Tom Story author: Tom Story language: English

Canada is My Home

My motives for moving overseas were not put into place very well. I think I was in the process of escape. I was tired of everyday homophobia, entangled in analyzing situations that could affect my safety, nibbled by the shame of being gay in front of my friends and family. Humiliated by plugins regarding Serge’s Ukrainian origin. The level of DISCOMFORT (fear) was so high that I decided to go on the crazy adventure of abandoning everyone and everything but Serge.

How much I missed Poland in the first few years was just as sad as my escape. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know how to function without a homophobic society. Not needing to defend myself felt weird to me. I wanted to collaborate with some local organizations but it didn’t work out. Maybe my inherited form of activism did not match the local standard?

I rushed to visit Poland after the first year. I wanted to see my friends and family, I wanted to eat the bread and the white cheese. I wanted to go for a coffee on Chłodna Street, visit the Warsaw ZOO and the Center for Contemporary Art. The Polish culture caught up with me at the airport in London. On the way to the plane to Warsaw, Serge and I heard – FAGOTS – from other Polish folks travelling back to the country. One year of living in Canada without a single gram of direct homophobic confrontation shocked me and left me helpless. All trauma and panic fear returned in a second.

Moving to Canada saved MY DIGNITY. Not the brave and proud one, but my ordinary, personal one. Canada has thrown me off the pedestal of my queerness and has made me one of many. It did not take away and erase my private attributes but made me realize that they exist among the mass of other people. In Canada, we all represent different needs. The migration saved my relationship with Serge.

This may sound a bit naive, but it leads to very practical solutions. We were with Serge in Poland as a couple for 8 years, we had well-paid jobs, supporting family and friends. Only in Canada, we called our apartment HOME, we started working on our financial life plan, and of course in Canada, we were formally a couple from day one. And no one has ever questioned it. The abandonment of Poland allowed me to FOCUS ON MY PARTNERSHIP with Serge and understand what a mess it really was. It required so much attention for years. It was because for so long I have treated it like something almost imaginary. In Canada, I had to get to the point where being a white gay guy I am actually the privileged one. Understanding the problems of other people and other groups has required and still requires changes in my behaviour and changes in my habits. I still miss many people and places in Poland. I also know that I put so much effort into setting up my safe space here. Canada is my first home and I hope it can be for so many others that need one.