Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Transsexualism and Transgenderism: Unravelling Sex and Gender, and Abstractions of the Sexed Body *

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Transsexualism and Transgenderism: Unravelling Sex and Gender, and Abstractions of the Sexed Body *

Article excerpt

Albeit a relatively old phenomenon, transgenderism currently remains difficult to define and understand due to the fact that it is so polymorphous and changing. Indeed, while it may be considered that in continuity with the mediatization of the transsexual phenomenon and of the first cases of sex reassignment therapy (SRT) the transgender phenomenon appeared in the 1970s with certain cases of secondary transsexualism described by Stoller, and with the "first" transgender person, Virginia Prince (Castel 2003, 486 and 491), it is only recently that the American Psychiatric Association (2013, 451-459) and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH 2011, 97) have given it a certain recognition in their respective studies.

According to the definitions given by these associations of health professionals, transgenderism corresponds first and foremost to a group encompassing all the different forms of gender incongruence (whether or not this incongruence entails distress experienced by the individual, and whether or not there is gender dysphoria). It is "simply" the opposite of cisgenderism,1 that is, the opposite of the congruence between sex and gender. Thus, according to this broader conception, very diverse issues of identity or of nonconformity of gender may be considered as transgender, such as:

* transsexualism with total hormonal and surgical transformation, but also partial (without an operation of sexual reassignment),

* intersex conditions with ambiguities of genital organs,

* identity-related transvestism,

and even in a certain manner:

* effeminate men who consider themselves as men,

* or virile women who consider themselves as women.

Indeed, as we will show in a more detailed manner in this article, the emergence of transgenderism occurred in part by differentiating itself from transsexualism, not only by contesting the reference to a "medical" term, but also by asserting the right not to be obliged to undergo genital reassignment surgery (GRS). This assertion of a distinction differs from the current proposals in which transgenderism absorbs transsexualism, relegating the latter to a sub-category of gender incongruence. According to this first view, transgenderism and transsexualism each evince a different relationship of the subject to his gender identity, to his sexed body and to the difference between the sexes, a difference that is erased by the current definitions of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and of the WPATH (Marchand, Pelladeau, and Pommier 2015).

Thus, initially this article will present transgenderism as a singular entity, distinct from transsexualism. We will then set out our hypotheses as well as their theoretical framework, namely that transsexualism and transgenderism correspond in our view to two different types of abstraction of the sexed body, and that their respective transformations relate to an attempt to achieve drive realization through perception as defined by Dejours (2001), which is associated here with a split representation of the difference between the sexes. Finally, before concluding, we will illustrate these theoretical elements with the help of an analysis of two clinical vignettes, those of Claudia and Lucy, two individuals who were transsexual and transgender respectively, whom we met in the context of research work in connection with non-directive clinical interviews as well as with Rorschach testing and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). Being well aware that transgenderism and transsexualism do not correspond to homogenous and uniform groups of individuals, but rather to different individual pathways (as Lemma 2013 points out), it is not a matter here-on the basis of only two clinical vignettes-of arriving at generalizable conclusions, but of highlighting the elements of our hypotheses that seemed pertinent for pursuing the study of issues relating to sexed identity and their diversities. Furthermore, the utilization of data arising from projective tests such as Rorschach and the TAT proves interesting here at several levels. …

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