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Vivek Shraya

Artist, Educator, & Performer

An acclaimed artist, Vivek uses video, spoken word, and musical performance to engage audiences on topics like mental health, queerness and inclusion. Inspiring audiences to celebrate who they are, she challenges the ways we are taught to think about gender and offers insights on how to create change. In each presentation, Vivek highlights her experience while creating space for students to reflect on and share their own. Her work has been featured on CBC’s Best Canadian Albums and The Globe and Mail’s Best Books. She is currently a director on the board of the Tegan & Sara Foundation.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Presentations

I’m Afraid of Men
Drawing from her newest book, I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek discusses the powerful overarching themes and experiences around its creation. A sincere and passionate speaker Vivek takes audiences through her fear and upheaval as she transitioned into the woman she is today. Shraya discusses our culture of fear, the role of entitlement/male privilege and the outdated idea of a “good” man. In this emotional presentation, Vivek explores how the masculinity that was imposed on her as a boy continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century.

What I Love About Being Queer
As a response to the dominant narratives of tragedy and hardship associated with being queer, Vivek created a film called “What I LOVE about being QUEER” where participants share the reasons why they also celebrate their queerness. This presentation will feature a screening of this film and a broader discussion about the film’s genesis, with an emphasis on need for conversations about queer celebration in the face of ongoing homophobia and transphobia. The presentation will be followed by an interactive component where queer audience members will be given an opportunity to be photographed and write down what they love about being queer, which will then become part of the ongoing multidisciplinary project.

Celebrating Femininity
Being forced into masculinity, Vivek has spent most of her life fighting for and reclaiming various parts of her femininity. Using her multi-faceted artwork—poetry, prose and music—Vivek shares her journey to celebrating femininity, in herself, her mother, her religious up-bringing, and in pop culture, despite her early experiences of misogyny, sexism and homophobia. In addition to inspiring audience members to celebrate their own femininity, this presentation will address the ways we are taught to think about gender, and the danger of not recognizing our complicity in the prevalence of misogyny and sexism.

Queering the Classroom
Queer and gender creative youth remain largely invisible in the classroom in both the curriculum and in the texts themselves. This often perpetuates feelings of isolation for queer youth. In this presentation, Vivek discusses her own experiences of invisibility in school as inspiration for creating art that features gender creative protagonists and the impact this work has had in the classroom. This will feature a reading from several of her acclaimed books including “The Boy & the Bindi” and “God Loves Hair.” This presentation will leave educators with informed perspectives on the necessity of queering their own classrooms.

Death Threat: Responding to Online Harassment & Bullying
Based on her acclaimed book of the same name, Vivek shares some of the transphobic hate mail she received from a stranger. These disturbing letters are supplemented with a look at her responses. This presentation provides audiences with a fascinating look at how hatred spreads, along with commentary on the violence and dangers of the internet. Using satire and surrealism, Vivek offers an unflinching portrayal of violent harassment from the perspective of both the perpetrator and the target, illustrating the dangers of online accessibility, and the ease with which hatred can be digitally spread.

How to Write a Poem About Racism
In writing her award-winning book of poetry, “even this page is white,” Vivek was met with a series of challenges including how to convey the experience of racism beyond “overt” forms, and how to acknowledge her own privilege as a settler and her complicity in the perpetuation of anti-black racism. Through the performance of various provocative poems from her book, Vivek discusses these various challenges and offers insight on how to use art and poetry as means to change deep-seated biases.

 

Platform Plus

Multimedia Presentation | I’m Afraid of Men

Summary Profile

Vivek Shraya’s best-selling new book, I’m Afraid of Men, was her­ald­ed by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel,” and her album with Queer Songbook Orchestra, Part‑Time Woman, was included in  CBC ’s list of Best Canadian Albums of 2017.

She is one half of the music duo Too Attached and the founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books. A Polaris Music Prize nominee and four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, Vivek was a 2016 Pride Toronto Grand Marshal, was featured on The Globe and Mail’s Best Dressed list, and has received honours from The Writers’ Trust of Canada and The Publishing Triangle.

She is currently a director on the board of the Tegan and Sara Foundation and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.

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