Volume 43, Issue 4: July/August 2009

Peeping in on Goldie (and liking the show)

Queersexlife: Autobiographical Notes on Sexuality, Gender & Identity

  • Queersexlife: Autobiographical Notes on Sexuality, Gender & Identity

    Terry Goldie

    Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008

In queersexlife: Autobiographical Notes on Sexuality, Gender & Identity Terry Goldie offers up a heady brew of theory and introspection that is both refreshing and biting. The “autobiographical notes” that infuse the book reveal the intimacy and inextricability of personal experience and theoretical perspective which grounds the work and makes it feel “human” and accessible. At the same time, the deeply personal details jar the reader who might find his frankness unfamiliar, if not uncomfortable. And good for him. Goldie’s narratives are not merely casual observations that superficially draw links between the personal and political; instead, he is willing to be vulnerable and raw. Academic writing rarely offers this intimacy—moans and other physical pleasures in the first person—and it is a welcome shake-up. Indeed, it causes the reader, at least this reader, to question what that initial discomfort may mean, about the boundaries of knowledge production and about the scopophilia that positions the reader in a unique relationship to the text, gazing upon the strokes and sounds that emit from the pages. Perhaps I am lingering too much on the corporeality of the book, a result of my own voyeurism, academic or otherwise. Or, perhaps I linger because the thrust of the book focuses on gay male sexuality—a sexuality that is, quite simply, not my own. That said, the book definitely forces much introspection on the part of the reader, as I had many “Omigod, me too!” moments despite my differences with the author. The only critique I might offer is that it left me wanting more analysis in terms of other sexual and gender practices outside of a gay male sex life. Granted, the book states in its very title that it contains “autobiographical notes” which clearly demarcates it as a piece grounded in the sex and gender life of the author; however, the “queer” part of the title left me thinking that a broader range would be explored. That is not to say that Goldie doesn’t consider other subjectivities; however, they are not sustained and often passing, making, as he does, a few “apologies to lesbians” for gay male hegemony in some communities. There were also some generalizations, specifically around bisexuality—i.e. that most bisexuals are young, or women—which were difficult to wholeheartedly accept given that the “proof” appears to be personal observation. Such critiques are not meant to discount the great contribution Goldie has made in terms of theory and writing style. Indeed, he highlights many tensions and offers new trajectories for understanding processes of outing and being out, racism, the complicated relationship between sexual and gender practices (as opposed to concrete identities), masculinity and femininity, childhood sexualities, public sex and the ample ways in which we police our own boundaries by asserting a team membership. On the whole, he also troubles the ways in which we police boundaries in terms of writing. More specifically, he challenges how we write ourselves into texts, our communities, our numerous identifications, histories and queer sexlives.