Beyond Bright City Lights The Migration Patterns of Gay Men and Lesbians

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University

Abstract: One of the most persistent popular notions of gay men and lesbians is that they either live in or move to larger cities. In this thesis, the geography and migration paths of gay men and lesbians are studied using the life course perspective to challenge this idea. It is argued that gay men and lesbians are affected by the time and place into which they are born. Like heterosexuals, they are subject to the normative conceptions of life paths that are present at a specific historical period and place. Adopting a mixed-methods approach, four studies related to this aim are conducted.The first study shows that the tendency for gay men and lesbians to be concentrated to the largest cities in Sweden is greater than for heterosexuals. However, it also shows that the concentration tendency of lesbians and couples is less strong. The second study illustrates that tolerance plays no role in the geographical concentration of gay men and lesbians. Although perceived tolerance is often assumed to matter, this study shows that measured intolerance does not have an effect on the concentration tendency. The third study explores the migration motives of gay men and lesbians living in the city of Malmö, Sweden. It shows that the life stories of older cohorts resembled typical rural-urban flight stories but that the youngest cohort stressed motives similar to the overall population. This is in sharp contrast to the fourth study, which scrutinises migration stories from Izmir, Turkey. Because legal recognition is lacking, following the same life path as heterosexuals is problematic for gay men and lesbians. Because moving out is connected to this path, they remained living at home longer or never moved. Accordingly, the family played a core role in their lives rather than the rural-urban binary.Taken together, these four studies show that the geography and migration patterns of gay men and lesbians are more multifaceted than living in or moving to a larger city.