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Outpouring of love and tributes for much-loved LGBT+ rights activist Susannah Toland, who passed away suddenly aged 45

Emma Powys Maurice July 7, 2020
Susannah Toland

Susannah Toland was one of the few gay Black women in her community (Facebook/Justgiving)

Susannah Toland, one of Londonderry’s best known LGBT+ activists, has died suddenly, devastating Northern Ireland’s LGBT+ community.

Toland, 45, passed away unexpectedly on Friday (July 3), with the community describing “a massive loss” as tributes poured in.

“Susannah was the only gay Black woman in the Bogside,” her friend, Kathleen Bradley, told the Belfast Telegraph.

“She was one of the first handful of people who walked down Shipquay Street in Pride in Derry when it started. She had real deep roots in standing up for the community and in standing up for herself.

“She was an original in every sense of the word… What I loved most about her was that she cared about other people and while she fought causes publicly she also did silent work with friends individually that you wouldn’t have known about.”

Susannah Toland was one of the few gay Black women in her community (Justgiving)

Foyle Pride Festival shared the news of Toland’s passing with a “heavy heart”. Her cause of death has not yet been made public.

“As a young Black queer woman when the movement was very much in its infancy in the city Susannah was one of the first people who had the courage and determination to be who she was, advocating and leading the way for others to have the strength to do the same,” the group wrote.

“Susannah always had so much to give others and her kind and caring nature was infectious to us all. This is massive loss to the LGBTQ+ community and the city.”

Toland was a support worker in women’s and children’s homeless shelter. She had previously spoken out against the “absolute bellyful” of racism and homophobia she frequently experienced in her hometown, desperately urging her community to “be kind”.

“Anyone that knows Susannah will know she had the biggest heart and was always willing to share her love and kindness with whoever needed it,” the advocacy group LGBT Northern Ireland wrote on Facebook.

“No matter where she was or who she was with, she fitted right in. It didn’t matter what you did or who you were to Susannah, she chatted and welcomed anyone and everyone. It’s a special kind of person that can do that.

“Susannah was a special kind of person. The world has lost a special piece of itself.”

Restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic mean her funeral and wake will be private, so her many loved ones are planning to gather outside the church dressed in the colours of the rainbow in tribute to her.

A fundraiser to help Toland’s family with funeral costs has been organised by her friends.

More: Northern Ireland, obituary, Susannah Toland

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