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

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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2011-06-20

So Much Loss

Filed under: Queer Oprah — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Bevin @ 10:07 pm

First of all, I am renaming Gay Pride Month. I am now calling it Gay Stamina Month. Everyone goes out twice as much, there are three times as many events. (The LGBT Bar Association had not one but FOUR pride events this month–that’s not even touching on the abundance of nightlife!)

And in the midst of this whirlwind of pride events and Real L Word people behind a velvet rope on exhibit at a nightclub, our community is rocked by the tragic and sudden loss of an incredible artist. Our friend Cheryl B. has passed away.

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I knew Cheryl first as a poet and the performer behind Poetry vs. Comedy, but I didn’t really get to know her until she dated my friend Kelli Dunham. She was a remarkable person and their love story is dorky and awkward and tender and glorious. I loved that Cheryl could be both sarcastic and sweet, which is a difficult combination. She was also an incredibly talented writer, evident most recenltly in her fabulous blog chronicling her journey with cancer called WTF Cancer Diaries.

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At Nerd Love with Cheryl, Diana Cage, Molly Dykeman and Kelli.

But mostly I knew that Cheryl really loved Kelli and she made Kelli very, very happy, which was the most important thing to me. I remember the first few times I saw her with Kelli I could tell how much she loved her. Sometimes when I go into people’s homes I can sense how much love there is and with Cheryl and Kelli it was palpable wherever they were. On stage being dorky and reenacting their first dates as the bears in the XTraNormal videos at Nerd Love in February, and in the hospital during visits. It was quiet and beautiful and shared glances and dedication to positive thinking and letters to hospital staff posted on their door about being responsible for the energy they brought into their space.

When Cheryl first got sick it was really shocking, and my heart leapt to Kelli and Cheryl. And I cried because it was so unfair, just like right now I am crying because it is so unfair that someone as loving, generous and wonderful as Kelli should have another loss like this.

This marks the third person I have known personally to pass away in the last three months, all under 46 years old. I am so shocked at how much loss my communities have experienced and grateful for how much love there is going around.

I am a person of faith but not religion. I had this beautiful image a couple of months ago after my friend V passed away of all of the beautiful women who are waiting for me beyond the veil or whatever you want to call the passage from this life. V was a Femme mentor to me–I knew her from afar the very first moment I laid eyes on her at Michfest. She was a beacon of Fat Femme adornment and I saw in her hope for myself. At the time I was so lost with my identity, with my body, I felt so isolated in the lesbian community and there V was, self-confident and strutting through a community she clearly belonged in.

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Here is V atop the truck in the Femme Parade a couple of years ago. Our friend VA is next to her on the left.

We met personally years later and she eventually, and often, called me her fashion icon. I was flabbergasted–how could someone whose own fashion inspired my emergence from my self-hating shell call me an icon? It was some sort of circle of admiration bending over onto itself and it was beautiful.

V was so full of love and joy for life. She was tender with everyone. Here’s a confession: I was still so intimidated by V that I never once asked her to take a photo with me. I am a person who obsessively photo documents my life. I am always asking people to take photos with me.* But for some reason I kept being intimidated about asking V, I have no idea why. I guess I once put her on a pedestal and it was hard for me to take her off. Also, hence why I have taken over two months to write about her passing because I was waiting to be able to say something “perfect” even though I know better–I know there is no such thing as “perfect” expressions of love or grief.

So the day that V died I vowed never to let my intimidation stop me from taking photos ever again.

I remember the last NOLOSE conference I was hanging out by the pool and everyone else was in a workshop but V was floating in the pool near my ex-lover Luscious. I was talking to V and she asked if I would take her photo with her iphone floating there–she was so happy, she wanted to capture that moment. So I went to her room and got her iphone and took the photo and won’t forget the look on her face and how she soaked up that bit of life like a piece of bread in a bowl of soup. I wish I had that photo, too!

And another moment. V was a really talented quilter. She brought a quilt she made and displayed it at the worker craft fair and sat in front of it. It was yellow and now when I think of her I often think of that image of her in front of that quilt.

Last week marked one year since Luscious passed away. I realized I am not partial to remembering birthdays or anniversaries of death. I think about Luscious every day and actually have been thinking a lot about her lately anyway. And then when people on Facebook** started talking about it, there I was hit with Big Feelings. It’s as though I don’t like the pressure of the one day that is supposed to hurt more than others. Or one day where you have to feel it bigger, like the feelings aren’t already there or something. But then it is that day and it does feel bigger and you don’t know why.

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Me and Luscious. Photo courtesy of Tanja Tiziana.

But that’s it. There are feelings and there are losses and shit is just sad. I used to be so afraid of grief and feeling sad. There was this time in my life where I made the decision to not be sad anymore. I spent most of my teenage years in this intense depression, mostly stemming from feeling very very bad about being fat. I read this book where the main character just hated herself and was miserable and I realized that I didn’t want to live that way anymore. That was the beginning of my life-long journey to love myself.

But what I unintentionally added to that was a judgment of myself about being sad. I worked hard to escape from feelings of sadness and grief. I learned how to rebound like a pro when I got dumped. I was so sad about my step-mom dying when I was 19 I couldn’t talk about her for three years without crying so I just didn’t talk about her. And she was and is one of the most important people to me. I learned how to not let myself feel sad. I learned how to cut people out and cut myself off from conflict when it hurt too bad.

I just read about Akhilandeshvari: The Goddess of Never Not Broken and it reminded me that all of the things I’ve gone through in my life are really important parts of my strength now. When I forget about that and when the sad, angering or frustrating things happen I fight against them because of the injustice.

Since last Fall I’ve been working really intently on healing losses from my childhood and my life. I had a devastating heartbreak and I didn’t try to romantically rebound for the first time since I started dating. I am learning how to grieve. How to really feel my feelings. How to trust my instincts. How to love myself through not feeling things “perfectly” and how being sad is really okay sometimes but that also gives me a huge impetus for joy in the little things. Being in the moment and present. Everything is temporary–and that’s the beauty. When you are sad it will pass. The crying jag in the car, it will be over. And it is so necessary.

I am sad at the loss all around. I think it is really unfair and I feel so much sadness for the partners and family and close friends of the people who have passed.

But I am in awe of all the love in these losses. I am so inspired by the love Kelli and Cheryl had for each other. I am so inspired by the love V had for everyone around her and the life she revelled in. I am comforted knowing that I loved Luscious as best and as broken as I possibly could and she loved me as best and as broken as she could during the time we had together.

And this is me, my process, my looking at the glass half-full. Because I’ve got just one wild and precious life and I choose to have a positive one, and see V in my spiritual posse of Femmes on the other side looking out for me and ready for me when my time comes.

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And I felt this loss, and the heaviness and busy-ness of last week and all the disco floors and ceilings and too many repetitions of that terrible Katy Perry song and my instincts are telling me to take a break from Gay Stamina Month. I’m going away. Wednesday and Thursday it’s me, my dog Macy, and some alone time at my favorite beach. And I’ll be feeling my feelings, my grief and my joy and my awe and my love for women who inspire me.

And here are three things that have brought me great joy in the last two days.


This video.

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This photo. The Prize Pig shirt from Heart Attack Culture is incredible.

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Finding this photo I took in San Francisco while filming for Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s Fierce Fat Femmes documentary. I was doing a performance art piece in this donut shop. I love this photo.

*I think our queer and fat and otherwise different communities are beautiful and this is the vision of the world I want to capture. Mainstream culture gets the magazines and tv shows and news reports and I think we should get as much exposure as we can–hence my drive to create media that inspires self-love for all people, regardless of their differences.

**Facebook grieving still feels hard for me to participate in, but I still totally read all of the things people post about V, Luscious and now, sadly, Cheryl.

2009-12-19

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Queer Holiday Gifting

Hey, how did it get to be 6 shopping days left until Christmas?

Last night on a phone call with Damien Luxe, we talked about one of the biggest skills we gained in higher education–the ability to execute big results despite procrastination flawlessly. This is how I approach holiday shopping, too. Honestly, I always have good intentions but I just don’t usually get around to having everything together for big things under the tree on time.

So, what I like to do is print a picture of what the thing is I bought or ordered or have in the pipeline and putting it in a thoughtful card. (I’ve actually done this a lot with crafts I haven’t finished.)

It is in the spirit of celebrating and supporting my procrastinating blog readers that I present unto you this nice list of some possible last minute shopping ideas. These will work for your sweetie (Femme or otherwise), your BFF, your ultra liberal mom, your boss, whatever, from some of my favorite shops and queer artists out there. Way more interesting, thoughtful and pro-small business/artist/supporting the community gifts than something you grabbed at Target at the last minute. And they can usually be shipped right to your intended recipient!

PRETTY THINGS

Buy your dapper dandy or pretty princess or sparkly queen something shiny from Looks Good From The Front! Her hair pieces are elaborate and gorgeous and her price points went down after my last blog post about her!
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On looks alone The Inverted Eye is my favorite online retailer. Such a gorgeous online shop. But there’s so much more to it than “subtly kinky items and discreet fetish antiques”–there are amazing costume pieces and decorative items that need to be in a burlesque performer or retro lover’s home.
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Perfect gift for the Butch or Southern Rose in your life! This charming barber’s hair dressing display would look great hung on the wall.

Art By Mags has some amazing stencil work. If I were still the employee of a republican with a sense of humor, I would totally get him a Rachel Maddow Truth-Teller wall-hanging. I would also get any roller derby girl the really hot roller skate clock.
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Fat Men’s Vintage Clothing! At last there is a store just for butch vintage style! Online even! So amazing. Old Man Pants vintage is run by a really hot queer. The stuff is amazing! My dream retro king boyfriend or girlfriend would shop at this store. I have no further words, just go check it out.

CUSTOM ART!

Nothing says “Honey I know you love glitter” like buying a customized glitter painting! Glitterbombe Portraits by Cherry Poppins. Custom artwork for you or someone you adore. You can get a portrait of yourself or a favorite idol! Email ms.bombe [at] gmail [dot] com to start discussing your custom piece. Coming soon: www.glitterbombe.com.
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V Kingsley makes custom quilts that are so gorgeous I can’t even really talk about it. I’ve seen her work in person and it is absolutely stunning. It’s also made by one of my Femme heroes, someone who walks the walk of living a life of service, being whole, loving and gorgeous. Her free spirit fashion helped me to break out of my shell when I was a baby Femme and saw her for the first time. So anyway, look at her quilt gallery and decide to get a keepsake made with love and magic!

CALENDARS!

I love a good calendar. This year I am most excited about the Adipositivity Calendar. I’m not in it but a lot of the hot naked fat bodies in it are friends of mine. Part of what helped me come into acceptance and love of my fat body (how it is versus how society tells me it should look) was seeing the actual diversity in women’s bodies, fat or otherwise. You can get it through Cafe Press, the proceeds go to the artist so she can keep making really important fat art!

(If you’re in NYC you can come into Re/Dress NYC where we have them on consignment.)

REGIONAL GIFTS–PHOTOGRAPHY

I think one of the best things I ever did for my self-esteem was to get comfortable in front of a camera. Working with the right photographer can do wonders to make you feel like a sex pot, pin-up or just more at home in your skin. So is creating keepsakes for you, a loved one, history.

A great Seattle gift is a full or partial gift certificate for a session with Fat Bottom Boudoir. I was shot by Molly recently and she is really easy to be with, understands the special needs of people who don’t meet the mainstream societal standards of beauty and can make people really comfortable. Her portrait eye is really amazing–I have never seen someone in one of her pictures that doesn’t seem more like themselves and also really good looking. Molly sometimes travels to do marathon sessions.

My friend Kelly at Closed Circle Photography specializes in weddings (her shoots are amazing!) but also does some really lively portrait work in Boston or thereabouts. She’s also a big traveler. A great gift for a mom-to-be, recent parents or anyone who wants to document growth and development is a package that includes a few sessions–I’ve seen some of the year-to-year work Kelly has done and it is really endearing.

In NYC my friend Sophie started a pin-up photography business called Shameless Photography. She does full pin-up vintage makeovers and glamour shots at really reasonable prices or for barter/trade.

REGIONAL GIFTS–PERFORMANCE

Ms. Cherry Gallette has offered the following: bay area patrons can purchase the gift of cherry for their friends and/or themselves. this means that on an agreed upon date, i’ll come perform for their event or party and/or get down and dirty in the kitchen and make them a sugary treat in full costume. how sweet does that sound? Email chachacherry [at] gmail.com for more info!

You can also give tickets to a big upcoming queer performance, design a fancy night out and detail it in a card, and get creative.

I will also give a plug to my employer, you can call Re/Dress NYC and order a gift certificate on the phone and we’ll send you a cutesy email to print out and give to your intended. We have some amazing clothing, accessories, jewelry, shoes, purses, neon leg warmers… Love knows no size limit. (P.S. All of our vintage coats just got reduced to $99 or less.)

There are a lot more ideas I was given than I have time or space to blog about, but these were some of the most sparkly and unusual. I encourage everyone to not let your procrastination hinder your thoughtfulness and resourcefulness–last minute gifts can be both and support your community!

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