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Queer migration creates a better UK for everybody
Queer Election Watch Queer Gaze

Queer migration creates a better UK for everybody

Welcome to Queer Election Watch, a collaboration between DIVA, QueerAF and Trans+ History Week. We're here to help you cut through the noise and make sense of the issues that really matter to you, so that you can make a more informed vote in the upcoming general election.

Immigrating to the UK to be with my wife in 2023 was eye-opening. Finding the immigration system invasive and full of heterocentric assumptions, I decided to study to become an immigration adviser. I wanted to help queer folks navigate a system designed for straight people. 

Throughout the general election campaign, the rhetoric on immigration has ignored an essential truth in this country - immigration is necessary and creates a better UK for everyone. Immigrants come to the UK to work, to study, to find safety, and to be with their partners. We come here to build good lives and take part in British society. 

With the Conservatives, Labour, and Reform all focusing on plans to reduce immigration, the conversation is ignoring a vital truth - immigration is necessary. In the same way I chose to migrate to the UK to ensure we’d be able to help care for my wife’s family, thousands of immigrants come here to take active roles in building a better United Kingdom. As business owners, as caregivers, as researchers, as family members.

In order to move here, my wife and I needed to pass requirements on housing, employment, and financial means, and prove that we had a “genuine and subsisting” relationship.

The letters of support needed from her employer and landlord required us to be out as a queer couple - something dangerous for many LGBTQIA+ people, with a fifth of us experiencing discrimination at work and as private renters despite some protection under equality laws here. 

But it’s the fundamental basis of these requirements that are flawed for us as queer people. They ignore our long history of chosen family and our continued desire to reimagine what a home is. We are tasked with transposing our queer lives onto a canvas meant to evaluate heterosexual lives. 

How do you prove a genuine relationship when queer love and chosen family can look completely different than a straight tick-box exercise of joint bank accounts and family get-togethers?

The Tory commitment to raising the minimum annual income for a British citizen to bring their foreign spouse to the UK from £29,000 to £38,700 (after raising it from £18,600 in April 2024) has already been cited as inhumane by immigration reform activists. This threat is even higher to queer couples considering the LGBTQIA+ pay gap

Meanwhile, care workers have been banned from bringing their families to the UK since March - the care workers that keep our straining NHS system afloat, with more than 147,477 care workers immigrating here in 2023 alone.

Our immigration system has drifted into an individualistic quagmire of exclusion that harms so many. It could be a people-focused, and strengths-based set of compassionate policies that focus on national and international needs. Instead of creating isolation, it could be a remedy. Queering the system and its understanding of family will benefit all of us.

The General Election was called while the Tories stormed ahead with what has been widely decried as inhumane plans to deport migrants seeking asylum to Rwanda.

The plan is acknowledged by human rights activists as especially dangerous to queer people. LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers continue to be held in immigration detention indefinitely, a practice known to cause an incredible amount of trauma and put queer folks at disproportionate risk for abuse and violence, often forcing them to remain closeted.

While organisations like Rainbow Migration fight against these plans, other groups work to help queer folks settle in the UK. Whether that be Rainbow Railroad helping migrants escape from deadly discrimination, Micro Rainbow helping asylum seekers find safe homes here, or Queers Beyond Borders pointing the way for immigrants hoping to thrive in the UK.

The queer community continues to lead the way in creating a welcoming, inclusive home for LGBTQIA+ newcomers. This is what the notion of queer chosen family becomes in a thriving, forward-thinking country.

Queerness shouldn’t be a liability - not for individual immigrants like me, nor within the system as a whole. It’s time to end a decade-long hostile environment for immigration. 

If we focus on a lesson that queer folks have known for decades - creating and finding community helps us thrive - we can shift to a conversation that creates immigration policy immigration is seen as a tool for creating vibrant communities and recognises the social and economic wealth that creates.

Stay tuned to Queer Election Watch for more on the issues that matter to you. Check out the most recent policy check, on conversion practices, on DIVA and QueerAF now.

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