The Lack and Jouissance of the Symbol Within the Phallic Garden

In Conversation with Fernando Castrillon 
by Kellen Grayson, Psy.D.

Kellen

Thanks for coming today. Okay so you had some questions about the Phallic Garden article.

Fernando

So in the conversation that you're describing in the short piece you wrote, you noted that there's this law of the father that, while I may have not said it directly, you said it was kind of inhabiting the background. And I was really curious about that. I just want to hear more about how you understand that.

Kellen

Well, for me it was the comment that kind of structured it, where when you were interviewing Bail, you said something about the way that he symbolizes his work with everything related to the mother and the feminine. And I can't remember which word was used but it was something around that. And then you said, “as you know”, or “you should know, I think quite oppositely”. So for me, I kind of put those into the category that you meant father or masculine since I assumed that is the opposite of mother and feminine. And maybe that's not what you meant. But I said, okay, that makes sense. And it wasn't a judgement when I wrote it but it was just like, okay, now we know where these positions are in this lecture.

Fernando

Right. Now that you lay it out that makes sense to me. So, I think the thing I'm working from is how Lacan conceptualizes sexuation, which is that there is no complementarity between the sexes. Which is to say that often times in popular culture, this complementarity is described as “men are like this and women are like that”. And so, men are more “aggressive” and women or more “passive”. These sorts of super simplistic notions. So Lacan has this phrase that oftentimes is misunderstood where he says that there is no such thing as a sexual relationship. And a really precise way of actually translating that from the French would be, “there ain't such a thing”. What he's getting at with that is that there's no complementarity. So the sexes don't define themselves in relation to the other sex or sexes, they define themselves according to language and jouissance, this very Lacanian notion of what Freud spoke of in Beyond the Pleasure Principle as “a satisfaction that cannot be felt as such”. So when I was up there speaking about jouissance, and you're quite correct about that, it wasn't that I was positing a complementarity to what Bail was arguing – to what he's pushing as feminine and then I'm saying well then here's the masculine, right. Or here's the father, because he's talking about mothers. For me what I was bringing forth, and it and was difficult to do in that conversation, was that – and I think here we have a chance to do it – is that there is no complementarity. There's no rapport between the sexes. And so in terms of sexes, the only way to actually define them is, again, according to their relationship to language and the name of the father – and I'll get to that in a second – and jouissance. So very quickly this whole idea of the name of the father comes up which sometimes Lacanians will refer to as the no of the father or the law of father. And what they're referring to is because there's a homophony in French so nom du pere (name-of the-father) is also no du pere (no-of-the-father), right? So, the name-of-the- father, it also sounds exactly like the no-of-the-father and the no-of-the-father is nothing other than the incest taboo. So the taboo on incest which is the structural lack at the heart of the symbolic. So that's all it is. Because – and the reason I want to emphasize that is because often times when you hear the phrase, the name-of-the-father, it sounds like some patriarchal imposition. And that's exactly what it is not.

Kellen

Okay. Yeah I think posting it and I kind of set it up in terms of a structure of like – and the projection on my part was that not knowing you personally but knowing of your work through others, student, trainees, etc. and being a Lacanian I mean I think that's where the application of the father came in and the law of the father. So that's where I was positioning it. So my question is simply the language that we talk about – and so just so to clarify – I wrote an analytic theory on gender development. And I used multiple theories such as, Lacan, Winnicott, Freud, and Kohut. And so, having experience practicing analytically with gender-variant people, my whole position is that analytic theories can be applied to transgendered people and gender variance. Because in my opinion they could be applied to any psychological concept. But where is the language or words and or definitions, within our analytic world that really describe thirdness of gender, the integration of both. And I don't know if I'm really talking about androgyny as much as I'm talking about sort of the intertwine of it all, right. Something new, a new chapter. Not just sort of I'm on this continuum and I'm in the gray and I'm in the middle, but this another gender. An identification. And I don't know if there's anything that specifically just says this is the word or this is kind of an explanation that speaks to that. And so that's where I was coming from.

Fernando

In terms of this comment you made about, what about a third sex, where's the room for a third sex?

Kellen

Yeah, and I think that it can be explained in, well, what is the language of it? But then I, you know, it was also sparked because I was recently doing a gender lecture and my point to it at the time was language changes all the time within the community of gender because nothing actually really fully conceptualizes it.

Fernando

Right. Exactly. Yes.

Kellen

So my point was, how can we conceptualize it in a way that is more clear and understandable so it doesn't have to change based on the individual, right? It's like, now we're talking about one year we're talking about, well, this word conceptualizes gender variance. And then it's like, well, that's inappropriate now, this word conceptualizes gender variance. So I think I just wanted to consider something that is more poignant, that actually considered it but didn't need to always change.

Fernando Right. Yeah.

Kellen

So I think that was my whole point in my Phallic Garden in the NCSPP Impulse newsletter.

Fernando

I'd say I'm tickled by this really important point you're making which, the language if I'm hearing you accurately, the language can't capture this thing that continually is changing, right? And I think that is at the heart of all this. And I do hope that analysts and analytically-minded folks…I hope we're at the point now where we understand that biological sex, like actual genitalia, means absolutely nothing in terms of gender. Because when people do claim that there's a concreteness there, that is a bit puzzling. And to me problematic in a sense.

And so, I do think there is room, and I think our continual experience with patients and analysands and with colleagues and friends and ourselves is such that certainly we're constantly being shown, we're constantly being told that there's something beyond these sort of concrete assignations of gender that are based on genitalia. Per your point, you know, having a language that captures it in some way…I want to think that's possible, I don't know if it is. And I think the reason I say that is because there is something about sexuality that escapes language always. And I think that is what in a real sense Lacan was getting at in his formulas of sexuation when he says that the feminine or, better put, a woman – so these people who fall under the heading of women who could look like you or I or could look like the sort of stereotypical feminine woman that you might see in a magazine or walking down the street, it doesn't matter. But somebody who's relationship to language and jouissance is characterized by this label, woman, that they also have access to something beyond what those people who are categorized as men have. Which is something that goes beyond the signifier, which goes beyond language. So when you say that, Kellen, that's where my mind goes. The fact that women have access to what's referred to as the Other jouissance, that immediately shows that there's something beyond what is referred to as phallic jouissance. And in some ways it's an unfortunate term in English because for Lacan the phallus is nothing other than the signifier of desire. It's not the penis, it's not anything like that. It's the signifier of desire which is to say the signifier of lack. But there is a beyond that. And that beyond is really important. And I think this is what people are playing with in the best sense of the word, that they are engaging with, they are playing with. And I have to say I find that lovely, I find it really human. I think to be analytically-minded like we are, you have to be trans-minded. How can you not be trans in a sense? I mean those are the thoughts that come to mind when you raise your questions. I mean in terms of a third gender, or even a fourth or fifth, I would not discount those possibilities by any means. I think what's important is to specify and perhaps this is what you do in your work Kellen, is to specify the relationship that any gender has to language and jouissance, and to the name/no-of-the-father, or to put it another way, to the incest taboo. That there's something there that we orient towards. But those are my thoughts when you say that. And those are the thoughts that came up when I read your short piece. I was like, yeah, there's something important there.

Kellen

Well there's a couple things I guess that sparks my curiosity is, one, when I think about, well, language, I guess it doesn't really matter because it's really the interpretation of it. So the clients come in and they have a particular word of the time, of today. Or even their own special word that only they have used for their own experience. It doesn't really matter, as long as we understand what they're talking about. Meaning if they come in and they said, well, I feel that I am transgender and that's enough. I feel that I'm gender variant, that's enough. I feel that I'm gender expansive, that's enough. We will ask what it means to them and then we will understand.

Fernando Yes

Kellen

But it's when the lack of understanding comes in that language becomes important. And this is where I go to considering the need of the ego and the lack of being seen in a sense where there's these parts of us all that we all need mirrored and seen and then we express this through language and sometimes people still don’t get seen. Many clients do not get seen in therapeutic practices because language is important and it is not always translated accurately. So those are just my thoughts around the language piece. I'm wondering just in terms of the Bail lecture, I'm wondering if and I don't know where I'm going with this…but I'm wondering if his conceptualization of the mother is in part incestuous. And maybe that's what you were speaking in opposition to maybe on some level. Because there's such a merger with him and his theory around everything is the mother. He's using words like imprinted. And so was he, on some level, talking about being incestuous? Like emotional entanglement. And maybe you were speaking about sort of the difference of that. So I don't know.

Fernando

Yes. I'm really glad you picked up on that because that was something I was intrigued by, both in terms of his work and then what he said at the talk itself. So – and if you remember, one of the things I was putting on the table for him to work with was, I said, as analysts we definitely have a theory of the subject. Which is to say that we're not the pure object of trauma. We're not just “victims”. What is done to us in a sense we then use and work in different ways. And I want to be really careful with this because it's so easy to take this kind of thinking and say, well, you're blaming the victim. But by no means. It is not that. It's that these things that happen to us in our lives, and it happens to all of us in one way or another, we then use in our way. We capture them and then rework them. And so that's a theory of the subject: that I'm actually engaged with the thing that's happening to me. Because otherwise we're the pure object of trauma.

And then I have to admit, I was really surprised when he said, no, it's a pure object of trauma. So then directly to what you're saying, Kellen, for me it was this like full on merger. There was nothing dividing that would give space for the child. There was nothing providing a space so the child could have something. There was nothing that would draw the mother's attention away. So there was something almost structurally incestuous about it. So in the Lacan seminar on anxiety, the thing that he refers to as being anxiety-provoking is essentially, to summarize it, is the lack of a lack. He says, when a mother is on the child's back, that's the translation, that is what creates the anxiety. Which is a different conception than Freud's, especially late Freud, like in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. So I think that was really curious to me. And it does make me wonder where is that coming from for him? Because in a sense he's abandoning the kind of thinking that most of us have about this stuff. So when somebody comes here into your office and they're talking about trauma, they are talking about the things that happened to them and were done to them in a sense, that they were prey too.

But they also speak about how they've then used it in their life in a certain way. For good or for bad or however it works out for them. But that's really important. Because then the person comes alive. Not just some object like this table or a box of tissues. They're a human. They're an agent in the world in a sense. And that's really important. So, I'm glad you captured that because I was pretty stunned by that response on his part.

Kellen

Yeah definitely. Me too. I mean it seemed interesting. I liked that he felt very strongly about it and, yeah, I definitely didn't agree with all of it, but I could see what he's saying. However, his theory seemed more intrusive to me especially If he's basing it on everyone's experience and development is like this, I don't know if I would agree with his theory completely, but I could see his points.

Fernando

Right I think this aspect of intrusive, this word you use, I think that resonates with my hearing of what he was saying. Because it is. It's like intrusive. For Bail, there's nothing you can do about this. And it's going to happen the way that the mother's imprinting it, although it's unconscious. That's just the way it's going to be. So, I as a human have no say in this? That's actually, I believe, incredibly dangerous thinking because it makes us all into objects. I mean that's one step away from all of us being essentially commodities which is really damn close to where we are at this point. That's the big danger I would say, where we are in terms of history is that we're extremely close to being full-on commodified.

Kellen

Yes, and maybe I was thinking, not consciously aware, this is all about the mother then where is the father in all in this? Or the other partner, whoever that is? So where is their (the “other” object’s) influence on this? Because I don't know. In therapy it isn't always about the biological mother or the foster mother or the adoptive mother. It's about other people or objects. Like the other caregiver, whether they're there or not and what they've imprinted through their absence or presence. I'm wondering, even now as we speak, where is the language too around the other caregiver’s influence and maybe language doesn't matter again. How are these two people that are caregivers, or more than two people, integrated if they're going to be imprinted into only the mother?

Fernando

Right. Yeah, it is interesting, the father – I'll give a definition of the father as I understand it to be. For Bail, the father doesn't show up. It's completely absent. It's all mothers and fetuses – mothers and children. And so this entity that we term the father, at least Lacanians will often times term the father, where is that person? I think this is a great question on your part. And how does it get integrated into everything else that's going on?

And it's interesting because you bring up the multiplicity. There's other ways there could be a collective. I mean we do live in the Bay Area. And it's not just in the Bay Area, it's all over the place now. And I think it was always around but we didn't speak about it in those terms. Certainly, back in South America, when I think back to when I was a child and I'd see different configurations, it's interesting to me that you bring up this point you're talking about again about language. There wasn't the language for me to understand it through. But I could tell that there was something different. There were several caregivers. And oftentimes they are family members, but sometimes there was somebody there who clearly was a partner of some sort who was also involved in the care alongside the traditional roles of mother and father. And I was like, okay, so that's curious. So I think this collective caregiving arrangement has actually been around longer than we want to give credit for. But certainly, now it's here. And so, the multiplicity of this situation I find really interesting and important and curious.

But what about the father? And then I think the question becomes, what is the father? Because if it's some man, in the old patriarchal sense of it, I think that's a fallacy to play with. With the word itself. I think it's a fallacy/phallacy. I think the father, simply put, is that subject towards whom the mother's desire is directed that goes beyond the child. So the mother's desire, focus, attention, goes toward the child of course, in the best of cases. But then there's something else there. It's not like it's just the mother and the child or the children. The mother also has desire aimed elsewhere at other humans. Or a particular human that they have a relationship with. And that's the father. So that could be a woman. It could be a man. It could be a third gender like we've been speaking about. I think that for me there is truly analytic thinking in that term. And it doesn't fall prey to the culturally-inscribed, narrow-minded, closed-off ways of thinking about gender and sexuality. And so I think that's what really matters.

But then the question becomes, well, then who's the mother? And that's the part that's curious. Who says that they're the mother? I think that the child chooses who the mother is based on a variety of factors, including the speech of the person who eventually gets named as mother. At some point the baby will say mama or mom or mommy or something like this. Naming the mother. And then that mother's desire towards somebody else beyond the child, that's the father. Now could we change the terms? Because some people will say, that sounds really heteronormative. And I hear that. Sure. The names could change but it doesn't change the structure of the thing. And I think the structure of the thing is what really matters. And so I go back to this absolutely important point that you brought up, Kellen, which is people come in and they're going to use different terms but, we ask them what are they saying with that. I think that's what really matters.

Kellen

And what does it mean today versus is in a couple months when we've worked through some stuff, what does it mean then?

Fernando

Yes. And when I hear you say that, I hear a clinician speaking. In the sense of a clinician, you have to stay open and you can't stay concrete with things. Okay so they're saying it's this, but in two months once they've worked through some material, what is it then? All of a sudden something completely different.

Kellen

And I've had clients who are maybe a little bit more lower functioning, or I should say severely traumatized and they want to be called it or they want to be called frog or they want to be called something that's inanimate or maybe an animal. Like something that they feel because they just don't feel like anything describes them, they're not integrated into their body in a way, especially if they're like at the beginning of a transition of some kind or haven't come to a conclusion around gender variance and where they're comfortable.

And then it's like, okay, you want to be called frog. Like, okay, this is your symbol, this is who you are. And then later it's no longer frog. I mean I'm talking these are people that are highly traumatized. But then it's getting closer to some other name. And then so even those signifiers of names change. So, it is interesting to see it evolve. But I am curious about this mama thing, about the baby names the mama. I mean, but aren't we giving them the language? Because they are usually repeating mama, as opposed to if we had a word

that was different, technically they would choose mama based on attachment. Like they would maybe cling to one or the other. That was their safety zone or what have you. But I am curious. But we do kind of imprint, to use that word that Bail likes to use, the language that they use for symbolization.

Fernando

Right. Good point. You know one of the curious things that I have thought of oftentimes, the “ma”, just that phoneme is present almost universally in human languages. In the word for mother. Like oma, mama, mommy. I do find that really curious. So certainly, yes, the way you put it is super Lacanian in that we're actually inhabited by language. The big Other actually is in us. That the symmetry between internal and external gets brought down in a really huge way with Lacan because for him, the big Other is in us because we're inhabited by language. We are in a sense almost used by language. And I don't think there's any way of getting out of that. Our language terms could actually change.

So it's not like the phoneme comes out of some sort of Chomskyan language acquisition device, the LAD as Chomsky calls it, in the child. It's not like that is operative and the phoneme just comes out because it's somehow in the brain. No. I think it's because we're inhabited by language and so those are the terms that we use. I think I was referring more to where it's directed. Although there is something there as well. That's why I was saying, maybe it's an interplay because I've seen mothers say to the child, “I'm Mommy”. And then the child is then forced, in a sense, in order to survive, to then call that person mommy. So I do think it's an interplay.

Having said that, I think the other thing I want to bring into the conversation is that for me everything we're talking about in terms of gender has to do with loss, that it has to do with the lack. So I think that was brought to mind when you were telling me about these terms that some people want for people to use in addressing them, like “frog” or “it”, something inanimate, is that in terms of any gender, including third, fourth, fifth, even in terms of some sort of fluidity of gender, there's no escaping the lack. Which is to say that, because we're speaking beings we necessarily are lacking. We've been split by language which is to say that we had to give up some of our jouissance and that there's a lack there. And the reason I say this is because at times I have had patients who in their working through gender are trying to find a place where they're going to be whole, and they're not going to be lacking. Like let's say they've identified previously as a woman and they want to be a man, or the other way around. Thinking of another gender as somehow being whole. And that I do see as problematic in the sense of everybody has to pay the price. Nobody gets out alive and nobody gets out without paying a price. So those people who are under the label men or the label of women or label of any other gender, I think everybody has to pay that price. The grass can sometimes look greener on the other side, but know that there's pitfalls on that other side too.

In terms of transitioning, I'm glad to see that it's being so heavily theorized now because there's a lot there and it's seriously important. And I think oftentimes, actually, it has to do with the death drive or the drive. Queer theory, all the theoretical work now on gender has direct and important implications for the very foundations of our work as clinicians. I don't think you can be a clinician nowadays without delving deeply into that material. I think it comes easy to me in a sense because I'm a Lacanian. So Lacan was working the formulas of sexuation, which he had worked on for quite a number of years but really brought them out in force in the 70’s, and it sounds so much like what some of the people are speaking about nowadays in terms of queer theory and that complete delinking between genitalia and gender, or expressions or performances of gender, I think that's interesting. Going further, I don't necessarily disagree with a lot of the theorizing about the expression and the performance of gender a la Butler. I think that’s important work, but we shouldn't forget that structure is in there as well. And that it has to do with loss and lack. So, I just wanted to make sure I brought that in because I think that's really important. How does that land on your ears?

Kellen

Yes, I think that – so let me clarify. And if I break it down into the lack – so the lack around gender for everyone is that we are in fact gendered.

Fernando

Right. Yes, I really like that way of putting it. Because we are gendered, and I think at a more fundamental level it's because we're speaking beings. That because we're speaking beings, because we're inhabited by language, that necessarily makes us lacking. So when I see an animal, like when I see, maybe not a domesticated animal perhaps, but a wild fox, they're not lacking in the sense that a human is lacking because they're not inhabited by language of that sort. So could you speak about gender for animals, like for foxes? No. I think they're sexed. I think perhaps in terms of genitalia, that's it.

But it sounds silly in language if you were to speak of men foxes. You can talk about male foxes only because they have certain genitalia. But if you speak about women foxes, it sounds silly. So I think even in our own language there is a recognition that there's something there. But as soon as you get into our realm as humans, I think the lack immediately comes into the room because we are “languageified” to sort of make up a term. But having said that, I think going to your point is really key. Because I think the next step is to realize that when we're inhabited by language it's always going be in a particular way. And that's gender. That that's gender.

Kellen

So if someone transitions then from a gendered experience to another gendered experience, they're still lacking because they are still within sort of the societal structure of gender.

Fernando

Yeah, of language. Yes. Right. That's what I'm saying, there's no escape. I think the fantasy is of escape. It's a fundamental one for us as humans. And I think that's a realm of fantasy, that's the imaginary in Lacanian terms, that we can be whole. And that we can be without a lack. But, again, that would make us into objects. We're not subjects anymore at that point. And here I want to note something. When we talk about subjects in the US, when we talk about subjectivity, I think what we've lost sight of is that subject actually means subject to something. It's not like I’m a subject and I'm free and clear and all this kind of thing. No, we're subject to something. And, okay, if the question is, well, what is it we're all subject to? Language. Usually we are subject to the law. Yeah, we are subject to the law of language.

So here I return again and again and again to language. So when I think of gender I think of language. Not in essence, like there's a masculine essence or a feminine essence. I think that's really dangerous. I think it has to do with how we are constellated in terms of language and then what we lost. And when I say constellated in terms of language, I am referring here particularly to signifiers and to certain kinds of “enjoyment” that we can have per gender. So gender really matters in a fundamental way for humans. But fundamentally it's radically different and there's no complementarity between genders. Going back to how we

started. It's like half of comedians make their money off of the “women are like this and men are like that” shtick. And oftentimes there's a sort of complementarity in what they are saying. Men will want to do this because this is how “men are, and women want to do the opposite”. That to me – sure, it's funny. Like it tickles us at some level. But I think for me at a more important level it's really silly and superficial. Because there's no complementarity there. So genders don't – and I think this is where a real possibility for other genders really comes in – genders don't define themselves according to other genders, they define themselves according to a third term. That third term is language. So that's why when you bring up a the idea of a third gender, I remember when I read that part in your President’s Remarks in the NCSPP Newsletter, I was like, yeah, I'm not going to discount that possibility. How about a fourth and a fifth? But I think we have to be very precise in our theorizing about what the particular relationship to language and jouissance is for each of those genders? If I was speaking to a Lacanian who was bringing this up I think the question that would be in the room immediately is, “okay, so how are you theorizing the connection to language and jouissance?” That's where it goes immediately. If I were trying to do that I would have to specify that. I think that's really important.

Kellen

So if someone is embodying sort of this gender expression that is not about transition but they embody the “they” and that is their position in the world and don't identify with any gender. “They” de-identify themselves from the gendered experience. Where is the lack in that position?

Fernando

Okay so a couple of things. I think the lack is still there. It's always there, there's no way of escaping it. This is that person's singular way of speaking their experience in the world. And I can't say anything against that, that would be ridiculous.

Kellen

No, I'm just curious if the lack is being gendered and they have de-gendered themselves, although they say that they're de-gendered but they will always be gendered?

Fernando Right

Kellen

But say that they do that successfully and so society or their communities start to evolve around their experience and they don't gender them even though they do but they try, I'm just curious about where the lack is if they're able to step outside of the gender experience. And it's not to label them or say something negative, I'm just curious, is it possible for them or someone to escape gendered experience by going by “they”? And is there a lack still?

Fernando

So I would say, yeah, there is a lack. And I don't think…I think this is where certainly I'll probably get heat for

this, but no, I don't think you can actually step out of a gendered experience. I'm not saying what somebody's gendered experience should be, that's presumptuous and pompous. It's arrogant. What I would say is that you can't step out of whatever it may be for that particular person. So the lack is there, yes. Why? Because they're in language. They're inhabited by language so they're going to be gendered. Whether they like it, we like it or not.

Having said that, I do want to say something – I haven't shared this before. I've been thinking about this recently. So, I have a few patients who go by they and I have to say that at one level I absolutely love that because we're all they in the sense that we are not a unified whole. It’s a fiction of the ego that we're all put together in a wholistic, integrated manner. They is in Freud, when you read The Ego and the Id. What I mean by that is that in that essay you start getting a sense of the psyche that is so fragmentary, or non-unified. And certainly nowadays some of the analytic theories that are more cutting edge have this – they speak about it in that way. And certainly Lacanians are that way, where you have all these different parts of the psyche, going in different directions and are contradictory and in conflict– so when somebody refers to themselves as they, that's actually where my mind goes to. But it doesn't go to a place of them being non-gendered. And I respect that they're trying to speak something singular about their experience and that is really important for me. So going back to your point early on, which I think is vital, is we ask them what that is.

Kellen

Right. For some it's going to be non-gendered. I don't ascribe to anything related to gender. I am who I am. I am different. Outside of that there's people who will say, well, actually I ascribe to everything gendered. I am all gender. So depending on who it is, I mean this sort of they or third experience, fourth, fifth, sixth. It could being a variety of things.

Fernando

So you're a fellow CIIS person. You are the director of one of the clinics. So you're in the thick of it in that world, as am I, and so you might be able to relate to this at some level. Its common nowadays that people, when they are introducing themselves on the first day of the clinic or the first day of class, you go around the room and then people speak name and their preferred gender pronoun. When that first started happening, I was really curious, and I found it incredibly interesting. And the first time it happened it was a really big group. It was like 30 of us. This was at CIIS. And I was the last person to introduce myself. The introductions started on my left and it went clockwise and so I had a lot of time to think about it. And so as a clinician I had all kinds of questions. I wanted to sit down with two-thirds of the people and ask them “why do you use that for” – you know this is what we do as a clinician. We don't take things for granted, we don't assume. We ask, we inquire. But by the time it got to me I was thinking to myself – and I think this is becoming a fundamentally important thing for me – I gave my name and my title and then I said, “in terms of gender pronoun you can call me what you wish”. Because at some level I didn't want to fall into some trap of if I say my preferred gender pronoun is “he”, then there's going to be all kinds of assumptions about that. “He” means I'm a man of a certain kind. Those are all just labels for a position vis-à-vis language, jouissance and the name-of-the-father that I may or may not have taken.

Another time I was with a group of analysts and somebody in the room said, “since we're all men here” – and I said, “oh really? How do you know that? You're making a huge assumption”. And they laughed. They were cool about it. One of the beauties of having so many folks be so focused on gender is that it makes all of us be very attentive to, and in an analytic sense, to think about how somebody is thinking through and are structured in and of themselves. Not what we think they are.

Kellen

At times it is very interesting how gendered educational environments can be even at CIIS. Considering the social justice roots of it all and out of all the schools, I believe that CIIS really kind of delves into the complexity of these topics. Especially in that way we're talking about now and in a way that maybe not everyone does and maybe I'm not aware of them. But, yes, so it is interesting how gendered they have been and now they're moving out of that a little bit more in sort of the psychotic nature of we are all one divine feminine. Which felt similar to Bail. I'm not saying he's psychotic but there was a similar feel like the divine feminine is the only thing there is in the world of the world. I mean in child care, in therapy, in terms of what we do. So, it is interesting that that experience there has been an unusual one I would say. Now there's some safety created around, they've differentiated from this massive collective ego structure to become a little bit more into their own actual gendered experience.

Fernando Okay

Kellen

As opposed to we are all the divine feminine, we are connected to the higher level of this goddess energy. And now it's like, oh, I'm actually not that way. I'm actually more congruent with how I express myself. And some of them are very masculine. So it's been an interesting complexity I will say.

Fernando

But I think that's fascinating because I think subscribing to something like we're all the divine feminine, I started hearing a running from the lack. Like we're connected to everything, we have access to everything. But my position is, “no you don't, nobody does”. So oftentimes I think the problem with somebody like me saying, “no you don't”, is – and then people think that I think I do. But, no, I'm lacking too. I don't have access to any of that business either. I have a particular lack just like other people have their particular lacks. What I'm referring to here is also the lack-in-being as it's usually translated into English. You can't get away from that. I think the typically patriarchal, bombastic man is also running from the lack too. So when someone says, “I'm the father and I'm the man”, I hear somebody who is terrified. They're running from the lack. “I have it all”. Let's say they have a penis and they hold it in their hand and actually think they've got something. No you don't. You don't have it. Nobody has it.

Kellen

And this is where you know this kind of prescribed, gendered running away from the lack shows up in the disordered arena where we've got, in my opinion, the histrionic and then the anti-social which are the same. They're just expressed in gendered ways. And they run away, like they run to the end of the spectrum. And if they stay there and perseverate there then they become disordered as opposed to kind of – like the histrionic or the hysteric is looking to fulfill the lack usually – some kind of symbol that is to replace that usually with the masculine. So this is where they're like oversexualize and it doesn't necessarily mean with a man or these are women doing this. Men are on this histrionic side kind of looking to replace that lack. And the same with the anti-social. But they tend to be gendered expressions of it. Like hyper focused on aggression and a hyper sort of focus on passivity and seduction. So maybe – I don't know where I'm going with that – but when I see it very gendered, that's how I seen it in pathology when it's fixed.

Fernando

Right. I think there's linguistically and also culturally inscribed ways for people to then express these sort of things in gendered manner. And I think the danger lies in falling for the phenomena of the thing as opposed to thinking through to the structure of something.

So, for example, oftentimes hysteria is attributed to those beings labeled as, taking the position of – or who fall under the rubric of women. But there are plenty of hysterics who are positioned as men. But it shows up in certain ways. It shows up as the Casanova or the Don Juan. The playa. That kind of person. It shows up in what they do, in their phantasies, in their relation to jouissance. They have typically hysterical kinds of issues. So, when people say hysteria is such a misogynistic term, well, certainly it has been used in some misogynistic ways for sure. I'm certainly not going to defend that history. And I think it's still a very useful way to think through clinical questions, because there's plenty of men that I've met in my practice that are full-on hysterical in that sense. But it shows up differently, and in some ways, because there is privilege floating around for some folks who appear and look in certain ways that are deemed superior, they're granted certain things that other folks aren't. And I’m thinking here in terms of ethnicity and race. You have let's say a black woman who is assertive and who speaks her mind and demonstrates her intelligence. And then she's labeled as aggressive or angry or brash or something like this. For a woman who is categorized as white who does the same thing, oftentimes the expression I've heard is, “she doesn't take any nonsense”. But she's not described as angry per se. So, I think then that ethnicity comes into play too. In other words, it's an intersection of things. So, it can't just be gender. However, having said that, I think gender is fundamental in a way that no other category is. I know I'll get heat for that too. But I do think that gender works that way.

Kellen

Right. And then the societal projective identification that occurs with the other, where, no, you might not be angry but eventually if you're continually projected on sometimes clients who I see that are a person of color and then they keep hearing a certain thing, they start to then identify with it on some level and take it in, even though it's not there's to hold. So the work is to kind of differentiate between, now, that's actually not yours and you're actually not angry about some of these things that you take on for others. Although there are plenty of things we should all be angry about. You know you become the identified patient of our society. And it's interesting, in terms of expression and how gender is labeled. So it's interesting to walk in the world of being projected on these different gendered attributes and what they mean. Even though they don't mean those things to me. And then what parts do I then become projected, identified on and then what parts I incorporate. Which is I think the point that I was making about this phallic thing in my garden which was sort of being projected on to be this giant penis. Which I guess so. So it struck me as odd. Really? Just because it's tall or just because but it's straight up? It's not straight anymore, it's so big it's towering over now. But at the time it was like, why? It's pink. If we're talking about gender. So it got me thinking about these attributes that get assigned and the conversation with Bail around – particularly Bail's point around you know what is the mother and how the children get assigned whatever the mother is going through based on third connection. So, yes, I think that we're talking about the same thing across different domains. Race, culture with language and how things get ascribed based on signifiers.

Fernando

Yeah, I have to say that it tickled me when I read that part about the garden. Because it is a gendered garden – what we're talking about. I mean these kind of attributions about this “phallic” plant. It says more about the person than anything else. The person who is saying that. But you know that's the joy and the day-to-day of clinical work, is somebody saying that sort of thing.

I'm looking here inside your amazing office, and let's say the tissues are really coming out of that box, and I’m sure people will come in and project all kinds of stuff onto it that speaks their identifications among many other things. I think in the sense of what clinical work is at that point, for the person to be able to let go of those identifications they've latched onto. So, something else can come out. Now the question is what is it that comes out after the death of these identifications? Well, it's the subject. The subject of the law of language. The subject of the unconscious. That is what emerges. And to witness that, that for me the true joy of being a clinician is witnessing the emergence of something that goes beyond all those identifications. That I do love. Those are the moments where I feel true joy at doing this kind of work. Because then somebody is able to inhabit that place and not be caught up with calling something in a garden “phallic”. When the plant has no sort of say so in the thing.

Kellen

And it started out as completely flat and then it was there for two months and then, I mean two years, and then within a month, boom. And so it is interesting how our world is impacted just by those visuals. And, yeah, that was on my mind when I went there and heard Bail and you speak. Which I thought was a really good discussion related to his theory which is I think controversial still.

Fernando

Oh yeah. I would say for me that it led to this conversation between you and I, makes it doubly worthwhile. So, I should go, but thank you. This has been the highlight of my week, this has been edifying.

Kellen

Thank you for reaching out and then being willing to talk about it and deconstruct these things.