Every successful organization needs role models. Here at SExT, we have this superhero duo who work very hard to make our organization a successful one. They shine the brightest in stressful situations and they never ask for breaks or a day off. Their work never gets the full credit it deserves and even though they might be under-appreciated, they still work as hard as they can to bring joy and smiles on other people's faces. I'm talking about Supergirl aka Elena Juatco and Wonder Woman aka Shira Taylor.
Guess who was on the very first float of the Pride Parade?! It was insane! Yup, SExT is always ready to lead the way and get the dance party started. We were thrilled to join the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) up front and centre for the 2018 Toronto Pride Parade and to march with thousands of Torontonians who support equal rights for the LGBTQ community. We had a blast - thank you ASAAP and of course CANFAR for always making everything possible. Happy Pride everyone! XO
Dear Mr. Ford,
I got to vote last week! I can finally check that off my bucket list. It was actually pretty easy, just marking down an “X” on the paper – no trick questions. I didn’t know how fast the results would pour in though, and if I’m being honest, the outcome wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. I say this because of your proposed repeal of the new sex-ed curriculum.
I’m not just any person writing about what sex education means to me. I’m a youth from the Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood of Toronto, a community where the new sex-ed curriculum caused a lot of uproar and I’ve seen first-hand the impact of the sex-ed protests. I know that more than 200 elementary school children were taken out of school as a way for their parents to make a statement of their disagreement. I know this because I used to work as an after-school program leader in the community. I know this because some of them were kids from my program. When their friends would ask me, “Sara, why isn’t so-and-so here today? They weren’t here yesterday or the day before too,” what could I say back? I wasn’t allowed to say what I wanted to say to them back then, but I’ll say it now.
I respect that parents should be able to teach their children whatever they want, and I respect the people in my community who have made their decisions on the curriculum. As a Bengali-Canadian child born and raised in Canada, the cultural shame that comes with talking about the body (a taboo topic) conflicts with my own curiosity and access to knowledge as a Canadian student. I have never in my life gotten the “birds and the bees” talk from my parents. In fact, they’ve never really talked about anything sex-related at all, except about periods, and that’s just with my mom. But how do I know so much about sex if it wasn’t through school? Because kids talk. A LOT. Plus, there's the power of a simple Google search. Even if a parent never discussed the topic of sex with their child, it would be impossible for that child living in today's world to not know anything about it. Even if that child managed to avoid sex education, the result would be dangerous. My Grade 12 teacher had a question box for her Grade 9s to write down any question regarding sex-ed because she didn’t want them to rely on the internet for answers. She told us that one student's question was, “What is sex?” She then proceeded by saying, “God forbid he/she ever gets raped or they wouldn’t even know what happened to them.”
Let’s pretend for just a minute that rape and sexual assault don’t happen. It’s a real danger that no one should have to go through. Well the same thing goes for sexting, cyberbullying and suicide. If students are not taught about these things, how will they know who they can turn to, what their resources are, and how to protect themselves?
The sex-ed curriculum isn’t just about sex, it's about physical and mental health. “SExT: Sex Education by Theatre” is a project created by PhD student Shira Taylor as a way to incorporate sex education, along with other stigmatized topics, with the use of theatre. The topics include consent, abusive/healthy relationships, stereotypes, mental health and LGBTQ+ issues which are addressed using comedy, music, dance, and spoken word to eliminate the discomfort surrounding these concepts. As a peer educator from the Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park community, I thought it was important to not only learn and educate myself, but to speak out on these types of subjects as a way of starting a conversation in a less threatening way (rather than in a classroom setting).
What we want to promote is a comprehensive educational approach, to teach with love and acceptance, not by fear. We can’t stop the flow of information, but what we can do is spread the right information safely.
Yes, learning the biology of the human body is important. But what about the emotions and feelings that come with our growing and changing bodies while we figure out who we are? We learn in school that the human brain does not fully develop until age 21, so does it really make sense to promote the concept of “ABSTINENCE IS KEY, DON'T HAVE SEX” to a bunch of people who make rash decisions due to their late prefrontal cortex development? Because when you’re told not to do something, chances are you’re going to do it anyways.
We want to work with you these next 4 years of your term to educate and protect youth. These are our peers, our friends, our siblings; and we want the best for them, as do you, I’m sure. Before you make any decisions about what to do about the new sex-ed curriculum, I urge you to watch our show for yourself. I want you to see the audience go crazy with laughter. I want you to hear their silence when we talk about abusive relationships. I want you to see their excitement when we use popular dance moves to rap about consent. I want you to see what we’re all about, first.
That being said, I would like to formally invite you to a viewing of our show, “SExT: Sex Education by Theatre” because it’s time for teens to give the talk. I really do hope you take us up on this offer.
Sara Ahmed with the Cast of SExT
We woke up to a rainy day. The clouds were sharing the same emotions as most of us. We knew it was going to be our last day of our tour, so emotions were through the roof.
May 30, 2018 - North Battleford & Turtleford, Saskatchewan
On the second to last day of shows during this tour, with cold, gloomy weather came a gloomy mood. Maybe it was my ill-fitting clothing for the tempature of the weather or maybe it was the darkness of the sky. Either way, I was faced with an overcast of moodiness that fluctated greatly as we performed.
May 29th, 2018 - Île à la Crosse & Beauval
We awoke later than usual, thanks to the school being a whole 5 minutes away. The night before we had fallen asleep to cloudy cotton candy skies with flashes of lightning in the distance. Thuriga spent the night taking videos while a wild dog lay at her feet. We were prepared for our next 2-show day.
May 28th, 2018 - La Loche & Buffalo Narrows
Today we woke up and left our hotel in Buffalo Narrows at 7:40AM for a two show day. The sky was blue and beautiful. The birds were chirping. The cold breeze would hit us and give us the chills. As the tour bus departed the hotel, we looked back at the lakefront and remembered how peaceful and beautiful it was when we arrived there yesterday: the long walks some of us took in the perfect weather, the bald eagle we saw, the ducks, the beaver, tadpoles, the breath-taking sunset.
SExT Creative Facilitator, Elena here. Just like you, I have been itching for any and all updates from the SExT cast as they have made their way through the province of Saskatchewan. I am "The Girl That Was Left Behind". Yes, the FOMO is real. When the cast reaches a destination that has a good WiFi connection, I am inundated with photos and texts and stories and this shining face seemed to always be shining through. He is the talk of the tour and we have agreed that our first official Man Crush Monday #MCM goes to our amazing bus driver RICHARD! The cast got to interview him over dinner and this is what they had to say:
May 26, 2018 - La Ronge, Saskatchewan
Today was our first free day! So of course we decided to sleep in late. Our driver Richard offered to take us on a tour around the town and show us all the beautiful spots nearby.
May 24, 2018 - Weyakwin, Saskatchewan
Today we woke up and followed SMT (SExT Mean Time) and left half an hour late to perform for Kiskahikan School in a small community called Weyakwin. We took a detour and drove near the most beautiful parts of Canada. It was breath taking. We saw elks on the road. While on the ride to our next destination, we got a phone call from our ex-cast mate Saad from Pakistan. Talked about our shows, and Saskatchewan. He was really into it.
This bitterness manifested in you from a long string of failures in the romance department is quite different from your typical heartbreak. Heartbreak is a sharp pain that goes away after a while and bitterness is that dull pain that persists for an indefinite amount of time. People get heartbroken after their significant other dumps them. People get bitter when that thing happens a few more times. Countless rejections, cheating partners (one after another), abusive relationships and nasty divorces can also make people bitter.
You know how on TV, sometimes a character will be in love with a musician or a show, and then by the end of the episode they get to go on tour with them? So unrealistic right? Well, that's what happened to me.
The person you talk to the most is not your grandma, cat, or bestie. It is you! The inner voice in your head is constantly talking to you. From your waking moment to your slumber, you are listening and talking to yourself. Hence it is important that we don’t do it the wrong way. I don’t really know what the “right” way is, but I definitely know what the “wrong” way is.
As a cast member of SExT, I am required to know information about STIs, mental health, healthy relationships, etc., but before becoming a peer educator and going national, I think I’m obligated to talk about our roots and where we come from.
Lesson 1: All Hamzas are Late.
Elena and Shira kept gushing over how this big shot actor dude was going to come to our rehearsal and teach us something. I never heard of him or saw him. His first impression wasn’t good since he was late. Not awfully late, but still late. All people named Hamza are always late (Cardinal Rule #1). That’s okay though; if a Hamza in your life is early, something is terribly wrong.
So I've been numb for a few days. Honestly most of the news makes me numb, so much that I usually avoid the news when I can. But the van attack that happened in Toronto this week that killed 10 people and injured 16 (most of whom were women) has stirred something in me. Basically ... I'm pissed.
We are thrilled to announce that SExT has received a grant from Ontario Arts Council! The Artists in Communities and Schools Projects Grant will enable us to provide mentorship to our peer educators as we expand our outreach to the community and gear up for some exciting upcoming shows in the GTA. Thank you OAC and stay tuned for more!
SExT was was a hot topic of conversation at the 2018 Power of the Arts National Forum in Montréal this past weekend, where speakers across Canada came together to share on the theme of "The Arts As Tools For Peace". It was here that our very own director and creator, Shira Taylor, was awarded the TD Michaëlle Jean Foundation Bursary, which is given to a young changemaker who has demonstrated excellence in using the Arts to address issues of concern in Canada.
What an incredible weekend spent at The Art of Changing the World 2017 conference in Ottawa. It was such an exciting experience to present the "Working with Youth in Change Agendas" workshop with our director, Shira Taylor!
SExT: Sex Education by Theatre came together because of Shira Taylor, a PhD candidate out of the University of Toronto, deciding to focus her thesis on using the arts to give youth the tools, information and voices they need to educate themselves and each other on the various topics of Sex Ed. More importantly, SExT gave my community (Toronto’s Thorncliffe/ Flemingdon Park) the chance to decide what was important to us, and how we wanted to communicate those learnings back to our community.
I feel like it was just yesterday that I was writing a blog about the exposé on Jian Ghomeshi. I grew obsessed with the case and wondered why a woman like myself, “who is one of the 50% of women in Canada who have never experienced physical or sexual violence”, would be so affected by the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him. I felt a deep, visceral connection to the women who stepped forward and I chalked it up to the fact that we, as women, have a shared experience and consciousness in a male-dominated world. And that my empathy towards survivors of sexual violence is because we all share the same pain.
I (Aleef) and Shira (Director of SExT and mother of 13 kids) attended the UJA (United Jewish Appeal) Federation’s first ever Mental Health Empowerment Day on September 17th on a Sunday. Yes, Sunday morning at 9 am 🙂
In ancient times, rites of passage meant more than just getting your freak on at your best friend’s barmitzvah. They were downright horrid traditions that were meant to push you out of your comfort zone. In order to become a man from a boy or woman from a girl, you had to go through one of the most dreadful experiences in your whole life.
Some in-depth discussion and perspectives from our SExT cast about mental illness are in the inaugural publication of Be Scene Magazine! Pick up your copy now! bescenemag.wordpress.com/
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