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Number 1: Spring 2008

Insult and Identity

Fedja Dalagija

much psychoanalytic writing about homosexuality concentrates almost exclusively on the relationship of the gay patients to their parents, and on their infancy and childhood. The preoccupation of many analysts is with providing something like an aetiology of homosexuality–as if the question that really needs answering is, ‘What made/makes someone turn out to be gay?’ Ferenczi’s naive accounts of divided bodies, the work of hardened homophobes such as Melanie Klein (Klein 1950: 43-47), contemporary writers such as Bollas (Bollas 1992: 144-164) and McDougall (McDougall 1989: 36, 83, 85, 110)–where the treatment of the gay man is presented as instigated by the patients’ own loathing of their same-sex desires and shrouded in liberal gestures–all come with a narrative, a narrative of what went wrong in someone’s life and of identifying the developmental fault that resulted in the same-sex object choice.

The work of Jacques Lacan must be seen as an exception to the developmental narrative. Instead, in Seminar I Lacan credits the homosexual subject (the one) as exemplifying the perverse structure of desire that keeps him stuck in the cul-de-sac of narcissism (Lacan: 1953-4: 221-2). For Lacan, sexual difference seems to act as the privileged or even exclusive principle of alterity (the human capacity to recognise the otherness of other people). This conclusion seems quite logical. Lacan writes that, ‘[The homosexual] exhausts himself in pursuing the desire of the other, which he will never be able to grasp as his own desire, because his own desire is the desire of the other. It is himself whom he pursues.’ (Lacan 1953-4: 221) Queer commentators, such as Jonathan Dollimore have noted how for Lacan homosexuality serves as an exemplar of the tragic nature of desire (Dollimore 1991: 201). Being assigned a role of tragic hero may at least deliver you from being the embodiment of a failure to develop properly and the sleight-of-hand remark by Julia Kristeva, (one of the foremost contemporary analysts influenced by Lacan) adds a further refinement to the homosexual’s place. For Kristeva, ‘the homosexual shares the same psychic economy as the depressive woman; he is a delightful melancholy person when he does not indulge in sadistic passion with another man.’ (Kristeva 1989: 28-29) Yet if some writers in the French tradition bemoan and even delight in the homosexual’s futility and indulgent depressiveness, they at least seem to have given up on the hope of ‘converting’ homosexuals and the prognosis remains poor.