Heji Shin, Angel Energy 2, 2019
The Trans Solution
Interview Le Point
LP—How did the publication of the seminars begin?
JAM—Lacan had always refused to publish them. Those of his students who had tried to put them into shape, summarized the lessons and sometimes peppered them with their own rantings. I said to Lacan, who questioned me on this subject, “Oh, we should keep everything, straighten the typing sentence by sentence, word by word, and add nothing, just titles, demarcate the different parts, pin down on the exergues.” Lacan uttered then a real analyst’s word, which got me on the raw, “Prove it!” I chose to transcribe the eleventh seminar, the first I had attended, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. My manner suited him. Then, he refused all the names that I proposed for him to continue the work. In the end, exasperated, I said, “I’ll do them all for you.” He got up, put his hand on my shoulder, and left without a word. I decided then to transcribe the first seminar and the 20th, the most recent at the time.
LP— Fifty years later, where are you in this race against time?
JAM—Six volumes still remain, all written down to the last. If I were to disappear in the meantime, everything is there, don’t worry.
LP—But you have surely felt the pressure on you very often?
JAM—I took the time to practice psychoanalysis, to teach original courses for 30 years, and to create the AMP, the World Association of Psychoanalysis. I was pressed once, quite at the beginning, to wrap up the job in a hurry—some would have liked that—but there, no one harassed me. There is already so much to do with the 17 seminars published…
LP—What did you start writing with?
JAM—I started with texts that had been typed from shorthand. This is what Lacan had at his disposal. At 5 rue de Lille, there was a small cupboard filled with files containing the typescripts. Lacan lent them in a very parsimonious way. Gloria, his loyal secretary, told me that once, standing in front of that closet, she heard him sigh, “Who’s going to take care of all this?”
LP—Why is the fourteenth seminar published after the sixteenth?
JAM—It’s my fantasy. It has always been so, even during Lacan’s lifetime. This seminar is his workshop, he follows several threads at the same time, and the point of view moves from lesson to lesson. It also marks an inflection, because it is then that Lacan begins to give logic fundamental importance. And then, this seminar, as well as the following one with which it is paired, L’acte psychoanalytique, interested me particularly at the moment. Indeed, between the two, Lacan introduced the procedure of the pass, which is the verification of the end of the analysis. However, there has been around this device, for two years now, plenty of debate at l’École de la Cause freudienne of which I am a member, and in the AMP. Publishing seminars 14 and 15, the latter, scheduled to appear in a year, also responds to this topicality.
LP—The use of mathematical formulas makes them difficult to read.
JAM—Yes, but you know, these are just parodies. Lacan had a mathematical tropism. It is one of his singularities to put into formulas, into “mathèmes” as he said, the main concepts of Freud and his own. In La logique du fantasme the mathematical objects are not only there to illustrate his thought, but also to guide it, to inspire it, they are a means of invention. What is difficult, is that the symbols are made to receive different meanings depending on the context, however taken from the same structure. They are not at all unambiguous, unlike mathematical symbols. They do not have the same meaning here or there. A big effort is always necessary to find your way around.
LP—What is the logic of the fantasm?
JAM—You won’t learn that in this book! Above all, Lacan elaborates a dialectic of the sexual act. He struggles to find the formula. And with the help of the Golden Ratio no less! He will have to bring himself to acknowledge his failure.
LP—That is to say?
JAM—The term “sexual act” is borrowed from common parlance. But as Lacan understands it, a real act changes the subject, pulls it out of its indeterminacy, gives it a new identity. So Lacan begins by emphasizing in the sexual act its quality as an act. It would reveal the essence of what it is to be a man, to be a woman. It would be the moment when both would be fully what they are. Now, to everyone’s surprise—I attended the seminar—there was a complete turnaround! Suddenly Lacan shoots: “There is no sexual act.” This means that, contrary to what he previously thought, he was led to conclude that the sexual act did not have the characteristic properties of an act, that it in no way ensures the woman and the man to have each of them a specific essence, even if at the level of gametes and chromosomes, there are two perfectly differentiated sexes. He says it in another seminar, there are only two sexes even if we want to add the Auvergnats to it! But that is the real in the sense of biology. The real in the sense of psychoanalysis is quite another thing, it is that the feminine and the masculine can never be defined univocally at the level of the unconscious. Their definitions are indeed blurred by plural, contingent and contradictory identifications. Unlike animals, the partner is never specified, and copulation always involves some failure. The common experience of sexuality—torn, willingly guilty, capricious and sometimes “fluid” as we would say today—shows nothing equivalent to biological binarism, which is immutable and inert. Lacan emphasizes in the seminar “the abyss” that exists between these two.
LP—Can the seminar be used in current questions?
JAM—That’s my opinion. For example, what I have just exposed to you is like the precondition of the possibility of the trans phenomenon. To this is added the fact that Lacan holds the body for the first surface of inscription, made to be marked, specially scarified. He underlines the significance of the fantasm of the fragmented body. In other words, he says, the speaking being (parlêtre) has a fundamentally disturbed relationship with its own body. Any standard is lacking here, there is a radical discontinuity between the subject and the body, no native harmony. In short, in my opinion, and however surprising it may seem, it is impossible to conceptualize the transition without going through Lacan. It is in the hole dug by the absence of the sexual act that genders proliferate.
LP—What do you notice in the consultations?
JAM—It shows that for the last three or four years, psychoanalysts have seen coming to them, in quite a large number, subjects worked on by a trans problem, and who would like to know exactly where do they stand in relation to what torments them. La solution trans, which we have just published by Navarin Éditeur, presents five cases of transition. Well, there is one patient whose relationship with the analyst spreads over ten years, and we follow his path step by step, which leads him to surgery. The main thing for us is that the subject has completed its speaking journey (son parcours de parole), that it has clarified its desire or its conviction, after which the choice is theirs. We see suffering subjects who finally find relief in the transition, and their particular definition as sexual beings.
Transactivists are something else. They are full-fledged political activists, and with that, very sensitive. They promote a “gender identity” that is intimate, innate and definitive. The subject would be the only one to know in its heart of hearts who it is, as it were, gendered. In short, “I am what I say I am,” all trans people are transparent to themselves. So they demand an immediate transition, and at all ages, as soon as a subject, even a child, says it is uncomfortable with its body. This is the famous “gender self-determination” on which, in Western countries, the public authorities are gradually aligning themselves. Victoire! Will it be sustainable? The bets are open. Still, it is the exact opposite of psychoanalysis, whose act is based on interpretation, that is to say on the fact that the subject does not really know what itis saying.
LP—Where did Lacan’s seminar take place?
JAM—For the first ten years it took place at Sainte-Anne Hospital. Following his conflict with the International Association of Psychoanalysis, Lacan decided to leave the hospital for the university, that is he moved to l’École Normale Supérieure where Althusser invited him. After 68, held to be one of the leaders of the youth revolt, he was driven out of the rue d’Ulm. He then found shelter at the Faculty of Law in the Pantheon. At Saint-Anne, he had 100 auditors, psychoanalysts and psychiatrists; 300 at the l’École Normale, with students and passers-by from the Latin Quarter, and nearly 1,000 at the Faculty of Law, an elusive, baroque, often socialite public. He wondered about this strange crowd. The group Psychoanalysis and Politics, later MLF, Movement for the Liberation of Women, was formed around Lacan and his doctrine of female jouissance, as expounded in Seminar 20. Today, he would have done, I bet, what it takes to keep in touch with at least some LGBTQ+ people.
LP—Are there individuals of Lacan’s stature today?
JAM—No, that would be known. At the edge of a discipline, you discover a lot of things, and it dwindles and gets more complicated over time. Around Freud, there were people whom Lacan considered not to be of first quality, they were nevertheless explorers. In his time, in France, he was already an exception. During his lifetime, he panicked the psychoanalytical milieu, plunging it into a tempestuous state, crossed by tensions, storms, splits. Today, without him, it’s dead calm.
LP—Are you bored?
JAM—I miss fighting, yes. Apart from that, analytic practice always has surprises in store.
Six replies to a trans-woman, Olga
Following the publication of La solution trans by Navarin Éditeur, J.-A. Miller received a letter from a trans woman, Olga, to which he replied with the following.
1—Your concern about not being denied as a trans woman is legitimate. That of cisgender women is too. They are two distinct genders.
2—Similarly, you rightly point out, transsexualism and transvestism are distinct. Who confuses them? Not clinicians, but philosophers. They encompass both structures under the concept of gender. It is a mistake.
3—You write: “With few exceptions, gender identity among trans people is retroactive.” OK, if we mean by that, that it is after the fact that a person who has decided to embark on a transition, or who has already accomplished it, partially or completely, affirms that he/she has always been of the opposite sex. But to you, despite the fact that it was acquired by a retroactive effect, this revelation is no less true, and its truth must be imposed on all. An understanding that is based on the postulate “I say, therefore I am.” It is, in myopinion, exorbitant.
4—You then argue that gender is “fixed and definitive from birth.” In my opinion, these are different cases than those of the previous point. Again, do not mix them up. Point 3 concerns young people, adolescents and adults, this one children who declare themselves from the outset (and not by feedback) to be the other sex. The phenomenon may become manifest, not from birth, but from infancy—from the age of two and a half, says psychoanalyst Robert Stoller, an assertion confirmed by our experience.
5—You say, and you are right, that many trans people are cut off from psychoanalysis. But why? Because the psychoanalyst rejects the postulate “I say, therefore I am,” and assumes the right to interpret. To deny this right to the psychoanalyst is to deny the psychoanalyst.
6—You criticize the psychoanalyst for not respecting her trans patient. Interpreting is in no way a mark of disrespect. It entails to receive a trans person as a fully functional person just like a non-trans person.
Translated by Peggy Papada
Revised by Philip Dravers
This article was published in lacanian ink 59/60.