UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Accordion homes : lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) refugees' experiences of home and belonging in Canada Fobear, Katherine Marie


This thesis examines the homing experiences of LGBT refugees in Vancouver, British Columbia. Using participatory photography, ethnography, and oral history, this project interrogates home and belonging for individuals claiming and receiving asylum based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The issues examined lie at the intersection of two ongoing discussions in migration scholarship: on race, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity in refugee settlement in Canada, and on home and belonging for LGBT refugees. This examination contributes to both of these discussions. The research suggests reimagining refugee settlement in Canada through the lens of sexualized and gendered bodies in order to queer refugee settlement and expand the scope of home and belonging beyond the pragmatic to aspects of relatedness to places, bodies, and persons. LGBT refugees are caught in between two “(un)homey” places, Canada and their home countries, in which they experience marginalization as queer minorities. LGBT refugees’ experiences challenge the binary between home and homelessness/ displacement and emplacement. Home is not cemented in Vancouver or LGBT refugees’ countries of origin. It rests in the attachments LGBT refugees make with different places, communities, and their own bodies. The relationships LGBT refugees maintain between Canada and their countries serves as a necessary means for them to create a sense of home. These transnational relationships push homemaking outside of the heterosexual neoliberal nation-state and challenge static concepts of home. The fluidity of transnational relationships for LGBT refugees challenges the conceptualization of “home” within policy and academic literatures on settlement. This research unsettles homonational narratives around Canada being a progressive safe haven and discourses about “saving” LGBT refugees. Finally, the thesis reflects on the potential role of the activist-scholar in working with persons living precarious lives in precarious situations, and the responsibilities held by both the researcher and participants in documenting, interpreting, and exhibiting LGBT refugees’ experiences of home and belonging.

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