Finding guidance, discovering truth

For Amin, growing up in a traditional Ismaili Muslim home meant attending Mosque regularly. What it didn’t mean was any discussion about being gay.

Originally from Uganda, when Amin was six years old he and his family were forced to leave their home. Immigrating to Canada in 1972 as refugees, the adjustment to a new culture was difficult for his family.

“I never really felt like I belonged,” he says, adding that his family moved frequently to where the jobs were, and he had trouble making friends at school. “When people called me ‘Paki’, I knew what they were saying. When people called me ‘gay’, I didn’t know what they meant.”

“It just wasn’t something my family was exposed to, we never met anyone that was openly gay,” he says. “We never talked about what it means to be different.”

What kept him going, he says, were his loved ones: “My cousins, my aunts and uncles … we kept each other sane.”

Amin credits his inclusive work space and supportive colleagues and mentors at TD bank for helping him come out in his 30s.

“All that mattered to them was who I was, and what made me happy,” he says.

Only when that safe-space was created at work, was Amin ready to tell his family– people who have only ever known him as straight.

As refugees, Amin and his family accessed United Way partners that offered settlement services – easing their transition to Canada. Decades later during his coming out process, Amin sought support once again through a United Way-funded LGBTQ+ group.

Amin says it’s important to have resources available to support the LGBTQ+ community on their journeys.

“Regardless if you’re gay, or straight, or transgender – you will always have challenges and it’s important to persevere,” he says. “The one piece of advice I have for others in a similar situation is to just to talk to someone – find one person or one community organization who can help you on your path.”

Path to Pride is raising funds for vital local programs that support LGTBQ+ kids, families and seniors. Funds raised will support programs at Ten Oaks Project, Family Services Ottawa, and Ottawa Senior Pride Network.




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