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16 Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities

Valerie Harwood & Mary Lou Rasmussen


The relevance or irrelevance of a patients sexual orientation brings to mind the challenges that clinicians and psychopathologists face when trying to understand the role of culture in psychological disorders. (Davison, 2001, p. 697) The above quote by Davison (2001) is suggestive of his critique of the role of culture in the production of discourses1 of identity a critique noted in his discussion of the conceptual and ethical issues that may arise in therapy with gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. Davison argues that psychological problems are for the most part constructions of the clinician. People come to us in pain, and they leave with a more clearly defined problem or set of problems that we assign to them (p. 696, emphasis in original). While we concur, at least partially, with Davisons observations - we would argue further that all problems assigned within the therapeutic context are systematically formed, and are thus not simply representations of pre-existing objects. In this chapter we propose extending Davisons (2001) critique of the role of culture in the production of discourses of identity.
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specifically, we question the notion of essentialised sexual and gender identities, what can be described as the idea that such identities are givens somehow empirically connected to pre-existing objects. Our discussion in this chapter thus aims to develop a way of engaging a critique that can interrogate both the notion of these essentialised identities and the discursive practices that construct them. To contest this notion of essentialisd sexual and gender identities we find it necessary to ask how such givens operate in psychological discourses and how it is that they are able to function in this way. We suggest that

Out in the Antipodes psychological discourses include, but are not restricted to, clinicians. These discourses, as Harwood (2000, 2003) argues in her discussion of conduct disorder and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., [DSM-IV], APA, 1994), are extremely influential in both the construction of mentally disordered subjectivities and in informing knowledges of these identities. We thus assert that psychological discourses extend far beyond the walls of the clinic, the knowledge of the clinician, and what could be called the self knowledge of the patient. Thus, whilst we concentrate in this chapter on the production of clinical knowledge, we follow Rose (1985, 1989) in recognising that the psy discourses produce far-reaching discursive practices (see also chapter by Semp). discourses produce givens about gender and sexuality. From this This raises perspective, we find it imperative to interrogate how psychological important questions regarding how to approach such a task, questions such as how do we develop an analysis that can engage both the discursive repertoires that construct essentialised notions of sexual and gender identities, while simultaneously considering how essentialised objects function in psychological discourse? Perhaps, even more pressingly, it may be possible to use such an approach as an ongoing practice, one that can support a persistent critical engagement with these notions of sexual and gender identity. In this chapter we suggest that Michel Foucaults notion of

problematisation can be used to address these two concerns, namely, that problematisation can be drawn on to investigate the constructions of essentialised sexual and gender identities, and that it can also be used to develop an ongoing practice of critique. In addition to drawing on the work of Foucault, our analysis engages with the work of Judith Butler. Specifically, we focus on the Butlerian notion of performativity.3 The idea of performativity, that identity is performatively constituted by the very expressions that are said to be its results (Butler, 1990, p. 25), draws

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities partially on Foucaults analysis of discourse. In the context of this chapter we deploy this idea in order to convey our understanding that sexual and gender identities are expressions and therefore not irreducible, unchanging of constitutive (Fuss, 1989, p. 2). Because we perceive these expressions as produced we can effectively argue against the notion of some essentialised quality, a notion that appears to be the foundation of much psychological discourse about sexual and gender identities. In short, performativity can be used to create an awareness of how essentialised subjects are reified through psychological discourse. We thus deploy these theoretical strategies to problematise the truths associated with sexual and gender identifications in psychological discourse, and argue that a practice of problematisation is useful in engaging with these givens or what could also be described as the familiar notions of sexual and gender identifications.4 We begin with a discussion of the notion of essentialised sexual and gender identities. This leads to a discussion of queer theory, and how it can be deployed to consider the reification of identity. Following this we outline the Foucauldian notions of problematisation and truth and discuss how these can be used to consider the problem of gender and sexual identity. This allows us to examine the ways in which such theories can be used as an ongoing practice to challenge the assumptions attached to the production of sexual and gender identities. From this discussion we turn to a consideration of how Butlers notion of performativity can be used to engage with the idea of problematisation as an ongoing practice. Questioning the Notion of Essentialised Sexual and Gender Identities Our point of departure in this discussion stems from our observation that essentialising notions of sexual and gender identity are frequently deployed

Out in the Antipodes but often go uninterrogated in psychological discourses. This observation was apparent in the literature review we conducted on clinical conceptualisations of subjects who identify as lesbian and gay (Bahr, Brish, & Croteau, 2000; Lasser & Tharinger, 2003; Safren & Rogers, 2001). These authors appear to view people who identify as lesbian and gay as somehow discrete from people who identify as heterosexual. It is also explicit in David Barlow and Mark Durands (1999) depiction of what constitutes masculine and feminine behaviour, a depiction that appears to support their pathologisation of mistaken gender identity. Whilst we discuss Barlow and Durands (1999) apparent convictions later in this chapter, here we draw attention to their assumption that there is an essential gender identity. We argue that it is this understanding of essentialised identity that provides the setting, and arguably, the foundation, for various analyses of the significance of sexual and gender identity categories in contemporary research relating to the therapeutic process. For instance, in a discussion of the efficacy of systemic therapy in working with clients who are lesbian and gay identified, Maeve Malley (2002) argues that [t]he task of systemic therapists is to recognise the difference between the issues and patterns of being which are specifically associated with the fact that lesbian and gay sexual identity is different from heterosexual identity, rather than the more generic issues common to any population (p. 239, emphasis added). While sexual identities may be salient in clinical conceptualisations, we are concerned by this tendency to situate people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual as having patterns of being which are specifically associated with their sexual identifications. This is not to imply that sexual identities may not be a valuable object of analysis, but rather, to draw attention to and question the way that they appear to be predicated on a notion of discrete sexual identity categories, or what Fuss (1989) describes as a true essence irreducible, unchanging (p. 2).

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities In another article, co-authored with Fiona Tasker entitled Lesbians, gay men and family therapy: A contradiction in terms?, Malley contends that attention needs to be paid to how family therapists (be they heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian or gay male) might need to adapt or expand their thinking and their practice in order to work with lesbians, bisexuals and gay men ( Malley & Tasker,1999, p. 4). Building on this notion of essential differences between sexual identities, Malley and Tasker go on to warn against the tendency to treat lesbians and gay men in the same ways as heterosexual clients because, they argue, the danger of this lack of differentiation is that heterosexual patternswill be imposed upon lesbian and gay relationships (p. 12). Once again, within this approach to family therapy there appears to be an implicit assumption that there may be essential differences between clients with different sexual identifications. Bernard and Goodyears (1992) discussion of the clinical supervision of mental health professionals is couched in a similar vein. They suggest that clinicians who are training new therapists to work with gays and lesbians candecrease homophobia by making a concerted effort to heighten their awareness of the gay persons issues and, by helping them to investigate and confront their own fears and biases ( p. 220). This imperative to develop an awareness of gay persons issues may also tend towards a process of universalising the gay subject. We contend that at issue here is that we need to ask the question, what is assumed or implied by such assertions of a universal subject? This may help draw attention to the essentialising assumptions that lay behind such claims. The notion of sexual identity as an issue is raised by Safren and Rogers, in an article on Cognitive-behavioral therapy with gay, lesbian, bisexual clients. These authors note that:

Out in the Antipodes there is some suggestion in the literature that many therapists, when providing treatment to GLB populations, may downplay the role of sexual orientation when it is actually of high importance to a client, and is at the root of multiple clinical issues. (Safren & Rogers, 2001, p. 630) Safren and Rogers also note that the opposite can occur, and that therapists overemphasize the role of sexual orientation (p. 630). In the following discussion the question could be raised as to whether sexual orientation is downplayed or overemphasized. We suggest that attention to this polemic obfuscates the assumptions of essentialism that underscore either argument, and in so doing, presents this particular notion of identity formation as familiar, natural and arguably, unquestionable. What we argue is that attention also needs to be paid to how sexual and gender identities are conceptualised within broader clinical conceptualisations. In so doing, we are working against the tendency to classify people who are lesbian, gay and bisexual as immutable objects. From our perspective, the question that needs to be posed in relation to such essentialising conceptions of sexual identity is just what are the assumptions that underlie such understandings? One way in which to interrogate these assumptions is through the lens of queer theory. Using Queer Theory The understanding of a clear distinction between gays, lesbians and heterosexuals has been challenged by queer theorists who have sought to interrogate the interrelationship between heterosexuality and homosexuality. For instance, Harold Beaver argues that:

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities The aim must be to reverse the rhetorical opposition of what is transparent or natural and what is derivative or contrived by demonstrating that the qualities predicated of homosexuality (as a dependent term) are in fact a condition of heterosexuality. (Beaver as cited in Sedgwick, 1990, p. 10) Beaver seeks to disrupt the relationship between heterosexuality and homosexuality as he believes this relationship constitutes the latter as deficit and the former as the norm. Laura Markowe, in her discussion of European perspectives on lesbian and gay identity, also argues the importance of analysing heterosexual identity when considering diverse sexual relationships between men and women. Markowe (2002) goes on to suggest that future European research in this area should develop a continued and extended emphasis on social and cultural aspects, as well as on the individual (p. 227). Disrupting the pervasive belief that homosexuals and heterosexuals are fundamentally different is a difficult task. Some of the complexities associated with this task are apparent in the way that Robyn Dawes considers how clients respond to such claims when they are made by mental health experts (see also chapters by Semp; Booth & Rogers). In this regard Dawes (1994) argues that [o]ur intuitive beliefs about mental illness itself reinforce our acceptance of the authority of mental health experts. A major reason we believe in the experts is that their views so often coincide with popular opinion (p. 205). Dawes observation holds true in this study of clinical conceptualisations of sexual identifications insofar as majority public opinion tends to reflect reified assumptions about sexual and gender identity. Such an assumption is evident in Malleys (2002) belief that lesbian and gay sexual identity is different from heterosexual identity (p. 239).

Out in the Antipodes An important point with which to grapple concerns how it may be possible to draw on queer theory and still engage in the political work of identity. We maintain that identity matters in all sorts of ways since it serves to give a sense of self. But it is problematic when this identity is assumed as essentialised identity. Here we turn to Foucault (1996b), who conceives of identities, or what he terms categories,5 as instrumental in the production and pathologisation of desire (p. 369). In order to negotiate the trap of affirming oneself as a homosexual, Foucault reconfigures the notion of what a homosexual is. Identity politics and identities can be used for the affirmation of rights, but they can be deployed for more sinister ends. It is understood that some identities are unavoidable, but, if these identities or categories are perceived to be in a constant state of process they might provide the basis for creative ways of life and for refusing existing lifestyles (Foucault, 1996b, p. 369). It is from this perspective that we argue that notions of identity can be deployed as significant political practices, but from an understanding that does not assume an essentialised identity.6 We thus suggest utilising queer theories to disturb such familiar understanding of sexual identity categories. As Mary Klages argues, Queer theory follows feminist theory and gay/lesbian studies in rejecting the idea that gender and sexuality are essential categories, determined by biology or judged by eternal standards of morality and truth (Klages, 1997, p. 210). Queer theorists are not preoccupied with the appropriate nomenclature for people with diverse sexual and gender identities so much as the relations between certain identities and their construction by competing community and political interests (Jagose, 1996). We see this task as a critical one because, as Foucault (1997b) notes one of the main moral obligations for any subject is to know oneself, to tell the truth about oneself, and to constitute oneself as an object of knowledge both for other people and for oneself (p. 177).

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities For this reason, the way in which subjects constitute themselves is integrally related to the knowledges that are authorized by mental health experts (Dawes, 1994), including knowledges relating to sexual identity. To further tease out this important point, we wish to reiterate that when the subject constitutes itself as an object of knowledge it does not do so in isolation. The subject draws on numerous discourses, including clinical conceptualisations of sexual and gender identities (and the way that these proliferate as discursive practices in Western cultures). Therefore these clinical conceptualisations and their interrogation is a crucial issue. It is thus important to develop a means to critique the essentialised and reified notions that appear to underpin much of the clinical discourse about sexual and gender identity. Considering the Problem of Sexual and Gender Identities In light of the above discussion of how sexual identities are situated as the object of contemporary clinical conceptualisations, we argue that there is a need to think of ways to engage critically with this process of objectivisation. It is because of this that we turn to a consideration of how particular sexual and gender identities come to be considered as problems that need to be defined. To do this we draw on Foucault to consider the problematisation of sexual and gender identities in psychological discourses. Foucault (2001) describes the process of problematisation as a consideration of how and why certain things (behaviour, phenomena, processes) became a problem (p. 171).7 As can be seen in this quote, problematisation refers to the consideration of a specific problem, and for Foucault these problems included madness, crime and sexuality. Thus, Foucault asked: Why for example, certain forms of behavior were characterized and classified as madness while other similar forms were completely neglected at a given

Out in the Antipodes historical moment; the same thing for crime and delinquency, the same question of problematization for sexuality (p. 171). To demonstrate this point, Foucault (1996a) explains that he studied the problem of madness in terms of how it poses problems for others (p. 258), and for sexuality, that he set out from the problem that sexual behavior might pose for individuals themselves (p. 258). Thus in each of these examples a specific problem (madness, sexuality) was considered in terms of the way it might pose a problem for a group or an individual. This idea is further elucidated by Foucault (2001) when he poses the question How and why were very different things in the world gathered together, characterized, analysed, and treated as, for example, mental illness? What are the elements, which are relevant for a given problematization?(p. 171). In each of these questions Foucault (2001) draws attention to how that which constitutes the familiar notion of mental illness came to be thought of as a problem. We contend that this is an extremely useful way of reconfiguring the apparently familiar object of gender and sexual identities. Using this approach, we can ask, not what are the problems of gender and sexual identity, but rather, how is it that psychological discourses constitute gender and sexual identities as problems? In addition to being an invaluable means of analysing the ways in which gender and sexual identity is considered a problem, problematisation can be used to refer to a process. This point is explicated in Rabinows (1997) statement that Foucault defines his object of analysis (and also his task) as problematisation (p. xxxvi). This point is also made by OLeary (2002) who states Problematization is, therefore, both the subject matter of Foucaults history and the contemporary project of Foucaults critique (p. 117, emphasis in original). Thus problematisation can identify a process whereby (and especially historically) something becomes a problem, and can also refer to the name of a task, the task of problematisation.

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities

Whilst this distinction may appear subtle, we argue that it is significant in that, as we will discuss in the next section, this idea of problematisation as process can engage with Butlers notion of performativity. In this way it can be used as a means to think differently about the givens of sexual and gender identity. Before moving to a discussion of performativity and problematisation as process (or, after OLeary (2002), a contemporary project) we firstly need to consider how problematisation can be used to analyse what we consider to be the problem of essentialised sexual and gender identity. Returning to our discussion of the first interpretation of problematisation, we can ask how it is possible that certain sexual identities are the object of psychological conceptualisations. Or more precisely, we are asking how is it that sexual and gender identities are a problem and are problematised in psychological discourses? By this we mean to ask how is it that these are treated as problems, as clinical issues that are necessary to be known. In asking these questions we are, as alluded to above, turning around the inquiry. That is, we are moving from an approach where we may consider sexual and gender identities as problems, to one where we ask how is it that these things are constituted as problems, and why do psychological discourses so frequently constitute them as such? This raises an associated question, namely, how may this process of categorising certain sexual identities pose problems for practitioners and their clients. For instance, we can consider how Michael Bahr, Barbara Brish and James Croteau might come to entitle an article Addressing sexual orientation and professional ethics in the training of school psychologists in school and university settings when the article specifically focuses on the needs of sexual minority youth (Bahr et al., 2000, emphasis in original). Bahr et al.s

Out in the Antipodes impetus in their discussion of professional ethics is to encourage colleagues to be more inclusive of sexual minority youth, they state: Sexual orientation represents one of many salient dimensions of cultural diversityDespite the increasing diversity of our schools and society, the field of school psychology has focused less upon the needs of sexual minority youth relative to other distinct cultural groups. Undoubtedly, one of the explanations of this lack of understanding about sexual orientation is a reluctance to combat persisting stereotypes and stigmas. ( Bahr et al., 2000, p. 218, emphasis in original) While Bahr et als motivation is to help clinicians affirm sexual minority youth, it may have deleterious effects. When the notion of sexual orientation becomes synonymous with sexual minority youth, it is possible to see how such psychological discourses are instrumental in reinscribing the heterosexual/homosexual binary, implicitly confirming the status of heterosexuality as the only legitimate sexual identity. This example of the obfuscation of heterosexual identifications is one instance where we can consider how it is that sexual identities are made problems and thus problematised by psychological discourses. More explicitly, this can be It is this precise argued to suggest that it is by obfuscating heterosexual identifications that non-heterosexual identifications can become problems. action of problematisation, of rendering sexual identity problematic, that gives us insight into how these notions are constructed. Further, it enables us to do what we suggested at the outset of this chapter to extend Davisons (2001) consideration of the role of culture in psychological disorders. That is, to construct a critique that can render perceptible the very actions that construct essentialised (and sometimes pathologised) sexual and gender identities.

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities As we have argued above, analysing how gender and sexual identity is problematised can be used to critique the assumption of an essentialised object. Some of the limitations of discourses that assume pre-existing objects (Foucault, 1996a, p. 257) are highlighted by Kathryn May (2002) in her discussion of her psychosexual work with clients presenting with gender dysphoria (transpeople) in the UK (p. 456). May states: My initial training, as well as the organization I am functioning within and the perspective of those referring to the service, are all grounded in medical discourse and all perceive the clients presenting issues as problematic and pathologicalI cannot ignore the possibility that I may be limiting who transsexual clients are able to be through my utilization of restricted conceptual frameworks. (p. 456) In her analysis of her psychosexual caseloads May (2002) underscores the constraints associated with the discursive construction of mental disorders in the DSM-IV. Indeed, the veracity of the assertions made in the DSM-IV regarding the objective existence of such mental disorders has been and continues to be the subject of continuing debate (Hacking, 1995; Kirk & Kutchins, 1992; Spurlin, 1998). Furthermore, considering the way in which discourses are systematically forming the objects of which they speak offers an important angle of critique of the inherent truth of mental disorders.8 However, it is important to note that this conceptualisation of discourse does not ignore the influence of notions of truth. The import of truth in our culture is emphasised by Foucault (1978) when he states that ...ours is a society which produces and circulates discourse with a truth-function, discourse which passes for the truth and thus holds specific powers (p. 4). We argue

Out in the Antipodes that grasping the extent of this need for truth is crucial to conceptualising the pressing need to define sexual and gender identity. Drawing on this we suggest that the need for truth and the need for a psychological theorisation of sexual and gender identity share a relationship that is concerned with the need for knowing the sexual and gender identity of the subjects of psychological practice. to define. In view of the above points, we argue that one must necessarily engage critique in terms of notions of knowing and truth, notions frequently premised on the idea of an essentialised sexual and gender identity. Such a critique could pose questions such as; how is a person established as a gay or lesbian object of knowledge? And how is it that such an object needs to be identified?.9 Responding to these questions, problematisation can be understood as a specific process of analysing how a problem such as sexual identity is constructed. In so doing, it does not seek to find or represent sexual identity as an essentialised object. In this way problematisation can be used to analyse the discourses involved in the problem of sexual identity (including those that essentialise it) that are deployed in clinical conceptualisations. It is precisely this need to know, a knowing dependent on a notion of truth, which both demands and obfuscates the need

Problematisation as an Ongoing Practice: Engaging Performativity As discussed above, in addition to referring to an object, problematisation can also refer to a process. To again quote OLeary (2002) problematisation can then be considered both the subject matter of Foucaults history and the contemporary project of Foucaults critique (p. 117, emphasis in original). In the above section we discussed how sexual and gender identity is construed as a problem. In this section we move to consider how

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities problematisation as a task can be utilised as an ongoing practice to interrogate the psychological discourses of sexual identity. Here we suggest that by drawing on this perspective, notions of sexual identity can be considered in terms of a twofold application of problematisation: the recognition of the production of sexual identity as a problem, and the engagement in an ongoing practice of problematisation. One way to engage in an ongoing practice of problematisation of sexual identity is through an awareness of the operation of the Butlerian notion of performativity. Butler elaborates this notion of performativity in her seminal text, Bodies that matter. In Butlers (1993) terms: Performativity must not be understood as a singular or deliberate act, but, rather, as the reiterative and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects that it namesthe regulatory norms of sex work in a performative fashion to constitute the materiality of bodies and, more specifically, to materialize the bodys sex, to materialize sexual difference in the service of the consolidation of the heterosexual imperative. (p. 2) Butler deploys the notion of performativity in order to critique a prevailing truth-regime that [she] perceives to be pervasively heterosexist (p. 233). In the context of this discussion of the problematisation of gender and sexual identity in psychological discourses, performativity is invaluable in examining constructivist10 and essential discourses. From our perspective, an awareness of performativity helps us to undo the connection often made between the continuous repetitions of essentialising norms of sexual and gender identity and the notion that these identity categories are authentic. By engaging with this notion of performativity it may be possible to distinguish the ways in which processes of repetition may appear to create unified sexual

Out in the Antipodes and gendered subjects, however, this productive capacity of discourse is derivative, a form of cultural iterability or rearticulation, a practice of resignification, not creation ex nihilo (Butler, 1993, p. 107). This Butlerian notion of performativity, which emphasises the historicity of discourse, may also be posited against constructivist notions of the subject which may insinuate that construction is a process initiated by a subject or an act which happens once and whose effects are firmly fixed (Butler, 1993, p. 9). Rather, Butler argues against versions of constructivism that presume that construction operates deterministically or that presuppose a voluntarist subject who makes its gender (or sexuality) through an instrumental action (p. 7). The distinction Butler draws between performance and performativity is partially informed by her critique of versions of constructivism and essentialism. Butler recognises the capacity of people to undertake particular performances of identity but distinguishes this notion of performance from her theorisation of performativity (Butler, 1993). For Butler, (i)n no sense can it be concluded that the part of gender that is performed is therefore the truth of gender; performance as bounded act is distinguished from performativity insofar as the latter consists in a reiteration of norms which precede, constrain and exceed the performer and in that sense cannot be taken as the fabrication of the performers will or choice (p. 234). In relation to our consideration of the problem of psychology and sexual and gender identity, this distinction Butler draws between performance and performativity is critical. It is critical given that using the lens of

performativity we can think beyond individuals acting themselves and consider how particular performances are always already constituted through language. Through performativity we can understand how this process of iterability is continually played out in psychological and other discourses through a regularized and constrained repetition of norms (Butler, 1993, p.

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities 95). Hence, performativity shows us how sexual and gender identities are produced through a process of repetition. One example of the value of deploying this notion of performativity can be found in Mays (2002) observation of the disjunctures between performative notions of gender identity and preoccupations with more rigid stability of gender identity, particularly where this is used as a measure of the desirability of medical intervention (p. 450). May is disturbed by the theoretical impasse implicit with these different understandings of the subject. Such observations beg the question of how therapists working with transgendered clients might negotiate these antinomic theories of the subject. Thus in this instance we can argue how problematisation as an ongoing practice provides a useful way to engage with these theories of the subject. Further, we suggest that this practice of problematisation can engage the notion of performativity, since performativity helps us to think about how the problems of sexual and gender identity are created. This hypervigilance might also counter attempts to reify notions of lesbian and gay, and male and female. For us this is a salient point. It is such reifications that allow David Barlow and Mark Durand (1999) to recommend, in their textbook for psychology students, a psychosocial treatment to address the problem of mistaken gender identity (p. 307) or Gender Identity Disorder (GID). The treatment strategy, which the authors state they have successfully deployed, is designed to enable their (male) clients to act in a more typically masculine manneravoiding ridicule by simply choosing to behave differently in some situations (Barlow & Durand, 1999, p. 307). This approach to GID is underpinned by the authority of the DSM-IV, which contains the specifications that allow clinicians to diagnose people with this disorder.

Out in the Antipodes The treatment regime described by Barlow and Durand also incorporates proceduresto alterpatterns of sexual arousal (p. 307), enabling the male client described not only to behave like a 17-year-old-boy, but also to feel like a 17-year-old-boy (p. 307). We contend that Barlow and Durands conception of such treatment as necessary is underpinned by several assumptions. First, that there is some general agreement about what constitutes typical masculine and feminine behaviours, and accompanying patterns of sexual arousal. Second, that these heteronormalizing11 assumptions about typical patterns are desirable. psychopathology. And, third, that nonheterosexual identifications and/or desires are somehow reflective of In the assumptions underpinning this psychosocial treatment strategy it is possible to see the pervasively heterosexist truth regimes (Butler, 1993, p. 233) that Butler seeks to question through her theorisation of performativity. Importantly, Butler, is not endeavouring to critique heterosexuality, but rather to critique processes of heteronormalization and to argue that [j]ust because something is statistically normal doesnt mean it should be normative (Jagose & Warner, 2000, p. 137). Rather than endeavouring to alter patterns of behaviour and arousal, clinicians who are cognisant of the notion of performativity may adopt a different approach to the problem of sexual and gender identity. This point is illustrated by May (2002) who draws on feminist and queer theory to argue: it may be more productive therapeutically and personally to admit to the very sense of being at sea on questions of identity and embodiment, a position which clients will surely recognize; it could be that here is the basis for mutual empathy and authenticityThe cognitive/behavioural framework used extensively in psychosexual training and therapy, based as it is on normative criteria and habituated as it is to changing behaviours to

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities fit circumstances, is likely to be especially weak in work with transsexuals; it has no appreciation of relativity with regard to definitions, it cannot easily express the intangible. (p. 460-461) By analysing the treatment strategies deployed by Barlow and Durand (1999) alongside those deployed by May (2002), it is possible to observe the different sexual and gendered objects clinicians may construct when they engage in discourses and practices of identification. Where Barlow and Durand identify somebody as having mistaken gender and identity, May struggles with the constraints of the definitions she is called upon to deploy in the provision of services to clients who are seeking gender reassignment. We would not seek to argue that either strategy is more authentic, though we would suggest that Mays approach is more congruent with the ongoing practice of problematisation we advocate in this chapter. Conclusion In engaging in this analysis we are not advocating a definitive solution to the problem of sexual and gender identity. To emphasise this distinction we draw again on Foucault (1997a): It is true that my attitude isnt a result of the form of critique that claims to be a methodological examination in order to reject all possible solutions except for the one valid one. It is more on the order of problematization which is to say, the development of a domain of acts, practices, and thoughts that seem to me to pose problems for politics. (p. 114) For this reason, our goal in this chapter has been to argue for the cultivation of problematisation as an ongoing practice that can be used to continually

Out in the Antipodes interrogate the ways in which sexual and gender identity are conceptualised as problems in psychological discourse. This ongoing practice calls for the development of a given into a question, this transformation of a group of obstacles and difficulties into problems to which diverse solutions will attempt to produce a response, this is what constitutes the point of problematization and the specific work of thought (Foucault, 1997a, p. 118, emphasis in original). We also advocate pairing this practice of problematisation with an awareness of the role of performativity, which is a crucial part not only of subject formation, but of the ongoing political contestation and reformulation of the subject (Butler, 1997, p. 160). Together, the practice of problematisation and the focus on performativity may enable practitioners to understand the fundamental importance of how they come to conceptualise sexual and gender identity as a problem. This brings us to close this discussion with the following: (t)hought is freedom in relation to what one does, the motion by which one detaches oneself from it, establishes it as an object, and reflects on it as a problem (Foucault, 1997a, p. 117). Referring to this statement, it is possible to grasp the significance of asking the question how can thought establish, as an object, the psychological practices that reify gender and sexual identity and then reflect upon these as a problem? Notes
1

Foucault describes the relationship of discourse to its object, where discourses are treated no longer as groups of signs (signifying elements, referring to contents of representations) but as practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak (Foucault, 1972, p. 49, emphasis added). 2 Many popular understandings of identity are linked to essentialising discourses. These discourses tend to establish causal links between identities and a persons social experience or behaviour. In her influential study of essentialism and feminism, Diana Fuss defines essentialism as a belief in a true essence-that which is most irreducible, unchanging, and therefore

Problematising Gender and Sexual Identities constitutive of a given person or thing (Fuss, 1989, p. 2). Fuss argues further that essentialism is not intrinsically good or bad per se, rather: the radicality or conservatism of essentialism, depends, to a significant degree, on who is utilizing it, how it is deployed, and where its effects are concentrated...To insist that essentialism is always and everywhere reactionary is, for the constructionist, to buy into essentialism in the very act of making the charge; it is to act as if essentialism has an essence (Fuss, 1989, p. 20, emphasis in original). 3 For further discussion of performativity see Rasmussen and Harwood (2003). 4 We have elsewhere explored the importance of this idea of the interrogation of the familiar by drawing on Foucaults notion of an ethics of discomfort (Harwood & Rasmussen, 2003). 5 As indicated above by Hall, Foucault disdained the term identity because of its associations with essential notions of the subject. 6 Also see Butlers interview with Pheng Cheah and Elizabeth Grosz (1998), where Butler clarifies her position relating to the value of strategic essentialism. 7 This publication is made from a transcription of lectures given by Foucault at the University of California at Berkeley, 1983. 8 This draws on the idea of angles of scrutiny discussed in Harwood and Rasmussen (2003). 9 This question mimics Foucaults How was the subject established, at different moments and in different institutional contexts, as a possible, desirable, or even indispensable object of knowledge (Foucault, 1997b, p. 87). 10 Constructivist theories of the homosexual self have been formulated in the work of Mary McIntosh, Jeffrey Weeks, Ken Plummer and Michel Foucault (Epstein, 1987) and Judith Butler. Steven Epstein characterises these constructivist positions on homosexual identity formation as demonstrating that the notion of the homosexual is a sociohistorical product, not universally applicable[they] focused attention on identity as a complex developmental outcome, the consequence of an interactive process of social labeling and self-identification (Epstein, 1987, p. 17). In Butlers schema sex, gender, and sexuality are conceived as constructs that might be defined by their constitutive instability (Butler, 1993, p. 10), therefore none of these categories represents the truth of ones body or provide the ground for the authenticity of ones sex, gender or sexuality. 11 In an interview with Annamarie Jagose, Micheal Warner argues that while resistance to heteronormalization might be considered an integral aspect of queering, this is not the same as saying that queerness resists all norms (Jagose & Warner, 2000), a somewhat reductionist view of queer theorising. For an example of this, in our view, misguided notion that queerness equates to resistance against all norms (see Dean, 2000, p. 227).

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