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  • Same-Sex Migration in AustraliaFrom Interdependency to Intimacy
  • Audrey Yue (bio)

In 1985 Australia became one of the first countries in the world to accept same-sex relationships as the basis of migration. Other countries with similar policies at that time included Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In the Australian context, same-sex applications were assessed through ministerial discretion under the compassionate and humanitarian visa category. In 1991 the interdependency category was introduced to recognize nonfamilial migration. Same-sex migration has been hailed as reflecting Australia's progressive sexual law reform and modernizing Australia's immigration history. Since 1991, more than 7,500 permits have been issued.1 Between 1991 and 2005, gay Asian migrants made up the largest group of same-sex settlers.

This period saw the gradual decriminalization of homosexuality, the introduction of HIV/AIDS public health that validated and affirmed gay sex, amendments to marriage and property laws that recognized the interdependency of same-sex couples, and the mainstream embrace of the queer social movement in Mardi Gras cultural tourism.2 As a set of institutional and symbolic economies that have led to the modernization of sexuality and the self-presencing of queer in the country, these progressive sexual law and cultural policy reforms contribute to the emergence of Australian queer modernity. Alongside the implementation of multiculturalism as a social policy, these developments deploy the language of intimacy to imagine national cultural and sexual diversity. From the interdependency of same-sex relationships to the erotic practices of gay sex to the celebration of everyday diversity, the intimate language of togetherness marked the emergence of a new sentimental order.3

This article problematizes how same-sex migration policy organizes sexuality [End Page 239] around the heteronormative institutions of intimacy and the family, incorporating the queer migrant as a good citizen through self-cultivation and disciplinary regulation. The queer migrant provides a critical platform to question how the state uses the language of intimacy in its progressive same-sex migration policy to silence the struggles of subordinate groups and to assimilate select gays and lesbians into a global and national discourse of identity and capital, thereby sustaining the core values of the Eurocentric nation. By further examining the interracial politics of the policy, this article shows how the gay Asian migrant disrupts the sanctioned model of the good family and the heterosexual norms of intimacy.

Intimacy is a charged and pertinent discourse with which to engage the regulation of sexuality and immigration in contemporary Australia because it is a conduit for unraveling the relationship between self and other, private and public, law and lore, the nation and its closest neighbor, Asia. Derived from the Latin word intimus to refer to "what is innermost," its verb intimo means "to make known." Their combined meanings denote "making known to a close friend what is innermost." As Emmanuel Lévinas writes, "Intimacy which familiarity already presupposes is an intimacy with someone."4 As a dual relation between self and other, intimacy is "a matter of turning into someone else's reality, and risking being changed by that experience."5 Not simply a state of personal internality related to the private and psychotherapeutic sanctums of sex and eroticism, intimacy is associated with the limits of borders and the externality of risks. Thomas Kasulis situates intimacy as "an orientation emphasizing certain modes of relationship."6 Anthony Giddens uses the example of the lesbian relationship to point to the transformation of intimacy in contemporary risk society as a result of the decentering of sexuality from heterosexual reproduction.7 Jean Cohen stresses the regulation of intimacy "involves gender and sexual relations that are socially (and legally) constructed, pervaded by power differentials, social hierarchies, and other sorts of social inequalities."8 These theorizations shift the domain of intimacy from private to public, and singular to collective. Lauren Berlant's formulation of the intimate public sphere highlights the mobility of intimacy and its critical function as a "public mode of identification."9 She examines intimacy in multiple public domains, from self-help cultures to the jurisprudence of law and entertainment media, and shows how these public institutions use intimacy to normalize heterosexual forms of knowledge and create...


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pp. 239-262
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