Content: suicide, homophobia, torture, abuse
LGBTQ+ activist Sarah Hegazi has died at age 30. We received a request to share an eulogy from the Hamilton Autistic Comfort Zone, who were in community with Sarah, honouring her life and activism. We join LGBTQ+ activists around the world in mourning Sarah as autistics, LGBTQ+ autistics, and LGBTQ+ autistics of colour. Rest in power, rest in pride, Sarah. We raise the flag for you.
Sarah Hegazi was a lesbian socialist, communist and activist who was living in exile in Canada (Toronto) after being granted asylum when she was released from jail in Egypt. She, with many other Egyptians, had been arrested, assaulted and jailed for raising a rainbow flag at a concert by Mashrou' Leila, a band led by an openly gay singer who has since been banned from performing in the country.
Sarah came all the way from Toronto to be part of the first autistic-led gathering we had in Hamilton as autistic people, on April 23 2019.
It was Sarah who came up with our name, the Autistic Comfort Zone. She gave us permission to use it. At our first gathering, she spoke briefly about being in Canada as an exile, and hoping to find comfort here. We know that was very difficult to find, and still is.
The vision we talked about was to create gathering spaces for us, by us, that could simply be spaces where we could just be autistic with each other, freely and safely, and support each other as peers, to center Black, Indigenous and People of Colour autistics and to organize in radical solidarity across political lines.
We wanted to show that we could create this ourselves, in Hamilton (where there is still not a single autistic-specific support service for adults, in one of the largest cities in Canada) and we wanted to see that happen in Toronto too.
We want, and we need, "a mighty kindness" (Rumi).
Sarah was a mighty kindness. She was a brilliant, fierce and deeply honest human who spoke and wrote openly about revolution, and supported Egyptian, Sudanese and Syrian peoples' struggles against those regimes. She was "super Communist, super gay and feminist". She believed in smashing patriarchy and capitalism and that "strikes and staying in the streets are what is necessary to force change" (https://springmag.ca/interview-lessons-from-egypts-counter-revolution-for-sudan).
Through our grief, is the resolve of breaking through our isolation to reach out and sustain ourselves through community and through action we take ourselves. One way we found this, briefly, was by coming together as autistic people. We also need to be affirmed in the many spaces we access which have little to no awareness of autistic lives and experiences, as BIPOC, LGBTQQIA2S people, and as survivors of systemic and interpersonal violence. We have a long, slow way to go together.
We will never organize another autistic space without thinking about Sarah, remembering her openness and about her neurodiversity, her gay pride and her political beliefs. We will never see another pride flag without thinking about the exuberant joy she took in raising that flag, what was stolen from her for expressing that publicly, and how state violence and police brutality is incompatible with human life and freedom.
May a million more rise to stand in the place you have left, Sarah Hegazi.
Rest in power, rest in pride.
— The Hamilton Autistic Comfort Zone
Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line
Text: 647 694 4275
Live chat: https://www.youthline.ca/#
Phone hotline: 1 877 330 6366
Toronto-specific LGBTQQIA2S resources
Hamilton-specific LGBTQQIA2S resources
Content: police brutality, murder, racism, ableism
Autistics United Canada condemns the murders of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Eishia Husdon, Breonna Taylor, Jason Collins, D’Andre Campbell, Chantel Moore, and many more at the hands of the police. As communities in the USA, Canada, and around the world surge to protest police violence and brutality towards Black and Indigenous people, we add our voices as racialized and white autistic people.
Disability justice requires solidarity and collective liberation. Disabled, neurodivergent, Mad, Black, Indigenous, and otherwise racialized communities are disproportionately targeted by police violence in a system that is upheld by white supremacy and ableism. Canada has a long, brutal history of state violence against Black and Indigenous people: the RCMP were originally used to force Indigenous people off their ancestral lands, keep Indigenous children in residential schools, and enforce slavery of Black and Indigenous people. To uphold our fight against ableism, we must also combat the systemic racism and police state that harm countless people in our communities.
This is not just a case of a few bad apples. If one police officer wrongfully kills someone, and the rest of the police do not hold that officer accountable, then the whole justice system is broken. And it is.
It is important to note that 42% of people who were killed by Canadian police since 2000 were in mental distress. This is a problem when police are called on neurodivergent people, particularly neurodivergent BIPOC, in crisis. Disabled BIPOC deserve to live and receive support when we are in mental distress. Police are not mental health professionals. We need to end the practice of calling the police for people who need healthcare and support, simply because there are no non-police mobile crisis response teams. Defund the police and fund culturally competent, trauma-informed, BIPOC-led mental health support!
Defunding police is a start--but ultimately ending state violence requires abolition of police and carceral spaces. There are viable alternative solutions to police. As Black Lives Matter Toronto organizer Syrus Marcus Ware says, "We can build communities rooted in social justice that actually keep us safe. We can keep each other safe. We can create community crisis response teams, transformative justice circles, supportive housing for all who need it, a universal basic income, decriminalizing drugs..."
To do this, we must center the voices of people that are usually targeted by police, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, people experiencing homelessness and poverty, sex workers, and drug users. Black and Indigenous people are speaking up now--we stand by them in solidarity. To our Black and Indigenous community members: we care for you. Your lives matter.
We know that many people are looking for ways to actively support Black and Indigenous people in their struggle for liberation. We have included a list of resources below, including ways you can support from home. As disabled people, we recognize multiple ways of helping and caring for one another, whether it be checking in with Black and Indigenous friends and neighbours, providing child care, cooking meals, going to protests, providing jail support, fundraising, emailing, phone calling, challenging racist remarks from family and friends, teaching children about anti-racism, translating documents, or sharing resources and information online.
Regis Korchinski-Paquet. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Eishia Husdon. Breonna Taylor. Jason Collins. D’Andre Campbell. Chantel Moore. And many more. We honour their names; we fight for a world where our Black and Indigenous community members can live freely without fear.
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist." - Angela Davis
#DisabledPeopleForBlackLives #DisabledPeopleForIndigenousLives #BlackLivesMatter #DefundThePolice #AbolitionNow
Learn, support, and take action! Check out our resource list here.