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University Advancement | March 2018  


New award to help racialized trans students

Sumaya Dalmar

Activist Sumaya Dalmar with photograph taken by Ryerson documentary media graduate and multidisciplinary artist Abdi Osman. (Photo credit: Abdi Osman)


As a member of Black Queer Youth, an LGBTQ support group, activist Sumaya Dalmar bravely provided a voice for Toronto’s racialized trans community.

Born during a civil war in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sumaya migrated to Vancouver with her family as a child before settling in Toronto in 2009. In 2015, her life was cut short at age 26.

Now, Lali Mohamed, a Ryerson sociology graduate, class of 2013, along with some of Sumaya’s friends and family, have raised funds to create a student award in her memory. Inspired by her life as a Black Muslim trans woman, the award will help support racialized trans students.

“For us, this gift means we can honour our friend’s life and, at the same time, make post-secondary education more accessible for trans students of colour,” says Mohamed.

“She was one of the brightest lights that ever existed in this world,” says Mohamed. Mohamed first met Sumaya just after she arrived in Toronto.

A lot of people looked up to her because of her unapologetic approach to life. ”She inspired other trans women who were dealing with stigma and shame,” says Mohamed. “Despite the everyday violence of transphobia and anti-Black racism, Sumaya never allowed her spirit to be diminished. It was remarkable.”

Ryerson University sociology professor Alan Sears believes this award will go a long way to helping students from a community that has been traditionally marginalized. Trans people face immense violence, ranging from murderous attacks to exclusion from families, he says. Employers, teachers, healthcare providers and many others often make harsh judgements about trans people that lead to marginalization, discrimination and poverty.

Sears is grateful to the donors who are honouring Sumaya: “I think the award will not only benefit individual trans students of colour, but will also focus attention on the contributions of racialized trans communities.”

Sumaya would be thrilled to know she’s continuing to make an impact, says Mohamed. “Sumaya carved out such a brave and bold life for herself. She was a role model for a lot of us, modelling what it meant to live as your authentic self,” says Mohamed. “She was a tremendously inspiring young woman.”

You can help support this award in Sumaya’s name and make education accessible to more members of the racialized trans community. Please consider making a donation to grow the Sumaya Dalmar Award by visiting: