First recipient of Sumaya Dalmar Award inspired to give back
“She was one of the brightest lights that ever existed in this world.” This is how Lali Mohamed, a 2013 Ryerson sociology graduate described his late friend Sumaya Dalmar, to Ryerson Today in March 2018. Mohamed and some of Dalmar’s other friends and family created the Sumaya Dalmar Award last year to honour the trans activist’s life and help support racialized trans students.
Now, the inaugural award is being given to Patrice B.* a transgender Arts and Contemporary Studies student in his fourth year of study.
“I felt very honoured to receive the award,” said Patrice. “Especially because Sumaya’s friends pushed for the scholarship to be created, so it felt very personal. I really want to give back now, because this award is a product of her work.”
Patrice applied for the $1,000 award when his application for OSAP funding was denied.
“Looking for a job this year made me really anxious,” he said. “It’s always difficult having to explain to employers that I am trans and explaining the whole pronoun situation. Because sometimes, when people hear my voice, they just assume ‘she’ but appearance-wise, I do pass as male, so I was very anxious to have to look for a job. Finding work where I feel safe, understood and comfortable is always a challenge.”
Patrice, who plans to become a French teacher, did find two part-time jobs, but still wasn’t able to make enough to cover the cost of school. “This award really helped a lot with my final semester’s tuition because without it, I wouldn’t be able to apply to teacher’s college. I probably would’ve had to take the year off and work and save up some more.”
Before applying for the award, Patrice did some research on Sumaya Dalmar. “I didn’t know much about her until I looked up the work that she did with the community.”
Before her death in 2015 at age 26, Sumaya was an active member of Black Queer Youth (BQY) – a support group for LGBTQ Black youth in Toronto – who championed the rights of transgender persons of colour. She died the night before she was to take a role in the education department of The 519, Canada’s largest LGBTQ Community Centre.
“Sumaya would be thrilled to know she’s continuing to make an impact,” said Mohamed. “She was a tremendously inspiring young woman.”
She has definitely inspired the inaugural winner of the award that bears her name.
“Sumaya didn’t hide who she was – as opposed to me. I grew up in a conservative East-Asian family and I’m not exactly out to family. I’m just beginning to tell employers and professors that this is how I prefer to be referred to, with pronouns and whatnot. So far it’s only been close friends I’ve spoken to about it,” he said.
“When I read about Sumaya, I found out that she very much embraced her identity as a transgender woman and as a Muslim,” Patrice added. “Despite all the discrimination she faced, she still pushed to achieve her goals. That really inspired me.”
Patrice encourages anyone interested in helping to make education accessible to more members of the racialized trans community to support the award with a donation.
“I firmly believe that transgender people have a lot to contribute to their respective communities, and having an education is so important in being able to do so,” he said. “Based on my experiences with other trans students at both Ryerson and other universities, this type of award can help out a lot of transgender students who face financial burdens and barriers because of their identity.”
Learn more about supporting the Sumaya Dalmar Award.
*Patrice B. asked to be identified only by his first name and initial for this story.