University campuses in the US should reconsider opening this fall

This past March, universities rushed to shut down on-campus operations as COVID-19 spread like wildfire across America. This decision objectively hit students who lived on campus and international students the hardest. Those who lived on campus were hard-pressed to find other means of housing as some universities gave students a only a few days’ notice to move out. Many returned to their home states and cities to live with their families to finish out the semester virtually. International students were faced with a very different dilemma: if they returned to their home countries, would they be allowed back into the US to attend the fall semester? Travels bans and restrictions were being implemented by most countries and at the time, nobody knew how long they would last. A friend of mine who is an international student elected to stay in the US rather than return to India for the summer for fear of not being able to come back to finish her master’s, but now she is separated from her family for an indefinite period of time.

Now, with the economy rapidly opening back up, some universities are planning to return to on-site instruction in the fall, despite staying largely online during the summer. Northeastern University in Massachusetts has planned a phased return to campus, as have many other universities, by slowly populating campus over this summer with the intention of offering on-site instruction and residence for students this fall, although student density in residence halls will be reduced. They will also be offering hybrid classes through a specialized platform called NuFlex – some students will be on-ground and others will be able to watch it live through an online platform. Northeastern has been unclear about how this will work from the faculty end.

American University in Washington, D.C. is also shifting to a hybrid model for this fall with a combination of in-person and online instruction methods while reducing density in residence halls. The university plans to permit only first-year students and sophomores to live in single occupancy rooms, which has put upper-class students and graduate students intending to live in dorms at a large disadvantage and in a panic to find off-campus housing two months before the semester begins. In addition, on-campus instruction will not continue after Thanksgiving break at the end of November. At that time, all classes and final exams will be conducted remotely. Students would only be returning to campus for a three-month period.

Penn State, Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Vanderbilt in Tennessee, the University of Michigan, as well as many other universities around the country, will be adopting similar measures: a hybrid of in-person and online instruction to switch to fully remote around Thanksgiving break. In-person classes will be noticeably smaller and physical distancing safety measures will be taken. Other safety measures include the requirement of wearing masks, staggered business hours, increased disinfection and cleaning, and large-scale testing and contact tracing.

Big questions remain, however. How will universities enforce the wearing of masks, social distancing, and individual hygiene? What protection will there be for those who must interact with people who refuse to follow safety measures? How will they implement large-scale testing and contract tracing when cities and states all over the country have failed to do so? When students and staff inevitably catch COVID-19, will universities hold themselves accountable? How will all of this affect tuition?

Most universities have not yet determined what tuition will look like in the fall. Some students have already filed lawsuits against their universities demanding refunds for the spring 2020 semester, stating the sudden move to remote education did not reflect their tuition payment nor their expectation of the college experience. This past spring did not allow for students to access research facilities, gyms, and other on-campus resources once campuses shut down; but we still paid for those fees at the beginning of the semester. Many universities did, however, refund room and board payments at a prorated rate. 

The reopening of college campuses in the fall also begs the question of whether these decisions are financially motivated. Having on-site instruction with all extra facilities open and students living in dorms would allow universities to charge all activity fees and on-campus residence fees without consequence. On the other hand, some universities are actually making tuition adjustments for the upcoming semester to attract more students. Michigan State will be freezing tuition, and Franciscan University in Ohio will be covering 100 percent of tuition for new students in fall 2020.

Tied to tuition is the fact that some students are unhappy with online education. In a survey conducted by Inside Higher ED, 33 percent of high school seniors said they would defer or cancel their admittance if their university opted for remote-only education. Already enrolled students have stated they would transfer to a cheaper school or take a semester off in the event of remote-only courses. The fear of losing students, therefore losing tuition money, may be a motivating factor for colleges to reopen their campuses.

If it were up to me, I would opt for all college campuses in the US to remain closed during the fall in order to combat any potential risk increase. The upcoming semester would also give us the perfect opportunity to invest more effort into a digital learning environment, because, as this past semester has shown us, we certainly need to improve digital learning. Online education has been given a bad reputation in that it carries the stigma of being low-quality. In-person courses are superior for some subjects (e.g. sciences that required labs), but remote courses, if designed for an online environment, can offer the same level of education with higher degrees of flexibility which allows students juggling jobs and family to work at their own pace. In a time like this, online education also facilitates social distancing and reduces the need to go out.

Conversely, there are some issues with remote learning that need addressing, the biggest being accessibility and equity. Universities would need to make sure that students with disabilities have accessible options, such as video lectures with captions, and make sure all students have access to reliable WiFi and tech. In addition, connection to internet in the United States is a larger issue that needs to be addressed at state and federal levels.

But without a doubt, by reopening campuses, universities are setting themselves up to endanger their own students, faculty, and staff. It seems that university administrators are prioritizing economic prosperity over public health. College campuses are breeding grounds for this virus. Not to mention that experts are predicting a second surge of COVID-19 cases this fall as the entire country opens back up over the summer. Even now, cases continue to skyrocket on a consistent upward trend, and the president is calling for less testing. Hospitals across America were overwhelmed and devastated this past spring, and many are still struggling to keep up with new cases, in addition to routine procedures. This will undoubtedly happen again. There is currently no standardized treatment and a vaccine is months away.

Critics argue that schools are not fully facing the reality of our current limits on medical technology and the failure of our political institutions to combat this pandemic. President Trump has terminated US relations with the World Health Organization, which could have dire consequences for access to testing and vaccines, and by the end of this month, the Trump administration will irresponsibly end federal funding and support for local COVID-19.

COVID-19 is not yet completely understood, but scientists have determined that, like most respiratory illnesses, this virus can cause long-lasting damage to one’s lungs and heart. Knowing this, why are universities considering putting students, faculty, and staff in such a potentially harmful situation? And, when another widespread wave does inevitably hit the American population, will universities repeat what happened this past spring and abruptly kick students off their campuses?

Universities may concern themselves over their financial statuses, and it is not a bad thing to explore routes that will allow them financial stability, but it is morally reprehensible to reopen universities when doing so would bring about an unacceptable, possibly deadly, rate of transmission of COVID-19. Without a vaccine on its way to the public soon, reopening universities is dangerous.

Happy World Asteroid Day – why we are so obsessed with asteroids?

“This is the Earth, at a time when dinosaurs roamed a lush & fertile planet. But the piece of rock just six miles wide changed all that. It hit with the force of ten thousand nuclear weapons. A trillion tons of dirt & rock hurtled into the atmosphere creating a suffocating blanket of dust the Sun was powerless to penetrate for a thousand years. It happened before, it will happen again, it’s just a question of when.”

Charlton Heston’s deep voice narration fades into the dramatic strains of Armageddon’s opening score. As a fiery blanket of peril creeps across Earth’s surface, Heston’s last words echo an ominous warning – that a threat to our existence is near and alive.

However, Michael Bay’s 1998 sci-fi film was not the first to tout asteroids as villainous purveyors of mass destruction. Cosmic disasters are a classic science fiction trope, with the portrayal of asteroid belts in pop culture dating back to the late 19th century. Notable early works include Edison’s Conquest of Mars (1898) by Garrett P. Serviss, in which a Thomas Edison-led armada runs into a massive gold asteroid. In addition to being a battleground for humans and martians, asteroids take up a wide variety of roles throughout science fiction and popular culture.

In honor of Asteroid Day held annually on June 30th (anniversary of the Tunguska Event), I bring forth a pressing question: Why are we so obsessed with asteroids?

Attempting to understand human obsessions from a psychological perspective is no easy task; take our society’s obsession with celebrity news, pimple-popping videos, or meme-able cats. Our collective interest in asteroids and cosmic disaster seems intertwined with marveling at, or fearing, the end of the world. Through disaster film after disaster comic, asteroids are continuously depicted as inevitable forces of destruction that will wipe out swaths of Earthen life. Writers dramatize the threat of asteroid impacts with reference to the infamous asteroid strike which occurred 66 million years ago, hypothesized to have created the Chixculub crater. The now widely accepted theory credits the Chixculub asteroid as the cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction, or the end of non-avian dinosaurs. Combine a devastating mass extinction with patriotic, spacesuit-clad explorers, and you’re well on your way to crafting an addictive slice of science fiction.

Beyond film and fiction, our human obsession with asteroids also manifests itself through art. Have you ever come across a stunning NASA space image or simulation and felt your jaw physically drop? What about Armageddon paintings, apocalyptic art, or vintage sci-fi illustrations? Countless creatives have translated the K-Pg event into illustrations of a screeching tyrannosaurus rex running from a flaming, comet-like asteroid.

Space artist David A. Hardy took this intrigue to form his entire career, and to this day he is the “longest-established living space artist in the West, being first published in 1952”. I am particularly struck by the intensity of his gouache and watercolor paintings for SF and Fantasy covers; the scenes he paints invite the viewer to become a sort of visual explorer to his strange landscapes.  

In addition, asteroids make frequent appearances in music and miscellaneous forms of entertainment. On your preferred music streaming platform, find The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, a Danish pop band with spacey beats, or Asteroid, a psychedelic rock band with explosive sound. The 1980’s two-player board game Asteroid pits players against a mad scientist and the killer asteroid they have programmed to crash into (and destroy) the planet. On a similar note, the objective of the classic 1979 Asteroids video game is to fire at asteroids and saucers from a little spaceship. If abandoned musicals are your thing, check out Mr. President, There’s an Asteroid Headed Directly For the Earth: the Musical, by Rob Cantor and Rick Lax. Its catchy Overture begins with the lines: “You’re all gonna die / The world’s gonna end”, and ends with the titular “Mr. President, there’s an asteroid headed directly for the earth!”.

With scientific reality being so far removed from art and film depictions of asteroid impacts, it seems hasty to denote our asteroid obsession as just an obsession with the end of the world. I was tempted to view this through a memento mori lens, which translates from Latin into “Remember you will die”. Just like the skulls and decaying fruit prevalent in Dutch vanitas, perhaps asteroids and their visual interpretations remind us of our own mortality. I think of this especially in relation to how humans would have no defense against a massive asteroid making a beeline for the earth, and how the ‘asteroid peril’ represented in sci-fi media is realer and more inevitable than one may think.

Though I won’t be subscribing to tabloids newscasting daily killer asteroid predictions, I will be revisiting songs in which our asteroid obsessions have made star appearances (for example, Michael Jackson’s Planet Earth/Earth Song). 

Are weekday weddings really the more popular choice?

When people are planning their weddings, there’s an important question that needs to be addressed: the date of the wedding. It’s always a serious decision, and can significantly impact the attendance of the wedding. 

In different places, the norm varies. In Pakistan or India, for example, multi-event weddings are favored and wedding celebrations can last for days. Inevitably, some part of the wedding is held on the weekdays. In America, however, Saturday weddings have historically been the norm

Although many couples are married on the weekend, there has recently been a huge spike in weekday weddings. Some years ago, weekend weddings were a trend that couples religiously followed. However, many engaged couples are now breaking this trend by having their ceremony on a weekday.

Some people who’re getting married feel the need to customize everything about their wedding, including when it takes place. They want their weddings to evince their personal tastes and preferences, and selecting the date is an important element that they can customize about their big day. It makes them feel empowered and personalizes their event even more. 

It is to be noted, that a huge reason couples are choosing to be married on a weekday is to effectively cut down costs. The wedding hours are usually curtailed on a weekday because people have work or school the next day making, the event less time, and subsequently, less money. Vendors and venues also charge less for their services on off-peak wedding days. 

Furthermore, most vendors—photographers, caterers, florists, stylists—are readily available on weekdays. Their services if needed on a weekend are booked well in advance, leaving them free only on weekdays. Vendors also treat their work on weekdays as their chance to earn a bonus and keep their prices slightly lower than their regular prices.

Some couples even choose weekdays purposefully, if they’re attached to a particular date—it could be their birthdays, parents’ anniversary. Sometimes, they want to get married on a day that means something to them personally. 

Whatever the reasons, there has been an upward trend in weekday weddings. But they also have certain drawbacks that engaged couples should consider before deciding their wedding date. 

If the wedding is held on a weekday, it might be inconvenient for the guests especially if they have office or other work commitments. It gets difficult to stay up late to attend the wedding if you need to show up to work at 8 am. Or to a class at 9 am. Secondly, you’re always so tired after coming home from work and you feel drained. The process of dressing up and meeting people feels dull and unexciting – sometimes even arduous. For the same reasons, it might also become impossible for the guests to make it to out-of-town weddings. You might not get a leave or you might not be able to travel with your family if they have other commitments. 

I remember attending a weekday wedding right before COVID-19. It was a Wednesday. And coincidentally, it was the most stressful and tiring day of the week for me at college. I had several classes clumped together on the same day, and I got free very late. I was enraged when I found out the wedding was on a Wednesday because, after an exhausting day at college, the last thing I wanted was to attend a wedding. From the guests’ perspective, weekend weddings are always more preferable. 

The first thing that I do when I receive a wedding invite is to check what day does the wedding fall on, and I know many other people do the same. We do it instinctively. It’s our reflex response to receiving a wedding invite. 

Selecting the wedding date is a big decision for marrying couples, but it should be made completely at the couple’s discretion. As a guest, I’d always prefer a weekend wedding but I won’t say that they should be the norm. If the couples choose a weekday for their wedding because it makes them happy, then they should get married on a weekday. It’s their wedding, and it should be their decision. 

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10 fashionable and breathable face masks to rock this summer

As U.S. states begin to lift mandated lockdowns, local government and health officials are instituting measures to maintain social distancing and safety protocols in public areas. Everyone will be required to wear a face mask, which according to the CDC, is significantly proven to decrease the risk of spreading the virus. That said, we’ll all be wearing masks for the foreseeable future, whether it’s for a quick run to the grocery store, to the workplace, or simply walking your dog around the neighborhood.  Most recently, face masks have gained more popularity as a fashion staple, with the rise of ‘mask selfies’ throughout social media. Personally, there’s nothing worse than planning out an impeccably sorted outfit only to ruin it with a blue surgical mask. So, leave the N95’s for healthcare workers and grab these 10 fashionable and breathable face masks to rock this summer:

1. Lisa Says Gah (Knit Mask & Knit Scrunchie Set – $32

[Image description: An orange mask with a strap on either side.] via Lisa Says Gah

Support small businesses and score double cuteness points, by opting for this knit mask and scrunchie duo from this San Francisco based clothing boutique. The bright tangerine, creamsicle color is the perfect addition to a colorful summer wardrobe. With every mask purchase, Lisa Says Gah is committed to donating $1 to the San Francisco Marin Food Bank.

2. Outdoor Voices (5 Pack Face Mask – $25)

via Outdoor Voices
[Image description : A denim blue color mask with the words ‘Outdoor Voices’ embroidered in white.] via Outdoor Voices

Outdoor Voices is one of my favorite recreational active-wear companies, mainly for their soft, velvety yoga leggings and their reinvention of athleisure style. They recently launched a set of 5 durable, washable and reusable masks for a bargain price of $25 and are partnering with Masks for the People to support underserved, minority communities in the U.S.


3. Citizens of Humanity (3 Pack Cotton Face Coverings – $30)

via ShopBop
[Image description: Three facemasks with striped patterns.] via ShopBop

Known for their fashion-forward and locally manufactured denim jeans, Citizens of Humanity recently introduced a series of cotton face masks in beautiful pastel-toned and nautical designs. The perfect accompaniment to your flowy summer dresses and all-white assemble.

4. Madewell (Three Pack Non-Medical Face Masks – $20)

via Madewell
[Image description: White and black face masks in a checkered and striped print.] via Madewell

The popularized sister company of J.Crew, notable for their willowy and feminine styles, are bringing back plaid with their best selling packs of 100% cotton face masks. They come in five beautiful patterns such as ‘Ash Melange’ and ‘Blue Glen’ which are the best addition to your summer bag essentials.

5. Aerie (Reusable Face Mask – $14.95)

via Aerie
[Image description: A grey toned, camouflage print face mask.] via Aerie

Aerie, the sister brand of American Eagle, universally acclaimed for their body positivity campaigns, introduced a new collection of reusable face masks in fun prints such as camouflage and cheetah print. Upholding their philanthropic mission and community support, they are donating 20% of proceeds to Crisis Text Line, a text-based crisis service providing free, confidential 24/7 support.

6. Splendid (3 Pack Face Coverings – $28)

via Splendid
[Image description: Three face masks. One is grey, the second is purple and white camouflaged print. The third is a black and white striped mask.] via ShopBop

If you’re a fan of Splendid’s ultimate, super soft t-shirt, you’ll love their new face coverings which are made of 100% cotton. They also come in a trio of colors in each pack, like solid gray, colorful camouflage, and preppy stripes.

7. Lucky Brand (5 Pack Pleated Cotton Face Mask – $25)

via Lucky Brand
[Image description: A blue and white striped print mask.] via Lucky Brand

It’s no surprise that Lucky Brand, a leader in the American denim industry, shifted their creative strategy into developing pleated masks in the pattern of chambray swatches and denim pockets. They’re also locally sourced and handmade in Los Angeles, CA, and charitable, as they will donate 5 masks to low income and unhoused community members in the Los Angeles area for every 5-pack sold.

8. Kenneth Cole (Wear in this Together Cotton Mask – $15)

via Kenneth Cole
[Image description: A solid black facemask.] via Kenneth Cole

Kenneth Cole is one of my all-time favorite brands, for their socially conscious mission and chic, contemporary collection of shoe wear and clothing. Perfectly suited for monochromatic all-black outfits, this Wear in this Together Cotton Mask is your next go-to accessory. For every mask purchased, Kenneth Cole will donate 10% net sales to the Mental Health Coalition, a movement dedicated to destigmatizing mental health.

9. FashionNova (Camo Face Mask 3 Pack- $14.99)

via FashionNova
[Image description: Three face masks. One is black, one is grey with white straps, and one is a camouflage print.] via FashionNova

FashionNova—a favorite of top celebrities and social media influencers including Cardi B— has released a collection of face masks for all style aficionados alike. My top pick is this super affordable pack of gray, black, and classic camouflage face masks fitted with durable ear loops for maximum comfort and efficiency. 


10. Rent the Runway (Made by RTR 5 Pack Reusable Masks – $50)

via Rent the Runway
[Image description: Five different patterned face masks.] via Rent the Runway

Finally, if you’re looking for the perfect pack of colorful, sophisticated, yet feminine face masks, look no further. Rent the Runway, a popular online service that is known for providing designer and accessory rentals shifted gears by launching a Buy 5, Give 5 campaign. For each 5 pack of face masks sold, Rent the Runway will donate a 5 pack of face masks to a community in need, through the non-profit Project Renewal, a New York-based organization founded to end the cycle of homelessness.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez secures a second term in Congress and continues to inspire young Latinas

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commonly known as AOC, became the youngest woman ever elected into Congress in 2018 and since then she has taken the country by a storm. Recently, she secured her reelection as U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District for a second term at the New York Primary on July 23rd, winning over 70% of the votes from her district.

AOC had a high profile election back in 2018 when she challenged and beat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowly. Since then, she has been one of the most talked-about politicians in America. With a platform based on progressive policies such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and the abolition of ICE, among many other things, she is a known advocate for the people as a Democratic Socialist. She even runs on grassroots campaigns, raising over $10.5 billion in her 2020 election campaign and refusing to take any money from big corporations. 

Also, as a Bronx-born Puerto-Rican woman, AOC is vocal about and doesn’t shy away from her background, being that she grew up in a working-class family and experienced first hand the needs of her community. AOC is not only a social justice warrior, but she embodies so many of the more important values of justice, equity, and bringing the needs of her community to the forefront of policymaking. 

I have been continuously inspired by AOC and the work that she does, as well as the representation she brings into politics. I will never forget when she got sworn into Congress wearing her signature red lipstick and hoops. When met with praises from young women for her boldness she tweeted, “Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a Congresswoman.” As a young Latina from the Bronx myself, AOC has taught me that professional success should never come at the cost of my identity. 

By using social media to her advantage, AOC has been able to win over many young people throughout the years. She takes to Twitter to engage her constituents and is even known for her Instagram Live sessions where she will perform regular tasks at home while talking with her followers. She is my definition of a modern-day politician and someone who is not afraid to use her platform or her voice to stand up for issues that are deeply impacting her community. 

Most notably, AOC believes that every American should have a decent living wage on the basis that no person should be simply too poor to live. She states, “I was born in a place where your ZIP code determines your destiny.” In America, this statement is very real, with the Bronx being home to some of the poorest districts in the country. That is why she fights for low-income New Yorkers every day. 

Just like her, I have not only faced many adversities throughout my upbringing in the Bronx, but also throughout my professional career, many of these rooted in the fact that young Latinas from the Bronx are rarely accepted in places of privilege. As someone who is pursuing a career in the public sector, I have learned a lot about the hardship that women of color face in these spaces. From having to code-switch in different environments to having all eyes on me when I enter a room with my big curly hair, I have experienced first-hand judgment based on my identity. 

AOC’s high-profile career means that those afflictions are most likely, and inevitably, multiplied. 

Though she has many fans, AOC is also met with a lot of haters, critics, and even death threats. One of her more famous trolls is President Donald Trump, who often takes to Twitter to publicly bash and criticize the young congresswoman on her background, policy proposals, and values, recently calling her an “embarrassing, barely literate moron” for a comment she made about billionaires being made in a corrupt system. Which, by the way, she isn’t wrong about and Donald Trump is just being a hater of anything far-left or remotely progressive, as always. 

However, despite all that has been stacked up against her she’s regarded every situation with much grace. Not to mention that she has maintained wisdom, poise, and morality along the way, knocking out each hardship with prosperity. AOC continues to show me that representation matters in politics as she advocates for her constituents in a way that only someone with lived experiences of the community could. 

The New York Primaries were packed with new candidates for almost every district, many of which were on the ballot for the first time challenging incumbents. In the Bronx, AOC had rivals who certainly did not believe in and even critiqued the work she currently does. 

As we all know and have learned through the current political climate, it’s OK to not agree with your favored politicians all the time. Even I don’t always agree with some of the things AOC says or some of the decisions she makes, but I do know that she has good intentions and keeps the overall needs of her constituents at the forefront of mind when doing her job. 

As a young Latina from the Bronx, seeing someone like AOC as a high profile politician gives me hope that more people like us can go on to serve our communities. As she recently tweeted, her victory in the New York primaries on June 23rd shows that “the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It’s a mandate.” As we move forward in this unprecedented and highly political circumstance, I expect her to be nothing less than a key player. AOC is a change-maker that continues to inspire the masses of young public service leaders, in addition to young Latinas like myself, all over New York City.

“Noughts and Crosses” is the tragic love story you need to read in the time of BLM

Whenever I see an “All Lives Matter” comment I immediately think of Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman.

I think of it because I understand that the majority of the people who say this have never been targeted for the color of their skin. They’ve sat in a position of privilege for so long they believe anything that doesn’t include them is oppression.

To that comment, I say: go read Noughts & Crosses. I hope that if they see in fiction their skin being treated as unjustly as George Floyd was treated they’ll realize that “all lives matter” simply can’t make sense.

If they saw a character who looked like them be treated the way this society treats black people, they would understand the Black Lives Matter cause better.

Noughts and Crosses is set against the backdrop of an unequal society, like the one we live in now. The big difference is that black people ‘Crosses’ are in power and white people, ‘Noughts’, are treated as second class citizens.

Noughts and Crosses is provocative in the way it highlights racial tensions, by pushing the narrative with the tragic coupling of Persephone the daughter of a powerful Cross family, and Callum, a Nought whose mother worked for Persephone’s family as a maid before being fired. Persephone grew up with immense privileged while Callum grew up in poverty. The difference in their lives is solely due to their skin.

The book uses significant historical events such as the desegregation of schools to highlight the complexities of their relationship. Persephone and Callum have always hidden at Persephone’s private beach, where no-one disrupts them. Persephone young and naïve to the world’s prejudice believes her and Callum going to the same school will be fun. The reality is far from it.

A mob reminiscent of Little Rock Nine waits for the Noughts, because they don’t want their school desegregated. Imagine this in 1957: black people protesting they do not want white people in their schools.

This hatred was something Callum had warned Persephone about, but her naivety didn’t allow her to understand. Persephone did not see color. This was the problem. She did not see the history of Noughts when she looked at Callum, and that resulted in her telling the mob ‘you are acting like blankers’ in a bid to stop the abuse. This word is derogatory in the book as it is the equivalent to the N-word. Persephone’s privilege blinds her to Callum’s hurt, to his history and identity.

For brief moments in the book we are introduced to Callum’s sister Lynette. Who was beaten up while she was on a date with her Cross boyfriend and ends up committing suicide. Again I pose another question, to commenters of “All Lives Matter”. Can you imagine being that tired of the hatred, anger and violence thrown at you because you look different than those in power? Lynette simply represents the weariness the BLM community feels from having to defend and fight and protest day in and day out.

They grow up and Persephone eventually understands that the world they live in will not allow them to be together. So, Callum joins the Liberation Militia to find justice for Noughts and Persephone goes away to boarding school. Their lives taking different directions. Callum one of advocate and Persephone a life where she can afford to ignore the things that make her uncomfortable.

When they reunite, it is as though nothing has changed. As though time was waiting for them to fall back in love, but this is not a happy love story.

In this book, white and black do not mix.

Persephone ends up pregnant. In a world where miscegenation is illegal. A world where Persephone and Callum can’t get married because it is forbidden. The book parallels with issues that have happened in real life. Like the case of Loving V Virginia, which forced the court to allow interracial relationships in the USA. Though, this doesn’t have the same ending as that of the Loving’s.

Noughts and Crosses touches on race, in a way that makes me want to send the “All Lives Matter” people a copy of this book.

At the end of the book Callum is lynched, I mean hanged, by the government for being part of the militia.

The Noughts and Crosses novel does not just teeter in the realm of fiction, but it is a depiction of reality. A reality we have created and one we must demolish. This does not have to be a society we subscribe to.

They say reality is merely a construct, so why can’t we construct our own?

Get the series on Amazon here, or on The Tempest’s own bookshop supporting local bookstores.

Your twenties may have been the best years of your life; mine were drowned out by war

Our twenties are the years that everyone raves about – the time between being a carefree kid and a responsible adult. It’s the time one often gets their first taste of independence. You’re figuring out who you are, and everything is uncertain and exciting. Disappointments and failure will most definitely be a part of it all, but you can take it in stride. I always imagined my twenties would be that way, full of life, experiences, and fascinating stories. But, I was wrong.

A month after my 20th birthday, a war broke out in Libya. I’m saying goodbye to my twenties soon, and I don’t know how to feel about it. The 2011 revolution started with hope – people fought for their dreams of a brighter future. But that hope was quickly drowned out by darker notions.

By the end of 2012, a new chapter had begun in Benghazi. A chapter characterized by chaos, kidnapping, murder, bombs, and gunfire. Being alive under those circumstances felt heavy, and things progressively got worse.

I can’t say it’s over, I can’t say it’s still ongoing, I can’t really explain it at all. The last decade has managed to make us people we never thought we could be.

War only brings suffering. For years now, the war has stolen souls, destroyed houses, and broken hearts. Behind each door, a sad story is being told, and the more closely you look around, the more you see the depth and scope of the destruction.

After drowning in uncertainty for years and losing track while the counting days, I finally decided to be the one that writes my story. Letting the war steal what remained of my desire to live wasn’t working anymore – I deserved better than that. I wanted to have a better story to tell in my seventies, if I ever lived that long.

I decided to stop following the news entirely. It wasn’t easy at first, denying that reality, but I knew it had to be done. I found myself feeling more energetic. I started doing some volunteer work and made a point of spreading positivity by any means I could. I could bring hope to people, draw smiles upon their faces, and focus on the sweeter things in life.

Life wasn’t perfect, but it seemed brighter than ever. Brighter than war.

Even when my foreign friends asked me about the political situation in Libya, I smiled and replied: “You know, I’m not the right person to ask, I don’t follow the news.” They thought I was being careless, and maybe I was. But what I knew for certain was that if the war was not ending, then that was my attempt at ending it in my own way.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was talking about a Syrian series, and I wanted to check it out. I could relate to everything about it, in a weird, scary way. The sounds of bombs destroying buildings. The fear, dissipating into an almost gray dullness that painted everyone’s faces.  Knowing that, yes, you are breathing, and you are, in fact, alive, but you’re inhaling the very smoke from the rubble of the war that has stolen years that belonged to you and the people you love.

I realized that as hard as I tried to block it all out, there was no use. You can’t just erase memories and events that made you who you are. So, now, I choose to remember.

War still claims lives, breaks hearts, and overburdens souls. Yet, it taught me one life-changing lesson: we’re not capable of changing what’s forcibly happened, but we can change the way we deal with it. I can’t give life back to those who lost theirs, I can’t rebuild the destroyed souls and houses, I can’t act like nothing has happened or pretend to be someone else. But I absolutely can be the light.

21 amazing fashion and beauty brands donating to the Black Lives Matter movement

Following the wave of protests that have erupted around the world after the murder of George Floyd, a number of fashion and beauty brands have been more vocal about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

While allyship comes in many forms, one of the many ways brands (and people) can help in the fight against systemic racism is by financially supporting organizations and Black-owned businesses. Here are some brands you can support – and fight systemic racism while doing so.

1. Haverhill Jewelry

via Haverhill Jewelry (Image Description: The Haverhill Hope Collection, a dangly gold necklace adorned with Amethyst, Sapphire and Blue Topaz charms)

The jewelry brand is donating 100% of the sales proceeds from the Hope Collection to the organization Color of Change which includes a collection of bracelets and necklaces.

2. Fear of God 

via Instagram (@fearofgod) (Image Description: Black t-shirt with a gray GF logo embroidered in the middle) 

Fear of God released a new T-shirt with the mission to support George Floyd’s six-year-old daughter, Gianna Floyd. They recently collaborated with eight other street style brands including Pyer Moss, Off-White, Denim Tears, AwakeNY, Noah Clothing, Just Don, Union Los Angeles, and Melody Eshani, for this charitable cause. 100% of the shirt’s proceeds will be donated to the Gianna Floyd Fund.

3.  Mented Cosmetics

via Instagram (@mentedcosmetics) (Image Description: Series of tinted lip glosses in pink, peach, salmon, glossy red, caramel and chocolate brown)

The Black-owned beauty brand announced on Instagram that they will donate a percentage portion of every sale to benefit protestors around the country, beginning with bail funds in New York City.

4. Staud Clothing 

via Staud Clothing (Image Description: woman dressed in green and white cut out dress holds a small white bean bag)

Staud has already donated $10,000 to the Color of Change organization and has additionally pledged to donate 10% of all sales made in the month of June to the nonprofit.

5.  Peter Do

via Peter Do (Image Description: Series of women dressed in (clockwise L-R, black long sleeve dress with heeled boots, leather black tank top with a pleated white shirt, olive trench shirt with boot-legged olive green pants, gray sweater with a pleated gray skirt and metallic boots, black sweater, pleated leather skirt, black riding boots and gray dress, gray coat and black riding boots)

This contemporary clothing brand recently announced its plans to donate a percentage of their e-commerce sales to a number of BLM organizations including Color of ChangeBYP100, and Black Visions Collective as well as charities and organizations who would be receiving the donated funds.

6.  Vernon Francois 

via Vernon Francois (Image Description: Series of Haircare products including shampoo, essential oil and hairspray)

Vernon Francois, a Black-owned vegan and cruelty-free haircare brand is committed to donating over a third of their online sales to several grassroots organizations in support of racial equality and justice.

7.  Citizens of Humanity 

via Citizens of Humanity (Image Description: series of face masks in navy blue, denim, cream, camouflage and bright white)

Citizens of Humanity is standing in solidarity with BLM, by announcing their mission to donate 100% of their e-commerce sales of face masks across 10 organizations, including Black Lives MatterACLUColor of ChangeRebuild Foundation, throughout the month of June.

8. 10Dee

via 10Deep (Image Description: A canvas tote with logo 10Deep embroidered in the middle in rainbow colors.)

This New York-based streetwear brand said that they will reduce items available on their website to those who speak directly to issues of racial injustice and donate 100% of e-commerce sales of these items to organizations such as the National Bail Fund which is working to help those arrested in the nationwide protests. 

9. Prabal Gurung

via Prabal Gurung (Image Description: Black Sweater with phrase ‘Stronger in Colour’ embroidered in the middle)

This reputable high fashion luxury brand is one of the few designer brands dedicated to fully supporting the BLM Movement. They recently launched the limited edition ‘Stronger in Colour Collection’ comprised of t-shirts and sweatshirts, and are committed to donating 100% of sale proceeds of this collection to The Bail Project

10. Aerosoles

via Aerosoles (Image Description: collection of wedges, white strappy sandals and white/black/cheetah print high heels)

This reputable shoewear brand recently announced their mission to support racial justice and combat discrimination by donating 10% sales proceeds, starting June 2nd to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

11.  Agmes

via Agmes (Image Description: Black necklace adorned with a Sculpted Heart Pendant)

This NYC based jewelry brand, who counts model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as a fan, is committed to donating 100% of proceeds from sales of their exclusive Sculpted Heart pendant, small Vera earrings, pearl studs, Luca earrings and mini Astrid hoops to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. for the remainder of June.

12. Alder New York 

via Alder New York (Image Description: Cooling Mineral Hydro Mist)

This NYC based beauty brand announced their plans to donate 10% of sales from their Cooling Mineral Hydro Mist throughout the month of June to BLM organizations including Fair Fight, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Communities United Against Police Brutality.

13. Alison Lou

via Alison Lou (Image Description: series of rainbow, cloud, shooting star and lightning charms and studs)

This celebrity-adorned jewelry brand showcased in numerous editorial magazines is committed to donating 15% of proceeds for sales on new arrival orders to The Loveland Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to providing resources to communities of color, particularly Black women and girls.

14. Bychari

via Instagram (@bycari) (Image Description: collection of gold rings, earrings and chained necklace)

This LA-based jewelry brand will donate 25% of profits from sales to Black Girls Code and Girl Trek for the remainder of June. 

15. Deviant

via Deviant (Description: Bottle of black labeled skincare cleanser)

This modernistic and ethically sourced skincare line will donate 15% of online sales profits to the Emergency Relief Fund and The Okra Project between June 1st – July 15th.

16. Fleur du Mal

via Fleur du Mal (Image Description: Woman wearing a black lace-paneled dress)

This NYC based lingerie brand, with celebrity followers such as Emma Roberts and Devon Baldwin, is committed to  donating 10% of sales to the Know Your Rights Camp’s Legal Defense Initiative

17. La Porte

via La Porte (Image Description: Three women wearing a cut-out swimsuit in blue, pink and white)

This luxury swim brand, as featured on Harper’s Baazar and ELLE Magazine, announced that they will be donating 50% of all sales to the NAACP and Minnesota Freedom Fund beginning on June 1. 

18. Laurus

via Instagram (@laurus) (Image Description: Woman carries a vibrant green, alligator print handbag with gold adorned logo on the handle)

This Italian handbag and accessories brand will donate 100% of profits made throughout the month of June to organizations such as NAACP and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp and Show Racism the Red Card.

19. Lou Dallas

via Instagram (@loudallasbyraffaella) (Image Description: Man wears a black t-shirt with a design)

The bold streetwear brand launched two campaigns in support of BLM. They will donate 50% of sales from the End Militarism T-Shirt to Black Visions Collective and 30% of sales from the Crop Savage Hoodie to organizations such as The Okra ProjectBlack Trans Femmes in the Arts and the Black Trans Travel Fund.

20. Mai Mia

via Mai Mia (Image Description: Woman wears a cut-out demi bra, black leggings, leather gloves carrying a black pole)

This LA-based swim line with fans like Korean-American YouTuber Jenn Im is committed to donating 30% of profits from all online sales to the ACLU throughout the month of June.

21. Tanya Taylor

via Tanya Taylor (Image Description: Woman wears a long colorblock dress in teal, yellow and blue)

This designer label, who was recently featured on Vogue Magazine, will be donating 20% of net sales to the NAACP beginning on June 1st. 

As a Desi woman, I was taught that my hyperpigmented armpits were unnatural

I read in a magazine once that having pretty underarms (or armpits, pick one!) is an essential element for overall beauty and desirability.

My underarms, being hyperpigmented, did not fall into the “pretty underarms” description, so when I was 15-years-old, I attempted to lighten my underarms with a bleaching cream. Over several weeks, I diligently applied the cream twice a day every day as directed by the box. And to my delight, it worked – for a little while.

Once I stopped using it, to my extreme disappointment, my underarms went back to their normal, hyperpigmented self.

I’ve also used lemon juice, turmeric powder, and lightening creams to get rid of my hyperpigmentation. I’ve even tried to cover them up with makeup.

In short, I was obsessed with trying to meet the ultimate beauty ideals the models in that magazine and other forms of media epitomized. When I saw their perfectly toned underarms, my first thoughts weren’t photoshop or airbrush techniques, but I want my underarms to look that perfect.

I’ve even tried to cover the color up with makeup.

It took me a long time to acknowledge and understand that these beauty standards were Eurocentric, and that they, along with other forces, were priming my mind to hate my own skin.

Being a darker-skinned South Asian woman, I am no stranger to being uncomfortable with my skin tone. Colorism is an unfortunate and unchecked corruption that colonialism has intensified and deeply ingrained into South Asian society. It has caused undue damage and destruction to the minds and lives of girls like me.

Colorism, paired with Eurocentric beauty standards that I will never reach, has created the panic and insecurity I feel when it comes to my dark underarms. This ideology is a strain on my mental health that has kept me from truly accepting myself and accepting that hyperpigmentation is natural.

The truth of the matter is that hyperpigmentation in underarms is natural, especially in people of color. There are only a few cases in which it can indicate underlying issues. But most of the time, all hyperpigmentation is, is an overproduction of melanin.

The truth of the matter is that hyperpigmentation in underarms is natural, especially in people of color.

People of color have more melanin in their skin and as a result, are more prone to an overproduction of it. Darker underarms can also be caused by environmental factors like shaving, deodorants, and sun-exposure.

Underarm discoloration certainly has nothing to do with beauty, nor does having “pretty” underarms have anything to do with desirability.

This is a normal part of our bodies; it is a natural thing our bodies do.

Most of society is still far behind from this more progressive line of thinking, however. Google “underarm discoloration” or “underarm hyperpigmentation.”

Go on, I’ll wait. What did you find?

The entire first page of results is littered with articles about the treatment and prevention of underarm discoloration and links to skin lightening creams. Phrases like “pigmentation problems” and “pigmentation disorders” are most dominant.

Almost every article lists remedies to get rid of dark underarms. Most articles begin with a declaration of hyperpigmentation being normal but then immediately transition into how it can be abnormal and even dangerous, which plays on the psychology of those of us with underarm hyperpigmentation.

What does it say about our society when it tells us that an excess of melanin is an instant cause for concern and discomfort? Hyperpigmentation in underarms, in most cases, does not need treating nor does it indicate anything about beauty, whatsoever.

My underarm discoloration has been a source of anxiety for me for years. To this day, I am still a little bit insecure about it. If I’m wearing a sleeveless top or dress, I try not to expose my underarms because I haven’t been able to fully accept them as part of me.

This is a normal part of our bodies; it is a natural thing our bodies do.

This insecurity and constant surveillance of myself is exhausting; it’s taken a huge toll on my mental health and confidence level. I still sometimes feel a fear that tells me I will be judged and deemed unworthy somehow for having underarm discoloration.

It sounds ridiculous, but years of dealing with Eurocentric beauty ideals in both South Asia and the United States has given me insecurity that whispers words of unkindness and doubts into my ear no matter how far I’ve moved away from trying to embody these ideals.

Still, I am progressing.

My underarm hyperpigmentation is normal and natural, and one day, I will accept that completely.

So is yours, and so will you.

Transgender and intersex people in Bangladesh have recognition on paper, but their lives haven’t been made any easier

Trigger warnings: Mentions of transphobic comments/incidents

Disclaimer: The word “hijra” is commonly used in reference to the South Asian transgender and intersex community. In Pakistan, the word takes on a derogatory connotation and much of the community does not approve of its use. However, in Bangladesh, many members of the community are proud to consider themselves hijra. While it can be used in a derogatory way at times by non-transgender people, like how the word gay is used as an insult in America, many people have gradually begun to reclaim the word and its meaning. 

I was first introduced to the hijra community in Bangladesh when I was 15 years old. It was 2009, and I was at my uncle’s wedding. They arrived unannounced to the front yard of my family’s home to perform dances and songs, and asked for payment. I was fascinated by them – growing up in the United States had robbed me of the lived cultural experiences my cousins who grew up in Bangladesh had. But I also noticed how some of my family members were uncomfortable and angry at the arrival of the hijra. Some even yelled at them to leave. I became uncomfortable with those reactions; I didn’t understand why they reacted so negatively.

That day, I learned that hijra is an identification category for a third gender. In South Asia, the term, hijra, refers to a subset of transgender people. They do not associate themselves with the sex and culturally correlated gender assigned at birth; in fact, they do not identify as either male or female, man or woman. Thus, they categorize themselves as hijra – a third category. Many intersex people also identify as hijra in South Asia. It is a widespread notion in South Asia that most hijra are born biologically male and assigned a male gender category at birth, and later identify with what is culturally perceived as feminine gender roles. Thus, the dominant view also in evidently overlooks the recognition of trans men.

My mother explained to me that hijra will often show up at large celebratory life events, like weddings and the birth of babies, to sing, dance, and pray for the families. Afterwards, they ask for payment because it is one of their only avenues of income. She also told me the hijra community is severely discriminated against – they are excluded from “normal” society because they do not fit into the culturally accepted (mythical) binary of gender and sex. They are a neglected and segregated people.

And that’s when I understood those negative reactions I witnessed. Those guests and family members, like many in Bangladesh, were prejudiced and bigoted against the hijra community. And that’s what spurred me to educate myself and others about this community as much as I was capable of.

On January 26, 2014, the government of Bangladesh announced the legal recognition of hijra with the following statement: “The Government of Bangladesh has recognized the Hijra community of Bangladesh as a Hijra sex.” This recognition was a huge victory for the hijra community – they held a celebratory Pride Parade later in the year 2014 – but there’s so much more that needs to be done, and it starts with the very terminology.

Academic circles and Western narratives refer to hijra as a third gender, but the terms gender and sex are conflated in South Asia. Thus, there is little understanding of what it means to identify as hijra – that is a major disadvantage to the community because while recognition of them exists, knowledge of this identity category does not. Because hijra are considered social outcasts, there is not enough developed discourse that allows their voices and lived experiences to become common knowledge. As a result, people have varying degrees of knowledge of what hijra means. Some believe being homosexual and transgender are the same things (this, of course, is completely incorrect – sexuality does not equal gender identity); some believe hijra are only trans women; some believe they are only intersex people. This lack of understanding is extremely problematic and further marginalizes hijra.

Without providing proper guidelines and explanation of who hijra are and solely going off of the widely varying personal understandings of what hijra means, this recognition does not mean much.  In December of 2014, the Ministry of Social Welfare in Bangladesh allowed hijra to apply for jobs within the government – a large step forward for their community. But measurements were taken to find proof that those lining up to interview for these positions were, in fact, hijra. Candidates were not only asked questions about their gender identities and sexuality, they were also stripped down while doctors examined their genital areas to make sure they were “authentic” hijra. This humiliation and harassment come from both bigotry and the lack of attempts to publicly define the term “hijra.”

Furthermore, solely recognizing this third category did not establish stable constitutional rights for the hijra community, such as being able to own and inherit property. Rape laws were not changed to include hijras; they still do not have easy access to medical facilities; there is no official government database as of yet to count their population to assess their needs and demands; and laws that implicitly enforce heteronormativity in Bangladesh are still interpreted in ways to harm and punish non-heteronormative behavior.

Hijra are socially marginalized to the extreme and their frustrations and vulnerabilities have been historically overlooked. Because of their outsider status, they have essentially created their own sub-society with their own language (Ulty), ritual ceremonies, and families (because they are often excluded from their own).

Yet, the hijra community has existed in South Asia for over 4,000 years. They are celebrated in Hindu texts and had high status during the reign of the Mughal Empire. They worked as performers and bodyguards and were an active part of the Mughal Empire’s success.

When Britain invaded and colonized South Asia, they began an active attempt to eliminate hijra communities in the area because the hijra identity challenged Western morality and conceptions of gender. British colonizers classified hijra as eunuchs rather than trying to understand their identity, and stripped them of their status by only allowing them to work as domestic workers or farmers.

Colonization has had a long-lasting impact on how current South Asian societies view the hijra community. But now, the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, is increasingly turning a blind eye to the violence and injustice the hijra community faces in order to pander to rising Islamic ideals. The government’s failure to take action is, in large part, the reason hijra suffer such prejudice.

As of now, hijra do not have equal and equitable employment opportunities. They are economically exploited. Even though the government has taken rudimentary steps to provide them with jobs, they are met with discrimination. Many live in poverty and are forced to beg for money or become sex workers, further demonizing and dehumanizing them in the eyes of society. The public stigma about hijra is that they are uneducated and immoral, yet the underlying problem – the fact that they have extremely limited access to jobs and educational opportunities in the first place – is unaddressed. Their status as an extreme form of “other” has disenfranchised them most. Their social exclusion has led to their economic exclusion.

Only as recently as 2018 were hijra allowed to vote under this third gender category and in July of 2018, Bangladesh’s government appointed Tanisha Yeasmin Chaity as the first hijra official in the National Human Rights Commission. These are great steps for Bangladesh to take in securing rights for the hijra community, but there is still a long way to go.

Hijra are, essentially, the oldest transgender community in the world. Since first being introduced to the hijra community at 15, I have done research and written academic papers to call attention to the injustice of their status. Othering groups of people, punishing them for being different from the mainstream, and economically subjugating them for that difference is something I cannot reconcile with my conscience and morality. From afar, I have attempted to educate Bangladeshi communities both within the United States and Bangladesh. There are not many advocacy groups to help hijra in Bangladesh, but one notable group is called the Bangladesh Hijra Kalyan Foundation has been around for quite a while. I keep up with their advocacy activities such as bringing attention to the hijra community’s economic state and providing communities with food. In August of 2016, an NGO named Uttoran Foundation began efforts to better the social and economic statuses of hijra. Like all impoverished and segregated communities in the world, the hijra deserve allies and advocates to fight alongside them for their rights. The attitude and mindset of society has to change. We must decolonize our minds and view hijra as human beings.

45 best queer movies and TV shows that you should watch right now

Happy Pride Month! To spread some queer cheer, we’re sharing a list of our favorite TV shows and films featuring LGBTQIA+ characters. So call up your friends, your boo, cuddle your plants and pets closer to stream the ultimate Pride watch list!

1. The Half Of It

The Half Of It
[Image description: Ellie Chu watching movies with her dad and best friend] Via The Half Of It

What it’s about: Ellie Chu is a small town loner, helping her father with his station master duties and running a business writing essays for her classmates. She insists on keeping to herself until Paul Munsky, a jock, asks her for help writing a love letter to their classmate Aster Flores. Here is our full review of the film.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

2. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
[Image description: Soonam Kapoor anxiously gazing at her reflection] Via Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga

What it’s about: The film title translates to “I Saw A Girl And Felt This Way,” and is Bollywood’s first rom-com starring lesbian love interests. Sweety Chaudry must juggle living in conservative Punjab, impending expectations of marriage (to a boy) and a playwright who develops a crush on her (not realizing he’s not Sweet’s type). 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

3. Moonlight

[Image description: Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, teaching Chiron how to swim] Via David Bornfriend/A24

What it’s about: Split up into three parts, this coming of age film follows the main character through different phases of his life in Miami, Florida where he struggles with his sexuality and identity. Moonlight won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and stars Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, and Trecante Rhodes. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

4. Love, Simon

love simon
[Image description: Simon leaning in for a kiss underneath the mistletoe] Via Love, Simon

What it’s about: Simon Spier is a closeted 16-year-old, secretly writing letters to an anonymous friend he’s fallen in love with online and carefully hiding his sexuality from everyone. Simon’s carefully crafted life is endangered when a blackmailer threatens to out him to his whole school. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

5. Euphoria 

[Image description: Rue staring at Jules] Via Euphoria

What it’s about: HBO’s Euphoria follows a group of high schoolers. The main story is that of 17-year-old Rue, a drug addict fresh from rehab with no plans to stay clean. Circling in Rue’s orbit are Jules, a transgender girl searching for where she belongs; Nate, a jock whose anger issues mask sexual insecurities; Chris, a football star who finds the adjustment from high school to college harder than expected; Cassie, whose sexual history continues to dog her; and Kat, a body-conscious teen exploring her sexuality. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

6. The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl
[Image description: Lili Elbe, played by Eddie Redmayne staring at her reflection] Via The Danish Girl

What it’s about: Loosely based off of one of the earliest recipients of sex reassignment surgery, this film tells the story of 1920s Danish artist, Lili Elbe, played by Eddie Redmayne. It follows Lili’s transition as husband Einer Wegener to the wife of Gerda Wegener, a tentatively supportive painter.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

Shop Blue Sky Today!

7. Orange Is the New Black

[Image description: The cast of OITNB standing in the prison cafeteria] Via Orange Is The New Black

What it’s about: A dramedy set in a minimum-security federal prison, this series follows various prisoners as they navigate life under lock and key. Piper Chapman is completely unprepared to see her ex-girlfriend locked up with her, as she is responsible for tearing Piper away from freedom and her fiance, Larry.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

8. Killing Eve 

Killing Eve
[Image description: Eve, played by Sandra Oh, a knife pointed at her by rival Villanelle] Via Killing Eve

What it’s about: This UK thriller comedy show tells the story of two female spies and their increasing obsession with each other. Eve, played by Sandra Oh is a bored MI5 agent until she is recruited by MI6 to hunt down international assassin Villanelle. Both women begin to lose focus in their initial assignments and become more interested in learning more about each other. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

9. Sense8

[Image description: The sensates cheering and dancing in victory] Via Sense8

What it’s about: A sci-fi Netflix series, Sense8 tells the story of eight individuals inexplicably connected to each other from birth. Called “sensates” for their extraordinary ability to experience what the others in the group are living through, they must stay alive long enough to find out why a secret government organization wants them dead. Shot on-location in cities like Berlin and Mumbai, Sense8 boasts diversity and an inclusive cast. 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

10. Sex Education

sex education
[Image description: the student body shocked and amused in Sex Education] Via Sex Education

What it’s about: Otis, played by Asa Butterfield, is an insecure virgin and the teenaged son of a sex therapist. After successfully administering sex therapy to a fellow classmate by accident, Otis becomes his school’s most sought after resource as everyone seems to be struggling with “sex problems”. Helping him navigate this new attention is his openly gay best friend Eric and savvy new business partner, Maeve Wiley. 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

11. The Rocky Horror Picture Show 

rocky horror
[Image description: Dr. Frank N Furter and castle servants performing] Via The Rocky Horror Picture Show

What it’s about: A musical comedy production like no other, this film opens on a dark and stormy night when a naive, newly engaged young couple’s car breaks down. They seek help from a nearby castle, whose owner turns out to be Dr. Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist and alien trans woman that has managed to create a muscle man. Dr. Frank N. Furter and the castle servants begin to seduce the innocent couple separately. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

12. High Fidelity

high fidelity
[Image description: Rob, played by Zoe Kravitz] Via High Fidelity

What it’s about: A Hulu original starring Zoe Kravitz, High Fidelity follows the romantic life of Brooklynite and struggling record shop owner Rob. Freshly full of heartbreak, Rob cracks a scheme to come to terms with her love life, determined to track down her Top 5 failed relationships to ask her partners why they left her. 

Where you can watch it: Hulu

13. Queer Eye

Queer Eye
[Image description: The Fab Five of Queer Eye] Via Queer Eye

What it’s about: This Netflix reboot launches a new Fab Five, queer makeover experts that tour the US in search of nominees in need of a confidence boost. Tan France serves as the stylist, Antoni Porowski is the food expert, Karamo Brown is the culture extraordinaire, Bobby Berk is responsible for design and Jonathan Van Ness is the team groomer. 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

14. Modern Family

Modern Family
[Image description: The cast of the mockumentary assembled in the living room] Via Modern Family

What it’s about: A mockumentary following an extended American family, this sitcom is set in suburban Los Angeles. So named “modern”, among the show’s family members are a gay couple on their journey to becoming fathers. Mitchell and Cameron were one of American TV’s earliest depictions of wholesome gay dads. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

15. How Gay Is Pakistan?

how gay is pakistan?
[Image description: host Mawaan Rizwan standing in a crowded street of Pakistan] Via How Gay is Pakistan?

What it’s about: This BBC documentary film investigates gay culture in Pakistan, where the punishment for being openly gay is up to ten years in prison or the death penalty. In spite of the law, this film follows eager and comedic British Pakistani Mawaan Rizan on his quest to find the gay scene in his homeland. Along the way, we learn about Pakistan’s gay dating culture, the large trans community, and meet various gay rights activists. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

16. But I’m A Cheerleader

[Image description: Two young women stare at the camera, shocked.] via Lionsgate Films
[Image description: Two young women stare at the camera, shocked.] via Lionsgate Films

What it’s about: When Megan’s friends and family begin to suspect she’s gay, her parents intervene and enroll her in a weird residential conversion therapy program. It’s a camp ’90s classic of John Waters-like proportions with a message of self-acceptance and community at its heart.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

17. 52 Tuesdays

52 Tuesdays
[Image description: A pair embracing framed in sunlight] Via 52 Tuesdays

What it’s about: This Australian coming-of-age film shares the experience of a teenage girl struggling to deal with her mother transitioning to a male identity. Billie is sent to live with her father, whom her mother Jane divorced for the year that Jane is transitioning to James. The only time Billie gets to see James is on each Tuesday of the week. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

18. Call Me By Your Name 

call me by your name
[Image description: Elio and the graduate student he falls in love with] Via Call Me By Your Name

What it’s about: Starring Timothee Chalamet, this film is set in the summer of 1983 in Northern Italy. 17-year-old Elio becomes involved with his father’s 23-year-old graduate student. As the summer goes on, the two fall in love with each other, remaining closeted and keeping their relationship a secret, despite everyone knowing. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

19. Broad City

broad city
[Image description: Ilana Gazer and Abbi Jacobson] Via Broad City

What it’s about: This television sitcom follows the lives of two twenty-somethings as they try to “make it” in New York. Based on a popular web series and inspired by the leads’ real-life friendship, Broad City explores the bonds and sometimes-cringe humor between the women. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

20. Pose

[Image description: NYC’s ballroom culture in the 90s] Via Pose

What it’s about: Featuring a largely Black and Latino cast, this series focuses on the ballroom culture of New York City in the 80s and 90s. Most notably the show centers the AIDS crisis of the 90s, showing how hard the community was hit by how frequently characters attended funerals. The series also traces the popularity of dance styles and the various contributions of the LGBTQIA+ community to mainstream pop culture. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

21. Gentleman Jack

gentleman jack
[Image description: Anne Lister and Anne Walker] Via Gentleman Jack

What it’s about: Inspired by the real-life diaries of the lesbian landowner and industrialist Anne Lister, this historical drama series is set in Yorkshire in the early 1900s. While restoring her uncle’s estate, Anne Lister meets Ann Walker, an unusual lady landowner with whom she begins a secret and dangerous romantic relationship. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

22. Carol 

[Image description: Carol and Therese in Carol’s living room] Via Carol

What it’s about: Set in 1952 New York City, this romantic drama tells the story of Therese Belivet, an aspiring photographer and the glamorous Carol Aird. Therese and Carol are both struggling with their respective male partners when they meet each other and instantly have a connection. Against the charming backdrop of Christmastime in New York, this film tells the story of a budding romance. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

23. Before Stonewall

before stonewall
[Image description: An LGBTQ+ march for equality] Via Before Stonewall

What it’s about: Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community is a 1984 documentary film about the LGBTQIA+ community before the events of the Stonewall riots. This film outlines the struggles and challenges the lesbian and community faced leading up to Stonewall. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

24. Portrait of a Lady on Fire 

[Image Description: Two women embrace each other just about to kiss.] via Portrait of a Lady on Fire
[Image Description: Two women embrace each other just about to kiss.] via Portrait of a Lady on Fire

What it’s about: Set on a remote shore in Britain in the 18th century. Marianne, a young painter has been commissioned to paint a portrait of a young woman named Heloise, who will soon marry. The director, Celine Sciamma, doesn’t hold back while she explores the growing passion between Marianne and Heloise.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

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25. Brokeback Mountain

[Image Description: Two cowboys content in each others arms.] via Brokeback Mountain
[Image Description: Two cowboys content in each other’s arms.] via Brokeback Mountain

What it’s about: During the summer of 1963, two cowboys start a sexual relationship after they are both hired to look after sheep in the secluded Wyoming mountains. The movie follows the rest of their lives as they attempt to forget their romantic past and move forward in their respective heterosexual relationships, despite an enduring and intense infatuation with one another.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

26. A Very English Scandal

[Image Description: A man in a suit stands with his hand on his hips worried.] via A Very English Scandal
[Image Description: A man in a suit stands with his hand on his hips worried.] via A Very English Scandal

What it’s about: This incredible TV series is based on the true story of 1970s British politician Jeremy Thorpe. He has a secret: he’s gay. Like many men in his position he solicits sex from naive victims then dumps them when he’s done. However, the mini-series takes a twist when he’s charged with conspiracy to murder.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

27. Pride 

[Image Description: A pride march going through London Bridge. A man in a leather jacket sits in other protestors shoulders with a megaphone.] va Pride
[Image Description: A pride march going through London Bridge. A man in a leather jacket sits on other protesters’ shoulders with a megaphone.] via Pride

What it’s about: After Joe is cast out of his family home, he joins an up-and-coming activist group led by a charismatic gay rights campaigner, Mark. Based on a heartwarming true story, the group correlates their struggle with that of the striking miners and head off to a mining village in Wales to try and establish a political coalition against the Thatcher government with them.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

28. RENT

[Image description: Angry men and women stand together in an array of different clothing colors and identities.] via Sony Pictures Releasing
[Image description: Angry men and women stand together in an array of different clothing colors and identities.] via Sony Pictures Releasing

What it’s about: Loosely based on Puccini’s 1896 opera La Bohème, seven friends living in the East Village of New York City in the ’80s form a group bonded by economic hardship, a love of the arts, and an ongoing battle against the AIDS crisis. It swings from sad to absurd, and has a killer soundtrack full of iconic musical favorites!

Where you can watch it: Amazon

29. Hedwig and the Angry Inch

[Image Description: A transgender woman with long blonde hair and a microphone performs on stage.] via Hedwig and the Angry Inch
[Image Description: A woman with long blonde hair and a microphone performs on stage.] via Hedwig and the Angry Inch

What it’s about: This rock musical explores the life of Hedwig Robinson, a trans East German rock singer, who tours the US with her band while she tells her story. It explores the origins of love, sexuality, and the ever-fluctuating gender of its campy yet endearing title character. Hedwig assists all who watch, in guiding them through what finding that “other half” really means, whether it be love, identity, or a punk persona within all of us.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

30. Dallas Buyers Club 

[Image Description: A man and drag queen sit on bench facing away from each other.] via Dallas Buyers Club
[Image Description: A man and drag queen sit on a bench facing away from each other.] via Dallas Buyers Club

What it’s about: Set in 1985, this film tells the story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas cowboy whose life is turned upside down when he finds out he is HIV-positive. He ends up establishing a way for fellow HIV-positive people to get access to treatments for the disease.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

Try 5 Frames Before You Buy

31. Philadelphia

[Image Description: Courtroom scene. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington sitting next to each other.] via Philadelphia
[Image Description: Courtroom scene. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington sitting next to each other.] via Philadelphia

What it’s about: This movie was one of the first Hollywood movies to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia. The story is to-the-point yet powerful: fearing it would compromise his career, lawyer Andrew Beckett hides his homosexuality and HIV status at a powerful Philadelphia law firm. But his secret is exposed when a colleague spots the illness’s telltale lesions. Fired shortly afterward, Beckett resolves to sue for discrimination, teaming up with Joe Miller, the only lawyer willing to help. 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

32. The Birdcage

[Image Description: A man with a painted face and red lipstick, clutches his tie in worry.] via The Birdcage
[Image Description: A man with a painted face and red lipstick, clutches his tie in worry.] via The Birdcage

What it’s about: This hilarious, over-the-top comedy centers on a gay cabaret owner and his drag queen partner, who agree to pretend to be straight so that their son can introduce them to his fiancee’s conservative parents. The results of this, as might be expected, is a hilarious disaster.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

33. Boys Don’t Cry

[Image Description: Hilary Swank looks off into the distance, sitting on a bench.] via Boys Don't Cry
[Image Description: Hilary Swank looks off into the distance, sitting on a bench.] via Boys Don’t Cry

What it’s about: This movie is based on the tragic true story of Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old trans man who lost his life after his gender identity was outed by the woman he’d fallen in love with. The story flows in a gritty and hard-hitting style, and makes sure Brandon’s life and impact will never be forgotten.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

34. Mysterious Skin

[Image Description: A transgender woman with long blonde hair and a microphone performs on stage.] via Hedwig and the Angry Inch
[Image Description: A young man looks intensely in the distance.] via Mysterious Skin

What it’s about“The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life. Five hours, lost, gone without a trace…” These are the words of Brian Lackey, a troubled 18-year-old plagued by nightmares and under the belief that he was the victim of alien abduction. On the other end is Neil McCormick, a young man that moves to New York in an attempt to forget the childhood memories that haunt him. Now, 10 years later, Neil’s pursuit of love leads him to New York City, while Brian’s voyage of self-discovery leads him to Neil — who helps him to unlock the dark secrets of their past.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

35. Ma Vie En Rose

[Image Description: A young boy wearing a white dress wears a veil.] via Ma Vie En Rose
[Image Description: A young boy wearing a white dress wears a veil.] via Ma Vie En Rose

What it’s about: In this Belgian movie, six-year-old Ludovic believes that he was meant to be a little girl, and waits for the mistake to be fixed. Where he waits for the miraculous, Ludo finds only rejection, isolation, and guilt from those in his family and community. It’s a truly powerful movie, and one that comes with its own difficult backstory.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

36. A Single Man

[Image Description: Colin Firth looks despondently at a bookshelf.] via A Single Man
[Image Description: Colin Firth looks despondently at a bookshelf.] via A Single Man

What it’s about: Colin Firth plays an English professor unable to cope with his day to day life after the death of his boyfriend. He decides to commit suicide, but the story changes as his day unfolds. As he tries to survive, he encounters a Spanish immigrant, then his best friend, who just so happens to be in love with him. As a result, he begins to rethink life.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

37. High Maintenance

[Image Description: A man on the phone looks to the distance.] via High Maintenance
[Image Description: A man on the phone looks to the distance.] via High Maintenance

What it’s about: This TV show provides a glimpse into various New Yorkers who are all linked by a common thread: their weed deliveryman. Each episode focuses on clients from every class and borough as they call on The Guy for deliveries.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

38. Margarita With a Straw 

[Image Description: A woman sucking on a curly straw.] via Margarita with a Straw
[Image Description: A woman sucking on a curly straw.] via Margarita with a Straw

What it’s about: A young woman with cerebral palsy moves from India to New York City to attend NYU on a semester abroad. There, she meets a blind girl of Pakistani-Bangladeshi descent and falls in love.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

39. Life Partners

[Image Description: Two friends sit on a bed laughing and having fun.] via Life Partners
[Image Description: Two friends sit on a bed laughing and having fun.] via Life Partners

What it’s about: Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs play codependent friends whose friendship is tested when one of them starts to get serious with a guy. Sasha, played by Meester begins to feel neglected after her best friend’s love life seems to be doing better than her own.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

40. 120 BPM

[Image Description: A young man looks away while another man tries to kiss him.] via BPM
[Image Description: A young man looks away while another man tries to kiss him.] via 120 BPM

What it’s about:  It’s the early 1990s in Paris, and anti-AIDS pressure group ACT UP is fed up with the government’s lack of interest and active censorship of the AIDS epidemic across France. We closely observe the group and their radical acts of protest, whilst also following the brief but beautiful relationship between HIV-negative newcomer, Nathan, and HIV-positive veteran, Sean.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

41. Fire

[Image Description: Two Indian women hold each other warmly, while smiling.] via Fire
[Image Description: Two Indian women hold each other warmly while smiling.] via Fire

What it’s about: Two women abandoned by their husbands find love in each other. This movie caused much controversy when it first came out in India, and theatres were attacked by Hindu fundamentalists because of the lesbian storyline.

42. Faking It

[Image Description: A blond and brunette girl embrace and kiss each other.] via Faking It
[Image Description: A blond and brunette girl embrace and kiss each other.] via Faking It

What it’s about: A romantic comedy TV show about two best friends who love each other — in slightly different ways. After numerous failed attempts to become popular, the girls are mistakenly outed as lesbians, which launches them to instant celebrity status. Seduced by their newfound fame, Karma and Amy decide to keep up their romantic ruse.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

43. This Is Not Berlin

[Image Description: A man with gay written in red multiple times on his body.] via This is not Berlin
[Image Description: A man with gay written in red multiple times on his body.] via This is not Berlin

What it’s about: It’s 1986 in Mexico City, and we meet seventeen-year-old Carlos. He doesn’t fit in anywhere: not in his family nor with the friends he has chosen in school. But everything changes when he is invited to a mythical nightclub where he discovers the underground nightlife scene: post-punk, sexual liberty, and drugs that challenges the relationship with his best friend Gera and lets him find his passion for art.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

44. The Bold Type

[Image Description: Three women wearing luxury dresses.] via The Bold Type
[Image Description: Three women wearing luxury dresses.] via The Bold Type

What it’s about: This amazing show is inspired and produced by Cosmopolitan editor in chief Joanna Coles. Revealing a glimpse into the outrageous lives and loves of those behind the global women’s magazine, “Scarlet”, this incredible show centers around the rising generation of women finding their own voices in a sea of intimidating leaders. Inspired by the life of former Cosmopolitan magazine editor-in-chief (Joanna Coles), the series weaves together the stories and struggles of some truly badass women.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

45. The Color Purple

[Image Description: Whoopi Goldberg sits on a chair with her hands on her face.] via The Color Purple
[Image Description: Whoopi Goldberg sits on a chair with her hands on her face.] via The Color Purple

What it’s aboutAn epic tale spanning forty years in the life of Celie, an African-American woman living in the South who survives incredible abuse and bigotry. After Celie’s abusive father marries her off to the equally debasing “Mister” Albert Johnson, things go from bad to worse, leaving Celie to find companionship anywhere she can. She perseveres, holding on to her dream of one day being reunited with her sister and finding her identity in the meantime.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

The fashion industry cannot claim sustainability if they keep mistreating their employees

Let’s talk about sustainability and ethical practices in the fashion industry.

Last year, I found out that globally, we are producing 13 million tons of textile waste every year, 95% of which can be recycled or reused. Upon reading another article, I learned another disturbing piece of news. It takes 2720 liters of water to make a single T-shirt.

That’s the quantity of water you would approximately drink over a three year period.

So, with the fashion industry finally taking responsibility for their hand in our looming enemy of climate change, I was hopeful for a massive reformation, one that would take the 13 million tons of textile waste and recycle it, utilize it in any way that would prevent it from ending up in landfill. I became a lot more vigilant over my contribution to fast fashion, and started learning more about DIY flips and thrifting. I discovered an entire movement of people who solely thrifted their clothes, and had abandoned the fast-fashion vice almost completely. It was exciting. I felt like this was progress.

It takes 2720 liters of water to make a single T-shirt.

I know now how important it is for me to stick to supporting brands that cared about being sustainable in their practices, and who aimed to minimize their negative impact on Earth – and our future.

A few days ago, I read the headlines:

Kylie Jenner refuses to pay her Bangladeshi employees who manufacture apparel for the KendallxKylie clothing line.

I’ve been fuming since. Right now they’re denying these claims and people are connecting these actions to the Global Brand Group- the company responsible for manufacturing their clothes. People are enraged, horrified- and rightfully so.

After thinking a lot about it, I’ve rethought my stance.

The fashion industry needs to be better about textile waste, water waste, that’s for sure. Sustainability for our future is necessary.

But their claims of ‘sustainability’ and being ‘fair trade’, has to include their employees. There is nothing ethical or fair about refusing to pay the people who are devoting hours of labor into projects that are not even sold in their own countries, and being underpaid, or in this case, being paid NOTHING for their work.

Let’s not forget the disgusting irony of the company essentially denying wages to people of color.

Let’s not forget the disgusting irony of the company essentially denying wages to people of color.

For any business, brand to deserve the label of being ‘Ethical’ anymore, it cannot be the risk of maltreatment and belittling of employees whose jobs hardly afford them a living. After extensive research, it has been found out the world’s largest garment manufacturers are Vietnam, Bangladesh, India and China. However, Micro Opportunities (a non-profit), found that Bangladesh women garment workers earn less than minimum wage over 60 percent of the time . Brands that source their labor from less developed countries, countries that are home to people of color, should no longer be able to devalue the workers with underpayment.

Your sourced labor from third world-countries should be as ‘fair’ as the ingredients being ethically sourced from them.

If the fashion industry wants to shift towards sustainability, it has to be in every way. Provide sustainable jobs. Pay fair wages. Be accountable for their employees’ treatment. Your sourced labor from third world countries should be as ‘fair’ as the ingredients being ethically sourced from them. These are lives, livelihoods on the line. The industry needs to be ethical all the way down to its roots – the workers. There are no more excuses for this.