These Stories Need Happy Endings

These Stories Need Happy Endings

Posted on May 27 by Farzana Doctor in News
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Twenty years ago, I worked at a social service agency for homeless youth. Most of the clients were queer and trans youth.  Many had left their homes due to violence, or had been kicked out after coming out.

I remember one young person—I’ll call him Asim—who arrived at our agency. He and I had a lot in common. We were both queer and South Asian and Muslim. We’d both come out to our families that year. It had been scary for us both.

But that’s where the similarities ended. I was twenty-four and had my own place and job. My coming out was awkward and tense. At the time, my father didn’t understand. But he ended our phone call by saying,  “When will you be home next? I hope you’ll visit soon.” I will always remember, with gratitude, that loving gesture.

Asim was sixteen and still dependent on his family. When they found out he was gay they disowned him. They told him that he was no longer their son. There were no loving gestures for him.

We connected him with resources: shelter, money, a return to school. Things stabilized, but the trauma of his family’s homophobic rejection was too much for him.

He killed himself the next year. I grieved. I wondered if there was anything else I could have done to help him.

Asim’s story stayed with me for a long time. He inspired a character, Fatima, in my second novel, Six Metres of Pavement. She, too, is young, South Asian and Muslim. She, too, is kicked out by her family. In the novel, she meets up with a middle-aged man named Ismail who takes her in, and together, they create a kind of chosen family. He acts as an intermediary with her family and in the end, there is a kind of resolution for them all. Fatima’s coming out causes everyone to change for the better. Her story has a happy ending.

Asim died twenty years ago. Queer and trans youth are still being kicked out of their homes due to their families’ homophobia, transphobia, biphobia. In fact, over 20% of homeless youth in Canada identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or two-spirited.

It’s time more queer and trans youth get the support and care they need.  Perhaps then, more of their stories will have happy endings.

Farzana Doctor

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
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Farzana Doctor

Farzana Doctor is the author of Stealing Nasreen, All Inclusive, and Six Metres of Pavement, which won a Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. She lives in Toronto.