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.

Advertisements

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.

TorontoAYC

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

_____________________________________________

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.

Calpurnia.jpg

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.

_____________________________________________

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

 

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.

meryl-streep-that's-all