Although partisans of LGBT+ like to dismiss psychoanalysis as out of date, many of them fully participate in the ongoing repression of basic Freudian insights. If psychoanalysis taught us anything, it is that human sexuality is immanently perverted, traversed by sadomasochist spins and power games, that in it, pleasure is inextricably interlinked with pain. What we get from many LGBT+ ideologists is the opposite of this insight, the naive view that, if sexuality is not distorted by patriarchal or binary pressure, it becomes a happy space of authentic expression of our true selves.
Suffice it to remember what happened with Girl (2018), a Belgian film about a 15-year-old girl, born in the body of a boy, who dreams of becoming a ballerina. Why did this film trigger such ferocious reactions in some powerful post-modern-post-gender circles? The predominant LGBT+ doctrine encourages the rejection of biologically and/or socially given gender identities and advocates individual’s self-acquaintance and politicization of its identities: ‘You are free to define yourself as how you feel yourself! And everybody shall accept you as how you define yourself’. This, exactly, is what happens in the film: the teenager protagonist is fully encouraged to adopt ‘the way she feels’, her identity; she is encouraged to improve ‘point’ in ballet (despite very strict and difficult classical ballet training standards), her doctor prescribes hormones, the ballet instructor gives private lessons to her, the father continuously asks her about her problems to encourage her to talk, she is even encouraged to elucidate her fantasies to her psychologist and to her father, and then we see things getting worse. Many LGBT+ activists attacked it ferociously for its focus on the traumatic aspects of gender transition, for its depiction of the painful details of gender change, claiming that it functions as a pornographic horror show – although the ballerina on whose life the movie is based defended it staunchly, insisting that it portrays perfectly her troubles. In these critiques, we are obviously dealing with a conflict between the painful reality of gender transitions and its official sanitized version which puts all the blame on social pressure.
Here is a happier version of the transgender transition: Gillette was recently bombarded with praise for publishing an ad in which a transgender man is learning to shave. The ad shows Toronto-based artist Samson Bonkeabantu Brown while he is shaving with some coaching from his father. ‘I always knew I was different. I didn’t know there was a term for the type of person that I was. I went into my transition just wanting to me happy. I’m glad I’m at the point where I’m able to shave,’ he says. ‘I’m at the point in my manhood where I’m actually happy… I shot this ad for Gillette and wanted to include my father, who has been one of my greatest supporters throughout my transition, encouraging me to be confident and live authentically as my best self.’ One has to listen carefully to the words used here: there is no social constructionism of gender mentioned here, you just discover your true self and then try to live authentically, reaching happiness by being faithful to it. If the term ‘essentialism’ has any meaning, this is it. One should also note that, in both cases (Girl and the Gillette ad), we witness a weird patriarchal spin: although the transition was done in the opposite direction (man to woman in the film, woman to man in the ad), it is the father (a good one, this time) who benevolently watches over it. Not surprisingly, we get here a father who serves as the support of the subject’s authentic life, of living true to its self, which was always the function of the Name-of-the-Father. Should we then not evoke here Lacan here who said that ‘any shelter in which may be established a viable, temperate relation of one sex to the other necessitates the intervention of that medium known as the paternal metaphor’? So the father not only guarantees a viable relation of one sex to another, he also guarantees a soft and painless passage from one sex to another.
Many observers noticed a tension in LGBT+ ideology between social constructivism and (some kind of biological) determinism: if an individual biologically identified/perceived as man experiences himself in his psychic economy a man, it is considered a social construct, but if an individual biologically identified/perceived as man experiences herself as woman, this is read as an urge, not a simple arbitrary construct but a deeper non-negotiable identity which, if the individual demands it, the demand has to be met by sex-changing surgery. Along the same lines, kindergartens in Norway were told that, if a small boy is seen playing with girls, this orientation should be supported, he should be stimulated to play with dolls, etc., so that his eventual feminine psychic identity can articulate itself.
The Freudian solution is here rather simple: yes, psychic sexual identity is a choice, not a biological fact, but it is not a conscious choice that the subject can playfully repeat and transform. It is an unconscious choice which precedes subjective constitution and which is, as such, formative of subjectivity, which means that the change of this choice entails the radical transformation of the bearer of the choice.