Queerness, migration and history as processes

Queerness and migration

Queerness is complexity. It is liberating, but also comes with struggle (both externally and internally). It involves a constant fight to see yourself recognised as who you really are, and to see yourself represented in a way that is meaningful. Queerness involves freedom and self expression, but is also a deeply layered identity process, and a journey with many stages. It can be difficult and traumatising navigating society’s attitudes towards queerness, but ultimately, queerness allows us to understand ourselves more fully, and is a vehicle for self discovery. 

I don’t think that many people think about migration as a process underlied by queerness. But they are deeply related. Both are identity processes that involve struggle and joy and a myriad of emotions. Both are journeys of leaving the familiar behind and embracing the unknown. Both identities are constructed and come into being through one’s interaction with the world around them. 

Linguistics can help us understand queerness and migration. When we think about the concept of family, there is a commonly accepted or mainstream definition. But each person has their own definition of what a family looks like, and so many of these models stand outside of the mainstream one, such as non heteronormative families. The more we discuss these other models, the more that the concept of family will expand to include them. When people spout anti-migrant rhetoric, it is because their definitions are very rigid and hard to penetrate. This is why we must reject essentialism (the idea that people or concepts have unchanging, rigid and fixed identities), and continue to interrogate and question certain concepts, so that they can become less rigid and can expand outward, to be more inclusive of queer and migratised communities. When we question the “scary” “dangerous” mainstream conception of a migrant, and instead centre the humanity and lives and experiences of migrants as our neighbours and members of our collective community, this narrow definition begins to expand outward. 


Despite my bisexuality and my identity as a migrant, I am also privileged, especially due to my race as a White person, my cisgender identity, and also due to the fact that I am not newly arrived: I have lived in the UK since 2016. Up until recently, I did not think about my sexuality, and so discovering my queerness was a recent experience for me. I come from a rural part of Spain, where those around me were openly homophobic, and I never had any queer friends growing up. And so my sexuality was something that I neglected to explore for many years. Coming to the UK to study allowed me to be in close proximity to people studying gender and sexuality, and so I became much more critical and started to ask questions about myself that I didn’t ask before. I am 35 years old now, and only came out to my parents last year. I am also privileged in the sense that I have been able to have conversations about queerness with other people: many queer people lack this opportunity or the presence of a supportive safe community that they can be in conversation with. Even though I am out as a bisexual man, I am many things, and so my sexuality is not central to my identity, but it is important nonetheless, as are other elements of my identity. But none of these elements define me completely. I am also privileged that I can explore my sexuality openly without fear of what might happen. Many people do not have this luxury. Those who are in the closet are no less valid in their sexuality: people allocate values differently, and being in the closet does not necessarily hinder someone from living their life. Coming out should be personal, it should not be something that someone feels pressured into doing (or not doing).

When I go back home, I feel much more aware of my sexuality. I feel less seen, but more exposed in a vulnerable way, since a common assumption is that I am queer. I feel more seen in the UK, but also less exposed in a vulnerable way, because there is no assumption that I am queer.  

History and privilege

When we speak about history, which history are we talking about? Are we talking about LGBTQ+ histories in the UK where White gay men are in power? Whose voice is allowed the privilege of being written into history?

To me, history is a process of construction, power and representation. Every person is a history, and consists of a set of experiences. But history is written by those who win. History is an accepted collective narrative. History is manipulation and control, and in many cases it neglects the lived experiences of many communities. Up until 2015, the descendants of enslavers received compensation from the British Government. That is not in the history books. The toppling of statues was demonised as “rewriting history”, but these statues were put up by people disconnected from history. Colonialism changes shape and colour, but its essence remains the same. 

Joy and reclamation

LGBTQ+ History Month is important because it is a chance to rewrite history so that it becomes more representative of what actually happened, and to remember and honour the truth about what happened. It also allows queer people all over the world to see themselves represented, and to see that the possibilities of a dignified life are as much their entitlement as anyone else’s. If LGBTQ+ History Month can offer representations of queer migrants living their joy, then queer migrants all around the world are more likely to want to live their joy too. 

Ultimately, LGBTQ+ History Month exists because queer people still face oppression. Queer people have found inventive ways to reclaim the slurs used to oppress them: in one Spanish city, in the run up to LGBTQ+ workshops and parties, the mayor labelled queer people as “cr*ppled pigeons”. Several local and national queer collectives then created a Pigeon Festival to reclaim this slur, which has now become a vehicle for empowerment. Once more, we can see how language is a powerful tool for social change. I am inspired by acts of reclamation and resistance by marginalised communities around the world.

by MRN ambassador Javier

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