March 2019 Transgender Mental Health Symposium NY, presenting “Psychoanalytic Dreams of Polymorphous Sleep: Lacan’s Perversion and Clinical Transphobia”

pcgs.pngIn March of 2019, I will be returning to New York for an event organized by the Psychotherapy Center for Gender and Sexuality, a division of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy. This bi-annual symposium explores the psychodynamics of psychotherapeutic theory and practice in the context of transgender identities.

“Our 6th biannual conference, March 29th and 30th of 2019, will focus on the interplay of clinical practice and theories of development. Presenters will explore issues such as; how are clinicians approaching psychotherapy and psychoanalysis while engaging with traditional and emerging developmental theories? Although this is a clinical conference, we encourage clinicians and academics across disciplines to broaden the dialogue on these topics, both as presenters and as attendees.”

I will be presenting a paper which takes up some of the central questions in my dissertation, namely, Lacan’s perverse structure in relation to clinical transphobia.

Psychoanalytic Dreams of Polymorphous Sleep: Lacan’s Perversion and Clinical Transphobia

This workshop draws upon Lacan’s idiosyncratic thinking on “perversion” – that is, as a structural response to encountering lack in the other – as a way to conceptualize clinical anxiety surrounding transgender subjects. Lacan’s thinking uniquely puts perversion into conversation with castration, and further, presents an arguably queered, non-linear development of the subject.

Beginning with an close investigation of Lacan’s threefold model of diagnosis, we will explore the meanings he assigns to neurotic, perverse, and psychotic structures. This primer in Lacanian theories of subjectivity will provide a robust framework for understanding why all those with a neurotic structure (the most common psychical structure) unconsciously fantasize about being a pervert. This fundamental fantasy can further illuminate one of the factors contributing to clinical transphobia – a projection of the analyst’s desire for unlimited access to a lost jouissance.

To elucidate, this talk will make creative use of the popular science fiction novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Phillip K Dick to consider how fantasies about androids mirror fantasies surrounding transgender patients. In both cases, the neurotic subject dreams that “there is no there there” (Stein 1937) (no castration), a wish that can be managed when applied to something outside the self. Thus in considering the analyst’s dream of non-human perversion, we will gain an understanding into the lingering resonances of this instantiating loss, as it appears in the clinic between analysts and their transgender patients.

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Upcoming presentation: “Healing Psychoanalysis: A Perspective on Intergenerational Trans Mental Health” at the University of Victoria

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I’m excited to announce that I will be presenting at the Moving Trans History Forward Conference, at the University of Vitoria, BC. which takes place from March 22nd – 25th 2018.

The theme they have selected for this year is “From Generation to Generation,” and I will be presenting along with Isaiah Bartlett, LCSW on

Healing Psychoanalysis: A Perspective on Intergenerational Trans Mental Health

Panel: Saturday March 24, 2018 at 10:45 am
Session 19, “Upper Lounge” in the Student Union Building

Presentation abstract:

Psychoanalysis has a long and notorious history of pathologizing gender variance. Many contemporary practitioners still write of transgender people’s inherent psychosis or delusion, and queer people have been prohibited from undergoing analytic training.  As a result, clinical psychoanalysis has become an increasingly rare and unpopular form of therapy for many queer and trans-identified clients.

This presentation emerges from Wiggins’ and Bartlett’s unique shared experience of undergoing a psychoanalytic psychotherapy as trans-identified clients, with trans and queer identified analysts. We explore notions of the political unconscious, how psychoanalysis can provide a unique type of psychological healing for gender variant clients, and how our past experience of “laying on the couch” informs our community-based mental health work, today. We further question what forms of healing can be passed, both consciously and not, between generations of queer and trans identified mental health providers.

Summer presentation at the “Accessible Yoga Conference,” Toronto, June 22-24

I am excited to announce that this summer I will be leading a workshop on topics related to consent, gender identity, and yoga at the Accessible Yoga Conference, in Toronto Ontario. Check out the event on Facebook.

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Moving with Intention: Consent and Gender in Yoga

With Tobias Wiggins
Sunday, June 24th, from 1:30 – 3:30

To have “intention” means to be mindful, to be attentive in our actions and to plot our course with a gentle deliberation. We often begin our yoga practice by setting intent – a simple thought to guide our movement, and to return to as a foundation. Interestingly, in medicine the word intention carries a different meaning. It is the process of closing a wound, and the restoration of health.

In this workshop, we will explore this double meaning of intention in discussions surrounding the key topics of consent and gender, as they relate to yoga. Broadly, we will consider how trauma-informed feminist consent politics can deepen our practice and transform studio spaces, by using mindful touch to promote community healing.

People who experience gender marginalization – such as women, transgender people, and non-binary people – may have complex or difficult experience of navigating yoga spaces because of sexism, transphobia, and other intersecting systems of oppression. These hierarchical systems are typically enacted and reinforced in subtle ways, often going unchallenged despite even the best intentions. In this session, we will unpack issues of gender identity and expression as they relate to consent culture, developing tangible tools for safer yoga spaces. Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences of touch and consent in yoga, and in particular, how their gender identity has shaped their experience. All gender identities welcome!

 

 

You are welcome to make use of my code “Tobias” to get 10% off registration. Scholarships are also available.

Early Bird Pricing-Level I – $290 (C$375) by February 28th
Early Bird Pricing-Level 2 – $350 (C$450) by April 30th
Full price: $390 (C$500)

 

Tobias Wiggins

Review: CALPURNIA fiercely tackles everyday racism with tact and humour

Review originally posted on Nightwood Theatre’s website:

http://www.nightwoodtheatre.net/index.php/blog/calpurnia_fiercely_tackles_everyday_racism_with_tact_and_humour_review_by_t

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Calpurnia by Audrey Dwyer, co-produced by Nightwood and Sulong Theatre

Audrey Dwyer’s game-changing play effortlessly captures the ways that complex legacies of oppression can function in everyday, contemporary Canadian domestic space.

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Calpurnia, a play by Toronto-based writer/director Audrey Dwyer, has been building a steady buzz. Already selling out almost all of its opening shows, it has quickly reached become one of Nightwood’s best-selling productions in its 38-year history, with the actors receiving an electrified standing ovation with each curtain drop.

But all of this hype and excitement is especially impressive, considering the emotional tenor of its main themes, and the political work Dwyer is asking her audience to do.

The play is set in a contemporary upper middle class Black Jamaican-Canadian home, where Julie (Meghan Swaby) struggles to revise a draft of her radical screenplay of To Kill a Mockingbird, which reimagines the famous story, but from Calpurnia’s perspective. Her brother Mark (Matthew Brown) does not appreciate her critical reading of Calpurnia’s strife, and is not shy in letting her know that, as a rich 20-something living with her family in Forest Hill, she is “not Black enough” to write from the perspective of a Southern maid in the 1930s.

In a living area next to the opulent modern kitchen (flawless set design by Anna Treusch), Julie fights with her laptop for inspiration while the Gordon family’s Filipina cook and housekeeper Precy (Carolyn Fe) continuously hovers and tidies the space around here. They have a clear closeness, especially given that after Ms. Gordon passed away, Precy cared for the children. Yet despite their familial connection, Precy is still available in a hired domestic role, a tricky parallel with maid Calpurnia that Dwyer maneuvers with ambition.

The rivalry between brother and sister is punctuated by Mark’s white, spandex-toting yoga-ambassador girlfriend, Christine (Natasha Greenblatt), who while stretching and sipping hot lemon water with fresh mint, continually plays the peacemaker. Their father (Andrew Moodie), a kind and affluent judge, is perhaps overly supportive of his two children. He is in the process of setting up an elaborate dinner for Mark to meet James (Don Allison), the head of a distinguished law firm that he hopes his son will join.

It is at this ill-fated pristine dinner party that all of Julie’s frustrations, and creative impulses, come to a hilarious and disquieting head.

Dwyer explains that she began writing Calpurnia in 2012, and while “time passed as I wrote… Black men in Canada were being brutally murdered by the police… Trayvon Martin had been brutally killed. Sammy Yatim was also brutally killed.”* Informed by a climate of increased visibility and conversations about overt racism and violence against people of colour, Dwyer has taken up the difficult task of representing the intricacies of social injustice that we still don’t always see in the media.

And in actuality, these injustices are invisible by their very design. Everyday racism, or the way that our dominant ideology is founded in white culture, is a more subtle and naturalized form of social discrimination. Because of this naturalization, it can be a lot harder to address. This is especially relevant to a Canadian audience, for whom a national ethos of multiculturalism can lend to complacency, or an inability to identify more systemic, hidden forms of prejudice.

So through the resourceful use of humour and storytelling, the play asks the audience to do some heavy lifting, not only to consider how racism informs the very foundation of everyday spaces like our homes and jobs, but also how racism is inseparable from other systems like classism or sexism – a concept Black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw famously termed “intersectionality” in the 1980s.

For example, although clearly attuned to issues of social inequity, Julie’s inability to write the character of Calpurnia is informed by her own class location. Her frustrations and entitlement lead her to inappropriately question Precy at length, trying to derive an “authentic” insight into maids’ lived experience. And Lululemon-Christine, who is often hyperbolically white and privileged, is also sometimes able to speak most fluently about racism. Simultaneously, she has her worth measured in weddings and child rearing potentials by sexist houseguest James, the inflated lawyer, who eventually calls Julie a racist.

The plot is seriously layered! To be playful, I would say watching Calpurnia is a bit like social justice Inception – just when you think you hit a pretty deep level, heart pounding, you get dropped through another couple insights about systemic power. And although its about the “everydayness” of oppression, the play is also a clear commentary on how domestic conventions are steeped in broader legacies of racism, primarily through the creative use of the classic To Kill A Mockingbird.

These complicated dynamics certainly leave the audience a bit unsteady, and unsure about how to feel about each character. Perhaps this is one of the things that makes the play so uniquely humbling and real – none are perfect, and all are prone to struggle.

From Julie, who is unquestionably woke but still getting her sea legs, as she works hard to develop and refine her own political thought; to Mark who often denies obvious racism to survive as a lawyer; to Precy who, although disapproving, tolerates the family’s drama and provides an inordinate amount of emotional labour (a type of under-acknowledged, unpaid care work that is often expected of women) – each strives to somehow manage their social location (their race/class/gender, etc.) with honourable intentions, yet all are susceptible to political “failures.” The question of what is a political failure, however, Dwyer quite artfully leaves unanswered.

Calpurnia
is therefore as much of a conversation starter as it is entertaining, which is a feat when broaching difficult issues like intersectionality. And because of this, there is no doubt that your own social location will impact your experience of the performance.

The set was cleverly designed so that the audience sat facing one another, with the all the action happening in between. I felt this was a tangible invitation for us to engage in dialogue, to see other people’s reactions, and to consider our own. Were they moved by the same issues as me? Do they feel angry, delighted, or ashamed? Are they laughing, and should I be? Watching Calpurnia as an ally, you might be inspired to have new conversations with those across from you; and as someone marginalized, you may get the opportunity to share a moment with a stranger, who has undoubtedly had that same experience.

Artfully told, with the softening qualities of comedy and the power of unspoken truths, Dwyer has crafted a theatre experience that is compelling, provocative, and honestly, not to be missed.

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*From Audrey Dwyer’s Message from the Director/Playwright in the Calpurniahouse progra

 

New Publication: Encountering Inheritance in Vivek Shraya’s I want to kill myself

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Very excited to share my 2017 article “Encountering Inheritance in
Vivek Shraya’s I want to kill myself” special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly “Transpsychoanalytics,” edited by Sheila Cavanagh. A big thank you to Vivek Shraya for her support on this piece and to the Arts and Culture section editor Eliza Steinbock for soliciting my work.

You can access the article here:
https://www.academia.edu/35479116/Encountering_Inheritance_in_Vivek_Shrayas_I_want_to_kill_myself

The full TSQ issue here: https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/issue/4/3-4

A Devil Wears Prada Smackdown Analogy

Ive been researching the history of clinical psychoanalytic writing on transvestism, and for some reason a scene from the Devil Wears Prada keeps coming into my mind – where Miranda lays out the history of Andy’s cerulean top in a total unapologetic and evenhanded smack down. Arguably, one of the best scenes.

 

I’ve come up with some associations to share.

I think what Maranda does here, is trace an invisibilized genealogy and shows us how even the colour blue has a history that is welded to power. And I guess as I work on my dissertation research, can’t help but think about this in relation to knowledge production surrounding trans people and the discourse of the university. Some white rich guy like Robert Stoller (in this metaphor Oscar De La Renta) comes up with a psychoanalytic explanation for gender identity or sexual pathology (cerulean dresses), the idea floats around, is picked up and remoulded, passed through the hands of many other thinkers, and eventually comes out many other ends – found in the “casual corner store clearance bin,” which could perhaps be homonormativity or homonationalism. Really if we are creating a hierarchy of ideas we could end up at any point, as hierarchy is relative. Let’s not invite Jordan Peterson into this conversation.

But what Miranda leaves out is that Stoller and De La Renta often take these “designs” from somewhere else – and in particular from those minoritarian communities who form ideas or resistances seen as overly radical, unwieldy, aberrant, perverse, repackaged and made digestible for those with social status lends authority. These ideas are often seen as a part of their own genius, their capacity to think outside of the box, and imagine something novel. This one way that colonization and racism function seamlessly too – ideas, culture, knowledge that is considered backwards in the hands of people of colour and indigenous people is held in high regard when appropriated by white folks. And in Robert Stoller’s case, these ideas were borrowed from his patients – trans & intersex folks who stories and dreams (actual dreams!) can be found in the psychoanalytic studies used to condemn them.

So these were our ideas, bodies, and experiences to begin with – keep refinding and rewriting.

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Sexuality Studies Institute 2017 lecturers

The Summer Institute for Sexuality Studies faculty has been finalized! 

Make sure to check out the institute’s official website for updates. I will be posting about the public events soon…..

http://siss.info.yorku.ca

Dr. David Eng (University of Pennsylvania)

The SISS 2017 thematic focus originates from the call of David Eng for building analytical linkages between psychoanalysis, queer theory and ethnic studies, which he had vocalized in a number of publications. He is well-known to students of queer and critical race theories as an author of canonical books The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy (Duke, 2010)and Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America
 (Duke, 2001), and also as a co-editor with Jack Halberstam and José Esteban Muñoz of the special issue of Social Text: What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now (2005). The SISS 2017 will particularly benefit from Eng’s expertise in queer theory, transnational racial relations, the history of law, and his analysis of race in psychoanalytic clinical cases.

 

Dr. Amber Jamilla Musser (Washington University)

Amber Jamilla Musser’s expertise includes three pivotal theoretical perspectives of the SISS 2017: queer theory, critical race studies, and psychoanalysis. Musser has researched and published on brown femininity, whiteness, affect, masochism, and interracial relations. Her recent book Sensational Flesh: Race, Power and Masochism (NYU Press, 2014) offers an innovative methodological perspective employing masochism as a diagnostic tool to understand systemic racism, patriarchy and colonialism. Musser’s lecture will introduce students to her current work on contemporary art and the concept of brown jouissance.

 

Dr. Trish Salah (Queen’s University)

Trish Salah’s work is situated in the areas of postcolonial, feminist, and sexual minority literatures; comparative analysis of race and racisms; sexualities, genders and modernities; transnational cultural production; psychoanalysis and affect theory; sex work; transgender studies; and un/popular culture. Her books of poetry Wanting in Arabic (Mawenzi House, 2013) and Lyric Sexology (SPD, 2014) creatively explore diasporic trans and queer subjectivities, and employ the lyric as a lens to read transgender fantasies encoded in feminist, autobiographical, anthropological, and psychoanalytic archives. At SISS 2017, Salah’s unique expertise in transgender and diasporic cultural production will be employed in the creative and experimental writing workshop on poetry, perversity and power.

 

Dr. Aparna Mishra Tarc (York University)

Aparna Mishra Tarc is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education York University. Her scholarship examines the dynamic place of pedagogy in the ongoing subject formation of person.  Mishra Tarc is the author of many articles and the book Literacy of the Other: Renarrating Humanity (SUNY Press).  She is currently working on the book length project Pedagogy in the Novels of J.M. Coetzee (Routledge).

 

 

Trans art (therapy) in 1948

During today’s research on this history of clinical psychoanalytic opinions on transgender people, I stumbled across a fascinating article from 1948. Martin Grotjahn’s “Transvestite Fantasy Expressed in a Drawing” (Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 17:340-345) is not unique in its analysis of his patient’s “perversion” – Grotjahn argues that this image is a representation of the trans person’s disavowal of castration through the creation of a fetish (cross-dressing). For example, on left side of the drawing, you can discern the depiction of a scrotum without a penis, on the right, a life-like vagina bloodied and lacking a hymn. He states:

“It is noteworthy in the drawing that the castration is symbolized, but that it is clearly conceived as a literal castration denoted by the bleeding vagina, and testes without a penis. In typical transvestite fashion, the symbolic denial of castration is already implied: the testes may be found behind the curtain (under the clothes). The woman’s clothing becomes a substitute for the missing penis.”

His interpretations aside, what I actually find most captivating about this find, is the drawing itself, that has been preserved through the psychiatrist’s pathologizing clinical report. As Susan Stryker has articulated in the introduction to the first Transgender Studies Reader, it is up to trans studies scholars to return to these histories, combing over their records to uncover and rewrite stories of trans experience. This “Renarration” allows trans people to treat sexologist’s “immense body of clinical work as its archive” (Stryker 14).

 

 

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1948, artist unknown

 

This sketch, clearly influenced by surrealism (and it also reminds me of Sybil Lamb’s work), reflects the balance of dream states and reality; fantasy and desire. Broadly, I see negotiations between polarized gendered embodiments, the struggle of the path this “patient” walks, of being observed, of feeling stuck, the shame of being seen or seeing, interiorities and exteriorities (holes and poles), and violence. Yet any analysis of the piece, without a conversation with the artist themselves, will also do much to reflect both the psyche of the one doing the analysis and their particular socio-political context. This is another reason why the medicalized archive to trans people could be of significant use for uncovering the resonant anxieties that have lubricated clinical transphobia. In other words, can we look at medical reports to determine cis people’s defensive responses to gender variance?

The kind of shame surrounding genitals and their medical documentation has always captured my attention. During the early 1990s, all psychiatric reports were accompanied by detailed measurements of the body, and exhaustive descriptions of privileged body parts (forehead, skull, pelvis, clitoris). The truth of mental illness was to be found in the flesh, as biological positivism had a weighty hold.

Trans and intersex people’s anatomies were documented through image and text that measured and compared their corporeal deviations to a measured norm – an all-encompassing phallometrics, obsessively filed and registered.

And despite the undisputable violence of this history, I can’t help but find such profoundly beautiful queer aesthetic in the kinds of sublime mutations captured through scientific record.

That said, I’ll leave you with the final image I found today, a watercolour depiction of a vulva from 1892, housed at St Bartholomew’s Hospital Archives & Museum. The genitals have been scarred by ulceration – which can be the result of any number of factors including STIs, sexual trauma, psoriasis, and fixed drug eruptions. The cause is not documented.

by Leonard Portal Mark, 1892

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SISS 2017, Call for Participants

The Summer Institute in Sexuality Studies
June 5-9, 2017—York University, Toronto
Perversion at the Crossroads of Critical Race Studies, Psychoanalysis, and Queer Theory

Perversion is a slippery signifier, prolific in meanings and genealogies. It is most often associated with any type of sex which deviates from an expected trajectory or desired outcome. In 1905, Freud notoriously spoke of a child’s disposition as “polymorphously perverse.” This assertion was considered scandalous in its unveiling of childhood sexuality, but also in the contention that all subjects begin from a place of perversion, and that these unsound origins are perhaps not so easily abandoned. Perverse thoughts, objects, and acts extend beyond assumed aims, lingering uncomfortably upon that which should be quickly bypassed. They are sticky, insurgent, and out of place. They get sidetracked and fail to arrive on time. And because of these multifarious digressions, they are considered strange, abject, and to be avoided. In this way, parallels can be found between the social construction ofsiss_1 “perversion,” and ideologies surrounding race and queerness. Queer and critical race theorists have written at length about similar divergences: being disoriented and “slanted” (Ahmed 2006), failing (Halberstam 2011), disidentifying (Muñoz 1999), growing sideways (Stockton 2009), aberrating from gendered and eroticized liberal economies (Ferguson 2004).

The 2017 Summer Institute in Sexuality Studies (SISS) explores questions surrounding perversion from three key vantage points: critical race studies, psychoanalysis, and queer theory. Psychoanalysis and sexology have a conflicted relationship to the perverse, as both fields created taxonomies that pathologized certain sex acts and queer embodiments. These imperial taxonomies associated people of colour with excessive sexuality, taboo, fetishism, deviance, and moral depravity. The consequences of these destructive systems of classification still resonate today, yet have also been transformed and complicated through globalization, neoliberalism, the normalizations of LGBT people, interracial sexual relations, and visibility of sex. Some canonical queer theorists, including Michel Foucault, Lauren Berlant, and Leo Bersani, called for the recognition of queer, sadomasochistic, and public sex as subversive to heteronormative sexual politics. However, numerous queer of colour theorists (Eng, 2010; Muñoz, 2009; Musser, 2014; Reddy, 2011) point out that conceptualizing perversion as subversive overlooks the ways in which this concept has been employed as a tool in systems of racial oppression. Today, for example, the perverse psyche of “the other” is used to justify war on terrorism, torture of political prisoners, and exclusions of people of colour from citizenship in Europe and North America.

Given perversion’s complex history, its foundational ties to colonization, and continued relationship to systemic marginalization, how may we best make use of this concept today? Participants at this year’s Summer Institute pursue this question, exploring facets of perversion through brown jouissance; reconceptualizations of race; emotions, affects and the flesh; black aesthetics; trans racial intersections; BDSM and fetish; citizenship and homonationalisms; visual art, poetry, and more.

Over the course of five days, the participants will engage in lectures, master classes, roundtables and creative workshops using a wide variety of approaches to consider the intersections of perversion, psychoanalysis, queer theory, and race. By bringing together internationally renowned lecturers and graduate students from a variety of disciplinary and geographical backgrounds, the Summer Institute provides an international and multidisciplinary platform for learning, sharing and developing research and theory in the area of sexuality studies. SISS has partnered with FAG Feminist Art Gallery to provide a series of cultural events throughout the week led by their artist in residence. For more detailed information regarding lecturers and the schedule of classes and events, see our website or email with inquiries at siss2017@yorku.ca.


Apply to the 2017 Summer Institute in Sexuality Studies by filling out the SISS 2017 Application Form Here.

Apply for a travel subsidy for the 2017 Summer Institute in Sexuality Studies by filling out the SISS 2017 Financial Assistance Form Here.

Access the Preliminary SISS 2017 Schedule Here.

Institute participants will receive a certificate of participation upon completion.