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Unbecoming: Visibility Politics and Queer Rurality


Unbecoming: Visibility Politics and Queer Rurality critically analyzes calls for LGBTQ people to be "out, loud, and proud" through examining representations, discourses, and experiences of LGBTQ women in the rural Midwestern United States. Drawing from cultural representations and interviews I conducted with fifty-one women in rural South Dakota and Minnesota, I suggest that an estrangement exists between the desires, logics, and strategies of LGBTQ women in the rural Midwest and those of gay rights movements. This estrangement points to the need to consider the ideologies undergirding and the ramifications of LGBTQ visibility politics. I make three interventions in the interdisciplinary study of visibility: I argue that calls for visibility are symptomatic of and enable metronormativity, that visibility politics reproduce both post-racial and what I term post-spatial ideologies, and, finally, that becoming recognizable as visible is a labored process, and, as such, calls for LGBTQ visibility, which relentlessly demand constant laboring, are a reflection of and benefit to capitalist logics. In doing so, I revise assumptions about the ostensible relations among gay community, identity, and visibility, question the notion that visibility leads to rights or justice, and challenge dominant conceptions of the nature of rural communities. Beyond examining the unbecoming-ness of visibility discourses, I suggest that an interrogation of visibility discourses explicates how one becomes (and might un-become) a sexual subject and can broaden possibilities for actualizing alternate subjectivities--sexual or otherwise.

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