“How Can You Put This All Down in One Story?” Transgender Refugees’ Experiences of Forced Migration, Border Crossings, and the Asylum Process in Canada Through Oral History and Photovoice

Katherine Fobear

California State University, Fresno




Research on asylum experiences for sexual and gender minority refugees has increased within the past decade. However, even within this growing body of research and critical commentary, the voices of gender minority or transgender (trans) refugees and their particular experiences navigating migration and asylum processes can sometimes be overlooked or lost within the larger subject of queer refugee experiences. Understanding the individual experiences of trans refugees can help scholars to further understand how gender identity and sexual orientation are regulated in migration and settlement. This article focuses on the narratives and photovoice of two trans refugees in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Canada offered them relief from the state and social persecution they were experiencing in their countries of origin. Yet, they also experienced hyper-regulation by the Canadian state that caused them to be detained and interrogated by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) as well as fear and silencing in their asylum hearings by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada’s. Their experiences reveal how trans individuals are both hyper-regulated and marginalized by asylum and immigration processes in Canada. These government processes work to reinforce heteronormativity and the gender binary in which trans asylum seekers are marginalized.



refugee studies, transgender studies, oral history, border imperialism, cisnormativity