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
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.
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.
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/
On June 3rd SExT had the pleasure of performing for Jane Street Hub as part of their Community Info Fair, highlighting sexual health as well as health and wellness in the African, Caribbean, Black, and Latino communities. The event included resources, community services, workshops, counsellors, performances (wink-wink), and anonymous testing for STIs. Having a safe space for conversations on these stigmatized topics such as STIs and mental health, and having it be accessible to everyone, is so incredibly important. I would like to thank the organizers for this.
We always say a variation of this in our love lives. If we meet someone awesome we say, "It was always meant to be!!!" But when the same person leaves us because we stepped on his Hello Kitty collection or some other stupid shit we say, "It was never meant to be *cry*". What the hell is this exactly?
There has been a lot of stigma associated with the feminist movement. With supporters being coined “feminazis,” the movement has received copious amounts of negative attention. Women, too, have started denouncing the term, opting for more neutral titles, such as “egalitarians” or “equalists.” What these women don’t realize is that they are actually all feminists—and we should all be feminists, too.
The summer before I left home for University, my mom and I decided to go for a drive along Spanish Banks, one of my favourite places in Vancouver. As we sat in our beloved camper van and stared out into the ocean, I took a moment to feel gratitude and excitement for the life that lay ahead of me. It was in this completely meditative and calming state that my mom decided to give me a sex talk.
Our family never discussed sex or even matters related to the opposite sex. When I first told my parents in Grade 5 that I told I boy that I had a crush on for the past year that I liked him (and that he said he liked me back!) they looked at each other in tacit agreement and then said to me firmly, "You shouldn't do that." There was a period of silence. I went up to my room and felt like I was in trouble.
When I really got my heart broken by a boy for the first time, my mother waited a few days for my tears to dry before she looked at me and said, "This is proof that you CAN'T TRUST ANYONE."
My mother was very good at getting straight to the point in only a sentence or two. Our sex talk in the camper van was no different. The talk basically went like this: "You are going to meet a lot of people in university and boys will want more. You better be sure he's worth it because once you 'lose it', it's gone."
I never took my mom driving for years afterwards.
Looking back on it, my parents did their best with what knowledge they had and you know what, I figured it out! (I also had a really awesome older brother who was always there to hear about my boy problems and answer my questions.) And sure, if I was in that camper van today, my sex talk would have gone quite differently:
I would have clarified that there's no such thing as "losing it". When you have sex for the first time, you don't lose a part of yourself. You are still yourself just experiencing something new. You definitely do not lose your value and you do not lose your worth. And if someone makes you feel that way, YOUR SEX LIFE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. These kinds of people tend to make a career of judging other people anyways. So just remember: Your body. Your choice. Your life.
I would have told myself that I would get heart-broken a lot in my life and that's a normal part of dating and romance. You learn from every relationship. If a boy breaks your heart, it is not your fault. You are beautiful and you will find someone that will fit you better and make you happy in the way someone else cannot.
I would have re-enforced the importance of "no glove no love". Men will come up with every excuse under the sky not to use a condom. The best one I heard was: "they don't work on me." (?????) Stick to your guns. If you don't want an STI or to get pregnant, NO GLOVE = NO LOVE! Also know how to put on and remove a condom: remember you want the sombrero not the tuque. You may have to instruct some partners on how to do this. If you want a re-cap, come watch our show SExT at the Fringe and Summerworks Festivals and Beyoncé will break it down for you ;)
My sex talk would also touch on the importance of peeing after sex, because urinary tract infections are a bitch and more common than you think. A simple pee and a wet wipe can save you the agony of trying to flush everything with cranberry juice and waiting uncomfortably in the doctor's office for a prescription.
To cap it all off, I would given myself a high five for telling that boy in Grade 5 that I liked him. You go girl.
I didn't grow up in a sex positive household. My sex education consisted of strangers coming in and waving condoms in our face and making us fill out crossword puzzles, and marking them together. I prayed that when it was my turn to give the answer in front of the class, I wouldn't get #15 across: vagina.
It was a production of the "Vagina Monologues" that I did in my first year of university that was the first sex positive experience I had. Talking about our bodies was easy and normal and liberating and empowering. I rid myself of the shame surrounding my body and how people perceived it. I was in charge. I also started to love saying the word "vagina" because it was no longer a swear word or a secret. I re-claimed the word. Eve Ensler is a genius.
No matter what sex talk or lack thereof you have with your parents or what kind of sex ed curriculum you have at your school, you will be ok. It is more important to know to trust your gut when it comes to anything. Your comfort level with your body and with sex is different than the next person's. Go at your own pace and never let anyone pressure you to do something or to not do something. You are in control.
If you are a parent reading this because you googled "how to give my kid a sex talk" and you're panicking a little bit, bring them to our show SExT at the Fringe and Summerworks Festival which opens tonight!!!. The youth will give you and your kid the best sex talk of your life. ;)
TORONTO FRINGE FESTIVAL
LOCATION: The Annex Theatre at 730 Bathurst Street
June 29th at 8:45 PM
July 2nd at 5:45 PM
July 3rd at 12:30 PM
July 6th at 7:00 PM
July 7th at 9:15 PM
July 9th at 2:15 PM
July 10th at 5:45 PM
TORONTO SUMMERWORKS FESTIVAL
LOCATION: Factory Studio Theatre at 125 Bathurst Street
August 7 @ 12:00 PM
August 10 @ 7:45 PM
August 11 @ 9:15 PM
August 12 @ 6:00 PM
Happy Opening, Fringe Festival!
- Post by Elena Juatco, Actor & SExT Creative Facilitator
Can we get a "HELL YA!" to all the female directors, writers and creators at this year's Fringe Festival?!
Thank you to Alysa Pires, Polynomials, and Derrick Chua for counting the 81 shows at this year's Fringe Festival written, created, directed, and choreographed by over 138 women!
Why is it important that we keep track of this? Last year the Globe and Mail cited under 35% of women in key creative roles in Canadian theatre with only 22% of female playwrights with productions in the previous season. Women account for less than 25% of Canada's produced playwrights even thought they form half the membership of Playwrights Guild of Canada.
And while the female voice is under-represented, women still form the majority of theatre-school graduates, support workers and audience members. Women are not the ones in control of their stories.
This is why the #FringeFemmeTO list is important. And I am proud to say that "SExT" is ON THAT LIST!
Here's a run down of the women with key creative and production titles in our show:
Our cast of 13 has 8 women of which 7 are also of a visible minority. The cast has also created this show with Shira Taylor, meaning these women are also writers and choreographers.
I've been directed by two women in my theatre career. I am actively looking for more women to work with because I can tell the difference when there is no female voice in the rehearsal hall. I have been shut down in rehearsals for "thinking about it too much" when I asked a question and then reassured with "the purpose of your character is to serve [male character's name here]'s storyline." I've read scripts that have offended me as a woman, particularly as a woman belonging to a visible minority. I've also experienced sexual harassment at work because a male director wanted me to understand "who this woman is". There was not a single woman on the creative team when this happened and nobody else made a complaint except me. I felt alone and quite frankly, powerless.
WE NEED MORE FEMALE DIRECTORS. WRITERS. CREATORS. It is my goal to prioritize all the shows on the #FemmeTO list ... it should be yours too! So take a look at the list below (as compiled by Derrick Chua) and Happy Fringe-ing!
A Bitter Shrew (late addition, replaces Soul’s Retrograde on p. 21). By Gillian English
A Good Death (p. 18). By Shelley Hobbs
A Lover Improper (p. 62). By Arianne Shaffer
A Thousand Kindnesses (p. 18). By Rachel Jury
All KIDding Aside (p. 18). By Christel Bartelse
Alpha Delta 86 (p. 50). By Kiva Murphy and Filipa Mendes
Angels & Aliens (p. 60). Co-written by Sydney Hayduk
Asiansploitation: Be More Pacific (p. 58). Co-written by Tiffany Kwan, Ellie Posadas
Birthday Cake (p. 62). By Sarah Marchand
Bright Lights (p. 14). By Kat Sandler
Cam Baby (p. 66). By Jessica Moss
Candy & Shelley Go to the Desert (p. 52). By Paula Cizmar
Common Ground (p. 54). By Susan Magerman and Michelle Brightman
Curious Contagious (p. 66). By Chloe Ziner and Jessica Gabriel
Damn Tank (p. 66). Co-written by Maaor Ziv
Dance Animal: Toronto (p. 14). With monologues by Robin Henderson, Kat Letwin, Allison Price, Carol Zoccoli. Created and choreographed by Robin Henderson.
Dario et la Diablesse: A Caribbean Musical (p. 24). Written by Sasky Louison
Daughters of Feminists (p. 74). Created / songs by Barbara Johnston, Suzy Wilde, Anika Johnson, Nancy White
Denmarked (p. 50). Adapted by Carina Gaspar
Downtown Jay (p. 11). By Joan Jamieson
Eraser (p. 74). Co-written by Christol Bryan, Deanna Galati, Victoria Gubiani
Everything Else Is Sold Out (p. 54). Co-written by Claire Farmer, Jessica Greco, Shannon Lahaie
Evolution / Mr. Truth (p. 26). Evolution choreographed by Angela Blumberg. Mr. Truth written by Lauren Gillis and Alaine Hutton
Exterminating Angel (p. 24). Choreographed by Alysa Pires
Falling Awake (p. 18). Co-written by Nayana Fielkov
False Start (p. 52). By Nicole Hrgetic
Far Away (p. 60). By Caryl Churchill, choreographed by Patricia Allison
For the Record (p. 72). By Shari Hollett
Fractals (p. 62). By Krista White
Game 7 (p. 58). Co-written by Magdalena BB
Getting Odd (p. 68). By Holly Wyder and Allison Harris
God of Carnage (p. 55). By Yasmina Reza
Happiness™ (p. 61). Co-written by Madeleine Boyes-Manseau
How May I Mate You? (p. 61). By Jenna Naulls, Kelsey Wilkinson and Kelsey Johnston
I Want to Be (p. 11). Book by Alex Karolyi. Music & Lyrics co-written by Lisa Sonshine
In Gods We Trust (p. 24). Co-written by Satinder Besrai, Kerri Salata, with further material co-written by Diane Baker Mason
(in)decision (p. 26). Co-written by Tamlynn Bryson
lza the Brave (p. 11). Co-written by Amaka Umeh, Jada Rifkin, Micaela Comeau, Maiza Dubhé, Samantha Chaulk, Sarah Marchand
Knots (p. 67). Co-written by Lucy Meanwell
Life After (p. 61). By Britta Johnson
Like a Fly in Amber (p. 15). By Karen Kelm
Little Fires (p. 67). Choreographed by Karíssa Fyrrar, Lucy Rupert
Little Pricks (p. 54). By Denise Norman
Lyricas Presents: Creature Slaying... (p. 55). Co-written by Elisha DiFabio
Man & Son: Ladies First (p. 55). By Felicity Penman and Carolyn Williamson
#MannequinGirl: The Musical (p. 50). By Eliza Blue Musselwhite in collaboration with Alyssa Minichillo
My silly yum! (p. 11). By Alexandra Montagnese and Gabriela Petrov
Perk up, pianist! (p. 20). By Sarah Hagen
Persephone (p. 55). Co-collectively created by Claren Grosz, Jacklyn Francis, Laura Hayes, Sydney Herauf, Keshia Palm, Sheree Spencer
Pirates Don't Babysit! (p. 12). By Barb Scheffler
Plays In Cates (p. 73). Co-written by Alex Karolyi, Sheila Toller
Promise and Promiscuity: A New Musical (p. 26). By Jane Austen and Penny Ashton
Rated R (p. 26). Choreographed by Aria Evans
Saor (Free) (p. 19). By Carlyn Rhamey
#scarecrow (p. 59). By Chantel McDonald
Scenes from Plays I Never Wrote (p. 61). By Greta Papageorgiu
Self-Exile p. 21). By Nisha Coleman
SExT (p. 51). Created by Shira Taylor
Shecky's Yoga Sequel (p. 72). Co-written by Shana Sandler
Silk Bath (p. 15). Co-written by Bessie Chang, Gloria Mok
Songbuster ·An Improvised Musical (p. 27). Co-created by Stephanie Malek, Ashley Comeau, Tricia Black, Alexandra Hurley
That Joyce Girl (p. 67). By Kate Cattell-Daniels
The End (p. 51). By Miriam Drysdale
The Fence (p. 27). By Anika Johnson, Barbara Johnston, Suzy Wilde, choreographed by Honey Frid, Danielle Devereaux
The Funky Punckies (p. 12). By Stavria Thalassi & Katarina Lazic
The Stage Manager's Guide to Dating Assholes (p. 15). By Scarlett Larry
The Unending - 3 short plays (p. 73). Co-written by Julie Tepperman
To Jane With Love (p. 25). By Deon Denton
Tonight's Cancelled (p. 51). Co-written by Stacey McGunnigle
True Blue (late addition, replaces Mieux Vaut Mourir Heureux on page 59). Co-created / improvised by Amy Matysio, Aurora Browne, Paloma Nuñez, Shanda Bezic, Jocelyn Geddie
(un)boxed (p. 51). Created by Jannine Saarinen, featuring the work of Jen Hum, Lisa Quaning, Jamee Valin
Waiting For Waiting For Godot (p. 25). Co-written by Molly McGregor
Wasteland (p. 27). Co-written by Kaitlin Morrow
Water Wonders (p. 75). By Cheryl McNamara
We Are XX (p. 63). By Rafia Salam, Anne Vo and Samay Arcentales
What?! You're A Medium?! (p. 53). By Carolyn Molnar
Wild/Society (p. 15). By Mika Laulainen
Wireless Connection (p. 25). Choreographed by Amy Adams, Kylie Thompson
Women (p. 51). By Chiara Atik
YellowZoned (p. 63). By Alia Ettienne
"Ze". queer as f*ck! (p. 21). By Michelle Lunicke
- Post by Elena Juatco - Actor & Creative Facilitator
We are less than two weeks away from debuting at the Toronto Fringe Festival, and we have a bunch of blogs that I wanted to post, but I feel it impossible to move forward until we address the recent events in the news.
Amidst a scandal revealed by Oscar-nominated film The Hunting Ground where ivy league universities are concealing on-campus rapes to the police and condoning the behaviours of students that commit repeated sexual assaults, a letter from a Stanford graduate to her rapist has gone viral (read it here). A former Stanford freshman who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster was sentenced to a mere 6 months in jail. The judge feared that a longer sentence might have a "severe impact on him" and his possible Olympic career. The rapist's father stated that his son should not have to go to prison for "20 minutes of action". The judge and this father clearly have no idea that rape affects the survivor's life too. A victim of rape is pushed aside and made to feel less important once again.
Less than a week ago, a man entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 people, making it the largest mass shooting in US history. To this day, politicians and others are refusing to call this a hate crime. The LGBTQ community is suffering once again.
Where do we go from here? We are literally killing each other because we are losing touch with what makes us human. We are shutting off from each other instead of coming together and growing stronger. It is easier to hate than to love and instead of trying to understand each other, we grow angry. Our society does not want to acknowledge or discuss the fact that we live in a culture where rape and assault is condoned.
I am saying "we" because it is time to take responsibility for what is happening. The left wing blames the right wing. The right blames the left. The atheists blame religion. The religions blame each other. The people blame the government. Minorities grow more divided and we become obsessed with blaming something: the parenting, the lack of parenting, the kids at school, the TV, video games, the music, the gays, the straights, the gun holders, the schools, alcohol ... we are not putting the blame and responsibility where it belongs: us. ME. What can I do so this stops happening?
Read the Stanford survivor's letter and know the people who were killed in Orlando. Speak up when someone calls something "gay" or when you see someone who may need your help. Know what "consent" means (sober and enthusiastic!). Talk about what is going on with the people around you. March in the Pride Parade this month whether you are queer, straight, white, black, Asian, Islamic, Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim ... show that these kind of attacks affect all of us.
This is the reason why I wanted to be a part of SExT. Because I am not happy with how we are treating each other. There is a deep hatred of women and a deep hatred of LGBTQ that exists and it needs to be addressed and extinguished. This kind of hatred exists when we don't understand. So we need to start young and we need to teach this in our schools. Math is important but how we treat each other is how we survive as a human race.
Let's move forward from this but let's not forget.
- Post by Elena Juatco, Actor & SExT Creative Facilitator
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