BEATS Issue 14 2019

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IS S UE 14

WINTE R 2 0 1 9

B EATS recog n i zes t h e U nce ded C o ast S alis h Te rrito ries o f Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

EDITOR’S NOTE GOLSA GOLESTANEH (She/ Her/ Hers) Hello everybody! Welcome to another issue of BEATS and happy Nowrouz! We are beyond excited to share this special edition with you as BEATS has never had a queer-specific theme with an all-queer migrant editorial team! In this issue, we explore the realities of being an LGBTQ+ member in Canada in addition to being a newcomer in this country. We discuss identity, colonialism, love, the trend of labeling, some advice by our editors to queer youth readers and much more. I am forever grateful and honoured for the opportunity to be a part of BEATS’s process of growth and witness the flourishing of migrant youth like myself. Huge thanks to Jennifer Sarkar for creating BEATS and allowing me to care for it while I can. This issue would not have been possible without the generous support of our funders from Telus Friendly Future Foundation.

LOVE BC LOVE is a youth-driven media arts-based non-profit organization that facilitates violence prevention and intervention programming to youth who face multiple barriers. LOVE youth use media arts to document their experiences, share their views of the world, and build leadership skills to break the cycle of violence in their lives and communities. To learn more about LOVE BC’s work please go to: or email us at:

About The Cover design MK (They/ Them/ Theirs) Name of the piece is “My Zaal”. It is based on one of the tales from Shahnameh (The Epic of Kings) by Ferdowsi, in which an albino infant named Zaal is abandoned by his father in a desert and then is found by a ginormous Phoenix, who adopts the newborn. The design also points to demanding peace for the queer community by including the colours of the rainbow flag, which in the story would be the colour of the Phoenix. The white colour symbolizes mercy and peace flags and also the albino child. The designs are inspired by Persian and Middle-Eastern/ Asian designs that use paisley, which are then combined with psychedelic and alien visuals.

ile s Ga er Ivy er/ H /H Sh e

Editorial Team


Pa Sh risa e/ P He ajoo r/ H h er s


Originally from Iran, Ivy is a woman of Parisa is truly passionate colour who moved to about the concept of this land more than two globalization and enjoy years ago. She loves writing travelling, connecting with nature, and playing with words from time music and photography. She is a choir to time. She believes that she hasn’t member, an aspiring drag performer figured out her life yet, but she and loves to spend a lot of her MK is a Vancouver spare time studying foreign might give an update in a few based visual artist languages and becoming a and part of the queer years if our readers are better cook! :) community. In the past, they interested. have done fundraisers, refugee assisting and community supporting art projects, but their main focus is on cultural art in which they take bits and pieces of several cultures into creating visual art in forms of surrealism and psychedelic art.


MK / Th em Th s


Vera is exploring art in the forms of painting, poetry and pottery. She was born in Nothern England to a Ukrainian Mother and British father, and moved to the ancestral lands of the Kitselas people at age 12. She draws inspiration from the natural world, water protection, and the vast majestic landscapes which surround her.


ban Sh hi H e/ He errer r/ H a L er s ir a

rs ra Ve r/ He e /H

Debanhi immigrated to Canada from Mexico, when she was six years old. She enjoys writing, photography, theater and contemplating on the complexity of human nature. She identifies as a proud Pansexual Latina woman whom is most likely to become a cat lady in the future.

Table of Contents 2. Land Acknowledgement 3. Notes from the Editor, Cover Designer and LOVE BC 4. Editorial Team Introduction 5. Table of Contents 6. Special Edition Introduction 8. Queerness in Colonial Canada 10. Leaving the Path of Secrecy: An Interview with Shahab Shiri 12. Not the Bad Ones 14. Queer and Here 16. The Gay Agenda 17. Destination 18. A Poem about Love? 19. Before Coming Out 21. Labels 23. I Love You.


Writing and Photography by: Golsa Golestaneh (She/ Her/ Hers) A special edition requires a proper and special introduction; and that is what this section is all about. As you might already know, this issue has been created by queer migrant youth with various queer identities from pansexual, trans, to questioning and so on. As someone who is yet to fully understand her sexual identity, and views gender as a fluid concept and expresses herself accordingly, I thought a lot about the lack of space for people like myself and those who have finally come to terms with their sexual and gender identities. This lack of space for queer folks, and more particularly queer newcomers, inspired me to dedicate this issue to the newcomer LGBTQ+ community. I would like to acknowledge the vulnerability of our editors who have shared personal stories of their lives as queer youth, their strength and courage in being open with the readers and each other and their bravery in coming out to their families and communities through this issue. It has been an incredible honour for me to be able to witness the conversations taking place and the stories being told with so much resilience and power. I would encourage our wonderful readers to reflect on these stories and think about ways


our communities can provide safe spaces for queer migrant youth in order for them to share their thoughts and struggles without fear and discomfort. It is also appropriate to share a trigger warning for those who have experienced the traumas of identity crisis, self-harm, mental health struggles, violence and discrimination, as some of the stories shared might contain triggering content. I also emphasize that at BEATS, we absolutely refrain from tokenization of marginalized identities and restricting their experiences to their marginalized status. Our editors have been encouraged to share what they found important and were comfortable to share whether related to their queer and migrant experiences or not. It is essential for our allies to understand that although our experiences of marginalization shapes us into resilient individuals, we are still more and beyond this marginalization and our stories do not begin and end with our social struggles and disadvantages. Unfortunately, this principle is often neglected when we share our stories, therefore, I would encourage mindfulness and openness when reading the issue and possibly conversing with folks with similar journeys.



Queerness in Colonial Canada Painting and Writing by: Vera (She/ Her/ Hers) I dedicate these next two pages to the unceded coast salish land this magazine is produced on as well as the two-spirit individuals, indigenous women, men, children, elders, and animals that live here too.

veins. To tell them that they are beautiful always, even when they cry. That their tears are living water, that they are always a part of the earth. Remember the scent of cedar, autumn leaves crunch and ocean wave crash.

I’d like to take a moment to remember the departed, those who stood out, spoke up, expressed themselves and smiled often. For the summer breeze laughter, now without breath.


For the ancestors who paved a way forwards by walking off the straight and narrow-minded path. Their wisdom lives on within us. Teaching how love transcends all boundaries and limitations. I want to take a moment to uphold and recognize the history and presence of two-spirit people within our communities here and across Turtle Island. I would like to acknowledge the beauty of their spirit, as well as the importance of their traditional roles as healers, spiritual guides and medicine holders. I have two-spirit friends and two-spirit family, and I’m lucky enough to have learned from each of these unique, wise, and phenomenal individuals. I want to honour my sisters, and their mothers. To celebrate these women who laugh so hard and love so strong and give so much. To honour the land that they stand on and the waters that flow through their


The system of patriarchy which has dominated western european and “North American” culture focuses on a gender binary which historically has placed women as biologically and psychologically inferior to men. The christian church viewed women as property of their husbands and fathers, not as equal beings. Women were taught to be subservient to men, and men taught not to be like women. The system has been implemented via colonization worldwide and has permitted immense sexual violence, ongoing state sanctioned persecution of LGBTQ2S people and human trafficking. It has led to many atrocities being orchestrated on these stolen lands such as biological warfare(i.e. smallpox blankets distributed by Hudson’s Bay Company and blamed on two spirit healers), significant human trafficking of indigenous women and girls,witch hunts, and colonial legislature such as the Indian Act which is still in place to this day.

As a heretic and dissident of the capitalist British system which I was born into, I must denounce the horrific treatment that has happened here and continues to be permitted by KKKanada. We must speak out against the ongoing structural violence and support local indigenous communities in their fight for sovereignty. Don’t tolerate racism within our own communities, challenge transphobic comments and assumptions, and educate yourself and your friends on two-spirit erasure. As queer people we transgress the limitations set up by the gender binary, and exist outside and in between the faulty system we are born into. We must continue to ask questions, do research, come

together and rise up when injustices happen. When we come together as a community there is strength and power, love and healing, acceptance and change, diversity and unity. Resist the system, love to you all, water is life.



Leaving the Path Of Secrecy An Interview with Shahab Shiri Interviewer: MK (They/ Them/ Theirs) Editor: Jaik Skull (He/ Him/ His) Shahab Shiri is a creator of the Lifetime of Judgment – A Minute of Support Campaign, who has recently moved to Canada through the United Nations Refugee Support Program. He identifies as a gay male and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Shahab is a recognizable public figure on social media, where he advertises his campaign in support of LGBTQ+ rights and the recognition of the community within the Iranian society. After leaving Iran he stayed in Turkey for two and a half years before he had his UNHCR Interview and boarded his flight to the destination of Toronto, ON, Canada. I asked him about his situation in Turkey and the help he received from the UN program and the general conditions of the Turkish environment. His experiences ranged from hard to harder: “I was a lucky one to get my whole process done within two and half years, some people stay there for four to five years [or more than 10 years], it’s just like putting time and effort into a life that you built but in the wrong place. Just imagine that my monthly costs would’ve added up to 2000 Turkish liras and I had to pay that all from my own pocket with only a little bit of help from the UN. If you compare that with the European cases, they get free housing and monthly assistance so they can spend their time building their own life.” Every day, many LGBTQ+ people face discrimination in the alleys of Turkey, and I was wondering what Shahab felt while he was getting on the plane to his third “safe” country. In response he sent me a video of himself while getting on the plane in tears “today my suffering ends with getting on this plane, but my true family is still in Turkey and burning in the fire. I left my beloved relatives back in Iran but built a new family


here in Turkey, who I truly hope have their cases processed soon so they can live in peace and we can celebrate our happy lives together in freedom.” He came to Canada with hopes and dreams but found out that it was not the heaven that everyone said it was. Even though they –Shahab and other arriving refugees– were met by a group of kindhearted people who gave them proper winter clothes and a ride to their temporary home, it was their first glimpse of Canada, they found it to be nothing but gloomy and dark, old and small, with shared bathrooms and showers. Little comfort, little space and no more familiar faces. After finding a better place to live, he started sharing a bachelor pad with his friend due to the unimaginable costs of living, he went on Instagram to share his feelings with his family of followers. “I always believed when I would get to this point of life, it would be a point of peace, calm, and of golden achievement, but now that I achieved it, I understand that there is no calmness in it, nor is it golden, my life was like three black dots, and it still continues to be three dots, and it sounds like it is never going to convert into a line. Today I found out that my calmness and peace would only come with all my fellow queers being safe and in peace. It’s correct that I fled from the boondocks of Turkey, but still my friends and family are innocently suffering from the internment. I was a bystander of them getting hurt, discriminated against and getting beaten. I was a victim next to them in the alleys of Iran and Turkey, I’ve seen injustice and experienced injustice. I was a bystander of them getting raped and sleeping on empty stomachs and I experienced it with them. UN referred me to a temporary “safe” place from Iran in Turkey, I left this temporary “safe” refuge without this promised safety, but my family

is still temporarily caught between unsafe and unstable, and are still burning, Dear United Nations! Please put an end to their burns.” Sadly, Shahab’s situation does not end here, when I asked about it further, I came to understand more about his terrible situation as a refugee in Canada. I’ve had many friends in Vancouver who went through the same program and did not experience such issues, but unfortunately this is what Shahab went through: “In Iran, we would run away from the law, in Turkey, we would run away from the people, when I came here I thought I was going to have an easy life, but found nothing except hardships and difficulties; the government sets each of us up who come to

Canada with a case worker who will help us with the language, with the new culture, and the questions we have, but there was no Farsi speaking case workers and so they gave me one who only spoke Arabic. Then they said that they’ll provide us with a translator, the translator was an Afghan person who only spoke a different dialect of Farsi that I could not adequately understand, and now I’m just stuck.” He also told me about the governmental help “I receive $1098 monthly which they say $500 is set aside for housing, but it’s not even possible to have a roommate and to afford it with that amount of money. Also, we can only work half of the amount of our payment, which altogether would not add up to cover all my living costs. I’m just scared, I don’t know what is going to happen next…”



Not the Bad Ones Writing and Photography by: Ivy Gaile (She/ Her/ Hers) When I was young, I punched someone. They told me it wasn’t something I should have done. They asked me to change who I was because who I was, was a bad one Who hurt someone in a world where we shouldn’t hurt anyone. We can’t be who we are when we hurt someone. We can’t be who we are when we are the bad ones. So, when I grew up it wasn’t hard to understand Why they took away all those horrible men Who took away the chance at life of many children and women. It wasn’t so hard to understand Why some people hate those religious men Who hurt others because of their love for an almighty one. But as I grew older, I realized that the world is not that simple. Everything I knew was just a preamble. Humanity is nothing but a fickle And everyone has varying ideas of sinful. The bad ones still freely roam the world and cause a horrifying prickle, And there are so many beliefs that divide all people. It’s not always the bad ones who aren’t allowed to be free. Sometimes, it’s the women of a patriarchal society. Sometimes, it’s all the victims of toxic masculinity, And sometimes, it’s the people who have nowhere to flee. You can even just be gay and not be allowed to be. For most of the world still promotes heteronormativity. The children of a culture are not always the priority. Sometimes, it is the money and the dream of being wealthy. Some are not allowed to claim their identity. Some people cannot even love who they want to love freely. The bad ones are not always the ones in agony For even the innocents are not always allowed to be happy.




Queer and Here Writing by: Parisa Pajooh (She/ Her/ Hers) Photography by: Golsa Golestaneh (She/ Her/ Hers) Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Her name is Tina. She came from a place where her love is illegal. Growing up she knew she cannot talk about homosexuality at all. It just didn’t exist. She was only 5 years old when her mom told her about a man at work who she thought was homosexual. Later, she learned that being gay is associated with assassination and punishment where she lived; it’s contiguous! She clearly remembers the morning she told her parents that she’s gay. “You just killed me”, her mom said while wrapping her arms around her. And then she whispered in her ear, “don’t worry baby, we will treat you”. That was the most painful moment she had ever experienced. It was the tenderness and misunderstanding at the same time. She never intended to hurt anyone, but she did. Her parents were not looking at her as their daughter anymore; she was a patient, someone who needed treatment. She felt powerless, fearful, and unable to trust. She carried her secrets with her everywhere she went, unable to speak her truth. She thought if she could only change herself, she could be considered “normal” again, she could fit in and make her family proud. She tried…


All she ever wanted was freedom and to live in a place where she was free to be who she is. She decided to leave everyone behind and face the truth. And she did. For her, finding community was a means of survival. And she is here now; stronger than ever; on a journey to become her true self. She didn’t know that she could be loved by so many people. Here, her life is celebrated. But this is not a finished story for her. She feels like something is missing in her. There is always some part of her that never thought she’s going to stay here forever and some part of her that didn’t want to stay here forever. When she thinks about going back to her hometown, she knows that she will be different from the self she was. She is constantly growing. Her name is Tina. She had no voice, now she can be outspoken. She wants to color the world queer.



The Gay Agenda Writing by: Ivy Gaile (She/ Her/ Hers) Poem and Photography by: Debanhi Herrera Lira (She/ Her/ Hers) For some reason, there are people out there who believe that there are more gay people now more than ever because of the Gay Agenda. They are claiming that there weren’t that many gay people back in the twentieth century, and they are blaming the older gay people for influencing the younger ones. Apparently, gay people are taking drastic measures to recruit people to live in the world of gayness. The human mind is too scary, sometimes. The Gay Agenda is not a trend nor is it an implementation of mind-control techniques to turn people gay. The Gay Agenda does not turn straight people or anyone gay. We will never force heterosexuals to become gay even though many of them force gay people to live such a heteronormative lifestyle. Last March of 2018, the gay community, particularly the young ones, celebrated the release of the film “Love, Simon”, a movie based on the book “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli. The film tackles the hardships of being a closeted gay: the struggle of not having anyone to talk about what you’re feeling, the constant overthinking of how to come out and what it will be like to come out, and the horrifying thought of being outcasted. I remember watching the film. I remember being surrounded by gay people and allies. We laughed, cried, and cheered throughout the film. This movie has given us the opportunity to tell the story of


people who haven’t found the safest time and place to openly claim a part of their identities. Some of us cannot openly wave the rainbow flag. Some of us are forced to hide. A lot of people have been coming out these past few years, but the Gay Agenda did not convert anyone. There have always been gays immemorially. If you want to blame someone for the increase in numbers, blame the baby boomers. The gay population increased only because the general population did. You just see and hear more of us now, and it’s all thanks to the brave heroes of the LGBTQ2S+ community who sacrificed a lot, including their lives, for our freedom: the Stonewallers, the activists, the feminists, the allies, and many more. They fought for our rights as humans. They fought against the injustices that many of us have experienced. The Gay Agenda is not to influence people to be gay. It is to influence people to be more aware and to be more accepting of our existence. We are tired of being silent. We are tired of being oppressed and discriminated. Our goal is to normalise same-sex relationship because straight is not the default. Our goal to make this world a safer place for all future generations, and we are not done. The LGBTQ2S+ community is louder than ever.

Destination I am joy, with foreign hands. Threaded by the insecurities of my anxiety, coordinated by the desire of a better future; designed to drift through this word while being glued together by people in my heart.

I am wanting to be happy. I pick my destination with a promise, written in black ink on the back of my hand. I breath in all words that come my way, but defuse the ones that will fit into my puzzle.

I am me. While my mind judges every action, every possible future. It forces me to stop in the middle of the street without hesitation; but the soft words of my mother’s voice run through my head. Those words tell me to keep walking. I will find my home, without apology, without justification.



A Poem About Love? By: Vera (She/ Her/ Hers) Growing up in a loving, church going family of 6,

About rising from the burned rocks and black ashes.

I was confused and hurt for a long time

Learn to be like the phoenix

when I discovered homophobia through my parents.

Whose inspiring light blazes brightly.

It shook me to my core

Learn to fall apart, be destroyed and burnt up

that kind hearted and compassionate people could

only to spread your wings and rise again.

hold hatred in their hearts for individuals like me.

Mine is the power of transformation, From flame, ash. From feathers, fearlessness.

It was almost like you could see it everywhere, after that. It was in the names kids called each other,

Claim your wings, for sooner or later

In the high school bullies and strange looks on the street

we are all meant to leave the nest.

In parents’ expectations and disapproval.

Stay true to yours insides,

You had to hide your insides, holding them tight,

Your heart is your compass.

Hoping they wouldn’t spill out or be discovered.

Love your body fiercely, For it will take you far on your journey.

Was I destined to be discovered? Was the social worker fated to out me?

I’ve learned that love goes beyond the physical,

The curtains were pulled back and there

Our bodies are just vessels and don’t define us.

For all to see was a queer, a freak, a faggot.

We are united sparks of living light,

40% of all young people experiencing homelessness

Love flows like the waters of earth between us.

Self identify as LGBTQ2S+

To my unknown: I will love you courageously. We are just two stars in an infinite cosmic sea.

Leaving home at 17 teaches you a lot. About independence and responsibility. About love and community, trauma and healing. It taught me a lot about losing and finding my voice, About being true to who I was and never backing down


Before Coming Out Writing and Photography by: Debanhi Herrera Lira (She/ Her/ Hers) •

Don’t feel pressure to pick a label! Sometimes it will feel right soon enough, so give it time. And if nothing feels right, it’s okay too.

I would have liked to know that some friends of mine would change the way they acted around me. It’s just kind of annoying that they treat me differently.

I told a few friends first, who I knew would be accepting and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. It does seem like this huge thing, but start by telling 1 or 2 people you trust, and work your way up. I would’ve liked to know that I can choose to not tell people about my sexual orientation. It’s not everyone’s business. If I am comfortable, I will tell whoever.

positive, but others now treat me as if I’m inhuman because of my sexuality. It’s wrong for people to treat anyone differently, especially the ones they called friends. •

You can’t be mad at someone for not immediately understanding you, this doesn’t mean homophobia or abuse, it’s fine. Just as you had to learn about yourself, they need time.

Knowing my friends and my mom would still love me after coming out, I would’ve been less afraid and more open about myself to them. One of the hardest parts of coming out, is the thought that you might lose people you love so much along the way.

I would have liked to know that not everyone who claims to accept who I am would be fully supportive of my sexual orientation

I would’ve liked to know the reactions of some people before I came out. Some were very




Labels Writing and Photography by: Ivy Gaile (She/ Her/ Hers)

This is not about every letter in the LGBTQ2S+. This is about whether you need to put one on yourself or not. The first person whom I came out to was the first girl that I was infatuated with. I just told her that I “also” liked girls. Now, I need you to understand. This was the first time I had ever acknowledged that I liked women. I did not know anything about the LGBTQ2S+ community. I was figuring myself out, and as I was doing so, there came an incessant need to label myself so I could officially say that I was a part of the community. I realized now that that was a naïve, ignorant thought. This girl told me that she was bisexual or pansexual. She wasn’t really sure then. When she told me about her sexuality, I went to google and searched bisexuality. So, the next time I came out (to one of my closest friends this time), I told her I was bisexual, and for a while that was how I identified myself. You have to know that I was an ignorant person. I was an ignorant, closeted gay who was afraid of what others would think, and I thought that by being bisexual, I was giving them a hope that at some point I could still be with a man. I was afraid of the stigma of a woman being sexually attracted to other women: a stigma that is still largely embedded in my culture. However, I was never really comfortable with identifying as a bisexual, so I started telling my friends that I was somewhere in the middle. Eventually, I started thinking that maybe I was a pansexual or a lesbian or a queer. None of them felt comfortable to describe myself with. I know that there are others out there who are just like me. We try to compromise to ourselves and to others because of our need to belong, to be understood, and to be free. We take up so many

roles in the society that the line between who we are and who we should be gets blurry. I know that there are others out there who try to label themselves so they can belong to the community, so it will be easier for others to understand them, and so they can finally be someone. I know that there are others out there, and maybe some of you are reading this. If you are one of us, I want you to know that it is okay to figure yourself out slowly. You don’t have to rush in labelling yourself. You don’t have to have a specific label to be a part of the community. However, in case some of you ignorantly take this the wrong way, I would like to make known that I do not include straight people, and pedophiles. This is for the people who are figuring out their sexual attraction for the same gender as theirs, for two genders, for more genders, or for none. This is for the people who taught they were straight until they realized that they were not. This is for those who identified as bisexuals but realized that they were lesbians. This is for those who identified as gays but realized they were bisexuals. This is for all the people who are still figuring themselves out. Maybe you’ll find a label you are comfortable with. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you will discover it at a later time. It’s okay. You’re not alone. You’re still a part of the community, and you don’t need a label to be considered as someone. I am a woman of colour, and I am gay, but I am more than just my sexual orientation. I am more than just a gay woman of colour, and it feels good to say that. I hope that one day every one of you finds a safe feeling that will make you not afraid to say who you are.




I Love You. Poem by: Debanhi Herrera Lira (She/ Her/ Hers) Photography by: Tanvi Bhatia (She/ Her/ Hers) I love you.

is a human waiting

You may not understand,

to be loved, thus; even if you can’t

you may not realize.

possibly comprehend that

We were born different,

please try to respect us.

different than what the

We don’t ask for much, just

world perceived us to be.

to get rid of all that fuss.

We were destined to be us

You don’t need to wear our

from birth, from picking a

rainbow, just accept it, as if

Barbie instead of a toy car,

it was always there to glow.

from smiling at a girl, the

We love you.

way my father told me I was

Those whom let us be free,

bound to smile at a boy.

Those whom don’t flee.

From standing in front of a

Those although despite their

mirror, staring at each scar,

beliefs, don’t push us away

each insecurity, desiring to

like a disease. Thank you,

find the body we were meant

for loving us...we needed

to be in, with purity.

people to fight with us.

I understand it’s difficult.

Instead of against us.

Every letter in...

It’s about fucking time to


open the closet door.

G B T+