Hopefully this opens up the possibility for deeper awareness of the constraints that come to be self-imposed, even if they originate in others, and increases a sense of agency in refusing the designated place of the one who has to bear and tolerate the other’s sadism.

Finally, the really useful argument offered by queer theory is closely linked to its claim that identity is/remains constitutive of the subject in contrast to the position of Lacan or St Augustine, both of whom regard it as already constituted. In Lacan’s terms identity is an effect of the pre-existing order of language and/or what Lacan terms the ‘Symbolic’; for St. Augustine a man’s identity depends on ‘the prior ordering of selfhood’ (St Augustine 1966: 479). Both positions are based on a theological impulse and should be regarded with great distrust since they result in the normalisation or to coin a word in an ‘inevitablisation’ of the existing social order, inseparably bound up with homophobia, and the pathologising of homosexuality. Thus Lacan can blithely refer to the homosexual desire as if there is only one shared by all, and for all time to come. To claim however, that identity is constitutive, to refuse the past tense, is at once to acknowledge the limits with which we come to occupy any given identity but also to acknowledge a far more dynamic relation with that power (in our case the power of insult), the power to resist and oppose it or re-direct it to serve the purposes it never intended–such as using the power of psychoanalytic discourse to show up and deconstruct the many levels at which homophobia can operate, insult and try and silence the voices of dissent.




St. Augustine (1972) City of God, trans. Henry Bettenson, with introduction by David Knowles, London: Penguin.

Bersani, L (1995) Homos, Cambridge, Massachusetts & London: Harvard University Press.

Bollas, C. (1992) Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience, London: Routledge.

Butler, J. (1997) The Psychic Life of Power, Stanford California: Stanford University Press.

Butler, J. (1999) Gender Trouble, New York and London: Routledge.

Dollimore, J. (1991) Sexual Dissidence, Oxford: Clarendon Press.