Transgender identities have arrived, both upon the national cultural stage as well as within the more intimate context of the consulting room. Psychoanalysts, in response to this arrival, find themselves facing yet another controversy that calls into question apparently foundational notions about gender and embodiment.
When it comes to transgender identities, what kind of a controversy are we dealing with? On the one hand, there are those who view the gender binary of female/male as inherently repressive. Psychoanalysis, from this perspective, should be on the side of innumerable subversive gender performances, in which any norm related to gender or sexuality is resoundingly questioned in the service of some kind of transformative overcoming. On the other hand, there are those who argue that
transgender phenomena are inevitably symptomatic manifestations of psychopathology, usually of the more severe types such as borderline, psychotic or perverse. The transgender individual, from this perspective, would be conceptualized in terms of the power of unconscious, omnipotent fantasy to disavow the difference between the sexes—a disavowal that sometimes involves a demand for surgical interventions. (more…)