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The Sexuality of Migration

The Sexuality of Migration: Border Crossings and Mexican Immigrant Men

Lionel Cantú
Nancy A. Naples
Salvador Vidal-Ortiz
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 265
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  • Book Info
    The Sexuality of Migration
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2010 Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association, Sociology of Sexualities Section Winner of the 2010 Distinguished Book Award in Latino Studies Honorable Mention from the Latin American Studies AssociationThe Sexuality of Migration provides an innovative study of the experiences of Mexican men who have same sex with men and who have migrated to the United States.Until recently, immigration scholars have left out the experiences of gays and lesbians. In fact, the topic of sexuality has only recently been addressed in the literature on immigration. The Sexuality of Migration makes significant connections among sexuality, state institutions, and global economic relations. Cantu; situates his analysis within the history of Mexican immigration and offers a broad understanding of diverse migratory experiences ranging from recent gay asylum seekers to an assessment of gay tourism in Mexico. Cantu uses a variety of methods including archival research, interviews, and ethnographic research to explore the range of experiences of Mexican men who have sex with men and the political economy of sexuality and immigration. His primary research site is the greater Los Angeles area, where he interviewed many immigrant men and participated in organizations and community activities alongside his informants.Sure to fill gaps in the field, The Sexuality of Migration simultaneously complicates a fixed notion of sexual identity and explores the complex factors that influence immigration and migration experiences.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-9010-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Lionel Cantú Jr.

    In 1992 several events transpired that would, although it was unsuspected at the time, have a profound effect on my research interests and intellectual development. First, in the summer of 1992,Out/Look, National Lesbian and Gay Quarterlyfeatured an article entitled “Queen of Hearts: Dancing till Dawn in the Artichoke Capital of the World,” by Carter Wilson, which described events that had transformed “Norma Jean’s, a rundown Castroville bar and grill, into the hottest Latino gay nightspot between San Francisco and L.A.” The story of gay Latino farm laborers and their drag shows in the “Artichoke Capital of the World”...

  5. Editors’ Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Nancy A. Naples and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz
  6. Editors’ Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)
    Nancy A. Naples and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz

    The Sexuality of Migrationexamines the role that sexuality plays in processes of immigration and identity formation from the standpoint of Mexican male immigrants to the United States who have sex with men. Viewing the immigrant experience from the standpoint of the “gay” immigrant raises critical questions regarding sexual identity formation in a transcultural setting and the linkages among human sexuality, state institutions, and global economic processes. As Lionel Cantú argues in this book, the concept and identities of “gay” do not translate perfectly into Spanish and the corresponding worldviews of the Mexican immigrants that he interviewed. Therefore, although he...

  7. 1 Sexuality, Migration, and Identity
    (pp. 21-38)

    This book concerns the experiences of sexual migrants who cross the imagined physical, social, and cultural boundaries of normative sexuality, gender, and institutions of the state. It offers aqueeranalysis of immigration, gender, and sexuality that is informed by aqueertheoretical paradigm that attempts to destabilize models based on heterosexuality and to make “regimes of normalization” visible, particularly as they relate to relations among sex, gender, and sexual desire.¹ In many respects my project is aqueertransgression of academic boundaries. I cross what have traditionally been defined as distinct and separate subjects of inquiry—sexuality and international...

  8. 2 Border Patrol: Sexuality, Citizenship, and U.S. Immigration Policy
    (pp. 39-54)

    Although the literatures on citizenship, gay and lesbian studies, and migration are not commonly integrated, they are integral to understanding the multiply constituted social locations and identities of “gay” immigrants. Gay and lesbian immigrants’ varied social locations are sites where processes of marginalization and resistance, nationalism, and globalization intersect and shape the lives not only of these immigrants but also of others who are in positions categorically relational to them and whose positions rely upon the logic of difference.

    American history is replete with examples of how various definitions of difference (including race, gender, class, and sexuality) have been utilized...

  9. 3 Border Crossers: Seeking Asylum and Maneuvering Identities
    (pp. 55-73)

    Over the approximately 100-year history of the INS, the “homosexual immigrant” has evolved from being a nonexistent entity to being an ambiguous yet clearly undesirable sexual deviant to being a specifically named individual designated for exclusion. In recent history a 180-degree turn was made, and the “gay asylee” identity has been created under a new politics of inclusion. As mentioned, the irony is that queer immigrant petitioners who once had to prove that they were not homosexual must now do the opposite and prove not only that they are gay but also that they have a “well-founded fear of persecution”...

  10. 4 De Los Otros: Mexican Sexual Borderlands
    (pp. 74-96)

    On June 14, 1997, I crossed the U.S.-Mexican border at San Diego to observe (and celebrate) Tijuana’s third annual gay and lesbian pride parade. Standing on the sidelines of Avenida Revolución, in the heart of the city, I cheered as the march began with mariachis leading the procession. The parade was small¹ compared to Los Angeles and San Francisco gay pride events, but for many reasons, it seemed so much more important than those now heavily commercialized events. So, when members from the East Los Angeles group Las Memorias² motioned for me to join, I too marched in the parade....

  11. 5 De Ambiente: Queer Tourism and Shifting Sexualities
    (pp. 97-117)

    “Do you know Mexico?” coyly poses the opening page of Mexico’s official tourist web site.¹ Do you? Perhaps not. This is not a Mexico of social inequality, economic turmoil, indigenous uprisings and mass emigration. No, this is a different Mexico—a sexy Mexico. Additional headers entice the reader to “Come Feel the Warmth of Mexico” where “…beaches are such as moods: bays that with happy smiles, beaches that spread in straight line, as to remind its steadiness, female beaches, smooth and with cadence, frisky beaches, that open and close, decline and go up [sic].” The sexual imagery of the web...

  12. 6 A Place Called Home: Mexican Immigrant Men’s Family Experiences
    (pp. 118-142)

    Driving the Interstate 5 Freeway, near San Diego and the San Onofre border checkpoint, one sees large yellow signs graphically depicting a fleeing family (father leading, mother, and child, legs flailing behind). The almost surreal signs are meant to warn motorists of the danger of “illegal” immigrant families trying to cross the busy lanes. This image reveals not only the extreme risks that many immigrants are willing to take to get to the United States but also the way in which we imagine these immigrants. While most motorists probably do not think of a sexual message when they see the...

  13. 7 Entre Hombres/Between Men: Latino Masculinities and Homosexualities
    (pp. 143-162)

    While the mainstream lesbian and gay community has developed its own infrastructure of businesses, service organizations, and social clubs, these were not regularly utilized by the gay Latino immigrants I met. Communal spaces where gay and lesbian Latinos/as can mix and meet are few and far between (especially for women). The irony is that, as mentioned, mainstream gay and lesbian establishments (and even “cruising” sites)¹ are often either adjacent to or in Latino communities. Though it may be stating the obvious, the political economy of queer Latino space is shaped both by the larger political economics of sexualized and racialized...

  14. 8 Toward a Queer Political Economy of Sexuality: Places, Spaces, and Shifting Identities
    (pp. 163-170)

    When I began to formulate my research in 1995, I knew from personal experience (as I imagine most queer people do) that sexuality was linked to migration. But how? In the approximately four years that I have been working on this topic, speaking to immigrants, familiarizing myself with their issues, and critically reading the relevant transdisciplinary literatures, that first seemingly simple question has multiplied into hundreds of complex ones. I do not pretend to have “the” answer to this complex web of intersecting questions and issues relating to what I have come to call “the sexuality of migration,” but this...

  15. Editors’ Conclusion
    (pp. 171-180)
    Nancy A. Naples and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz

    In this concluding chapter, we consider Lionel Cantú’s contributions to the growing field of gender, sexuality, and migration studies and highlight new theoretical and empirical developments. We focus on the avenues of investigation that are most directly linked to Cantú’s theoretical and empirical work and close with an assessment of what questions remain and how Cantú’s work provides a foundation for subsequent inquiry.

    As mentioned in our introductory chapter, Cantú was one of the first to contribute to this new field of inquiry. Scholarship has developed in a number of important directions that have deepened our understanding of the intersection...

  16. Afterword
    (pp. 181-186)
    Dissertation Liberation Army

    Scholarship emerges from a community process, and often that process is invisible. Lionel Cantú was a founding member of the Dissertation Liberation Army (DLA), a dissertation support group of graduate students at the University of California, Irvine. Lionel’s influence on the group was profound, and the group provided him with a safe place to develop his ideas. We thought that this introduction, together with thoughts from each of the DLA members—Chrisy Moutsatsos, Ester Hernandez, Clare Weber, Vivian Price, Jose Alamillo, Jocelyn Pacleb, and Leslie Bunnage—was appropriate to include as an afterword to the book version of Lionel’s dissertation....

  17. Notes
    (pp. 187-198)
  18. References
    (pp. 199-226)
  19. Index
    (pp. 227-244)
  20. About the Editors
    (pp. 245-245)