lot of her artistic accomplishments if you want to learn more about her prolific work)

Femmes Before Literally Everything

To be added: Memorial information for next month’s memorial.

2016-01-14

Remembering Bryn

Second update: I was approached about this piece and asked to do a rewrite that, among other things, altered some language I used, clarified some of my language and directly addressed my interactions with Bryn around Michfest. I’m truly sorry if my piece caused anyone additional pain. The rewrite was reviewed and commented on by two of my friends, Mira Bellwether, who is a trans woman and a Femme, and a genderqueer identified Femme. It is important to me that the work I put out in the world helps the world become more survivable for trans women. It’s very important to me to respect the voices of trans women and work towards the most respectful and loving way to communicate about this devastating loss.

Update: The response to this post has been beautiful and overwhelming. I would love to keep adding links to more memories of Bryn, more of her writing and information about the memorial service on her birthday, February 7th (especially for folks not on Facebook). If you have links to more memories please comment or send me an email queerfatfemme at gmail.

From Sarah Schulman:
Dear Friends and Community:
We will be gathering on February 7 to remember our beloved friend Bryn Kelly, to recognize the beauty and depth of her life and to support each other in our love and grief. Details will be forthcoming from her family, her partner Gaines Parker, and from Kelli Dunham and other friends. Please share this information. Thank you.

Fundraiser for memorial costs.

This Friday Bryn’s birth family will be having services in Huntington WV.
Friday, Jan 22, 12p visiting, 1p service
Expression Church of Huntington
1539 18th St, Huntington, WV 25701
A group of WV/OH folks are attending, feel free to join, it will not be only birth family, you will not be alone.

I woke up this morning to two text messages from friends asking me to call them. I’m a Capricorn, I know a pattern. I know that means another queer friend of mine has passed. We love each other. We’re always in a race to beat Facebook to tell one another the important stuff. I never want someone to have the experience of finding out something devastating like this on Facebook, and I’m glad my friends think so, too.

I’m on West Coast time now, so I know I might always luck out and get a phone call before Facebook, because even though I’m gone from Brooklyn I still have patches on that quilt of Brooklyn queer community (as Quito so aptly said, today we have a Bryn sized hole).

brynhardfrenchnyc2010Bryn in 2011ish at Hard French in NYC.

I talked to Kelli, got the news, and had the awkward and necessary next step of figuring out who I am close to that I want to try to beat to Facebook. Bryn was in my dream a couple of nights ago. Fleeting. And since I had a dream about Glenn and Hana last night (we were on vacation) I took it as the Goddess’ sign that I should call. Glenn asked immediately if it was violence or did she take her own life. We ask these questions because it’s the lived experience of so many of us.

And also so is cancer. Ellie died two weeks ago. I have lost countless friends to cancer, heart attacks, stupid disease stuff and suicide. I am all about body autonomy and the choice whether to live or die is one that everyone should get to make. And at the same time, I’m not even through processing Taueret’s suicide less than a year ago.

bevinglenntaueret2009Found this photo of me, Glenn and Taueret in 2010 at Hey Queen while looking through my archives.

Anyway, I don’t usually eulogize right away but I wanted to make sense of this and also I wanted to let some friends and exes know about Bryn whose contact info I don’t have but who I suspect still read my blog. I use writing to make sense of things and, you know who you are and I hope you didn’t have to find out on Facebook.

brynatparty2010

I met Bryn almost ten years ago at a Mixer party (I think that’s what it was called) at Levi Braslow’s loft apartment. I was immediately captivated by her. She was hard to get to know.
Bryn was a trans woman. I identified with her as a fellow Femme and woman and someone who adored conventional masculinity delivered in a queer way, who loved parties and socializing but wasn’t actually comfortable at parties all the time.
She didn’t tell me she was HIV positive until years after we met (she got progressively more open with the world about it). She moved from rural Ohio to Michigan to New York City, if I’m remembering the whole trajectory. Even though she was from Ohio she was in rural Appalachia and definitely identified strongly with my West Virginia loves. She was queer country, through and through. She also told me moving to NYC when she did saved her life, because of the HIV services available there.

My friend Mamone shared a post Bryn wrote in January, 2015 to the facebook page for the Marshall University LGBTQ Office, in Huntington, West Virginia. Mamone knew her 20 years, from that time in 1996 through to present time Brooklyn. “Hi all. I just wanted to introduce myself. I visited the MU LGBTQ Office when I was a scared teen in 1996, and found tremendous community and support. Now I live in New York, where I am a writer and performing artist. So, if anyone is thinking about grad school or just moving here after graduation, feel free to friend me and ask me questions! Huntington still holds a very special place in my heart. ❤ http://www.brynkelly.com
Bryn emceed and performed at the queer country monthly night in Brooklyn the whole time it was running.

brynsummerspeakeasyoffemme2010At Speakeasy of Femme, a Femme Family event, in 2010?

Bryn was slow to get to know. I was in the phase of my life when we met (around 26/27) that I was quick to make friends. If I thought you were awesome I would trust you right away. She was more like a cat who comes into the room you’re hanging out in, scopes it out, but it takes a long time to hang out and chill. We talked about that, years later, when I realized that my overly trusting nature was getting me fucked over by people. She and I agreed there was probably a healthy middle between her inclination and mine. I wonder if that shifted for her?

She was an Aquarius, like Michelle Tea and Oprah (her words). Her birthday is coming up soon.

We were friends and we liked to party. I have a ton of summer drunk sweaty selfies with her. She was definitely a Winter hibernator. I rarely saw her then.

One of my favorite Femme moments with Bryn was when we were both flirting with the same out of town boy at a party who was hardcore flirty but being kind of vague with both of us. I found out later she eventually took him home. I high fived her when I found out, a win for one is a win for all. A lot of people default to Femme competition but I didn’t feel that way with Bryn.

brynatbuffe2012Me and Bryn at the August 2012 party Buffet.

A homebody who took such great joy hosting dinners and parties with amazing food. I am not a big football fan but anytime she invited me for the super bowl I said yes because of her food. She was the first Femme I knew our age who would cook a pork shoulder and helped me get over my fear of cooking large hunks of meat.

brynchrisokelly2008Bryn doing Chris’ hair for my 30th birthday party, Ascots and Bouffants. Miss you, Chris.

She cut great hair. She was a traveling hair stylist who could come to your house to give a cut. Like many of us who work in the queer community, she offered a sliding scale. She was extremely talented. Bryn eventually got a salon chair and started cutting in her house, which became a more intimate beauty parlor experience.

She was always a late arriver at parties. Going through my photos looking at memories of Bryn, I always know to look towards the end of the photos because Bryn was beyond fashionably late.

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She was stylish, loved side boob and deep cleavage, had ever shifting hair, usually somewhere between reddish or blonde. For a brief period of time she went brunette and looked a lot like Snow White, she thought it was hilarious when I said that. One time I was late to Submit and saw her outside approaching. Her hair was mermaid blue because she had been experimenting with toner. She is one of the only people who I know who still had a consistent aesthetic even though her hair was always evolving.

brynheathernewyear2010ishThis was a super late night find of Bryn, something like 3AM on New Year’s Eve at Sweet Revenge which is now known as One Last Shag. We hung outside in the snow, drunk, celebrating. Yelling.

She was part of Femme Family–an important part. She trusted us enough to organize with us. She showed up.

Early at a Femme Family organizing meeting she said she had just gone to queer/trans yoga at Third Root and said she felt so free. I just remember the look in her eyes, we were in the lounge at Re/Dress. She was so relaxed and happy. She was usually kind of on edge, socially, as I think she loved being social and like many of us, had some social anxiety.

femmefamily2At the Femme Family coming out party in June 2009.

femmefamily1The other part of some of the organizers of Femme Family at that party.

She was a powerful witch, she was a great gossip and loved to throw shade. She was the kind of person you got dish from and dished to in a beauty parlor way and I knew she both loved me and talked shit about me and… whatever. We were honest with each other. Sometimes we were both Femme wolves who kept to our own and got over ourselves whenever we saw each other. Recently, when I ran into her, she had been up all night doing edibles and she had the sweet glow of someone who was high on socializing and on THC.

brynsweetbitch2008She was so delighted to give me this bottle of Sweet Bitch wine.

My friend Mira pointed out that in reading the eulogies for Bryn, most people knew a lot of Bryn but not all of her and I found that to be the case. She and I were both kitchen witchy but we never practiced together. I knew there was a lot more possible in our friendship but it didn’t all gel.

And then there’s the Michfest stuff. Trans women are women. Period. Folks who read my blog know I’ve been involved in working for trans women’s inclusion at Michfest for over a decade. The organization of the Festival intended that the Festival not include trans women. I’ve been working from the inside, working within a community, trying to change that.

Bryn was working from the outside, participating in Strap on dot org for years and attending Camp Trans, the protest camp across the street from the Festival grounds. The summer of 2008 we were both in Michigan at the same time, and we joyfully reunited at a Camp Trans “love-in across the road from the gate” as she put it. It was an educational and artistic workshop working towards inclusion, where attendees of the Festival were invited to attend. She performed a duet on her recorder with her boyfriend at the time.

Later that week she was given a ticket to the Festival by an attendee who wanted to pay for some trans women to attend the Festival. She came in with her boyfriend and I showed her around, with the joy of getting to show someone I loved a place that I loved. That summer, with lots of trans women on the land, felt like trans women’s inclusion was really possible and so very likely. I truly believed in my heart of hearts the Festival could be inclusive of all women, and I worked hard at it.

Bryn wrote a piece about attending the Festival, read it for a couple of performances and read it for my then podcast FemmeCast. (My audio archives are packed in a box en route to California right now, but I will link to it when I have it.)

Over time, after that Summer, Bryn became less convinced that it was possible and we didn’t have that many more discussions about it. On that issue we ultimately disagreed.

She was an incredible writer and performer, filmmaker and actress. She performed at Gayety, the performance series I curated with Kelli Dunham, and at Rebel Cupcake.
brynheelsonwheels2013After performing together at Heels on Wheels in 2013.

Her breakup with her physically abusive ex Scott Loren Moore a few years back was really hard on her. She did some amazing art about it, including a film for Elizabeth Koke’s epic performance art tribute to Sarah McLachlan’s Fumbling Towards Ecstacy in 2012. She won a Lambda Literary fellowship. She was always up for some deep gay weird art.

brynsweatysummerdrunk2008One of my earliest photos with Bryn. Sweaty, summer drunk, 2008.

I have gathered some links to her writing below, because you should hear from Bryn in her own words if you didn’t know her. She was special and magical and I’m really sad to not be able to read more of her amazing art. Hers was an important voice. She made a difference.

Bryn’s Website
Bryn’s Tumblr
Bryn’s Twitter
Captive Genders on Original Plumbing
Other Balms, Other Gileads
Bryn in the Golden Age of Huslters Video (she also did Kate Bornstein’s hair for the video!)
Dapper Dan and the Rise of the AIDS Punchline
Bryn’s work on Pretty Queer
Bryn was The Hussy on Pretty Queer. I always suspected it was her and she confessed in one of our gossip sessions. It’s good stuff.

bryncelebrationofpersonhood2008In 2008 I had a “Celebration of Personhood (as Opposed to Couplehood)” party on the same date I was originally planning to get married. I made these chicken wings as a reclamation of the chicken wing recipe my fiance and I had used.

I hope that if any of you are ever considering suicide, you consider at least paging through this mini version of Kate Bornstein’s important book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and other Outlaws.

katebornstein2013ishAuntie Kate.

As someone who gets really internal when I get depressed to the point of suicidal, I need to remember that my self care is a daily choice and is a choice that helps me stay alive. Today, even though I’m still on the road, I went and worked out because it’s the best thing to do to keep my brain functioning away from depression. And it’s deep Winter, a friend just committed suicide and there’s all this change going on. Self care. All the texts with my thirty something Femme friends today are about self care.

bryntaueret2009I posted this photo of me and Taueret and Bryn after Taueret’s suicide last March. I never thought we would lose Bryn to suicide, too.

I’m sending out lots of woo and prayers to Bryn, that her passage to the other realm is smooth and easy. That she feels love and relief and peace. I pray for all of her friends and family, that they be held and know love in this shitty, unfathomable time. That all of her former friends and lovers know peace and light. That we can figure out ways to shift the world so that it is easier on people. That staying alive does not have to be a struggle. That we can destigmatize mental health care. That crisis centers that are financially accessible and queer and gender and fat and disabled friendly develop because we need them.

You are loved.

You are worthy.

You are important.

Please stay.

2015-04-15

Fun Home The Musical is Totally Awesome

I was offered press tickets to see a preview of Fun Home, the new Broadway musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home. Alison Bechdel is famous (to me and to every lesbian from the 90s, as the author of the famed comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.
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I knew a bunch of people who saw the first version of the musical when it played at The Public Theater, and also I know the dog walker of the woman who adapted the graphic memoir as a musical. It’s a tiny queer world. (Her dog is REALLY sweet.)

I have very few feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as someone who lives in New York City, developing FOMO resistance is a survival strategy. Yes, somewhere at this very moment there are a ton of parties going down and I’m not missing anything. I feel this way about books and TV shows sometimes, trusting that one day I’ll get to it if it’s that good. This is why I didn’t read Fun Home when it first came out and I was too broke to see it at the Public.

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Ugh, I wish I had read Fun Home when it came out! It was so good!

The setting of the story is Alison’s family’s obsessively restored house not unlike the Addam’s Family’s period mansion. Additionally, the family’s funeral home business (the “fun home”), time traveling to college when Alison came out, and in the musical there is time traveling to present day while Alison is working on the graphic memoir and trying to understand her father.

Her dad is volatile, moody, obsessive, difficult, secretly gay and it isn’t certain but probably he committed suicide, just four months after Alison came out to her parents.

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Due to the literary references and analogies in the book I kind of found myself wishing I had read Henry James, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more heavy hitters in American and European literature so I could better understand Alison Bechdel’s when I was reading the graphic memoir (imagine a cartoon doing that), but then I remembered that my brain is full of the entire works of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Dorothy Allison and I’m not missing any of the old white dude set.

In reviewing the photos from a family (minus her mother) trip to the shore with one of their young male baby sitters, with new eyes, she draws connections to literary hard hitters.

“In one of Proust’s sweeping metaphors, the two directions in which the narrator’s family can opt for a walk–Swann’s way and the Guermantes way–are initially presented as diametrically opposed. Bourgeois vs aristocratic, homo vs hetero, city vs country, eros vs art, private vs public. But at the end of the novel the two ways are revealed to converge–to have always converged–through a vast ‘network of transversals.'”

This is all written over a drawing of the family’s station wagon in the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s the kind of book that you can glaze over the stuff you don’t understand because of the pictures, but if you’re a word whore like me you’re looking up the two words per page you don’t know.

I went to see the musical on Broadway fresh from reading the book and so curious how that sweet elderly poodle’s mom had adapted it to the stage. Here’s Alison Bechdel’s comic in video form about the transition from book to Broadway.

I thought the musical was great. It was super tender and distilled the important parts of the book for me. It was brilliantly staged in the round, with furniture moving up from the floor and around through holes in the stage. It struggled to flesh out the mother’s character, who I thought had a bigger part in the book.

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Dara thought Bruce Bechdel (Alison’s closeted gay dad) could have had a bigger emotional payoff, but I also wish I had been listening to the soundtrack ahead of time so I could really hear what he was singing in the last couple of songs, which is I think where the payoff was. Also, it’s so heartbreaking to watch the story of a person, especially a queer person or otherwise non-societally conforming, who lived their whole life in a 1.5 mile diameter circle.

The part that I felt was most different in the musical was the part played by Joan, who in the book is kind of a background character, but the dimension she gets in the musical makes her so charming and also the actress has some great swagger.

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It’s also really freaking cool to see a masculine of center Lesbian as the star of a Broadway musical, as the narrator character is present-day Alison Bechdel (not the real Alison, an actress) in all her tee shirt, jeans, converse, short hair, bespectacled glory.

The book is a quick read, and I think my having read it made a huge difference in how I was able to experience the musical.

It was also so great to learn soon after the show that there is a sequel to the book! Are You My Mother.

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Everyone I’ve talked to about the book says they love the scene where young Alison sees a butch for the first time. Here’s the you tube video of the song from the musical. It’s so amazing when you see a butch for the first time and you’re not used to seeing gender non-conforming people who you identify with!

Tickets are Broadway pricey at $75-$150, but this one is worth it. It’s on Broadway through September 13th, so grab them fast! And if you can’t make it to NYC to see it, read the book and then get the soundtrack. Both are really fantastic! (Ugh, especially the cute coming out dialogue “Thanks for the Care Package.”)

2013-11-28

Free Download of Kate Bornstein’s Hello Cruel World Lite

It’s Thanksgiving here in the US and folks are either gathering with family of origin or choice and maybe having feelings about that, or NOT gathering with those folks and maybe having feelings. Sometimes there’s no winning! The feelings just come no matter what you do!

As part of the THX4SUPPORT hash tag project happening today on Twitter, I wanted to point readers to a resource I think is totally invaluable! Kate Bornstein, gender warrior and auntie to so many of us, provides this free pdf of the “Lite” version of her book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.

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Me and Kate and Carmelita Tropicana at a reading for the Feminist Press in 2010.

Head to this link for the free pdf download.

I just want to say about suicide that I’ve been there. I’ve thought that life wasn’t worth living anymore and gone to great lengths before to end it all. And I’m so grateful that each time I even started down that road that there was something by the grace of the goddess that got me to reconsider, or at least procrastinate about it long enough to decide not to. I’m so grateful.

If there’s anything that you can do (and hopefully Kate’s book can help you come up with things to help procrastinate) to stop yourself, even just for a few minutes, do it. Reach out for help if there’s someone out there you might be able to talk to. Reaching out for help doesn’t work for me in the moment, though. I haven’t ever been good about asking for help when I’m that dire because the shame of that shit getting so dire, the gremlin thought of, “I should know better how to manage my depression that I shouldn’t want to kill myself,” is a pretty deep and hard gremlin.

BUT, there are a lot of things you can do and Kate’s book does a great job of outlining a lot of them (101, in fact). Go for a walk, write down 10 of the most awesome things you can think of, write a mini vision statement “If I were supreme ruler of the universe…” Look your dog square in the eye and promise her you’re going to fulfill your life commitment to her.

And on a personal note, I want to say that you are valuable, wonderful and your body is exactly right the way it is because all bodies are good bodies and the culture that tells us otherwise is just trying to make money off of us. We need you here, because the more freaks, outlaws and body warriors we have the better and more fabulous this world is for all of us.

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I’m pretty stoked to have stayed alive to see this little munchkin grow-up! Joey’s almost two now and I’m spending Thanksgiving with her.

Follow hash tag #stayalive on Twitter any old time for lots of good reasons to stay alive. Thank you, Auntie Kate, for everything that you do.

2012-05-30

SUMMER BEACH READS: Kate Bornstein’s A Queer and Pleasant Danger

Hey friends! I’m starting a new blog series about Summer beach reads–I’ve got a nice stack of books to recommend for you.

To kick this Summer series off, I have the honor of hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Kate Bornstein’s new incredible memoir

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Kate Bornstein is probably one of the sweetest and kindest humans I have ever met. She is iconic, inspirational, and gorgeous. In her memoir she describes herself as a puppy dog and I think that is absolutely correct; she brings that level of joy and excitement to interpersonal interactions and onstage.

The book is what I would describe as a “Chatty Memoir,” the kind that is written as though she’s sitting across from you lounging in your living room telling you her life story. It’s so engaging. She often addresses the reader as a pal, telling us to go ahead and google things while she waits. I’ve read a lot of Kate’s theory and seen her perform and keynote events but never got the full scoop of what she’s gone through. I mean, the process of getting to be a charming babe like Kate Bornstein is no less than spectacular. She went to an all-boys prep school and is one of the only two women degree holders from Brown University prior to 1970. She totally could have been a Normal and she isn’t. She chose to follow her truth and live an extraordinary life, often with great opposition, but by following her heart she came out on top.

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And beyond just telling us the who, where, what and how of her life, she’s extremely revealing about her process. Not just some of the deepest parts of her personality (as Kate says in the book, “Life’s better without secrets,”), like her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, but also the internal process of what it was like to be here. She cracks open her heart and shows us the internal realities of growing-up and adulthood prior to transitioning, many ongoing touchstones of what it was like knowing she was “girl,” how she related to it and how she either leaned into it or away from it with facial hair, sex, weight and clothing. Her lifelong battle with anorexia, how she learned to starve herself and then how she learned to think she could be pretty while being voluptuous. What it is like as a cutter, the pain and relief and how she used it to get through. Vivid plans for suicide attempts.

I’ll be honest, parts of it were a little hard to read, but for me not the ones you might think. She describes the above processes in detail and I found those confessions comforting–we’re raised in this culture not to talk about that and not a lot of artists are brave enough to talk about all of this at once.

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Me, Kate and her girlfriend Barbara Carrellas at Rebel Cupcake.

What I found hard to read was the huge section on Scientology! You guys, don’t ever take that free personality test! Did you read that 26 page article in the New Yorker about Scientology? I did and it freaked me out. I learned even more about what goes on in Scientology from this book and I had a crazy nightmare a few nights ago while in this section that Tom Cruise was trying to kill me. Kate’s memoir will convince you to never take that personality test for real.

Another thing that stuns me about how awesome Kate is as a human and a writer–the perspective of compassion she writes the book from. Having compassion for ourselves and others is probably one of the best places to live a life of peace. (I learned that from my friend V’s last blog post and it has changed my life.) There is a sweetness to Kate’s memoir that is as kind and charming as Kate herself. No matter all of the awful things she’s gone through, she’s come out of it stronger and more interesting, and to maintain that perspective of compassion is truly inspirational.

I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Queer and Pleasant Danger ASAP and schlep it with you to the beach. It’s so worth the weight of a brand new release. (And it’s also available for Kindle or whatever other e-reader you use!)

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Kate reading the section from the memoir about being a 24/7 slave to a Butch/Femme couple in Seattle on an iPad. Maybe an iPad’s not great for the beach, but whatver, read it en route.

I leave you with this quote I found incredibly touching from Kate’s mom. “No matter how your world falls apart–and honey, that’s what happens: we all build ourselves a world and then it falls apart–but no matter how that happens you still have the kind heart you’ve had since you were a child, and that’s what really counts.”

SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE: Here I am introducing Kate and she reads a little piece from the memoir. This video shot by Rebel Cupcake videographer Laura Delarato!

But you don’t have to take my word for it! Here are the other stops on the blog tour:

Monday, May 28th: en│Gender

Tuesday, May 29th : io9

Wednesday, May 30th: Queer Fat Femme (That’s Me!)

Thursday, May 31st: Large Hearted Boy

Friday, June 1st: Random House Blog

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2012-05-14

Begin Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-03-15

Glitter on the Gravestone: Grief in the Age of the Internet/Remembering CallOutQueen

Last year I knew five people who passed away. A close friend of the family, friends and members of communities I was involved in. There was a lot of pain and loss for me, mitigated somewhat by a well-timed deepened spirituality that has helped me come to a place of peace from each loss much easier than my life prior to spiritual practice.

I am struggling today because someone I “knew” on the internet took their life. Mark Aguhar, who I knew as “CallOutQueen.”* How did I “know” them? I cruised their blog. I appreciated their incisive wit. I appreciated their vanity and glitter. I loved their art. The juxtaposition of “Be ugly/Know Beauty” (this is a genius meditation, if you do that sort of thing). The swish of hair back and forth. Looking dressed when wearing nothing at all. Owning a brown, fat, genderqueer, femme, fag body. Absolute Femme realness at all times. Vulnerability. Stark honesty. Cutting honesty.

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I mean, I know she died, right? Like, because everyone says so. But when it happens on Tumblr, unlike on Facebook there’s no real clarifying post that says “This is what happened.” Sometimes on Facebook there’s a news article tagged with their name that pops up on a profile. Even when my ex-lover passed away I only sorta knew what happened because her best friend was dating one of my besties, it was never clear, from Facebook. With Luscious there wasn’t a news article. Just a heart broken community of queers putting it together.

So that’s what we have here with CallOutQueen. She’s gone. I was hunting through the tumblz Tuesday panning for a gleam of what happened. PrettyQueer.com and a few other outlets indicated she took her life. I mean. Who knows? I’m not even certain of the pronouns (thinking they with a leaning toward she/her, but when you only know someone through their writing in the first person you don’t always know).

I know what I feel is real sadness. For a lot of things. But so grateful she put her art out there. Expressed herself. Told her stories. Was a presence on the internet for so long before she was no longer a presence. A lot of people depart and haven’t told their stories.

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It feels weird to have this connection to someone from the internet. In this day and age, sometimes the internet is a really important place to connect. Sometimes our friends are in the computer and our community is in the tumblr or livejournal or wherever. Some of my best friends I met on blogging platforms (hey diaryland).

It reminds me about the importance of cherishing every moment and enjoying it. It reminds me that I am a presence on the internet. I was recognized on the street on my way to work Tuesday, before I found out. That’s always both weird and awesome. It made me think. what happens when I leave? What legacy do I leave?

A lot of my friends have had illnesses, knew they were leaving, and had time to get some last words out to the world. Tell us to have compassion, as was the case with V, or to take care of our health, as was the case with Heather. Some had life partners who could say things like “This is what so and so would want.” I think a lot about mortality and how fleeting life is. Treasuring every moment. Sucking the marrow of the bones of what we have, every single moment.

And here I am. I don’t have a life partner or anything. Trust that my BFF Brian has the password to my blog and will come make an update if something (Goddess forbid) happens. I want those folks out there to know what happened. Who knew me from the internet.

Also, I want you to know, if anything happens I want you to love yourself as much as possible and remember self-love is a life-long process. Be gentle with yourself and be gentle with each other.

What does Mark want us to know? How can we know? How lucky that they left so much of themselves on the internet.

One of my spiritual beliefs is that I think we are all on this earth to do a certain amount of work and we’re done when our work is done. I also believe that we recur and keep working on our higher selves. And we have souls we come back and work with. It brings me some solace to know I was affected by Mark. The swish of pretty hair. The soulful videos of full make-up and emotion. Existing as Femme and solidly as she did in a world that told her she was wrong and ugly at every turn.

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This world is temporal and cruel. This world is beautiful and possible.

I don’t have anything more profound to say except that I’m feeling it and expressing it and those are really important to me on my journey.

Rest in Power, CallOutQueen.

Here is a link to the fund to help Mark’s family with funeral expenses.

Here is a link to an article from The Qu about Mark.

*I’m certainly not the only person who calls people by their screen names in their head, even when I know their real name. I wonder how many folks who read this blog, follow my twitter or tumblr who only think of me as QueerFatFemme not Bevin?

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