Sumaya Ysl death: Toronto police investigate death of young Somali trans woman in Canada

Also known by the surname Dalmar, Sumaya was well-known in the city's LGBT community and the subject of a documentary film challenging perceptions of trans Muslim women

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 25 February 2015 13:35 GMT
An image of Sumaya Dalmar posted to the Facebook page in her memory
An image of Sumaya Dalmar posted to the Facebook page in her memory

Police in Canada are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a young transgender Muslim woman after the news that she had been found dead prompted a remarkable response via social media.

Sumaya Dalmar, also known by the name Sumaya Ysl, was 26 years old and an active member of both Toronto’s LGBT and Somali communities, the National Post reported.

Her death was first mentioned in a post on Twitter late on Monday, saying she was a “Somali trans woman murdered in Toronto”.

That message has since been shared more than 3,000 times, while Facebook and blog posts relating to Ms Dalmar’s death have received tens of thousands of shares and interactions.

Toronto Police said that they would not normally issue a public appeal or release details of an incident in a case of a suspected “sudden death” where there was no initial evidence of homicide.

But with the backdrop of shocking statistics on violence against the trans community in North America and amid all the online speculation, police issued a statement on Facebook saying officers “are conducting a thorough investigation”.

Using the hashtag adopted by many members of the public, officers said the statement came “in response to concerns and questions regarding #SumayaYsl”.

It said a woman “was found unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene” at an address in Toronto’s east end. Police added that an autopsy had been inconclusive but stressed: “At this time, we have no evidence to indicate the death is suspicious. If the investigation leads us to believe otherwise, we will provide an update.”

A police spokesperson told the National Post that the release of information came in direct response to the social media outcry. He said: “We certainly are sensitive to the relationship between the Toronto Police Service and trans communities. We’ve worked very hard over the last little while to improve that relationship.”

In 2012 Ms Dalmar was the subject of a short documentary and photography exhibition by the award-winning Somali-Canadian artist Abdi Osman. It described her as undergoing speech therapy training and being “actively involved in the transgender community”.

“Born in Somalia, she migrated with her family to Canada at the age of 3 and began her transition in 2011,” it said. “Sumaya comes from an Islamic background which made it more difficult to come out to her mother as transgendered.”

A Facebook page in Ms Dalmar’s memory has been set up and a service “in celebration of her life” will take place on the evening of 3 March. It described her as “a bold, brave and brilliant young woman who loved her friends fiercely and whose tenacity to be the best version of herself inspired us all.”

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