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Challenging the visibility paradigm: Tracing ambivalences in lesbian migrant women’s negotiations of sexual identity

Journal article
Authors Mia Liinason
Published in Journal of Lesbian Studies
Volume 24
Issue 2
Pages 110-125
ISSN 1089-4160
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Cultural Sciences
Pages 110-125
Language en
Keywords in/visibility, Lesbian, migrant, Muslim, Nordic region, women
Subject categories Cultural Studies


In this article, I want to illuminate a more diverse image of lesbian lives in the Nordic region than what is often assumed through Western-centric notions of the global queer community and of “out and proud” visibility. Moving beyond dichotomous divisions between visibility and invisibility, I approach in/visibility as an ambivalent, ambiguous, and performative concept. My fieldwork data illuminate that non-heterosexual migrant women in this context do not primarily subscribe to a so-called “Western” visibility paradigm. I analyze how non-heterosexual migrant women, primarily Muslim, exercise ownership of their sexual identities and how they negotiate the degree to which their romantic and sexual relations become—or do not—points of discussion. As these women were involved in multi-layered negotiations in relation to their families, queer communities, and nations, their positionings in relation to the visibility paradigm differed. However, on a general level, their positionings could be interpreted as simultaneously in and out of the closet, or neither in nor out. These ambivalences and ambiguities, I suggest, illuminate the need to challenge the visibility/invisibility divide, and highlight the importance of paying attention to multiple, context-specific, and intersecting forms of power. Drawing on these discussions, I propose the need to rethink notions of community, family, and home within a framework of queer livability. © 2019, © 2019 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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