LGBTQ+ inclusive education must be mandatory

Young people deserve an education that reflects who they are.

This year was filled with rallies across Canada for and against LGBTQ+ school policies. Hundreds protested in downtown Montreal in September, followed by an LGBTQ+ counter-protest an hour later. Most people marching against were parents who said, “Leave our kids alone.” Many religious and conservative parents fear that their children might potentially be influenced by their surroundings. What parents have to understand is that their beliefs will not change their child’s sexual orientation, and LGBTQ+ education is essential.

I was always neutral regarding this issue, but it wasn’t until my professor screened the documentary Abu: Father by Arshad Khan last week that I understood the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusive education. 

When Khan was a child in Pakistan, he was molested by a close family member and never understood that what had happened was wrong. Khan later discovered that he is more attracted to boys than girls. Considering that this was taking place in a Muslim country that condemns homosexuality, Khan internally struggled with the conflict between what his dad expected of him and his sexuality. 

Khan did not have anyone that he could open up to, which led to feelings of confusion, loneliness, and depression. After moving to Canada in the 1990s, Khan slowly started integrating into Canadian culture and finally found other gay friends that made him feel accepted and understood. Khan’s homosexuality was a hard pill to swallow, and it took him years to reconcile with his dad. 

Khan’s story demonstrates precisely why schools should educate children about their sexuality. People who belong to the LGBTQ+ community often struggle with discrimination, which can lead to mental health crises such as depression and suicide. Educating them at an early age can help them avoid confusion and isolation, and help them acknowledge their true selves.

One thing that came up in the documentary was how Khan was constantly bullied at school for being gay. I believe that bullying comes from a lack of empathy and understanding. Having an LGBTQ+ inclusive education will introduce everyone to LGBTQ+ identities and the experiences that come with them. 

It is our responsibility to accept and respect each other. We can make LGBTQ+ people feel welcome by taking a stand against bullying, being compassionate and simply loving them for who they are as people. For instance, students’ chosen pronouns should be respected without condemnation. Restricting young people from being who they are will cause anxiety and depression in the long run.

Schools are meant to be a safe space for everyone, regardless of their background. Educators must seek to help children feel secure in their identities rather than suppressing and rejecting them. It is time to update the school curriculum and stop discrimination against what is considered abnormal in the eyes of society. In the end, every child will end up becoming who they truly are, so we should help them get there.

Lily Alexandre believes in better online communities

Video Essayist Lily Alexandre makes videos to help mend our broken online conversations

Lily Alexandre started her YouTube channel almost 10 years ago and has been producing videos on and off ever since. After a brief break in her output, she decided to start her channel back up when she became concerned about her job opportunities, having left Dawson College before graduation. So, deciding to use YouTube as a way to show off her skills to possible employers, Alexandre put out her first video in the “video essay” format. To her surprise, the video went viral.

The video that sent her channel soaring was released in January of this year, titled “Millions of Dead Genders: A MOGAI Retrospective,” which details the mostly forgotten “MOGAI” (Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex) community of 2010s Tumblr. This community, Alexandre explains, was largely comprised of early-teenage kids aiming to navigate their queer identities and formulate new names to put on their often confusing feelings that they felt did not fit neatly into existing “LGBTQIA+” categories. While often ridiculed for their incessant “micro-labeling,” Alexandre approaches this community with a critical lens to discuss why queer youth gravitated towards this outlook despite how it may have been detrimental to the ongoing process of some people’s gender exploration. Alexandre didn’t realize that this video would strike a chord with audiences so quickly.

“I was at work one day, packing orders at a warehouse and my phone started suddenly blowing up,” Alexandre detailed. “It was super exciting but I also had no idea how to approach it because I had made hundreds of YouTube videos and never had an audience over a thousand people. So, suddenly there was a lot of expectation.”

Since then, Alexandre’s channel has grown to have nearly 20K subscribers, and has released four more videos this year averaging about 30 minutes each, mostly discussing issues in online gender discourse.

However, with this focus on controversial topics in queer identity, as well as her being a visible trans woman online, Alexandre has begun to feel the burden of representing her community, where marginalized creators often feel the need to be more perfect and controversy-free than their peers in order to escape backlash.

Youtuber Lily Alexandre

“I think in my case, and in the case of a lot of queer and trans creators, it’s specifically a thing where

people have seen that they can relate to what I have to say and very quickly have become super attached to me, and kind of assumed that they know who I am and what I stand for outside of these videos,” Alexandre explained. “So, if I say something that goes outside the bounds of their image of me, there can be a lot of backlash, because I feel that people have gotten attached to me as a person and the idea that I have to live up to their ideal.”

Much of Alexandre’s catalogue focuses on where online conversations go wrong, and how we can start to piece our conversations back together. In her most recent video, “Do ‘Binary Trans Women’ Even Exist? The Politics of Gender Conformity,” she details the false dichotomy between non-binary and binary trans people and how both sides claim they are the ones that are more oppressed. This whole argument, Alexandre argues in the video, is reductive to the core, as it places all trans people into one of two boats, erasing important nuances in personal experiences.

Alexandre’s videos show viewers how to be more generous with each other online. Alexandre jokes in her videos about simply “logging off” of toxic conversations online, but she believes that there is truth to this suggestion.

“I think just engaging with people face-to-face builds a lot more empathy than we have online. I’ve been trying to carry that empathy into my online interactions too,” she suggested. “If I see someone with a ‘take’ I think is bad […] that doesn’t make us enemies. This stuff is just a lot lower stakes than it feels online.”

When producing videos spanning difficult topics like gender identity and mental illness, Alexandre is still learning how to balance her work with her own mental wellbeing. She finds herself sometimes getting overwhelmed when putting together videos with such heavy content. However, over the past few months, she’s been learning how to deal with these uncertain moments.

“In those cases, it’s been helpful to remind myself why I’m writing the thing I am. It’s usually not just to talk about ‘Hey, this is really awful, let’s wallow in it.’ It’s usually directional, it’s usually for a purpose,” Alexandre explained. “Because I’ve talked mostly about things I feel do have stakes, and my takes might move the needle in the right direction.”

Looking to the future, Alexandre plans to step away from videos along the topic of gender identity to focus on other issues. Worried she may get pigeonholed, she plans on also creating videos about art, games, music, and other interests.

All in all, Alexandre wants her channel to be a place of discovery and empathy, no matter the topic of videos she puts out.

“I’m hoping there can be a space for talking about these big questions in a way that isn’t super partisan,” explained Alexandre. “And I hope it can be an empathetic place where people are interested in understanding each other more than they are about being correct or being superior.”


Photographs by Catherine Reynolds

When fashion and music meet queerbaiting

Why I’m critical of Harry Styles’ fashion

At 27-years-old, British singer Harry Styles is already a universally recognized fashion icon. In his post-One Direction career, he adopted a more flamboyant and fashion-forward dress, wearing pink suits, pearls, sheer tops, dangly earrings, nail polish, and high heel boots. He’s earned significant praise for breaking away from the strict (and boring) confines of traditionally masculine clothing. The culmination of Styles’ rejection of toxic masculinity through fashion was in December 2020 when he became the first man to grace the cover of Vogue solo — wearing a Gucci gown.

Others have already pointed out that he isn’t exactly a pioneer; his fashion is inspired by musicians David Bowie and Prince, who were also known for “gender bending” fashion before he was even born. This trio’s fashion isn’t exactly unique or revolutionary either, however. These three are just those who have been uplifted by the industry, and our culture, because they have been deemed more palatable.

Bowie was white, and although Prince was a Black man, for part of his career he was presented as multiracial due to his lighter skin tone, and his role as a biracial musician in Purple Rain. Bowie and Prince flirted with rumours about their sexuality, with Bowie even stating that he was gay and bisexual in the 70s, but both were ultimately presumably straight, as Bowie later said he was “always a closet heterosexual,” while Prince became quite conservative.

Despite this, Prince and David Bowie are widely considered to be gay icons. In contrast, Little Richard, a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer remembered for his “fervent shrieks, flamboyant garb, and joyful, gender-bending persona” who inspired Prince and Bowie musically and stylistically, has not been afforded the same status even though he referred to himself as gay and omnisexual throughout his life. Sylvester, an androgynous and openly gay singer best known for his 1978 disco hit (and LGBTQ+ pride anthem) “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” has also been largely forgotten in this discourse.

Styles has kept his sexuality ambiguous. And while I respect his desire to keep certain details private, there is a long history of bisexuality being used by musicians to seem more interesting and transgressive which has ultimately contributed to stigma that continues to surround bisexuality. He’s denied “sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting,” but I’m admittedly a little weary. Even if Styles is queer, right now, his sexual orientation is ambiguous and he’s only ever publicly dated women. This allows him to benefit from queer aesthetics and allows queer people to identify with him, without Styles having to deal with nearly as much homophobia as other entertainers like Lil Nas X or Billy Porter, who also sport very feminine and androgynous fashion on red carpets and are both openly gay men.

Styles’ rise as both a fashion and queer icon shows how, despite more representation and diversity in our media, we haven’t made much progress since the heydays of Bowie and Prince.

Actor and singer Jaden Smith was featured in a womenswear campaign for Louis Vuitton at age 17, wearing a skirt. This made him the first man to model women’s wear for the fashion house. Smith has been wearing outfits similar to Styles for years, once wearing a skirt to his prom and even launching a gender neutral clothing line. But as one Twitter user pointed out in response to someone commenting on Styles’ impact on the fashion industry, “its the way jaden smith has been wearing the outfits harry styles has, but yall called him weird and made fun of him.”

Fashion similar to Styles’ is common among male K-pop idols, who are frequently criticized for “looking like girls” in the West. G-Dragon, a 32-year-old South Korean rapper and the leader of hip hop group Big Bang, has been called “a chameleon who often makes peak-era Lady Gaga seem staid.” Though, for much of his career, G-Dragon has dressed quite traditionally masculine (albeit much more fun and fashionable then the average male celebrity), he’s also been unafraid to wear makeup, heels, skirts, and drop earrings, or sport long hair and look beautiful. He’s gone way beyond anything Styles has ever done in terms of gender-fluid fashion, but in his more toned down moments he’s dressed very similarly to Styles.

Despite this, male K-Pop idols like G-Dragon are not considered queer or fashion icons, and neither is Jaden Smith. While there are other factors besides race or xenophobia at play, it would be irresponsible to totally ignore that.

When it comes to male celebrities — whether we’re talking about Styles, Prince, or Smith — feminine, androgynous, flamboyant fashion is usually exotica. Rarely do they actually dress that way off stage or off the red carpet or magazines. When they dress outside traditional gender roles they do deal with criticism, but they also get attention and praise while regular queer people who dress like that are at risk of violence when they walk down the street. So when our culture puts men like Styles on pedestals, it feels like a way for society to pat itself on the back as super progressive while ignoring the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly queer POC.

I think Styles is helping to make fashion less binary and showing a different type of masculinity, and I’m happy he’s dressing however he likes. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be critical and have an intersectional perspective that helps us realize why his fashion is so hyped up. There is a long history of queer and Black culture being appropriated by privileged white cishet people who are celebrated for these aesthetics. And queer people are often so desperate for representation that they will idolize the crumbs they’re given even when it’s obvious queerbaiting.

So the solution seems simple: you can love and appreciate Styles’ fashion, but make sure you’re uplifting the true pioneers.


Photo collage by Kit Mergaert


Your Name Engraved Herein: a never ending love story

The highest-grossing LGBTQ+ movie in Taiwan gives audiences an emotionally charged experience

Directed by Kuang-Hui Liu, Your Name Engraved Herein is a coming of age movie that tells the story of two classmates, A-han (Edward Chen) and Birdy (Tseng Jing-Hua), who fall in love precisely when the martial law is lifted in Taiwan in 1987. Despite this, society doesn’t change overnight, and homophobia, family pressure, and social stigmas remain present.

It’s intimate and sensual, but heartbreaking at the same time.

The martial law lasted in Taiwan for 38 years, from 1949 to 1987. This period of time is known as the White Terror, when the Republic of China took control of Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), decided to impose a martial law, a temporary imposition of military authority and control of civilian rule, on Taiwan to prevent the Communist Party, led by Mao Tse-tung, from winning the Civil War. Freedom of speech and human rights were declined. Civilians who opposed it would either be imprisoned, tortured or even executed.

In the film, Birdy is a new student at a strict all-boys Catholic high school that A-han attends. The two rapidly become friends and their bond grows stronger.

They take part in the school’s band, led by Father Olivier (Fabio Grangeon) from Montreal, who is also the school’s priest. Father Olivier always reminds his students, “Profiter du moment” (live in the moment). During one of their classes, he discusses the concept of youth and love with his students. While everyone is questioning the priest about his love life, A-han and Birdy glimpse at each other.

News of President Chiang Ching-kuo’s death surfaces at school. Students are encouraged to take a trip to Taipei to pay their respects to the deceased. In Taipei, A-han and Birdy take advantage of their stay in the capital to enjoy their time together. Still, they are resistant to their mutual affection.

The arrival of girls shifts the school’s dynamic. Birdy is noticed by Ban-Ban, who represents social acceptance, stability and heterosexual romance. A-han gets jealous as Birdy spends more time with Ban-Ban and A-han won’t let go of his affection towards Birdy. A series of confrontations and reconciliations follow as they part from each other. Finally, life brings them together a few years later, giving them an opportunity to reflect on their past.

Director Liu captures a period of time when many people suffered from discrimination due to social stigma, even after the removal of the martial law. Gradually, society was able to evolve as Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019.

The movie pays a tribute to known Taiwanese LGBTQ+ activist, Chi Chia-wei, who was imprisoned during the White Terror. The activist appears in one scene of the movie, where a protest is happening, holding a sign that says “Homosexuality is not a disease.”

At times, it is hard to watch since the story is beautiful, but also heartbreaking. In a particular scene, Birdy is injured in a scooter accident and A-han decides to help him shower. A-han and Birdy get intimate. When Birdy climaxes, he kisses A-han but rapidly apologizes. Then, both cry in each other’s arms, understanding each other’s pain, shame and love.

The title of the movie is in reference to the song “Your Name Engraved Herein” written by Hsu Yuan-Ting, Chia Wang and Chen Wen-Hua, and performed by Crowd Lu. In the film, A-han plays the song on the phone to confess his love to Birdy. By the end of this scene, both start sobbing as they listen carefully to the song, heartbroken.

In a Time interview, Liu mentioned that “The LGBT communities need a movie like this to tell them, ‘You are allowed to love, you are not guilty.’”

The movie sheds light on those who have lived in pain and frustration due to past trauma.

Although the film depicts a generation that was denied to celebrate their identities freely and are recognized in Taiwan today, it still demonstrates that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is not over.

Your Name Engraved Herein sends a clear universal message that, regardless of sexual orientation, love is love and everyone deserves it.

Your Name Engraved Herein is available to watch on Netflix.


Persistent homophobia plagues the city

Why it’s still not safe for same-sex couples in Montreal

The streets were filled with people from all walks of life as they waved their rainbow flags on a balmy Sunday afternoon. The city of Montreal had gathered along a long stretch of the downtown core to celebrate the annual Pride parade.

The environment felt safe and welcoming, with politicians, companies, and LGBT+ organizations marching to commemorate the struggles the community has endured over the last fifty years. It was a rare opportunity to see many couples from the community embracing one another in broad daylight. Although we live in Montreal, one of the most accepting and diverse cities in North America, there are still instances of homophobia that occur every year.

I find it extremely rare to see same-sex couples showing signs of affection in public in Montreal. I think this is because many couples still encounter homophobia on a daily basis, and are thus afraid to express their love publicly.

This past spring, a same-sex couple reported to the police that they had been physically assaulted at Chez Francoise, a bar in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, according to the CBC. There were multiple assailants and the couple was also subjected to a volley of cruel and derogatory insults. A kiss-in—a symbolic act of protest where LGBT+ couples gathered to embrace and display affection out in the open—took place a few days later in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. It was extremely symbolic in itself because it was seen as a radical sign of protest that challenged the lack of PDA seen on our streets. The event shed light on the fact these incidents still do, in fact, occur.

A few months ago, I was on the metro travelling with my partner at the time. As he reached out to hold my hand, I immediately felt the atmosphere in the metro car become hostile and uncomfortable. People began to stare and analyze, as if we were a rarely-seen species that they’ve never encountered. Perhaps I was overanalyzing the situation, but I can’t deny that in that moment, I definitely felt more vulnerable to an attack.

I decided to discuss this issue with one of my closest friends, Danielle—who’s in a long-term, same-sex relationship. To my horror, she told me that she often encounters homophobia and vicious catcalling by men on the street. It happened just the other day when she was holding hands with her girlfriend in the old port, and men constantly invaded their personal space and attempted to probe them with inappropriate questions and comments about the nature of their relationship.

Thankfully, there are safe spaces in many establishments and communities where same-sex couples feel comfortable enough to express their love for one another. It deeply saddens me that homophobia still exists in this day and age, and as a society, we definitely have our work cut out for us. Love is love, and the general population needs to become desensitized to this completely normal expression of it.


Opinions: Don’t call “her” a “he”

When the show Fox and Friends ran a segment on Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning of the leaked U.S. intelligence reports fame) two weeks ago, producers chose to introduce the story with Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks like a Lady).” This move sparked widespread criticism and anger at the insensitivity of the news station towards Manning’s announcement that she wished to be identified by her preferred gender.

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

CNN, which is considered more liberal than its Fox counterpart, has also misgendered Manning (and continues to do so) in their coverage of the release of the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public.

The actions of both American media giants go against guidelines set forth by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which state that the media should refer to people by their preferred name and gender. Other media outlets have already switched to correctly identify Manning, but Fox and CNN are among those who continue to disrespect her wishes to be identified as a female.

This is an example of the unique challenges faced by the transgender community. While LGBTQ individuals all face challenges across the globe, the transgender community, in particular, has some of the most violent and deadly treatment directed towards them. This blatant show of inconsideration from a large number of media outlets demonstrates how the rights and treatment of the transgender community are not making the same strides towards equality as the rest of the LGBTQ community.

This is not to say that there have been no moves toward better rights for the transgender community. Just this year, the House of Commons passed a transgender rights bill. The Canadian Press also brought to light the story of 11-year-old Wren Kauffman’s transition from female to male, and how he has helped other students come to terms with their gender dysphoria. In Colorado, 6-year-old Coy Mathis won a civil rights case allowing her to use the girls restroom at school. However, it is a mistake to let these cases of triumph mask how much work is still left to be done.

The working rights and conditions for the transgender community are still an issue despite anti-discrimination laws. According to a report from Vancouver Coastal Health, 49 per cent of transgender people responding to a British Columbia survey reported needing employment services, and evidence indicated that transgender people who are “visibly gender-variant or ‘out’ as transgender” habitually experience discrimination in the workplace.

The Human Rights Campaign — the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the United States — claims that 44 per cent of transgender adults are underemployed and are nearly four times more likely to have an income under $10,000. The Center for American Progress reports that 90 per cent of transgender workers have experienced, “some form of harassment or mistreatment,” on the job.

Violence against transgender people is also incredibly disproportionate when compared to the rest of the population. An American study revealed that about 50 per cent of transgender adults are survivors of violence or abuse, and 25 per cent have experienced physical, sexual or attempted assault.

These issues all stem from the fact that despite the laws, speeches, and support that people claim to offer the transgender community, the social behavior surrounding them has not yet caught up. Transgender people are facing discrimination across the globe for their decision to acknowledge their gender dysphoria, and the fact that a media organization won’t change that “he” to a “she” in their coverage shows how far they really are from them getting the rights they deserve.

The media has the power to push for positive change in the world, and when they make these careless, shameful errors it not only degrades the individual, but also acts as a dismissal of all the work that’s been put in to make the transgender community an equal part of society.



Telling and sharing stories: coming together as a community

Ira Sachs’ drama Keep the Lights On is screening at this year’s Image+Nation film festival. Press photo.

Montreal’s international film festival, Image+Nation, opens this Thursday, marking its 25th year of sharing films that reflect the realities of the international LGBT community.

As a part of the queer movement that swept across the western world in the ‘80s, Image+Nation was born in 1987 from a small group of volunteers who wanted to tell their stories and see themselves represented on screen.

According to Katharine Setzer, the festival’s programming director, “[The festival] is about telling stories and sharing stories [and] coming together as a community to see yourself on the screen and be among like-minded folks.”

Image+Nation, along with other North American queer film festivals, has evolved from a small volunteer-run festival to a corporately sponsored organization. For 25 years, the festival has supported a growing history of queer cinema that has developed into a mature and sophisticated filming practice.

“Queer cinema is moving away from the typical coming out story to talk about different aspects of identity and being,” said Setzer.

The festival selects films that are interesting, well-made and, most importantly, have a strong message. Setzer said when selecting films she considers, “What is [the film] saying? What is the intention and how well has the intention been resolved or put out?”

Dee Rees’ Pariah is one of three films opening the festival. Press photo.

Image+Nation opens with three critically acclaimed films: Ira Sachs’ drama about drug addictions, Keep the Lights On; Dee Rees’ coming-out and coming-of-age story, Pariah; and Paul Émile d’Entremont’s documentary about queer refugees in Canada, Une dernière chance. The festival closes with Matthew Mishory’s Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean which re-imagines the Hollywood icon’s sexual relationships.

International feature-length film screenings at the festival include: Oliver Hermanus’ Beauty, winner of the Cannes Queer Palm, the story of a self-loathing man’s struggle with his repressed sexuality; Bye Bye Blondie by Virginie Despentes, the tale of Gloria (Béatrice Dalle) and Frances (Emmanuelle Béart), who try to rekindle their 30-year-old romance; and Negar Azarbayjani’s drama Facing Mirrors, the first Iranian film to deal with transgender issues.

The Image+Nation’s documentary series includes Yariv Mozer’s The Invisible Men, highlighting the plight of political-asylum-seeking queer Palestinians along with the collaboration between Louis Bouchard, Richard Bradley, and Guy Tay Tremblay, La face cachée des bars de danseurs nus de Montréal, a historical portrait of Montreal gay strip clubs.

Once again, the festival presents its series of international short films Lesbomundo and Homomundo as well as the short works of Montreal filmmakers in the program, Queerment Quebec.

Image+Nation’s Vanguard series pays homage to activists of the queer movement. The lineup this year includes: Les invisibles, about gays and lesbians born between the two World Wars; Call Me Kuchu, the protest of an anti-gay bill led by David Kato, the first openly gay man in Uganda; and Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984-1992, a documentary on the visits made to Berlin by activist, essayist and poet, Audre Lorde.

The Image+Nation film festival takes place from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2 at Cinéma du Parc and Cinéma Beaubien. Tickets are $11.75 ($8.75 for students with ID). For showtimes and more information visit

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