It was the night of Limbo Party’s queer ‘YEEHAW’ night and I was sick as a dog. My boyfriend had gone to a friend’s wedding that night. Originally, we’d both been attending – oh Covid restrictions! I tucked myself into bed, feeling sorry for myself after being uninvited. Maybe they think I’m too messy. I checked Instagram stories and sent messages to friends. I was positively stoic with hopes for a recovery and to be able to make it to Hobart’s Grand Poobah instead, but alas it was not meant to be. By about ten o’clock, it became apparent that I would not be able to leave my bed, let alone the house. I spent the night blasting through the first season of High Fidelity (2020) – the television show with Zoë Kravitz at the lead. High Fidelity features songs by Blondie, A Tribe Called Quest, Stevie Wonder and Frank Ocean, as Rob (Kravitz) recounts her Top-Five most memorable heartbreaks. What I’ve written here is of a similar ilk to that show. I look back on past experiences and am playing an aesthetic soundtrack at the front of mind when reminiscing. There’s subjective truth, there’s vibing and there’s Kylie.
No more excuses, no, no
‘Cause I heard them all before
I’ll forgive and forget
If you say you’ll never go
‘Cause it’s true what they say
It’s better the devil you know
Just to be there in your arms1
In writing this piece, I am discussing the resonances I feel with Kylie Minogue and expressing my queerness as a 24-year-old bisexual woman. I will discuss a range of experiences including attending queer nightclub events, memories from childhood and the gym. I will tease out these connections and discuss the challenges of expressing my bisexuality in a heteronormatively facing relationship. Can I call myself queer when I do not always present as such? How do I navigate this invisibility in certain spaces? Why is it important to make this distinction or express these feelings?
Perhaps the solution to these questions can be found somewhere in the murkiness between emotion, memory and theory. As theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick suggests, the term queer must only be used in the first person. There are too many variables for the term to stand as a monolithic signifier and I have found comfort in this invitation.2 This places the emphasis on the individual to find ways to express these feelings. All that it takes to make the word ‘queer’ to ring true is the impulse to use it. This requires practise and further interrogation, not only through looking at myself but also at the experiences I regard as personally significant.
Sedgwick writes about how certain objects can help us reveal ourselves. I will be extracting this idea, applying it to memory and feeling over physical objecthood. This piece will encompass theory and lyrics in an attempt to make sense of these complicated feelings and important moments in my life.
So why Kylie? In reflecting on Sedgwick’s ideas about resonating with certain objects or texts, I have been thinking a lot about my relationship to my queerness through the work of Kylie Minogue. My mum had the Ultimate Kylie CD and looking back, I was way more obsessed with her than my younger self remembers. It wasn’t at the fore of my memories, but I was raised listening to Minogue’s music. My mum grew up in the 80s and would regularly beat me at songs on SingStar. I always claimed her familiarity provided her with an unfair advantage. My younger sister is now entering her teen years and my mum is educating her on 80s pop culture. She is open to this and has shown enthusiasm for the same 80s SingStar edition. Finding our own resonances with this decade has emerged as a rite of passage. I wonder what she will find in these texts. Will she look back on them fondly as they remind her of this time in her life? Will watching The Goldbergs reveal something essential to her, in the same way Kylie has for me?
I don’t believe the magic,
Is only in the mind,
I don’t believe I’d love somebody just to pass the time3
Growing up, we listened to pop hits and country music, pretty much anything that held a shimmer of melodrama. At the time I couldn’t stand the country songs but have since grown to feel something whenever I hear that warm, hi-hat tinkle that dips forthright in Dolly Parton’s ‘Islands in the Stream’, or the way she pleads so thoughtfully and urgently in ‘Jolene’. It is through our connection with texts that we can insert our subjectivity, and find something worth holding onto. I feel that in light of this personal soundtrack of growing up is an implicit appreciation of what camp is. As writer Susan Sontag suggests, this appreciation of pure camp is not naïve but deadly serious.4 It’s important to be nonjudgmental of our feelings and to discover how certain objects or texts affect us, whether we are conscious of it or not. As Sontag considers, ‘to patronize the faculty of taste, is to patronize oneself.’5 I want to celebrate myself and find ways to express my feelings in a way that feels authentic and exciting at the same time. I want to know myself.
In my imagination there is no complication I dream about you all the time
In my mind a celebration, the sweetest
Thinking you could be mine6
In building upon Sontag’s ideas on the gravity of camp, Lee Barron’s writing on Kylie Minogue highlights the types of theatricality and reinvention central to her career. Barron proposes seven ‘masks’ that Minogue has embodied. There’s an overarching sense of referentiality between these personalities. For example, ‘Sex Kylie’ can easily coexist or borrow distinctive elements from ‘Dance Kylie’7. Perhaps the summation of all the various iterations of oneself could even be considered as the Ultimate Kylie. I like this interpretation as it highlights a sense of multiplicity and openness to experimentation. Barron discusses the postmodern tendency to see identity not as a fixed state but able to shift depending on the context. I’ve felt these feelings of uncertainty not only with my sexuality but also when considering how I am perceived as a half-Chinese Australian woman. These perceptions have had a substantive impact on my sense of self. There are spaces where I felt like I didn’t belong, and there are times I have been fetishized or praised for looking ‘exotic.’ Just like Sedgwick’s advice that to be queer is to use the term in the first person, only I can decide how and if I choose to share these parts of myself. It’s my identity and it must be on my terms.
In staying with this idea of multiplicity, I find the idea of ‘masks’ to be a convincing one. This leads us into discussions of performativity as an act of world making. It’s all part of the process, baby! As theorist Sara Ahmed tells us, the promise of happiness makes certain objects proximate and affects how the ‘world gathers around us.’8 Happiness at times is ‘being intimate with what is not happy.’9 Revel in your highs, and your lows. The journey is not always straightforward or linear. I must continue.
I think it is fitting that Kylie is celebrated as an icon in the queer community. Her work is celebratory, revelatory (I would argue in my case) and perfect for a night of dancing. A Limbo Party event without a Kylie song is hardly a Limbo Party at all. I cycle through intensive periods of listening to other divas (last week it was Mariah) but in my imagination Kylie music has always been present within my life.
I should be so lucky
Lucky, lucky, lucky
I should be so lucky in love10
Regarding articulating a queer identity, these ideas draw parallels with the work of theorist Judith Butler. She considers being queer as a site of collective and political contestation. Although I am sticking with the idea that the term must be applied in an individual context, it is simultaneously ‘never fully owned, but always and only redeployed [and] twisted.’11 Identification
can help me find something within myself, but also through the support of others. I think that for the most part, living in Tasmania during the pandemic has been a sheltered experience. Over the past two years there has been a steady increase in queer club nights, meaning it is no longer essential to attend every event. What is missed however is the opportunity to try on new aspects of your identity and trial new ways of knowing yourself. Just like Barron’s theory of Kylie’s masks, there are various manifestations of my personality. Aesthetically, these include ‘Tech Jade’, ‘Sporty Jade’ and so on. I simply sell my clothes if they don’t fit the image, I have of myself in my mind. Just like my conception of my queerness, this is open to change.
Threw away my old clothes, got myself
a better wardrobe
I got something to say
I’m through with the past, ain’t no point in looking back
The future will be
And did I forget to mention that I found a new direction
And it leads back to me?12
Pull focus close up, you and me
Got me affected
Spun me 180 degrees
It’s so electric13
In further reflecting on the way Kylie resonates with me, I recall a fascination for generically pretty Australian women – with Delta Goodrem being my other key interest. I remember reading my Nan’s issues of Woman’s Day and New Idea to get the latest on these women and to see who the latest celebrity was to announce, “I’m not a home wrecker!” – a phrase oddly applied to romantic couplings but perhaps more suited to the imminent golden age of reno shows: think The Block and Texas Flippers.
Don’t say it’s like a fantasy
When you know this is how it should be14
I also vividly remember relaying to my friends that Delta and Brian McFadden were finally getting married, or that Kylie had to cancel parts of her tour because of her breast cancer diagnosis. I felt a connection to Kylie and was quite upset to hear the news. At the time I had no idea my grandfather would one day die from cancer. This continues to be a difficult memory.
On a night like this
I wanna stay forever, stay forever
On a night like this
Just wanna be together15
I feel at times it is not relevant to tell people that I am bisexual. I don’t want to ignore it though. There’s the process of making sense of it all. There’s also feeling like I have to justify my positioning. I’ve never dated a woman, but that doesn’t mean I’m not queer.
There are recent encounters with Kylie’s music that have informed my desire to call myself queer, primarily through going to the gym at the Hobart PCYC. I moved into the city at the beginning of last year, leaving my beloved east-side park gym behind. The scenery between gyms differs substantially. The park gym in Lindisfarne had clear views of the Derwent, oystercatchers sucking up worms and plenty of wild fennel. My preferred gym room at the PCYC features an awesome variety of posters with inspirational quotes, a window that looks out onto one of the basketball courts, two large fans and a row of usually unoccupied treadmills. Honestly, both options are great.
One day I walked down the stairs to begin my usual routine. I saw a man on the elliptical in the corner of the room playing his music out loud.
I was surprised to hear a Kylie song.
So won’t you come, come, come into my world?
Won’t you lift me up, up, high upon your, high upon your love?16
The PCYC is a place that has good, strong, community vibes and a change room that always makes me feel like I’ve just stepped off the set of Stranger Things or GLOW. It has a very clean, pastel, underwater-mall vibe. My friend Jasper often comments on the gym’s 80s-Netflix-fantasy feeling when we go to the gym together. And I agree wholeheartedly, it’s the real deal.
I set myself up on the treadmill. My company didn’t faze the Elliptical Guy, as he continued to play his music through his phone speakers. I put my earbuds in and put the case back into my bag. I was tempted to turn off my own music and join in listening to Kylie.
The music you were playing really blew my mind17
In moments like this, I like the image that Butler presents
when talking about ‘being beside yourself.’ Sexuality is not
a pattern nor set of inclinations but a mode of ‘being in the world’18. I think there’s something special about seeing these moments of connection or recognition. There can be an obvious disjuncture between having a loud inner-monologue and acting in line with how you feel. At some point you need to get out
of your head and get into the world. As my friend Eli has often directed me, ‘don’t be a hopeless bi!’ Of course, having a crush on anyone sometimes results in absolute inaction and romantic disappointment. Being bisexual presents challenges with not only not feeling ‘queer enough,’ or presenting yourself in a way that is acceptable. I think it is important to acknowledge though. I am working to gain confidence in sharing these feelings with others.
I’m breaking it down, I’m not the same19
Not long after midnight on New Year’s Eve of 2022, while celebrating in my friend’s hot tub, ‘Spinning Around’ began playing on Rage’s New Year’s Special. The TV speakers were broken thus the challenging task of coordinating between personal devices and the music video was an unusual New Year’s activity. I think seeing the music video without music momentarily made me realise just how iconic Minogue’s golden booty shorts are. Oh, how I would like to imitate this look one day!
I feel an overwhelming connection to Kylie and her music. It’s about how it makes me feel. I recognise her position within the queer community, and her role in my personal narrative. I’m coming out – full circle. I’m still nervous, but I’m excited about who I’ve become.
Jade Irvine is a writer and artist living in nipaluna/Hobart. Jade is currently researching small museums in lutruwita/ Tasmania for her Honours thesis, and enjoys growing and pickling vegetables in her free time.
1 Kylie Minogue, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ (lyrics), 2001.
2 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Tendencies (Routledge, 1994), 8.
3 Kylie Minogue, ‘I Believe In You’ (lyrics), 2004.
4 Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp (Penguin Classics, 2018),
5 Ibid, 1.
6 Kylie Minogue, ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ (lyrics), 1987.
7 Lee Barron, ‘The Seven Ages of Kylie Minogue: Postmodernism, Identity, and Performative Mimicry,’ Nebula vol. 5, no. 4 (2008): 49.
8 Sara Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness (Duke University Press, 2010), 14.
9 Ibid., 31.
10 Kylie Minogue, ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ (lyrics), 1987.
11 Judith Butler, ‘ Critically Queer,’ A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. vol. 1, no. 1 (1993): 19.
12 Kylie Minogue,
‘Spinning Around’ (lyrics), 2000.
13 Kylie Minogue, ‘Slow’ (lyrics), 2003. 14. Kylie Minogue, ‘On A Night Like This’ (lyrics), 2000.
16 Kylie Minogue,
‘Come Into My World’ (lyrics), 2001.
17 Kylie Minogue,
‘Love At First Sight’ (lyrics), 2002.
18 Judith Butler, Undoing Gender (Routledge, 2004), 33.
19 Minogue, ‘Spinning Around.’