“Pride for me is full of love and tolerance. It’s reality, and respect, and acceptance.” -Anna Maria and Deisy Jasmin
St. James Town residents Anna Maria and her partner Deisy Jasmin are active members in the community with Anna being a community ambassador and Deisy working with the Catering collective. They share their sentiments with The Corner about what it means to find respect and acceptance of their full personhood after years of suppression and constant fear of threats and violence.
Years before meeting each other, both had struggled with their families’ non-acceptance of their sexual orientation. Compounding this, in Anna Maria’s case, was a campaign of increasingly severe harassment and threats that culminated in a violent assault. With no end in sight, and little protection from the government, there was no choice but to flee for her life. One of the problems for LGBTQ people in Colombia is that, although the country has made important legal strides in more recent years to recognize LGBTQ rights, societal attitudes lag far behind. This is seen in the persistence of persecution and even murders of gay, lesbian and Trans people. Fortunately, Canada has accepted refugee claims of those persecuted on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity since 1991.
For Deisy Jazmin, who as a child was called “marimacha” and “machorra” for her preference for boys’ toys and boy’s games, and whose mother had been killed by the military when she was only two, her elder siblings’ expectations to lead a heterosexual life were a heavy pressure. So, too, was the “help” she was offered by an uncomprehending psychologist and religious authorities.
In Toronto, both have found respect, support, and belonging. Anna Maria recalls her first pride march after arriving as a euphoric experience of wonder, awe, and joy. She also enjoyed the support from institutions in the LGBTQ community, especially The 519. In their everyday lives, she says, “I find a lot of acceptance every day, in the TTC, in the streets, in supermarkets. People look at you like you are normal, you’re part of this world, you’re human and you have love to give, and you can give it to the person you have beside you, you’re not hurting anybody.”
Their message to St. James Town youth who are coming to terms with being gay, Trans, or queer? “You are not alone. There’s a lot of support available to ask for help. The process is difficult but not impossible. The situation changed so much for us; this is the opportunity to take the chance to be yourself,” says Deisy. And to the parents of these youth, Anna Maria advises: “Your child is part of you, they need love and understanding.” She adds, “Coming out of the closet and confronting my parents and my family was very hard…all these processes helped me to be the person I am right now.”