One of this year's Pride parade grand marshals is Syrian refugee Danny Ramadan.
At the official Pride Week proclamation ceremony today (July 25) at the new Jim Deva plaza in the West End, Ramadan spoke about why the day before, July 24, is an important and emotional day for him every year.
He said that in 2014, he woke up on July 24 at 8 a.m. to a phone call from Canadian Embassy after being a Syrian refugee in Lebanon for two years. He was informed that his visa was approved and he was finally able to come to Canada.
"Being out of the closet in the Middle East is a very difficult place to be," Ramadan said. "I feared for my safety every single day. I feared for people around me, for the society I lived in. I feared the looks of people at me."
Ramadan, who is now a volunteer coordinator at Qmunity as well as a community activist, said his life has completely changed since he has experienced the freedom to be LGBT in Vancouver.
"Yesterday, the 24th of July, 2016," he said, "I took a boy that I liked and we went down to Jim Deva Plaza, we got donair from the shwarma place around the corner, we ate right here and then we walked all the way down to Sunset Beach, we watched the sunset, and together, we made out for a good 50 minutes."
He said he feels honoured to be a grand marshal in this year's Pride parade because of all the countless other stories like his.
"That is the beauty of Pride in this city. People like me, realizing that we have the freedom to be truly who we are, to be the people who we are, and to be welcomed by this beautiful community of people, from all colours, from all races, from all backgrounds, from all sexual identities and gender identities, and that's why I'm seriously proud to be the grand marshal this year, not to represent just myself, but also to represent the experiences of so many LGBTQ refugees who come to this city and find themselves here."