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Person, E.S. Ovesey, L. (1983). Psychoanalytic Theories of Gender Identity. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 11(2):203-226.

(1983). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 11(2):203-226

Psychoanalytic Theories of Gender Identity

Ethel S. Person, M.D. and Lionel Ovesey, M.D.

For many years, there was essentially no interest in the origins and development of femininity and masculinity. They were simply assumed to correspond by nature to the two biological sexes, despite their historical and cross-cultural variability. The insight that the existence of personality differences between the sexes required an explanation was a major intellectual leap, and it is Freud who must be credited with that insight. Thus, psychoanalysis was the first comprehensive personality theory that attempted to explain the origins of what we now call gender.

While this paper will discuss sequential psychoanalytic formulations of femininity and masculinity, it is important to keep in mind that the earliest psychoanalytic formulations were made before a clear distinction between sex and gender was proposed. Historically, there have been three psychoanalytic formulations that have attempted to account for the origins of gender: Freud's original concepts; an early oppositional view, stated most clearly by Homey and Jones; and, recently, a new theory proposed by Stoller. The first two antedate the conceptualization of sex and gender as separate, though interrelated, entities, while Stoller's formulation makes use of this distinction.

Freud postulated that masculinity was the natural state from


Dr. Person is Director and Training and Supervising Analyst with the Center and Dr. Ovesey is a Training and Supervising Analyst. Both are Clinical Professors of Psychiatry with the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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