by Daniella Barreto
Author’s Note: People of many gender identities and sexual orientations engage in sex work. This piece addresses some of the systemic barriers that cis and trans women in Canada can experience and refers to research done predominantly among women sex workers.
The author is a Black cis woman who is not a sex worker. Sex work decriminalization is a racial justice issue and it is crucial to listen to Black sex workers’ experiences and needs in Canada to meaningfully address the issues highlighted in this piece. Daniella is a queer anti-racism advocate who holds an MSc. …
Author’s Note: BeautyInPerversion is a trans activist, feminist, and writer, living in the GTA. She writes extreme kink/BDSM fiction here.
Content Notes: Explicit material, surgery, medical procedures, BDSM, sexual harassment.
It’s 4:30 pm, and it’s time for my next dilation. Back in November 2018, a surgeon in Montreal cut open my groin, hollowed out my penis, and reassembled the tissues into a vagina and vulva. Technically, this surgery, called a vaginoplasty, constructs a neo-vagina. It’s not biologically the same thing as a vagina someone is born with — it’s largely made from skin, instead of mucous tissue. My vagina doesn’t self-lubricate, and I definitely can’t give birth through it. But when the surgeon closed me up with one last stitch on the operating room table, when he called out “All done!”, he gave me a vagina and vulva that I can sexually be pleased and please others with. A new genitalia, a new sexual organ. …
Author’s note: We have to be willing to have uncomfortable conversations about reproductive health with our youth. We have to have conversations about consent, unsafe sex, about police brutality, about our rights as human beings. Every day, we are learning from the world and with love, we can be guided easily down our paths. We have to be willing to have uncomfortable conversations.
It’s March. Spring arrives and I am in awe of its ambivalence; struck by the beauty of the season trying to find its balance like an infant taking their first steps. …
Content Note: Discussion of STIs
It has taken me 7 years to write this article, and even this, the discerning reader may note, is written anonymously. It has taken me 7 years of being diagnosed with the herpes simplex virus I (HSV-I) to be able to cogently write about the experience of diagnosis, the traumatic aftermath, and the long recovery process.
Cold sores aren’t a big deal in mainstream Western society and even less so in Montreal, a city where everyone kisses on the cheek to greet one another. With the commonplace act of “bisous,” cold sores are an inevitability. Most websites will tell you that people are often infected as children when adults kiss them on their faces. And, I’ve found that social attitudes towards cold sores are often less stigmatizing than towards genital herpes. This distinction in stigma between the two made even less sense to me when I was diagnosed with cold sores, because I knew that while HSV-I is far more likely to infect the oral region, and HSV-II is more likely to infect the genitals, either herpes virus can actually infect either region. “It’s a nuisance virus,” was how one of my professors described it. Professors in my classes regularly joked about what soldiers in France contracted from kissing too many sex workers before diving into a lesson on the pharmacodynamics of drug action on various STIs. Upon learning about the especially rare case of herpetic whitlow, classmates would snicker and hold up their finger in front of each other, cackling: “Herpes finger!” Herpes was — and remains — something no one wanted to have in any region — but it was clear some regions were more easily mocked than others. The Johns Hopkins Health Library reports that 50–80% of adults living in the United States have oral herpes; with so many people living with it, it’s no wonder that even my classmates living with cold sores laughed it off and didn’t internalize any stigma associated with it. …
Content Note: Childhood exploration of self-stimulation, masturbation.
I was nine.
My favourite things in life at this point, (in no particular order) were: my little baby brother Conner, my friends, my hair, lesbian porn, and The Proud Family.
Now, this was before I knew what Pornhub was (I would discover the abysmal, depth-less potential of internet porn much later on). This was, however, before YouTube got rid of the good stuff, and where I would often spend many an elementary school night carousing through the search bar yield of “girls kissing.”
As fun as that was, there was only one computer, which was downstairs in the living room — obviously not ideal when people were home. …
Author’s Note: The story is structured after “Happy Endings” by Margaret Atwood, whose aim with the story was to satirize romance tropes. The author of this story chose this format in order to do the same for stereotypes behind gender presentation — for example, the things people assume and the characteristics through which they gender others. In doing so, they hope to explore the different ways of thinking that go into gender expression. …
Content Note: Childhood sexual abuse (by someone of a similar age), hateful speech, homophobia, intimate partner violence
“Do you want to play house?”
The words would jolt me every time, even now in adulthood. See, playing house wasn’t really a question anymore. And sometimes, we would cut the bullshit and just call it what it was. Sex.
I was 6, and she was 8. She was my mom’s best friend’s daughter, and thus, my best friend by proximity. …
“What is the best sex you’ve ever had?”
My friends look at me expectantly, waiting for my answer. One of them stops chewing.
I am at a dinner party — and even though the guests span various sexual orientations — I still find myself feeling put on the spot to perform.
I run through my catalogue of memories, looking for the wildest experience. Perhaps if I mention that time in the elevator? The parking lot? Anything to make my friends gasp in oohs and aahs.
My answers seem to have passed the test. The reactions in the room confirm I’ve had an exciting sex life. I am off the hook. …
Content Note: Discussion of anti-Black racism and violence.
In every chapter of my life, I was raised by a village. The widespread African proverb has profound meaning to me as one who was taught to find family in many places. Family at the intersection of blood and flesh, through friendship, in fleeting moments with strangers, and in the natural, non-human world. Every day, I learn more about how deep our relationships run with one another and the world that holds us.
My softened, open definition of family comes directly from my Congolese upbringing. These lessons are continually fruitful in my life and have made it easy to begin a social justice practice, grounded in the belief that there is a deep and inherent bond between us all. Audre Lorde writes: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” …