In Making Out, Kathryn Bond Stockton centers her experience, thoughts, and assessment of kissing through her non-binary childhood. “Mid-kiss, do you ever wonder who you are, who you’re kissing, where it’s leading? It can feel luscious, libidinal, friendly, but are we trying to make out something through our kissing?” In this Q&A, we ask our dean about this subject and what she hopes her readers take away from her new work.
What is your main topic, and why?
Kissing, as you might imagine from my title, is central to this book. Strangely, kissing doesn’t get enough love in the field of queer theory or LGBT studies. It remains a ghostly presence in all our writing about sexuality and gender expression. Kissing, however, becomes our coolest quest, for reasons I explain. (All the political forces of our world are at our lips: fragments of the world are embedded in a kiss.) Kissing’s cool and strange. Kissing is neither hetero nor homo; trans nor cis. Children do it, too—even with adults. Asexuals and celibates may partake. And since kissing is interpretive—we make each other out, discern the fog surrounding us, the haze that we are, when we’re kissing—it’s a form of reading. Kissing weirdly involves us in words. How reading is itself a form of kissing and sex with ideas (reading is sex) you’ll have to read my book to discover.
Tell us how you personally became interested in this.
Kissing has held my attention from childhood. I dreamt of kissing girls, which wasn’t allowed. That is to say, having to walk through life as a “girl”—this was not the word I sought for myself—girls were off-limits, as was the boy-word I hoped to get. The trail of varied kisses I describe in my book makes for a layer cake of words through which I made myself out: “girl” turning “gay” feeling “trans” under “white” facing “God” soaked in “shame,” having a “blast.” I, with others, was a prequel to trans and gendered non-binary life today. Thus, as I convey, perhaps a word-starved, word-aspiring child, such as I was, was bound to find in reading, often with others, a bounty almost not to be believed.
What do you hope your readers take away from your publication?
I would like my readers to glean new thoughts about kissing’s strangeness and sex with ideas. I would prompt my readers to kiss, question, think, debate. Some of this is hard—kissing can render pain, violence, racism, ableism (I explore these matters)—but acts as routine as kissing and reading beg our deepest, most sensual understanding.
Kathryn Bond Stockton will be holding a book reading of Making Out on October 24th at The King’s English Bookshop at 7 p.m.