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Coming (out) to Canada : narratives of women who immigrate to Canada using the same-sex partner process Jordan, Sharalyn R.

Abstract

For the decade prior to the recognition of same-sex partnerships in immigration law in June 2002, overseas same-sex partners of Canadians could use an appeal on Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) grounds to become permanent residents of Canada. While using this process and then volunteering with the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Taskforce (LEGIT), I saw the need to better understand the experiences of immigrants who come to Canada in a same-sex relationship. I also recognized the potential for the stories of queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual (QLGB) immigrants to contribute to research on how migration shapes QLGB sexualities, thereby enriching understandings of psychosocial processes occurring with migration as well as of sexualities. Using life-story interviews of women who used the H&C process, I investigate women's constructions of their sexual self while narrating their immigration experience. I interviewed 3 women who used the H&C process to settle in Canada with their partners—1 from an Asian country and 2 from European countries. Following a collaborative form of narrative inquiry developed by Arvay (2003), I involved participants in a joint interpretation process and wrote narratives that comprise four aspects of their experience: (a) how they came to understand their sexualities in their home country, (b) the development of their relationships, (c) the application process, and (d) settling in Canada. In each of these aspects, participants are stretching or defying normative life-scripts for women and engaging with oppressions of heterosexism, racism, neo-colonialism, and classism to do so. Each of these processes provides potential catalysts for self revision as women encounter new discourses around women's and QLGB sexualities and have new experiences of self. Understanding the telling of the narrative as one instance of construction of self. I interpreted the narrative interviews to understand how women constructed their sexual self, while recognizing that sexual self is constitutive of and by other selves. I attended to the meanings women made of their relationships, their engagement with authority, and their different social contexts. The objectives for this research are theoretical, applied, and transformative. The narratives of the 3 participants inform efforts to develop better theoretical conceptualizations of sexual orientation identity formation that can accommodate the fluidity and diversity of women's sexualities. The applied purpose of my research was to help organizations within the queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (QLGBT) and immigrant communities understand the experiences and needs of QLGB immigrants in Canada. Finally, women immigrating to be with their same-sex partners have asserted not only their legal and political rights, but also their rights of intimate citizenship (Plummer, 1995) by building relationships, selves, and lives that stretch the bounds of the possible. Their stories are examples of lives that push limits.

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