McGuirk, Siobhán. “(In)Credible Subjects: NGOs, Attorneys, and Permissible LGBT Asylum Seeker Identities.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 41, No. S1 (2018): 4–18.

  • Category: Literature
  • Source: Academic
  • Subject: Discretion,Asylum/Refugee,Bisexual,Documentation status,Gay,Homophobia,Homosexuality,Law/Legistation,Lesbian,LGBTI,Queer
  • Place: West Africa,Kenya,Tunisia
  • Year: 2018
  • File: plar.12250
In this paper, I demonstrate how statist logics concerning acceptable lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT) immigrants permeate civic spheres, creating new forms of exclusion for asylum seekers in the United States. Existing research on US asylum policy and procedures as they pertain to LGBT claimants suggests that a “gay enough” litmus test typifies U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudications, such that officers expect claimants to engage in conspicuous consumption of stereotypical commodities and culture and to appear visibly “LGBT,” either through gender non-conformity or by being “out.” My analysis focuses on the social as well as legal lives of LGBT asylum seekers in the United States. Drawing on ethnographic and interview data collected at specialist NGOs, I argue that limited ideas about LGBT subjectivity often structure NGO workers’ attitudes and practices in ways that echo USCIS criteria for granting asylum. I demonstrate how NGO client selection and intake processes assume homonormative ideals and subtly yet effectively replicate existing adjudication norms. Within ostensibly non-governmental spaces, LGBT asylum seekers experience suspicion, surveillance, and pressure to conform to NGO workers’ expectations of “credible” claimants. Contrary to NGOs’ stated intentions, these processes extend, rather than challenge, existing barriers to asylum.