Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Lissa Weinstein

Committee Members

Ken Corbett

Diana Diamond

Elliot Jurist

Elissa Marder

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


gender, identity, psychoanalysis, sexuality, transgender


This project concerns gender and feeling real. It begins with a seeming paradox: on the one hand, since Judith Butler (1999; 2011) we can no longer think gender as ontological in any simple sense; on the other, clinical experience and the voices of transgender and gender-queer individuals shows gender to function on the order of reality, and one exceeding the social. In other words, if feeling real depended entirely on being read as such, how would we account for the many who pass easily as “real” men or women and yet feel unreal, or come to feel more real by changing their socially legible bodies to be read differently? Using psychoanalytic theories of reality, identification and symbolization alongside select works of literature, this project offers a framework for thinking the varying subjective experiences of gender’s reality, without collapsing into either a normative or purely social model. In short, it proposes to think gender’s relation to reality in the context of the constitutive relation to the psychoanalytic object. If separation from the object is refused, objective reality collapses and gender feels too real. If connection to the object is refused, internal reality is inaccessible, and gender feels false. If both separation from and connection to the object are tolerated, gender feels true and allows for growth.