Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) LGBTQ Newcomer Women's Journey for Authentic Sense of Self and Belonging: Overcoming Systemic Discrimination and Building Positive Space in Toronto, Canada (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

698P (WITHDRAWN) LGBTQ Newcomer Women's Journey for Authentic Sense of Self and Belonging: Overcoming Systemic Discrimination and Building Positive Space in Toronto, Canada

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Viveka Ichikawa, MSW, Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Izumi Sakamoto, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, ON, Canada
Serena Nudel, Manager, Access Alliance Multicultrual Health & Community Services
Yogendra Shakya, PhD, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Khadijah Kanji, Researcher, Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, Toronto, ON, Canada
Shelley Craig, PhD, Associate Dean & Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Background and Purpose:The proposed presentation draws from a community-based research project investigating systemic discrimination and barriers experienced by LGBTQ+ newcomer women in Toronto (Canada) particularly within current services and in the larger society. There is a growing body of Canadian and international literature on LGBTQ+ groups about systemic barriers, discrimination and violence, and their negative impacts on LGBTQ+ people’s socio-economic wellbeing and health. However, limited understanding exists on how sexual orientation and gender intersect with the newcomer status to produce unique outcomes for recently arrived LBTQ+ immigrant women. LGBTQ+ newcomers may not be able to or feel safe to access support from their ethno-cultural or religious communities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. On the other hand, they may also face exclusion from the mainstream LGBTQ+ community with White and Canadian-born backgrounds. Further, female gender may put additional layers of oppression as a disproportionate number of women suffer from poverty, discrimination, violence, lower social status, and prescribed traditional female gender roles.  Thus, this study examined the experience of and service gaps for LGBTQ+ newcomer women and explored recommendations for change, drawing from the intersectionality lens (Mehrotra, 2010) and anti-oppressive practice (Sakamoto & Pitner, 2005). 

Methods:This qualitative research study included key 16 informant interviews with service providers, and four focus groups (n= 16) and four in-depth interviews with LGBTQ+ newcomer women. The study was inclusive of gender non-confirming and non-binary people. The data were transcribed verbatim and then coded and analyzed guided by a ground theory framework (Charmaz, 2015) using NVIVO software.

Findings:LGBTQ+ newcomer women participants overwhelmingly indicated that, despite their high expectations, they started experiencing different barriers and challenges shortly after their arrival, which worsened as they stayed longer in Canada. The three most pressing barriers were: the lack of access to safe and affordable housing; employment/economic insecurity; and social isolation. The study results also indicated that these key systematic barriers resulted in damaging impacts on their health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ newcomer women and their familiesincluding depression; trauma and PTSD; lack of self-worth and feeling invisible; acute stress and feeling overwhelmed (due to having to deal with poverty, discrimination and exclusion on a daily basis); and gender dysphoria and confusion (due to constant mis-gendering).

Conclusion and Implications:The study results highlight that the framework/model in which these programs/ services are delivered also needs to change in order to promote wellbeing of LGBTQ+ newcomer women. For example, a peer support group for LGBTQ+ newcomer women can benefit them in reducing social isolation, increasing a sense of self-worth, increasing access to programs and resources, and providing a platform for collective actions for change. The findings underscore the need to ensure the policies, organizational models/culture, and programs/services are consistently and constantly grounded on principles of equity.