I don’t know if this will be news to you.
I don’t know if you heard, a year ago this month, that a man in Toronto was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Then five. Six. Eight. The number grew because police found more and more remains at a site where the murderer stored landscaping equipment. The murders stretched a time period of seven years.
Six of the victims were of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent. Seven were age 40 or older. All were men.
Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, and Selim Esen.
And all were gay.
Before the arrest, police had made no indication that those eight disappearances in Toronto’s gay village might be connected. No indication that there might be danger. Shortly after the body count rose, Anthony Oliveira wrote for Hazlitt, “In all that time the police have insisted there is no connection between Andrew Kinsman [the most recent victim at the time of arrest] and the rash of disappearances we have been seeing for years. Instead, they tell us to ‘be careful on the apps.’ They do not explain why.”
I don’t know if you knew about the fear that permeated Toronto’s gay scene for years. The fear that still hangs heavy. The fear that no one is protecting you, not really.
I don’t know if it’s obvious why I’m thinking about these deaths this week.
I don’t know if you followed the news in West Hollywood on Monday, where a man was pronounced dead at the home of a wealthy white gay man. The same home where, in 2017, Gemmel Moore died, in a room with the same West Hollywood man.
Both men were black.
In his journal, Moore had written, “I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that. [The West Hollywood man] is the one to thank, he gave me my first injection of crystal meth.”
I don’t know all the facts. I can tell you what local activists have said, about their distress at the reaction of authorities after Moore’s death, about feeling that this most recent death was preventable. Jasmyne Cannick, a commentator familiar with the Moore case, issued a statement on Monday: “We repeatedly told the sheriff’s department and the district attorney’s office that if [the West Hollywood man] wasn’t stopped, that another young man was going to end up dead in his apartment. … How many more have to die before the sheriff’s department and district attorney’s office take action?”
The fear that no one is protecting you, not really.
I don’t know if you’ve learned much history of gay men. Of forced hormone therapy, of police raids, of governments laughing at the rising AIDS crisis.
I don’t know if you’re reading this with skepticism. I don’t know if you’re mentally asking what sexuality and race has to do with these stories. I don’t know if you’re scoffing at my suggestions about systemic elimination and coordinated ignorance.
I don’t know if you wish I’d named the murderers instead of focusing on the victims.
I don’t know if you think the police are doing their due diligence in these cases. I don’t know if you think the pigs are leaving gay men to die.
I don’t know the fear that no one is protecting me, not really.
Gwyneth Findlay is a writer and editor working in publishing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She graduated from Calvin in 2018 with a degree in writing and minors in French and gender studies. She also writes for the new Calvin alumni fiction blog, Presticogitation.