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Thursday, 11 June 2009

Journal of Refugee Studies: Constructing the Personal Narratives of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Asylum Claimants

Journal of Refugee Studies 2009 22(2):195-223; doi:10.1093/jrs/fep010

Constructing the Personal Narratives of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Asylum Claimants
Laurie Berg and Jenni Millbank

Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway NSW 2007, Australia

laurie.berg@uts.edu.au, jenni.millbank@uts.edu.au

This article draws upon psychological and sociological literature to explore the issues that arise in eliciting and presenting a refugee narrative when the claim is based upon sexual orientation. Rigid notions of homosexual identity may consciously or subconsciously shape decision-makers’ approaches in this field.

First, we identify psycho-social issues of particular significance to lesbian, gay and bisexual claimants which may act as barriers to eliciting their narrative of self-identity, including: a reluctance to reveal group membership as the basis of a claim, the experience of passing or concealment strategies, the impact of shame and depression on memory, common experience of sexual assault, and sexualization of the identity narrative in the legal process.

Secondly, we explore factors which inhibit the reception of such narratives in the legal process. In particular we explore the psychological ‘stage model’ of sexual identity development and examine the pervasive impact this model has had upon decision-makers’ ‘pre-understanding’ of sexual identity development as a uniform and linear trajectory.

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