Migration and gender identity among Chinese skilled male migrants to Australia
This paper reports on a study of the effects of migration on constructions of masculinities among Chinese skilled male migrants to Australia over the past 50 years. Data were collected in in-depth, semi-structured interviews of a sample of 40 Chinese male migrants in Brisbane city. The respondents came from a variety of countries of origin and varied in marital status, sexuality, age and previous migration experiences as well as duration of settlement in Australia. Because of an immigration policy based on a points system for measuring skill potential among migrants, these informants were of middle to upper-middle socio-economic status. Core ideas which emerged from the study included: Chineseness; insularity; the centrality of family, kin and friendship networks; Chinese males in the workplace; the division of labour in the household; employment and the fears of unemployment. These Chinese skilled male migrants displayed qualities of hegemonic masculinity in their households where traditional Chinese division of labour persisted. The markers of masculinity included: centrality of work and education; being a successful provider and protector; the accumulation of wealth and power. Unlike local hegemonic variants of masculinity these males placed little emphasis on sport, sexual prowess and performance and alcohol consumption. There were no ambitions among this sample of males to model local variants of masculinities, however gay males in the sample while experiencing marginalisation, racism and homophobic behaviour at the hands of local hegemonically masculine males, were more like the local dominant males in terms of an emphasis on sexual performance and preferences for well-muscled and fit bodies. Gay males in the Chinese sample found it necessary to restrict their social circles and physical locales. This Australian study has demonstrated the importance of the cultural sensitivity of concepts in doing comparative studies, and of considering sexuality as a dimension of identity in migration research that seems to assume a heteronormativity in its samples.