If someone had told me I would be living in Canada a year ago, I'd probably ask that person if they needed medication. I mean, I always saw myself basking in the sun on a beautiful beach in April. (laughs)
The truth is my life was already planned out. I wanted my partner and I to build a future together in my country of birth -- Antigua and Barbuda. We already had a nice apartment, a four-legged son, we both drove and had great jobs. All that was missing was "acceptance"!
As insignificant as that word may seem, acceptance is everything to a lesbian, just like any other member of the LGBTQ community. I just wanted to be loved and respected for who I am.
Unfortunately, living in a Caribbean country that has laws against same-sex unions and being with a stud was no easy feat, so when homophobes decided that we were not worthy of existing in the same space as them, I told my partner that it was time to say goodbye to everything and everyone.
We landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 1, 2015 and our lives have changed since then.
Settling into Toronto was better than we anticipated and we soon found friends from all walks of life. The multi-culturalism in this city is simply refreshing. We even found a home away from home in MCC where we go for fellowship from time to time, and Church Street -- a place where I would eventually find inspiration to do more for my rainbow family.
I remember our first time walking on Church Street. Words cannot describe the feeling. Let's just say, I found true freedom and happiness. My fiancé and I have been to queer-friendly spaces in other countries, but this was an entire village for us. We have dined on Church Street, sang karaoke on Church Street, partied on Church Street, celebrated Pride on Church Street and you get the point by now. Oh! Our first kiss here was on Church Street. OK! I'm done.
What really stands out for me in the last year of being in Canada is how much I have grown as an individual, even though I have done quite a lot in my 30 years on this earth. However, I always knew that my purpose was and still is, making a difference in this world. When you are in a happy place in your life, you somehow find the strength to do things you never imagined and that's exactly what happened to me after my arrival.
With my background in media and communications, I started a YouTube Channel called Island Lez Talk where my fiancé and I share videos about our lives and discuss issues affecting the LGBTQ community, especially in the Caribbean. The day I decided to do that was the moment I told myself that I needed to help save lives through knowledge.
In the last year, I also rediscovered my passion for singing and writing music and soon found myself performing at various events, even taking the step to compete in Hidden Talent Canada where I walked away with second-place and a dream of becoming a recording artiste. I look forward to the day when I get to perform at Pride for my rainbow family. Now that would be everything!
Another note-worthy moment was being able to witness the swearing-in of a new Prime Minister and though I am all about the ladies, I will admit that Justin Trudeau is one fine specimen of a man, with an amazing heart. That's all!
I'll say this about Canada though, I don't think I'll ever get used to the winters, but I don't care. I'll take a snow storm any day in exchange for me being able to live as my true self.
If you have never been deprived of being who you are both inside and out, then consider yourself extremely blessed. For many like me who grew up in a homophobic society, life can be depressing. You can wake up on any day and decide to give up. Every day is a struggle to survive and that is an internal battle when you are locked away in the closet because of the fear of being persecuted for being a lesbian; for being gay; for being a transgender; just for being you.
Being in Canada has only pushed those thoughts out the window as I am surrounded by many who believe in acceptance and tolerance. In fact, just being able to hold my fiance's hand without looking over my shoulder is a blessing and for that, I am eternally grateful and hopeful about our future.
We are now in 2016 and my days of feeling like a tourist have ended. While my fiancé goes off to college to get back to her beloved truck driving career (Yep! She is the ultimate badass), I will be joining a team of people who have become family over the year to help bring awareness to HIV/AIDS in the daytime and serenading lovers of music in the night, when I'm not in the studio. All in all, this journey has been simply amazing!
Yes! It was April Fool's Day when we touched down at Pearson, but I kid you not when I say that Canada is my new love and Toronto is my home sweet home.
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