Zero waste living for students: dream or possibility?

By now, everyone knows about the climate change issues that our planet is dealing with. And while some people choose to ignore the signs, there are others trying hard to protect the environment and reduce the threats to Mother Nature. From reducing the amount of water and energy used in our households for general living, to becoming vegan, everyone has their own method, and one in particular is starting to pick up: zero waste living.

We’ve all seen the bloggers who praise this lifestyle and show off their tiny amount of trash made in a year or more in a cute Mason jar. Buzzfeed even has videos on how to make zero waste meals. It’s an appealing idealistic way of living for anyone who cares about the environment. But is this lifestyle suitable for a student?

At a first glance, not so much. The number of farmers markets and zero waste shops where you can buy products in bulk using your own packaging, is relatively small compared to regular stores, even in London. In addition to that, it might seem cheaper to buy pre-packaged produce and items than the more eco-friendly alternative.

However, Ilmira Murni, a student at the University College London, claims the zero waste student life is easier than we think.

“I would argue that it is cheaper! There are a lot of eateries and cafes that offer discounts when you bring your own cups/Tupperware,” she says. “I also do not participate in fast fashion and only buy clothes second hand when I absolutely need to. I save a lot of money caring for the environment.”

A zero waste lifestyle advocate herself, she decided to follow this way in order to join the fight against wasting resources and trying to protect the environment.

While she does agree that it is easier to follow this lifestyle in London than in other areas—as it is easier to find zero waste free shops around the capital— she strongly believes that every student is capable of living like this without any major difficulties.

“It doesn’t take more than just shopping at different places, or supporting local farmers more. There is very little you need to invest into financial when you adopt this lifestyle, just use what you already have,” she says.

“Think about what you throw away everyday and swap that out for a reusable option. That’s the easiest way to start and probably where you will make most impact. If you drink coffee everyday, thats 300 cups at least a year going to landfill. So identify high impact changes first: menstrual options, bottles and coffee cups, cutlery and others,” Ilmira adds.

Would you ever try living zero waste? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

 

Treat Yourself: Hanx Releases New All-Natural, Vegan Condoms

Women have a lot to worry about in life, especially when it comes to sex and relationships. Staying safe is always a priority, but sometimes we don’t want to take all the steps necessary because it’s embarrassing, or we just aren’t used to it.

One of those steps is buying and carrying condoms: let’s be real, we all expect men to carry them. But how many times have you wanted to hook up with a guy that wasn’t prepared?

Buying condoms when you’re a woman isn’t the best. It shouldn’t be weird, but it just is. And then, once you get over the initial weirdness of having to buy them, you’re carrying them in your bag, which would be totally fine if they weren’t so ugly.

Why do they have to be of obnoxious colours? It’s like they’re begging to be seen, which is the last thing you’d want.

This is where Hanx, a British company started by two women named Farah and Sarah (cute!), comes in to save you.

Hanx produce stylish, well-packaged condoms that will make you want to have all the safe sex in the world. They’re made by women for women, are ultra thin, are 100% natural, vegan, and have a five year shelf life.

The idea behind them is to make women feel proud to carry them, hopefully destroying the idea that women can’t be sex-positive.

Order a pack on their website today. They even offer door-to-door shipping, so if you’re nervous about buying condoms in person, this is the perfect alternative for you. Stay safe out there!


Considering other forms of birth control? Check out our article here, which debunks five common myths about different hormonal birth control methods.

5 Common Birth Control Myths, Debunked

Standardised birth control methods have been around since 1960, when the contraceptive pill was first approved.

Thankfully, since then, contraceptive science has evolved, but some misinformation about birth control seems to have stood the test of time.

Ever wondered if you really need to take the pill at the same time every day, or whether birth control will make you gain weight? Read on for some myth-busting facts that should put your mind at ease.

Myth #1: Birth control can ruin your fertility.

This is a common myth, but there is no scientific backing to this statement.

The shot, the pill, and even long-acting forms of contraception like the implant and IUDs do not hinder fertility. Vagina-holders who had irregular periods before starting birth control may see delayed ovulation, but that is due to their biological makeup–not their contraception.

So, rest easy. If/when you want to have a baby, your ovaries will still be in working order and ready for you to go for it.

Myth #2: Everyone’s on it because they’re having sex.

This antiquated view is just plain false. Birth control methods can be prescribed to help a myriad of issues including polycystic ovary syndrome, cramps, acne, period regulation and even depression.

In the UK, doctors won’t require you to be in a relationship or having sex to get the pill, either. If you’re honest about why you want to be on birth control, your doctor can provide you with the best option.

Myth #3: If I forget to take a pill, I will get pregnant.

Overslept your pill alarm, or forgot to take it before a night out? Relax, you’re (probably) protected. As long as you have taken your pills regularly until this point, you’ll be okay.

Don’t try and double up–that can lead to nausea and vomiting, which counteracts taking them in the first place. If you had sex, don’t rush out to buy Plan B–again, you run a high risk of getting unnecessary nausea and vomiting.

Pills do not have to be taken every 24 hours on the exact dot, and everyone misses them. Make a note not to do it again, and carry on. If you find yourself often missing doses, ask your doctor about other contraceptive methods like the IUD, patch or implant.

Myth #4: Birth control isn’t effective if you’re overweight

The only truth to this myth is that, based on a small amount of data, the pill and emergency contraception is slightly less effective in women with a BMI over 30.

However, plenty of doctors will still prescribe the pill to overweight and obese patients, because the effectiveness is still very high. Additionally, long-acting and reversible methods of contraception (the implant or IUD, for instance) are equally effective in underweight, normal, overweight or obese individuals.

Myth #5: Birth control makes you gain weight

Google nearly any medication, and it’ll likely autocomplete the phrase with “weight gain.” Unfortunately, birth control isn’t immune to this hysteria, but you can relax: the majority of birth control methods don’t cause weight gain.

The only recent, substantial data about weight gain on birth control comes from a study involving the contraceptive shot. Individuals using this method generally do gain weight, but only when they use this method of contraception.

More often than not, environmental factors are to blame for weight gain–you’re in a better mood, feel more comfortable, or you’re just bloated from your incoming period. But, if you find yourself struggling to lose weight with exercise and diet, it can be worth evaluating your birth control.

Don’t let the fear of gaining weight keep you from seeking out contraception, and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor if you’re concerned about any aspect of your contraception.

If you’re interested in changing your birth control, or getting on it for the first time, you can drop by the Wolverton Centre in Kingston Hospital or schedule an appointment with a GP at the Penrhyn Road Campus.


Looking for some additional protection? Check out our article on Hanx’s new all-natural, vegan condoms here.

What’s the Best Dairy-Free Milk Alternative?

Whether you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or just cutting out dairy for personal or environmental reasons, here’s a list of the best milk alternatives and what they work best with—because we’ve all made the mistake of putting almond milk in our tea and seeing it curdle.

Soy milk, also called soya milk, is the most accessible milk. Most places offer it as a milk alternative, and you can get it for pretty cheap at any supermarket. It’s also full of protein, and you can get so many different kinds: unsweetened, vanilla, chocolate, the list goes on.

Regular soy milk goes well with most things and can be used as a baking ingredient—but remember too much soy can be bad for your health if you have thyroid issues. Maybe alternate between soy and a different milk alternative!

Oat milk is the best for the planet: it doesn’t require a lot of land or water to be made. It’s also the most delicious in coffee, and tastes nice by itself too. Make sure you try chocolate oat milk once in your life—the Oatly one owns every chocolate milk lover’s heart. If you love having porridge in the morning, I suggest staying away from oat milk, it makes the oats go weird.

Almond milk is becoming just as popular and accessible as soy milk. It’s the milk alternative with the least calories, and it’s delicious by itself. It goes well with porridge and is great for baking too. It’s also fortified with vitamin B12, which is important for anyone staying away from animal products.

Unsweetened almond milk is tasty and better for everyday use if you’re trying to keep your sugars level low. The only issue with almond milk is the amount of water that is needed to cultivate almonds (which is still less than regular dairy milk).

Rice milk is the best for cereal, hands down. It’s naturally sweeter than other milk alternatives, but it’s also high in calories and carbs, so don’t go too wild with it if you’re worried about those things.

However, it’s still healthier than cow’s milk, and much better for the planet as well. Tip: warm rice milk before bed is relaxing and delicious.

Coconut milk is amazing in coffee, pancakes, smoothies and more. It’s thick and creamy, and often has added vitamin D and vitamin B12. Next time you go to Starbucks, get coconut milk in your Frappuccino. It will change your life.

Hemp milk isn’t a very popular option, but it’s a good one nonetheless. Don’t worry, it won’t get you high—it’s best in coffee and porridge, and it’s also a good source of omega 3. It smells and tastes a bit grassy, which throws many people off, but it’s really healthy.

Cashew milk is delicious in coffee, smoothies, curry sauce and soup. It’s easy to digest, low in calories and often fortified with several vitamins, so you don’t miss out on any nutrients. It’s creamy and tasty, and definitely worth trying.

What’s your favourite milk alternative?

Is There a Place for Politics in Fashion?

It is often said that fashion and politics should never mix.

But in the current political climate, people are beginning to question if this statement is still valid. Indeed, the conversation surrounding politics’ hand in fashion is beginning to shift.

These days, a brand’s political views can have a direct effect on their overall success as a company. What a company decides to say—or not say—can change consumer opinions of the brand as a whole.

An August 2018 Hollywood Reporter article discussed how Kanye West’s political views had a direct effect on the success of his clothing line, Yeezy.

West has been known to be quite outspoken in his right wing support of President Donald Trump, often being photographed at events with Trump, making frequent visits to the White House, and regularly sporting his Make America Great Again hat.

The article reads, “The rap star turned Yeezy fashion mogul has been on a Twitter tear, pledging his support on the social media platform for President Donald Trump, something that has gotten many brands in hot water in a time when consumers vote with their dollars.

“But for Kanye and his brand, it will affect sales among liberal elites.”

For the first time this year, his Yeezy sneakers failed to sell out in 24 hours, and spectateurs believe it could be as a result of his conservative political beliefs and active support of Trump.

Indeed, it appears that West’s political views have been putting a bad taste in the mouths of consumers, and are beginning to affect overall company sales. Twitter users joke that every time West tweets his support for Trump, the price of Yeezys decreases more and more.

While his political beliefs seem inherently tied to his fashion line, other companies are vehemently opposed to linking their brand to any political ideals whatsoever.

For example, Victoria’s Secret has never been a political company and has typically remained silent in the wake of political news.

However, in 2018, just hours before the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Vogue published an article in which chief marketing officer Ed Razek was asked about his views on transgender and plus size models.

Razek said, “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.

“We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”

For these reasons and many more, it seems that Victoria’s Secret sales are dropping more than ever. According to Forbes, they have “reported a 1% decline in comparable sales in the five weeks ended July 7… Worse yet, when stripping out online and other direct sales, store-only comparable sales fell 6%.”

Therefore, it appears that companies that turn a blind eye to political and social issues are actually doing more harm to their company than good.

That is why companies such as Rihanna’s brands, Savage X Fenty and Fenty Beauty, are particularly unique. Rather than turning away from the political, she has actively leaned into it. And with her new position as Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Barbados, she couldn’t turn away from the political even if she tried.

When it comes to her makeup brand, Fenty Beauty, she has been commended for offering more foundation skin shades than virtually any other makeup brand – a whopping 40 shades.

Rihanna decided to do this as a way to represent a wide range of skin shades, which is especially important when so many makeup brands simply don’t offer enough shades, especially for darker skin tones.

Not only is her makeup political in its attempts to be inclusive in its depiction of underrepresented skin tones, but her clothing brand, Savage X Benty, seeks to offer options for all different kinds of body types.

Rihanna’s fashion and beauty ranges have seen a huge amount of success. In just one month, the company reported $72 million in sales and marketing.

According to influencer marketplace Octoloy, “Because Fenty Beauty has changed the diversity standard, beauty brands are starting to diversify their campaigns by adding more women of colour to their PR lists, social media pages, in their ads and so forth.”

Therefore, while a company’s political views may not be something that every consumer considers, there is certainly no question that it can have an incredibly significant effect on the overall success of a fashion brand.

Do you agree? Is there a place for politics in fashion, and does a brand’s political values effect your decision to buy their products? Let us know!

We the People and the US Shutdown

25 days. 

The United States government has been in a partial shutdown for 25 days, with no end in sight.

This is the longest shutdown that has occurred in the entire history of the US, with the previous record awarded to Bill Clinton’s 21 day shutdown in 1995.

The Guardian has sources that say President Trump told advisers that this shutdown is a sort of win for him, but roughly 800,000 government employees are now working without pay.

Parts of the government have shut down or are operating with skeleton crews, with more employees giving their resignation as the days wear on—or, at least, trying to get a job in the meanwhile.

That’s the rub: it’s the American people who are being directly affected by Trump’s shutdown.

While Trump tweeted yesterday morning, “I’ve been waiting all weekend. Democrats must get to work now. Border must be secured!”, there are families who cannot make rent this month because of his stubbornness.

Americans have been through this all before—I distinctly remember the 2013 government shutdown under Obama, which lasted 16 days, and stupidly joking about whether or not I had to go to classes during the shutdown.

That was bad, but this is worse.

800,000 federal employees haven’t received a paycheck since January 11. As the days tick by, and bills and financial responsibilities begin to accumulate, the situation becomes more dire.

My brother and his very pregnant wife, who were in the process of buying a house, cannot proceed with the purchase until the shutdown is lifted.

Social Security checks are still being issued, since they are tax-funded, but I worry daily about when that will change and affect my family.

Meanwhile, Trump sits by, determined to get his precious wall by any means necessary. Someone has to cave in this situation, and whether it’s the Republicans or the Democrats, the House or the Senate, things have to change.

And for the sake of the American people, I hope it’s soon.

 

Disney Takes Aim to Trademark “Hakuna Matata” in Controversial Move

“Hakuna Matata”—it means no worries for the rest of your days!

But soon, that might not be the case, thanks to Disney.

Namwali Serpell’s recent article for the Guardian discusses the Disney corporation’s decision to trademark the Swahili tagline “Hakuna Matata,” which roughly translates to “no worries.”

This news comes as the company is gearing up for The Lion King reboot, directed by Jon Favreau.

Audiences seem particularly unhappy with this controversial decision because it portrays Swahili as somewhat of a made-up language that only exists to create catchphrases. The fact that Disney has trademarked an existing language seems to ignore the fact that real people actually speak this language.

Serpell calls Disney’s decision “rampantly greedy” and a way to capitalise on a culture that is so often unfairly stereotyped in the media. Subsequently, with this trademark decision, it “paints this ‘Africa’ as an imaginary space but nevertheless uses broad, stereotypical tropes about the continent (animals and warrior tribes and mangled accents).”

Serpell not only talks about how problematic this decision is, but that is also simply doesn’t make sense—nobody would ever think to trademark a Western, widely spoken language, so why is it okay to trademark Swahili?

“There is a patent absurdity to the idea that Hakuna Matata would be subject to trademark,” writes Serpell. “It’s like copyrighting ‘goodbye’ or ‘hang loose’.”

As a result of the outrage, a change.org petition has been created that seeks to “say no to Disney or any corporations/individuals looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn’t invent.” The petition has already received over 120,000 signatures.

What are your thoughts? Is this an example of “PC nonsense” or is Disney wrong in trademarking the term? Let us know!

How to Survive “Re-Fresher’s” Week

You relaxed over the holiday break. You ate too much cheese, drank a bit too much champagne, spent time with your family, and caught up on sleep.

We get it. You’re ready to return to university and get back to your debaucherous self.

While we can’t stop you (but have you finished all your assignments?), we can provide you with a guide to survive the dreaded “re-fresher’s” week.

1. Take it easy and take it slow

When you first came to university, you were probably ready to get away from home. The freedom to cook your own mediocre ramen-based meals and drink until the sun comes up… it was romantic, wasn’t it?

If you do decide to go out, take it slow at a pub instead of a club. Remember to wash your hands religiously (it is cold and flu season, after all) and listen to your body.

You’ve put your liver through a lot this past semester. So, stop it. Don’t pre-drink a fifth of vodka and please remember to eat a balanced meal. Someone passed out on the street during Fresher’s Week is relatively funny; someone passed out on the street in mid-January will catch hypothermia and die.

2. Remember that this time, your classes matter

Gone are the days of first-week syllabi and second chances. Midway through the semester, your professors (and classmates, for those neglected group projects) are expecting quality work from you.

Don’t go out drinking on a Tuesday night when you have an 8 a.m. lecture on the Wednesday. Or, at least, stash some extra clothes at a friend’s house that’s nearby campus so you can stay over. And take a shower, please.

3. A night in can be just as fun as a night out

Look, frankly, it’s cold. One of the main reasons to go out during Fresher’s Week is to make friends, but it’s January, and hopefully you’ve made some friends by now.

Invite your friends around for a bottle of wine and a Netflix binge–every takeaway restaurant has a deal, so you have literally no excuse to leave your house.

4. Keep yourself controlled

Going home can be a stressor for a lot of people, and maybe you’re geared up and ready to get back to that “super fun, super cool uni life.” That’s all well and good, but not if it jeopardises your body, health or education.

The most important thing is to listen to yourself. If you feel ill, but your friend wants to take another shot, just decline it. Likewise, the world won’t end if you go home at 10 p.m. instead of 2 a.m.


“Re-fresher’s week” is just a name. It’s nothing special, and while it’s lovely to catch up with friends, don’t put pressure on yourself to start the semester off on the wrong foot.

The 18 Most Iconic Moments That Made 2018 Into 20gayteen

2018 is coming to an end. It’s been a year full of ups and downs for the LGBT community (and the rest of the world, to be honest), but let’s focus on 18 iconic pop culture moments that made 2018 into 20gayteen.

  1.     Hayley Kiyoko coming up with the term “20gayteen”

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Thank you, Lesbian Jesus.

  1.     Miss Vanjie… Miss Vanjie… Miss Vanjie!!!

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Season 10 of Rupaul’s Drag Race was good, but would have been nothing without MISS VANJIE!!

  1.     Brockhampton releasing gay merch. Literally.

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It obviously all sold out in minutes.

  1.     Queer Eye blessing our screens

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And it’s already been renewed for a third season. The power of the Fab Five!

  1.     Janelle Monaé’s Pynk. That’s all.

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An ode to vaginas? We have to stan.

  1.     Britney Spears performing at Brighton Pride

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Moving was impossible and getting to Brighton was a struggle, but at least the Queen herself was there.

  1.     First ever openly gay K-Pop idol’s debut

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For those of you who don’t know, K-Pop idols have to follow some very strict rules. Most of them aren’t even allowed to date, never mind be openly homosexual. Holland is Korea’s first openly gay idol, and he’s releasing music without the support of any of the main entertainment companies. He made his debut with a song called I’m Not Afraid, which is quite fitting.

  1.     America’s first professional transgender boxer won his first pro fight

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Patricio Manuel was competing as a woman for a decade, and after coming back to the ring as a male boxer, he won against Hugo Aguilar. Here’s to many more wins!

  1.     We finally had a MASSIVE teen movie in cinemas, which was about a gay love story.

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Yaaaassss Love, Simon!

  1.  Courtney Act won Celebrity Big Brother.

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And then became the host of The Bi Life! What a queen.

  1.  SO many celebrities came out.

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Alyson Stoner, Reece King, Kevin McHale, Amandla Stenberg, Brendon Urie, Kehlani and so many more.

  1.  Speaking of Kehlani… Our queer angel is having a baby. And the dad’s bisexual!

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The singer surprised everyone with her pregnancy in October.

  1.  There was a lesbian wedding in a mainstream cartoon!

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Steven Universe’s creator knew it would be important for queer representation and visibility—and aren’t Ruby and Sapphire the cutest?

  1.  Harry Styles’ world tour

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He went on tour and spent pretty much every night dancing with rainbow flags, showing his support to the community, and saying things such as, “I mean we’re all a little bit gay, aren’t we?”

  1.  Queer superheroes!!

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Hi, Teenage Warhead and Yukio. You’re cute.

  1.  She-Ra and the Princess of Power

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Netflix’s She-Ra reboot features a same-sex couple, and they’re canon! What else would you expect from highly-acclaimed queer showrunner Noelle Stevenson?

  1.  The number of LGBT characters on TV reached a record high

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*20gayteen intensifies*

  1.  Pansexual became one of Merriam-Webster’s words of 2018

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If this doesn’t define 20gayteen, what does?

What a ride. What was your favourite moment of 20gayteen? And are you ready for 20biteen?

Violence in Video Games: A 2018 Look at “The Last of Us”

Let me start by posting this Forbes article that was published last year.

The gist of Erik Kain’s article—and of many other video game reviewers’ articles that have been published since the release of The Last of Us II trailer last year—is that the first trailer for newest instalment of the mega-hit post-apocalyptic video game is much too violent.

First off, I think the author’s worries about the tone of the new game are completely founded. The Last of Us is a game about learning to love and trust those around you after going through a terrible loss. It is emotional and devastating in the best way possible, and The Last of Us II seems like it is going to be much darker than the first.

Neil Druckmann, the game director for The Last of Us, said that the next instalment is a “…story about hate.” This doesn’t instil confidence that the game will have a happy tone. However, I feel that the majority of these articles miss the mark when discussing the violence of this game series.

The Last of Us is a game about parasites that infect humanity and turn them into cannibalistic monsters. Many, MANY main characters die (SPOILER: one of them is the main character’s tween daughter about 15 minutes into the game), and the game has a plethora of extremely violent imagery.

It is by no means a happy game.

So when I read articles condemning the violence in the most recent The Last of Us II trailer, I can’t help but think that the context of this series was simply not taken into consideration.

For instance, Julia Alexander’s recent article for polygon.com (Stop Using Violence To Sell Your Game), is a well written discussion about violence against women in video games. However, I see the newest trailer for The Last of Us as being empowering to women—not another example of misogynistic game play.

The only characters that have any lines in this trailer are women. This trailer, now that most of the characters have been named, passes the Bechdel Test (see Hollywood executives? It’s not that hard).

The main character is ripped. Like completely shredded. She doesn’t exist in this post apocalyptic world to be feminine eye candy for the male protagonists. She is realistically shaped to survive in the world she is in. However, who is she saved by? Not by a man, but by two young women (who are not white, but that deserves a whole other conversation about race in video games).

One is androgynous, another example of what real women can look like, and the other is defiant even in the face of defeat. Yes, her arm being broken is shown in graphic detail, but she gets right back up and kills two of her captors despite this. The women are subjected to violence because the world of The Last of Us is violent.

But are they shown to be victims? Do they cower in the face of violence like so many female movie and video game protagonists do?

No. They show that women, no matter if they are a villain, a pair of badass saviours, or a mysterious anti-hero, can survive an apocalyptic world just as well as any man.

We see the survival instincts of Tess, the fortitude of Ellie, and the spirit that makes The Last of Us such a beloved game. So, no—I am not worried about the tone of the next instalment of this series, because from what has been released so far, I can see what makes The Last of Us unique: the fight all people have—no matter their gender, age, race, or sexuality—to keep their humanity and stay alive in an incredibly violent world.

Keep an eye out for the new Last of Us game coming out in 2019!