Activism on sexuality and sexual politics in South and West Asia has been increasing in the last two decades, resulting in challenges and opportunities to negotiate sexual subjectivity, intimacy and politics. But some people articulate a desire to disentangle sexual politics from identity politics. Against this background, a two-pronged investigation of the intersections of sexuality and migration was conducted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with the aim of understanding the role of sexuality in compelling migration. Data were collected by means of qualitative interviews and participant observation. Findings identify the existence of two contrasting forms of sexual politics: the strategic deployment of sexuality to affect social and political change, and activism with the goal of rethinking ideas and norms about sexuality. Challenges to sexual subjectivities resulting from the tethering of sexual politics to LGBT identity politics act as something of a 'push' factor for some individuals, encouraging them to migrate from places such as Iran, Pakistan and Nepal to the Persian Gulf countries in search of space in which to explore their bodies and sexualities.