Gender, Identity and Social Impacts with Alex


Sports, Homelife and School

Meet Alex! Her identity as a cis-gender woman influences how she experiences her day-to-day interactions. She considers how her mannerism and social pressures change depending on the social setting. From the sports locker rooms, to the arenas, to the classroom, to her home life and chilling with friends – Alex recognizes that socially, she is expected to perform a certain way based on her gender. This is her world! This is her perspective:


As part of her project, Shayla Hickerson organized interview-based discussions based on topics of gender, identity and social impacts.

Volunteers had the option to answer one or any of the seven questions which served as discussion starters. They also had the option for voice-recordings or written responses to create a comfortable environment to tell their story.

Gender, Identity and Social Impacts with Connor


Conforming and Clothing

Meet Connor! His identity as a transgender man influences how he experiences his day-to-day interactions. He became aware of the necessity for comfort during the transition process. Being read as male or female influences how others treat you. As a result, clothing is a safety measure. Although Connor doesn’t connect with fashion, being able to pass is important. This is his world! This is his perspective:


As part of her project, Shayla Hickerson organized interview-based discussions based on topics of gender, identity and social impacts.

Volunteers had the option to answer one or any of the seven questions which served as discussion starters. They also had the option for voice-recordings or written responses to create a comfortable environment to tell their story.

Gender, Identity and Social Impacts with Alisha


Non-Conforming Newlywed

Meet Alisha! Their identity as a non-binary individual influences their day-to-day experiences. Alisha recognizes that their identity is non-conforming, but overall, they are read as very feminine. Even thinking back to their recent heterosexual marriage, they realize that people will make assumptions that align with the binary. Nevertheless, Alisha talks about the challenges they face, especially in their marriage, that dismantle the binary social pressures. This is their world! This is their perspective:


As part of her project, Shayla Hickerson organized interview-based discussions based on topics of gender, identity and social impacts.

Volunteers had the option to answer one or any of the seven questions which served as discussion starters. They also had the option for voice-recordings or written responses to create a comfortable environment to tell their story.

A Poem for my Mother

Happy Mother’s Day to a woman who constantly inspires.


My mother is a beautiful soul that was never told she could smile. Through intergenerational trauma, she was told she wasn’t worth a smile. And yet, she has inspired a fire inside my soul that radiates outward through the shine of my white teeth peering between crescent lips. I smile, because of her.  I smile because my mother has inspired me to find greatness when I am told there is none.

None? What type of concept is that? It’s subjective, but if you enter this world being told of nothing great, then you tend to internalize that you’re no one too great… No one matters except those that you want acceptance from. No one matters except a five year old girl who is sitting in front of a camera. She smiles larger than what her face can contain. It is the escape of true happiness, and the happiness escapes the infant’s body completely with a slap that wipes the smile right off her face. There is no forced friction of hand hitting skin, but rather a mother’s hateful words which suggest that her daughter is unworthy of smiling; that her daughter is unworthy of happiness; that her daughter is unworthy of existing. This narrative is not my own. I am not that five year old girl. This narrative is my mother’s, encased in maternal jealousy, fueled by unresolved pain from being denied her mother’s acceptance. As I said before, the cause is generational, and my mother became the first woman to rewrite the narrative. The journey is emotional, but it is also a story of healing. 

Healing is a process of undoing all the damage that we are fed as children. Healing, so we can find our sense of self beneath the preconceived notions of who we ought to be. My mother is an enigma. The more I talk with her about her accomplishments, the more wild her story gets. During the time that I’ve known my mother, she has been through clown college. She has openly talked about her experience with weed and being a paranoid high. She has been a woman in business doing everything from a woman’s adventure club (going dog sledding, gun shooting, horseback riding and organizing a two week backpacking trip across Italy) to having her own catering business. One of my favourite projects that my mother humoured was her desire to start a lounging stool collection. Needless to say, my mother embodies greatness. I’d like to think that she is proving her worth by partaking in so many wild and vastly different projects, but I also wonder if it was an attempt to find her sense of self after never being given the opportunity to develop agency in her mother’s embrace. 

They say a mother’s embrace is crucial for a child’s development, but the relationship that I’ve had with my mother was impactful from conception. My mother never knew she could get pregnant, until she had my older brother. Then she had people pray over her to get pregnant with me. Her pregnancy was life-threatening. There was a tear which caused significant amounts of blood loss. The doctors had to perform an emergency c-section and I lived my first week inside an incubator while my mother regained her health. Eventually we would both be sent home in full physical health. We know that emotionally, there was still healing to be made. My mother would often apologize for being emotionally absent in my early years. She fears that she was rewriting her upbringing. She is the only girl with three brothers, and I am the only girl with three brothers. In an attempt to free me of the intergenerational trauma between mother and daughter, my mother distanced herself. She didn’t want to become her mother, and she didn’t want me to turn into that five year old smiling in front of a camera and being told that I don’t have the right to be happy.  

Happiness is one of the perks to the human experience, and arguably, so is the gorgeous phase of teenage angst. Regardless of my mother’s efforts, during my adolescence, I was tainted by the intergenerational thought that we are never good enough. I failed to see my own mother as worthy. I was aware of my painful, ill understanding of my mother. Embarrassment filled my bones. It weighed me down, drowning in the sea of invisible love. I couldn’t express any form of love or acceptance to her because I actually thought my mother was dumb. I fought so hard to challenge this thought because my heart begged me to fight. My heart begged me to support my mother and her differences. My heart begged to scream WORTH! from the rooftops, until the top of my mouth hurts, until my heart drops. And I realized, this is a woman who inspires women to recognize their own worth.

Worth. I have used that word a lot. If you did a search of how many times I used that word in this story, you’d find thirteen results. Although it’s a word I don’t struggle using, it’s a word I struggle with in terms of association. As my mother heals and recognizes her worth, she has opened a dialogue where I can explore ‘worth’ alongside her. I know that we have progressed as dynamic characters in this narrative because I no longer see my mother as dumb. I haven’t associated that word with her for a long time. Instead, she inspires me to arrange a multitude of words of affirmation. Words that can be arranged in a poem for my mother, who inspires:

Would you believe me if I told you, that
Half the time, I let life get ahead of me, but you, 
Often remind me of how precious time can be.

I am, time and time again, the moments of wonder that
Never cease, and I am the time you spend counting the 
Seconds until life really begins when it already has.
Perchance you are still with me, even with all this distance.
In every second of the day, I hear your voice.
Reminiscences of teachings only a mother could conceive.
Even with all this distance, you remind me that I am worth
Spending time on, because of how precious I can be.

I told my mother that I wanted to write about her, and she texts: 
“I am honored that you want to write about me for the contest. I got emotional about the implications of that choice (we are not my relationship with my mom!).” 

It’s not only that I want to tell a story about a woman who nearly died because of me, but it’s that I truly felt inspired, nearly compelled to write about the enigma that circulates through my thoughts. I want to tell the story of a woman who inspires greatness. This is a tough story to tell because it is emotionally loaded, but I want people to recognize my mother as the beautiful soul that she is. People that are meant to be her support system failed her, and they continue to fail her. She is worth so much more than what she has been given, and she gives these people so much more than they’re worth. When they tell her she can’t smile, it’s because they are projecting their own twisted belief of self-worth. But you already know that, don’t you mother?`

My mother is a beautiful soul that was never told she could smile. And yet, she continuously inspires a fire inside my soul that radiates outward through the shine of my white teeth peering between crescent lips. I smile because of her. I smile because my mother has inspired me to find greatness when I am told there is none.

Artist Feature

Roxanne Tull, born 1987, is a Toronto-based mixed-media artist who uses pencil crayon and ink to showcase her emotional experience. Tull is visually impaired; she has no left peripheral vision. Although she is partially sighted, she can see shapes, colours and textures. Tull has been drawing and painting since the age of ten, and has developed a unique style which is composed of many organic shapes that explode on her paper. Tull does not plan ahead; her compositions are in-the-moment creations.



Tull was bullied by her peers and had a hard time overcoming the harmful interactions alone. She has a seizure disorder, is legally blind and has a learning disability. Because Tull has been bullied herself, she understands what it’s like to feel helpless or alone and she wants to help others who are going through a similar situation.

Roxanne Tull found her strength in her art. Art is a means to express your emotions and experiences. It tells a story about someone’s life. This is Roxanne’s story of overcoming bullying and falling in love with her art. She wants to help make the world bully free by helping others stand strongly by sharing her art and story.

Art is everything, and art is healing.


Find out more about Roxanne Tull Art