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Newcomer Profile: Umar's Story

Newcomer Profile: Umar's Story Newcomer Profile: Umar's Story

Settling into life in Toronto, Umar reflects on the challenges he continues to face, while looking forward to the future he imagines for himself.

We, as Black queer people, we have to keep pushing for the world to know our stories.”

Growing up in Uganda, Umar faced discrimination within his community and from his family, confronting rejection at home and struggling to access employment because of the stigma faced by the LGBTQI+ community. In 2019, a member of his family outed him to his community, which led to increased harassment and violence. After he and his partner were attacked and arrested, he was unable to return home, realizing that it was no longer safe for him to stay in Uganda.

Umar crossed the border to Kenya, where he ended up living in a refugee camp. There, he connected with a community of LGBTQI+ Ugandans, but they faced homophobic discrimination and violence from other individuals in the camp without protection from staff. 

After learning about Rainbow Railroad from a Facebook post, he reached out to the organization and was connected with a caseworker. In 2022, Umar was approved to receive support through the Canadian Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSR). Through PSR, volunteers come together with Rainbow Railroad’s assistance to help LGBTQI+ newcomers resettle in Canada. In the fall of 2023, Umar arrived in Toronto, welcomed by his settlement team. 

As Umar has experienced, the challenges of resettlement do not end upon arrival to a new, safer country. In Canada, he navigated the stress of finding a job and building a community. Although he left Uganda and Kenya, he continues to process the hardships he endured. 

Looking to the future, he is hopeful, stating,

“For years, I have been running. I’m starting to feel like I’m being accepted in a new country, so maybe I could call Canada home. Home, to me, is somewhere I have peace — and I’ve found it here.”

Reflecting on his experiences as an African LGBTQI+ refugee, he shares,

“Our voices are not heard like others. There was a time when we did not feel recognized because we are from Africa. That’s why we didn’t receive help.”

Umar’s journey has only been possible because of his own persistence and commitment to finding a pathway to safety. He calls on the global LGBTQI+ community to pay attention to the voices of Black queer refugees, to learn from their lived experiences and listen to their perspectives and stories. Umar continues to advocate for his community, and believes that sharing his own experience can help others who are facing similar persecution. 

As he continues to settle in Toronto, Umar is committed to giving back to his community, with plans to train as a care worker, and someday as a nurse. 

When imagining a future for himself, Umar hopes to build a queer community that provides support and friendship, saying simply,

“To me, queer community means loving, queer community means welcoming, queer community means caring.”



If you live in Toronto, Canada and are interested in learning more or becoming involved in Rainbow Railroad’s Private Sponsorship Program, please complete the volunteer form.