Monday, 11 October 2010

Fancy Seeing you Here! Oh and You're Uncut Versatile?

At the risk of coming over all Carrie Bradshaw, let be a little personal for a moment. A funny thing happened this evening. Like many academics, I spend my evening faffing with bits of work at the computer, twitter and Facebook whirling in the background. Yet as a gay academic it's not untypical to also have various gay networking sites running along in the background too. There is something a little predatory about the gay male (yowzers, a little too SATC) and so maybe it's to be expected that we would ever have one eye on the next encounter.

But what happens when, as happened to me earlier this evening, you see that another academic who you know has stopped by your profile? Obviously you might be relieved that they've not been confronted by your penis flopping out at them (as many a profile may have the unfortunate quality of doing), and also intrigued to learn whether they define themselves as top/bottom/versatile; along with their attitudes to drugs, smoking and safe sex. You are now possess the knowledge of whether they are circumcised and how they define the length of the penis (seasoned gay men know this is utterly disconnected from actual size).

As gay men, sharing and being open about these characteristics is the norm on network sites. Yet, as academics we seek to maintain an air of heteronormative respectability. As I've written elsewhere, it's acceptable for the straight guy or woman to share information in the workplace about their family existence but the out gay man is unlikely to reveal his authentic private life in the workplace. Attending a Kylie concert and a friends civil partnership is fine. Explaining a fisting encounter that went wrong maybe not. Not that I have a fisting encounter that's gone wrong. Or right for that matter.

Anyway...we do seek to define ourselves to fellow gay and queer academics in slightly more open ways - especially at specialist conferences but there the presence of other gay groups - notably lesbians, acts as a further control on our behaviour.

So how do we respond to these moments? Of course students might also share these network spaces and that presents additional issues. When the 'professional' and the sexual clash, it might be tempting to retreat to the construction of a safe identity but the real challenge for queer theorists and queer academics is to queer the professional academic identity, to recast and redefine ourselves in the academy.

I'm in talks to edit a book that will explore these themes and for my money it's one of the least talked about, and most important issues facing queers in the modern Academy.

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