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Spatial (in)visibility and the Good Gay/Bad Gay Binary

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Mark Casey


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For activists and theorists concerned with the project of ‘Queer’ in the early 1990’s, queer visibility was claimed to disrupt the heteronormativity of public sites, in turn queering and problematising such spaces. However, since the mid to late 1990’s and I am talking here specifically about westernised and metropolitan gay identities, a number of social, cultural and political developments have had significant consequences for queer visibility in the public. Consequently the need, desire and ability of lesbians and gay men to engage within the act of passing has also been affected. The paper will explore how the proliferation of (positive) lesbian and gay images and lifestyles within the media, the rise of the urban metrosexual - tied in with a number of important political ‘gains’ for lesbians and gay men is having significant consequences for lesbian and gay (in)visibility within urban landscapes. As, what Valentine (2002) terms ‘signifiers of lesbian and gay identities’ are increasingly visible and easy to read, not only by other queers, but the heterosexual audience is also ‘clued in’, how is this problematising the act of passing and methods used for claiming an invisibility? Secondly, through what Carol Johnston (2002) terms the ‘heteronormative game’ such social, cultural and political changes, are allowing limited/new forms of lesbian and gay visibility in public sites, although these are ones which the paper will argue are strongly tied into the good gay/bad gay binary. For those normalised and non-radical (good) gays a limited visibility is increasingly apparent, particularly within the semi-privatised spaces of the mall, supermarket, restaurant and so on that court their pink Euros, dollars or pounds. However, what are the costs for those politicised, sexualised, non-normative (bad) gays who do not play by the heteronormative game and, in turn, threaten the heteronormativity of the street, and what new fractions is this creating within queer discourse? And what of those lesbians and gay men who do not live within global urban centres, but within peripheral towns and cities – how are such social, cultural and political changes, tied in with the good gay/bad gay binary affecting their everyday lives, visibility and the quotidian spaces they inhabit?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Casey ME

Editor(s): Brown G; Brown, K; Lim J

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Geographies of Sexualities: Theory, Practice and Politics

Year: 2007

Pages: 125-136

Publisher: Ashgate

Place Published: Aldershot

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 754647617