Sexual Health, Risk and Migration: Challenging exclusionary constructions of migrant men who have sex with men

Darwin College Sciences Group
Arthur Davis - Centre for Gender Studies
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Thursday, November 28, 2019 - 13:10 to 14:00

Much research has been conducted on the sexual health of MSM (men who have sex with men) migrating from countries with high levels of institutionalised homophobia, as well as the health risk posed to MSM who migrate from such places to so-called ‘gay centres’ – such as London – where sexually transmitted infections are much more prevalent. However, little work has been done on how this research perpetuates the very problem it seeks to describe. Drawing on an understanding of discourse as constitutive rather than descriptive, my research raises questions around how the methodology employed by much epidemiological research reinforces an exclusionary and misleading binary between risky, ‘Eastern’ MSM and enlightened, ‘Western’ MSM. Drawing on the ‘Patient Zero’ trope, I argue that sexual health risks (which, in reality, transcend borders) are implicitly assumed to be distinctly foreign threats to the purity of the homeland. By contrast, literature on rural-to-urban migration, as well as literature exploring the specific dynamics of migration (be it international or intra-national), illustrate the more complex, chequered nature of sexual behaviours and sexual risk across borders. The conceptual binary currently upheld in epidemiological research and sexual health policy risks letting certain migrants fall through the cracks in sexual health services, while contributing to the stigmatisation and social exclusion of others. It is thus necessary to reformulate our conception of the ‘migrant’ in sexual health policy and research

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