Sexuality and Gender in Development: Facets of Bedrock and Beyond

by Paul E. Lynch, MD


This chapter reviews psychoanalytic theories of gender and sexuality, particularly as they relate to psychological development and functioning, noting elements of Freud’s “bedrock” that persist, and elements that have become obsolete.  Considering both body and mind in the development of gender and sexuality, and building on unconscious elements of infantile sexuality, attachment, enigmatic signifiers, and mentalization, this chapter also considers more conscious influences from family, culture, and social environment on one’s experience of gender and sexuality.

Tracking the relevance of the physical body in both theory and lived experience, and the pervasiveness of traditional binary gender definitions based on idealizations of bifurcated masculinity and femininity, the social construction of gender norms is shown to be regulatory and in the service of coherent (simplified) identities.  A perverse strategy, also based on gender idealizations, is seen to be at work ubiquitously to protect us from awareness of our non-conformity.  

Tension between regulating and liberating forces is shown to be unavoidable, most notably in work with individuals who fall outside the traditional binary, including gay, lesbian, transgender, and other “queer” identities, and the therapist’s awareness of countertransference feelings is shown to be of paramount importance in such work.

Link to Online Publication [fulltext can be requested from the library]

McCann, D., Ed. (2022). Same-Sex Couples and Other Identities: Psychoanalytic Perspectives (1st ed.). Routledge.

The book can be borrowed from the library by BPSI members and partners.

About the Author:

Paul E. Lynch, MD, is on the faculty of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and the China American Psychoanalytic Alliance.  He has a private practice in Boston, MA, and is co-editor, with Alessandra Lemma, of Sexualities; Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives (Routledge, 2015).

About the Book:

In this wide-ranging collection, international contributors draw on key aspects of couple psychoanalytic theory and practice, whilst also expanding hetero and mono-normative frames of reference to explore the nature of relating in open, closed and poly relationships. Developments in regard to gender and sexuality within the contexts of family and culture and an examination of same-sex parenting are also included, as are psychosexual considerations and the process of aging. A major focus of the book is the importance of the therapist’s own gender and sexuality in the clinical encounter and how to manage adjustments in approach to counter the dominance of heteronormative thinking in practice.

Previous Posts:

Diane O’Donoghue, PhD (2021). Amnesias of a Freudian Kind – Part II. American Imago, 78(4), 601-617.

Cuneyt Iscan, MD (2021). Illusion, Disillusion, and Irony in Psychoanalysis, by John Steiner, Routledge, Abingdon and New York, 2020, 167 pp. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 81, 549–553.

Randall H. Paulsen, MD & Don R. Lipsitt, MD (2021). The Balint Group: The Arc of the Enduring Bridge Between Psychoanalysis and Medicine. In Schwartz, H. (Ed.), Applying Psychoanalysis in Medical Care (pp. 161-189). Routledge.

Alexandra M. Harrison, MD. (2021). Culture – Surprise and the Psychoanalyst. Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 49(4), 487-489.

Stephanie Brody, PsyD (2021). Facing the Facts: Self Disclosure and the Analytic Relationship Swimming in Dark Places. American Imago, 78(3), 485-490.

Sarah Ackerman, PhD (2021). Psychoanalysis from the Inside Out: Developing and Sustaining an Analytic Identity and Practice by Lena EhrlichLondon and New York, Routledge, 2020, 169 pp. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 102(4): 822-826.

Lewis Kirshner, MD (2020). Trauma by Lucy Bond and Stef Craps. London: New Critical Idiom, Routledge, 2019, 173 pp. American Imago, 77(4), 800-808.

Cuneyt Iscan, MD (2021). Large-Group Psychology: Racism, Societal Divisions, Narcissistic Leaders, and Who We Are Now, by Vamik D. Volkan, Phoenix Publishing House Ltd, Oxfordshire, UK, 2020, 139 pp. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 81: 244–248.

José Saporta, MD (2021). Psychoanalysis and Our Cultural Crisis. Subject, Action, & Society: Psychoanalytical Studies and Practices, 1(1): 91-109.

Elsa Ronningstam, PhD, Mark Goldblatt, MD, Mark Schechter, MD, Benjamin Herbstman, MD (2021). Facing a patient’s suicide—The impact on therapists’ personal and professional identity. Practice Innovations, 6(2), 89–106.

Anton O. Kris, MD (2021). Love Is the Great Educator: Response to Richard Frank and Mel Bornstein. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 41(4-5), 289-291.

Alex Hoffer, MD (2020). Psychoanalysis as a Two-Person Meditation: Free Association, Meditation, and Bion. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80(3): 331–341.

Nancy J. Chodorow, PhD. (2021). Women Mothers Daughters: The Reproduction of Mothering After Forty Years. In Bueskens, P., ed. Nancy Chodorow and The Reproduction of Mothering: Forty Years On. Palgrave, pp. 49-80.

Anthony D. Bram, PhD. (2021). Introduction – In-Session Use of Digital Material in Child Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 74(1): 304-307.

Steven H. Cooper, PhD. (2021). Toward an Ethic of Play in Psychoanalysis. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 90:3, 373-397.

Click here to see a full archive of featured papers. All articles can be requested from the library.