“The RealReal in Psychoanalysis and in the Trans Experience”
“Imagine denying your core and soul.” (p. 3) “If I become a woman I will be my real self.” (p.182) “I think it’s much easier for a trans woman or a trans man who authentically kind of looks and plays the role.” (p. 197) The preceding quotes from Caitlyn Jenner’s The Secrets Of My Life (2017), a memoir “written during the pivotal first years of becoming her authentic self” (book front flap), exhibit a typical reference to truth and authenticity. We can thus ask what is “true” and what is “authentic” in the realm of gender transition. In this domain, can we follow Martin Heidegger who criticizes the concept of “truth” defined as an adequation between thought and reality in order to promote a concept of authenticity as unconcealment? It looks like this has been the itinerary of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990), a first book appealing to a notion of authenticity and taking gender as performance, as an imitation for which there is no original. The trans response to these conflicting positions would consist in pursuing an undeniable truth, which is all the more powerful because it contradicts the appearance of the body. I will explore the concept of “realness” as pointing to the convergence of these problematic ideas and in contradistinction to Lacan's concept of the Real that has to be demarcated from Reality. To do so, I will reread Janet Mock’s groundbreaking memoir Redefining Realness in order to compare its conclusions with other “truths” that are revealed in our clinical experience.
“Trans Realism, Psychoanalytic Practice, and the Rhetoric of Technique”
In “Trans Realism, Psychoanalytic Practice, and the Rhetoric of Technique” Grace Lavery argues that, in Eliot’s early, definitive statement of realism in the seventeenth chapter of Adam Bede, realism will only have been accomplished when readers have learned not merely to respect, but to desire, the dysphorically sexed bodies of others. In this sense, Lavery argues, realism shares a central tenet with two of the more controversial and, frankly, neglected dimensions of Freudian thinking – which Freud himself took to be indispensable components in the treatment of neurotics – castration complex and penis envy. Though post-Freudian analysts have frequently found these dimensions of libidinal embodiment distasteful, to trans people they are central and in certain respects definitive aspects of social participation. Hence, while trans studies tends to eschew psychoanalysis altogether, and the only psychoanalysts to write about trans people tend to be Lacanians for whom “technique” is a mystification, re-appraising the “realist” dimension of psychoanalytic practice can reveals the trans logic at the core of both Freud’s project and Eliot’s.
Papers to be followed by a discussion.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Patricia Gherovici, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst and analytic supervisor. She is the co-founder and director of the Philadelphia Lacan Group, Associate Faculty, Psychoanalytic Studies Minor, University of Pennsylvania, and Honorary Member at IPTAR in New York City. Her books include The Puerto Rican Syndrome (Other Press: 2003), winner of the Gradiva Award and the Boyer Prize; Please Select Your Gender: From the Invention of Hysteria to the Democratizing of Transgenderism (Routledge: 2010); Lacan On Madness: Madness, Yes You Can’t (with Manya Steinkoler Routledge: 2015); Lacan, Psychoanalysis and Comedy (with Manya Steinokler, Cambridge University Press: 2016); and Transgender Psychoanalysis: A Lacanian Perspective on Sexual Difference (Routledge: 2017.)
Grace Lavery is Associate Professor in the Department of English at UC Berkeley, where she is affiliated with the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, and the Program in Critical Theory. Her research focuses on the history and theory of aesthetics, and on trans feminist accounts of the self. Her first book, Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan was published by Princeton University Press in 2019, and her essays have appeared or will appear in Critical Inquiry; Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies; Modernism/modernity; ELH; Transgender Studies Quarterly; PMLA; Novel: A Forum on Fiction; and elsewhere. Additionally, she writes on trans cultures and politics for non-specialist readerships, which work has appeared or will appear in Autostraddle, Vice, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Guardian, them.us, and in her own regularly published newsletter, The Stage Mirror. She is currently writing one book about sitcoms, another about parallel universes, and a third about the rhetoric of technique.
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