Same-Sex Partners and Practices of Familial Intimacy

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Diana KHOR, Global and Interdisciplinary Studies, Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan
Saori KAMANO, National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan
Drawing on the findings from two comparative research projects on Japan and Hong Kong, one related to mother-(non-heterosexual) daughter relationships and another related to legal recognition of same-sex relationships, this paper looks at how family relations and norms are negotiated, challenged and/or reinforced through the practices of intimacy of non-heterosexual daughters and their partners in their relationship with their mothers, and also the kin work these daughters and mothers perform in extended familial relationships. Preliminarily we found that lesbian-identification and the presence of a female partner does not interfere with the practice of intimacy, and indeed, disclosure and acceptance by the mother of the daughter and her partner could enhance intimacy. For some, it provides an additional target for the mother to perform mothering. When accepted, female partners are more readily integrated into the kin network than a male partner is, whom many heterosexual daughters in both Hong Kong and Japan have described as “function-less”. For some, seeking legal recognition consists in negotiating obligations and priorities with their family of origin, which could result in a closer couple relationship rather than an integration of the same-sex partner into an extended kin network. In considering whether to seek legal recognition or not, however limited the protection is, many share anxiety about the future, and such consideration is at times iterated with little reference to kin relations, and rather more about the everyday world of neighbors, workplace, hospitals, insurance companies and so on. It raises the question of whether legal recognition might restrict freedom and creativity in negotiating kin relations for same-sex partners and their parents.