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Born in Aden, Yemen |

Arriving to Canada from Yemen via his UK education, Kamal yearned for an open and free society that would accept him as a gay man. He says he feels safe here and that he belongs in Toronto where he doesn’t stand out in a crowd.

“There are so many people from all over the world. No one has any more right to Toronto than any other group.”

Here in Toronto he has managed to have a successful career as a journalist and now academic and author in ways that wouldn’t be possible in other parts of the world. He explains how Toronto opened its arms to him, and he has been immensely grateful for it ever since. Kamal currently works as a Journalism professor at Ryerson and is the author of Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes (2012) which won the 2013 Toronto Book Award.

Toronto as Home

Kamal considers himself a “midtown kinda guy” living in the Yonge and St. Clair. He says it’s not too trendy, but it is quiet and safe. He loves its simplicity and beauty in nearby ravines, parks and old homes. David Balfour Park is a place where he takes his dog, Chester, to sit and appreciate the tranquility, peacefulness and safety of it all.

“Where I come from has been ravaged by wars and other forms of violence… [so] being at the David Balfour Park is like meditation.”

Kamal says he does his best thinking there. The very fact that he owns a dog in Toronto – something he was never allowed to have growing up in the Middle East – makes him love this city even more. It’s actually been a dream of his for decades, and Chester, 10 years old, is a big part of his story here in Toronto. Sadly, Chester was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks after this picture was taken and given a few months to live.

“This picture is probably the last of us together. I’m glad to have a reminder of our time in our favourite park.”

Connection with the Past

Kamal has not changed his key-chain since 1988 when he left Yemen for good. His brother bought it for him as a memento and he still uses it because it feels that part of Kamal’s origins stay in his pocket, close to his skin. The key chain features a famous Yemeni symbol: the Arabian dagger.

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