This article is an edited and slightly modified version of a presentation given on 12 March 2017 at the Conference on “Transgender, Gender and Psychoanalysis” organised by The Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Freud Museum, London. 

Embodiment is about the body. It is physical, specific, concrete. There is no reason to restrict gender variation to the genital, the hormonal or the sartorial. In this essay, some examples are discussed of the practical consequences of variations in how people express and embody their gender concretely rather than symbolically. What consequences does this have, ranging from the personal to social and political impact and risks, and to the psychotherapeutic consulting room? It is concluded that psychotherapists should bend over backwards to be sensitive, strictly non-pathologising and client-focused in anything to do with gender – gender presentation, expression, embodiment or identity. 

A concrete illustration 

At the presentation of this paper in its original talk form, the speaker appears, dressed in a jacket, somewhat formal. He has red lipstick and wears rather extravagant earrings. He moves to stand fully visibly in front of the audience. 

I am Dutch. I am a Muslim. I am male. I am a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, but relational, not classical. 

The speaker relaxes a bit, and unbuttons his jacket. This makes visible that his fly is undone. 

I am not a psychoanalyst at all, and not a member of the Institute, of course. I am not Lacanian either. 

A person appears from the audience, who whispers something in the speaker’s ear. The speaker responds with a startle, his hand covers his crotch, and he does up his fly. 

I was not Lacanian either when I was 2 years old. Or I did not feel I was. In fact, I am a bit vague about it, and do not quite remember, but I do not think I was. As best as I can make sense of it. I have asked my parents, when they were still alive, if they were sure I was not, and they were no real help. But maybe they were embarrassed at the thought too, and wanted to spare my feelings, and avoid upset in the family. I thought about it a lot during puberty, I read endlessly, and I had one friend with whom I dared share the idea. But in the end, wisdom prevailed. I did not come out, I did not hint at it. I did not want to deal with the trouble.

By now some of you may wonder what the hell is going on… And why I keep going on and on about my status of being a Lacanian or not.