“OTHER” SEXUALITIES – I”. Psychoanalysis and Homosexuality: Reflections on the Perverse Desire, Insult and the Paternal function
Beginning with a discussion of Freud’s reclassification of homosexuality in terms of sexual choice rather than degeneracy, the author traces the changes in attitudes towards homosexuals and homosexuality within psychoanalytic institutions: from their official exclusion from the IPA in 1921, to their “outing” at the Barcelona Congress in 1997. The author also considers the accusations of homophobia made against Lacan, arguing that his portrayal as a reactionary defender of traditional patriarchy is based on a misreading of his texts. While Lacan considered homosexuality a perversion, he saw it as part of a universal structure of personality; indeed, Lacan saw homosexual love as the prototype of love. The author thinks the homophobia that still characterizes the psychoanalytic community today is a reaction, not to homosexuals’ “perverse” desire, but to their desire for “normalization”, seen by many as an attempt to “homosexualize” society, much like the emancipation of women was once seen as a threat to feminize society by undermining the paternal figure. The transformation of homosexuality presents new challenges to psychoanalysis.
François Pommier – In your view, Ms. Roudinesco, from the moment a certain reality takes shape, psychoanalysis–like any other discipline–should reflect upon it, interpret it, and take it into account without condemning it in advance. You say this with regard to the children of homosexual couples. But you also advocate such an approach with respect to homosexuality in general, and homosexual psychoanalysts in particular. Freud reconciled a structural conception of homosexuality with anthropological facts. One of his greatest struggles was to clear homosexuality of the notions of defectiveness and sin, to show that it’s a sexual choice like any other. He didn’t consider it a drama, and he withdrew it from the category of illness only to place it into that of tragedy. Is one thus to consider Freud as belonging to a long line of defenders of homosexuals?
Élisabeth Roudinesco – Freud was an emancipator of man in general and of women in particular. Of course, he couldn’t imagine what the fate of men and women would be in the 21st century. Yet, in meetings of the Wednesday Psychological Society, which took place at his home at the beginning of the 1900s, Freud condemned the misogyny expressed by some of his followers. In a conference in 1907 dedicated to the question of “women doctors”, one finds some eccentric views put forward. Fritz Wittels, for example, stated that a woman who wants to become a doctor, and hence work in a male profession, seeks in fact to leave her “natural” condition. She thus risks doing harm to herself: she’s necessarily “hysterical”, and ought never to be allowed to pursue her studies. For Wittels, a woman’s only role is to reproduce. In his view, even if a woman became a psychiatrist, she’d never be able to understand the psychology of men. Against this, Paul Federn proposed the idea that, while women certainly have the right to work, a woman doctor should never be allowed to palpate a man’s genitals. The discussion shows the extent to which Freud’s early followers were divided on the question of the emancipation of women, and how naive they were.
Freud, however, was decidedly modern. Having criticized Wittels for his lack of gallantry, he went on to note that civilization had placed a much heavier burden (i.e. reproduction) on women than on men and, while remaining convinced that women couldn’t equal men in the sublimation of sexuality-and hence in creativity-he denounced misogyny as an infantile attitude(2) among men. He would, however, later change his mind on the possibility of sublimation for women, developing a lifelong admiration for exceptional women, due as much to their intellectual acumen (Lou Andreas-Salomé) as to their “virile” virtue (Marie Bonaparte).
Freud adopted the same attitude towards homosexuality. He took a great step forward in refusing to classify it as a sexual “defect” or “anomaly”, unlike many sexologists of his time. He didn’t believe that homosexuals committed “acts against nature” and he refused all forms of stigmatization based on the notion of “degeneracy”. He didn’t separate homosexuals from the rest of humanity, but thought that everyone is potentially faced with such a choice because of the existence of psychic bisexuality in each of us. At times Freud didn’t exclude the possibility of a biological predisposition that might lead to homosexuality, although he was convinced that being raised by women favored the development of homosexuality in both men and women. If the human being, in the Freudian sense, is marked by the tragedy of desire, then the homosexual, with respect to this general tragic figure, is simply a more tragic subject than the ordinary neurotic, since he’s ostracized from bourgeois society as a result of his choice. His only recourse is to become a creator in order to assume his own drama. One finds this argument in Freud’s work on Leonardo da Vinci.(3) And in this 1910 book he refuses to use the term ‘inversion’, opting instead for the term ‘homosexuality’.
Freud did not classify homosexuality as such as belonging to the category of sexual perversions, and he condemned all forms of discrimination against homosexuals. Freud universalized the category of perversion by not restricting it only to homosexuals, even though he often considered homosexuals as perverse. The category applies to both sexes since it is not limited to sexual perversion. Freudian universalism is thus much more progressive than the differentialism of sexologists and psychiatrists at the end of the 19th century, who treated homosexuals as “abnormal” or mentally ill, extending in this way the Christian category of sodomite-the damned of the damned, who bear the guilt of all sins.(4)
The Freudian homosexual is a civilized subject, needed by civilization since he is, in a certain way, the embodiment of the sublime. Freud here returns to a Greek conception of homosexuality–in this sense he’s an emancipator. But he clearly couldn’t have imagined that homosexuals would one day want to “become normal” to the point of no longer suppressing their desire to have children, imagining themselves within a bourgeois family model that was once scorned. It’s possible that Freud, today, would probably reject several of the theses he had once accepted, in particular the thesis that being raised by women encourages homosexual tendencies in children. Experience shows that this isn’t so, and Freud, who was always quite attached to a certain conception of (non-experimental) experience, would have taken into account the actual experience of homosexual couples who raise children.
In 1920, referring to the case of a young girl from Vienna(5) whom he had treated because her parents were forcing her to marry, even though she was in love with a woman, Freud proposed his canonical definition of homosexuality which challenged the theses of sexologists regarding “intermediate states”, the “third sex” or the “female soul in a male body”. For Freud, homosexuality is the result of human bisexuality, and exists in a latent state in all heterosexuals. In the case of girls, infantile fixation on the mother and disappointment with respect to the father eventually lead to homosexuality, which becomes an exclusive object choice. In this text, Freud brings a certain clinical clarity to the question by showing that it’s futile to try to “cure” a subject for homosexuality when this is already established, and that psychoanalytic treatment must not, in any event, be carried out with such a goal in mind.
In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego(6) (1921), he provides a clearer definition of male homosexuality. Here, Freud claims that homosexuality arises after puberty where, during childhood, there was an intense bond between mother and son. Rather than renounce his mother, the son identifies with her, transforms himself into her, and seeks objects that can stand in for his Ego and that he can love just as his mother loved him. Finally, in a letter from April 9, 1935, to an American woman distressed over her son’s homosexuality, Freud writes:
Homosexuality clearly is not an advantage, but it’s no cause for shame, it’s neither a vice nor a disgrace, and it can’t be called an illness; we consider it a variation of the sexual function, which results from arrested sexual development. Several highly respected individuals, from ancient to modern times, were homosexual, and among them one finds some of the greatest men (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). Persecuting homosexuality as a crime is highly unjust and cruel. If you don’t believe me, read Havelock Ellis’s books.(7)
He notes once again the futility of wanting to transform a homosexual into a heterosexual.
In the psychoanalytic movement, it was Ernest Jones and Anna Freud who, in contrast to Freud, held the most regressive attitudes towards homosexuality.
Why did Freud’s daughter defend a position so opposed to her father’s, reclassifying homosexuality as a mental illness and going as far as claiming that a well-conducted analytic treatment could result in curing the homosexual of his homosexuality? Anna herself was accused of being homosexual because she was a single woman who had never had a physical relationship with a man and sought, above all, female friendship. Thus a kind of “self hatred” is shown in her condemnation of homosexuality , a rejection of what was for her, perhaps, a source of guilt.
As in any number of families in 19th century bourgeois society, Anna occupied the role of “old maid”, the daughter who must take care not only of the father, but also of the patriarchal legacy: she was a replica of Antigone. Freud was extremely fond and protective of her. He jealously kept her to himself, warding off any of his students who may have wanted to court her-Jones in particular. He even insisted on analyzing his daughter (in 1921-1922), which was seen by his followers as an incredible transgression, a type of Oedipal appropriation.
But at the same time, he pushed her to take on the modern destiny of an intellectual woman. Anna completed her studies and succeeded in establishing herself as the head of her own school of thought within the psychoanalytic movement. She was a pioneer in the psychoanalysis of children and set the basis for what was to become known as Anna-Freudianism. Anna Freud was, in a manner of speaking, a fille au père(8), daughter dedicated to her father, keeper of the legacy and tradition, and hence necessarily conservative on matters of sexual mores. She was an orthodox follower of the doctrine. There existed between her and her father a passionate love story to rival Greek tragedy.
Pommier – 1921 is the same year when, under the influence of Jones, and against Freud’s advice, homosexuals were banned from practicing psychoanalysis.
Roudinesco – Beginning in December 1921 and for an entire month, the question divided members of the famous Committee that secretly directed the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA). The Vienna group turned out to be much more tolerant than the Berlin group. Supported by Karl Abraham, the latter thought that homosexuals were incapable of being psychoanalysts, since analysis had not “cured” them of their “inversion”. Backed by Freud, Otto Rank opposed the Berlin group. He stated that homosexuals ought to be able to enter the psychoanalytic profession like anyone else on the basis of their ability: “We cannot distance ourselves from such people without a valid reason, just as we cannot accept that they be persecuted by the law.” He reminded his opponents that there are different types of homosexuality, and maintained that one needed to examine each particular case. Jones refused to consider this position. He backed the Berlin group, and declared that for the rest of the world homosexuality was “a repugnant crime: if one of our members committed it, we would be seriously discredited”. It was then that homosexuality was banished from the Freudian empire, and came to be considered a defect once again.
Over time and across over fifty years, the IPA reinforced its repressive arsenal under the growing influence of North American psychoanalytic societies. After having turned away from the Freudian position favoring the access of homosexuals to psychoanalytic training, the IPA, moving once again against the Freudian current, classified homosexuals as sexual perverts, judging them at times unsuited for psychoanalytic treatment, at others curable, provided that the cure was aimed at orienting them towards heterosexuality.
Pommier – Was this decision made under Anna Freud’s influence?
Roudinesco – No, under Jones’. Anna Freud came in later. And she played an important role in misappropriating her father’s theses, campaigning against any possible access of homosexuals to analytic training. With the support of Jones and the North American societies of the IPA, she had considerable influence in this area, which was not offset by the Kleinian school. Although the latter was more liberal, it viewed homosexuality (whether latent or manifest) as an identification with a sadistic penis in the case of women, or, in the case of men, as either a schizoid personality disorder or a means of coping with excessive paranoia. As a result, homosexuality was treated as a borderline pathology, which made it possible to dissolve it while continuing to classify homosexuals as patients suffering from serious pathological disorders of a psychotic nature.
In her practice, Anna Freud always sought to transform her homosexual patients into good fathers of heterosexual families, which led to a clinical disaster. In 1956, she asked journalist Nancy Procter-Gregg not to publish her father’s famous letter from 1935 in The Observer:
There are several reasons for this, including the fact that today we can treat many more homosexuals than we first thought possible. The other reason is that readers might see in it a confirmation of the fact that all analysis can do is convince patients that their defects or “immoralities” are not serious and that they should happily accept them.
As for Jones, his repressive attitude can be explained in several ways. He himself was accused, in a Victorian and puritanical England, of pedophilia simply for having talked about sexuality with children he was treating in an hospital. In Canada, where he later emigrated, he was denounced by the Puritan leagues because he was living with Loe Kann. One needs to understand what the beginning of psychoanalysis was like: the first Freudians were constantly being accused of seeking to corrupt society with their sexual theories.
Wanting to mainstream the IPA and rid it of its most “deviant” practitioners (in particular psychotics and perverts), Jones, who was himself a seducer of women (unlike Freud), thought that the psychoanalytic movement needed to train “irreproachable” clinicians-whom no one could attack for so-called “deviant” sexual practices. Jones acted against himself in wanting to mainstream the IPA, just as Anna Freud struggled against her guilty desire by establishing repressive rules against homosexuals. Freud, the great discoverer of sexuality, was neither libertine nor transgressive. He didn’t have sexual relations with his patients and was not known to have a mistress. As a result, he was more liberal on matters of sexuality. He didn’t have to defend himself against himself. His blind spot in this area was his daughter, for whom he felt an immoderate love to the point of being jealous of her potential lovers.
However, the British Psychoanalytical Society (BPS), founded by Jones in 1919, included among its ranks some rather non-conformist clinicians. James Strachey, for example, the famous translator of Freud and brother of the well-known Lytton Strachey, was an avowed homosexual. He practiced psychoanalysis as a member of the society before marrying Alix Strachey, with whom he fell in love because she resembled a “melancholic boy”.
Only recently has the famous unwritten rule established by the secret Committee in 1921 been gradually “erased” (and not abolished), coinciding with increased protests from the American gay movement and especially the coming out of certain US psychoanalysts-members of the IPA who have begun to openly acknowledge their homosexuality, most notably at the International Congress in Barcelona in 1997. Such was the case of Ralph Roughton, training member of the Psychoanalytic Society of Cleveland, and member of the powerful American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), which is affiliated with the IPA. In a brilliant account, Roughton (1999, p. 1281) described the struggle of American homosexual analysts who finally succeeded in being recognized by the IPA, while outlining the conditions for a clinical approach that would take into account the “undeniable existence of healthy and mature homosexual men and women.”
By drawing on the work of Freud as well as that of the great Robert Stoller, a psychoanalyst from California specialized in perversion and transsexualism, homosexual psychoanalysts were finally able to show for the first time, using concrete cases, that homosexuality was a sexual orientation, that in no way ought to be qualified, as such, in terms of pathology.
In other words, this thesis made it possible to reestablish the link with Freudian universalism according to which a homosexual is a subject in his own right, one who may also have neurotic, psychotic, perverse or borderline disorders, just like any other heterosexual individual. It was thus a matter of finally erasing homosexuality from the category of pathology or sexual perversions, such as fetishism, sadism, transvestitism, pedophilia, etc. As Roughton wrote:
Knowing a person’s sexual orientation doesn’t tell us anything about his or her psychological health or maturity, nor about their character, their inner conflicts or their integrity. A borderline homosexual patient will have more in common with a borderline heterosexual patient than with a psychologically healthy homosexual individual.
The courage of these psychoanalysts needs to be applauded. Their struggle, however, is not yet finished. They succeeded not in eradicating homophobia within the IPA, but in changing its repressive strategy. Today, no one in the IPA dares admit to being homophobic in public. Yet hatred towards homosexuality certainly persists with the same violence: it’s only assumed a new face. It’s expressed in the form of denial, a bit like the anti-Semitism of today’s democratic societies.(9) “No, I’m not against homosexuals,” say homophobic psychoanalysts in the IPA, “and yes, I condemn homophobia, but still, one can’t accept that homosexual psychoanalysts campaign for the gay cause.” It was in this way that the French psychoanalyst Gilbert Diatkine responded to Roughton, accusing the latter, in the name of the alleged neutrality of psychoanalysis, of a “militant, proselytizing”(10) attitude. One finds the same argument of denial in César Botella,(11) another French psychoanalyst who claims that militancy is most likely a “denial of the personal drama of the homosexual,” who probably suffers from a “narcissistic pathology” that psychoanalysis cannot, in any case, resolve. Why shouldn’t persecuted psychoanalysts thus have the right to be activists? Why would being an activist indicate a lack of psychoanalytic ethics? What’s more, if psychoanalysis is unable to resolve the question of homosexuality, as notes Botella, it’s in any case able to treat certain narcissistic pathologies that are not specific to homosexuality.
One finds the same kind of argument in an article by Simone Korff-Sausse, in which she explains that homosexual “marriage”, now made a reality by the PACS(12), is none other than “the translation in legal terms of what cloning promises in biology. PACS and clones: the logic is the same.”(13) Unable to oppose French law, Simone Korff-Sausse calls on psychoanalysis to treat homosexuals as clones, that is, as individuals suffering from narcissistic disorders and hence unable to respect the anatomical differences between the sexes. Beyond the offensive nature of the article, it’s interesting that the author admits her defeat in the face of social progress regarding both cloning and legislative advances. And suddenly, rather than claiming victory, she announces the coming of a kind of apocalypse that only psychoanalysis can stave off. What she essentially says is, of course, I’m not homophobic and I don’t prohibit homosexuals from marrying, since the law is on their side. But I foresee terrible disasters for Western society, a descent into a monstrous world in which the homosexual couple would constitute a new social norm that’s applied to heterosexuals: “It’s not a question of being for or against the PACS, nor for or against cloning. These things will happen in any case since they’re part of the evolving logic of our society.”
One sees here the weak point in the arguments of denial. After having said that one cannot be against progress, the author “hallucinates” a reality that doesn’t exist: she “imagines” an inversion of norms based on her own fears. Clearly a pathological discourse is not carried on by activists of the homosexual cause, but by a representative of a psychoanalytic society (the Psychoanalytic Society of Paris) who uphold an alleged “norm” of psychoanalysis in order to defend the norm’s opposite. It shows that the worst depravities and pathological discourses always arise from the most ostensibly “normal” behaviors.
Compared to its earlier form, the IPA’s new homophobia, besides being unreasoned and pathological, is characterized by a lack of any theoretical basis. The usefulness of the gay movement’s struggles is quite clear: it’s made the public expression of homophobia “shameful”. This isn’t surprising, and it’s why laws against discrimination are indispensable. They force homophobes to use other tricks, and that’s progress.
Let’s take what recently happened in the Swiss Psychoanalytic Society (SSP, affiliated with the IPA). In the journal Médecine et hygiène, dedicated to “clinical sexology”, Nicos Nicolaïdis, a training member of the SSP, stated that “homosexuality abolishes the difference between sexes and generations and the homosexual, due to his unresolved Oedipus complex, has a highly impulsive nature that puts him at risk of exercising violence and criminality” (Nicolaïdis 2001) . The Society’s president, Juan Manzano, responded in the newspaper Le Temps, condemning Nicolaïdis’ comments but nevertheless stating that “Homosexuality is a very sensitive question that’s difficult to treat outside of a scientific context”. What do you think of this?
Here, the reasoning is based on a prior denial. In Switzerland, the laws are more repressive than in France, and they don’t have the PACS.
As a result, homophobic arguments aren’t masked like in France. They’re direct. However, the psychoanalyst’s comments were published after the Barcelona Congress, which forced the IPA to open a debate on homosexuality. The comments were consequently condemned by the president of the SSP, Juan Manzano. In an interview with the newspaper Le Temps, he also said that Nicolaïdis’ statements represented only his own views. He went on to add that the SSP doesn’t practice any form of discrimination. In response to a journalist who cited a recent case of discrimination against a homosexual psychoanalyst whose application had been denied, he stated: “I was not president and I cannot comment. But if that were indeed the case, such an event would not take place today”. In other words, the extreme nature of the remarks of one of its members led the SSP to publicly question the famous unwritten rule of 1921(14).
One would have to ask Daniel Widlöcher, the current president of the IPA, what he thinks and how he sees the future.
I wrote to him, but he didn’t reply. I’d like to move on to Jacques Lacan’s position. Beginning in 1945-1946, he underwent a radical change of perspective.
Yes. In the years immediately following the war, the American societies became more repressive than ever, adhering to the guidelines of psychiatry which classified homosexuality as mental illness. As for the English school, whether geared more towards Kleinism or Anna-Freudianism, its attitude towards homosexuals was terrible. In the case of Kleinians, as I mentioned earlier, homosexuality was considered a schizoid disorder, a “means” of coping with paranoia and thus, once again, a perversion of a sadistic or masochistic nature. Homosexuality practically didn’t exist for Kleinians. It was a variation of a mortifying and destructive psychotic state. It’s not included in dictionaries of Kleinian thought,(15) which amounts to keeping homosexuals within the category of “deviants”, of those who are ill, and hence to denying them access to the psychoanalytic profession.
At the time France followed IPA rules and homosexuals were banned from professional training. As patients, they were considered ill before being reeducated to become heterosexual. In this context, homosexuals wanting to follow analysis fled the couches of the IPA, except if a particular “perversion” led them to hate their own homosexuality to the point of wanting to eradicate it. Others, often from an intellectual or artistic milieu, preferred less repressive couches. A number of them found themselves in analysis with Lacan, who never sought to transform them into heterosexuals.(16)
Lacan not only accepted homosexuals into analysis without ever trying to reeducate them or prevent them from becoming psychoanalysts if they so desired, but when he founded the Freudian School of Paris (EFP) in 1964, he even accepted the principle of their integration, whether as analysts of the school (AE) or member analysts of the school (AME). I myself was a member of the EFP and can say that in this respect there was considerable tolerance, even if, of course, a number of psychoanalysts hated homosexuals. “Private” and personal homophobia is one thing, establishing discriminatory rules is another. It was because such tolerance existed that homosexuals, who wouldn’t have had any future in the societies of the IPA, flocked towards the EFP. In Histoire de la psychanalyse I discuss the career of Robert Lander. As for François Peraldi, who went to Montreal, he was more readily accepted by Lacanians than by other Freudians, even though he carried out his analysis within the SSP.(17)
That said, Lacan didn’t share the same conception of homosexuality as Freud. In Lacan’s view, homosexuality it not at all a sexual orientation. A highly transgressive character, his reading of de Sade and his contact with Georges Bataille did indeed have a certain effect on him. His fascination with Greek homosexuality led him, on the one hand, to see the perverse figure as the embodiment of the highest intellectuality-though it be damned-and on the other hand, to consider all forms of love, indeed of desire, as something perverse. Just as Lacan “psychoticized” the clinical handling of neurosis, he also tended to see perversion in all manifestations of love. It’s in this context that homosexuality, as such, is a perversion and not a sexual orientation. In order to understand how Lacan reinserted homosexuality into the category, not of sexual perversions, but of perverse structures, one must take into account this underlying premise. He never reestablished the former frameworks of sexology, psychiatry, or the theory of degeneracy. In fact, he wasn’t that far from what would later be the positions of Michel Foucault or Gilles Deleuze. Perversion occupied an important place for both Foucault and Deleuze, since they saw it as a way of radically contesting the bourgeois social order characterized by the Oedipal family inherited from Freud.
But there is a fundamental difference between Lacan and Foucault: the former made of perversion a universal structure of personality, where homosexuality was the purest embodiment, while the latter favored the study of concrete practices of perverse sexuality without worrying about fitting them into any particular structure or category(18). For Lacan, the homosexual is an example of sublime perversion in civilization, while for Foucault the homosexual is a figure who must escape, by a subversive or inventive practice, from the degrading label that normative discourse has placed on him. One sees how Lacan’s position differs radically from that of homophobic clinicians in the IPA. Lacan links homosexuality (both female and male) to perversion, but rejects any kind of discriminatory attitude.
In his discussion, the recognition of homosexuality as perversion leads neither to intolerance nor to segregation. And Lacan, for the same reasons, did not condemn homophobes. It’s difficult to understand at times his tolerance of behaviors considered the most “deviant”, offensive, or virulent. It’s undoubtedly the result of the violence he carried in him. One will never be able to say enough transgressive a teacher he was, sensitive to all of the most extreme manifestations of madness, mysticism, and jouissance, while harboring no illusions about human depravity. Because Lacan considered homosexuality a perversion, he believed that homosexuals were not “curable”. He distinguishes female homosexuality, which he places near hysteria and sexual rivalry, from male homosexuality, in which he finds the bases of the social bond. In his seminar on Les Formations de l’inconscient, he states that if one values his position as a homosexual, it’s because for him the mother sets down the law in place of the father, or rather, she “sets down the law for the father”. Lacan here takes up the Freudian theme of the inverted Oedipus complex,(19) but he situates it within the context of his own topography (imaginary, symbolic, real) (20).
In short, Lacan would make perversion into a kind of prototype of sexuality. But then, you say that one can’t interpret his comments on Plato’s The Symposion, which he describes as a “gathering of old fairies”, as homophobic.
A lot of ink has been spilled regarding that passage from the seminar(21). Let me say that Lacan, as early as 1953, considered homosexual love the prototype of love. Now, since in his view homosexual love is a perversion, there is necessarily, according to him, a perverse tendency in love generally, which he expressed in the unforgettable maxim: “Love is giving something one doesn’t have to someone who doesn’t want it”. What’s more, the “perverse desire” that for Lacan characterizes, but isn’t limited to, homosexuality, is based only on an “inexhaustible appropriation of the desire for the other”(22). By way of showing that the perverse desire characterizes homosexuality just as much as heterosexuality, Lacan draws on Proust: “Consider the extraordinary analysis of homosexuality developed by Proust in the myth of Albertine. It doesn’t matter that the character is female-the structure of the relationship is eminently homosexual”(23).
It’s in this context that one needs to read Lacan’s comments on the Symposion. He compares the role of homosexuality in Greece to that played by courtly love in medieval society. Both most likely had a sublimating function that made it possible to perpetuate the ideal of a master within a society constantly threatened by the havoc of neurosis. Courtly love placed the woman in the same position as that attributed to the master by homosexual love in Greece. As a result, the perverse desire, which is present in the two forms of love where sublimation and physical sexuality come together, is identified as being highly favorable to art, creation, and the invention of new forms of social bonding. Lacan lamented the fact that this love no longer existed in the homosexuality of the 1950s, a period when “education turns acne-covered high school students into imbeciles.”
I want to respond to the accusations of Lacan’s homophobia that have been made and to which you allude regarding the comment about “old fairies”. These accusations are made by Michel Tort and Didier Eribon(24). The positions these authors defend are based on an analysis of the texts, and they have the merit of offering a real debate. Tort tries to “save” Freud from any accusation of homophobia in order to better pin Lacan down, while Eribon lambasts psychoanalytic theory altogether, proposing to replace Freud’s notion of a “psychic” unconscious as well Lacan’s “symbolic” unconscious, with the notion of a “socially constructed” unconscious, inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s theses and the work of American scholars on gender. Eribon is a friend of mine and I share a good number of his criticisms regarding psychoanalysts, but not all.
I don’t think one can treat Lacan as a homophobe on the basis of a few offensive phrases against “fairies”. Lacan insulted everyone. In his seminars, he never ceased to insult his opponents, curse his grandfather, or treat those he didn’t like as “imbeciles”. It’s even worse in his personal letters. Even his compliments often came with insults. When he favorably described Melanie Klein as a “brilliant meat butcher”, the insult was all the more erroneous since Melanie Klein was in no way a butcher. One could offer any number of examples. The vocabulary of hatred is part of Lacan’s discourse. Eribon should have analyzed Lacan’s insults with the same acuity as his earlier book on homophobic insults made by homosexuals themselves(25).
Nor is Lacan homophobic when he considers homosexual love a perversion and perverse desire the quintessence of sublimated love. In his speech, the term “perversion” is not used in a degrading or pejorative manner. Like Freud, Lacan uses this word while ridding it of its defamatory content. For Lacan, more than for Freud, perversion is given a certain standing. In this respect, as I mentioned earlier, he’s more the heir of de Sade and the contemporary of Bataille than the upholder of the Freudian doctrine. Except for wanting to empty perversion of any trait of human passion, I don’t see how one can view Lacan as a homophobic reactionary. His view of homosexuality is similar to Proust’s, who considered the homosexual as a sublime and damned character, a pervert of civilization.
I’m aware that certain advocates of normalization tend to think that Proust was homophobic, haunted by self-hatred. Others carefully examine past literary works for traces of homophobia. And they find it! In Shakespeare, Balzac, Genet and other great writers. Such traces are often found along with Judaeophobia and misogyny. And so? Any textual analysis worthy of the name must avoid this kind of reductionism. Eribon and Michel Tort assume a reductive, denunciatory position, which at times resembles the homophobic discourse they criticize. They simply forget to be fair, honest and objective with Lacan’s texts.
They omit saying, for example, that Lacan, in his practice and dealings with psychoanalytic institutions, was in a concrete way both an emancipator and a man of progress. I repeat, he was the first to allow homosexuals to become psychoanalysts. As for his view of homosexuality, it doesn’t deserve so much opprobrium. It of course excludes the idea that homosexuals may want to become “normal”, to the point of imitating the most bourgeois models, and hence the most neurotic structures of family relationships. But it has the merit of honoring the role occupied by the homosexual figure in Western society: a figure that’s both damned and sublime. Lacan would have been quite distressed by the fact that homosexuals today no longer want that role, and choose instead to imitate those who have never stopped persecuting them since the beginning of time. But he would never have adopted, under the current circumstances, the homophobic discourse. I think instead that he would have been surprised, as we all are, by the desire for normalization that’s expressed today among homosexuals.
What do you think of the Catholic hatred of perversion that Michel Tort discusses in relation to Lacan?
Tort’s argument, taken up again by Eribon, isn’t limited to this accusation of homophobia. The argument claims to provide a theoretical and anthropological basis for it. The two authors thus turn the Lacanian conception of the family, as formulated in The Family Complexes,(26) into a kind of fanatical theology, a Catholic fundamentalism, which seeks to deny homosexuals basic rights: PACS, adoption, etc. But worse yet, according to Michel Tort, Lacan is guilty of sympathy for the Vichy government even before it was established, since the thesis of family neurosis and patriarchal decline is only “the etiology of social symptoms in the 1930s, which would assume their ideological importance during the Vichy period in the figure of the maréchal [Pétain]-followed by the général [De Gaulle] ” (Tort 1999, 2000).
Beyond this absurd comparison, which places in the same category of “fathers of the nation” two radically different figures (Pétain and de Gaulle, a traitor and a hero), one is stunned by such falsehoods.
In my book on Lacan I remarked that he was the first, even before the specialists in history from Vienna (Carl Schorske and Jacques Le Rider), to be struck by the fact that psychoanalysis was born out of the decline of the patriarchal family in the West. In light of this decline, symbolized in Vienna by the fall of the Hapsburg monarchy, Freud pointed out a new form of subjectivity, comparing 20th century man to Oedipus and Hamlet, that is, to the solitary actor of a drama of conscience, condemned to continually reenacting the scene of an original murder in order to undo his genealogical lineage.
If psychoanalysis attributes a central role to the father within this configuration, it’s not done in order to claim for itself the caricatured position of the criminal and tyrannical leader of a horde-as the fascist regimes and Nazism would later do-but in order to symbolically emphasize the importance of a paternity that has come apart, and that’s always in search of itself.
For Freud, the father is a figure weakened by the emancipation of women, and Lacan draws on this tradition. In 1953, with his so-called Name-of-the-Father theory, Lacan placed the symbolic position of fatherhood at the center of the family constellation. Far from being an advocate of fundamentalism, attached to a false patriarchy, and far from turning the symbolic function of the father into an “essence”, Lacan takes himself to be an Enlightenment thinker, detached from his Catholic culture but capable of integrating it in his work, just as Freud did with Judaism. It’s for this reason that he would later borrow Lévi-Strauss’s notion of the symbolic function (of the father, of paternity), clearly stating that he had no intention of using it in a nominalist or essentialist sense.
It’s true, there is in Lacan a constant reference to Christian theology. But to make him out to be a rigorous, orthodox representative of the Roman Catholic Church, means forgetting that he was an atheist, a Nietzschean, a Spinozist, an Hegelian and later a structuralist, and that he referred to himself in his youth as an “antichrist”. His baroque and flamboyant “Catholicism”, tinged with a hatred of the sacred, is closer to that of Salvador Dali or Luis Buñuel than to the precepts of the good fathers. And even if the notion of the Name-of-the-Father was borrowed from theology, it also has its basis in the modern anthropological categories of Durkheim, Mauss and Lévi-Strauss. In this respect, there is no confusion for Lacan, contrary to what Michel Tort (2000, p. 213) claims, between an anthropological law (the incest taboo) and a “paternalist” family structure.
Likewise, there is no contradiction in principle between the Oedipal model developed by Freud (and taken up by his successors) and the liberation movement of homosexuals initiated at the end of the 19th century with the decline of patriarchy. If in Western society the father was gradually dispossessed of his traditional authoritarian functions, the family is not for that reason any less indestructible today than it was in 1938. Whether it be “natural”, “reconstructed”, “single parent” or “gay parent”, the family resembles this Oedipal tragedy reinvented by Freud. Provided it doesn’t turn the tragedy into a simple “complex”. The family is as much a crucible for the assertion of a symbolic and social normality as for the growth of the greatest criminal impulses or the development of transgressions and all types of conscious and unconscious pathologies tied to the construction of human subjectivity.
I don’t see how the Lacanian theory, which draws on this conception of the family, could in any way resemble a homophobic position like that of Tony Anatrella (1999), priest and psychoanalyst, as well as advisor to Cardinal Lustiger who, like Simon Korff-Sausse, recently became the champion of an inquisitorial crusade against homosexuals, whom he describes as “disciples of an infantile sexuality.”
In order to portray Lacan as a representative of the most reactionary form of Catholicism, Tort relies on a letter written by Lacan (1966) to his brother Marc-François Lacan, a Benedictine monk, in September 1953, just after having written the well-known “Rome Discourse”. Tort has not read that letter. I’m the only one to have a copy, and in fact referred to it on two occasions: in the second volume of Histoire de la psychanalyse en France, and in my 1993 book on Lacan. Tort (2000, p. 202) writes: “One understands the already neo-testamentary tone of the famous 1953 ‘Rome Discourse’ directed towards the Holy See in order to obtain an audience with the Holy Father”.
I described the context in which Lacan had asked his brother to intercede on his behalf in order to obtain an audience with pope Pious XII. At that time, elated by his “reconquest” of the psychoanalytic movement, Lacan wanted to meet the Pope. But the “Discourse” was also sent to Lucien Bonnafé, for him to forward it on to Maurice Thorez. In short, he sent the text to important intellectual figures of the time. In other words, he wanted to make this “Discourse”, given in the highly symbolic city of Rome, into an event in the political sense of the term. And he knew at that time that there was a number of Catholic students from the Jesuits(27) who were beginning to open up towards psychoanalysis, just as the communists were emerging from the Stalinist block.
Confronted with the powerful medical profession, represented by the SPP, and faced with Daniel Lagache, who represented the entry of psychoanalysis into the university, Lacan called on two other important institutions that would later play an important role for psychoanalysis: the French Communist Party and the Church. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here. It wasn’t a matter of trying to bring psychoanalysis closer to Catholicism or to the faith, but rather to bring Christians to him, including the pope or high Church authorities. Why not? Lacan didn’t hesitate in trying to seduce world leaders. After having traveled several times to Freiburg to speak with Heidegger, he would later try to meet Mao Zedong as well. On each occasion, it was a matter of “making himself known” and showing that “his doctrine could enlighten the world”. In any case, Lacan didn’t pledge himself to any particular discourse or institution. Rather, he tried to bring others to him.
The Pope did not grant an audience with Lacan who, disappointed, went for a walk with Serge Leclaire in the gardens of Castel Gandolfo. The misunderstanding stems from the fact that Marc-François Lacan interpreted the letter as a sign of his brother’s return to the faith. When he gave it to me to read, he tried to convince me that this was in fact the case. As much as I tried to explain to him that Lacan was working towards the same end with the French Communist Party, it was no use. As for the letter, it was artfully written, since Lacan was trying to make his brother believe that he had returned to the Christian faith and of obtaining through him the hoped-for audience. He writes:
I’ve founded with Lagache a new society, taking with us the majority of students […] All this is very exciting for me, since I’ll finally be able to do the teaching I want. For now, the key to this is in Rome where I’m going to give a lecture on the language of psychoanalysis broadly considered. I think it will have some effect. My best and most informed students have asked me to arrange an audience with the Holy Father. I must say that I’m rather keen to do it, and that it’s not without a deep interest for the future of psychoanalysis in the Church that I’ll pay my respects to the Holy Father. Do you think you can do something about this?
In another (undated) letter somewhat prior to 1953, Lacan writes:
My position vis-à-vis religion, which I began speaking to you about, is of considerable importance at the moment. A number of my students belong to the religious orders, and there’s no doubt that I’ll have dealings with the Church in the years to come regarding problems on which the highest authorities will want clarification in order to take a position. Suffice it to say that it will be in Rome, in September, where I’ll present the report of this year’s congress, and it’s no coincidence that the topic is the role of language (understood as logos) in psychoanalysis.
Following our discussions and correspondence, which began in March 1983 and continued for 10 years, Marc-François acknowledged that his brother wasn’t “Christian”, but that “his entire work was driven by a search for transcendence”. To go from that to making Lacan out to be a papist and, worse yet, a supporter of Maurras, Action Française(28) or even Vichy (Tort), requires quite a leap.
In 1917-1918, at Stanislas College, Lacan was the student of Jean Baruzi, who was at the time writing his doctoral thesis on Saint John of the Cross. I showed that this teaching, along with the early discovery of Spinoza’s works, had the effect of bringing about a transition in Lacan’s career from his family’s devout Catholicism to a scholarly and aristocratic Catholicism that would serve as a critical tool for understanding religion. Within this same context one must place Lacan’s fascination with Charles Maurras between 1923 and 1924, the same period in which he was associated with the surrealist group and frequented Adrienne Monnier’s bookstore. At that time, during a serious episode of melancholia, he violently rejected all the Christian values he had been raised with. Although he didn’t adhere in the least to Maurras’ ideas, he wanted to meet him at all costs (as he would later want to meet the Pope and Mao), claiming to be a committed royalist. He clearly admired Maurras’ language and style as well as a certain monarchical radicalism that drew him even further away from his environment(29).
In order to portray Lacan as a supporter of Maurras, and to justify a reading a contrario of the 1938 text, The Family Complexes, in which he finds ideas from Action Française, Eribon relies on a letter from 1924 sent to Maurras by the wife of Léon Daudet(30)
A young man, a friend of Maxime, by the name of Jacques Lacan (23 years old, medical student, driven, I think, like so many others, by the need to earn a living) has asked me for several weeks now to meet with you […] He’s recently been won over by our ideas and, of course, believes that his support is of great importance and that he’ll be able to do quite a bit […] Could you meet with him for five minutes? I told him to write to you. When you see him, you’ll recognize him, and need only answer him verbally: it will save you time. He seems to me to be cultured, intelligent, but rather presumptuous. Yet, I think that he can help our sacred cause […] I send you my regards, dear friend, and please, only agree to a brief meeting with that young Lacan, he’s not worth more time.
One sees in this letter Mrs. Daudet’s hesitation. She’s not sure whether or not Lacan can be useful to the “sacred cause”, but what strikes me is that she writes that Lacan “is worth no more than a few minutes”. Lacan, who could speak endlessly and had countless questions, was often constrained to moderation by his interlocutors-“to just a few minutes”-while he asked for more time and considered himself “indispensable”. In this frequent attitude towards him-Ernest Jones(31) comes to mind here-can one see the reaction to the way he conceived time, and according to which he later established the length of his sessions?
The fact remains, however, that Lacan was in no way a supporter of Maurras. His later career proves it. And yet, at the time of its publication, the book on the family, which Eribon and Tort consider the spearhead of Lacan’s reactionary fight for the authoritarian and Christian patriarchal family, was read in a completely opposite sense by Lucien Fevbre and especially by Édouard Pichon, a psychoanalyst, grammarian, Maurrasian, and member of Action Française(32). The latter criticized Lacan for his Hegelianism, his lack of consideration for Catholic morality and, lastly, his all-too anthropological and modernist conception of the patriarchal family. In short, Pichon (1980) lamented the fact that Lacan, whose genius he recognized, had strayed from the right path of Christian and French civilization, in order to take up with German Kultur. In fact, in the article from the Encyclopédie Française, Lacan only retained two theses of Maurras, neither of which are very “Maurrasian”: the first, heir to Comte’s positivism, considered that society was divided into families rather than individuals; the second, borrowed from Aristotle, had to do with the social identity of the subject(33).
Regarding the relationship between psychoanalysis and homosexuality today, I want to ask you a question in three parts. What can one make of the fact that homosexuality is the object of so much debate within psychoanalytic institutions? How is it that homosexuality is today such a source of distress that discrimination still occurs within the analytic community, as if nothing had changed over the past 80 years? What was so powerful about the IPA’s decision back then that it’s enforced even today? Can one say that homophobia exists within psychoanalytic schools?
By way of answering your three questions, I’ll say that psychoanalytic institutions and their members react exactly “like everyone else”. The desire of homosexuals to be considered according to the norms traditionally applied to families has led everywhere to a new form of homophobia “by denial”. The problem is that homophobic psychoanalysts claim to speak in the name of psychoanalysis, or in the name of Freud, or Lacan, while they’re simply expressing their own opinion as private citizens. Whence the criticisms directed towards them. This forces us to carefully reflect upon the future of psychoanalysis and its ability to take into account the transformation of the family in Western society. I raised this problem in my opening address to the Plenary Session of Psychoanalysis in July 2000(34). It seems normal that all groups should be mobilized around this question.
I noticed, in listening to several members from various psychoanalytic schools whom I asked to contribute an article for the issue of Cliniques Méditerranéennes on “Homosexualities Today”, that in most schools there is no common position regarding the question of homosexuality. They willingly speak of very different personalities among homosexuals. Certain analysts prefer to avoid the subject of gay or genital homosexuality altogether, talking instead of psychic homosexuality. Thus Thierry Bokanowski speaks of “primary homosexuality”, of a “structuring” or “inverted” Oedipus complex, or of an “inversive” type. Other psychoanalysts adopt more clear-cut positions, such as Charles Melman in the Encyclopédie Universalis,(35) as much with respect to male homosexuality-I’ll pass over the clinical aspects and details of his article-as to female homosexuality, itself apparently not exempt from perversion. This is what he said in 1990. In a text published in Cliniques Méditerranéennes, Melman writes that in his opinion today, if male homosexuality constitutes a perversion, female homosexuality, on the other hand, could not be so considered, to the extent that it doesn’t exist. It would be a kind of “accomplished hysteria,” he says. What do you think of this?
All this “theorizing” seems to me to be, once again, the expression of a masked homophobia. Why not call things as they are? We know quite well that “psychic” homosexuality exists or that latent homosexuality is present in heterosexuals. We can also assume, as Lacan did, that female homosexuality is more “hysterical” than male homosexuality. Or perhaps that… We know nothing about it! And Lacan never said, unlike Melman, that “female homosexuality doesn’t exist.”
In fact, beyond the clinical questions of this nature, it’s not the definition of homosexuality or homosexualities that obsesses the psychoanalytic community today, but rather, its “real” (in the Lacanian sense) as well as its social reality. What bothers them, makes them at times paranoid, violent, and offensive, is that practicing homosexuals, that is, same-sex couples having sexual relations, want to behave like ordinary neurotics: to have children and live as a family; enjoy rights, etc. This is unacceptable to homophobic psychoanalysts. They in some way fear that a sexual act, which differs in nature from coitus between a man and a woman, will take the place of their Freudian primal scene. They’re afraid that the primal scene, based on the anatomical difference between the sexes, will be replaced by a real and practically “monstrous” stranger. As if this anatomical difference ran the risk of being erased or disappear under the weight of the alleged “homogenization” of the sexes. What a curious fantasy! This sexual difference is not about to be abolished, and it doesn’t risk being covered up by other differences.
But luckily not all psychoanalysts are homophobic and many are by now able to listen differently to what these new homosexuals have to say, a group that has brought disorder to the Freudian community due, not to their perverse desire, but to their desire for “normality”. I’m also shocked to see that this community is more tolerant of psychotic psychoanalysts or perverse heterosexuals than of “ordinary” (“neurotic”) homosexual psychoanalysts who demonstrate no particular pathology. Within the Freudian community there is the desire to retain the idea that homosexuality is, in itself, the essence of perversion.
The new reality will one day have to be accepted since it exists, and since new laws will soon be passed legalizing the desire of homosexuals for normalization. One has to reflect upon and take into account this reality, without being afraid of completely reviewing our psychoanalytic categories. It’s also necessary to defend homosexuals against all forms of discrimination. If psychoanalysis wants to remain Freudian, it must pursue the civilizing and emancipatory task that first characterized it.
In this respect, the Lacanian conception of homosexuality is not appropriate for the analysis of homosexuals today, since the homosexual, considered as embodying the damned raced of the sublime pervert, is disappearing. Contemporary homosexuals can no longer be universally categorized as perverts. Likewise, neurotic homosexuality today is not, as such, a perversion: neither a sexual perversion nor a perversion in the structural sense. On the other hand, what remains of Lacanian theory is the quite brilliant idea that love in general has a component, indeed a structure, of a perverse nature, a “sublimated homosexual” structure common to both homosexuals and heterosexuals. And if the Lacanian thesis regarding the necessary existence of a real that’s irreducible to the norm is correct, then there is good reason to believe that the figure of the damned and sublime pervert will continue to exist within our society under new forms.
We must be on guard against an upsurge of homophobic violence by psychoanalysts. Concerning Lacan’s work, we’re still making our way through his legacy. One needs to make a choice and not endlessly dwell upon the master’s quips. He has bequeathed to some of his disciples, luckily in the minority, both a pronounced taste for insult as well as a dogmatic reading of his Name-of-the-Father theory and of the symbolic function, which rightly deserves the criticisms made by Tort and Eribon. More than Freud, Lacan provoked, indeed favored, a regressive reading of his work.
Charles Melman and Jean-Pierre Winter, who launched a real media crusade against homosexuals in the name of Lacanism and psychoanalysis, use the Lacanian notion of symbolic paternity in order to reestablish the lost figure of the authoritarian father which, in their view, is threatened by the new homosexual order.
This attitude only serves to recreate a hostile and conservative feeling of terror at the very idea of “progress”, similar to that which invaded Viennese society at the end of the 19th century. One finds traces of it in the books by Otto Weininger and Bachofen, but never in those by Freud. Strangely conservative and nihilistic, these authors feared a generalized feminization of society following women’s emancipation. And even today, homophobic Lacanians, joining their IPA colleagues, are victims of the same terror. They’re scared stiff that a kind of apocalypse will destroy all society to “homosexualize” and “homogenize” it.
They express their terror in the form of insults, affiliating themselves more with a kind of “Mosaic” authoritarian patriarchy than Christian paternalism. Thus Winter invoked a caricatured Judaic order in order to ininstigmatize homosexual women who adopt children. He essentially said that such women represent a maternal Christianity since, like the Virgin Mary, they made the error of bringing forth a child without having heterosexual intercourse(36). “Christians”, as it were. Here, the anti-Christian insult is like the Judaeophobic insult; it assumes that the “Jewish” paternal function could reestablish the psychoanalytic “Law of the Father” in light of the decline of Christian paternalism. In the same context, Winter (2000) accused homosexual couples of wanting to make “symbolically modified children.”
For his part, Charles Melman condemned Martine Gross, accusing homosexual parents as participating in a kind of primary narcissism that excludes the possibility of any real relation with others. In his view, children of these couples would only be “stuffed toy animals, destined to satisfy their parents’ narcissism”. He went on to add that it’s impossible to view such a project as “honorable”. As for Melman’s definition of the so-called “normal” family, it’s quite peculiar: “By a normal family I mean one that allows the child to confront real problems”. When one considers that Lacan showed in 1938 that the worst depravities and the greatest anomalies arise in the most apparently normal families, one is able to see what separates the teacher from his homophobic disciples. In my opinion, they dishonor Lacanism and psychoanalysis.
Following the publication of my book Histoire…(1986), Melman described me as “sniffing about Lacan’s feet,” waiting for “his tail to rub against me,” and later as the organizer of “psychopride” for having defended homosexual couples in June 2000(37).
The worst position is Pierre Legendre’s. It’s offensive, but doesn’t use arguments of denial. To the extent that the author is an important thinker who published several scholarly books on filiation, he bears greater responsibility than the others. Haunted, like them, by the terror of the West’s decline, its “desymbolization”, or the “rise of obscurantism”, he claims that homosexuals’ desire for normalization reveals an unlimited hedonism, a rejection of all taboos.
Why would homosexuals be responsible for this hedonism that exists in all so-called “postmodern” societies, and that one can in fact criticize? And why designate this hedonism as the legacy of Nazism, while this philosophical current of thought has existed since the time of ancient Greece? Here, Pierre Legendre jumps the tracks, his terror closely resembling a sort of persecution: “Think of the initiatives undertaken by homosexuals,” he says. “The small PACS episode is proof that the State has relinquished its role as the guarantor of reason. Freud showed that the omnipresence of homosexual desire is the effect of psychic bisexuality […]. Giving family status to homosexuality is putting democratic principles to work for fantasy. It’s disastrous, in so far as the law, based on genealogical principles, leaves room for a hedonistic logic, which is the heir to Nazism” (Legendre 2001).
I don’t see how homosexuals’ desire for normalization could endanger democratic principles. That these are based on the difference between sexes, and hence on heterosexual marriage, is clear. But precisely because homosexuality today takes it as a model, it doesn’t endanger democracy. To the contrary, it asks even more of democracy. What’s acted against democracy so far are the barbaric and authoritarian forms of an archaic patriarchy. On this point, Freud’s conjectures regarding the primal horde and Lacan’s analysis of the family come together. For now, the only apocalypse that seems to threaten Western society-and Islam as well-is radical Islamic fundamentalism disposed to terrorism. Islamic threats are made by extremist bearded and barbaric polygamists who constrain women’s bodies and spit invectives against homosexuals, whom they hold responsible for weakening the masculine values of God the father.
And finally, homosexuality cannot be likened to the sadistic or “hedonistic” practices of SA or SS soldiers. Homosexuals, considered an “inferior and degenerate race”, were exterminated in concentration camps, and like Jews and Gypsies, marked with the badge of infamy. Today, they’re killed in Saudi Arabia and tortured in Egypt, without the least bit of protest from the psychoanalytic community.
A few words regarding homosexual psychoanalysts. At the end of an interview you gave to the journal Ex aequo in April 1999,(38) you say that homosexual analysts ought not reveal their sexuality, for the simple reason that rules require that patients don’t know about their analyst’s private life. What do you think of this idea and of the creation of a network of homosexual psychoanalysts?
As concerns treatment, I think that one needs to apply universal rules. We know that patients, in transference, quickly learn about their analyst’s sexual orientation. But the rules proscribing analysts from sharing with their patients information about their “private life” need to be retained. Homosexual analysts must also avoid a “ghetto” mentality, and treat both homosexual and heterosexual patients. If a patient tells his or her analyst that s/he knows or thinks that the analyst is homosexual, and this is indeed the case, the analyst must not, in my view, deny it. All the same, analysts needn’t detail their sexual choices. A lack of response to this type of question can be a de facto response in the form of interpretation.
A number of questions will have to be raised in the future, following the transformation of homosexuality in our societies. For example, how ought an analyst proceed in the treatment of a child who shows signs of premature homosexuality? Ought the analyst proceed in such a way that the child evolves towards another sexual choice? I think so, if it’s a matter, for example, of a prepubescent child subject to his mother’s fetishization. But how will the analyst be able to do so, in a world in which homosexuality is considered as ordinary sexuality and no longer as pathology? Where will the boundaries be drawn between the normal and the pathological?
Paris, November 2001
Translated from the French by Marcel Lieberman