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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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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