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Coming out within transnational families: intimate confessions under Western eyes

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This article is about ‘coming out’ and the process of disclosure of queer migrants within their transnational families. Despite debates about the decreasing relevance of coming out in contemporary western societies, we argue that the process of coming out continues to be a central mode of belonging and identity construction for queers in the context of transnational migration. Interviews with migrants from Poland, Russia and Turkey in Germany on their coming out experiences show that people rely on a variety of boundaries, i.e. gender, class and ethnicity, to construct a desired way of life. Theoretically, these insights indicate the need to reframe post-structuralist theories on power, most prominently advanced by Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault, from an intersectional perspective. The findings in this paper pinpoint to the challenges of transnational social life queer migrants are confronted with through empirical illustrations of perceptions of differences and ambiguities between immigration and emigration contexts. Furthermore, we advocate that sexuality is a crucial dimension of migration processes determining self-definition in relation to people and places, which makes their stories of coming out always also stories of ‘coming home’.
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Keywords: Sexuality; coming out; intersectionality; symbolic violence; transnationality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany 2: Faculty of Social Sciences, Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Publication date: November 2, 2018

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