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LGBT Immigration: Beyond Tolerance

February 2, 2016

In the context of international immigration, the United States has a reputation as a "tolerant" country for LGBTQ migration, but this is often not the reality. In fact, if you are an immigrant in the US, it is often difficult to find affordable housing, healthcare, and a decent job. You might be viewed as a criminal or terrorist and be targeted by police and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The United States has a history of nationalism and colonialism that punishes those who do not fit the white, middle-class mold. If you are a transgender or queer immigrant, you may experience all of these, all while being told that the United States can “save” you from your country of origin.

GWSS Assistant Professor Aren Aizura's research is rooted in how queer and transgender bodies are shaped by technologies of race, gender, transnationality, medicalization, and political economy. Inherently interdisciplinary, his research explores how nationalism and neoliberal economics influence transgender and LGBT policy. His current book, Mobile Subjects: Transnational Imaginaries of Gender Reassignment (in progress), examines the idea of mobility as an organizing metaphor for Euro-American understandings of transsexuality. He does this by mapping onto the colonial and imperial travel politics of modernity and by considering political and geographical economies that influence the availability of healthcare for trans and gender nonconforming people.

Aizura’s research covers three main questions: how do we decide what political strategies will end violence against trans and gender nonconforming people and offer safe, affordable or free healthcare? Rather than further policing or enacting more laws recognizing transgender people, the answers might lie in abolishing prisons altogether, ending the racial regulation of borders, dismantling capitalism, and providing free healthcare. How do trans people navigate the unavailability of healthcare by traveling to a different location or overseas for gender reassignment surgery—and who can access this form of travel in the first place? Finally, how does the transnational gender reassignment surgery market work, economically and culturally: what does “care” mean, and who, within trans and gender non-conforming communities, gets the privilege of care?

Aizura’s research aims to demonstrate why nations like the US should open their borders and give immigrants, people of color, and poor people the power to shape their own lives and, in turn, the world. 

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.