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Author | Photos Kate Killet

Discovering My Queerness: Toronto Women Share Their Sexual Journeys and Philosophies

On Friday, Below Her Mouth will release in theatres across Canada, giving audiences an uninhibited exploration of female sexuality, presented entirely through the female gaze: written, shot, edited and produced. No man has stepped in to dictate how a woman’s orgasm should be depicted. For a dramatic film, it may be a worldwide first.

With a film crew composed solely of women, Below Her Mouth truly is a movie by women, for women. It’s about finding a partnership that makes you feel safe and unguarded; to feel lust and love wholly. It’s about fucking with vulnerability; falling hard without a safety net. It’s about daring to go places you didn’t think you should, or perhaps never even contemplated. While the focus may be on a tangled lesbian love affair, it’s relevant to all humans who like a tug at their heart and a zing in their pants.

To celebrate the film, we decided to take our own exploratory expedition on queerness. Meet seven sexual beings from Toronto who sit comfortably on the queer spectrum but don’t need a label to feel secure. From their appetite for adventure to finding their true selves, their sexual journeys have played an important role in their self-discovery, self-confidence, and personal awakening.

Sonia

When did you discover your sexuality?

I realized that I had a crush on a girl for the first time when I was eight years old at summer camp. I didn’t fully realize those feelings until I revisited them at age thirteen when some friends were talking about what “bisexual” meant. It created a category for me wherein it was okay to be attracted to women.

What qualities do you look for in a partner, be it a fling or long-term relationship?

This may sound real cheesy, but the most attractive quality to me is someone who has a lot of depth and is passionate about their opinions. I appreciate someone I can banter with, in and outside of the bedroom.

Did you ever have to deal with any challenges that prevented you from being your true self / living confidently?

I’ve always been someone who has been unafraid to express who I am and live confidently; however, one of the biggest challenges is wanting a closer relationship with my family, but knowing that in my culture, it’s just something that isn’t fully accepted or discussed. Finding peace that my parents may never fully be happy with who I’m with was one of the more difficult things to understand when I was younger.

What’s your advice to people, young or old, looking to explore their sexuality?

Don’t wait. Live fully and wholeheartedly in the present.

Jazmine

How do you define your sexuality?

I define my sexuality as queer. I don’t have a specific preference; I like people depending on their vibe and personality.

When and how were you able to discover your sexuality?

Pretty young. My mom was always open to me about sexuality and my grandmother was a lesbian, so I was lucky to feel free to explore the concept.

What turns you on?

Confidence, chaos, absurdity, face tattoos, skaters, intellect.

Did you ever have to deal with any challenges that prevented you from being your true self / living confidently?

Luckily no. My parents didn’t really care what I did, so I was always able to express myself however I wanted to and that mentality led into adult life. I sincerely don’t care what anyone thinks of me, which is a blessing since not all people can execute their lives the same way I can. But it sometimes comes at a price, which is loneliness.

What’s your advice to people, young or old, looking to explore their sexuality?

Honesty. Be honest about what you like and don’t like, what you are and are not comfortable with. Explore with people who make you feel safe and respect your boundaries and have fun. If you aren’t having fun then what’s the point?

How has your sex life helped you grow? 

Sex is a weird concept to me; it doesn’t mean much in the sense that I do not put it on this platform. Sex can have a multitude of meanings. I’ve slept with people to relieve sexual tension so we can actually be friends; I’ve had one-night stands because they are fun, and I’ve had flings with people I adore. If I have learned anything, it is that sex is part of relationships and can mean very different things, so don’t put so much pressure on it.

Maiesha

How do you define your sexuality?

I can’t remember a time when I’ve ever fit into a perfect, clear-cut box when it comes to sexuality, but right now I comfortably identify as pansexual. Gender has never been a limiting factor when it comes to how attracted I feel to someone.

When and how were you able to discover your sexuality?

I started exploring my sexuality midway through high school. I had a pretty basic awareness of different sexualities. I started feeling sexually attracted to the same gender (cisgender and non-cisgender) but it did not become a huge realization to me until I attended a queer Muslim panel at an equity conference. Hearing queer Muslims from different walks of life talk about their experiences gave me a sense of comfort.

Getting to know my body sexually was a huge help because the more knowledgeable and comfortable I got in my own skin, the more comfortable I was exploring and accepting the idea of being attracted to different bodies. Cinema and art were some of the tools I used to explore who I was attracted to and what turned me on.

What is attractive to you? What qualities do you look for in a partner, be it a fling or long-term relationship?

A good listener; someone who pays attention to details and takes the time to understand you and therefore knows how to react to different situations. It really helps if the person is body positive. People are allowed to have insecurities, but sometimes I sense when someone is uneasy around me because of the way I look and frankly those people are not worth my time. I am in the constant process of loving my body and I need the person I’m with to get with that.

Did you ever have to deal with any challenges that prevented you from being your true self / living confidently?

Trying not to let what people think continues to be the biggest challenge for me, especially when it comes to people close to me. I knew of the struggles that queer Muslims faced about their validity and existence long before I started identifying as one. I think I’ve heard almost everything – that being queer is unnatural, that being queer is natural but acting on your queer feelings is the real sin, and so forth. I know what I believe and which translations of scripture make sense to me and because of that, I’ve realized that what I think about myself is the biggest challenge. People are going to believe what they want and I can’t change or control that, but I can control how I choose to survive.

What’s your advice to people, young or old, looking to explore their sexuality?

Get to know your own body. Explore how it feels, what it looks like and how to maneuver it. Being comfortable in your own skin is a huge help when you’re trying to explore what turns you on about other people. Do as much research as you can on sexuality and the queer spectrum, but don’t feel like you have to squeeze into a perfect little box. Especially because that box may be constantly shifting and changing. In fact, don’t even picture a box. Picture a plant that can grow in whichever direction and at whatever speed it wants.

How has your sex life helped you grow?

It’s given me a chance to take my fantasies and see what they’re like in real life. Picturing something in your head and then acting it out don’t always give off the same feeling. I’ve learned there are things I really enjoy during sex that I have never fantasized about and that some fantasies work really well in my head when I’m pleasuring myself but not with a partner.

Pleasure and satisfaction look totally different to everyone and it doesn’t have to be what the media makes it out to look like. For example, not everybody orgasms during sex and even if you don’t, you can still have a super fun time. Pleasure is totally dependent on the individual. There are so many different ways to achieve an orgasm that are just as fulfilling with yourself and with another person.

Claire

How do you define your sexuality?

My definition has shifted a lot over time. I got into a really comfortable place where I didn’t feel the need to question it for a long time, and it was kind of a rut. Since becoming disabled, I spend a lot more time dissecting it. I used to feel dominant, attracted to people of all genders and looks who identified as submissive. Now that I’m having to embrace a lot more vulnerability and recontextualize what I see as my power, I’m actually a lot more open to more dynamics, which feels like the missing piece to my fairly broad sexual identity.

When and how were you able to discover your sexuality?

It was pretty organic at first. I came out as bisexual at twelve and it was kind of brushed aside by family, but I’m still pretty queer, so there you go. I wish I could say that bad relationships and abusive situations helped me to grow, but they didn’t really. What helped me move past some stuck elements was having to rebuild after having a series of strokes. It’s still a work in progress, but it feels wholly different to be discovering my sexuality again at nearly thirty.

What is attractive to you? What qualities do you look for in a partner, be it a fling or long-term relationship?

Kindness and quick wit. I like banter; someone who can be acerbic in the right moments, but fundamentally open-hearted. That duality of snark and genuine caring is great in just about every situation.

Did you ever have to deal with any challenges that prevented you from being your true self / living confidently?

The things that most held me back were relationships where I felt like I couldn’t be myself, be in my body without judgment, or allow myself to be ways other than how I was initially interpreted. It has taken a long time to push back against people like that and against the way I’ve internalized those messages.

What’s your advice to people, young or old, looking to explore their sexuality?

Try not to pigeonhole yourself, whether that’s in terms of acts, roles, or identifying as someone who will try anything once. Give yourself a lot of room to explore without feeling limited by or beholden to the identities you claim. They will likely fluctuate over time, so don’t be too proud to let them do that.

How has your sex life helped you grow?

I think sexuality is a tremendously important part of development for me because it’s so tied to how I experience my body. I did a lot of work around body acceptance in my younger years, so sexuality has always been a way to solidify that. Now that I’m using it to navigate, accept and even shed positive light on my disability, it’s integral to that process.

Jesse Rae

How do you define your sexuality?

Queer AF.

When and how were you able to discover your sexuality?

I knew I was queer pretty much as soon as I hit puberty. The internet was integral; I met a lot of like-minded folks that way, some of them helped me figure out what I was into.

What is attractive to you? What qualities do you look for in a partner, be it a fling or long-term relationship?

I’m just looking for someone who is intelligent, engaged politically, kind, funny and ambitious. They need to smell good too, that is non-negotiable. I won’t be mad if they’re tall and have pretty eyes either.

What turns you on?

Being read to. Empathy. Firm hands. Grey hair. Folks who are nice to my dog.

Did you ever have to deal with any challenges that prevented you from being your true self / living confidently?

I’ve had the privilege of existing in fairly liberal circles my entire life. I’ve never really had to deal with challenges relating to my sexuality. I lost some friends when I started doing the poly thing, but ultimately I’ve been quite lucky.

What’s your advice to people, young or old, looking to explore their sexuality?

As long as you’re not causing harm to yourself or anyone else, do what you want. Also, exploring sex with yourself is important and integral if you want your experiences with others to be pleasurable and genuine.

How has your sex life helped you grow?

I think some of the most impactful moments in my life have involved folks I’ve been romantically and sexually involved with. I’ve had sex with most of my friends, at least a large majority of them. I don’t think sex has to make a friendship weird; in fact, I’ve reached a point where I mostly want to sleep with folks who I have some kind of a friendship with.

I’m one of the co-founders of I’d Tap That, a queer events company that runs various sex-positive parties in Toronto. My interest in all things related to sex, love, romance, connection and friendship have become intertwined. These experiences have shaped my personality undeniably.

Luna Matatas

How do you define your sexuality?

My sexuality is queer, wild and creative. I have trouble picking a label because I can be inspired by a new experience, another person’s sexuality or simple curiosity. In the kinky world, I often get asked if I’m dominant or submissive…my answer is always: I’m a Goddess. My “Fuck Like A Goddess” panties are my truth – a Goddess gets the kind of pleasure that makes her feel worshipped and adored, and that can be channeled through any kind of play – whether it’s BDSM or making out in the rain.

What is attractive to you? What qualities do you look for in a partner, be it a fling or long-term relationship?

I’m attracted to passion, sensuality and open-mindedness. Sexual like-mindedness is important to me, but I’m seduced by people who are good at engaging my mind and body. I like an intellectual connection especially to social justice – I created my Peg the Patriarchy shirt as an example of my sexual energy hunger melded into my thirst for social justice.

What turns you on?

Touch turns me on. I’m a total touch-slut. Kissing and touch is like 90% of sex for me – foreplay is sexplay in my world. Some people separate affection from sex outside of a relationship, but for me – affection, intimacy and open-mindedness are part of all my play, whether it’s for one night or many.

Did you ever have to deal with any challenges that prevented you from being your true self / living confidently?

Like many people, I deal with body shame – I have psoriasis, which made me self-conscious about my skin for many years, and I have only recently grown into my thick, curvy self with an unapologetic attitude for my beauty. Taking burlesque classes gave me access to an art that helped me reclaim what ‘sexy’ looks like. Teaching pleasure workshops made me realize how much body shame, internal and external, prevents us from getting the kind of pleasure we want to have. Shame-free pleasure education creates a space to navigate body shame and build up resilience through body acceptance. This inevitably influences our connectedness to our body and pleasure points.

What’s your advice to people, young or old, looking to explore their sexuality?

Take a workshop. I have been going to sexuality workshops at Good for Her and Come as You Are since I was twenty-one. Sex-positive, feminist sex education is not a part of our life curriculum – you need to seek it out. When you find it, you break down all kinds of assumptions about what you deserve in your sex life, what kind of pleasure is accessible to you, and all the many ways you can get turned on that no one ever told you about. Getting accurate knowledge from sex-positive, body-positive and gender and sexual orientation inclusive sex educators has made me a better lover for both solo and partner play. I’m curious and open-minded, so if there’s another way to get turned on – I wanna know about it!

Anything else you’d like to share?

We don’t all move through this world seeing positive representations of the identities we embrace. I didn’t grow up with chubby, brown and queer images of sexuality. Instead, we get ‘normalized’ versions of beauty, attractiveness and sexuality that set us up for standards we may not even desire, but feel pressured to meet. I teach empathy in my sex ed classes – be gentle with yourself and with your partners, build each other up and have compassion when you come across someone or something that isn’t part of your understanding of pleasure and sexuality. If it’s safe, consensual and pleasurable – why not?

Ami

How do you define your sexuality?

I identify as queer because I’m romantically and sexually interested in people of all genders. I’m mostly into women right now, but sexuality is fluid so who knows what I’ll be feeling in the future.

When and how were you able to discover your sexuality?

I started questioning it in high school but I wasn’t able to properly explore my sexuality until I moved to Toronto. It’s been a long process of reflecting on what experiences were truly making me happy and learning to overcome the homophobia my hometown and my family had instilled in me.

What is attractive to you? What qualities do you look for in a partner, be it a fling or long-term relationship?

I love being able to laugh with my partner, both in and outside of the bedroom! Regardless of if we share the same interests, it’s so attractive to be able to share passion and excitement about life with your partner. I look for partners who inspire me to be my best self, and whom I encourage to do the same.

What turns you on?

Consent and communication!

Did you ever have to deal with any challenges that prevented you from being your true self / living confidently?

It’s been a struggle to be comfortable and visibly queer as a femme, and I’ve often felt out of place in the community because I didn’t have enough gay street cred; however, in the past few years I’ve befriended so many cool queers and watching them live their true selves loudly and proudly has given me the confidence to do the same.

What’s your advice to people, young or old, looking to explore their sexuality?

Don’t try to repress your feelings. You can’t change your sexuality (and why would you want to!) so you’ll be infinitely happier if you welcome that aspect of your being with open arms rather than trying to run away from it.

How has your sex life helped you grow?

My sex life has helped me get over so many issues of self-consciousness and shame towards my body and my sexuality. I’ve become wildly more confident in myself and that translates to feeling good on a daily basis!

Below Her Mouth opens in theatres across Canada on February 10th. Watch the trailer now. 

4 comments
Alyssa Roberts
Alyssa Roberts

So glad they are free to be themselves in our welcoming, accepting and inclusive culture. Most importantly, they can move away from home at age 18.