[the debates that we propose do not constitute the totality of our content; we publish any original contribution likely to enrich the psychoanalysis-sciences articulation and/or to bring a scientific anchoring - by a qualitative and/or quantitative perspective - to psychoanalysis]
Manuscripts deadline: end of may 2020
Nature likes to mix genres; fixity is only practiced for fossils. On the subject of sexual orientation, it seems that a century is separating two contemporary writings. On the one hand the psychoanalyst Sylvie Sensé-Léger affirms in the article Transsexualisme (Encyclopédie Universelle, 2020) : "The unceasing progress of medicine allows the transformation of the body and the dissemination by the media of testimonies of individuals who have undergone surgery and obtained a change in their civil status. That should not make believe that the transsexualism is only a phenomenon of society and time. It is a deep disorder of the personality and the sexual identity that is a matter of psychiatry and psychoanalysis". On the other hand, the philosopher Paul B. Preciado writes in his last book, An Apartment on Uranus: "I am not a man, I am not a woman, I am not heterosexual, I am not homosexual, I am not bisexual. I am a dissident of the gender-gender system. I am the multiplicity of the cosmos locked in a binary political and epistemological regime and I am shouting to you. I am a Uranist confined within the confines of technical-scientific capitalism". Uranism, evocation of the goddess Venus Urania, is a word invented by the journalist Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs to evoke this aspect of human reality that the socius, gradually, accepts: "A woman's soul in a man's body".
HLGBTIQAP+ is an acronym that generally encompasses the community of sexual "minorities": Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questionning, Asexual, Pansexual/Polysexual, etc. We wished to include in this list heterosexuality and the critical discourse about heterosexual normativity. This discouse seem to lead to a forced, coded heterosexuality, leaving little room for the non-coded polymorphism observed within this sexual orientation.
In approaching the HLGBTIQAP+ question, is it from the outset a matter of choosing between chance and necessity (Monod, 1970), freedom and destiny, essentialism and existentialism, naturalism and culturalism, me and subject? Gender identity, among other variables, seems related to the meaning of individual life and self-image. During adolescence, it is said to be the result of a development under five kinds of influences: genetic, hormonal, anatomical, psychological, socio-cultural. Sexual identity lives and transforms itself according to these various currents that change according to the places and periods of life. Can the reflection on the polymorphic reality revealed by the HLGBTIQAP+ ensemble serve as a guide for understanding a psycho-sexual polymorphism that goes far beyond the Freudian psychic bisexuality according to which all humans have both male and female sexual dispositions?
Our analysis must be marked by several inseparable components of sexuality: genetic, hormonal, anatomical, psychological, social and historical. As far as genetics is concerned, science now states that gene expression can be activated or inhibited by certain chemical modifications induced by the environment depending on the hormonal context (stress/safety) through DNA methylation and histone modifications. This brings us closer to John Bowlby's observations about more or less secure attachment. Do these epigenetic markings influence individual development regarding sexual identity? Do dioxin and pesticides, which are increasingly prevalent in our environment, interact with all other factors to alter the expression of sexuality?
As far as hormonal sex is concerned, embryology teaches that in mammals the embryo is initially female. During gestation, it eventually becomes a male foetus due to hormonal expression under genetic dependence. Does hormonal configuration have an influence on brain development? For Edward Dutton and Richard Lynn, endocrine disruptors are now implicated in certain neurodevelopmental disorders. In this field, as elsewhere, many experiments seem to be influenced by the cultural options of the experimenter. It remains difficult to separate the effect on neuronal plasticity, on which identity plasticity depends, from genetics, hormonal configuration and the environment. We are forced to choose between two opposing visions that science is powerless to separate. The first one corresponds to the position of Jacques Balthazart, neuroendocrinologist, for whom homosexuality is directly linked to fetal hormonal impregnation: "We are born homosexual, we don't choose to be". The second one refutes with Catherine Vidal, neurobiologist, any difference between male and female brains and speaks of "neurosexism".
The anatomical sex is usually determined by the karyotype, XX or XY, although variations do exist. It is at ultrasound or at childbirth that the anatomical sexual categorization is made. We now know that it can conflict with psychological sex and social sex . In the course of individual development, psychological sexual identity occurs, according to Freudian theories before gender identity. It is initially the feeling of belonging to a somatic sex. It is one of the components of the constitution of the self, and then of the ego. They are gradually built up by going through different stages (Freud, 1905, the stages of the libido, then, 1914-1930, the stages of the object relationship) and periods (Melanie Klein, 1930, the periods of the archaic object relationship). During these crossings, a first configuration of identity appears with the oedipus stage, through identification with the parents. These different layers of identity make up a patchwork of identity borrowings from the two parental models and from prevalent stereotypes. It can already generate tensions because certain elements may be opposed to each other. This initial configuration remains quiescent for a while, sometimes discreetly expressive, before being questioned by puberty. The adolescent drive would disorganize this first identity configuration, while new identifications, extra-parental, would take over, making the identity mosaic more complex. The onset of genital reproductive functions would accentuate a sense of urgency to redefine oneself. The psychic bisexuality dear to Freud would imply that the new identity borrowings to mix with the old one. It would generate a whole new reconfiguration of the feeling of self-continuity. Parental models would be put at a distance. Stereotypes could no longer be perceived as inductive fatality, but as an option to be confirmed. A disharmony, painful at first, may occur between anatomical and psychological sex. A considerable adaptive effort, even more destabilizing, is then required to fix and affirm a new sense of self and eventually take the path of coming out and transformation. But is it necessary to adapt to the body, to society and its stereotypes, or to both?
Gender has historically and culturally manifested itself in different ways, with different levels of tolerance. More recently, the feminist movement and gender studies have given it a new direction, emphasizing the domination of the white male, which imposes an economic, social, cultural and scientific law. In the 1990s, Judith Butler broadened the question of gender to that of sexual identity with the Queer theory: any categorization of identity is questioned, especially the bipolarization of men and women. The queer is primarily interested in gays, lesbians, transsexuals, intersex, ... Secondly - and this is the nodal point of our discussion - beyond these categorizations, queer theories propose a critical discourse on the sexual binarity between men and women. This binarity is seen as a political regime of oppression similar to racist discourses. In this regard, this relatively new term etymologically connotes a crossing of borders. However, it does not refer to anything in particular. It leaves the question of its denotations open to challenge and revision.
Within the framework of its radical constructivism, gender, but also sex, are social constructs. This perspective denounces the violence of social norms, in particular the pathologization of transsexualism by the DSM IV. Biological sex itself is beginning to be seen as a product of a social construction inherited from sexist biology. Sex and gender are not stable entities, but processes in which physiology and environment interfere.
The gay movement contributed widely to the reflection on homosexuality and to the social integration of a universal orientation. French law has adapted with the PACS (1999) and same-sex marriage (2013). Homosexuality has become a way of living one's sexuality like any other for a majority of French people. However, this greater tolerance is coming up against homophobic hotbeds. The Act of 27 May 2008, which defines discrimination as unequal treatment, states that gender identity and sexual orientation are among the criteria for discrimination, as are sex, age, disability, physical appearance and political and religious opinions. Between Stonewall and this law, a real societal shift has taken place on this LGBT issue.
In 1920, Freud had reaffirmed how heterosexuality is a self-limiting practice: "It must be said that normal sexuality, too, is based on a restriction of object choice”. Under the influence of Ernest Jones, the psychoanalytic movement forgot this idea of an exclusive heterosexuality conditioned by education. But women analysts reacted against this erroneous vision of female sexuality . Thus in the USA, Helen Deutch and Karen Horney, as early as the 1940s, and in France Lise Irigaray and Julia Kristeva opposed Freudian conceptions . They also denounced the male domination of psychoanalytic societies.
In France, Colette Chiland studied two hundred cases of sexual transformation. In her book, she evokes the suffering of these people. They feel at odds with their anatomical sex and want surgery and hormonal treatment. It is a long journey through the acceptance of surgical techniques, legal revision, identity papers, social integration, couple life, psychological support, medical follow-up. She describes the disgust of the genitals, the penis for men and the breasts for women. For these people, only the transformation of their bodies can bring relief. They strive to adapt their behavior to the stereotypes associated with their psychological identity. For Colette Chiland, psychoanalyst, the origin of this could be psychic, related to traumas and early identification difficulties. Her book Changer de sexe: illusion et réalité (Odile Jacob) has provoked a lively debate within the LGBT community. They denounced the shocking and stereotypical statements of the author, as well as her aversion to patients who confided their distress to her (see Hélène Hazéra's comments in Libération). Activists from the Act Up Paris association distributed leaflets with her photo and the words "the face of hatred".
In 1978, Virginia Prince coined the term "transgender" to refer to people who have changed gender without surgery. In 1991, Sandy Stone urged doctors not to submit to the normative psychiatricization of trans people. In 1992, Leslie Feinberg extended the term transgender to include all trans people, regardless of whether or not they undergone body transformation. In 2000, in France, the association OUTrans condemned Stoller's medical approach to the search for a trans identity. They aimed to welcome "all those who do not recognize themselves in the binary gender system”. In November 2006, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, an international commission of lawyers acting within the framework of the United Nations established a charter for the application of international human rights law on sexual orientation and gender identity for protection. This charter lays down the absolute prohibition of discrimination against LGBT and intersex people. 54 out of 193 member states have ratified it.
The anthropologists' knowledge on other cultures and societies may seem unsettling to our traditional gender binarity. The sworn virgins (Albania), the Hijra (India), the Berdaches (India, United States) or the Mahu (Polynesia) are just a few examples of a "third sex" addressed as such by the cultures of the world (Desy, 1978; Young, 2001; Saladin d'Anglure, 2006). Contrary to the European view, these people are not considered psychologically or functionally abnormal. They play an important role in the social order: warriors, shamans, soothsayers, sorcerers, prostitutes. Similarly, homosexuality can take on (e.g. in Papua New Guinea) institutionalized forms that are strongly intertwined with other determinants such as age and status (Godelier, 2001a). This lesson from elsewhere reminds us, in the path of Freud, that gender assignment and sexuality are/become above all ingredients (and not always the most important ones) of power relations....
In order to re-examine these very complex issues from both a psychoanalytical and transdisciplinary perspective, In Analysis wishes to open the debate on the plurisexual nature of the psyche by questioning three main axes. The first, as indicated above, concerns the [in]topicality of the Freudian doctrine of a psychic bisexuality. The second wishes to mobilize potentially fruitful extrapsychoanalytical perspectives for the field of psychoanalysis: gender studies, psychosociology, anthropology, medicine, etc. The third is interested in the contemporary clinic of the trans- (transgender, transsexual) subject and the way in which psychoanalysis deals with the passage from one gender to another, but also and above all its position on the process of sexual reassignment.More precisely, from what data and from when does one know that one can proceed to the surgical act? How can we decide that the person has done sufficient psychological work and that the intervention will be beneficial for his or her biopsychosocial development? Does psychoanalysis/psychotherapy have an adequate theoretical framework for reshaping this identity? Or is this identity embedded in genetic components and/or primary psychic areas that are inaccessible to symbolization? (but which one?) Is it at a stage of a definitive early imprint, making it impossible to remodel? (according to what criteria?) How is psychopathology integrated into these problems and what are the risks of a pathologization of the problems of trans-?
Should psychoanalysis start from the assumption of a psychic queer-sexuality (in the sense of queer theories) rather than a psychic bisexuality?
Pourquoi revenir à l’identité sexuelle ici, après avoir parlé d’identié de genre ? Comment s’opère le passage de l’un à l’autre dans ce texte ? pas clair pour moi
Voulez-vous laisser sexe ici ? Car en anglais, le terme genre serait sans doute plus adapté
Changement des temps. A considére de le faire en français ?
Changement de temps. Meme remarque que prec
Ici , je ne comprends pas, du point de vue théorique comment vous passez de Jones à l’hétérosexualité à la sexualité féminine. L’enchainement d’idées semble trop rapide.
Pas clair ce à quoi elles s’opposent ici
J’ai modifié au passé. Au présent dans le texte en français
WPATH (The World Professional Association for Transgender Health), Standards de soins pour la santé des personnes transsexuelles, transgenre et de genre non-conforme.
Freud, S. 1905. Trois essais sur la théorie sexuelle.
Freud, S. 1920. Psychogenèse d’un cas d’homosexualité féminine.
Chiland, C. 1997. Changer de sexe. Odile Jacob.
Stone, S. 1991. Manifeste transsexuel.
Feinberg, L. 1992. Transgender liberation.
Boulanger. J. 2018. Du temps du rêve au rêve du temps. Interview de Michel Lorblanchet. In Analysis. 2018/3.
Davis-Kimball, J. Warrior women. An archeologist’s search for history’s hidden heroines. 2002.
Jung, C.G. Les racines de la conscience, 1954.
Balthazart, J. 2010. Biologie de l’homosexualité. Mardaga.
Dutton, E. Lynn, R. 2016. Revue Intelligence, juin 2016.
Desy Pierrette Paule, 1978. “L'homme-femme. (Les berdaches en Amérique du Nord)”. In Libre — politique, anthropologie, philosophie. Paris, Payot no 78-3, pp. 57-102. [en ligne à l’adresse ]
Godelier Maurice, 2001a. “Pratiques sexuelles et ordre social - De l’acte sexuel comme rapport de forces et de pouvoir”, La Recherche, hors-série No 6, novembre 2001, pp. 98-102.
Godelier Maurice, 2001b. “La sexualité est toujours autre chose qu’elle-même”, Esprit (3-4), mars-avril 2001, p. 102-103, (numéro spécial, L’un et l’autre sexe).
Herault Laurence, 2004 « Constituer des hommes et des femmes : la procédure de transsexualisation » in Terrain nr 42: 95-108.
Kraus Cynthia, 2001. « La bicatégorisation par sexe à l’épreuve de la science, in Delphine Gardey et Ilana Löwy (sous la dir.), L’invention du naturel, pp. 186-213.
Preciado, P. B. (2019). Un appartement sur Uranus. Paris: Grasset.
For many, we are experiencing a repetition of fundamental crises inherent in human life and nature. For others, we are living in an unprecedented environment generating agglomerated crises; these are climatic, political, social, cultural, etc. crises. They occur against a backdrop of major changes in our environment due to pollution, digital and visual invasions, fake news, algorithmic manipulations that escape the classical logic of world order elaboration.
On climate, an abundance of scientific literature documents the state of a planet whose biomass is about 0.01% of human beings; this insignificant living mass seems to be at the origin of a chain of global biomass destruction. A long series of scientific reports describe an environment laden with increasingly worrying phenomena of an anthropocenic nature: the rise of the rate of CO2 (faster in the last century than in the previous 20,000 years), the melting of both the Arctic ice pack, glaciers and permafrost in Alaska and Siberia, a rise in global temperatures, a significant increase in tropical cyclone activity and extreme weather events, living species condemned to extinction, ocean acidification, water shortages, the accumulation of waste and an increase in consumption year after year (as is the case for aviation, for example). Among the consequences for the population are malnutrition, disease, poverty, insecurity, etc. Positive feedback seems to represent the most worrying prognosis of this depressing picture: global warming is accelerating on its own due to the dysfunctions that add up to produce ever greater ones.
Psychoanalysis is promptly invited to come out of its silence and neutrality to provide elements of response and treatment. In this perspective, there would be three main lines of work:
Analyze the climate crisis as an expression of an oedipal or pre-oedipal configuration whose infantile elements and early, unelaborate anxieties lead to the destruction of one's own environment (Searles, 1972; Magnenat, 2019). And, jointly, consider individual concerns for disasters as a projection of an unresolved internal catastrophic state.
Understanding the same crisis as the effect of an environment that saturates the individual with information and incentives to act.
Question this context at the intersection of the two preceding tracks to propose a hybrid path, emerging from pre-Oedipal, Oedipal and post-Oedipal elements (Poenaru, 2019). In this perspective, it would be more than a permanent co-modification of the internal and external (Poenaru, in press), beginning in the early years and continuing in a present that is constantly shaking up the pre-established orders (cultural, social, economic, etc.).
Long before us, in 1972, Harold F. Searles published Unconscious process in relation to the environmental crisis. In it he suggests that psychoanalysts fear that by focusing on the environment and the climate they may be labelled psychotic depressives or paranoid schizophrenics. The environment awakens, from Searles' perspective, early anxieties that are characteristic of the different stages of the individual's history of ego development. The activated defences would be related to :
1. the oedipal problem and phallic levels of psychosexual development;
2. the depressive position (Mélanie Klein) ;
3. the paranoid position (Mélanie Klein).
Seen from this ambiguous angle, climate anxiety is in no way related to a destructive environment; it is only the effect of a resumption of early individual experiences that come into confrontation with external objects in danger according to an dynamic drive. "Deep within us, the undifferentiated globalization of this threat evokes the petrified immobility of the child chronically threatened with violence by his or her parents (equivalent to vague and deified entities such as the hydrogen bomb or the frighteningly powerful military industrial complex)" (Searles, In Magnenat, 2019, p. 86). Thus, one makes the individual and his memory feel guilty, just as, a short time ago, mothers of autistic children were made to feel guilty for not being good enough.
A veritable theoretical desert unfolds after the publication of Searles’ book, particularly in the French-speaking world. The current crisis recently brought together Swiss psychoanalysts and guests from various disciplines for a collective work entitled La crise environnementale sur le divan (The environmental crisis on the couch) (In Press, 2019). Luc Magnenat, the initiator of the project, calls the resistance that surrounds an approach that confronts us "with what anguishes us most and about which we want nothing to do: our confinement in an unconscious functioning that drives us without our knowledge, as well as our distress at discovering ourselves locked in an environment that is deteriorating as a result of our own activity" (p. 24). This collective reflection, by bringing a multitude of answers from classical psychoanalytical theories, fails to take into consideration the third way that interests us: the bi-directionality of internal (early) and external factors and effects. While naming a set of external factors, the work merely applies psychoanalytical mythologies to an unprecedented environment which, certainly, anguishes us along our lines of defence. At the same time, this leads to co-modifications which do not always respond to the preordained theoretical constructs.Or even, as in politics, believing that evolution is only the result of public debate (apart from algorithmic manipulations such as those of Cambridge Analytica), puts us in a position that is unsuited to the reality of the context and leads to a delay in understanding.
From our point of view, the well-known pre-oedipal and oedipal anxieties present the risk of being obsolete and are not sufficient to explain the new crisis related to the environment. The American Psychological Association (APA, 2017) publishes a report detailing the effects of climate change: stress, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, sleep disorders, immune suppression, digestive disorders, etc. It is difficult to say that the epidemiological changes are due solely to the reactivation of early anxiety.
How can we work collectively, but also individually in cures, this refusal to consider the determinism of our behaviour by unconscious processes, at a time when we know how vulnerable we are to the piloting of our appetites for consumption by artificial intelligence (see our issue 2/2019 Inconscient digital) ? What to do in the clinic of the linking between external reality and internal reality? Does the planet's state of hypomaniacal melancholy put youth in a state of shock and make the future unimaginable? Do young people experience a feeling of betrayal on the part of their parents, leading to a break in the chain of generations? Is there transgenerational confusion (where children are more lucid than their elders)? Will the climate crisis and the archaic anxieties it conveys cause culture to regress far backwards, leading to hate crime against targeted groups (xenophobia, homophobia, feminicide, identification with the leader, hatred of democracy, etc.)?
Psychoanalysis already has a set of theoretical tools that are essential to understand how drives model our relationship to the environment: good enough or generating a fear of collapse (Winnicott), negation (Freud), the failure of Bion's K (Knowledge) impulse, the work of the negative and destructiveness (Green), etc. However, these tools require adaptation to the contemporary data of the subject's environment.
Beyond the psychoanalytical field, how do other scientists deal with the articulation of the environmental crisis with the individual? In what ways can they enlighten psychoanalysts? What effects have scientists observed? What tools of understanding can be brought into this articulation? How can this crisis be described as apocalyptic? How has it manifested itself throughout history and across cultures? Let us recall that in the Middle Ages, when the plague was looming, people thought they were witnessing the end of humanity, and that the Maya determined the end of the world for December 21, 2012. How were these crises dealt with? What is the status of the environmental crisis at the present time and what solutions can be found to respond to the observed movements?
We invite the psychoanalytical and scientific community to a multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary and multi-directional reflection on the unconscious effects of environmental crises at the intersection of internal and external factors. We thus defend the central thesis of a permanent and accelerated co-modification of the drive and the environment, whose particularities and dynamics remain to be defined. A number of other issues are of concern to us. How can we deal with climatic destructiveness in treatment without exposing ourselves to a therapeutic rupture? Is psychoanalysis powerless in the face of this crisis? How does the new environment excite pre-existing psychic elements and how do they affect the outside world? Are we experiencing a global psychic regression manifested by multiple addictions to perverse environments aiming to immobilize us in compulsive behaviors profitable for an economic logic? Are women and men equal in the face of the origins and effects of this crisis? Are we at a paroxysmal point induced by propaganda and the domination of the perverse white male? Are we living a psychic colonialism? How much room is there for social pressure? Which clinical operators could take into consideration the intersection of factors?
APA (2017). Mental health and our changing climate: impacts, implications, and guidance. Available online:
Dodds, J. (2011). Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos: Complexity Theory, Deleuze,Guattari and Psychoanalysis for a Climate in Crisis. Routledge.
Hoggett, P. (2019). Climate Psychology: On Indifference to Disaster. Palgrave Macmillan.
Lerzman, R. (2015). Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic dimensions of engagement. Routledge.
Magnenat, L. (ed.) (2019). La crise environnementale sur le divan. Paris: In Press.
Poenaru, L. (2019). Déni du climat en psychanalyse. Contribution à la discussion ouverte par le livre La crise environnementale sur le divan. In Analysis, revue transdisciplinaire de psychanalyse et sciences, 3(3), 378-385.
Orange, D. (2016). Climate Crisis, Psychoanalysis and Radical Ethics. Routledge.
Searles, H. F. (1972). Unconscious process in relation to the environmental crisis. Psychoanalytic Review, 59, 361-374.
Weintrobe, S. (2012). Engaging with Climate Change. Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Routledge.
Zimmerman, L. (2020). Trauma and the Discourse of Climate Change: Literature, Psychoanalysis and Denial. Routledge.
PROPAGANDA AND PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS