Read whatever you want to read.

I’ve always been passionate about reading, no matter what type of book it is––as long as it sparks my interest, I’ll read it. I feel that as long as I enjoy what I’m reading, that’s all that matters.

What I really hate though, and honestly don’t understand, is when elitist readers, a.k.a book snobs, tell me what I should and shouldn’t like to read.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been shamed by these book snobs for not liking The Catcher in the Rye, always being told “it’s a classic, how can you not like it” or “it’s a great novel, you must have terrible taste in books.”

All I have to say in response to that is: I like what I like, and that’s all there is to it. Anyways, who are you to judge me for what I like?

I read for myself, and no one else. If I feel like reading  Peppa Pig Goes Swimming, I will. I don’t care if it’s written for four-year-olds—I’m the one reading it, not you.

Literature is subjective, it completely depends on the reader’s taste and opinions, so it’s hard to justify why one book is better than another––and impossible to define one person’s taste as better than another.

Reading makes me happy, it’s my escape, and I love that I get to choose where I want to escape to. So, if someone wants to escape to Leo Tolstoy’s world of Anna Karenina, by all means, go for it and have fun. But the same goes for someone who wants to escape to the world of Peppa Pig.

No one should feel bad for liking to read a certain series or book; it’s the same as feeling bad for liking pineapple on pizza or liking K-pop. This is your life, do what makes you happy, read what you like to read.

Books are expensive enough as it is, so you don’t need to invest in a book that doesn’t interest you just because an elitist reader tells you that you should. Instead, buy that book you’ve been eyeing for the past couple of days, buy the latest release from your favourite author, basically; buy the book that will make you happy.

Just let people read what they like without shaming them. It’s so annoying to be told what to read and what to like.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Dear Laurence Fox…

Dear Laurence Fox,

I’m writing to you today in response to a claim you made on BBCs Question Time, during an exchange with an audience member about whether or not the media’s representation of Meghan Markle was racist. While talking to this member of the audience, you told them, “to call me a white privileged male is to be racist.”

The first thing I’d like you to note is that when the audience member said you were privileged, they did not mean it in terms of financially privileged or class-based privileged. What they meant is that you, as a white man, do not have the disadvantages or hindrances that minorities have in our societies and institutions.

Another thing to note is that being called a “white privileged male” isn’t racist, because it is not used in a derogatory way; they were simply stating a fact. You are a man and you are white, and because you are white, you are automatically privileged.

Now, you might argue that poor or uneducated white people wouldn’t consider themselves privileged, but technically, they are. As previously mentioned, a white person does not have to suffer through the racial inequalities in our system and institution. A poor white person is rarely seen as “dangerous, lazy, unambitious” in comparison to a poor person of color.

Now, if you still think that remark was a form of racism towards you, the term I think you’re looking for is reverse racism, which is essentially racism against white people. I’m sorry to inform you that reverse racism is not an actual thing, you can’t even find it in a legitimate dictionary, and here’s why: it’s a myth!

Many scholars, such as Amy Ansell, Professor and Dean of Liberal Arts at Emerson College, have argued that while the term has gained more and more popularity since it was created in the 1970s, it is not technically possible. The reason for that is because, as Ansell mentioned in her book Race and Ethnicity: The Key Concepts, when a group of people have little to no power over you institutionally and systematically, they cannot define your existence and they cannot limit your opportunities.

Yes, there are many stereotypes directed towards white people that can be insulting or derogatory, but think about it this way, do they cause any problems or have any concrete impact in your life? They may hurt your feelings, but do they lower your chances at getting a job or a promotion? No, they don’t.

As a privileged white male, maybe instead of trying to pull the “reverse racism” card, you should be thinking of how you can use this advantage, this privilege, to help those who are actually facing this racism and discrimination.

You were born with opportunities and options that many others are born without, and that doesn’t make you a bad person in any way, shape or form; it’s the way you use them that will decide that. So please, take this letter and the comment made by an audience member, and use your advantages for something constructive, something that will give back to the community.

Maybe next time you think of accusing someone of being racist towards you, you’ll take a second and remember that given your privilege, that isn’t possible.



Victoria Blair


Graphic @sundaeghost


Canadian Universities urge exchange students in Hong Kong to come home

Protests have been ongoing since June amid Chinese government attempts to amend the extradition law

Canadian universities have been urging their exchange students in Hong Kong to return home as the tension between government officials and protestors continues to escalate.

While Concordia University hasn’t released official statement asking students to return early or to put off their exchange, it has been making sure students are up to date on the current political climate of the area.

“We make sure that the students are properly informed of the situation before they go,” said Christine Archer, manager of Concordia’s Education Abroad Programs. “We go according to the travel bans on the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIC) website,”

There are currently no travel bans to Hong Kong on the Canadian Travel website, however, the organization warns any travellers to be extremely cautious.

The protests began in June when the local government attempted to amend extradition laws, allowing criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. This was seen by many as China’s attempt to gain more influence over the semi-autonomous territory, which was interpreted as a risk to Hong Kong’s independence.

Originally a British colony, Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, when it was decided that while the territory would belong to China and it would have its own legal and political autonomy. They have been functioning under the motto “one country, two systems.”

The protests started off peacefully, but have since become violent. On Nov. 12, protests moved from the streets to many of Hong Kong’s university campuses.

On Nov. 17, protesters and police clashed at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, causing a nine-day siege. Since then, most protestors have escaped, surrendered or have been captured by the police reported the CBC.

Some Canadian students in Hong Kong have been cutting their exchanges short and leaving the territory early.

“We did have one student there this semester,” said Archer. “Her host institution ended classes on Nov. 15 and she came home right after.”

According to Archer, currently all of the Concordia students who had planned to study abroad in Hong Kong have changed their minds and have asked to be placed elsewhere.

“Back in 2015, it was stable and I really enjoyed it there,” said former Concordia exchange student Étienne Crête of his exchange to Hong Kong. “It’s one of my favourite cities in the world, but I wouldn’t go back right now. Not until the situation calms down.”

While the situation has gotten better recently, universities across Canada continue to closely monitor the situation, looking out for the best interest of their students.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Immigration: a pass or fail test

Immigrants will have to pass a values test in order to settle in Quebec.

The Québec government announced last October that immigrants who want to settle in Quebec will have to pass a ‘values test’ as of Jan. 1, 2020.

According to the Official Gazette of Québec, the official publication of the Québec government, the test will serve as part of Québec’s selection process. It must be passed within a two-year period before applicants can apply for permanent residency.

The values tests for new immigrants was one of the electoral promises made by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) during their 2018 provincial election campaign, along with a mandatory French proficiency exam.

During a press conference, Quebec’s immigration minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, shared an example of what the questions will be like: “Since March 27, 2019, Bill 21, the secularism of the state, says every new police officer cannot wear religious symbols on the job. True or false?”

The test will be made up of 20 questions covering topics like francophone culture and Québec democracy, among others. The questions will be chosen at random from a bank of questions. “It will never be the same evaluation,” said Jolin-Barrette.

Applicants are required to get a score of 75 per cent or more for it to be successful. Only after passing the test will applicants receive a certificate selection, allowing them to apply for permanent residency with the federal government.

If the applicant fails the initial test, they must wait a minimum of two weeks before being allowed to retake the test. If the applicant fails a second time, they will have to follow a course offered by the government to learn about the province’s values. Should the applicant fail a third time, they will have to restart the process from the beginning.

“It’s important, before deciding to come to Quebec, to know that if you expect to be in a job in a position of authority, you will not have the right to wear religious signs,” Legault told reporters during a scrum. “So, I think it’s important that you understand the values of where you want to live.”

International students who wish to settle and work in Québec after graduating are given a choice: they can either attend a course, or take the exam. The course is offered by the Québec government and upon completion, students will receive a learning attestation. Temporary workers will be offered the same option.

New economic class immigrants must take the test, with exemptions for children and applicants who have a medical condition preventing them from taking the test. Immigrants who are coming as refugees or through family reunification are also exempt.

“I think it’s normal that immigrants who arrive in Quebec and enjoy all of its advantages have to respect its values,” said Zachary Lumbroso, an international student studying Journalism at Concordia University.

Many seem to think that the idea behind the test is good because it is important to know about the culture and the values of the places you plan on living in. However, most are also under the impression that the test will be a waste of time.

“I don’t mind learning about Québec values,” said Piyush Gulia, a second year international student studying architectural sciences at Montreal Technical College. “I just think that having to do a test is a bit silly, it’s a waste of time honestly.”

People have also been skeptical about how honest the applicants will be when answering the questions.

“Anyone with some common sense can pass this test, regardless of whether or not they actually respect the values in question,” said Gulia. “They’ll answer what the government wants to hear.”

Despite the uncertainty and skepticism, the Québec government is still proceeding with the implementation of the test. The CAQ hopes that it will one day become more than just part of the Québec selection process, and become a part of the permanent residency process, according the Official Gazette of Québec.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Let the girl run

I’ve always wondered why people make such a big deal about others wearing their religious clothing and/or accessories. It’s not like it’s hurting anyone, and we live in a country where our fundamental rights include the freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

So imagine how shocked I was when I read an article last week about a Muslim athlete being disqualified from a district level race in Ohio because of her hijab. Can you imagine?

Noor Abukaram, a 16-year-old Muslim athlete was disqualified from a race because she wore a hijab. And that’s not the worst part. According to an article on BBC, the officials who inspected her team never said anything about her hijab before the race. They waited until she was finished running to inform her that she was disqualified because her coach didn’t file for a religious waiver, and her hijab was considered unfit for the dress code.

Why is it that people are so focused on what someone wears, rather than focusing on that person’s personality and abilities? This girl worked hard to be a part of her team and to participate in that race, so why are people penalizing her for wearing a hijab instead of recognizing her athletic ability? It’s not as if her hijab is going to make her faster than everyone else or give her any advantage.

It’s unfortunate, but I feel that sometimes when you wear a religious symbol or religious clothing, some people don’t see you as the person you are, but they see you as your religion and sometimes, the stereotypes that go with that religion. I’m not saying everyone sees it that way, but I know that some do, and they’re missing out on getting to know someone that could be the nicest and kindest person they’ll ever meet.

It’s sad, really. Instead of encouraging and supporting our youth, people are getting in their way and hindering them. We should be pushing them to reach their full potential instead of fussing over their religious clothing.

I understand that there are rules and regulations, but there should be some degree of understanding seeing as how there is nothing in the rulebook that says anything specifically about hijabs. There is a rule saying that if you have any religious clothing you must wear, a waiver must be filed with the association. However, according to a spokesman for the Ohio Highschool Athletic Association (OHSAA), runners aren’t supposed to wear headwear, but they don’t always enforce it, allowing runners to wear hats when it’s cold out. So why can’t Abukaram wear her hijab?

I think Abukaram handled the situation like a champ. She showed that she understands the need for this to go public, because if it doesn’t, it’ll keep happening time and time again. She isn’t giving up.

This isn’t the first time that something like this has happened. Last year, a basketball player was asked to leave a game because she was wearing a hijab. In 2016, 16-year-old Amaiya Zafar was disqualified from the Sugar Bert Boxing National Championships because she wore a hijab and refused to take it off. These are only some among many other similar instances in the past couple of years.

“They don’t need to alter the course for me specifically. I’m running just like everyone else, I’m starting on the same start line and finishing on the same finish line,” Abukaram told the BBC.

I agree with her. She doesn’t need any special treatment or advantages. What she needs is to be treated the same as everyone else, to be allowed to participate regardless of her religion and the clothing that goes with it.

I think it’s time to re-examine the rulebooks and guidelines and make some changes. The current rules don’t take into consideration that women wearing hijabs would be involved in these sports. It’s time to make them more inclusive.

Graphic by Victoria Blair.

Student Life

Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac citizens try getting their lives back on track six months after floods

At around 11:30 p.m. on April 27, an officer knocked on the front door of my home in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac. They informed my family and I that we were under mandatory evacuation. The water levels had been steadily rising since the dike broke a few hours prior, at around 7 p.m., and we knew it would eventually reach our house. 

We spent a lot of the evening walking around the neighbourhood, trying to speak to as many people as possible to better understand and assess the situation we were in. The other part was spent packing and preparing for the worst.

Vehicles lined up along the street, officials urging citizens to evacuate the flooded area. Photo by Victoria Blair.

It wasn’t until 8 a.m. the next morning that we got a call from one of our neighbours, who told us the water was now a few inches below our front door. My mom was devastated;  she spent the past 20 years making that house our home and the thought of losing it made all of us heartbroken.


Later that day, when we were finally able to get to our house, after having walked through waist-high water, we saw the extent of the damage to our town. Debris was floating around, windows of houses were broken and people were rushing around, trying to save as much as possible.

We were incredibly lucky. We had the time to prepare ourselves and our house, and for a few hours, we were even allowed to return after the water came, but others weren’t so lucky.

“I had to leave within nine minutes,” said Bridgette Pruneau, one of the affected citizens. “In nine minutes, I had to leave my whole life behind.” She was one among hundreds of others who had only moments to grab their most prized possessions and leave the rest behind.

To avoid mold forming in their homes, citizens had to strip the interiors of many of the houses on 34e Ave. on May 2. Photo by Victoria Blair.

“The government put the dikes in place to avoid having a situation like this happen,” said Kim Doucet, another one of the evacuees. “But because of negligence, it happened, and it’s so much worse. We weren’t able to prepare ourselves properly because we thought the dike would hold.”

The last major flood in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac was in 1976, which is also when the government decided to build the dike. According to a study led by l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, the provincial government wanted to map out the flood zones and establish preventive measures to reduce damages caused by floods. The dike had held up for over 40 years, making the area a no-flood-risk zone.

The citizens of Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac suffered a great loss that day: our homes, our memories and much more – but we didn’t expect the effects of this loss to last so long. It’s been six months since the floods, and most citizens still haven’t returned to a normal way of life. Some may never be able to.

The majority of people affected by the flood are frustrated with the government. The process of getting information or funding to repair the damages is incredibly complicated and time consuming.

“I’m now out on the street with four animals to take care of and no home to return to,” said Pruneau. “The government isn’t helping us, nor sharing information with us, information that could help us with our next step.”

Water came up just below the door of this truck, approximately thigh deep for the people walking through it.

One of my neighbours, Jean-Guy Leprohon, spent approximately $20,000 to fix the damages to his house caused by the flood. The city sent an inspector to verify if it was deemed safe to live in. If deemed unsafe, the municipal government offered three options: move, repair the house, or to demolish and rebuild. Last week, he was informed that his home would have to be demolished.


He’s happy that he and his family will soon have a safe home to live in, but the fact that it took so long for someone to come and properly inspect the house is very disappointing. Had he known that his house would be demolished, he never would have invested so much into the repairs. The Ministry of Public Security (MSP) sent an inspector in May to act as the eyes of the government and report on the damages. The report that the inspector sent to the MSP is quite different from the report that was made by the city one.

“When the inspector came to assess the damage at my home, he was not dressed to assess such a situation,” said Doucet. “He didn’t bother going downstairs, he just took pictures of the pictures that I took. That’s it.”

In a Facebook group created by the flood victims, many people have come forward with similar claims. Among them, many have also shared that they are still waiting for money from the provincial government. They have shown concern over the fact that winter is coming, but the money promised from the government isn’t.

“I feel like a prisoner in my own home,” said Doucet. “I can’t afford to leave, nor can I afford to fix things.”


Photos by Victoria Blair


Anti-immigrant: nationalist, or downright racist?

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard someone say “I’m not racist, but…” and every time I hear someone say that, I think to myself: either you are, or you aren’t.

A lot of the time, people will try to avoid being condemned as a racist by hiding behind other concepts and terms, often trying to make themselves look patriotic in the process. They often say things such as “I’m only trying to protect our country’s values,” or “I’m trying to preserve our history.”

In a country as socially-advanced as Canada, it’s sad to see that some are still behaving in such a way: going against immigration and diversity because it threatens their way of life – a life in which white supremacists hold most of the power.

On Sept. 7, readers of the Vancouver Sun witnessed such behavior when they came across an article called “Can Social Trust and Diversity Co-Exist?” written by Mark Hecht. Hecht was nothing more than a racist white supremicist who disguised his thoughts as a concerned nationalism.

The Vancouver Sun pulled the article from their website within a day of publication, but there is nothing they could do about the paper that was sent out. The damage was done and now thousands of people have read the article.

While Hecht wasn’t upfront with his racism, he encouraged and praised homogeneity; as well as discouraging diversity and inclusion. In his article, Hecht argued that our country is becoming less and less socially trusting, and to counter this, “the minimum requirement is that we say goodbye to diversity and inclusion.”

He wants everyone to be the same; to have the same values and to fit in perfectly with his idea of the proper Canadian society.

But we aren’t robots, we aren’t programmed to think the same way, to value the same things. We’re humans, and as humans, we have the ability and the right to express different opinions and values, so long as it doesn’t hurt the person next to you.

What people like Hecht need to understand is that Canada is a country built on immigration and diversity. When British and French settlers came here in the 1600s, were they not immigrants themselves? What about in the early 1900s, when Ukrainians and Polish people settled here?

All of these people came from different parts of the world in search of a better life and better opportunities, which is the same reason people come to Canada today.

Can you imagine what Canada would be like if everyone who immigrated here had the same beliefs, the same values and the same origins? Think about how bland it would be. Think about everything we’d be missing out on: the food, music, movies, art, etc.

There’s so much that we benefit from living in such a diverse country. We have a more open minded understanding of the world, and this allows us to grow as individuals and as a country.

While I understand that Hecht’s article is an opinion piece, and that he has every right to express his opinion, I find it hard to stay quiet and say nothing about it. Before writing an article on how Canada would be better if we stopped being so diverse, take a minute and remember where you came from.

We’re a country that prides itself on our rich and diverse culture, and every new-comer adds to that.

Everyone here deserves to be respected; regardless of their status, their religion, or the color of their skin. Without them, there would be no us.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Passiveness gets you nowhere

When I was younger, I was someone who didn’t like confrontation. In fact, I’d do just about anything to avoid it. Why? Because I was afraid of insulting someone with what I had to say, and honestly, I didn’t think I could change anything anyways.

I always thought to myself, ‘What difference can I make? I’m just one person with no special title or influential position.’

This was the excuse I used to tell myself all the time.

It wasn’t until later on, that I realized being passive was getting me nowhere. I saw people around me being discriminated against for their race and religion. I saw the world around me being destroyed with bombs and hatred and, for the longest time, I did nothing.

I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t the only one using that stupid excuse. Too many people are doing the same thing I was, telling themselves their voice won’t make a difference. Thankfully, we have people who don’t care about that and who, instead of telling themselves “my voice alone won’t be heard,” tell themselves “if they can’t hear me, I’ll scream louder.”

Take Greta Thunberg for example. She started off as a 15-year-old girl who decided to protest climate change by skipping school and sitting in front of the Swedish parliament. Now, she’s leading a worldwide climate change movement. During her TedTalk, Thunberg said: “Maybe [my children and grandchildren] will ask why [I] didn’t do anything while there was still time to act.”

Act while you still have the chance, before the bees are gone, before the glaciers have melted, before war completely destroys a country. Thunberg chose to speak up for a cause that she believes in, but there are so many other causes that need a voice, that need someone to take a stand and say enough is enough.

This world we’re living in is changing every day and, sadly, not always for the best. A lot of people are in denial about it, thinking everything is all fine and dandy because facing the truth is hard.

That’s why it’s our responsibility to do something about it. We can’t keep relying on others to take a stand. We need to be involved in the change that needs to come.

I’m not saying you need to start a worldwide movement (knock yourselves out if you want to, though). I’m saying that if you have something you believe in, take a stand for it and make your voice heard. Whether you are standing up for someone facing discrimination or sharing a post about the amazon fires, your voice might just have an impact.

Be prepared to defend your thoughts and your opinions, because not everyone will agree with what you have to say. But don’t let it get you down, just believe in yourself and your voice, and keep doing the best you can.

It’s similar to fire. All it needs is one little spark, just like Thunberg, to create a worldwide chain reaction. The more people are taking a stand and speaking up, the stronger the flame will be.

Your voice is important and deserves to be heard, so make sure you scream loud enough for the whole world to hear it.


Graphic by Victoria Blair

Student Life

50 years later: Re-examining the past

A closer look at the role of student journalism in the SGW Affair

With the Sir George Williams Affair, one tends to think about the riots, the violence and the destruction of property, amongst other things. The Affair took place between Jan. 29 and Feb. 11, 1969, when students overtook the seventh and ninth floor computer centres in the Hall building. The students occupied the centres to protest anti-black racism in classrooms. It started as a peaceful protest, but turned violent after the riot police got involved, and was later classified as the largest student occupation in Canadian history. According to CBC, about 200 students occupied the computer centre for roughly two weeks, and on the day of the police riot, 97 arrests were made.

Most accounts of the events that took place focus on the occupation, the involvement of the police, and the destruction of the computer centre that resulted in $2 million worth of damage. While we can expect there to be more to the story than what’s available, what most often don’t consider the integral role that student journalism played in the SGW Affair. The Georgian, the student newspaper at the time, was there from the beginning, covering the events leading up to the Affair, giving readers a more complete version of what happened.

A pop-up exhibition in the CJ building’s media gallery is a continuation of the Protest and Pedagogy event series. Photo by Victoria Blair

As a continuation of the Protest and Pedagogy event series that was held from Jan. 30 to Feb 16, a pop-up exhibition in the media gallery of the CJ building on the Loyola campus offers a glimpse into these events from a different and more personal perspective.

“It was a very important part of the whole process,” said Christiana Abraham, curator of the pop-up exhibition and a Communications Studies professor at Concordia. “It played an important role in mediating and reporting on what was going on during the occupation, and before the occupation started.” The Georgian acted as a platform to send a clear message to large numbers of students, similar to today’s social media. Its writers were authorized to go in and out of the occupied spaces, allowing them to report on the events as they were happening.

This archival material included a lot more information than the mainstream press; it often offered more details and context about what was really happening. Our perception and remembrance of the events might have been different if the mainstream press had included these details.

The SGW Affair took place between Jan. 29 and Feb. 11, 1969. Photo by Victoria Blair.

“It offered a different narrative of the events,” said Abraham. “It’s given us other kinds of truths and representations as compared to the historical narrative that we have.” The representation of the events portrayed by the mainstream press did not include many truths like this. They did not accurately portray the students and their frustration, the solidarity between them and the strong female roles that came out during the event.

“The mainstream press made it out to appear as if it was a very racialized event, between black and white,” added Abraham. “But when you start looking through these archives, you come to see that there was a lot more solidarity than we have come to know.” The Georgian published the names of all 97 students who were arrested and went on to add how a majority of the students arrested were white. These 97 names included the names of some of the women involved in the Affair. One of the women arrested was Anne Cools, one of the protesters who later became the first Black person to be appointed to the Canadian Senate.

“I was really impressed with the professionalism of the student press at the time,” said Abraham. “Even fifty years later, they are a very important source for us. They gave us an inside view of what was going on that the mainstream press didn’t offer.” The pop-up gallery presents visitors with a new and more intimate perspective on the events that took place 50 years ago. The CJ building media gallery is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until March 29.

Student Life

If you’re planning on getting busy this Valentine’s Day, stay protected

Spread the love, not the disease

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, some of us who are romantically involved are preparing to spend the day with that special someone. While indulging your partner is important, so is keeping in mind the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or disease (STD).

According to Women’s Health, the difference between STIs and STDs are whether symptoms are present, and ailments are only described as diseases when symptoms are present. “You can have an infection, such as chlamydia, without symptoms,” said Angela Jones, M.D., an ob-gyn at Healthy Woman Obstetrics and Gynecology in Monmouth, NJ. Since 2005, the Canadian government has recorded a rise in reported STD/STI cases, mainly cases concerning chlamydia, which is the most reported sexually transmitted disease in Canada. In 2009-2010, 68 per cent of sexually active 15 to 24 year-olds reported using a condom the last time they had intercourse, according to Statistics Canada.

The World Health Organization states that there are more than 30 viruses, bacterias and parasites that can be transmitted sexually. Of these, eight are the cause of most reported STD/STI cases. Four are currently curable: syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. The other four—hepatitis B, herpes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and human papillomavirus (HPV)—are viral infections and are not curable.

“While most people think that STDs[/STIs] are only transmittable through sexual intercourse, like penetration, there are really, in fact, many ways of getting them,” said Charlotte Gagné, a sexology student at the Université du Québec à Montréal. “For example, [they can be transmitted through] skin to skin contact, blood and sharing sex toys. It can also be passed down from mother to child.”

One of the best ways to avoid contracting and spreading STDs/STIs is to use protection. Condoms are accessible, relatively affordable and they come in various styles that can make using protection fun. Trojan has ribbed condoms geared for female pleasure, their thinnest condom called the ‘bareskin’ and even benzocaine-lubed condoms for climax control, all meant to maximize pleasure. Just be sure to always check condoms for rips or tears, as well as expiry dates, before use.

STDs/STIs not only affect you physically, but mentally and socially as well. “Our society judges and rejects people with STDs[/STIs],” said Gagné. “They are often seen as prostitutes or floozies. People are afraid to touch them, they act as if they have the plague.”

Kelyane Dizazzo, a student at Collège Ahuntsic, has contracted chlamydia in the past. “It felt like the end of the world,” said Dizazzo. “I know it could’ve been something much worse, but when I got the news, I couldn’t stop crying,” she said. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, the importance of getting regularly tested for STDs/STIs while sexually active is pertinent. Concordia Health Services recommends getting tested every two months, or between different sexual partners.

“I lost some friends,” added Dizazzo. “Their girlfriends didn’t want them near me, let alone talking to me.” Dizazzo went on to explain that if she had known how badly this disease would affect her, she would have been much more careful.

“Being informed is key,” said Gagné. “Knowing about the different types of STDs[/STIs] and how they can be transmitted not only helps you know how to protect yourself, but it lets you know what to expect if you are not careful.”
Being honest with yourself and your partner can help stop the spread of these sexually transmitted diseases. Having an STD/STI does not only affect you, it also affects your future sexual partners, and previous ones that could be carriers or infected as well.

“There a lot of resources available to help prevent STDs[/STIs], but you have to look for them,” said Gagné. “If you think you have an STD[/STI] or just want to make sure that everything is okay, go to an STD[/STI] testing clinic. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Valentine’s Day is about showing your loved ones how much you care. While Hallmark holidays will push us to buy material items as expressions of our love, what better gift is there than the gift of protection and peace of mind?

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

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