Most LGBT refugees seeking refuge or asylum in the US have obtained refugee status for reasons unrelated to their sexual orientation or gender identity and/or expression. This guide provides detailed steps for the resettlement process in a context where LGBT refugees may be reluctant to disclose their SOGI and where they have likely been granted refugee status for reasons unrelated to SOGI. This report covers the Heartland Alliance’s development and implementation of the Rainbow Welcome, a response meant to fill the gap in resettlement agencies’ response to LGBT refugees/asylees.
The Rainbow Welcome Initiative provides resettlement agencies with tools, knowledge and technical assistance needed to create and implement comprehensive, culturally-competent services for the LGBT population. This guide/field manual is one of these services. The guide provides an overview of ‘understanding sexual orientation and gender identity’ including a glossary with conceptual definitions and specifically points to the inadequacy of the term LGBT(IAQ+ etc). The guide then dispels myths about LGBT people/refugees/asylees and basic facts about transgender persons and the trans community.
The guide then provides an outline for creating a safe space for LGBT refugees/asylees and operates under the assumption that most are reluctant to disclose information pertaining to their SOGI out of fear of discrimination. The guide then provides a number of recommendations to enable resettlement agencies to, inter alia: assess and manage discomfort; adopting LGBT-informed approaches to case management; cultivate an inclusive environment; ensure confidentiality; develop/adopt additional organisational policies, including an LGBT-inclusive services checklist; and physical safety concerns. Case studies are used to prompt discussion throughout. The guide then moves to direct service provision (i.e. employment, housing, health) with case studies to illustrate potential challenges and solutions. The role of resettlement agencies in legal service provision is then discussed with case studies on hate crimes and discrimination, and immigration issues. The guide then discusses mental health services, starting with four principles from which all resettlement workers should start (same-sex orientation is a normal variant of human sexuality; same-sex partnerships are equally as valid and important as opposite-sex partnerships; families of choices have a special importance to LGBT persons; and. Nearly all LGBT refugees/asylees have suffered directly from discrimination and violence often sufficient to have long-term effects on mental health and wellbeing). Steps for community integration are then discussed before concluding the guide.