For reasons of necessity, urgency, and sometimes choice, queer Africans cross borders and find their lives unfolding in diasporic spaces. Refugee claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity persecution make up 12% of all refugee cases in Canada, with queer African refugees constituting the largest group within this category. With this in mind, we now have to ask, “what kind of history will be written about the collision between queer Africans dislocated from post-colonial nations and the Canadian settler nation?” In this study, qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted to explore the individual lived experiences of queer African refugees, with a focus on the intricate realignment of sexual orientation, sexual identity, sexual politics, and sexual desire that inevitably emerges through forced migration and the refugee process in Canada. The deep meaning of life experiences is captured in the participants’ own words, providing detailed, in-depth insights into the complexities of their lives, their reflections, and their subsequent responses.
These narratives call attention to the specific features of queer African refugees, who test the limits of the current homonational refugee apparatus. Participants’ experiences of resisting social roles, structures, identities, and expectations that limit queer African refugees and keep them “in their place,” both in their countries of origin and in Canada, are interrogated. The construction of boundaries that decide who belongs and deserves protection within Canada and who does not provides a foundation for engaging in research as a practice of freedom, in order to counter the global narrative of refugee life that excludes queer Africans.
The findings in this research require us to look at practices of exclusion and inclusion in the Canadian refugee system and the tensions that emerge for queer African claimants. In the end, we are left with strategies for how to engage with the politics of knowledge production and advocate for an agenda of social justice and transformation for queer Africans globally.