A 26 year old Somali, Canadian, trans woman by the name of Sumaya Dramar or Sumaya Ysl has been found dead about a week ago in Toronto, Canada. The news was devastating as well as tragic since some were speculating that she was murdered and others suggesting that the media didn’t care enough to report the death. I found out about this tragic incident through twitter, as always where I also find out about any other unreported news concerning minority communities. This news made me really sad. My first reaction was questioning what happened to her and my second was how come no one cared enough to report it. Obviously, I wasn’t alone in my thought process when I speculated that she might have been murdered because of her gender identity.
Although this news was depressing, it also made me proud to see a young Somali trans woman living her life boldly and fearlessly. It made me realize that there were indeed bold and fearless trans African women and men who use their personal liberties in western countries and live life unapologetically, even where we lack safe spaces in our communities for LGBTQ people of color. As I read more about Sumaya, I found out that she was involved both in the trans and Somali communities in Toronto, where was an advocate and was also featured in a film documentary showcasing her as a muslim trans woman of color. This was revolutionary to me because it revealed just how brave and courageous this woman was. Although I was very moved by this story, the response to Sumaya’s death was something I found alarming. It made me question if her Somali community loved her as much as she loved her community.
We, East Africans, specifically, horners (people from the Horn of Africa), responded swiftly to the situation urging Toronto police to take charge and investigate on the issue, but we could have done way more. There were many transphobic messages in the mix coming from many Africans suggesting how a Somali person could be this way, to the extent that some were happy to hear of news of her passing. This was upsetting because it made me realize the brutal life trans Africans have to live, even in countries where there are supposed personal liberties.
Although, many people outside of the Somali community acknowledged the tragic event and sent condolences, it was important that this was acknowledged by the immediate community. It holds so much power and resonance when those you love, love you back. It holds so much truth when those you identify with and hold close to your heart, also identify with you and hold you close to their hearts, it holds so much power those you acknowledge, also acknowledge you for the person that you are, it holds so much love when those you care about and share struggles with, also care about you and see your struggles. It holds so much truth when those you respect also respect you back. It holds so much meaning when those you build, and love with also love you for who you are and fight for your will to live.
Like Sumaya, African LGBTQ people make up a portion of African communities. We need to acknowledge and love those who identify as they are and continue to hear LGBTQ African stories. It is an essential part of our existence to love those who maybe different from us especially in our own communities. We need to teach love and understanding, not hate and contempt. Rest In Peace Sumaya Ysl, you beautiful, beautiful soul, your legacy and inspiration will continue for generations to come. Thank you for living so freely and unapologetically.
Peace and Love,