‘It sounds cheesy but I can stop playing some of these different roles which I felt I had to do ‘cos I didn’t know who I was or wanted to be. Well I still don’t know who I am. But I feel I don’t just have to play the role of either being the suffering artist or the tormented lover, or the abuser and be me whatever that is. That me now feels exciting; in the past it was frightening–I take that back, it feels not only frightening but also exciting.’

I bear witness to D’s changing and remaining the same. I notice he is less punishing of himself when he doesn’t live up to his ideals. His self-reproaches when he has too much to drink or has casual sex are described in the more tempered language of ‘slipping-up’ rather than ‘totally fucking everything up’. His curiosity about what the future might hold feels helped by a greater sense of agency he feels he has in his life. These days there is something worth getting up in the morning for.

Finally in summary, I should like to draw together several different strands running through this story: through both the clinical vignette and the psychoanalytic writings that made me want to speak of gay identity, insults and psychoanalysis. The idea for the paper came from an excellent book by Didier Eribon. ((Didier Eribon is a contemporary French writer on literature and popular culture, who is best known for his biography of Foucault.))[i] His book entitled Insult and the Making of a Gay Self is a fine and monumental study of homosexual cultures through literature and politics including various discourses on homosexuality, only one of which is the discourse of psychoanalysis. In my struggles with psychoanalytic theories and their insulting aspects, I have often found it sustaining to turn to texts outside the psychoanalytic mainstream to provide a requisite distance and help me formulate a critical approach to psychoanalytic texts and their clinical application. Authors such as Eribon, Butler, Bersani and Dollimore who form the theoretical backbone of what has become to be known as ‘queer studies’ or ‘queer theory’ are also deeply involved in re-thinking psychoanalysis–for these authors, unlike for Foucault, psychoanalytic discourse not only limits/regulates or normalises our lives but holds, almost despite itself, something that can aid us in our understanding of how homophobia operates and how it can be contested (Butler 1997, 1999) (Bersani 1995) (Dollimore 1991).