He’s only been here four months, but Sam Aiden, a gay Syrian refugee who fled the war in Syria to build a new life in Canada, has slowly integrated himself into the community. It hasn’t come without its challenges.
The 23 year-old says that ideas about sexuality in Revelstoke are not what he thought they’d be, but that he is grateful just to be able to express himself.
“When I was in my hometown, and even in Lebanon, I couldn’t talk. But now I can. I can express my opinion, and share who I am,” said Aiden. “Now I am free.”
Sharing his opinions and sexuality with the world is part of the idea behind his new art exhibit — “Al Ain the Eye: I am different but I am #human” — which will open at the United Church on March 30. The exhibit begins at 4:44 p.m. Four is Aiden’s lucky number.
David Cooke, the minister of the Revelstoke United Church, said that he has been beyond amazed at how integrated and involved with the community Aiden has been during his short time in Revelstoke. He also said that he feels it’s important to educate people about the diversity of gender identity.
“I think that recognition that a diverse spectrum of gender exists is extremely important,” said Cooke. “It’s important for people who identify differently to feel accepted and to not feel they are persecuted.”
“Al Ain the Eye” will tell Aiden’s life story. He hopes his story will help break down the stigma that surrounds his life as someone who identifies as queer.
The 23-year-old says his artistic practice is a way of coping with some of his traumatic memories and past.
The multimedia show will feature Aiden’s writing, painting, graphic design and pictures, which he says chronicle both his life in Syria, and transition to small-town Canada.
Aiden says he hopes the exhibit will educate people about gender identity, because he has found that a lot of people in Revelstoke don’t know about the politics and performance of identity.
“It’s been difficult for me to show my identity here, and I need to work on that to show people who I am,” said Aiden over a coffee at La Baguette. “We are different, but we are human.”
Aiden was born in As-Suwayda, Syria.
He arrived in Revelstoke via Lebanon in December, and was sponsored by Revelstoke for Refugees.
Aiden studied psychology at the university level but was not able to graduate due to the ongoing war in Syria.
He is currently working part-time at Birch and Lace, and said he is interested in pursuing esthetician studies.
He says that being able to look for beauty, even amidst hardship, makes his life worth living.
The exhibit is free and will only run for one night.