I went to a vigil for Gaza last month that was held at Kitchener City Hall. Organizers spoke about being Palestinian, how the siege has affected them and their families and sharing the stories of those in Gaza. Vigil attendees were asked to look at the growing list of martyrs and pick someone’s name to keep close to our hearts. The person I chose was a woman named Aeda Khalil Ahmed Al-Khalidi. Organizers of the vigil told us to keep the people we’ve chosen in our minds and hearts as we go about our lives so they can live on through us. This note is dedicated to Aeda.   

The siege on Gaza weighs heavily on my mind, heart and soul.  As of December 1 when this note is being written, Israel has killed more than 175 people as the “humanitarian pause” ended, according to Al Jazeera.  

Obviously, there is no comparing the heartache of witnessing atrocities to what it must feel like for the folks who are being immediately impacted. I am speaking about Palestine as a non-Palestinian, born in Canada from Filipino immigrants and raised in the Roman Catholic Church.  

The importance of allyship and using privilege to uplift Palestinian voices paramount now, more than ever. Like community organizer and freelance Medium writer Abby Pasion says, “From ‘Isang Bagsak’ to #FilipinxForBlackLives, the Filipino Identity Has Always Been Political.”  

How does one summarize another “year like no other?” So many of us are getting tired of hearing about the lack of precedence for the times we are living in. But living in unprecedented times is now something we all have done before. Unfortunately, the ongoing genocide of the people in Gaza has been witnessed around the world many times over by many people who are indigenous to the land.  

It is important to remember that this does not take away from the severity of the atrocities that are happening now. It is not useful or helpful to compare one oppressed people’s hardships to another. Instead, as an ally to Palestinian people, we must educate ourselves. We must stay informed, support the Palestinian community as much as we can, in Canada, around the world and especially in Gaza. Go to vigils, donate money and time to organizations on the ground.   

On a personal level, 2023 has brought many ups and downs. Because of The Community Edition, I have never felt so connected to a community as much as I am now. When I was at the vigil for Gaza, I could feel the collective grief and horror that the other 50-odd attendees and I all shared. I grew up in the GTA. In my hometown as a child, the only people I felt like I was a part of were my own family.  

I genuinely felt like I was connecting with family when I was at that vigil.  

We were all there to share in collective grief and support Palestinian people who are part of our community through this incredibly difficult time.  

The ability to choose your family, your community as an adult is a gift and a privilege. From going to Tri-Pride for the first time since 2018 to the open house of Willow River Centre, the people of Waterloo Region have welcomed me with open arms. As a trans man of colour I do not take the acceptance and safety I feel here for granted.  

I am aware many people like me have and continue to struggle for not just acceptance, but celebration of their existence. For peace, freedom and the ability to be ourselves, people of colour have been fighting for these rights for centuries.   

This year has more than solidified the fact that all people should be given the right to exist in peace as they are. Land that you must kill for is not yours to begin with. Holding Israel accountable for the genocide is not inherently antisemitic. Peacefully showing support for Palestine is not a sign of hate speech.