Once I was able to sort out that my own copyright as ascertained through the UMIDatabase system allowed me to self-share my own work–because, of course, we really never know these days with copyright–I am hereby sharing “Living in an (In)Visible World: Lesbians’ and Queer Women’s Spaces and Experiences of Justice and Oppression in New York City, 1983-2008” with you, dear world. LIVW is presently being drastically rewritten into two (or perhaps three) books, Queer New York and Beyond a Politics of Visibility. Queer New York examines the spatialities of lesbian-queer life as they change over time and presents the concept of constellations (see below). Beyond a Politics of Visibility will focus on what the political, social, sexual, and relationship practices of everyday urban lesbian-queer life in the contemporary period say about these women’s tactics of resilience, reworking, and resistance.
One way to frame this work is to ask: from AIDS to “The L Word,” did these women’s lives actually get “better”? Or, as related to a lesbian-queer politics of justice, do these women experience their lives with justice, care, and respect? Come back over time to find out my thoughts in the first book. In the meantime, the dissertation is at your disposal. Of note: unless you are also a methods fantatic, I highly recommend skimming Chapter Two, also per the friendly urging of my adviser.
Lesbians and queer women are often labeled “invisible” in and beyond the academy within a politics of visibility used to describe lgbtq people and their movement. This dissertation is a historical geography of contemporary lesbian and queer society, culture, and economies in the world’s arguable lgbtq capitol, New York City. This project draws upon 22 focus groups with 47 self-identified lesbians and queer women who came out between 1983 and 2008, as well as almost a year of archival research of documents spanning the same period. From this project, I argue that lesbians’ and queer women’s productions of urban space take the unique form of constellations, whereby material and imagined places, experiences, and bodies understood as lesbian and/or queer serve as the nodes between which participants draw connections to work around and against patriarchal and heteronormative systems of oppression. This feminist-queer theoretical contribution affords a way to argue against labeling lesbians and queer women as “invisible” while questioning and getting beyond visibility politics as the best solution for securing lgbtq justice and justice for women. Drawing from the needs and desires of participants, I suggest a politics of visibility, recognition, and participation as the next step in promoting more just futures for lesbians and queer women.