“I just do what I got to do to survive,” says 59-year-old Eustace (who asked Daily Xtra not to use his real name for safety reasons), a gay man currently living in Canada. Eustace has been living in Canada since 2006, when he says he left Guyana in fear of his life.
Before coming to Canada, Eustace says he lived in America for 20 years before he went back to Guyana. But while he was there, he says his involvement with a political party led to personal threats.
“I got a phone call. I don’t know who called me until this day. And the people told me I should get out of town because, ‘My head is next.’”
“I spent a couple of months — I believe actually 10 months — home. And I flew out because I was moving all around. I was hiding, you know? And I flew out and I went to another country. To the islands. And from the islands I flew up here — to Canada.”
Why not return to the United States, where he’d already spent two decades of his life?
“I got some information on Canada and I believed here was the best and safest place for me to come. Because a lot of people know me in America. But here, people don’t know me like that.”
“My plan was to apply for status when I got certain things situated here. But before that happened, my eyes got the best of me. My vision was going dimmer and dimmer.”
Eustace’s vision problems started in 2012. Today he lives with glaucoma, making picking up odd jobs nearly impossible. Because of his lack of legal status and inability to work, he doesn’t have access to basic health and social services like a family doctor and Ontario Works.
“I just go through it day by day. How it presents itself to me, I just deal with it.”
Eustace lives in a shelter and says he can’t count on anyone from Guyana or the US for support. He’s never really been out as a gay man in either country, and even moving to Canada didn’t change that — he’s still not out here. “I will never ever feel comfortable enough to do that.”
“The only family and friends I’ve got are the caseworkers and some of the people at the shelter that I stay with. The workers at the shelter, not the residents.”
Eustace has been living in Toronto for almost seven years now. He’ll be spending the holidays around his caseworkers, who are helping him formally pursue legal status for the first time ever. This year’s celebrations should be brighter; Eustace is one of the sponsored seniors for LGBT group Hangin’ Out’s fourth annual Sponsor an LGBTQ Senior for the Holidays drive.
But ask Eustace what the holidays mean to him, and he responds with a bitter chuckle.
“In my position? [It’s] just another day.”