Since the beginning of their migration to the Americas and Europe in the 1950s, Haitian transnational migrants have ensured the socio-economic survival of non-migrants in Haiti. They have done so by sending over three billion US dollars annually to their families and friends back home. While Haitian migrants are often perceived as having a positive economic impact on the country, some are criticized for engaging in sexual behaviours, such as homosexuality, seemingly infringing on ‘traditional’ Haitian family values in a largely conservative ‘Christian’ society. This revives old debates about migrants’ role in using their money to normalize homosexual relationships and pervert sexual morality and acceptable gender norms among non-migrants in Haiti. According to these debates, local men in Haiti are involved in intimate relationships with Haitian gay migrants because of their precarious socioeconomic status on the Caribbean Island and not necessarily because they may be gay. Although homosexuality has always existed in Haiti, and romantic/intimate relationships between gay men in Haiti and those abroad have long existed, these relationships have rarely been studied in sociological research on Haitian migrations. To fill this gap, this paper examines how the inequality of resources between Haitian migrants and non-migrants intersects with homosexuality and space to shape the perception of Haitian gay migrants as desirable romantic/intimate partners for gay non-migrants in Haiti. Drawing on 11 months of ethnography and 44 interviews in Northern Haiti, this paper shows that transnational migration, homosexuality, and spatiality significantly shape how local men in Haiti look for and get involved in intimate relationships with gay Haitian migrants. In doing so, this paper contributes to the transnational migration literature by showing how homosexuality shapes the dynamics of transnational relationships between migrants in the Caribbean and non-migrants in the Americas and Europe.
About the speaker
Carlo Handy Charles is a dual Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at McMaster University and Geography at the CNRS-LC2S, Université des Antilles. His dissertation examines how gay men in Haiti navigate transnational romantic and intimate relationships with their migrant partners across the Haitian diaspora in the United States, Canada, France, Dominican Republic, and Brazil. He has won over 20 awards for his research and leadership, including the SSHRC-Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Scholarship, and a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship at Convergence Migrations Institute (CNRS-Collège de France, Paris). He is a Sessional Faculty in Sociology at McMaster. He is also a former Public Policy Advisor to the City of Toronto, a playwright, and a policy columnist. His work has appeared in several academic journals and mainstream media in Canada and internationally.