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Getting Oral

Getting Oral

By: Reenita V. Perhaps you have engaged in oral sex. You might like it, you may hate it. Oral sex can be both a complicated situation and a fabulous one. There seems to be a major component of oral sex that people miss out on […]

Cup Love

Cup Love

By: Reenita V. It’s inevitable; I am ageing and getting older, which means I start to pay closer attention to certain parts of my life I had previously ignored. I stay in more often, get turned on by paying all my bills, love waking up […]

Who Gets to Define Tamil Culture?

Who Gets to Define Tamil Culture?

By: Pallavi S.

If you’d asked me that question a few years ago I wouldn’t have known how to answer. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot since the controversy with the Jodi magazine cover. I’ve been thinking about it a lot for what feels like forever.

I’ve spent most my life trying to run away from Tamil culture. From the mess of expectations and pressures that comes with being from a place and community of people full of grief and rage and fire and hope. Tamil culture was always something I didn’t fully understand. Tamil culture was something that never tried to fully understand me. I didn’t fit in it, when I was younger I couldn’t make myself contort in the ways that my community expected me to.

My parents, bless them, didn’t try to make me be someone I wasn’t. If their daughter was shy at family functions, if she snuck in a book during weddings and didn’t want to learn the language, well, they might not have liked it but they accepted that I was, and always will be, my own person. To be honest, if they had tried to make me act the way Good Tamil Girls were supposed to then I would have run away from my culture and never found my way back.

And I did find my way back. Sort of. Eventually. But it took a lot of work, years of it.

I was stereotypically nerdy child and I dealt with the loneliness that comes with that by devouring every book I came across. Like most socially awkward bookworms I found friends in the stories I read. I knew that even if I didn’t fit in with my classmates, with my cousins and the expectations of white Canadian and Tamil cultures, that there were places I could fit in. I just had to find them. It was one of two things that made the not fitting in now bearable.

The other thing was my family. White Canadian and Tamil cultures might not have accepted the strange things about me, but my family did. I was lucky to have what a lot of people, regardless of background, don’t. Unconditional love. I was never told that girls can’t do certain things, never had to justify the esoteric books I checked out at the library. My opinions didn’t have to line up with my parents’ beliefs. I was stuck with my family, which also meant they were stuck with me. Growing up like that, secure that I was loved no matter what, gave me the ability to cut ties from the things that didn’t, or couldn’t, love me back.

And understand, Tamil culture never loved me. Tamil culture loved the girl it thought I could be. Should be. Fair and thin and beautiful. Educated but also obedient, hard-working but serene, strong but passive, passionate but chaste. Tamil culture wanted a good girl who had no ambition higher than marriage (to a good Tamil boy) and (good Tamil) children. Tamil culture wanted someone who would be happy praising Shiva but ignoring Parvati. Tamil culture wanted me to give every part of myself to my family and community. It wanted me to take care of everyone else but myself.

Tamil culture wanted so much from me except for the things that would make me happy. I wanted to be a writer, to have a life outside my family, I wanted to take care of my mental health. I wanted to wear short skirts and date girls. I wanted to have time to decide if marriage (to someone of any gender) and children were right for me. I wanted to go on adventures and loudly celebrate all the things that made me different.

But I couldn’t do any of that. I was messy. I was complicated. I wanted things that I thought couldn’t exist in Tamil culture. So, I rejected it, and looked at white Canadian culture instead. I believed the lie that I would somehow be freer there. Instead I found that white Canadian culture had its own set of demands.

White Canadian culture didn’t love me anymore than Tamil culture did. It wasn’t concerned about my happiness, just that I fit into its own ideal of what was right. White Canadian culture told me that there was only one way for women to be strong. That there was only one way to be queer, only one way to belong in a family or community. And, much like Tamil culture, it expected me to take care of everyone else but never myself. To ease their guilt and hold their hand so they wouldn’t feel bad about the things I had to go through every day.

I realized that if I wanted to be myself, to truly get rid of all these arbitrary standards and binary understandings that did nothing but try to make me flat and colourless, I would have to create places where I could exist as I wanted to, where I could take the good things and leave behind the bad to make something that truly saw me, that accepted me. That loved me.

So, I did.

I looked for people like me, at school and online and wherever else I could and I eventually found them. Other queer and trans people of colour and immigrant kids who knew what familial expectations felt like. People who also didn’t measure up to cultural values and impossible assumptions. Together we formed our own communities, our own cultures and families. We created a home for ourselves in a world that didn’t want us.

I didn’t do this because I was any smarter or stronger or braver than the countless other Tamil girls that wanted the same things. I was just lucky enough to be able to. I still had that unconditional love and the support that comes with it. I still had that knowledge that there were a lot of weirdos like me out there. That there have always been Tamils like me in our families and communities and cultures and histories.

I was able to chase the things that made me happy, to find safety and satisfaction and the kind of love from friends and lovers that didn’t want me to be anyone but myself. And even if there are things I’m still looking for I’ve found so much that I’m thankful for, so much I would never give up. I’ve found communities of brilliant, bright, beautiful people who are exactly like I am and completely different. People who pray and dance and sing and speak and create exactly like I do.

I learnt something, too. Tamil culture is my birthright. Tamil culture belongs to every Tamil person. We are all free to experience it, express it, embrace it, reject it. We’re all allowed to unlearn, relearn, recreate, remake, reshape, revise and reimagine it as we see fit. Tamil culture belongs to every Tamil person. No one person owns it, no one group gets to claim that our culture doesn’t have the space or the ability to change and adapt and grow because it always has.

More importantly, Tamil people, especially Tamil women, have been defying and transforming Tamil culture since its creation. Tamil women have been showing a little leg, have happily been spinsters, have fought colonisers, have left abusive husbands, have been warriors, have flourished in whatever they’ve chosen to do, have been whole people, for millennia.

There is space in Tamil culture for all of us to exist. Tamil culture belongs to every Tamil person. And if you ever feel like you don’t belong in someone else’s idea of Tamil culture know that you belong in mine.

All Women

All Women

All Women By: Reenita V. With the current state of America, people here in Canada have been rallying against some of the disturbing realities of current political views and showing empathy and solidarity for our fellow North American cousins. We are even removing our dark […]

I Love Social Media… Kinda.

I Love Social Media… Kinda.

By: Reenita V. I love social media. It’s an easy accessible way for me to connect with my loved ones who are scattered world-wide. It is also a great tool to share information, learn, communicate and of course, indulge in videos and pictures of adorable […]

Happiness

Happiness

By: Saipriya V

Staying happy is vital for every human being. It is found that having fun with the family and friends found to have a positive effect on our immune system. On the other hand, people who experience anger, frustration, loneliness, problems with relationships and trauma were found to have decreased immunity. In other words, it affects their health. Though this causal relationship remains unclear, studies show that wound healing and sickness recovery takes longer time for people with high stress and negative emotions.
This may be due to the fact that stress reduces the hormones in brains such as adrenaline and cortisol which have a wide range of effects in the Immune system. Short term effect of stress include suppressing the immune system and making one more likely to pick a bug and catch a cold. On the other hand, the long term effect of stress can overstimulate the immune system resulting in an increased risk of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis, eczema, etc.
Hence it is important to reduce stress. Some of the strategies to reduce stress can be following your state of mind throughout the day and recognizimg the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.Whenever you feel stressed, write down the cause. Once you know, what’s make you stressed, develop a plan for addressing it. Set priorities-decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload. Setup more reasonable expectations for yourself and others or asking for help with household responsibilities, job assignments or other tasks.
Walking or other physical activities can also help you work off stress because it has been found that just 30 minutes of exercise per day can increase the production of endorphins boost mood and reduces stress. Similarly building strong relationships can also serve as stress buffers. Reach out to family members or close friends and let them know you’re having a tough time. They may be able to offer assistance and support, useful ideas or just a fresh perspective as you begin to tackle whatever’s causing your stress.
The modern world almost is set up to produce anxiety and frustration. Though stress cannot be avoided altogether, we can minimize our reactions to the stressful events and by reducing the demand upon us. Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now but may also protect your health long-term.

 

Period Problems

Period Problems

A few weeks ago, you may have heard about Kiran Gandhi and the period fiasco. Gandhi ran a marathon while she had her period and chose not to wear feminine hygiene products and she let the blood flow- literally. The decision was made to highlight […]

Let’s Talk About Sex…Ed!

Let’s Talk About Sex…Ed!

Sex education is rarely without controversy. As a sexual health educator, working with South Asian communities all over Toronto, I see firsthand how sexual misinformation, stigma, cultural and gender norms can all make sex a hard topic to discuss. Lately, however, it seems to be […]

So, like condoms?

So, like condoms?

Whenever I tell someone that I work in HIV education, I’m invariably met with “So like, condoms?”

This response is unsurprising since growing up many of us equate safe sex with only condoms, which is great given that condoms do provide effective protection; however, the reality is so much more complicated than that.

Safe sex requires so much more than an awkward trip to the drugstore, and the new youth campaign from Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention (ASAAP) aims to shed light on exactly that. By depicting different scenarios, the campaign it’s about more than a condom shows how elements like developing support, building trust, dealing with shame and lack of access in our everyday lives shape the way that we navigate our sexual health. Using wordless comic strips, the campaign illustrates 4 stories exploring common scenarios that affect young people and their relationships. Each comic showcases the subtle dynamics that youth go through, highlighting that our sexual lives are impacted by more than what happens in the bedroom.

As a frontline worker, I can provide someone with any number of condoms but that can be less important than the ability to use them. In other words if someone can’t have a conversation with their partner about the need to use condoms, then it may as well be a decorative item in their bedroom drawer. Introducing condoms into an existing relationship may raise questions about trust and fidelity. Even In the healthiest of relationships, navigating this conversation is awkward at best, and may not even be an option in others.

Youth don’t have to be having sex to learn and talk about sex. One of the challenges of talking about sexual health with youth is the fear permeated in society that knowledge about sex will encourage sex.This myth conjures images of teenagers running out of health class to hump away in dark corners of parking lots, with little concern for consequences. In reality, research consistently shows that comprehensive sexual education delayed age of sexual initiation, and increased condom or contraceptive use.

There’s so much marketing that goes into telling young people what to think, how not to cave into peer pressure and how to just say “no,” so few of these campaigns ask youth what they actually think. In a world of sexting, snapchats and sexual misinformation, it is even more crucial to work with youth to create initiatives that are reflective of their own complex realities.

Check out the full campaign here and tell us what you think using #teaseproject

 

Aricle originally posted: http://tamilculture.com/so-like-condoms/

Meet The Brownkiss Peers

Meet The Brownkiss Peers

We’ve been incredibly fortunate to be a platform for the diverse voices for women in South Asian communities to talk about race, gender, sex and sexuality. Here are few of those fantastic women who make Brownkiss possible:     Saipriya  is a physiotherapist, writer and a blogger.  She […]