Dynamics of (in)visibility in the experience of LGBTQIA+ refugees

Forced Migration, Gender Discrimination, Violence and Interseccional Approaches

by Hadriel Geovani da Silva Theodoro

In addressing the issue of forced migration, some minority social groups have historically been made invisible. This is the case for LGBTIQ+ refugees (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transvestites, transsexuals, transgender, intersex, queer, and other sexual and gender minorities). Therefore, we need to consider that, in many countries, there are no legal or protective guarantees for these subjects, who become a recurrent target of violence. Consequently, in repressive sociocultural contexts, where violence is enhanced by customs, misinformation, moral condemnations, religious dogmas, stereotyped imaginary, and prejudices, displacement becomes a possibility not only of greater freedom, but of survival.

Taking this into account, I conducted a doctoral research with the main objective of analyzing the dynamics of (in)visibility in the experiences of LGBTIQ+ refugees.1 I understand these dynamics as interactional and communicational processes that profoundly impact the symbolic, identity, representational and material dimension of the migratory experience. The study encompassed a set of theoretical reflections from a transdisciplinary perspective (articulating studies in communication, migration, visibility, and gender) and the development of fieldwork in the cities of Barcelona (Spain) and São Paulo (Brazil).

The decision to conduct the research in these cities was based on three main factors: their importance as a migratory destination; the government action in terms of public policies aimed at the immigrant and/or LGBITQ+ population; and their visibility as receptive urban centers to LGBTIQ+ subjects. The research had a qualitative character and counted on a multimethodological approach, developed along three main axes: a) literature review; b) data survey, using participant observation techniques in collective and institutional spaces linked to the experiences of LGBTIQ+ refugees in the cities of Barcelona and São Paulo, and the performance of semi-structured interviews – with advisors from the Municipalities of Barcelona and São Paulo, with social workers from two non-governmental institutions aimed at welcoming refugees and immigrants, and with eight LGBTIQ+ refugees; c) data analysis carried out from two spheres – socio-communicational networks and migratory journeys. In both cities, it was possible to verify that there is a structural invisibility of the theme, although it is more accentuated in the case of the city of São Paulo.

This invisibility is reflected in the performance of governmental and non-governmental institutions with regard to the development and implementation of public policies or services aimed at LGBTIQ+ refugees and immigrants. Regarding the migratory journeys of the subjects interviewed, the dynamics of (in)visibility are directly or indirectly implicated in their displacement experiences, encompassing processes of subjectification, the (de)construction of imaginaries, the adaptation to new contexts of residence, the appropriation of symbolic and physical spaces of the city, forms of political engagement and activism, the exercise of citizenship, the origin or continuity of situations of violence, and the vulnerability and/or precariousness of their existence. Thus, the study highlights that it is crucial to assimilate the diversity of migratory experiences, especially in the case of refuge.
Keywords: Refuge; Immigration; LGBTIQ+; Dynamics of (in)visibility; Communication.

1 The research was conducted between February 2017 and January 2021 and funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).


Hadriel Geovani da Silva Theodoro

Hadriel Geovani da Silva Theodoro – PhD in Communication from the Postgraduate Program in Communication at the Superior School of Advertising and Marketing of São Paulo (PPGCOM-ESPM), with a research internship at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the School of Communications and Arts at the University of São Paulo (ECA-USP), and Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from the Faculty of Philosophy, Linguistics and Human Sciences at the University of São Paulo (FFLCH-USP). Experience in the development of scientific research in the field of communication, migration, gender and sexuality, and citizenship.

E-mail: hgtheodoro@gmail.com