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

2015-04-08

Facebook De-Activated My Account Demanding a Government ID

Monday was not a cute day for me. I visited my accountant to do my taxes, the preparation for which is a lengthy process as someone who is self-employed and doesn’t use Quicken. (Ugh bookkeeping. Ugh working class background/money fears/so much stuff to work through.)

I got my tax bill (UGH) and then… we finally heard back from the vet. Macy, my beloved Shih Tzu, broke her ankle in February. She had ruptured disc surgery in July and several months of recovery so the chip fracture was an emotionally and financially difficult set back.

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Part of the ankle treatment was having her sedated for an x-ray. Pre-sedation blood work meant we found out by accident that her calcium levels are high. Which could be an indicator of cancer or parathyroid disease or just high calcium which, if left untreated, can deposit minerals in her organs and then cause more disease. The process of figuring it out is one test after another. When your vet calls something an “Easter egg hunt,” that’s not a great sign.

Monday we got the results from her recent special hypercalcemia blood test (this required a special lab and a 7 day wait for the results) and her thyroid is normal but the calcium is still high. Next up, yet another ultrasound. (She’s 13 pounds, they couldn’t ultrasound her neck WHILE they did the abdomen? So fucked up.) It is stressful, expensive, sad and poor Macy.

After the day’s events, I went to Facebook, thinking I could maybe talk to some friends who have been on lengthy dog diagnostic journeys. Or talk to some of my working class femme friends about being self-employed. Like so many times I’ve gone to Facebook, a nice aggregate of people I actually know in real life, I went to my phone browser and popped it in. I was greeted with a login screen, which is odd because I generally stay logged in to Facebook.

Once I logged in, Facebook asked me for my driver’s license. Until I provide them some kind of identity verification from their list, I am locked out of Facebook. Not only am I locked out, but my friends report that they cannot find me, cannot message me and cannot see my profile. Facebook has made it so I no longer exist on their system.

This was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am just trying to live a positive life and right now it’s like death, death, money stuff, illness, now Facebook.

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The problem is, I use a different name, a chosen name, to interact with people in social media. Bevin is my government first name, but because I have a super googleable name, I choose to use a made-up last name on all forms of social media. Bevin Branlandingham is my stage name, but it also provides a great invisible wall between my day job and my life online. I think it is extremely reasonable to make this distinction and I would, in fact, encourage other people to do this with social media, no matter the “privacy settings.”

I would not have the same issue if my name was very common, like Jane Smith, but I still think social media is not a place where your government name should be required.

There are lots of other reasons a person might not use their government name on social media. Here are some reasons that I came up with the last time I wrote a blog post about the Facebook legal name requirement:

1. Trans people and other people for whom their legal name does not represent their gender(s).
2. People whose name is extremely googleable. The John Smiths of the world don’t have the same issues with online content that the Bevin Branlandinghams do.
3. Performers who use facebook to connect with their performance community.
4. Roller Derby folks who want to use their derby name to connect to their community.
5. People whose jobs or careers would be jeopardized by interaction with social media.
6. People for whom a legal name change is a barrier of time/access/money.
7. People who use social media for a specific group that utilizes nicknames.
8. People who don’t want people knowing their legal name in a casual setting.
9. Folks who are hiding from abusive exes/parents/relatives or stalkers.
10. Folks whose countries of citizenship would punish them for speaking about their country.

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After the last hullabaloo over Facebook and real name requirements, I thought Facebook actually listened to the LGBT activists and drag queens who went to them and had meetings with them. Schooling them without being paid tuition. I GUESS FACEBOOK DIDN’T LISTEN.

I had a lot of feelings about being denied access to my Facebook account, on a day when I was already full of lots of difficult feelings.

Lately I’ve also been using Facebook to connect with my communities because not one but two of my friends in different crowds passed away suddenly this past month (one was suicide). It has been really helpful to connect with people around this, lots of whom are old friends who only get in touch with me through Facebook.

It felt really shitty to be isolated from my friends on a day when I kind of needed to reach out. It continues to feel shitty to have to figure out how to get Facebook to verify my “authentic identity” when I have a ton of other stuff that’s more important.

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For example, my allergies are super bad and I need to sit on hold with Callen-Lorde and get an appointment with my provider. I also think dying my hair is more important than going through the debacle that will be the uphill battle to reactivating my Facebook profile.

Since Facebook deactivated my account I have discovered that anything I used Facebook to login to is no longer available to me. For example, I pay monthly for Spotify because it is so easy to stream all the music except now I can’t get into it because my Facebook login won’t work. Same with my meditation program. I will NEVER use a third party login for a website again. By the way, Spotify doesn’t have an email or contact form for customer care–I’m having to contact them via Twitter. I don’t feel comfortable giving my money to places that don’t prioritize customer care so I am going to have to figure out a new music situation. The amount of agita piling on with this Facebook suspension is astounding.

Here are some screen caps:
FBSubmityourdocsScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.51.24 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.51.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.51.46 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.52.11 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.52.23 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.52.39 PM

Since I don’t ever intend to make my stage name my government name, I don’t have any of the documents they are asking for. Why would I bother? I’ve never subscribed to a magazine as Bevin Branlandingham… but I’ve been featured in magazines as Bevin Branlandingham, presented at conferences, run a successful website, etc… On principle I also think this is shitty. Facebook is kind of the first place people go to to announce a new name, what if they haven’t done anything other than tell the people they love about a new name? Or what if they just (like me) don’t want to use a government name for social media?

I’ve done security measures with Facebook before, answered security questions, verified the identities of my friends in tagged photos. What happened that Facebook now wants to shut down my account and see my library card? I feel like I’m trying to go to a nightclub and the bouncer is demanding my ID.

The ironic thing is that I have a Facebook page with a fake name that is still totally accessible to me! (Rebel Gateau, a loose French version of Rebel Cupcake.) I use it for nightlife promotion so I can friend folks who wanted to get party invites. Facebook I can still get in the back door!

My therapist called me a “woman of my time” because of all of the ways in which I use Facebook. When doing my expenses for taxes in 2014 I paid more money to Facebook for advertising than I paid for printed fliers. We live in a different time. But I guess Facebook doesn’t want my money because it’s money from someone who doesn’t use an “authentic name.” And maybe that’s how they got me in the first place, because my credit card info doesn’t match my Facebook screen name.

I have a lot of rage about this, and it is probably just a place for all my other rage about how mad I am that my friends died and confused I am about my feelings, how frustrated I am about the process about Macy’s diagnosis and how worried I am that if I don’t keep shoveling dollar bills at it that she is going to die. Oh and feelings of helplessness about money, taxes, bookkeeping, getting rid of stuff (the latter being that Queer Exchange is a great place to get rid of stuff).

It would be nice to have access to my friends on Facebook at this time, but I’m just taking a break. Hopeful that most folks have my email or at least remember to google me and get my email from my blog. (It’s on the sidebar.) So far three people have texted asking why they can’t find me on Facebook, so that’s something.

In the meantime, I got a nice Fuck You from Facebook in the form of an email telling me all I have missed in the 48 hours since they deactivated my account.
FB email after suspension

I’m totally not kidding. I cannot actually log into my Facebook account, but they email me what I’m missing. Just like being inside a nightclub and coming out to the line of folks waiting outside fruitlessly arguing with a bouncer about IDs telling them what fun everyone is having without you. Facebook, you are an asshole.

I want to tell Facebook “You can’t fire me, I quit” and figure out how to live the social media life I want to without them. And yet, I’m still wondering how I can crowd source my incredible pool of friends so efficiently without Facebook. And I miss creeping my departed friend Laura Mulley’s Facebook feed because I’ve been learning a lot about her since she passed away last month and really appreciated that process and moving through grief.

The intention of this post is to warn folks who don’t use their government name on Facebook–they will come for you. And it will be without warning. So don’t rely on Facebook messenger to get info because poof, out of nowhere, Facebook will rip it from you unless you want to prepare all of these docs ahead of time. Maybe if I had a couple of weeks’ warning that they were going to ask me I could have tried to get a library card in my chosen name.

I can’t manage my Queer Fat Femme Facebook Fan Page now because I can’t get to it without my Facebook account. So I will simply have to use other social media outlets to tell people about my performances and life.

If you want to find me: Twitter (good articles/media recommendations), Instagram (my dog, my partner, my babely friends and adventures) and Tumblr (whatever goes on Tumblr).

I’m still a positive person (my motto about my attitude is to not allow my personal tragedy to interfere with my ability to do good hair, where good hair is ultimately believing the good in life) so I can’t leave it on an FU Facebook note. Instead, here’s a great Dolly Parton quote.

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2014-09-16

Post Cancer Treatment Life in a Nutshell

It’s been awhile since I posted substantively and when I get to this point I get into these quagmires, “But there’s no context for me on my blog anymore!” I like this space to be an ongoing narrative of who I am and what I’m doing at the intersections of these identities of queer, fat and femme. So to kick off more posts about what I’m excited about, here’s a newsy update.

IMG_20140816_203125Dara and I had a great “progressive dinner” date where we went to three different restaurants for different courses. This was for the vegan ice cream course at Van Leeuwan in Brooklyn.

Post Cancer Treatment

Dara is doing well post-cancer treatment. She is really loving life, she has a zest that is similar to her love of life pre-treatment, except her zest is more gentle and self-loving now. She has a way of really being present and relaxing into the idea that a day doing nothing is the perfect way to keep from working too much.

IMG_20140822_220118Me and Dara at a rooftop party a couple of weeks ago. I love when you get to tower over a sea of blingie skyscrapers.

We have so much fun together. We had fun during cancer, she often tells me I “made cancer fun.” My opinion throughout was why should cancer treatment not be a series of tumblr post worthy, good photo opportunity adventures? So that’s what it kind of was. But even as we made the best of things, it was still with a bit of a pall covering everything. Without most of that damper we’re having even more fun now. Everything feels a bit more joyful, with the gratitude of not being in cancer treatment.

We’re doing tons of new stuff. We went to a park neither of us had been to at the foot of the George Washington Bridge on the Hudson River to take a tennis lesson. I haven’t played tennis as an adult and I never took to it in high school; I don’t mean to brag but I lettered in badminton. I was all set on racket sports and didn’t need that clunky tennis racket to cloud my badminton focus!

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But tennis as an adult! It’s pretty fun and quite a workout. I’m sold! Dara and I went to another tennis lesson in a different park and it wasn’t nearly as fun, so now we’re on the hunt for the perfect city tennis situation.

She has her zest back but not quite her endurance… she injured her knee and two other body parts within a week. She has insomnia from the Tamoxifin, a hormone blocker that she has to take forever. Or like 10 years. So that’s another ding for energy.

We are hoping to go apple picking and camping this month! And next month we’ll reprise our trip to Southern California we were supposed to take in June when her father passed away suddenly. It feels healing to schedule out the adventures we want to take and folks we want to visit. I feel really lucky we’re able to do that.

Lucky is a great way to describe how we feel post treatment—we saw the movie the Fault in Our Stars, about a teenage girl with terminal cancer. It really hit home how temporary love can be. And even though the length of love is sometimes short, it can still have important, life changing intensity.

I feel like Dara’s cancer treatment was a life changing intensity time for me… as it was for Dara. We’re excited to see what our relationship is like after cancer treatment. I think we’ll both be different after treatment. (This was also why I declined to move in with her after cancer treatment—I want us to just have fun together for awhile instead of adding another pile of stress to the end of what has been a really difficult year for me.)

Macy’s Recovery

20140821_175210Family selfie.

My beloved dog Macy had surgery for a ruptured disc in July and her recovery is ongoing. Her intense separation anxiety post-hospital has finally waned. Perhaps it was taking her to that first tennis lesson with all that noise and flying balls that convinced her that insisting on being with her people 24/7 wasn’t necessary, but she is finally able to be left at home alone again. For awhile I couldn’t even leave her in my bedroom for two minutes without her wailing. It was very intense.

Macy has to begin pricey physical therapy for her hind leg. She is walking on all of her legs, which is huge progress from the surgery, but she’s limping really hard, her body is shaped kind of like a comma when she walks, curved to the right. She can’t jump onto furniture and she can’t push open the doors in the house anymore like she used to, and she’s bearing 80% of her weight on the front legs which can lead to more problems down the road.

I hope that the physical therapy involves hydro therapy because it is very cute to watch in you tube videos. It’s also very successful at strengthening weakened legs so I’m hopeful for a full recovery.

IMG_20140816_214812The third stop on our progressive dinner date, short ribs poutine from Mile End. Macy in her “accessibility backpack” that enabled us to take her all over the place this summer when she couldn’t be left alone. She even went to an outdoor YoYo Ma concert with Dara in the Berkshires! I picked up the backpack on Amazon for $44 and think it’s a great value.

Macy’s only ten years old and she’s otherwise perfectly healthy. Her veterinary neurologist expects that she’ll live out her days (Shih Tzus live to be about 16). So here’s a pro-tip, if your friend’s dog has had major surgery, don’t say anything like “She’s had a great life!” It’s really different to have a pet diagnosed with a chronic illness or an injury than to get a terminal diagnosis! She has had a great life (she was photographed in Time Out New York and Curve Magazine before I ever was!) but she has a lot more life to live!

I am still visioning for Macy to make it into People Magazine and Southern Living Magazine, two of my favorites. Maybe even Oprah Mag. But mostly, I’m still visioning lots of fun adventures for my charming and magical Shih Tzu!

Plus Size Party Girl

Instead of producing monthly parties, I’m now focusing my energy on less frequent bigger productions. Though, in lieu of all of that, I took a hiatus while Dara was going through treatment.

I just finished producing Dollypalooza, an Epic Fan Tribute to Dolly Parton on 9/5 (get it?). It was the biggest production I’ve ever taken on single-handedly. (Way to come back to party planning with a bang!)

bevingroupsingdollypaloozabyJenaCumboDrae Campbell, Miss Mary Wanna, Me, World Famous *BOB* and MILK from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6. Photo by Jena Cumbo for the Village Voice.

It reminded me of the intensity of Picnic Day when I was in college. That was the UC Davis open house—all departments, student organizations, sports teams, etc… put on some kind of exhibit or event. There was a parade, six stages of entertainment, a student activities fair. Legendary events during my tenure on the Picnic Day Board were the dachshund races in the basketball stadium, cockroach races in the Entemology Department and the fistulated cow demonstration by the College of Agriculture. The fistulated cow was a cow who had a hole cut into her stomach so people could put on a glove and reach their hand into the cow’s stomach to retrieve partially digested grass–cows digest the same food several times. It was rightfully shut down by animal rights protestors in the late 90s.

Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into coordinating that kind of event, involving a board of 20 and 500+ volunteers. There was a frenzy that overtook me and the entire board of organizers of Picnic Day the week before the event. I remember super late nights in the Picnic Day office laminating photographs into security passes. Dollypalooza was the closest I’ve ever come as an adult to that feeling. I love planning and executing major events, especially unusual ones that bring people joy. The lights in folks’ eyes when I fliered for Dollypalooza let me know I was on to something.

IMG_20140906_153536Me and my hero World Famous *BOB*–as her performance she told an amazing story about meeting Dolly Parton and had everyone from the show on stage at the end to group sing Hard Candy Christmas.

We made almost $700 for the Imagination Library in the raffle, Dolly’s literacy charity that sends books every month to kids in need, and it was an unforgettable show. I am brimming with ideas for next year. But I definitely know I can’t take on anything like that single-handedly again. I’m super grateful for Dara’s help—she did some amazing PR work that got a videographer from ABC News to come by, and some interest from People Magazine. My friend Jess, who brought me to Dollywood for the first time, took over the raffle and made that part so easy for me. We also figured out how to do a contest to send the performer who brought the most people in the door to Dollywood and got a raffle donation from Dollywood Cabins! At the end of the show, I felt like Oprah telling people “You go to Dollywood! And YOU go to Dollywood!”

IMG_6337The gorgeous view from the Dollywood Cabin I stayed in last May.

Mental and Emotional Health

Seeing a counselor with the Lesbian Cancer Initiative was the best choice I made as a caregiver during treatment. She pointed out to me going into post-treatment that I would have an adjustment period, and so would Dara. It is a significant energy shift.

IMG_20140829_162150This isn’t for the LCI but it’s from Callen Lorde, my physical health provider.

I’m in the weird process of looking for a therapist for the first time in my adult life. I’ve got about 50 possibilities from friends and am whittling it down. I am intentionally being really public about this process because my mental and emotional health are really high priorities for me and I want to encourage folks to feel empowered about seeking help. While things feel like the “calm after the storm” right now, I also think that the amount of life traumas I’ve faced in the past 12 months is unusual and I’d like to sort through them with a professional. Last night I had a dream about a friend of mine who passed last November and I’m about to go to Atlanta for the first time since her funeral. Crisis mode means you just scoot from one trauma to the next without digesting time, and I want to make sure I can go back in and digest things. Kind of like a metaphorical fistulated cow demonstration.

So that’s me in a nutshell (I really wish I had a picture of me in a nutshell).

Oh, and the first stop on our progressive dinner date (all in outdoor venues that allowed us to have our special needs Shih Tzu) was crispy kale salad in the backyard of Battersby… It was a great date!

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