Gay and Lesbian Asylum Seekers in the United States: The Interplay of Sexual Orientation Identity Development, Reverse-Covering, and Mental Health

  • Kateri BerasiEmail author


Lesbian and gay (LG) identified asylum seekers are caught having to play out both covering and reverse-covering processes in the United States: they first faced the necessity of attempting to cover in their country of origin where they experienced discrimination and persecution if their sexual orientation was known, but when applying for asylum, they must reverse-cover so as to prove their sexual orientation to the immigration judge. This chapter examines the psychological implications of the reverse covering demand on LG asylum seekers, asserting that the immigration judges’ perceived expectation that these individuals be out regarding their sexual orientation identity at the time of the asylum interview can produce negative mental health effects. Findings from a qualitative research study conducted by the author concerning the experiences of 15 LG individuals seeking asylum in the United States due to persecution in their country of origin as a result of their sexual orientation are used to ground this idea. Six recommendations are provided for immigration judges regarding how to avoid perpetuating a reverse-covering demand and consequent potential negative mental health effects by means of improved education on how to conduct better LG-informed interviews.


Gay and lesbian identity development Reverse covering Mental health 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New YorkUSA

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