With her cause of death still unknown, some supporters of the 26-year-old trans Somali-Canadian woman question whether police are doing enough.
They called each other “aunty,” “uncle,” “brothers and sisters.”
Hundreds of people packed into a room at the 519 Community Centre on Church Street on Tuesday night to celebrate and mourn the life of Somali-Canadian woman, Sumaya Dasai Dalmar.
The 26-year-old Dalmar, a trans woman also known as Sumaya Ysl, died from unknown causes a week and a half ago. Since then, her death has brought people together to remember who she was, and some have also questioned whether the official response to her death has been adequate.
The memorial began with an Islamic funeral prayer led by LGBTQ community member, lawyer, and Muslim activist and leader El Farouk Khaki. Prior to the prayer, Khaki addressed the importance of the community coming together.
“As queer people and people who are non-conformist, religion is often used against us as a weapon. It’s time to take back our rituals, our spirituality, and our traditions,” said Khaki.
There was a strong presence from both the LGBTQ and Somali-Canadian community,
who have helped raise around seven thousand dollars for a scholarship fund in Dalmar’s name. (Disclosure: The author of this article once employed Dalmar for eight months. She was asked to do so by a mutual friend who told her that no one would hire her because she was a trans woman.)
Along with the outpouring of support, people within the LGBTQ community remain skeptical of the police response and want more answers.
On February 22, 2015, Toronto Police were called to Danforth Road and Main Street and came upon “an unconscious woman.”
On February 24, 2015, Toronto Police Services issued a statement after members of the LGBTQ community took to Twitter with the hashtag #JusticeforSumayaYsl demanding answers surrounding the circumstances of her death.
“A woman was found unresponsive. She was pronounced dead at the scene,” the Toronto
Police statement read. “At this time, we have no evidence to indicate the death is suspicious.”
Abdi Osman, a Somali artist, member of the LGBTQ community, and close friend
of Dalmar’s who referred to her as “his muse” at the memorial, is one of those who remains dissatisfied with the thoroughness of the Toronto Police investigation.
“I don’t believe in the responses that are coming out of the Toronto Police Services, because people who knew Sumaya know that the circumstances leading up to her death are just not adding up,” says Osman.
Unlike the gay and lesbian community who have a direct liaison with the Toronto Police Service and have made a policy out of forging relationships within the community, the trans community feels marginalized and misunderstood, often charging the police with inaction for the violence directed towards them.
Sophia Banks, a trans woman and activist, spoke of being assaulted during the day last summer on Parliament Street and that when she notified police, they were confused and kept saying, “What is a trans?”
“They kept calling me sir and so I just hung up on them. They don’t even try to understand. There is a reason why we don’t go to them for help,” said Banks.
With Dalmar’s toxicology reports still pending, the circumstances of her death remain unclear.
What is clear from the turnout and outpouring of love at the memorial was that she was a family member to so many in communities that are all too often ostracized, and they showed their love in return.