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.