Rwandan Genocide survivor shares coming out experience

Daniel Trust, a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, is seen speaking at the Rainbow Center in UConn's Student Union in Storrs, Connecticut, on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015. Trust eventually immigrated to America, graduating from Bassick High School in Bridgeport and then from Southern Connecticut State University. (Allen Lang/The Daily Campus)

Imagine surviving the most horrible thing possible, but finding the strength to cope and live past that only to be rejected by your family, who survived alongside you, because you are gay. This scenario was Daniel Trust’s life growing up, and he shared that story at the Rainbow Center on Thursday afternoon with the hope that people will understand nothing is hopeless.

Daniel Trust survived the Rwandan genocide in 1994. This atrocity was orchestrated by extremist Hutus, an ethnic group in Rwanda who blamed the Tutsi, another ethnic group, for the death of Hutu President Habyarimana who died when his plane was shot down.

The Tutsis and Hutus had a long standing ethnic conflict and, as a result, the hatred between the two groups was capitulated by the extremist Hutu’s, which led to the murder of more than 800,000 Tutsi’s, including two of Trust’s sisters, his mother and his father.

“What stuck out to me the most was how recent everything he said was. He is 26 and I can’t imagine the resilience it took to survive seeing your family murdered in front of you,” said Lia Triantafylidis, a seventh semester senior majoring in human development and family studies. 

Trust lived in a refugee camp in the Republic of Congo before returning to Rwanda only to live with abusive family members who would whip him if he so much as broke a dish while washing it. Eventually, Trust immigrated to America, graduating from Bassick High School in Bridgeport and then from Southern Connecticut State University, becoming the vice president of a TD Bank branch, adopting two children and creating The Daniel Trust Foundation.

He shared his experience of coming out as gay with those in attendance, which carried with it a bit of humor.  He explained that at 20 years old he started accepting he was gay.  It wasn’t easy for him though and he was hard on himself feeling that the suffering he had already endured was invalidated because he was gay.

“I really liked the intersectionality of his story. A lot of people see coming out as being a survivor of something. I liked how he was able to bring both of those aspects together,” said Kathleen Connelly, a seventh semester senior communications and human rights major.

He came out on a National Coming Out Day with pride and distinction to his coworkers at TD bank after he worked himself through the struggle in his early 20s.  He commented that when he posted it on Facebook that very same day, his family found out and rejected him for a time.

“I appreciated what he had to say because I feel like a lot of what he had to say was geared towards me.  I always feel like I shouldn’t give up,” said Jorge Vega, a seventh semester senior majoring in sociology.

The story of his life was heartbreaking, but Trust shared his experience, turning it into something inspirational and empowering, saying, “Never give up, no matter what, no matter what you have been through in your life.  I am standing here today because I have learned to let go of the past."


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.