Resilience in Sexual and Gender Minority Forced Migrants: A Qualitative Exploration

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Abstract

A host of studies have explored the resettlement experiences of refugees who have fled persecution, but the study of those who have done so on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is just beginning. The purpose of this study was to understand the factors contributing to resilience in sexual and gender minority forced migrants resettled in the United States and Canada. Thematic analysis was used to analyze interviews with 26 individuals who obtained refugee/asylee status on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Participants originated from countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Participants reported experiencing depression, anxiety, traumatic stress as well as resettlement challenges (e.g., securing employment and housing, navigating the asylum process). Despite these struggles, analysis revealed a number of factors of contributing to their resilience: staying hopeful and positive; utilizing community and legal services; receiving support from significant others and friends; doing whatever it takes; and giving back. For African and Caribbean participants, in particular, “spiritual upkeep” also helped to bolster their resilience. Findings indicated that these factors helped participants to manage the effects of severe trauma and adapt to the host country. Implications for counseling with this population are discussed.

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