When the news that Somali-Canadian trans woman Sumaya Dasia Dalmar — also known as Sumaya Ysl — had been found dead reached friends and others in the Toronto trans community Sunday, speculation began on social media about whether the 26-year-old model and actress had been murdered.
But Wednesday, Toronto police stated on Facebook and Twitter that their investigation had found that Dalmar was not a homicide victim, reports Canadian LGBT publication Daily Xtra. An autopsy has provided inconclusive results, and a toxicology screen is pending. The investigation remains open.
In cases of sudden death without suspicious circumstances, the Toronto police's policy is to not make a public statement, as the death is not considered an issue of public safety. However, after fielding multiple phone calls and inquiries via social media, the department chose to disclose that Dalmar was found unresponsive by officials responding to a 911 call to an east-end Toronto apartment; no further details were revealed, in order to protect Dalmar's privacy.
"We certainly are sensitive to the relationship between the Toronto Police Service and the trans communities," Toronto Police Services spokeswoman Meaghan Gray explained to Canada's National Post. "We've worked very hard over the last little while to improve that relationship. Certainly our efforts today in putting out this information is part and parcel of that outreach."
Concern that Dalmar was murdered emerged partly due to the fact that nearly 200 trans women of color are reported killed every year worldwide, with potentially many others not reported or misgendered in death. 2015 has been a particularly deadly year for trans women of color in the U.S., with six reported murdered in the first two months.
A lack of mainstream media coverage — as well as the presence of coverage that misgenders victims, disregarding journalistic best practices concerning trans people — has seemingly spurred trans advocates to become especially vigilant when news of a trans woman's sudden death emerges.
Both in Dalmar's death and in the recent Miami murder of 46-year-old trans Latina Kristina Grant Reinwald, hashtags of the victims' names began circulating on social media in memoriam and for news-sharing purposes before police had made public statements.
A public celebration of Dalmar's life will be held March 3 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 519 Church Street Community Centre in Toronto. On the memorial event's Facebook page, Dalmar's friends remember her fondly as "a bold, brave, and brilliant young woman who loved her friends fiercely and whose tenacity to be the best version of herself inspired us all." Friends and advocates have also launched an online fundraiser to pay for the memorial, and they intend to plant a tree commemorating Dalmar's life in a public park.
Anyone with information regarding Dalmar's death is asked to contact the Toronto Police Service's 55 Division Criminal Investigations Branch directly at 416-808-5504 or Toronto Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS.