Looking Like a Lesbian: The Organization of Sexual Monitoring at the U.S.-Mexico Border

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Looking Like a Lesbian: The Organization of Sexual Monitoring at the U.S.-Mexico Border

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This article, through the study case of Sara Harb Quiroz, provides us with a window into immigration service efforts to identify and exclude foreign- born women who were believed to be lesbians. To date, only cases involving men who were alleged by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to be gay have received substantive scholarly analysis. Little is known about the experiences of women. By providing information about Quiroz's case, which is the only documented case involving a woman that has been uncovered to date, I renarrate the history of lesbian and gay immigration exclusion in a way that centers, rather than subsumes, specifically female experiences. In addition, Quiroz's case raises questions about the complexities of mapping histories of immigrant, refugee, and transnational women while using sexual categories that substantially derive their meanings from metropolitan centers.

That Quiroz encountered difficulties when entering at El Paso, because an agent suspected that she was a lesbian, clearly demonstrates that sexuality functioned as a "dense transfer point for relations of power" at the border. My approach to Quiroz's case focuses on problematizing how mainstream institutions, including the INS, remain invested in constructing fixed boundaries around what homosexuality is. Such boundary marking involves operations by which mainstream institutions empower and legitimize themselves while producing diverse minoritized populations.

 

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  • Eithne Luibhéid. “Looking Like a Lesbian: The Organization of Sexual Monitoring at the U.S.-Mexico Border,” Journal of the History of Sexuality Vol. 8, No. 3 (Spring 1998), pp.477-506.