Queering borders: Language, sexuality and migration
  • ISSN 2211-3770
  • E-ISSN: 2211-3789
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In this paper I explore how adjudicators in the Canadian refugee determination system assess sexual orientation refugee claims. By focusing on discourse and terminology of questions utilized in the hearing (in which the refugee claimant answers questions posed by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) Member), I will outline how these questions contain predetermined social knowledge and thus operate as a cultural formation through which particular arrangements of sexual and gendered practices and identities are privileged. However, documents and interviews with IRB staff reveal the presence of a ‘gut feeling’ or ‘sixth-sense’ in determining the credibility of a claimant’s sexual orientation. While some may argue that these feelings represent a level of sensitivity that humanizes the decision making process, I argue that they reveal adjudicators’ application of their own understandings and feelings about ‘authentic’ sexual identities and relationships derived from specific cultural, gendered, raced and classed experiences, which, in effect, re-inscribe a homonormative mode of gatekeeping that may have profound consequences for a claimant whose narrative and/or performance fails to stir the appropriate senses.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): discourse; emotion; refugee; sexuality; terminology
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