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Mitchell, J. (1976). The Transsexual Experiment. Vol. II. of Sex and Gender: By Robert Stoller. London: The Hogarth Press and The Institute of Psycho-Analysis. 1975. (The International Psycho-Analytical Library no. 101.) Pp. 316.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:357-360.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:357-360

The Transsexual Experiment. Vol. II. of Sex and Gender: By Robert Stoller. London: The Hogarth Press and The Institute of Psycho-Analysis. 1975. (The International Psycho-Analytical Library no. 101.) Pp. 316.

Review by:
Juliet Mitchell

Although Vol. I. of Sex and Gender had a wider range of reference than the present volume, it was already clear that transsexualism was the centrepoint of Robert Stoller's argument. This volume is devoted to the transsexual experiment.

Briefly, there are two strands to Stoller's thesis. First, he argues that transsexualism with its repudiation of biological sex is a perfect point of departure from which to understand the formation of psychological masculinity and femininity (Stoller calls the psychological formation 'gender development' and restricts 'sex' to the biological). Stoller's second concern is to account for the psychodynamics of transsexualism itself.

On the larger issue of masculinity and femininity, Stoller bases his argument on a redefinition of bisexuality. He sees Freud's use of the concept as being tied inextricably (and mistakenly) to a 'biological bedrock'. Because the atrophied gonads of the alternative sex are contained within everyone there is hypothetically the organic possibility of being the other sex. For such a biological bedrock, Stoller would substitute a primary condition produced by what he somewhat reluctantly calls 'imprinting'. This in Stoller's interpretation, is a process whereby the external world is emplaced within the infant. The transsexual whose psychological gender and biological sex are at odds, illustrates Stoller's thesis that in the field of masculinity and femininity it is not biology but conditioning that is determinate.

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