The understanding of gender in psychoanalysis shares with most of modern social and psychological theory a long, complex and troubled history. It should be noted at the outset that Freud never used the terms ‘gender’ or ‘gender identity’. Today, for many, it is taken for granted that gender and sex refer to fundamentally different realities. Over time psychodynamic ideas have been challenged and revised by feminist, queer and race theorists. Foremost among the critics has been a loosely associated group of scholars and practitioners using social constructivism (sometimes also called anti-essentialism) to explain gender, gender identity, sexuality and early development. For some among the more radical of these critics, gender is both rooted in and reducible to the social and symbolic world and altogether lack connection to the body or materiality (Coole and Frost, 2010; Elder-Vass, 2013, p. 121); gender expressions, accordingly, change moment-to-moment in relation to certain performative possibilities (Butler, 1993). In sum, we perform our genders, pick and choose them, and through performance, lines of development result in enormous complexity and diversity. What gets left out of these varied social constructionist accounts, however, are the ways that once an aspect of being human in the world has been socially constructed (and no doubt gender, like race, is among those realities), it comes to be felt, experienced and expressed as immutable and embodied (i.e. gendered bodies).
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