What’s More Important Than Gay Marriage?

Since 2006 Same-sex marriages have been legal in across Canada.  Although this has been the case for a decade most headlines involving LGBT issues have been focused on Same-sex marriage, as the US has had a slow state by state transition to legalization, unitil June 2015 when they finally made it happen on a national scale.  Since most headlines have been dominated by the the marriage debate, many other arguably more important causes have been shafted. Here’s a quick snippet:

1. Queer and Trans* Youth Homelessness

2. Violence Against Queer and Trans* People

3. Racial Justice

4. Immigrant Justice

5. Health

6. Economic Justice

7. Trans* Justice

Check out the comprehensive list with explanations here:

7 LGBT Issues That Matter More Than Marriage

Let’s talk about sex… ed!

By Suruthi Ragulan

Sex education is rarely without controversy.

As a sexual health educator, working with South Asian communities all over Toronto, I see firsthand how sexual misinformation, stigma, cultural and gender norms can all make sex a hard topic to discuss. Lately, however, it seems to be all everyone wants to talk about.

If you’ve been following the news lately, or just taken a lunch-time stroll around Queen’s Park, you may have seen images like this:

sex-ed-photo

In case you haven’t been following the story, here are the highlights:

  • The Ontario sex education curriculum developed in 1998 has been criticized by educators around the province for being dated.
  • To better reflect our changing reality, a revised and updated version of the curriculum is set to take effect September 2015.
  • The changes include educating youth at an earlier age about naming their sexual body parts, talking about gender identity, introducing diverse sexual identities, cyber-bullying and sexting.
  • A small but vocal minority has been keen to point out that broaching subjects such as masturbation, dating or sexual and gender diversity may run counter to many family and cultural values.

Parents often hope their children will practise the values and morals that are espoused in the home and distance themselves from conflicting messages. By doing this, we may inadvertently close avenues for meaningful discussions around sexual health. Although this is done with the intent to protect young people, it can expose them to greater risk without the space to ask for guidance. This teaches children that sex is taboo, forcing them to turn to their friends or the internet – which may not be the best source of useful, helpful and accurate information. The taboo also breeds shame, which creates an atmosphere in which sex and sexuality live on the fringes of our communities.

Starting these conversations early teaches youth that sex is a natural part of life. By teaching them about sex, we teach them not to fear it. We teach them that sex can be beautiful and pleasurable. By lifting the taboo, young people can feel safer asking questions, negotiating their relationships and protecting themselves.

Media coverage of this new curriculum and the protests has been quick to pin much of the furor on specific cultural communities, with a focus on South Asians. While it may be tempting to paint such diverse communities with such broad strokes, it ignores the activism and advocacy that happens in these groups. South Asian parentseducatorsand politicians have all rallied behind these changes, working to educate larger communities about the importance of arming children with the knowledge they need to protect their bodies and navigate their own health.

The folks that I talk to on the ground every day recognize that youth are inundated with sexual images and messaging and that it’s crucial to give them the tools to decipher what they see. By providing a comprehensive sexual education, we are helping young people to develop skills so that they can make informed choices about their health.

Parents, teachers and students alike often dread the talk where sexual body parts, methods of contraception and sexually transmitted infections meet awkward giggles and shifting glances. But the discussion – giggles aside – is an important one, especially for young people who may need information and resources but do not have access.

Suruthi Ragulan is the Women’s Sexual Health Coordinator at theAlliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) in Toronto.

Sometimes People Do Nice Things

In June of 2015 Toronto opened its doors to Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care.  This isn’t a private corporation, nor is it a government funded project, the Centre is the product of dedicated volunteers trying to open a health care facility to serve the uninsured and undocumented people living in Toronto without the means to access health care.  After 15 years in its old location, through the donations of time, money, and supplies, the clinic opened its new two-storey office doors in June at the Knox Presbyterian Church Agincourt.  Check out all that went into this project at the link below:

Clinic launched ‘where care matters more than a (health) card’

5 Things to Think A bout As Gay Men

Blogger “The Attractor” recently came up with an interesting list of 5 things gay men should stop doing, check out the list below.

Stop

1. Describing yourself as straight acting

2. Baring it all on Dating Websites, But still “Looking for Friendship”

3. Femme Shaming

4. Using Sexual Labels as Life Labels

5. Slut shaming other gay men

Check out the detailed article here:

5 Things Gay Men Should Stop Doing Now

Over 30 Years After Toronto’s Stonewall

February 5, 2015 marks 34 years after the Toronto bathhouse raids, for Canadian LGBT history that’s kind of a big deal.  When we look at mainstream gay culture, the iconic catalyst of the gay liberation movement is often referenced as the Stonewall riots in New York City. Though this maybe true, one of the iconic Canadian catalyst for mobilization was the raids held on Toronto Bathhouses in the early 80′s. Check out what the landscape looks like for bathhouses in Toronto 30 years later.

Thirty years after the bathhouse raids

Brown n Proud

“You`re attractive for an Indian guy!”
“How can you be gay and brown?”
“I don’t do Pakis!”

Do these sound familiar to you? Research shows you’re not alone.

South Asian brown bodies are rarely well represented in mainstream queer spaces. What initially inspired this campaign were community voices and the Imagine Men’s Health study (IMHS) results.

IMHS was a community-based study that examined the relationship between experiences of racism, homophobia, ethno-racial identity, resilience and risks for body image dissatisfaction, and associated eating behaviours and attitudes among ethno-racial men who have sex with men (MSM). Our communities have already been speaking about their experiences when exploring the queer community, but by having a formalized study that further highlights these narratives, really propelled us forward in taking some action.

Out of the 4 ethno-racial groups that were surveyed for the study, South Asians were significantly more likely to report experiences of racism and social appearance anxiety. These unique findings demonstrated how brown faces and bodies are rarely well represented in mainstream queer spaces.

This inspired us to come up with something that would celebrate our cultural identities, promotes pride in our brown bodies and fosters confidence to navigate how we connect, hook-up and love. We want people to share this campaign and its message with their folks and networks to inform, educate and empower.

With the help of the amazingly talented artist Eric Kostiuk Williams and our advisory committee, we came up with 4 illustrated images that show different online profiles of South Asian men. Using humour, each profile celebrates our uniqueness as queer brown men while creatively referencing and challenging the ignorance that brown men experience within the gay community.

We hope that BnP provides that reminder in taking pride in how we see our beautiful brown bodies by validating our experiences.

Check out the full campaign here: Brown n proud 

This campaign is supported by the AIDS Bureau

Queer, Transgender, Tamil, Sri Lankan, and American?

Who embodies all of the above? D’Lo, a performance artist and comedian based in the US, D’Lo has made quite the name for themselves touring internationally including right here in Toronto.  In a recent show I had the privilege of attending D’lo entertained and engaged the audience with the story of their coming out process, twice. D’Lo first came out as gay, then again as trans, to their Sri Lankan american family. Often when exploring cultural dialogues on sexuality we rarely move past gay/straight, if we even get there.  Check out this great feature on D’Lo’s rise to success, and their Journey there.

D’Lo: ‘I came out three times – as gay, as having a girlfriend and as trans’

 

Remembering What Was Lost Section 377 One Year Later…

One year ago today South Asian Queers around the world received devastating news that homosexuality was again criminal in India.  According to the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a Law introduced during British rule, sex between the same sex is illegal.  On July 2, 2009 a seven year legal battle in the New Delhi high courts lead by the non-profit Naz foundation won the verdict to decriminalize homosexuality.  The argument brought forth by Naz was the law infringed on Indians constitutional right to dignity, privacy, and equality.

On December 11, 2013 the Supreme Court of India overturned the landmark decision made in 2009.  This decision rolled back decades of work and re-criminalized homosexuality in India.

Here are a few links to help understand what happened:

LGBT community outraged as SC rules gay sex illegal, upholds Sec 377

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/lgbt-community-outraged-as-sc-rules-gay-sex-illegal-upholds-sec-377/438991-3.html

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_377_of_the_Indian_Penal_Code

One year anniversary of the SC judgement: International Events and Actions

http://orinam.net/377/supreme-court-verdict-2013/one-year-anniversary-sc-judgement/

 

Are Tamil Movies ready for mainstream gay characters ?

In Tamil movie ‘Goa’ there was a gay story line that too with a full song sequence for the gay characters, very similar to straight characters in any Tamil romantic comedy flick. Unlike the recent Hindi flick. this wasn’t a faux-gay role as portrayed in ‘Dostana’ either.

Also another recent tamil movie ‘Avan Ivan’ where Vishal plays an effeminate actor was a huge hit all across south. It had an awesome hero entry song and dance with hero in saree and full accessories. (You have to see it to believe the level of awesomeness.)

The big question now is, will any of the Kolloywood directors attempt to remake Oscar winning movie “Brokeback Mountain” in Tamil ? Does the current trend accepting trend of the Tamil movie audience continue to signal a cultural shift towards more societal acceptance of LGBT individuals in Tamil Nadu and the the Tamil diaspora ?