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Promoting the wellbeing of LGBT refugees in Canada

Canadian researchers are beginning to document the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender refugees who have been resettled in this country. We know that the process of adjustment for individuals is often a difficult one. This study is different in that it turns around and explores the perceptions of professional service providers working with this vulnerable population. It sheds light on the challenges of meeting the needs of LGBT refugees, especially mental health issues and problems. Interviews were conducted with advocates, lawyers and mental health practitioners.

Four themes emerged from these conversations: facilitating safety, buffering rejection; tracking avoidance patterns; interpreting mental health; and negotiating identity paradigms. Participants agreed that LGBT refugees are best served by providers who understand the particular needs of establishing trust and safety for their clients; recognize their clients’ nuanced social support needs; facilitate the refugee claims process; grasp the complexity of their clients’ mental health challenges; and interrogate their own cultural biases regarding sexual orientations and gender identities.

What are the implications for organizations like ROAR? We take seriously the real problems all refugees face. We try to keep up with the best thinking on the issues and use insights gained from this kind of research to guide our work.

This study strongly indicates that our efforts must reflect the following principles:

1. To create an accepting, compassionate and empowering relationship with the people we are helping.

2. To foster connection and community.

3. To confront our own cultural assumptions when working with people whose ideas about their sexual orientation or gender identity may differ from our own.

This article appeared a year ago in the academic journal Culture, Health & Sexuality.


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