Visibility Interrupted: Rural Queer Life and the Politics of Unbecoming examines the experiences, desires, and politics of LGBTQ women in the rural upper Midwestern United States in relation to broader ideas about rural place and LGBTQ sexuality. In so doing, the book—the first on LGBTQ women in the rural Midwest— grapples with what is, arguably, the most taken-for-granted idea among LGBTQ rights supporters: the inherent (personal and social) value of being “out, loud, and proud,” an assumption that informs LGBTQ groups’ reliance on what I refer to as visibility politics and discourses. Visibility Interrupted considers the limits of desires for LGBTQ visibility and asks: What do we lose when visibility becomes the political project? Ultimately, the book suggests that visibility politics can preclude collective action and work in the service of metronormativity, post-raciality, and capitalist relations.
"Thomsen’s critiques of representational politics and visibility left me feeling very witnessed. Not because they provided a mirror narrative of my experience as a poor and rural-raised queer, but because they provided an analysis of the failure of the narratives that were supposed to represent me."
- Raechel Anne Jolie
"Visibility Interrupted advances research and energizes debate in an emergent and under-examined area in LGBTQ studies: queer rurality. Not only does this work critique dominant queer metronormativity in the field, it also critically displaces the strongly masculinist conception of the bucolic and the rustic by focusing on LGBTQ women’s identity formation, world-making processes, and community-building practices in the rural Midwest. Carly Thomsen argues for complicating the queer rural Midwest and queerness in general by offering a critical optic that refuses the flattening of the pastoral and envisions alternative formations of LGBTQ future."
- Martin F. Manalansan, University of Minnesota
Carly Thomsen’s Visibility Interrupted is a must-read for any LGBTQ (loving) people who have ever thought that being 'out, loud, and proud' was a good thing. Disclosing how visibility politics emerges out of urban spaces and presumes that the rural is unbecoming, Thomsen goes on to demonstrate what women in rural South Dakota and Minnesota can teach us about LGBTQ politics, the rural, and the relation between the two. Provocative, extensively researched, and delivered in Thomsen’s lively voice, this groundbreaking ‘queer archive’ offers a new understanding of sexuality as spatial and a more capacious politics inspired by LGBTQ rural life.
- Rosemary Hennessy, Rice University
Despite decades of critique of visibility politics, the rural continues to persist as an inherently oppressive space for queers. This is an energizing read, both as a synthesis of these debates as well as a fresh take on the suturing of LGBTQ visibility to hegemonic constructs of race and capitalism. Uninterested in a politics of inclusion, Carly Thomsen artfully situates visibility as a form of labor—the work of producing and curating oneself inevitably for capitalism and for the state—that is unappealing and unnecessary for her rural lesbian interlocutors. Visibility therefore becomes a political aim that preempts other horizons of political action. Anchored in the growing scholarship on rural queer studies, Visibility Interrupted is also a major contribution to queer and feminist theory, critical race studies, and critical disability studies. The thought-provoking stories of these irreverent lesbians reveal the imaginative paucity at the heart of urban metronormative sexual cultures.
-Jasbir K. Puar, Rutgers University