Chapter 6: Gender, Sexuality, and Culture

Introduction

Lynn Sutankayo

Situating Ourselves

In this chapter, we examine the ways we see gender through a lens that can be applied to the settlement sector to promote dignity for all people. The text introduces concepts for learners new to the fields of gender studies, settlement work, and community support work in Canada.

The examination of foundational concepts such as gender, gender inequality, and gender roles is necessary for learners to engage with the gender-based analyses and best practice research produced by the settlement sector. Moreover, the topic of gender in a global and local context is essential for learners to develop critical literacy skills to interpret their world and, for settlement workers, to provide gender-responsive support to newcomer communities.

Located in amiskwaciy-wâskahikan, I acknowledge that we are in traditional lands referred to as Treaty 6 Territory and the homeland of Metis Region #4. As a second-generation immigrant, I am a settler and a Treaty person. I share this home with many diverse groups of Indigenous peoples who have called these lands home since time immemorial, meaning that I trace my ancestors back to other places in the world, whereas my Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, Inuit, and Métis friends trace lineage back to here. Applying a treaty sensibility (Donald, 2014), it is an ethical imperative for learners in settlement studies to reach their hands out in friendship to newcomers, with the reciprocal promise of respect for this land and its stewards, ecology, and spirit.

“At first, I wondered why we were learning about gender in settlement studies. Now I get it.”
– Settlement studies student

To begin, consider the relationship between gender and immigration as described by the International Organization for Migration:

Gender is central to any discussion of the causes and consequences of migration, whether forced, voluntary or somewhere in between.

It is recognized that a person’s sex, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation shape every stage of the migration experience.

Gender influences reasons for migrating, who migrates and to where, how people migrate and the networks they use, opportunities and resources available at destinations, and relations with the country of origin. Risks, vulnerabilities and needs are also shaped in large part by one’s gender, and often vary drastically for different groups. The roles, expectations, relationships and power dynamics associated with being a man, woman, boy, or girl, and whether one identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or intersex (LGBTI), significantly affect all aspects of the migration process and can also be affected in new ways by migration (2022, para. 1–3).

Think about the migration stories you know from your own experience, your family, friends or communities with whom you work. How might gender have shaped some of their story?

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