WHO IS WELCOME?
Who is Welcome: Gender, Queerness + Migration
We’re uncovering how gender stereotypes, sexism, homophobia and transphobia intersect with migration status + shape experiences in inhumane immigration systems.
Colonial-era notions of gender and sexuality define who is welcome in the UK, and who is not. Men and women are stereotyped according to perceived relations to vulnerability while transgender and gender non-conforming migrants are routinely subjected to demeaning and discriminatory treatment. As part of our work on defying the narrative, we want to disrupt the assumptions around gender and migration, which are reductive, harmful and have severe policy implications for migrants.
Campaigns on gender and sexuality to-date have looked at specific groups but rarely look at how identities overlap nor how systems of oppression or colonial history shapes how marginalised people are treated. Through this work, we will explore how constructions of masculinity, queerness and gender identity intersect with immigration status, and their repercussions in UK policy.
Gendered narratives around migration, particularly people seeking asylum, tend to reject portrayals of men as being in need of or worthy of protection. This primarily affects racialised men, who are presented as threats to White, British women. Government ministers have demonised male asylum seekers as people claiming asylum on “illegitimate” grounds, which has had direct consequences in terms of higher refusal rates compared to women of the same age. Men are also often forced into more dangerous migratory routes, facing exploitation, abuse and criminalisation, yet many still refuse to recognise migratised men as in need of or worthy of protection.
Orientalist and racist depictions of men of Colour play a huge role in constructing this narrative. For example, elected representatives in the Houses of Parliament have made inflammatory speeches about ‘intimidating’ male asylum seekers who are inundating their constituency offices. This contributes to the construction of men as a ‘threat’. This detracts from any nuanced or intersectional view of their experience, or why they have moved to the UK. Alongside the many push factors that force men to move, other identities, such as queerness, can intersect with constructs of masculinity to exacerbate mental health problems and create more barriers.
Mental health also impacts migrant men in a specific way. As Government and media narratives become more hostile, many are made to feel unwelcome. In addition, constructs of masculinity which dictate that men “can’t express emotions” or should “man up”, means that many don’t feel like they can seek support or mental health, even in times of crisis.
Through speaking with men in asylum accommodation in Britain, we seek to challenge these misrepresentations of masculinity in relation to migration.
Trans+ and GNC people
Many studies of the experiences of LGBT+ migrants neglect the experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) people. The UK is an increasingly hostile place for trans and GNC people, with migrants under this umbrella facing the most acute end of this oppression. People seeking asylum on the basis of their gender identity are often disbelieved and subjected to degrading treatment by the Home Office, and are also burdened by having to ‘prove’ their identity and the persecution they have faced because of it. Many trans and GNC migrants face additional barriers in accessing gender-affirming care, from healthcare costs and a long NHS waitlist to the withholding of HRT in immigration detention centres. It is therefore essential to highlight the experiences of migratised trans and GNC people within the context of both migration and broader transphobia.
Women and Girls
Immigration systems and borders can impact women in unique ways. Dependency, financial insecurity, lack of safe reporting mechanisms and patriarchal power structures can create vulnerabilities for women and girls.
The manifestation of misogyny, gender-based violence and exploitation can create unique barriers within the immigration system. However, to gain a more detailed understanding of the barriers migrant women face in the UK, an explicitly intersectional approach to gender and migration is needed.
Women and girls are often categorised into one, cohesive community. At MRN, we are committed to exploring how different elements of identity and system of oppression interact with immigration status. Through our work on Gender, Queerness and Migration, we are researching how nationality, religion, disability, ethnicity, queerness and other identities intersect with gender and immigration status.
It is only through this approach that we can understand the barriers migrant women face in the UK alongside uncovering the multitude of stereotypes and rhetoric impacting them.
We are undertaking research on the intersections of gender stereotypes, queerness and migration status over the coming months, and will be releasing more information on an ongoing basis.
In this section
If you’re interested in our previous work and campaigning on gender, sexuality and homonationalism, check out: