I have spent the last few weeks vigorously avoiding the news, going out of my way to ignore speeches, press conferences and the violent attacks that have occurred all over the world. In part, I could not come to terms with the many unfortunate events that took place in 2016 and I needed a break. It was also, in large part, my unsuccessful attempt at self preservation.
When Donald Trump was elected as the American president and leader of the free world, I was told, indirectly, that I do not matter. As a woman, as a Muslim, as a person of colour, the millions of people who voted for Trump said to me that my life is secondary, that I am disposable and, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter how long or hard we had fought. I vowed to myself in a fit of rage that I would not set foot in the U.S. while Trump is president (a vow I’m sure I will break before year’s end), and I had never felt more grateful to be Canadian.
Many have argued that I am not American, so why should I care? Because I care about all the marginalized groups of people that are being treated unfairly. I care because Trump’s victory sent a message of hatred, one that many people took happily, spreading it around everywhere they went.
And that’s the thing — hate spreads. It moves through communities like the Black Death, going undetected at first, but quickly moving through blood streams and darkening all that was once bright and full of life.
But then it happened. The thing I foolishly thought, hoped, prayed was just a sick joke the Universe was playing on us happened. Trump was inaugurated as president and immediately it was clear that the people who spent lifetimes fighting for their rights were now at risk of losing them.
So, today I marched. I joined an estimated 60,000 people in the streets of downtown Toronto as we walked united from Queen’s Park to City Hall. We marched with millions around the world who were present to say that we will not be pushed aside. We will fight for ourselves and the rights of those we care about, and we will do so with vigour and purpose.
I watched women share in supporting each other, celebrating our differences while standing for the same, fundamental things. I watched kids walk with their mothers, grandmothers and aunts, showing that the future generation will fight just as hard, if not harder. I saw men show their support for gender equality, many chanting and holding up signs of their own.
Every time I caught someone’s eye, we would instantly smile at each other. We were sharing in something much larger than ourselves and our smiles were silent messages of support saying, “Thank you for being here. I support you, too.” We marched as a community, as one entity with many different and brightly coloured parts. We were showing our support for those around the world who do not have the same rights we do, whose lives are made more difficult simply because of their gender, race or sexual identity. What started as political turned into something much more as we stood together to spread love, peace and unity within our own communities and globally.
To those who do not support, hear this.
I am not just one thing and my gender does not define me. I will continue to stand by those who have to fight a little bit harder every day for their human rights, for basic civility. I will keep marching and using my voice. I have quite the voice and it will be heard. Your hate cannot break me. I will continue to defy the many expectations and standards you have set for me. I, along with all those who marched today, will keep screaming it at the top of our lungs. One day, you will hear our roars, and may they shake you to your very bones.