Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Migrant Sexualities: "Non-Normative" Sexual Orientation between Country of Origin and Destination

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Migrant Sexualities: "Non-Normative" Sexual Orientation between Country of Origin and Destination

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The present work describes the first results of a research that aims to analyse the experiences of homosexual foreigners in Italy; in particular, we examine here the stories of migrants from the Maghrib countries (Tunisia and Morocco). The first part consists of a theoretical reflection on gender diversity in relation to migration issues. This part will allow us to describe an apparently homogeneous universe, which gathers together different requests, needs, and ways of living homosexuality.

In the second part, through the foreigners' life stories (Olagnero, Saraceno 1993; Merrill, West, 2009) we will try to describe the social representations they have of homosexuality, as well as understand whether their migratory experience has produced second thoughts about their way of living their sexual orientation (Masullo, 2013, 2015).

The analysis will also highlight how discrimination and marginalization are not only potentially attributable to the original contexts, but rather are dimensions that, given the transnational nature of migration, persist and affect the whole process of inclusion of foreigners in the host country.

2. Gender and non-normative sexual orientation in migration studies

The topic of gender diversity appears to be little explored in European migration theory, and even less when considering the Italian one1.

Even queer studies - a term which now describes non-heteronormative sexual identities (Butler, 2006) - did not give much importance to the social construction of race, nor to migration processes or their material dimensions. This lack of reflection on both sides - based on the one hand on heterosexuality as taken for granted, and the other on a naive ethnocentrism that does not take into account the point of view of those coming from other contexts around the world - is due to an outlook that tends to essentialize migrant subjectivities encasing them into rigid categories preventing us from grasping the particular experiences arising as a result of the intersection of various vulnerability factors (Dal Lago, 2004).

The situation of the migrant with a non-normative sexual orientation can be considered as doubly stigmatized in terms of identity, crossing social visions discrediting both ethnicity and culture and non-normative sexual orientation. In other contexts with longest migratory traditions, as the United States, great attention has been paid instead to the interweaving of questions posed by the condition of foreign homosexuals as a third way to explore issues related to otherness and 'inter-ethnic' coexistence in post-modern societies (Cantù, 2009; Eng et al., 2005).

Indeed, in the US, with the intensification of migration, new areas of research originate from the feminist theory (Lengermann, Niebrugge, 2014) by introducing the tools offered by postcolonial studies and intersectional theory and using them to analyse the condition of foreigners, particularly the issues raised by gender identity and sexual orientation as dimensions through which new forms of power and subjections are expressed in the host countries2.

In this context, a group of scholars from the former colonies maintains the importance of studying colonialism in order to understand the present, starting with the recognition of the power relations still existing between the West and the so-called 'Third World'. The basic assumption is as follows: if it is true that all women experience oppression in a similar way on the basis of their gender (oppression of a patriarchal system considered as the most basic social model of domination) at the same time they are also oppressed differently depending on the world in which gender combines with other sources of social inequality, such as social class, race, dwelling place, age, and last, but not least, sexual preference (Collins, 1990).

Since the publication of an article by David Eng, Judith Halberstam, and José Esteban Muñoz in 2005 in the journal 'Social Text', the postcolonial and intersectional approaches take root also in queer theory studies. …

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