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Christian Flavigny's paper - n°3

Christian Flavigny is a psychiatrist, child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.


Following our recent exchange, in which we agreed that the importation of 'gender' from the North American 'gender' was the source of a bloody embarrassment, I'm relating some information that I think is useful to know to deepen our thinking. I hope this will be the case.

This relates to the surprising attitude of French psychoanalysts, who welcome this theory without hindsight and even go so far as to characterise it as a fertile source of enrichment for psychoanalytical thought. Jean Laplanche, for example, published an article in 2003 entitled Le genre, le sexe, le sexual in his collection Sexual - la sexualité élargie au sens freudien, PUF, 2007, in which astonishing approximations and untruths are mixed together under the guise of an advance in the theory known as sexuality. For the sake of the memory of a great figure in French psychoanalysis, we would like to forget this contribution - were it not for the fact that it had a problematic influence due to the aura of its author. Laplanche is hardly to be excused - he was on the jury for Agnès Oppenheimer's dissertation, subsequently published as Le choix du sexe, in which she sets out a psychoanalyst's pertinent criticisms of Stoller's work (a criticism that Léon Kreisler had already begun, who had made this work known in France - all the references to this work can be found in my book La querelle du genre, PUF 2012, and in my recent book Comprendre le phénomène transgenre, Ellipses, 2023). Laplanche had invited Judith Butler to a meeting at the International Psychoanalytical Association (Vienna), which was more of an endorsement than a distancing from Butler's attempt to grasp psychoanalytic theory.

This contributed to the reluctance of French psychoanalysts (particularly, of course, at the APF) to consider the issues raised by the importation of North American concepts into French culture. Pierre Lévy-Soussan remembers as well as I do the stormy reception given to a conference we gave at the APF, where the questions of filiation in the French conception we were presenting were badly received, to say the least. In short, our colleagues failed to appreciate that this theory of gender was hardly compatible with psychoanalytic experience.

The problem lies in the way North American culture absorbs it: the self-determination of gender. This is the effect of the individualistic logic of this culture: I am me, I say so and you have nothing to add; which is in complete opposition to French culture, which gives otherness its rightful place, to the point of declaring it to be the primary factor in establishing identity. This fundamental gap between cultures, which JP Winter reminded us in a recent email that Freud had perceived, I schematise in the paradigmatic opposition between Hans Kohut, an Austrian émigré who became more American than the Americans, and Jacques Lacan, who went to the extreme of the French conception with the 'unconscious as the discourse of the Other'.

To assess the current situation in France, it would be useful to refer to the issue of Le Carnet Psy devoted to the subject (n°248, December 2021), which is open to all approaches. There is radical opposition between Serge Hefez, who ignores primary otherness, and the fact that the bodily sexed partition confronts incompleteness; and Bernard Golse, who reconstitutes a "co-construction of gendered identity", noting the fascinating work of Irène Lézine (1975) showing the incidence of the gendered from the moment of breastfeeding, and many others.

For my part, having been asked to contribute to this issue, I did not want to take up the debate to which I had already contributed in my books; I chose to deal with the Laplanche question indirectly, recalling a pertinent promotion he had proposed of the notion of genres (but in the plural, the paternal and the maternal), a pertinent notion deserving to be explored; in order perhaps to make people forget his unfortunate proposal of the sexual - a late drift in his thinking?

The essential question remains: how can we get out of the 'societal' impasse that 'gender theory' - and in particular 'young people who call themselves transgender' - has led France into? This is the question that OPS will be pursuing.

Christian Flavigny.


Pédopsychiatre, ancien chef de clinique-assistant des hôpitaux de Paris puis praticien hospitalier, auteur de nombreux travaux en pédopsychiatrie (suicide de l’enfant, anorexie mentale, hyperactivité infantile), etc. Il a collaboré au début de sa carrière avec le Dr Léon KREISLER à l’hôpital Saint-Vincent de Paul (ambiguïtés génitales infantiles), et est devenu expert pour l’adoption, initié dans l’équipe du Pr Michel SOULÉ (co-rédacteur avec Mme Simone VEIL de la loi de 1966 sur l’adoption plénière), pratique poursuivie en Seine-Saint-Denis et dans le Morbihan.


Psychanalyste (APF), après avoir été formé à la psychothérapie de l’enfant (Mme Annie ANZIEU) et au psychodrame psychanalytique (Mme Simone DAYMAS) au sein du Département de psychanalyse de l’enfant et de l’adolescent de l’hôpital de la salpêtrière, il en est devenu le directeur durant une quinzaine d’années, sous la chefferie du Pr Michel BASQUIN.

Il a publié des ouvrages sur les évolutions récentes de la vie familiale et a été auditionné à ce titre par les Commissions parlementaires, de l’Assemblée nationale, du Sénat, du Conseil d’État, etc.

Quelques titres : La querelle du genre, PUF 2011 ; L’infantile, l’enfantin (sur la filiation psychique), PUF 2012 ; Avis de tempête sur la famille (Albin Michel, 2014), récemment Aider les enfants “transgenres” (Téqui 2021) et Comprendre le phénomène transgenre (Ellipses, 2023).



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