Book Review: In a Queer Time and Place

Book Review on American English Professor Judith Halberstam's book "In a Queer Time and Place". This post was written by RBP team member line of flight from Sampaloc Toc.

Judith Halberstam is an American Professor of English and also has written Female Masculinity and The Drag King Book. In A Queer Time and Place discusses a number of topics involving sexuality and queer subjects. One of the topics of her book that I found interesting related to her discussion of metronormativity.

Halberstam takes Michael Warner's heteronormativity (Fear of A Queer Planet) and reshapes it to describe the "normalizing" of urban sexual identities while abnormalizing rural sexual practices and identities. She takes the stories of several tragic FTM transgenders, like Brandon Teena to show how urban LGBT identities have allied with urbanism to create the belief that rural = homophobic. Halberstam shows how the movie Boys Don't Cry ended up changing Brandon Teena's story into one where she lacked any choice in her life -- a passive victim of rural homophobia/transphobia. Halberstam points out, though, that Teena moved to the rural Falls City, Nebraska town and was not forced to live there.

Halberstam inverts the metronormative binary to show that, for Brandon Teena, the benefits of the small town outweighed the drawbacks and that there is more to rural life than just homophobia. Halberstam then moves on to discuss female masculinity in modern art and I found the rest of the book to drag on -- perhaps because I'm not that really into modern FTM or lesbian visual art?

One area that Halberstam didn't really put much effort was describing all of the reasons why someone might avoid a big city that would have a more supportive environment for FTM life than a rural backwater like Falls City, Nebraska. Most young people who do not quite fit in in the province move to the city to take refuge from the social imprisonment of rural life. She does not really analyze what would motivate someone from a bigger town or city moving to a rural village.

In Teena's case, where it appeared that some level of deception by Teena was afoot, the dynamics that motivates some to move to a more rural insular life help shed more light on the connection between the mode of production (social and economic) and the cultural life of LGBT communities. I don't think Halberstam got there and it would be interesting, particularly in the Philippines and other countries where rural life is really a question of agricultural production while urban life is not. (And maybe how those different mode of production affect gender.)

The version I read was a 213 page paperback published by New York University (January 1, 2005), ISBN-13: 978-0814735855. It is written in English. . The least expensive copy of the book can be found at

1 comment:

Liz said...

can you refer me a good book on Philippine heteronormativity? thanks

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