By Denise Paglinawan
Ryerson has created a new scholarship for racialized trans students in honour of late Black Muslim trans activist Sumaya Dalmar.
She was also known as Sumaya Ysl. The prominent Toronto trans activist was 26 years old when she died in 2015. According to the Toronto Police Service, the results of Dalmar’s autopsy were inconclusive.
The award was created by other queer and trans people of colour and spearheaded by Dalmar’s close friend, Lali Mohamed, who graduated from Ryerson’s sociology program in 2013.
The Sumaya Dalmar Award is a $1,000 scholarship a racialised trans student can receive, and will launch in the fall.
A community of almost 200 individuals who wanted to create a legacy in Dalmar’s name came together in 2015 to raise funds to memorialize her, Mohamed said.
“We thought an education award in her name would be the best use for the funds because she was about empowering other trans women of colour,” said Mohamed.
Mohamed brought the idea to his professor and chair of Ryerson’s sociology department Alan Sears, who helped bring the idea to University Advancement.
“We recognize that trans people of colour face racism and face transphobia,” Sears said. “There are all kinds of reasons to expect there might be need [for the award].”
Sears said he was thrilled about the award, which will help honour the experiences of racialized trans students at Ryerson and help overcome some of the barriers they face, such as financial need.
“There are very specific experiences with the systemic barriers people face in the form of racism, transphobia, anti-queer or settler colonialism, [which] means people don’t arrive at this university on a level playing field,” he said.
A 2017 City of Toronto report on transgender youth says trans people face widespread employment and housing insecurity and financial barriers to accessing uninsured health services.
“As an institution, we need to honour and recognize that those barriers are real and unless we find ways to address those barriers, we’re not really welcoming people in equally,” Sears said. “If we treat all students exactly the same, we’re not honouring the different journeys that they’ve taken to get here.”
Mohamed said the award was made accessible by having only two requirements: they must be a trans Ryerson student of colour and they must be in financial need.
“It was really important for [Dalmar] to find ways to empower other trans women of colour so we wanted to make sure that education became more accessible,” he said.