Centering Intersectional Politics: Queer Migration Activisms ‘After Marriage’

Over the past decade, the term “LGBTQ rights” largely became synonymous with same-sex marriage, or “marriage equality” campaigns, both within and beyond the United States. Post-DOMA, it is commonplace to see maps purporting to show LGBTQ rights worldwide present same-sex marriage as the benchmark for “safety.” This moral geographic mapping of the United States’ (and the West) vis-a-vis the rest of the world obscures manifold dangers faced by LGBTQ people in the country, not least by LGBTQ-identified immigrants, and promotes a limited, neoliberal politics of belonging. As critics of pink washing argue, this politics overlaps with, and has been used to promote orientalist and specifically Islamophobic narratives that justify increasingly militarized and racist border securitization measures and imperialistic “interventions” overseas. The homonormative and homonationalist framings that drove marriage equality campaigns significantly impacted mainstream LGBTQ immigrant rights activism in the United States, especially as it narrowed the types of issues–and people–that were imagined as deserving and acceptable LGBTQ immigrants. For example, despite the concurrent rise of movements like undocuqueer, binational same-sex couples and LGBT asylum seekers generally received the lion’s share of publicity that sought to connect immigrant rights to LGBT rights, often to the exclusion of other, broader justice concerns important to LGBTQ-identified immigrants. Queer immigration activists however continue to center those erstwhile obscured and excluded voices in their justice campaigns and movements, pushing for more radical reconceptualization’s of queer immigrant rights, freedoms and subjectivities.

In this session, academics and activists will take part in a roundtable conversation to address the question: How might we articulate a more critical, intersectional vision of queer migration politics “after marriage?” The participants will discuss a range of topics important to queer migration activism today and consider potential challenges to addressing these issues, drawing on their respective work on detention and incarceration, border crossings, asylum, sex work, family reunification, trafficking, immigration court hearings, and NGO and grassroots organizing. We will encourage significant audience participation to bring the contributions of conference attendees into this important conversation. This panel will appeal to scholars and activists who are interested in issues of migration and citizenship in the United States as they intersect with questions of socio-economics and class, policing and state violence, racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, and the politics and practices of NGOs.