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O'Connor, N. Ryan, J. (1994). ‘Truth’ and ‘reality’ Joyce McDougall and gender identity. Free Associations, 4(3):338-368.

(1994). Free Associations, 4(3):338-368

‘Truth’ and ‘reality’ Joyce McDougall and gender identity

Noreen O'Connor and Joanna Ryan

Joyce McDougall's writing on female homosexuality forms part of her interest in various forms of perversion, in psychosomatic disorders, and in other phenomena, all of which she sees as neither neurotic nor psychotic.1 Her theorization of homosexuality is complex, dense and many-levelled, and draws on various sources as well as her own richly described clinical material. Her detailed consideration of female homosexuality, especially in ‘The homosexual dilemma’ (McDougall, 1979), and her standing in the analytic community generally, make it particularly important for us to examine her work in both its theoretical and clinical aspects.

A Universal Theory?

The first thing we notice about ‘The homosexual dilemma’ is that it is in a textbook entitled Sexual Deviation, alongside chapters on male homosexuality and on phenomena such as fetishism, voyeurism and transvestism. Whatever the refinements of McDougall's position in relation to the status of homosexuality, the message this context conveys is uncompromising. We might also wonder about the title of her chapter, in particular the confident use of ‘the’.

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