Members of the queer community with a foreign background face multiple discrimination in Finland

Publication date 15 Sep 2022

People belonging to multiple minorities are subjected to multiple discrimination and unequal treatment. This was revealed by a THL study, which focused on the experiences of sexual and gender minorities with a foreign background living in Finland. 

”Migration studies have long been based on cis- and heteronormative assumptions that people are divided into two opposite sexes, who are also attracted to each other, women and men. This research produces new information on minorities within minorities” says Mercédesz Czimbalmos, a Senior Researcher at THL, from the Manifold More project.

Discrimination and exclusion from communities is common

The research shows that individuals who self-identify as sexual and/or gender minorities and of being members of the foreign-origin population experience challenges in Finnish society due to their migration status, and due to their queer identity.

Those who belong to several marginalised identities are particularly vulnerable. These persons are for example queer asylum seekers or refugees, or racialized individuals, people who due to their skin color or assumed ethnic background are subjected to stereotypes and discrimination. They often experience both overt and covert forms of discrimination and experience exclusion from both queer and diaspora communities.

Greater need for support

Queer persons of foreign background face many difficulties with the service system.The interviewed asylum seekers and refugee background queer persons describe difficulties finding information on how the service system works. This, in turn, reflects barriers caused by language skills, migrant status and the experience of not being let or guided forward by professionals despite needing help.

”We don’t understand, I don’t understand how it [the Finnish system] works. I can’t find people who would help me with it. It's a monthly struggle, between me, KELA, the landlord, the payments...and then if you talk about bullying and discrimination in society...I don’t go out. I am home all the time, especially with this Corona now”, describes one of the interviewees.

The aim is to improve the wellbeing of persons in vulnerable positions 

The research report contains recommendations for improving the situation of sexual and gender minorities with a foreign background. The recommendations cover eight different themes related to employment, healthcare and social services, trans rights, immigration services, the police, religion, and language and research.

“THL’s aim in all its activities is that we all could live a healthy life. To achieve this, knowledge on the health, wellbeing and service needs of different foreign-origin populations is also needed says Shadia Rask, Research Manager at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

The research is based on forty individual interviews with persons who self-identify as sexual and/or gender minorities and of being members of the foreign-origin population and eight focus group interviews with professionals.  This report has been initially written in English and has been translated into Finnish.


Mercédesz Czimbalmos, Shadia Rask. Sexual and Gender Minorities Among Foreign-Origin Populations in Finland. An intersectional analysis. Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). Report 10/2022.  

Further information

Mercédesz Czimbalmos
Senior Researcher
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
tel. +358 29 524 8129
[email protected]

Shadia Rask
Research Manager
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
tel. +358 29 524 8537
[email protected]

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