Nuance: Centering Im(migrant) Youth Perspectives in Sexual Health

To be from elsewhere while growing up in Canada prompts questions around “home,” diasporic longing, and nostalgia to geographies where connection is lost.

When I asked friends where they first encountered sexual health resources, nearly all said they have no recollection, besides the bit of high school sex-ed they can remember that was mostly based on STI/pregnancy prevention (which tends to be code for a tactic that is often based in fear-mongering). One friend shared that it is even difficult to have conversations with her own family doctor about her sexual health because her doctor is part of her ethnocultural community, which severely limits the trust she can build with her healthcare providers.

This is an all too familiar experience for youth of color, rooted in or in close proximity to their ethnic communities across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Along with cultural, historical, and social modes of being that are negotiated in the aftermath or ongoing-ness of migration, sexual health is often overlooked as a crucial part of life that is also embedded in that experience. As first and second-generation youth, we are prone to face complex relationships to our education institutions, families, and communities that may or may not (most likely the latter) facilitate meaningful conversation around sexual well-being and reproductive health.

Even in wanting to support your own community by becoming a client/patient of their practice, we are put in a compromised position because we are very familiar with how personal information can circulate and be used against people within the community or weaponized to further surveil, stigmatize, and ostracize. All to say, there are a lot of complexities in how first and second-generation youth get access and continue dialogue around their sexual health because of the many barriers that exist within and outside of the home.

The “sex talk” – popularized by Western pop culture – is supposed to be a conversation led by a parental figure responsible for introducing information that a pre-teen ought to know about sex and puberty. This is not a reality for the majority of (im)migrant youth because sex, intimacy, and pleasure are often not brought up in the household at all – let alone in relation to youth and their potential sex-ventures. For us, this means that the “sex talk” is always located elsewhere (outside the home). Unfortunately, as #SexEdSavesLives iterates, school sex-ed curricula have always limited sexual and reproductive health education.

In August 2017, Nuance was launched to fill the void between (im)migrant youth perspectives and sexual health conversations with essays, art, poetry and prose via our online publication and through physical community spaces. A multimedia platform that is run by us and for us, Nuance engages in the tool of storytelling to unlearn, challenge, and create nuanced meanings to sexual health.

It is crucial that digital platforms, like Nuance, cultivate spaces both on- and off-line to facilitate the conversation that would otherwise not happen.

So, What Does Nuance Talk About?

Nuance writers have been committed to the project of debunking myths and mis-educations that are picked up along the way from families and societal/cultural norms regarding sex, sexuality, and sexual health (Dad, What’s a Condom?, ‘V’ For Virginity) . In addition, many articles have unpacked the politics of desirability in the Canadian context as brown, black, East Asian, gay, queer, femme, and other identities are often exotified, stigmatized, and fetishized in a context that centers white cis-heteronormative ideals of desirability (Is it Me or My Ethnicity?, “Kawaii”, Melanin Miseries, On Love and Melanin).

Whether it’s complicating how consent gets taken up in popular media (Beyond #Me Too) or critiquing how the #MeToo movement glosses over different types of resistances to sexual violence (Surviving #MeToo, 3 Fears), our writers centre their own voices and experiences in critically assessing the value of reconciling sexual harm in public arenas and how that serves survivors with intersecting identities and backgrounds.

During a time like the Toronto Gay Village attacks (The Arrest of Bruce McArthur) by serial killer Bruce McArthur, Nuance writers prompted conversations around radical love and navigating boundaries amongst chosen family in queer communities and the slipperiness of terms like “abuse,” “abandonment,” or “rejection” – and how they get misused within another (Love in the Time of Queer Death).
While I cannot do justice to all the themes we have covered thus far and plan to take on, as a community fellow, I get excited to tell folks to read Nuance and to contribute written/visual pieces and get compensated for their work!

Through Nuance, we can get as close to reflecting as many voices, experiences and perspectives as our communities need and desire.