San Francisco's queer diaspora and the gay Middle Eastern refugee/asylee
Nathian Shae Rodriguez
School of Journalism & Media Studies
San Diego State University, US
Dr. Nathian Shae Rodriguez specializes in critical-cultural and digital media studies. He grew up in Balmorhea, Texas and was valedictorian of his graduating class. He attended the University of Texas of the Permian Basin where he received a B.A. in Mass Communication. He went on to receive a Masters of Journalism and Mass Communication with a Concentration in Public Relations from Kent State University and a Ph.D. from Texas Tech University.
His research focuses on minority representation in media, specifically LGBTQ and Latinx portrayals and identity negotiation, as well as pop culture, identity, radio broadcasting, and issues of masculinity.
In recent years, millions of refugees have migrated across the globe fleeing persecution, in search of better lives. Among these refugees are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals who are escaping maltreatment for their sexual orientation. At the time of writing, there were 76 countries with laws imposing harsh sanctions against same sex intimacy, varying from fines, imprisonment, violence, and even death. Because of their unique situations, these refugees and asylum seekers are doubly marginalized as forced migrants and sexual minorities. This study investigates how LGBTI refugees, asylum seekers, and asylees navigate their identity through the interactions in the queer diaspora of San Francisco’s Castro District. Identity is produced and reproduced through social interaction. This study’s main goal was to investigate how social interactions, embedded in the lived experiences of LGBTI refugees/asylees post-asylum, created and shaped meaning specific to their identity. More specifically, the current study looked at social interactions using communication, mediated and interpersonal, to negotiate identity.
A focused ethnography was conducted in the queer diaspora of San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood. Self-identifying gay males from the Middle East, who now reside in San Francisco’s Bay Area were interviewed and observed. In a post-asylum context, media were used to find other LGBTIs in the queer diaspora, however not used to build relationships. Interpersonal communication was utilized more in the queer diaspora to foster relationships, acculturate, and shape identity. Intersectionality, marginalization, and power come together to shape the identities of the LGBTI refugees/asylees.