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Everything takes practice… even a good orgasm

Let’s talk about sex, vibrators, and sexting

Everything takes practice… even a good orgasm

‘Twas a cold January night, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse — well, actually, in a manner of speaking I was. While everyone was away at home, enjoying the wonder that is Four Christmases, I was left all by myself to enjoy the classic –20 degrees Toronto weather. In that loneliness, it never struck me that not being able to fly back home could be a blessing of sorts.

From my teenage years to what can be described as my early 20s, I had tried a myriad of things to arouse myself — soft porn, erotica, sexting, and all that. Although erotica and sexting got me ‘hella thirsty,’ my body was never truly comfortable nor aroused until I stumbled upon this treasure of masturbation.

I was watching a series on Amazon Prime with liberating sexual scenes, where women took charge of the situation, where women enjoyed the process, where women held their own. It gave me an urge that I could not resist. And I reached for it.

I did not orgasm at first, though I was adamant that with a lot of practice I would get there eventually.

The next day I was rewatching Sleeping with Other People and came across the scene where Jake ⁠— Jason Sudeikis’s character ⁠— teaches Lainey ⁠— Alison Brie’s character ⁠— to find pleasure in bed using a jar.

I didn’t quite understand what he was saying but that gave me the idea to turn to Google — seriously, how did Millennials survive before Googling? I searched for techniques for masturbation and decided to give it another go. After watching another episode of the Prime series, I started doing what was instructed. Soon I learnt what my clitoris was comfortable with, but the online instruction only served as a perfect beginner’s guide to masturbation.

Although I was able to better access the appropriate erogenous zones, the vigour I was searching for could not be satisfied by my fingers, so I decided to invest in a vibrator. I went to  Shopper’s and looked around. There it was — my own purple rain — a Durex portable waterproof vibrator made of silicon, which works like pure magic. Along with it, I bought some Malibu rum and a bath bomb.

My little adventure led me to my bathtub. I put on some soft jazz, dropped in the bath bomb, poured myself a drink, and the rest was history.

That was the day that I helped myself reach ma petite mort. It was exhilarating, freeing, and relaxing all at once. It was something I’d trade a thousand Manolo Blahniks for.

A few months later, my then-boyfriend and I were doing long distance. Since we aren’t expressive of our feelings in the traditional sense, I suggested sexting. The deep and sexual innuendos literally made me weak in the knees and helped our relationship stay afloat.

Try new things, try different things, try anything that scares you a little — because they may be worth it. They may even help you in ways you could never imagine.

How and where to get your art published this summer

Hit up these galleries and publications for a complimentary feature

How and where to get your art published this summer

Entering the month of warm pavements and beams of sunlight may be exciting for those without paintbrushes or design pads, but for artists, the only vitamin we will get to soak up is Vitamin ECW, aka Endless Computer Work.

Summer is either the time to review last semester’s work and rebuild your portfolio or submit your art to various agencies for freelance work and internships. 

Between all the Gen Zers and millennials vying for positions, it is exhausting trying to find work and it can be incredibly competitive. We are often left wondering how we will ever gain ingredients to our design career pie. 

I realized quickly that sometimes the only option you have is to bake the pie from scratch, usually without a recipe.

There are plenty of other ways to get your work out in the open. Building your public portfolio is the first step in landing one of those sought positions, so getting your work published online should be your top priority. 

As many artists know, Instagram which is one of the biggest platforms right now to connect with like-minded individuals and receive great feedback. 

However, finding publications or pages willing to feature your work can take some digging. This is especially true since most ask for a publication fee — if you are in the position where spending any new coin is not an option it can be discouraging. 

Don’t sigh just yet, content is on your side! Since most platforms rely on a constant uploading schedule there are a few gems amidst the crowd that need artists to keep their flow going. 

Not to mention that because we are in the digital decade, you are open to the international market. Here are a few sites that are aesthetically pleasing for some great screen grabs and just what you need for exposure:

IGNANT

IGNANT is a gorgeous minimalist platform for design, architecture, photography, art, and more. 

Its published works deal mainly with “contemporary aesthetics from a different perspective.” To submit, all you need to do is send an email and attach images with a width of 1800 pixels or more, along with a description. 

Ballpit

Ballpit is a contemporary online art news magazine with over 52,000 followers on Instagram. It looks for consistent, high-quality work, and a positive attitude. If this sounds like you, fill out Ballpit’s small form for either a story feature or an Instagram post! 

Colossal 

Colossal puts the world of art culture at your fingertips. It is a contemporary art platform that accepts submissions across different disciplines: if you make anything from embroidery, animation, or painting, you are eligible to submit your work! Keep your descriptions brief in your email and attach a few relevant works that are at least 1,200 pixels wide. You can send a link to your portfolio; just make sure that it’s easy to get around to the right spot.

Communication Arts

Communication Arts is the perfect place for just about any artist, offering many opportunities to gain exposure. Submissions are open for its exhibit of new and innovative projects in graphic design, advertising, and outstanding websites. It also has online competitions, from which you can receive a personalized award if you win. How does that sound? There is a massive FAQ on the submissions page for each category if you are looking for extra information.

Empty Easel

Empty Easel is a one-stop-shop for tutorials and a platform to showcase unknown, emerging, and established artists every week. There is no definition of what it looks for in terms of art — the canvas is your oyster.

EatSleepDraw 

EatSleepDraw is a very popular Tumblr-based online art gallery that posts 100 per cent original content, submitted by contributors across the globe. It receives about 1,000 submissions every week, which means that approved artwork might take between 20 and 30 days to be posted, so pause on that refresh button for one second. EatSleepDraw also has been featured in The New York Times, so who knows who will see your art!

Women Who Draw

Calling all ladies! Women Who Draw is an open directory for professional women and gender nonconforming illustrators and artists. Their mission is to increase the visibility of female illustrators and those of minority groups. Make sure to submit a portrait of a woman that best describes your work!

Remember to always keep your eye out for artist calls such as the Art Map, and galleries that are looking for a variety of skills. Gallery 1313 has a space that features innovative work by emerging artists featured in the Window Box Gallery at 1313 Queen Street West. 

There is no cost involved in submitting your work. It’s a great opportunity to feature your art at the receptions taking place there, and expose it to new audiences. Bragging rights are included!

Of course, as with anything, getting your name out there takes time and patience, but the timer to take out your design pie will go off at any minute, with all the trials and errors of making it that much sweeter.

Grappling with summer self-scrutiny

On the liberatory potential of tattoos and time

Grappling with summer self-scrutiny

“How do you stay so skinny?”

Questions like this never fail to make me squirm. I typically just laugh in response and give an answer along the lines of “I just watch what I eat,” before frantically trying to change the subject. But as someone with a history of disordered eating and body image problems, questions like this always spark a series of complex emotions.  

For one, I’m uncomfortable. Since I’m constantly hyper-attentive of my body, an acknowledgment of it by someone else only further exacerbates my awareness of my insecurities. But intermingled with this discomfort is a strange sense of satisfaction. After all, if somebody else thinks I’m skinny then, in my mind, I’m accomplishing my goal.  

Some people say that the hardest part of losing weight is keeping it off. I disagree. Really,  what’s even harder is the dysmorphic mentality you can develop. Unfortunately, body image issues are much harder to shed than pounds. No matter how I look, there’s always a little nagging voice in the back of my head that says my appearance is never enough.

My issues with body image and disordered eating began early in my childhood. My family came from a poor background, so food was regarded mainly as a means of sustenance. As they didn’t have an abundance of food growing up themselves, they ensured that I was well-fed and satiated well beyond necessity.

Being force fed to a point of discomfort — and otherwise shamed if I didn’t finish — became the framework for the negative relationship that I have with food today. I never saw food as something to enjoy, but rather as a kind of necessary evil. After puberty, eating in excess began to have noticeable effects on my body. I didn’t have the metabolism of a child anymore, so my body began to change. What followed were years of fluctuating weight and, consequently, a damaged self-image. No matter how big or small I was, I was never satisfied. This distorted sense of self was exacerbated ironically by constant scrutiny from my critical Chinese family. This only further reinforced to me that food was the enemy.

TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY

Although I have grown quite comfortable with my body and have learned to cope with many of these negative thoughts, summer is always a rough period of time for my body image. With every invitation to the beach I get on Facebook, those feelings of insecurity return with full force. There’s no hiding behind hoodies and sweatpants like in the cooler months — you’re put on full display.

At this time of year, I once again become hyper-vigilant of how I look. Some days, stepping out in shorts can be an incredibly inhibiting experience, as my mind swells up with obsessive thoughts every time I notice a stranger remotely glance over. Other days, I might feel a bit better, but I still have a constant fear that every extra calorie I eat will drastically change how I look.

While these negative modes of thinking still impact my life today, I have come a long way. A few years ago, these thoughts would literally cause me to cancel plans out of fear of being seen on days that I felt particularly insecure. Taking a step out of my door when my mind tells me I’m too fat or too ugly to do so is, quite frankly, incredibly nerve-racking each time. But forcing myself to do it by opposing those negative thoughts — even if it takes an hour for me to find an outfit that I feel even remotely comfortable in — has helped me begin to reclaim some of the power.

Tattoos have helped me better understand my insecurities. Although getting tattoos cannot wholly mend a distorted relationship that one has with their body, getting them has helped reframe how I understand myself and how I relate to my physicality.

Those glances from strangers that had previously made me incredibly insecure are now something that I embrace. No longer are my skinny arms the centre of attention, but rather, the tattoos that adorn them are. Putting something that I view as beautiful on a part of me that I once hated was liberating. Although I would previously actively attempt to obscure those parts of my body, I now unashamedly flaunt the tattoos and the body parts that they’re one with.

Despite how rampant my insecurities about my body get in the summertime, I’ve learned to find ways to cope and have taken back some sense of control over my relationship with my body. While it’s still in constant flux and deviates from day to day, my tattoos provide me with a sense of much-needed stability and grounding. My body and my perception of it will continually change; but my tattoos are a constant that never fail to bring a smile to my face, even during bouts of my worst insecurities.

Sometimes not getting what you want is a massive stroke of luck

This summer, the Arts & Culture section of The Varsity will be exploring how to survive your first year at U of T

Sometimes not getting what you want is a massive stroke of luck

The room was empty, vacant of all objects except for a wooden desk and a bed, both of which were broken — stuck at their hinges for time eternal. It was a nice spring day. Sunlight bathed the walls over my head and brightened my outfit: blue jeans, a blue button-up, and blue pleather shoes matched with a blue jacket.

I scanned the room’s figure one final time. For eight months, I had built up my dorm, covered it in French art, philosophy books, and coordinating sheets. It was home. But as May 1 came and went, so would my access to the building.

When I moved into residence, university was unknown. Although scared of being alone and innocent, I was anxious for a new start, and it seemed as if there was a bounty of opportunities for one. I diligently chose coffee cups, slaved over course selection, and awaited move-in day like a horse before a race. Facts could not yet impede my imagination which told me that there was perfection ahead.

From existence comes expectations of essence. Humans like to envision a world where ideals are attainable. We live in one moment, yet look forward to the next in order to create the ‘good life.’ Thus, when expectations of university are not met, students can become forlorn and feel obliged to live amongst the debris of our dreams. Or that’s what happened to me, at least. I had to tackle feelings of disappointment after the school year ended.  

I found myself looking out the window of my kitchen. The house felt stiff. Its red bricks weathered by the hot summers and long winters. I saw straight green trees, black planters, blue spruces, and baby grass. And I thought that this had always been the way — the trees, the house, the pool — nothing had changed, but something was missing. I wasn’t a new person.  

It’s from there that I had to look into myself, and truly distinguish that which I desired and that which I am.  

At the AGO, there is a piece comprising of five white canvases taped onto the back of a cardboard-like material. Its description is “finding the artist’s presence in absence.” The idea that deficiency isn’t negative strikes me quite well, and it’s important for incoming first years in my experience.

In the time ahead, you are going to hold preconceived notions about what university life is supposed to be like. These ideas are never going to conform with what your reality presents, so find presence in their absence. Learn to carve meaning from every moment, whether it’s ideal or not. Releasing the notion of ‘what I desire to be’ is a process, but it’s helping me to recognize all the good around me. I’m letting myself grow in between the broken pieces of my expectations — to feel bliss, and not disappointment. If you can accept that there is nothing controllable or definitive in your existence, the year will be great.

Saving and skimping in Toronto this summer

Using Ka Wei, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Caffiends to your advantage

Saving and skimping in Toronto this summer

Toronto is a city of opportunity, and with opportunity comes temptation. A 15-minute walk anywhere south of Bloor will lead you past fine dining and food trucks, cafes and bars, book stores and record shops — all of which will tax your willpower, strain your attention, and ultimately drain your wallet.

It’s a battle I know all too well; after popping off in the early days of September like some sort of pudgy, pretentious Drake, my lifestyle caught up with me, and I was forced to reform. I sought out the advice of my smarter, thriftier friends, and scraped by for the next five months on eggs, sriracha, cheap coffee, and handouts.  

That episode let me in on one of Toronto’s best-kept secrets: with some luck and resourcefulness, the city can be liveable — you just have to know the right spots.

For food, fifth-year Clara Rutherford recommends Chinatown’s big-time produce vendors: Ka Wei, Hua Sheng, and Lucky Moose. Stocking up on cheap, nutritious grub like kale, beans, and rice will keep you full throughout the day, while dashing into a hole-in-the-wall bakery, like Mashion Bakery on Baldwin and Spadina, is great for loading up on banana bread or pork buns, says Rutherford.

However, flying around these crazy, mosh-pit produce markets can be stressful. The employees blur past you, prefer cash, and have no time to chit-chat. But when you can find a kilogram of quick oats for $3, it’s a trip worth taking.  

On your way back from Hua Sheng, scoop these up and throw ‘em in the freezer: meats, bread, produce, sriracha, whatever. Each are savoury, cheap, and will let you save up some money for your nights out.  

Another food tip: after 3:00 pm, the CityMarkets across town sell ‘enjoy tonight’ products; food that they’re forced to sell because it will ‘expire tomorrow.’

If you’re planning on hitting the town, fourth-year architecture student David Suskin recommends pre-gaming with some cheap alcohol. Pabst Blue Ribbon is always in vogue, while some of the grimier Ontarian wines are sold for around $7. After loosening up, Suskin and I recommend storming into Wide Open, Sneaky Dee’s, the Madison Pub, or Ein-Stein — of meme page fame. All boast cheap beer, and the latter has free cover on Friday and Saturday.

If you’re feeling some cheap coffee after your night out, avoid hitting the more bougie Toronto areas, like Yorkville, Queen West, and King Street. Instead, slip into Caffiends. This tiny, student-run cafe, based out of a shoe closet in Old Vic, sells coffee at a dollar per mug, and offers up one of the best atmospheres in Toronto.

There are other great, inexpensive dives on campus, too. Recent graduate Arielle Mantes recommends Trinity’s The Buttery or Victoria’s Ned’s, but with a few caveats. The drinks there can be pricey, Mantes says, so make sure to bring a reusable mug and tea bag with you to skip the line and cut costs.

If you’re really down and out —think early April, trapped at Robarts, snow on the ground — you can always go to Starbucks. If you’re a Starbucks Gold member, you get a free drink on your birthday. The good news is all it takes to become a member is an email and a few spare minutes to sign up, so make sure to pop by on your birthday for that free drink.

Everyone has their own strategies on how to get by in Toronto. Maybe you sniff out free food on campus: college societies and Frosh week are especially known for this. Perhaps you budget, prep meals, and fast through breakfast. Safe to say, there are hundreds of things you can do, and even more waiting to be discovered.

Jams for your first week back at school

The night is young, the music is loud, and before you know it, we’ll be meeting up at Con Hall

Jams for your first week back at school

Do you have that one go-to track you play almost every night? I do! Call me old school but nothing gets me dancing like a dig in the dancing queen, and nothing ever will.

Your first week of school can be bittersweet — mine usually is. While you’re happy to reunite with your friends, you reminisce about waking up late and the few responsibilities that come with the summer season.

September has creeped up on us, so you should listen to this playlist in an attempt to commemorate your summer memories.

These popular tracks are perfect for your first week back at school. The night is young, the music is loud and before you know it we’ll be meeting up at Con Hall.

“Freaky Friday” by Lil Dicky featuring Chris Brown, 2018

This is a really a hit or miss kind of song, but for me, it’s definitely a hit. Sometimes a tune is more than enough to get grooving. A little bit of base, a little bit of pop and a whole lot of rhythm. Not to mention, the music video is hilarious!

“Partition” by Beyoncé, 2013

We all need at least one Queen B song in our playlist and here is one of my favorites! Beyoncé’s nonchalantly flawless, untouchable vocals in sync with a mood changing rhythm definitely makes this a top favourite on my playlist.

“Girls Like You” by Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B, 2018

Your new inspiration is here and it comes with a sweet touch of Adam Levine’s voice! And once again, here he is with a song that I just can’t get out of my head.

“In My Feelings” by Drake, 2018

It’s only one of the most played songs of the summer. Literally. Yet somehow I’m not sick of it and so I’d rather have a song that makes me skip a step over one that makes me fall asleep before a three hour lecture.

“Shotgun” by George Ezra, 2018

Imagine your windows rolled down, the blazing sun and cool pop riding shotgun to your favorite beats. Oh, and on blasting volume of course. Here is a favorite that I play every time, and cheesy but true – most definitely when I win shotgun. You ride shotgun to class, no?

“No Brainer” by DJ Khaled featuring Justin Bieber, Chance The Rapper, Quavo, 2018

The “I’m The One” team is back with yet another one! What a reunion! It’s a no brainer that this song will keep you good company on your long walks to class.

“Level Up” by Ciara, 2018

Talk about one of the most viral and popular songs of the season! This already has me levelled up in my seat and I’m sitting on my couch still in my PJs. Need the perfect wake-up call after eight hours of class a day? Here’s one!

“1, 2, 3” by Sofia Reyes featuring Jason Derulo, De La Ghetto, 2018

I forgot all the Spanish I learned in high school until this beat came on, so it only seems right to have it back a few hours before class starts! It’s perfect for the first week back playlist.

“Capital Letters” by Hailee Steinfeld, BloodPop®, 2018

A packed social calendar in the summer calls for a night out every day. The semester, unfortunately, doesn’t bring us this luck. So here is a track for your first weekend back, a club ready, rushing pop, and smooth song for your playlist. Whether you’re dancing at a nightclub or in your PJs before bed — this is a mood changer!

“Dancing Queen” by Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again cast, 2018

This is a cover of a 1975 ABBA song. You know what they say: save the best for the last. You didn’t think I’d leave this out, did you? Summer is never complete without a little bit of “Dancing Queen”; words don’t do justice to this masterpiece. In lieu of a throwback to the 1970s, here is a Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again version of your favorite “Dancing Queen”! The first week of school may bring assignments, but with this song, at least you’ll be in a good mood when you write it.

When you can’t make it to the drive-in, the sofa is a great place to spend a lazy summer evening

A perfect movie for capturing every summer vibe

When you can’t make it to the drive-in, the sofa is a great place to spend a lazy summer evening

Here’s a list of movies for all your summer watching needs.

For beach vibes: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Honourable mention: The Descendants

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is set in balmy Hawaii, amid palm trees and dreamy ocean waves. Between Kristen Bell in a pink bikini and Mila Kunis with a white tropical flower tucked behind her ear, this movie is sure to make you wish you could leave city life behind to join the characters in a warm haze of sand, cocktails, and bathing suits. Also, Paul Rudd as a surf instructor is officially my summer chillness guru.

For thriller vibes: Jaws

Honourable mention: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Famously featuring a great white shark devastating unwitting beachgoers, this movie is ideal for those of us who want to both get in the summer spirit and are in the mood for mystery and suspense. With its marvellously tense soundtrack mingled with a summer resort aesthetic, Jaws is a great way to add a surreal creepiness to an otherwise tranquil summer day.

For romance vibes: Call Me by Your Name

Honourable mention: (500) Days of Summer

Set in the small town of Crema in northern Italy, this movie is a delicious exploration of the ups and downs of summer love. Call Me by Your Name captures the salacious heat of summertime lust, the playfulness of a fast-paced friendship, and the excitement of pursuing someone forbidden. You can witness the blissful sensuality of falling in love against a technicolour backdrop of tall grasses and shaded ponds. It also isn’t a real summer romance film unless there’s a strange sex scene involving fruit, and Call Me by Your Name certainly delivers on that front.  

For innocent Disney vibes: Moana

Honourable mention: Lilo and Stitch

It’s an animated movie about a strong young woman embracing her passion for the ocean by defying the confining boundaries of her island — you can’t watch it without developing an unshakeable desire for adventure. Featuring a dazzling but deadly crab, a beautiful grass-covered goddess who finds her heart, and songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda at his finest — Moana inspires you to take the voyage across the ocean — whatever your own metaphorical ocean may be.

For horror vibes: It

Honourable mention: Friday the 13th

This coming-of-age movie about finding friendship during a time of adversity is often punctuated by characters groaning that it’s summer break, a time for relaxing and having fun, not fighting monsters. It is perfect for those of us who disagree and think the whole point of summer break is fighting monsters.   

For showbiz glam vibes: Almost Famous

Honourable mention: La La Land

If summer is the time when you repress all the biology facts you’ve been cramming in your brain and return to your childhood fantasies of living a rock-and-roll lifestyle, this is the movie for cultivating your delusions. Almost Famous is about a young hopeful journalist on the road with a bus full of washed-up rockstars and glamorous groupies — the summer road trip of your dreams.

For childhood nostalgia vibes: High School Musical 2

Honourable mention: The Parent Trap

This movie asks “what time is it?” for us to all yell back, in perfect unison, “SUMMERTIME!” High School Musical 2 has a song for every summer scenario: summer job doldrums, perfecting that fabulous poolside aesthetic, the inevitable breakup after a summer romance fizzles, angsty soul searching on the golf course, and, for some reason, a “pineapple princess” pining after a fish with a long, complicated Hawaiian name.

For ‘80s classics vibes: Dirty Dancing

Honourable mention: National Lampoon’s Vacation

With its iconic soundtrack and killer dance numbers, this movie will make you long for those days of family vacations. Except this time, instead of wasting your holiday sunbathing and begging your older sister to sneak you mojitos from the bar, you could be falling in love with the resort’s dance instructor to the tune of your favourite ‘80s pop songs.

For teenage revelry vibes: Meatballs

Honourable mention: American Pie 2

If summer makes you nostalgic for high school (shudder), then you probably spent your teenage years partying at your friend’s beach house, or drunkenly singing songs around a bonfire. Meatballs, however, will make you wish you had spent your summers as a camp counsellor — the main duties of which are apparently playing pranks and scoring chicks. This film will make you pine for the semi-innocence of those blissful teenaged summers.

For musical vibes: Mamma Mia

Honourable mention: Grease

Amanda Seyfried’s character is a makeup-free, beachy-haired goddess who always has a bathing suit on underneath her white summery blouse, in case she needs to frantically chase after a retreating boat. Spoiler: she does. She lives on a fictional Greek island called “Kalokairi” that is essentially a slice of heaven. The crystalline ocean and Mediterranean architecture of the island would also make me want to periodically burst into song. To me, the soundtrack to this movie is the soundtrack of summer.

A love letter to Pride

A reminder that regardless of how far we have come, there is still more that needs to be done

A love letter to Pride

There are few places where one can strip themselves of any veil and express the unadulterated version of themself. Throughout the years, Pride has become one of these safe havens.

Pride highlights the LGBTQ+ community in all of its glory. The carnivalesque themes and harlequin atmosphere project and celebrate the years spent hiding from oppression and fighting for basic rights the right to love, to express, and to simply be.

LGBTQ+ individuals fight, whether in public or private, to be a part of the fabric that creates and connects societies worldwide. Pride allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to defend their feelings, protect their right to resist social stigma, and promote the rich diversity that defines the community.

There is a fearlessness to Pride, backed by a history infused with tenacity and courage, that leaves me in awe. June 16, 2017 was the first time I attended the Pride parade. People of every age, shape, and ethnicity filled the streets. The crowd was as polychromatic as the flags that they carried, and the atmosphere was filled with glitter and charged with ecstasy.

Amidst the bombastic music and vivid rainbows, all I saw was the unreserved emotion — the wide smiles that make eyes gleam, and the tears running down faces, filled with nostalgia and joy.  Coming from a country like Pakistan, where many aspects of society are censored, I had never had the privilege of experiencing something like this before.

I have always been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, possibly even before I understood how sexuality and gender are constructed in our world, but in those moments at Pride, a newfound appreciation for the movement grew in me.

The spectacle of ‘come as you are’ is terrifying for most people, myself included. We fall into a façade that we feel will be accepted, rather than letting the world adjust to accommodate, or simply accept, us.

Although I have experienced discrimination as a Muslim woman of colour, I also identify as cisgender. I cannot claim to completely understand the struggle of being constantly mislabeled by heteronormative culture, as I have never had to justify who I’m attracted to or the identity that I adopt.

But as I marched alongside all the supporters who had come out to celebrate Pride, I realized that this community has every right to be heard. A flicker of hope sparked in my heart that one day people in my country could do the same.

Freedom of expression is a relative term in Pakistan, but so are all the other freedoms that we take for granted in the West. Pakistan is a country submerged in years of turmoil and deluded by biased religiosity. There is a lack of free will, despite citizens being charming and humble. Even social activists are often afraid to advocate for the inclusivity of various sexualities, genders, and identities.

The monochromatic city walls retain the stories of people who are desperate, but afraid, to be themselves without discrimination. I have seen my friends struggle because we come from a society laced with conservatism, which leaves them unable to live their truths.

Narrow-mindedness bred through education paves a predetermined path for every generation, before its members even realize who they are or who they love. People have to think twice before touching, and the simple act of interlocking fingers turns into hushed shadows. They begin to live in the darkness — secretly existing, but never really seen. Where I am from, this is all too often the narrative of the LGBTQ+ community.

Standing at Pride, I wanted more for my country. I wanted ruffled feathers, ostentatious costumes, hopeful slogans, and liberation. It was all right in front of me people reveling in the light as they walked through the streets of Toronto.

For me, that felt like the importance of Pride. It is not just a celebration, but a remembrance of the journey that led to these moments and the road moving forward. That is, a road for further inclusivity that dispels the latent bigotry and gives rise to equity.

While the West has made strides, there is still a vast amount of LGBTQ+ culture that needs to be taught and mainstreamed. It goes beyond a day or a month — paradigms need to be shifted worldwide.

The LGBTQ+ community has always faced adversity with love and resilience, from Stonewall to the fight for transgender rights. Members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community keep marching to retain the rights given to them, with the hope that we can spark change in a countries where these rights do not yet exist.

This year, Pride encompassed not only the vibrant festivities, but also highlighted the violence that has recently struck the community. Pride serves as a reminder that regardless of how far we have come, there is still so much that needs to be done.

Rather than touting what I have done for the LGBTQ+ community which is little in comparison to what the community has taught me this is my love letter to Pride.