Unpacking the Meanings of a ‘Normal Life’ Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Eastern European Migrants in Scotland

Stella, Francesca; Flynn, Moya and Gawlewicz, Anna (2018). Unpacking the Meanings of a ‘Normal Life’ Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Eastern European Migrants in Scotland. Central and Eastern European Migration Review, 7(1) pp. 55–72.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17467/ceemr.2017.16


This article explores the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) migrants from Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union in Scotland. Drawing on interviews with 50 migrants, the article focuses on the experiences and aspirations which they articulate as being part of ‘a normal life’, and analyses them within broader conceptual understandings of security and ‘normality’. We first examine how normality is equated with an improved economic position in Scotland, and look at the ways in which this engenders feelings of emotional security and well-being. We then explore how more positive experiences around sexuality and gender identity are key to a sense of emotional security – i.e. of feeling accepted as ‘normal’, being visible as an LGBT person but ‘blending in’ rather than standing out because of it. Finally we look at the ways in which the institutional framework in Scotland, in particular the presence of LGBT-affirmative legislation, is seen by participants to have a normalising effect within society, leading to a broader sense of inclusion and equality – found, again, to directly impact upon participants’ own feelings of security and emotional well-being. The article engages with literatures on migration and sexuality and provides an original contribution to both: through its focus upon sexuality, which remains unexplored in debates on ‘normality’ and migration in the UK; and by bringing a migration perspective to the debates in sexuality studies around the normalising effect of the law across Europe. By bringing these two perspectives together, we reveal the inter-relationship between sexuality and other key spheres of our participants’ lives in order to better understand their experiences of migration and settlement.

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