Danny Ramadan brings struggles of LGBT refugees to light

When Danny Ramadan first arrived in Vancouver with his partner as refugees from Syria, he wanted to try, among other things, riding a roller coaster for the first time in his life.

Former Syrian refugee fled the Middle East to avoid persecution for being a gay man

Syrian refugees Danny Ramadan, right, and his partner moved from Beirut to Vancouver in September 2014. (Danny Ramadan/Facebook)

When Danny Ramadan first arrived in Vancouver with his partner as refugees from Syria, he wanted to try — among other things — riding a roller coaster for the first time in his life.

Ramadan, an openly gay man, was an LGBT activist back home. He fled Syria during the civil war in 2011, and lived as a refugee in Lebanon before coming to Canada last fall. He and his partner were among the first of the 1,300 Syrian refugees the federal government pledged to take in by 2014.

Ramadan did get on that roller coaster in Vancouver, but really, the first six months of his life in Canada were like a roller coaster ride in and of themselves.

"You would think you'd be prepared to do the move here," Ramadan told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"You would think that, 'Oh, I'll come here, it's the heaven on earth, everything is going to be fine, everything is going to be roller coasters everywhere.' But the point is the challenges are way deeper."

The plights of LGBTQ refugees is the theme of Qmunity's annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia breakfast on Friday, where Ramadan will be the keynote speaker.

"Polite" homophobia in Vancouver

Ramadan, who is a writer and a former journalist, says the culture shock and difficulty in finding a job made his first few months in Vancouver a struggle.

However, through volunteering for a local NGO, he now feels more like he's part of a community.

It also helps that Vancouver is "very advanced" when it comes to fighting homophobia. Even though homophobia still appears to exist in a dismissive, polite kind of the way, it is nowhere near as ruthless as in Syria, where people in the LGBT community are persecuted, Ramadan said.

"In the Middle East, somebody wants to be homophobic, they're entitled to it. Society welcomes homophobia," he said.

"Here, I think some people still see it, they still identify themselves as homophobic, but they don't want to present it [openly]."

To hear the full interview with Danny Ramadan, listen to the audio labelled: Syrian-Canadian shares story of being an LGBTQ refugee