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The place where only gays go: constructions of queer space in the narratives of sexually diverse refugees

Alex Powell (School of Law and Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 17 July 2023

Issue publication date: 15 May 2024




The purpose of this paper is to develop an understanding of how gay and lesbian spaces are constructed and deployed within the context of asylum claims by sexually diverse people. Through doing this, the author details the ways in which the present deployment of place, as a form of evidence for a relatively fixed conception of sexual difference, does not correspond to the self-conceptions of sexually diverse asylum seekers.


This article draws on the experiences of eight sexually diverse refugees who agreed to participate in semi-structured interviews. Deploying a queer narrative analysis approach, these experiences are explored to develop a detailed understanding of how sexually diverse spaces are constructed within refugee status determinations. This interview-led approach is combined with a critical epistemology informed by the queer theory to understand the role of place in the construction of sexual identity.


The central finding of this article is that engagement/attendance with/in particular places and spaces is overdetermined as a form of evidence of LGBTIQA+ identity within refugee status determination. Further findings relate to the relationship between places and sexual identities more generally. The paper helps to shed light on how sexually diverse identities are conceived in essentially ontological and fixed terms, with the result that places are often flattened, with the diversity and tensions within them being ignored and occluded.


The originality of this study emerges from the analysis of new qualitative data. This originality is strengthened by the successful combination of empirical research, queer theoretical insights and the application of this combination to policy. This remaining a relatively rare combination. In addition, in contrast to the existing literature, the paper looks specifically at how LGBTIQA+ or queer spaces are conceptualised within refugee status determination processes.



The author would like to thank the editors, Kay Lalor and Kenny Kanellopoulou, for their support and guidance during the drafting of the work. Particular thanks are due for the helpful feedback given. This has undoubtedly led to a far stronger paper. Thanks are also due to the three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and feedback. This has again made a substantial contribution to the work.

Funding: The research was not funded by any external body. However, some of the arguments in this paper were developed in the author’s unpublished PhD thesis. The PhD research was supported by a City, University of London Doctoral studentship between September 2017 and September 2020.


Powell, A. (2024), "The place where only gays go: constructions of queer space in the narratives of sexually diverse refugees", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 171-185.



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