Learning to be LGBT

Sexual Orientation Refugees and Linguistic Inequality


  • David A.B. Murray York University


This paper explores how adjudicators in the Canadian refugee determination system assess sexual orientation refugee claims. I outline how predetermined social knowledge in adjudicators' terms and questions about a refugee claimant’s sexual identity operate as a cultural formation through which particular Western normative arrangements of sexual practices and identities are privileged as social facts. These assumed 'social facts' reveal adjudicators’ application of understandings about ‘authentic’ sexual identities derived from guidelines and/or 'common-sense' assumptions reflecting a privileged set of cultural, gendered, raced and classed experiences. The imposition of this arrangement re-inscribes a homonationalist mode of gatekeeping that may have profound consequences for a refugee claimant whose answers do not satisfy the adjudicator's expectations. 

Author Biography

David A.B. Murray, York University

Murray is Professor of Anthropology and Sexuality Studies at York University, Canada. His most recent book is "Real Queer?: Sexual Orientation and Gender Refugees in the Canadian Refugee Apparatus" (2016, Rowman and Littlefield).






‘Social Facts’ and Other Assumptions