Why, at a deeper level, do you not really care to know about the history of my status as a Lacanian or not? I submit that that is because you want to hear what I have to say, if anything, and believe that your evaluation of my talk, and of me as a person, is only very marginally influenced by knowing whether I am Lacanian or not. This audience is a very privileged one, in that it includes many people who would have some sense of how my ideas could be influenced by being Lacanian. But even those knowing that would realise that it would only be a guess, not a certainty. So you would rather that I got on with it than telling you more about a relatively minor and unimportant qualification pertaining to me personally. 

How about me? For me it is not a real issue, as I would not be afraid of admitting that I was a Lacanian, if I was. Being a Lacanian is not a protected designation in the UK, or in any countries I know. It is not included on my passport. No countries ask for it on their visa forms. No countries put the death penalty on being Lacanian. If the British authorities would want to deport me for being Lacanian, as opposed to being Dutch post-Brexit, I would need to accept it. I could not plead that I would be exposed to persecution in my home country for being Lacanian, so the authorities could not give me the third degree to force me to prove that I really am Lacanian, as opposed to feigning it to get refugee status. 

How would I prove that I am a Lacanian? It is no different from me being Dutch or Muslim – there would not be bodily markers to show it (though my difficult-to-shake Dutch accent might be a give-away; and being circumcised or not, and the precise physical form of circumcision, could be substantial supporting evidence about being a Muslim, without being entirely decisive). 

So with this bit of concrete action, I wanted to make you think about how you know someone’s identity, and about why it matters – and apply that specifically to the contexts of gender and trans, in today’s society. 

Female or male? 

How is it with being female or male? When I appeared, and so far if you saw me during this conference, was there any doubt in your mind that I was male? Is there now? If I said that I am a woman, would you believe me? Given the nature of this conference, and that I now suddenly wear lipstick and earrings, do you start having some slight doubts that there might be something strange, anomalous, perhaps slightly “perverse”, something “queer”, about my “gender identity”? Could it be that I am at least a cross-dresser at home? Perhaps I have an “atypical gender expression”, am “gender-nonconforming”? Perhaps I have an “emasculinisation desire” and could be on my way towards developing an “alternative nonmalenonfemale gender identity”? All these latter terms are used in the new DSM-5 (APA, 2013), which has been in touch with a surprisingly modern series of ideas, as evidenced by this panoply of linguistic options.