Project Aims

The project’s primary objective is to explore the social, political and legal experiences of LGBT+ refugees in Kenya. It is interested in how these individuals access care, build solidarity networks and develop livelihood strategies (both on and offline), all while navigating contradicting legal structures. Notably, it seeks to broaden out research on LGBT+ mobilities by investigating social spheres not routinely associated with LGBT+ migration (such as online spaces, intimate spaces and faith spaces). An example of this is Nairobi’s Cosmopolitan Affirming Church, which offers spiritual and material support to LGBT+ refugees. In extending the scope of research to these overlooked social fields, the project will provide much-needed data on the everyday experiences of LGBT+ refugees, specifically how they negotiate belonging and abandonment within urban settings. At the same time, the project will engage broader questions on the (in)ability of global humanitarian regimes to protect certain populations. The experiences of LGBT+ refugees in Kenya not only brings to light these geopolitical tensions, but also provides a useful case study for examining impacts of grassroots activism on international agencies, national governments and social movements. 

This study is rooted in four distinct observations:

      1. There is a lack of data concerning LGBT+ refugees who remain on the African continent. This project will not only look beyond South-North migration trajectories, but also rethink how mobility links to urban governance and sustainability.
      2. Given the current global situation, the likelihood of increasing numbers of LGBT+ refugees remaining on the African continent is high. This will have a major impact on urban infrastructure and economic development, while also shaping local, regional and global discourses on displacement, rights and protection.
      3. The increasing visibility of LGBT+ refugees in countries that not only criminalise LGBT+ people but also have native LGBT+ populations who flee will likely have consequences. This may create tensions between LGBT+ refugee and non-refugee groups, while also impacting inter-country diplomatic relationships and creating strain with global partners and funders.
      4. The opaque status of LGBT+ refugees raises a range of social, legal and political questions. This project will assist in making sense of challenges and opportunities relating to LGBT+ migration, including how local, regional and international legal mechanisms may be better harnessed.

Image credit: detail from [King by Audrey d’Erneville] reproduced here with permission of the artist