Tickets for Tender Hearts go on sale May 21.
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The Stories We Need

At With/out Pretend, we have a hard time describing what our storytelling events are like. If you've been to one, you might know what we mean by this; there's a kind of palpable magic that occurs when our audience holds space for stories that yearn to be heard, but because we don't allow video at our events, that magic remains only as a lingering feeling in the hearts and minds within the bodies in the room. We're especially excited about our next event on June 19, Tender Hearts, and we wanted to take an opportunity to talk about why.

On the surface, Tender Hearts may seem like a very different event from what we've produced in the past, namely because we're hosting men on our stage for the very first time! In this night of sharing stories, 10 speakers including queer men, trans men, and non-binary folks will take the stage to answer the questions: where does it hurt? and, In a society founded by The Patriarchy, why is it so hard for us to talk about where and why it hurts?

Braden Alexander, the event's curator, explains: "Our queerness doesn't extricate or protect us from The Patriarchy, and so we have an opportunity — and a responsibility — to redefine the terms of masculinity. Queer men find it useful to cultivate a shiny, tough veneer over our true selves in order to protect ourselves from a hostile heteronormative society. But these performances don’t leave much room to be honest, vulnerable, or to heal. Tender Hearts will offer us the collective courage we've been searching for: to choose new names for tender feelings."

Our lineup includes recent Juno winner Jeremy Dutcher, and nine other remarkable storytellers. All are welcome at this event, but we really hope you'll bring your cis, hetero, male friends and lovers. Bring your Dad too! This is an event we all need so badly. These stories will help us locate ourselves, as a collective, outside of a system that has historically erased and stigmatized the feelings that connect us to one another, as humans.

Tickets go on sale on May 21 at 10 am — join our facebook event to secure yours early!
Meet Braden, our curator

Braden Alexander is a writer and speaker who recently quit his job as an editor at Cottage Life magazine to pursue these endeavours full-time.

He is writing a book.


An interview with Braden Alexander

Is there a connection between queer visibility through brave and honest story-telling, and dismantling The Patriarchy, which thrives under the erasure of queer voices?

As I see it, storytelling is the web of understanding that connects us all. And the more we share and listen to honest accounts of what it's like to be queer or male or just human, the more we are able to stop believing in the set of lies the patriarchy would have us believe: mostly that everything is fine just as it is, and no one is struggling to survive with the large, heavy expectations this society places on us. I call bullshit! It hurts to be a human being right now. Queer folks are hurting in a specific way, and men in particular are discouraged from talking about it, from being vulnerable about that pain. The more we share our struggles, the more we realize that we're all in this together, working to make a world that cares for us all better than this one does.

Do you think that story-telling as a collective practice allows for more productive and meaningful forms of self-representation, especially given the ways that mainstream media, rooted in hetero-centric Patriarchy, often homogenizes queer culture and erases nuance?

Um, 100% yes. Mainstream media, as much as its improved, does not speak to the depth and complexity of the queer experience. Our stories are sacred because they come from the margins of society, where the deepest hurt lives and so does the most radical change for moving forward. Trust me, these are the stories we can all learn from, because they speak directly to the experience of not being enough, and the self-love and love for our communities that can transcend such hurt. Don't we all kinda need some of that?

In your experience, what are some challenges you’ve faced while attempting to hold space for discussions centred around dismantling unhealthy masculinity? What do you hope audiences take away from their Tender Hearts experience?

The biggest challenge is that it's just a bit embarrassing and even downright terrifying to talk about your feelings in public or even in smaller circles. It requires a courage that we don't often flex. But it's also intensely rewarding. I hope that the audience sees how deep our queer feelings run, how ultimately human they are, and are inspired to treat the men and queer folks in their life with more empathy and understanding. For instance, men might sit on the opposite side of the experience laid bare in the #MeToo movement, but that doesn't mean we aren't hurting from our own wounds inflicted by the patriarchy. And the more we know about each other's hurt, the easier it is to treat each other with tenderness and love. And that just...makes life feel better.

Meet storyteller
Jeremy Dutcher
Jeremy Dutcher is a classically-trained Canadian Indigenous tenor, composer, musicologist, performer and activist, who currently lives in Toronto, Ontario. This classically trained operatic tenor takes every opportunity to blend his Wolastoq roots into the music he creates.

He is most noted for his 2018 album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, which won both the Polaris Music Prize and a Juno for Indigenous Album of the Year.
Learn more

Meet Storyteller
Shawn Hitchins
Best known for sparking the global wave of Ginger Pride by marching hundreds of redheads through the streets of Edinburgh, Shawn Hitchins is an award-winning entertainer and author who has toured throughout Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. From stage to page, Hitchins moves his audiences with laugh-out-loud humor and devastating truth as he strives for a greater understanding of love, work, and family. Also, the Toronto Star has called him a "one-man flash mob."
Learn More
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