Chapter 6: Grief in LGBTQ+ immigrant and refugee communities


When we first arrived in Canada, I felt very alone, even though my brother was with me. The people at the place of worship were very nice, but I still felt like I was by myself. I met my wife years ago, at a coffee shop, and if it weren’t for her, I might have become very depressed back then.

At first, I was very excited and relieved to be in Canada, but then I began to realize I was alone and had to deal with so many unfamiliar things, including “how to be gay” here. Many people were kind, but there was always this feeling that I should just be grateful and never complain.

If you are an immigrant or refugee, you have likely experienced many losses as a result of leaving your home. Some losses you’ve had might include the following:

  • No longer living with or being with family and friends from your home country
  • Missing important life events, such as weddings and funerals
  • Giving up family or community roles (e.g., eldest brother, most educated person)
  • Losing confidence as you deal with a new and unfamiliar culture, including language, food, and other customs or traditions
  • Feeling disconnected from your physical environment (e.g., climate, geography, animals)
  • Feeling objectified or like you don’t belong here because people often underline that you are a foreigner
  • Losing respect because you are not able to work in your chosen career or profession

You may also have experienced, or be experiencing, racism or xenophobia in Canada. For many immigrants and refugees, this is a bitter disappointment that conflicts with their view of Canada as a welcoming and multicultural country. This realization can also be a loss, perhaps of optimism or hope for your future.

If you’re an LGBTQ+ person who came to Canada to escape the threat of severe discrimination, persecution, or death, your experiences of grief will likely be multi-layered and complex. While you may have been “othered” in your country of origin, you may now also feel “‘othered” in Canada. This may be true even within 2SLGBTQ+ communities.