The strongest thing that you have is a community. My name is Danny Ramadan. I’m a Syrian Canadian author, public speaker and an LGBTQ refugees advocate.
I was born in Damascus in 1984. Damascus is 7,000 years old. It’s covered in jasmine trees, it’s dotted with historical sites, it’s such a beautiful city.
It is disheartening for me to say that in Syria, the gay community is quite ostracized. It’s a crime to participate in homosexual relationships. It’s punishable by three years in prison. Some families would practice honour killing. When I was 17 or 18, I chose that time to come out to my family. Of course, it didn’t go well.
My father and I, we had a humongous fight and I was kicked out of the house. I lived on the streets for a good couple of months, and then I left Damascus for the first time and ended up in Cairo, Egypt.
In Syria, I started working under a pseudonym for The Guardian for foreign policy, also The Washington Post, writing about the Syrian civil war.
I also had an apartment, a two bedroom that I owned. I started inviting friends over to this house, and the friends started to invite other friends and suddenly we have a community of like 150 queer and lesbian and trans folks who are coming into this house, who are finding a home, a community for themselves. Now, that didn’t last. In 2012 I was arrested at the Syrian International Airport in Damascus.
I’m extremely grateful I was in Canada but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard. I would have to say that I was arrested in Syria, I went through civil war, I went through a lot of family drama, and the hardest year of my life was my first year in Canada.
Yes, I came to safety, but I came to a country that I don’t fully understand. I love Canada. I love where I am. I love my home, I love my husband. I feel like I am doing my very best to recognize my own identity, but also to support real, actual humans before they come here to Canada.
In September 2015, I decided that I wanted to sponsor somebody the same way that I was sponsored to come to Canada. Me and three or four other friends, we cooked for three days straight and we told everybody we’re having a house party / fundraiser and we called it “An Evening in Damascus.” I have been doing it ever since and over the past five years, I raised two hundred thousand dollars and I have participated directly in the sponsorship of 17 Syrian refugees.
For every bird that you see on my tattoo, that is one person that I sponsored to leave Syria and to find a home here. And I left enough space for more. It’s a lot of fun to see what a person who has always been denied freedom is capable of doing when offered that freedom.
It’s a lot of fun to see what a person who has always been denied freedom is capable of doing when offered that freedom.Danny Ramadan