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Within refugee communities and during the general resettlement process, LGBTQ refugees face significant challenges. They may have suffered trauma and stigmatization in their home or secondary countries based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and may still suffer or fear that they will suffer such stigmatization in their new homes and/or ethnic communities. They may be distrustful of authority and face obstacles in accessing resources and support as they worry about exposing their sexual or gender identity.

Over the past year, the Office of Refugees and Immigrants (ORI) has been working with the Massachusetts Commission for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth to develop and adopt policies that take into account these needs and barriers to accessing services. With technical assistance from our federal funder, ORI is also designing systems to ensure that refugees in same-sex domestic partnerships receive the same treatment, eligibility, and access to Refugee Cash and Medical Assistance benefits as opposite-sex couples.

In order to ensure that our providers receive appropriate support, our own staff is trained regarding the issues and needs of this population, and the ways in which our policies and procedures may limit LGBTQ refugees’ access to mainstream LGBTQ services. Our agency is excited that our first step in this process is training of our own staff, and ORI staff will undergo Fenway Community Health Center training at the end of June.

ORI has developed a multi-stage work plan that includes statewide training for ORI providers regarding equal access to refugee services, policy recommendations, and information regarding mainstream LGBTQ resources; anti-bullying trainings for Youth Adjustment Services providers and Refugee School Impact Programs, in collaboration with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Safe Schools Program; and development of linguistically appropriate materials and information regarding mainstream LGBTQ resources at provider locations and via ORI’s website.

Written By:

Chief of Staff, Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants

Communications Director, Executive Office of Health and Human Services

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