Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ)

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Quick Facts Concepts, Skills and Terminology How to Learn More Find Services
Clients.jpgLesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ+) newcomers are an integral, though often invisible, part of immigrant, refugee and LGBTQ+ communities. Experiencing marginalization from within cultural communities and mainstream LGBTQ+ communities often leaves individuals feeling that there are few options for obtaining services.

Quick Facts

  • In 2002, Canada changed its immigration policy to include same-sex couples, thus extended immigration rights to prospective gay and lesbian immigrants. This affects LGBTQ+ who are sponsoring their spouse and LGBTQ+ persons applying for refugee status within Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
  • Many LGBTQ+ newcomers come from countries where they have faced overt discrimination, violence and persecution as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • In almost 80 countries, LGBTQ+ persons are still criminalized for who they are, how they look or whom they love.The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), 2012
  • Out of the few Canadian studies that have investigated the issues faced by LGBTQ+ newcomers, research identified important areas of need among LGBTQ+ newcomers to Toronto:
Mental health, HIV and sexual health, access to services, employment, social support, specifically, LGBTQ+ specific resources regarding “coming out” that were appropriate for newcomer family and friends. The Global City: Newcomer Health in 2011
  • Ontario Human Rights Code protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and gender expression. Ontario Human Rights Commission

Concepts, Skills & Terminology

Discover important concepts, definitions and terms relating to serving LGBTQ+ newcomer communities in the settlement sector.


It is very important to acknowledge that people choose their own terms to define themselves. Ask the person you are working with what terms they use to define themselves. A definition of each of the terms can be found in the glossary of the Positive Spaces Initative Starter Kit (2009) We all have a unique understanding of what it means to be LGBTQ+. Some LGBTQ+ newcomer communities may not use any of these terms, and there may not be a direct translation in some languages.


  • Settling in a new country is a complex process, impacted by intersecting oppressions of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and economic pressures. Many LGBTQ+ newcomers have described particular barriers to connecting with support services to help them settle in Canada. Rainbow Health Ontario Conference, 2012
  • In Ontario, LGBTQ+ communities have their rights protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and within the areas of Housing, Employment, Hate Crimes, Violence and Discrimination. Positive Spaces Initative Starter Kit, 2009
  • Research shows the importance of practicing cultural competence to effectively serve LGBTQ+ newcomers. This can be facilitated with awareness of legal status of same-sex behaviour in newcomers' homelands, of the values held about sexuality and gender roles in the newcomers’ homelands and ethnic communities, and the diverse expectations regarding identity management in various cultures. It is also helpful to be aware of our own values and assumptions on LGBTQ+ issues, and of how these might affect our service impact. Settlement of Newcomers to Canada - Canadian Social Work Volume 2(2), 2010


The Positive Spaces Initative Starter Kit (2009) provides the following recommendations below.

Tips for Supporting LGBTQ+ Communities:

  • Be supportive
  • Listen
  • Do your own research
  • Give appropriate referrals
  • Respect confidentiality and safety needs
  • Support your client to know their rights
  • Create a recognizably welcoming environment

Tips and Tools to Make Your Agency a Positive Space include consideration of:

  • Environment and Workplace Culture
  • Language and Communication
  • Attitude and Behaviours
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Ongoing training

How to Learn More

40px-Crystal package settings.png Featured Resource! Positive Spaces Initiative Starter Kit Positive Spaces Initiative, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Further your knowledge with practical guides, best practices, projects and research. Find out how to become qualified to work in the field through online or classroom-based training.

Best Practices/Practical Guides

Best practices in arts-based programming where issues of violence and community safety are explored by lesbian, bisexual and trans newcomer immigrant and refugee women.
The toolkit has been designed primarily for healthcare & social service providers in recognition that there is an enormous lack of resources and knowledge on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexuals, transgendered, Two-Spirited, intersexed, and queer (LGBTTTIQ) people’s health and wellness.


Individual and in-house group training for staff from immigrant service agencies whose positions are funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI)
16 hours of facilitator lead in-person training that addresses all components of service delivery within the Settlement Services for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ+) communities, offered across Ontario.

Online Learning

Related Projects/Initiatives

A network made of up community organizations and community members in Toronto and surrounding areas that provide services to and/or advocate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) newcomers.
RNN provides settlement and social support services for LGBTQ youth and their families.
STARS program offers queer, trans & questioning youth and allies ages 13-21 a range of activities and workshops including expressive arts workshops, field trips, discussion groups and non-judgmental comprehensive drug education.
This national organization addresses the various health and wellness issues that people who have sexual and emotional relationships with people of the same gender, or a gender identity that does not conform to the identity assigned to them at birth, encounter.
The Rainbow Health Network is a catalyst and a resource for activities promoting the health and wellness of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, in Toronto and beyond.

Further Reading

Resources and information on immigrating to Canada for same-sex couples.
Written from a transsexual person’s perspective, this site is a guide through the various stages of the transitioning process.
Six fact sheets created from a research study on HIV vulnerability and the health and social service needs of migrant LGBT and Two-Spirited youth.

Find Services

This mobile phone application offers free legal information for transgender users, as well as offers lists of trans-friendly legal service providers.
LGBTQ Parenting Connection is a network of organizations supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer parents, their children and their communities.
PFLAG Canada's only national organization that helps all Canadians who are struggling with issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. PFLAG Canada supports, educates and provides resources to parents, families, friends and colleagues with questions or concerns
Positive Spaces Initiative website has a list of agencies and resources for LGBTQ+ newcomers
RHO is a province-wide program that works to improve the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in Ontario through education, research, outreach and public policy advocacy.
Staffed by transgender people for transgender people experiencing a crisis. This includes people who may be struggling with their gender identity and are not sure that they are transgender.

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