Passing Lines: Queer Refugee Claimants’ Journeys, Testimonies, and Liquid Identities

By Estelle Hébert.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

For queer refugees, obtaining legal refugee status in Canada is a challenge. Confronted by the immigration system, they are asked to provide ample evidence to “prove” their sexual identity in addition to sharing their story in a clear and sufficient manner. In performing research, it was noticed that there was a lack of consistency in regards to who gets in as a legal refugee, and who is left out. I believe this lack of consistency that exists within the Canadian immigration system is a result of the intricacy of having to deal with the notion of sexual identity within immigration law. This complexity stems from the idea that different individuals have different understandings of what it means to be queer. In response to three documented stories of individuals who have made their refugee claim based on their sexuality, Passing Lines (both a paper essay and an audio/sound documentary) explores the tensions that sexual identity and testimony brings to court hearings. How can an individual successfully prove his/her sexual identity to a judge or immigration officer? How should sexual identity be understood in the context of queer refugee claimants? How should one respond to queer refugees’ testimonies and stories told both inside and outside the courtroom? How should one understand the journey of a queer refugee? It is within the context of differenciality, liquidity, testimony and empathy that the following explores queer refugees’ challenges and strategies in seeking safety, based on documented stories reflective of real-life testimonies obtained outside the judicial system. In doing so, it is maintained that queer refugee claimants’ identities and testimonies should be understood as fluid, and that their situation must be valued through empathy, thus suggesting new ways of understanding their identities, stories, and situations.

Keywords: Refugee, Empathy, Difference, Sexuality, Identity, Court, Borders, Movement, Liquidity, Testimony, Narrative, Experience, Documentary, Story, Storytelling, Canada, Immigration System, Diversity, Identity, Sexual Identity

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp.105-116. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 606.405KB).

Estelle Hébert

Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Estelle Hébert is a Canadian documentary practitioner and graduate from Ryerson University's Documentary Media Masters program in Toronto (2009). She also works as a language teacher in Japan. She has been involved in various research and media work since her early college years (BA Communication Studies, Concordia University, Montreal), producing a number of documentary media projects addressing humanitarian and social issues. She has also had the great opportunity to work alongside Red Letter Films, HenryLess Productions, and Curriculum Services Canada as researcher, project leader, director, and picture editor. Estelle's current research interests include issues related to world population and global inequalities.


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