Yet when he moved to Vancouver in September, he experienced something completely different.
“Here, the feeling that being proud of who you are and working towards that common goal for all LGBT people, it feels that it’s celebrated and it feels positive, and that’s something I’ve never experienced before,” he told the Georgia Straight by phone. “I’m very humbled by it. I’m very moved by it.”
The 30-year-old former journalist, who now volunteers for a local NGO, said he found the first few months adjusting to Vancouver very challenging but is starting to feel more comfortable as his understanding of Canadian society grows.
He’s now helping to raise awareness of the plight of LGBT refugees, and will be speaking at Qmunity’s 11th annual International Day Against Homophobia breakfast on Friday (May 15).
“Because of newcomer LGBT people and refugee LGBT people who are in desperate need for a lot of support, this is a cause I truly believe in and it’s very personal for me because I was a gay refugee back in Lebanon before I came here to Canada.”
Due to fears of being monitored by security forces, Ramadan (who was an LGBT activist in his homeland) left Syria, during the civil war in 2011, and lived as a refugee in Lebanon for two years. However, he wanted to pursue his potential and felt he could do that in Canada.
“If you’re an LGBT refugee, Canada would be at the top of the list because it’s the country where you’re mostly accepted, mostly supported, the local community welcomes you, there’s a lot of support and the government as well and programs such as the Rainbow Refugee program, which I applied through where you get sponsored by Canadians who help you to get here, who help you to understand the new community.”
He would like to educate Canadians about the difficult journey that LGBT refugees face in not only coming here but also adjusting to a new, foreign life.
“It’s not just about arriving safely here, which is, by itself, a very difficult process,” he said. “Coming here with the background that I came from and the civil war and being a refugee for two years and worrying for your own safety, when you come here, you start facing those demons again and…it’s very hard to just transition to [a new] society. It doesn’t happen overnight. People, when they start a new job, they get overwhelmed so imagine if you’re taken away from everything you’ve ever known and put in a totally different place.”…story continues below…