NOLOSE is an organization for fat and lesbian/bisexual/queer women and transpeople dedicated to ending oppression against people for their size. While NOLOSE is more than just a conference, the main activity for the organization is the (not quite annual) conference.
It's hard to describe exactly what happens at the conference. I've been attending since 2004--when my drag troupe was tapped to perform an act as their evening entertainment. I didn't know what to expect from the gathering, but what I found was a fun and vibrant community of fat people (and allies!) of all sizes, shapes, colors, genders, ages and abilities working within themselves and in the larger culture to end fat oppression. Each year has been different, but what I was most tapped into was the fun aspect of it. I've made some of my closest friends while being very wacky and carefree at a NOLOSE gathering.
This year was a less fun for me than in years past--I can't quite put my finger on what it was--but as I go through my laundry list of what I got out of this year's conference, I want to highlight that even at my grumpiest I still got a transformative weekend of magical moments that I am very thankful for.
My highlights, in numerical order:
1. Fatties in the Media workshop. Oh, sure, I ran the workshop so it was already primed to be my favorite. But what can I say, community building, fat activism and making media are my passions and bringing them together was very important to me. I started the workshop by asking the participants (over 40 of them, which surprised me for a Sunday slot) what they would like to see on television in Fatopia--a society where weight is value-neutral, we've moved beyond the gender binary and anti-racism is the norm.
The group was very enthusiastic. We talked about the "F-Word", a show with fat queers, butches who look like, you know, butches. We talked about kids programming where there was more than one token fat kid and if he's a superhero his super power has nothing to do with his fatness. (Though, personally, I would totally want my superhero costume to involve cupcakes.) We talked about having real relationship structures featured, including functional polyamory and safe, sane and consensual BDSM . And instead of typical commercials we would include community events and concerned citizen announcements about paying attention to what your kids are doing. And that we would only have 5 hours of programming a day so that people would, you know, read a book.
I asked several of the conference attendees to come to my workshop to discuss what they were doing and how they were doing it, as a sort of idea and skill share. Allyson Mitchell talked about making movies on super 8 and doing community classes and film screenings. LukasBlakk talked about digital media, distribution and vlogging . Mr. Kate talked about making and distributing Zines, old school style. Chelsey from the Fat Femme Mafia talked about fat activist initiatives using video and I got the Fat and Queer movie girls to discuss their idea and their process. And I talked about FemmeCast pretty briefly.
The workshop left me feeling very invigorated about making the kind of media I want to see (and the people in the workshop want to see)!
2. Meeting Lukas Blakk and Allyson Mitchell. I've met Allyson before but not in the context of knowing the art and media she was doing. Allyson curated a fattie short film series. A lot of the videos I hadn't seen, so it was cool to get to be exposed to them. Even though some of the digital videos had some technical difficulties, I wrote them down to come home to download. Her short "Foodie" was really remarkable. And Lukas had several videos I hadn't seen, including one with Tracy Tidgwell on stockpiling food and this hysterical video with some of the performers I know through drag called "Destiny's Neighbor". I really love campy, creative fat art and am really happy to have met people making this kind of stuff at NOLOSE.
At best, conferences are great networking opportunities and I want to surround myself with people making fat and queer media.
During the media workshop Lukas offered to start a "Fat Planet", which is basically a global RSS feed thing where it gloms onto the feeds of a whole bunch of NOLOSE related people's fat and queer blogs, writings, videos, podcasts and puts them into one feed. Lukas was way more eloquent than I can be about the subject, but I will definitely spread the word when it becomes available.
Also, Lukas and Allyson are Canadians and I have a crush on the city of Toronto and their fattivities. (Daddy K's Dance Acadamy? Fat Femme Mafia? Word.)
3. My bestie Genne, First Runner up in the Master of Dance competition. The Master of Dance competition was this year's answer to the "Fresh Bottom Revue". One thing NOLOSE has been great for is challenging people to use their bodies in new ways. The Fresh Bottom Revue was something Heather MacAllister was responsible for, a response to her professional Fat Bottom Revue, where people who hadn't performed burlesque before would attend a workshop and perform burlesque for the first time at the Saturday night entertainment for the conference.
This year, Tiny and Petunia held a dance off. There was a workshop for it and Genne attended. Having a family history of not dancing and a lot of anxiety around dancing, she decided that since it was the workshop that scared her the most she should go to it. I think that if everyone adopted that life philosophy people would be a lot happier.
Before she went up there I told her how proud I was of her for doing it. She really challenged herself, put herself on stage and danced like crazy. My favorite move she did was a "swim" with her whole body on the ground, literally swimming. I'm still not sure what the rules of the competition were, but ultimately the people who risked the most and were the most, for lack of better word, crazy and different, were rewarded. It was silly goodness.
4. Fatshion. There was a bit of controversy before this year's conference about the so-called "Fashion Olympics". This is the tendency for NOLOSE to involve a great deal of challenging fatshion . For me, since it is a conference and I have access to my clothes and the ability to change a lot, I will wear a variety of ridiculous outfits because I can. And I am not alone in this.
Some people were expressing discomfort at not being able to be on their "A Game" for fashion at this year's conference and there was a huge debate about it on livejournal. This debate sparked a workshop about Fashion at NOLOSE . I took great offense to the term "Fashion Olympics" (there is no judge! the winners are anyone who dresses to make themselves feel good!), especially as a very flamboyant high femme. But I did recognize the inherent benefit to discussing and breaking down how the "Fashion Olympics" affects the community at NOLOSE and the ways in which it reconstructs social hierarchies.
NOLOSE is a special place in terms of body acceptance and fashion risk. There is no dress code. I took some fashion risks this year, which included not packing a lot of clothes. Lately I have been interested in trying a miniskirt/minidress look, which is hard for me as a fattie. Also, I don't do scarves very often, so I tried this look. I am pictured here with Glenn Marla, tranny superstar and my fashion cousin (down to the Fluevogs).
I also rocked a fuzzy pink robe, jingly reindeer slippers and pigtails during the fashion workshop. I never wear pigtails, but I thought it important to make the point, you can dress down while still dressing up. Plus they kept my freshly dyed hair out of the water when I went swimming earlier.
Anyway, the workshop was good (and co-facilitated by my BFF and fat femme fashion icon Zoe). We talked a lot about how to include people and work on exclusion and acceptance, the importance of giving compliments and creating a welcoming community (a NOLOSE buddy system was suggested) and the difference between fashion and style.
5. People. I am absolutely privileged to have a fat queer community in New York City (and beyond) that I keep up with on the regular. I feel very honored that being in a space with so many fat people isn't an unusual occurrence for me, but I do see the ways in which that is restorative and unusual for others. And seeing a lot of body diversity in one room is amazing for me, too. I just love getting to catch up with people I don't see very often. I can't possibly do a roll call, but I want to give extra giant love to my personal Cadbury Leather Egg, Mitchell Atticus . Having butches like Mitch around to just help out makes my party planning, rabble-rousing and community building much easier. He helped me plan a much-needed conference make out party. Since I was grumpy I didn't make out with anyone, but having FemmeCast sponsor a party where other people did and made some great connections made me feel good. As I said this weekend, "Even if I'm in a bad mood and not having a lot of fun, I want to make sure other people are having fun because that makes me feel good."
My friend Naima did a hipster impression that was absolutely right on during dinner, we had a Fat Femme stampede to a sundae bar, and I got to spend some snarkymarvelous time with fellow Femme's Guide Blogger, Hussy Red.
6. Genne's Fat Families Workshop. Her workshop, which was about an interview she did with her grandmother about 80 years in a fat body, had a lot of a ha moments for me about my family and our relationship to fat. I think as activists we talk a lot about our family as the root to our struggles about fat but not necessarily how to deal with them and what we can learn from them. I am planning an episode of the podcast about families and got a lot of great ideas from Genne's workshop.
And, most importantly, what I got out of this year was a lot of great ideas for what I want to be doing in terms of fat activist community building. I am at an interesting cross roads in terms of what I am going to focus on and I think I have further clarity. And clarity is in short supply for me these days!
Next up for me on the Femme's Guide, I will discuss weight loss goals in the fat activist movement.
P.S. Did you notice there's a minisode about the economy available at the FemmeCast website? It's true.