Why do shitstorms teach us the most valuable lessons? Why do our worst heartbreaks, failures, and tragedies bear life-changing epiphanies? The answer to that question lies in a cliche quote I grabbed from the gutters of 'Instagram.'
"Rock bottoms teach you lessons that mountain tops never would."
Indeed! The view from rock bottoms is different from the view from mountain tops. Hence, rock bottoms teach you different lessons. These rock bottoms (or shitstorms) turn our lives upside down and force us to learn new things by changing our perspectives.
It's safe to say that this pandemic is a "Worldwide Shitstorm." Naturally, a shitstorm this big brings us equally big lessons. Here is what I learned.
1) Our most ordinary activities are our greatest treasures
A simple walk around the block (without a mask on), dining in a horrid eatery, a hang out with friends where we talk nonsense are our life's greatest treasures. We don't need a piña colada in the Bahamas while we skydive out of a jet to be happy. The simple things we do are our meat and potatoes of life, not the fancy vacations we fantasize about. We took those things for granted, which leads me to my next point.
2) Never take the simple things in life for granted
Thanks to this pandemic, I will never take freely breathing outside for granted again. Who would have thought? That one day, we would be forced to wear masks outdoor and look like extras from "The Phantom of the Opera."
It also makes me wonder what I am taking for granted right now. Cerb Payments? Uber eats? My dysfunctional family? These seemingly simple things need more of our gratitude. Because we might lose them one day too.
3) You can get used to anything
Remember when Trump got elected, and we thought we would never get used to his shenanigans? What happened later? Did we lose our minds and explode? No, we just got used to it. Just like we got used to this pandemic. I saw my 6-year-old cousin put on a mask before going out as if he been doing that since birth. He didn't moan or groan either; the same can't be said for me. So it doesn't matter how bad a situation is, you will get used to it.
4) It reminds me of our resilience
This pandemic has killed more than 800 thousand people already. It's forcing us to make tough decisions every day. "Do I go to work and risk the death of my grandma? Or do I rely on the government to feed my family?" Tragically, this is one of the "good" scenarios because the person still has a job in this scenario. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't since the pandemic took a dump on the economy. The screwed up economy and the tragic death toll aside, its also causing havoc on our psyches. Mental health problems are on a historical rise. So is domestic and sexual abuse.
The world's basically up in flames, but we have still managed to laugh, live and make banana bread for whatever reason. Not really surprising cause we have been surviving one catastrophe after another since the beginning of time.
Our ancestors survived ice ages, wars, genocides, plagues, nuclear annihilation anxiety, and god knows what else. Now is the time we show OUR resilience. So people in the future can look back and say, 'Those guys were so badass they survived that pandemic while baking banana bread!'
So, don't fret. The world's not going to end. We will be fine, we always have been.
And when life throws you another hurdle. Remind yourself. "I survived Covid-19, I will survive this too."
- Post by Aleef Khan, SExT Cast Member and Resident Blog Contributor
What is your Quarantine Dream? ☁️🦄
How do you envision our world post-pandemic? We asked our cast to share their Quarantine Dreams…and obviously, we had to sing 🎤 about it. SExT encourages YOU to reflect on YOUR pandemic experiences and share your ideas for a better future on social media using #QuarantineDream.
This pandemic has been rough on more than our physical health. It has affected our mental health and relationships. It has exposed systemic inequalities. It also woke us up and gave us a rare chance to pump the breaks and consider the future we want to CREATE for ourselves and our communities.
The #QuarantineDream music video and social media campaign is funded by the ‘U of T COVID-19 Student Engagement Award’ through the generosity of the Office of the Vice-President, international and University Toronto Scarborough. Thank you to TakingITGlobal, the Government of Canada, and Canada Service Corps for generously supporting this project!
Do you have a simple project idea to support your community? TakingITGlobal is looking to support youth who are inspired with ideas and ready to take action through their youth-led community service grants. Apply for a #RisingYouth grant today at www.risingyouth.ca!
It’s safe to say that 2019 has been an amazing year for SExT! The year started with features in publications such as Occhi Magazine and GirlTalkHQ. The year only picked up from there as we gained a new cast member in March and received the award for Remarkable Innovation from ArtBridges/ToileDesArts!
We had some amazing local performances leading up to our second #SExTNationalTour in May, which is in partnership with the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR)! We also partnered with the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to address the outbreak of gonorrhea and syphilis in the region. We had the opportunity to perform in 11 communities and cities for over 2300 youth across Ontario, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. How amazing is that?!
Travelling across the Northwest Territories by plane, bus, and ferry was such an incredible experience that we will never forget. In between our performances we had so many wonderful experiences to make our trip truly special. From hanging out with Setsune (Grandmother) and hearing her stories and eating dough guts in Fort Smith, to visiting the Salt Plains, to seeing so many waterfalls and double-rainbows, all of it was amazing. We saw 72 buffalo and 19 black bears as we drove across the NWT. We got to visit hide camp in Yellowknife and go to dance parties and walk around Old Town and Pilot’s Monument. Director Shira Taylor and cast member Michelle were interviewed by CBC News! Our cast got to participate in a beautiful drum circle about feelings and healing. We got to drive the most northern Canadian highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk and visit the Arctic Ocean! Some youth in Tuk taught us how to play Arctic Games and we had so much fun. We also got to visit the Midnight Sun Mosque in Inuvik, which is the world’s most northern mosque. Interwoven throughout all these adventures we had the chance to perform for youth across the Northwest Territories and hear their inspiring stories of resilience, challenges, and joy. We feel so honoured to have met everyone we did in the NWT.
Back in Toronto we performed several more local shows, attended the Toronto Pride Parade and got our dance celebration on, and celebrated SExT’s 5-year anniversary!!! Wow we are so thankful! We also spearheaded World Mental Health Week and World AIDS Day social media campaigns. We had additional media coverage in magazines such as YTGT (You Got This, Girl!) and Sex, Etc., who did an interview with cast member Lauren on her song parody Bodak Consent. Director Shira Taylor won CIHR Gold and the prestigious Gairdner Award for her research on SExT! We wrapped up the last year of the decade with some amazing performances in our home city of Toronto, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This year was an epic journey. Thank you to everyone who supported us and we will see what awaits us in 2020. Whatever it is, we hope to continue to #RevolutionizeSexEd every step of the way, using the stage to tell stories that we can relate to. Thank you for taking this journey with us. Happy New Year!
- Post by Emma Wheaton, SExT Co-Producer and Social Media Coordinator
It’s safe (and at SExT we are all about keeping it safe 😉) to say that 2018 has been our best year yet! We started the year in Montreal with the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean at the opening ceremonies of the National Power of the Arts Forum. In the spring, we received an Ontario Arts Council Grant and partnered with the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR). We embarked on our first #SExTNationalTour, performing in 16 cities, communities, and Indigenous reserves, for over 40 schools, reaching over 4600 youth in Ontario and Saskatchewan. We spent countless hours in our tour van, providing our own soundtrack the whole time and never once turning on the radio - and we still like each other! We had the chance to bond with youth audience members - we heard heartbreaking and inspiring stories of resilience, and shared laughter, tears, music, and dance moves. We were fed bannock and soup, defeated in basketball and tag, and rapped almost the entire soundtrack of Hamilton with an amazing group of students in the tiny and beautiful remote community of Weyakwin. In La Ronge, we were taken home from Dairy Queen by a family who’s son had attended our show and were shown beautiful beadwork and gifted crafts. We saw eagles, deer, rode a float plane, and stayed up until the sun rose reflecting on lessons learned and sharing our gratitude for each other. We will never forget the amazing people we met and the epic sights we saw. This fall, we released our first music video #BodakConsent in September and released our second video #TunnelVision in November. We did two live TV interviews and were featured in the media 13 other times! We are closing the year as the recipient of the 2018 ArtBridges/ToileDesArts award 🏆for REMARKABLE INNOVATION in community-engaged arts. This year was an epic journey with many milestones and we just want to thank everyone for their love and support. We can’t wait to see what 2019 holds for us as we continue to work to #RevolutionizeSexEd. 👊🏻👊🏼👊🏽👊🏾👊🏿
🎆 Happy and healthy new year to all! 🎆
- Post by Shira Taylor, SExT Creator & Director & Isfandyar Virani, SExT Stage Manager & Co-Producer
P.S. Go watch Bodak Consent here
and watch Tunnel Vision here
Today is the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I have always been an advocate for women and survivors of violence. I believe gender-based violence is an epidemic and with the #MeToo movement we are finally seeing women standing up for themselves and making their stories heard. The bubble is broken and the conversations I have had with other women are more revealing than I ever could have imagined. Enough is enough. At the same time, I’ve witnessed kickback. I've witnessed survivor shaming and the shaming of others for coming forward (or for not coming forward). I've talked to people who don't understand why these stories matter or why women need to speak out now. People not wanting to rock the boat. Wanting things to go back to how they used to be. Resisting change. I’ve gotten into debates with loved ones. Trying so hard to listen to their point of view. Understand their perspectives. Realizing that the traumas in our lives shape the truths we live by, and challenging those truths is simply work that nobody wants to do.
I’ve been told by people close to me that the #MeToo movement is nothing but a political ploy. That these problems didn’t happen before my generation (I beg to differ). That men are under attack (seriously?). That when it came to a rape case against a well-known and admired celebrity, I would be “lucky” if someone as powerful and as handsome as him raped me. “Cuz women rape him all the time.” Yeah. That was said to my face.
I’m so heart-broken. How quickly people jump to the defensive. It is so much harder to have conversations when we are afraid and angry. No one wants to be called out. And nobody wants to be the first to speak up. It’s easier to blame society/the government/“everyone else” instead of speaking from your own truth and from what you know of the life you have lived. Looking inward is getting scarier and scarier.
I've recently come to realize that my beliefs are not as common as I thought: that being an advocate for women, for trans women, for the LGBTQ community, and for survivors is not easy. So I did what I do when I feel powerless … I made Art.
Tunnel Vision is a song that I wrote with Mary Getachew about her personal experience with intimate parter violence. She was brave enough to share her story with me and then share it with youth across Canada, performing the song in a show called “SExT: Sex Education by Theatre”. It was not always easy for her. Singing about something so personal and so traumatic takes a lot of strength and confronting of fears. About three years after we wrote the song together, I came to a rehearsal and she sang the song for me again. This time she sang it with joy.
So often we focus on the violence and trauma of domestic violence: the disturbing statistics and the who/what/where/when/how/why of the abuse. I get so caught up in the resistance of #MeToo that I forget that the personal journey and the healing that takes place makes it all worth it. Mary is an example of what happens when you are brave enough to look deep within and speak from there. What happened to me is not my fault, but it is my responsibility. How I live my life here on out and the conscious choices I make in my life is where I can find power and where I can find joy.
When I signed on to direct the music video for “Tunnel Vision”, my vision was clear. I wanted it to reflect Mary’s current reality. She was no longer in trauma or fear about what happened: she was brave, she had done the work, and she was actively taking the steps towards a beautiful and supported recovery. I wanted the video to be an artistic expression of an unhealthy relationship (which is never black and white) and the stories we have within ourselves that propel us towards a greater understanding of ourselves and ultimately our freedom. The humanness of unhealthy relationships. Something that everyone can relate to.
I wanted to show people what a survivor looks like.
I am so proud of this video and I am so proud of Mary. I hope people can see themselves in this video and realize that it is worth it to be brave and to do the hard work. It is not your fault, but unfortunately it is your responsibility. You can find joy and you can find happiness if you are brave enough. Don’t let anyone bring you down. You are not alone.
- Post by Elena Juatco, SExT Creative Facilitator & Director of Tunnel Vision
“Tunnel Vision” is presented by SExT: Sex Education by Theatre in partnership with The Canadian Foundation For AIDS Research.
Watch the video here.
Today is the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. To coincide with this day, we have released our second official music video which highlights intimate partner violence and healing. #TunnelVision is now live!
A FILM by SExT: Sex Education by Theatre in partnership with The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR)
DIRECTED by Elena Juatco
PRODUCED by Shira Taylor
VIDEOGRAPHY by Fred Yurichuk
LYRICS AND VOCALS by Mary Getachew
MUSIC AND GUITAR by Elena Juatco
SONG RECORDING, MIX & MASTERING by Fred Yurichuk
We are thrilled to announce the release of our second official music video in partnership with The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR). Tunnel Vision will be released on our YouTube channel on Sunday, November 25th to coincide with the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The trailer (above) gives audiences a peek into the creative process with performer Mary Getachew and director Elena Juatco.
Tunnel Vision is an original song with lyrics by Mary Getachew and music by Elena Juatco. The song and video highlight the topic of intimate partner violence and healing. Based on true events. Read the full press release here.
Our first official music video "Bodak Consent" was released a month ago today and we are proud to say that we have just hit 7,000 views and 100 YouTube subscribers!
Before "Bodak Consent" went live to the public, we had the cast film their reactions to watching the video for the first time. Suffice to say, their faces were priceless.
Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel if you haven't already: www.tinyurl.com/SExTEdShow
Our first official music video in partnership with the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research is up!
Please watch it, like it, share it, and start the conversation on social media using our hashtags: #BodakConsent #OnlyYesMeansYes
Mark your calendars! SExT is thrilled to announce the release of our first official music video in partnership with The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR). "Bodak Consent" drops on our YouTube channel at 7AM sharp on October 2, 2018. Read the full press release here.
This afternoon an estimated 40,000 students across Ontario walked out of their classrooms to protest the repeal of the 2015 sex ed curriculum. It was the largest student walk-out in the history of Ontario. We are so proud of the students who advocated for themselves today and WE HEAR YOU.
Above are some REAL questions and comments from our latest national tour. Sex education IS education and we are so happy that this topic is back in the headlines today; this time, from the youth's perspective, the perspective that sex ed affects most.
We here at SExT will continue to LISTEN to the voices of young people who KNOW their own realities and who KNOW what they need. We will continue to provide and advocate for up-to-date, evidence-based, comprehensive, inclusive, trauma-informed, relevant, meaningful, life-saving, and sometimes hilarious sex education by BRAVE and POWERFUL youth for youth that CELEBRATES all cultures, religions, abilities, sexualities, and genders 👊🏻👊🏼👊🏽👊🏾👊🏿. Our mission continues to #RevolutionizeSexEd!
NEW VLOG ALERT! Our Resident Vlogger Thuriga Bala decided to do the #SpicyNoodleChallenge with her sister and fellow cast member Mary Getachew over the weekend. See how they did on our YouTube channel!
Don't forget to "like" and subscribe to our YouTube channel! And let us know in the comments what challenge you want to see us do next!
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.
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