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Applegarth, A. Wolfson, A. (1987). Toward the Further Understanding of Homosexual Women. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 35:165-173.

(1987). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 35:165-173

Toward the Further Understanding of Homosexual Women

Adrienne Applegarth, M.D. and Abby Wolfson, Ph.D.

ADRIENNE APPLEGARTH INTRODUCED THE PANEL by defining its task as presenting observations and points of view rather than providing a definitive revision of psychoanalytic theory about female homosexuality. Our explanations of homosexuality in women rest on our theories of female sexual development, some of which remain troubling to many analysts. In particular, three aspects of psychoanalytic theory central to the subject of female homosexuality are believed to be inadequate by many analysts: the establishment of gender identity, sexual object choice, and the urge toward motherhood. We would therefore do well to collect more observational data about female development.

Classical psychoanalytic theory, as outlined by Freud, holds that libido is basically masculine and that the girl develops first in a masculine direction, only later discovering her vagina. However, this is not the same as the establishment of gender identity, which Freud seemed to take for granted. Both Stoller's work and that of the Money group suggest that gender identity is irreversibly established by the age of eighteen months—before the discovery of the genital difference—and depends almost exclusively on parental influence rather than on physical, gene-determined sex. Gender identity is based on early identifications; if they are disrupted, gender identity may be disturbed.

The classical explanation of sexual object choice assumes that the girl's first love object in the oedipal phase is the mother. When her homosexual wishes are disappointed, she reacts by turning to the father. A different view is that the girl, like the boy, enters both positive and negative oedipal phases together.

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