Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Immigrants

President Obama’s recent support of gay marriage is receiving an enormous amount of publicity. Whether you are a supporter of gay marriage or not, it is clear that gay rights will be a hot topic of debate in the upcoming presidential election.

Considering the current hubbub surrounding gay rights, I thought it would be relevant to discuss some of the issues pertaining to migration studies and sexual identity. In an article entitled “Queer Intersections: Sexuality and Gender In Migration Studies,” Martin Manalansan argues that the study of U.S. immigrants has been analyzed through a normative, heterosexual lens. Manalansan writes,

The implication seems to be that the nuclear family is the primary model of the transnational family and that heterosexual marriage or heterosexual partnering are only plausible cornerstones of family life with parenthood gendered in static biological terms and motherhood or maternal love, the province solely of biological (typically married) women with children. (2006: 237)

The issue he is getting at here is that information could be lost or misunderstood due to the fact that we judge immigrant success based on a heterosexual family unit. In Manalansan’s opinion, “a critical notion of sexuality enables a more inclusive and accurate portrait of global… migration” ( 2006: 224). Class, race, and economic status have all been taken into consideration when studying immigration. Why then has sexuality has been left out the discussion.? Manalansan argues that researchers and academics presuppose the heterosexuality of immigrants, as well as a desire to conform to normative heterosexual relationships when in the U.S.

The lack of scholarly research given to this topic is indicative of the lack of rights that homosexual immigrants exercise in the United States. For example, if a heterosexual married couple made up of one immigrant and one U.S. citizen decided to live in the United States, U.S. law has legal proceedings enabling the immigrant to become a U.S. citizen. No such help exists for immigrant homosexual couples.

An organization that is trying to raise awareness about queer immigrants and the issues they face is entitled Immigration Equality. Their mission statement is as follows:

Immigration Equality is a national organization fighting for equality under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive individuals. Founded in 1994 as the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force, Immigration Equality provides legal aid and advocacy for LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants and their families.

The organization performs various services, specializing in legal services and legal advice for binational (one immigrant, one U.S. citizen) gay couples as well as having “also helped hundreds of immigrants and their attorneys to win asylum in the United States based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity, and/or HIV-positive status”( In addition, according to their website, that there are 36,000 same sex binational couples in the U.S.

Hopefully the work of this organization and work by scholars such as Manalansan will inform people as to the presence of non-heterosexual immigrants in this country. The field of immigration studies might expand its theories, beliefs and assumptions to include sexual identity as determining and influential factor.


Immigration Equality 2012. “About”. Immigration Equality. Retreived May 11 2012(

Manalansan, Martin F. 2006. “Queer Intersections: Sexuality and Gender in Migration Studies.” International Migration Review. 40(1): 224-9.