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.
Performing a poem on stereotypes, rapping about cultural identity, and talking about consent and STI testing (among other things) is always very powerful in itself, but having people come up to us afterwards sharing how they relate to our show is absolutely amazing. People wanting us to perform at more community events and speaking up about these issues is liberating and a great reminder of why we at SExT are all so passionate about our message of inclusivity and acceptance.
Our group also attended a session on stigma, and let me tell you, I could never get tired of listening to my peers share their stories about stigma. One cast member shared his account of navigating his mental health with his father, who at first didn’t understand, and is now the one to advocate to his own friends about mental health resources. As I listened to the people in the room open up, the air got lighter with each person’s story being told. Seeing this kind of environment being fostered gives me hope that one day everyone can find comfort and liberation in being able to share their own experiences.
After the session on stigma, we listened to a panel of five brave individuals speak about being HIV positive. Let’s just say it got real deep. Hearing the personal accounts of a young woman born with HIV, a gay man having to keep his sexuality a secret, and a trans woman’s story about accepting her HIV, is so inspiring. Hearing their accounts of the stigma they have experienced and their journeys overcoming it, is so freaking inspiring. One of the women on the panel even took an HIV test in front of us to demonstrate how easy the process is and to encourage others to take charge of their health and get tested. She encouraged others to reclaim their power, to be knowledgeable about their sexual health, and not to stay hidden in shame. I was able to witness the stories of those who suffered in secret, now opening themselves up to a room of strangers. I don’t know how on earth they did it, but I’m so happy they did. I know many people in the room found hope from hearing these stories coming from people sitting right in front of them, smiling and proud of who they have become.
As the discussion of stigma continued, I got to hear more cast members open up. One person spoke of his experience about being gay and adopted. Another shared her story of having depression and trying to understand why her mom doesn’t understand. Her mother grew up in a different country in a different time, and might have even dealt with mental illness herself not knowing what it was. More people opened up about a great range of stigma they have faced, and hearing that everyone has a story is a forceful truth. Some people cried, because it was moving, you know? It was helpful to see people who had overcome stigma now living life on their own terms. Everyone on the panel agreed they are living better by not caring what others say about who they are, by not giving in to the stigma, and by speaking out about their experiences.
The host also shared a story about the stigma surrounding her hair. She explained how she had been wearing straight hair since she was 12 years old. She spent a lot of time growing it out, and the day came when she said, “Okay, I’m going to do my hair today”. She spent over a day on it, and looked in the bathroom mirror feeling fabulous. She came out of the bathroom and her boyfriend said, “Oh, I thought you were going to do your hair.” Everyone in the room gasped and I saw slacked jaws, in utter shock. The host just laughed and said all that was needed was to have a discussion about it, and it was a very good discussion. She learned that his mom never wore her hair natural, his sister always had straight hair, and all his girlfriends wore their hair straight. The point is that some people don’t even know they are perpetuating stigma. We just need to educate them.
I feel like this is where SExT can come in. The reason I love our show so much is because it is not our place to judge, but to educate using our stories and allow people to be free to choose as they wish. As our director Shira always says: If everyone agreed on everything, our program wouldn’t need to exist.
When it comes to stigma, we can all do our best to not perpetuate it and to educate ourselves. Hearing everyone's stories at Jane Street Hub is an experience I will hold close to my heart, and I will always remember moments like this when we were able to discuss stigmatized topics such as sexual health in a safe space. Respectful discussion really is that powerful. I know I talked about some “heavier” topics, but the event was really fun as well! Although there were some tears, there was lots of laughter as well and great energy. Being able to express ourselves and having people support it means everything in the world.
Anyone in any group can experience stigma, and it is important that we do not give in to stigma and rise above it. I know, so mushy, but it’s true. When we all come together and have a respectful discussion without shutting down opposing views and instead giving everyone a voice, that is when real change happens. That is what I hope we can accomplish with SExT.
- Post by Emma Wheaton, Assistant Director & SExT Cast Member
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?
A long time ago when I was 13, a girl came to our door to sell cookies. She was so funny and cute, I think I was in love (I was 13 okay, chill). Two minutes after she left, I started crying, "She will never come back!" Then my mom said, "If it's meant to be, it will be". She was implying that if the Universe or God or Shaka Zulu, means for that girl to meet me again, we will meet again and if not, well fuck me then it was never meant to be.
Basically the Universe and external forces control our destiny, not us, according to this logic. Even in high school and university, when I used to complain about being single for the last 18 to 19 years, people would just say, "Don't worry Aleef, it will happen when you least expect it. If it's meant to be it will happen." Not that I wasn't trying to get a girlfriend (I was), but I guess because of my repeated failures of trying to find a mate, I began to think: This is how it was "meant" to be. I will die alone. It's not like I had high standards or anything. I just wanted to talk to someone, hug them, kiss them, hold their hands, etc. I wasn't expecting a Victoria Secret model either, just a face that’s easy to look at.
Then some really terrible shit happened in my life, and I thought, "Okay, so these terrible things were 'meant' to happen and all that 'good' stuff wasn't meant to happen." I tried to make up reasons why the Universe decided to punish me. What could I have done? Just because I threw away the broccoli at dinner, I deserve a shitty life? Nothing was adding up here. Then I realized "Nothing is meant to be".
Sorry, to break your bubble this way. But this Universe and life don't give a shit about you. It literally does not care what you want. It couldn't give less than a fuck about you and your wants. Now what? What the hell can I do now? I can do everything now. If nothing is meant to be, then we make our own destinies. So that day, I decided to make my own damn luck. I said to myself, "I don't need luck, I will make my own luck!"
I started working on myself, got in shape, became more social, started going out more, opened up a few dating profiles, learned how to talk to women anywhere and anytime. So I tried, again and again. Till I met the most amazing girl ever. Then she became my girlfriend and we lived happily ever after (just kidding, she broke up with me and married her cousin NO JOKE). Ironically she told me, "It's not meant to be." The fact is that no relationship is "meant" to be. It’s the duty of the couple to work it out if that’s possible. She didn't think it was worth the effort so she left. And now I am stuck here writing this blog post all bitter and sad while she is shagging her cousin.
My point is, nothing in your life is "meant" to be. Nothing will come out of the sky suddenly. You need to put a decent amount of effort to get it. Whether it’s a relationship, job or experience, it is possible for you to get lucky here. You might randomly just get that job or guy that you always wanted, but for all the folks that don't have luck on our sides, we need to make our own goddamn luck if we have to.
We all know people who are literally gifted. Their acting, singing or what have you is amazing without them putting much effort into it. They can thank God, Harambe or the Universe for their talent, but what if you achieved the same level of mastery as these "gifted" people with sheer effort, training and willpower? It means that you honed this talent all by yourself despite the decision of the Universe not to give you that "gift". We don't need the universe to bestow upon us this "gift". We will develop our own "gift" through sweat, blood and tears. When you yourself achieve a level of mastery through pure effort and hard work, you should thank yourself and yourself only for your sheer will and tenacity. What is better: to be born with a talent, or to overcome your limited nature and achieve that talent through intense struggle against all odds?
"The harder you work the luckier you get." - Forgot Who Said This.
So stop waiting around for Mr. Right to come into your life! Go outside, go to bars, clubs , libraries, parties he might be there. Set up a bunch of dating profiles in as many sites as you can. Go to local events and talk to random people. Heck try JSwipe. It’s a ridiculous dating app that is only for Jewish people (works even if you ain't jewish). Stop waiting for Mr. Right to find you, GO FIND HIM. Who knows he might just be that boy you sold cookies to. Just don't forget to leave your number on that cookie, so he can call you and not think about it later and write some article after 8 years.
- Post by Aleef K., SExT Cast Member
Valentine's Day is a sham. If you are not in a loving relationship on Feburary 14th, all you are left with is a whopping amount of Seasonal Affective Disorder and that dreaded feeling of utter singlehood. Sure, being single has its perks (that empowering sense of individuality and freedom, that beauty of unattachment and self-discovery, and the fact that you don't have time to date because you're too busy doing more important things like making a difference in the world), but being in love is the whole reason why we make art and why movies are so damn good. I can be the happiest single girl in the world and Valentines Day can make it all come crashing down.
So here's a video to make you chuckle or maybe even cry in self pity because the person you love doesn't love you back. This is a song I wrote with spoken word artist, Leonard Cervantes, about unrequited love called "I Hate Earl".
Don't forget that the best part of Valentines Day is that you can call up your best friend and laugh about how ridiculous relationships can be. And you can treat yourself to something you like because you deserve it. And while that relationship didn't happen like you wanted it to, the right relationship is still out there. So don't spend your time worrying about when you'll have it. Spend this time eating ice cream on the couch and wallowing with your best friend. This is the one day a year you're allowed to complain and there's nothing wrong with it.
Relationships are heart-breaking and hilarious. With time comes context and perspective. I'd love to hear your poems, songs, stories about heartbreak. Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put it up on our blog!
Happy freaking Valentine's Day.
- Post by Elena Juatco, SExT Creative Facilitator
We here at SExT love supporting similar-minded projects that aim to spark dialogue about sexual health and healthy relationships within the community. Nuance is a project by NU which strives to create a space for diverse stories (blogs, art, poetry) about sex and sexual health that bring in cultural and religious perspectives from Newcomer, Immigrant and Second Generation Youth (NISY).
Starting in Toronto and the GTA, NU wants to connect individuals with relevant resources to make navigating our sometimes complex health system easier. Ultimately, NU aims to operate at the intersection of what it means to be NISY, Canadian and sexual health-focused.
If you identify as a Newcomer, Immigrant, and/or Second Generation Canadian, submit your story to Nuance and you could win $200 worth of cash and prizes! Deadline to submit is February 28, 2017.
You can make your submissions and learn more about NU at www.nuhere.org/share-your-story
Tired of your past making its way into the present? When you are just about to talk to that pretty girl, do you start remembering all those times girls rejected you and made fun of your “not that big nose”? When you think you found the one, do you start fearing that he/she will dump you for the dumbest reason just like the last one did? When you are just about to get into a relationship with that “cool guy”, do you start remembering how the last “cool guy” ended up being a serial killer who eats people and more importantly, always left the toilet seat up ON PURPOSE, WHAT A SOCIOPATH?! Or are you one those people who love and accept their past relationships and are happy with the present? GTFO of here. Just joking. Chill out. Send this to your friends who might not be in the best place. Heck send this to your friends because this article is entertaining. (I added that just in case someone gets this article and immediately says, “Hey, you sent me this article because you think I am unhappy? Do I look unhappy, HUH?! I just haven’t had my coffee and vodka mix for breakfast yet!”)
In order to let go of the past and be a happier person in spite of it, I have developed a three step action plan: let go of the past (duh), ditch the “bitch” in your head, and be a "happier bastard".
Step one: Let go of the past.
1. Accept the past.
Don’t try to deny it or pretend it never happened. It’s tempting to tell yourself “that never happened. I never got abused by my ex, he was just a bit rough.” Sorry to break it to you, but saying it didn’t happen might help you cope in the short term, but it’s best to accept these traumatic events as a part of your life. You can’t go back and change it, and you can’t remove it from your memory, so just accept it. It’s hard I know, but you’ll learn do to it eventually. No rush, this isn’t a race.
2. Forgive the people who wronged you.
Yes, this sounds like I copied this right out of the bible. If you know me, you would know I have a tendency to tell devout Christians that I am a Satanist just for shits and giggles. Well they shit bricks while I giggle. I am not religious at all, but this advice has helped religious and non-religious people alike: forgive people for their mistakes. There is no point in holding in the bitterness and hate, it just does not feel nice to be bitter. Trust me I tried it. If you can’t forgive others, how can you forgive yourself?
3. Forgive yourself.
Yes, write a letter to yourself. Write about how you forgive yourself. Make it very detailed. We do a lot of bad and stupid things, but it’s not because we are bad and stupid people. It’s because we are human. Cut yourself some slack, nobody is perfect. Beating yourself up over your past mistakes won’t make the mistakes go away, but learning from them and trying to avoid them in the future will have a positive impact on your life and future relationships.
4. Seek professional help.
If you have experienced a severe trauma like death of a loved one or rape, you need to seek a good therapist that can help you. Going to a therapist isn’t a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it’s a sign of courage. It’s quite courageous to admit you have a problem and to tell a stranger about your most personal issues in hopes of getting better. If you had a bad breakup and can’t cope, go to a therapist. No problem is too small or too big to seek professional help.
You can’t forget the past. I know you really wish you could but you can’t. But you can accept it and forgive. So take some time and forgive God or Probability or whatever you believe in.
Step two: Kill the negative cycle of thoughts or “Ditching the bitching”
My grandfather always used to say “Ditch the Bitch.” He didn’t mean women. He meant “ditch the complainers and pessimists.” Unfortunately, sometimes the complainers and pessimists are in our own heads, singing songs like: “You are ugleeeeeee. You have NO FRIENDS. You will ALSO go NOWHERE in LIIIIIIFFFFEEEE!!” Time to fire this bitch and hire Rihanna or someone cool to change the song in your head.
There is actually a scientific term for when your mind turns on itself and constantly hinders your happiness. It's called "Learned Helplessness", a psychology term that was coined by Martin Seligman in 1967. It basically means “throwing the towel”. You feel so powerless from all your failures and traumatic events that you just give up.
Here is how someone with a negative outlook may think after a break up:
I will never get over him. (Notice the word “never”)
I can’t live without him. (Notice the word “can’t”)
The whole breakup was all my fault. (Notice the phrase “all my fault”)
Here is how someone with a positive outlook may think after a break up:
It’s hard but I will get over this. It’s only temporary. (Notice the word “temporary”)
I miss him, but I have friends and family that can help me get through this. (Notice the word “can”)
The whole breakup was both of our faults. (Notice the word “our”)
Notice how the negative-thinking person tends to over-generalize his/her thoughts and ends up blaming him or herself. If you see yourself as the person with the negative outlook, try changing how you see the situation. It will take effort and hard work, but the results at the end are totally worth it. You can’t change what happened, but you can change your outlook on it.
There is no surefire way to know if someone is “The One”, but constantly fearing that he/she might cheat on you is not really fair to him/her. Nobody deserves that kind of treatment. He is not your ex and the “all guys are the same” line is BS. Have you met my grandpa?
Some of my friends say to me, “Man, I am tired of asking out girls and getting rejected. My heart can’t take it anymore. No girl ever likes me. I give up.”
Well in the dating world there is a saying: “The more rejects you get, the closer you are to getting to a ‘yes’.” It’s quite true, believe me. So ask away. Screw your ego. I approach women in dingy alleyways who don’t know me at all, so I am no stranger to rejection. I won’t lie and say that rejection doesn’t hurt. It hurts just for a while. But when you find that awesome person that says “yes”, the pain of the rejection is nothing compared to the joy you get from the relationship.
If you don’t ask the person out, he/she is not rejecting you. You are rejecting yourself, which is the second saddest thing in the world, the first saddest thing being the point in the story when the dog dies. Honestly, I never have an emotional reaction when people die in movies, probably because I hate people, ah going off topic here. Anyways, just do it. Ask her out. The same principle can be applied for jobs. Don’t get discouraged by the rejections.
Step three: Be a happier bastard.
1. Act cheerier.
Act like you are having fun then you will trick your mind into actually having fun. The opposite works as well. When I am reading something particularly boring for school, I pretend it’s the most interesting thing ever and it doesn’t feel that boring. But hey, this method has its limitations. If you just got mugged, you don’t have to be all cheery: “"I just got mugged it was the worst experience of my life, ayyyyyy!" Some things are just sad, but if you have a wacky sense of humour, go ahead and make people feel awkward.
2. Think of three things you appreciate before you go to bed.
Had an awesome meal? Take some time to appreciate it. Had an awesome masturbation session? Take some time to appreciate how awesome the human body is. Hey, you can even say, “I appreciate my boobs, they are gorgeous!” before going to sleep. It can be literally anything, anything you are thankful for.
3. Do some exercise.
Yeah man, get outside and jump up and down like a monkey on meth. Run like a bird, dance, shake your booty, whatever man. As long as it's some physical exercise, just do it. It releases endorphins that make you feel good (endorphins are some magic stuff in your body).
4. Don’t be a master of one, be a master of some.
The more complex you are, the more you can screw up and it won’t seem as bad. For instance, if I am just a writer and my book flops, I would be devastated; but if I am writer/father/musician/video gamer/dancer/gardener/good tree climber/ninja then I won’t be that devastated because being a writer does not define me as much.
5. Do your own thing no matter what other people say.
Your parents forcing you into a boring major? Fuck em. Your boss telling you to do your work that you don’t like? Fuck em (but don’t blame me if you get fired). Your stage manager telling you to not ad lib? Fu….My point is the more you feel control of your own life, the better you will feel. So make your own decisions. Too scared to make your own decisions? Do it anyway. Learn from your own mistakes. Instead of saying “Ah dammit I shouldn’t have gotten a degree in music just 'cause my father told me to,” say “Ah dammit I shouldn’t have gotten a degree in music" because getting a degree in music is never a good decision.
By the way, I really recommend the book “Happy At Last” by Richard O’ Connor. It's fantastic.
In Conclusion: Don't get a degree in music.
And I don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason”, but I do believe that things happen and people can accept what happened and eventually thrive. Somebody very special to me said, “Remember you are a survivor like me and you have choices in your life.” I think we should all remember that. Thanks Bubbie. Your words of wisdom inspired this article. Keep on rocking ;)
- Post by Aleef K., SExT Cast Member
Hey it’s your main man Mr.K, the womanizing Nutella addict here. I will be sharing some of my tips of how to impress the ladies and gentlemen at clubs, bars, sides of the roads, in dingy alleyways ... wherever you're chilling at basically.
Welcome to the SExT blog!
This is where we share our insights and stories about sex, healthy relationships, and getting our show from the rehearsal hall to opening night. Contributors include SExT collaborators and cast members.
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