By Carolina Besoain

In 2021, Avgi Saketopoulou and Ann Pellegrini received the first Tiresias Award[1] from the Sexual and Gender Diversity Studies Committee (S&GDSC) of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA)[2] for their work titled A feminine boy: normative investments and reparative fantasy at the intersections of gender, race, and religion. However, they faced obstacles when attempting to publish the article in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis (IJP)[3], which was recommended as a possible venue for publication by the S&GDSC. They worked closely with the journal´s editor-in-chief and the article was formally accepted, “and it was everyone’s understanding that we were moving towards publication” (Saketopoulou and Pellegrini, 2023). But after the authors added an acknowledgements section, everything changed. The journal requested the removal of lines that welcomed queer subjects to psychoanalysis, including patients, candidates, and analysts, which the journal deemed “too political.” When Saketopoulou and Pellegrini questioned this decision, they received no response. They complained, and in return they were informed that the publication of their article was no longer a given. They objected to this retraction of the journal’s previous publication offering, and received a response in the form of several emails with legal-sounding language, including words like “slander” and “calumny”. When the authors informed the IJP that they would take their paper elsewhere, new email threats arose, stating that if they publish the article elsewhere, the S&GDSC committee would breach its commitments to the IJP.  After they continued to refuse to alter their paper, the IJP definitively declined to publish it (Saketopoulou & Pellegrini, 2023).

Ultimately, the authors decided to publish the award-winning article in the book “Gender without Identity,” published by The Unconscious in Translation Press in 2023. In this book, they recount the story of this impasse and propose a way of theorizing gender that shifts the focus from the process of identification and counter-identification to intergenerational factors such as trauma, which can be psychically linked through gender. They propose approaching gender as an effect of the psychic work through which the excess of infantile sexuality is bound and made intelligible to the subject. They emphasize gender’s quality as a not fixed process, but as an endless process of creation and invention that engages with the force of the traumatic, which is common for all genders (Saketopoulou & Pellegrini, 2023).

As a psychoanalyst and researcher based in Chile, when I heard about this impasse and the book that emerged out of it, I couldn’t help but associate it with another situation that marked Latin American psychoanalysis in the late 1980s. In 1986, the French psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto visited Buenos Aires to give a series of lectures on ‘the ethics of the cure’ in analysis with children, the citizen analyst, and the transmission function. In this context, she gave an interview in Revista Psyche where she commented on the case of stolen children during Argentina’s dictatorship: for Dolto, returning these children to their original families – after having spent years living with their adoptive ones – could lead to a repetition of the traumatic experience of having been ‘stolen’ in the first place, causing them a second trauma.[4] Shortly after that, the Abuelas (Grandmothers) of the Plaza de Mayo publicly expressed their disagreement with Dolto’s statements, arguing that what happened to those children was not about adoption but about appropriation, looting, and dispossession (Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, 1997). A few days later, the Abuelas organized a Conference to which the Argentine psychoanalyst Silvia Bleichmar was invited as a panellist. In her presentation[5], Bleichmar contested Dolto’s conception of trauma and proposed a theoretical differentiation between deconstructive and constructive trauma which is essential to understanding the value of restoring children to their original families as a means of repairing the psychic damage caused by human rights violations. In the context of constructive traumatism, the traumatic character of the event would serve to psychic processes of recomposition, recovery, and integration of fragmentary experiences that until then would not have had the possibility of being worked on within the psyche (Bleichmar, 1997).

The connections between both cases are numerous. Both Bleichmar and Saketopoulou & Pellegrini adhere to Jean Laplanche’s ideas, representing a shift in Lacanian structuralist thinking by reopening enigma and leaving room for the unexpected. In both cases, they are challenging psychoanalytic theories on trauma, and in both cases, the disputes they were involved in revolve around childhood. The work for which Saketopoulou & Pellegrini received the Tiresias Award is based on the case of Ory, a 12-year-old child who was brought in for consultation by their parents, who were concerned about their overly feminine traits and wanted to prevent a potential homosexuality or trans identity from developing.

However, what struck me the most when reflecting on both situations was the common thread of their theoretical innovation. These breakthroughs did not merely rely on discourse or argumentation within the established knowledge production mechanisms of psychoanalysis. Instead, they unfolded in the form of what I refer to as impasses, which transcended mere words to become transformative acts. In this regard, I argue that psychoanalysis is a complex and ever-evolving field shaped by the political and social aspects of life, with sexuality and gender playing a significant role in it. Specifically, I contend that gender and intersectional feminist mobilizations have not only challenged traditional psychoanalytic understandings of the social and the psyche but also acted as political forces, stimulating acts of citizenship that push the boundaries of the psychoanalytic field. I do this by building on the lessons learned through my ongoing research with psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic “colectivos” in Brazil, Argentina and Chile in their inventions, alliances and commitments to expand psychoanalysis beyond white cisheteronormative boundaries.


Photograph by Carolina Besoain

Acts of citizenship in psychoanalysis

What do I mean by an act? For political theory, an act of citizenship is a disruptive action that empowers an individual to forge a new path, rather than conforming to a predetermined script. It entails breaking the boundaries of societal norms and practices, challenging established conventions. An act does not possess predetermined qualities or characteristics. Instead, its qualities emerge and develop in the aftermath of the action itself (Isin, 2009). Each act is unique, shaped by the context, intentions, and consequences that unfold. Through its transformative power, an act can challenge dominant norms and practices, opening up possibilities for change.

From a psychoanalytic perspective, an act is also understood as an effect rather than a cause. It gives rise to a subject and becomes a crucial part of their process of becoming, as described by Lacan (1967-1968). Each act entails an opening that disrupts previous meanings and confronts the subject’s inherent incompleteness and opacity as a sexed being. In the act, a process of unfamiliarity is set into motion, devoid of pre-existing knowledge, thus functioning as a catalyst around which meanings can be constructed retrospectively. It is not defined by its previous qualities or the identity of its agent. Psychoanalysis proposes that the sexual nature of both psychic and political life implies that acts shape a subject, the significance of which becomes apparent only upon reflection.

Following the above, I argue that the cases of Silvia Bleichmar and Avgi Saketopoulou & Ann Pellegrini constituted acts that created a new scene and challenged power dynamics in the psychoanalytical field. Both acts were involved in creating new theories and new political alliances that opened up space for thinking otherwise. These acts disrupted the hegemony of psychoanalytic conceptions, theories, and concepts that were developed within mainstream psychoanalytic institutions, especially regarding trauma conceptualizations. They expanded the possibilities for growth in the field, challenging established meanings and questioning traditional interpretations of theory. Additionally, these acts brought into question long-standing gatekeeping practices that had limited the diversification of perspectives within psychoanalysis. In doing so, these acts not only expanded the boundaries of psychoanalysis as a theoretical system but also as a political body. Thanks to these acts and in dialogue with those of us who feel interpellated and called upon by them, psychoanalytic theory, I suggest, has the opportunity to transition to new creative grammars that might make possible a more comprehensive understanding of the psyche and its relationships with the social, symbolic, and political orders, thereby contributing to enhancing psychoanalytic practice.

The effects of Saketopoulou & Pellegrini’s act (as those of many others who are challenging what psychoanalysis can do and say in their name[6]) are still to be seen. However, in their book, they explicitly advocate for the theoretical transformation of psychoanalysis to be able to work productively with queer and trans life, opening up space and allowing every-body to flourish in the consulting room.

On the other hand, the consequences of Bleichmar’s act, and that of so many psychoanalysts who stood up for human rights in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil, not only allowed for reframing and enlargement of concepts regarding memory, testimony and trauma that have improved the work with victims of human rights violations (Hollander, 1989; Volnovich, 2017). They also have had political effects, generating new discourses and value rhetorics (Segato, 2018) that have contributed to truth, justice, and reparation processes throughout the region, following the violent dictatorships we experienced during the 70s and 80s (Lira, 2021; Hollander, 2010).

Photograph by Carolina Besoain

 Gender as an act of citizenship in Latin America

Gender is an act that sparks desire for self-creation (Gherovici, 2023)[7] and inventiveness (Saketopoulou & Pellegrini, 2023), not only in every human being but also within the systems of knowledge production in the field of psychology in general, and the psychoanalytic movement in particular. Through a multi-situated ethnography that I conducted during 2022 and 2023 with psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic organizations in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, I have witnessed the effects that gender-informed mobilizations, along with decolonial and intersectional approaches, have had on psychoanalysis as a field. These mobilizations have sparked acts that are reactivating psychoanalysis’ concepts, practices, and modes of organization that resemble, in many ways, those I described earlier.

After the first march in Argentina in 2015, which carried the powerful slogan “Ni una menos. Vivas nos queremos” (Not one less. We want us alive), a series of collective acts of defiance initiated by Latin American psychoanalysts who were influenced by the intersectional feminist mobilizations in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, caused a significant rupture in the habitus of the psychoanalytic field. This rupture challenged various norms and practices characteristic of psychoanalytic institutionalism at the regional level, triggering collective acts of defiance among psychoanalysts. In my research, I have identified different paths or trajectories of development for these collective acts. Some have emerged from the resistance of psychoanalysts against censorship and cis-heteronormative protocols in health and education institutions, inventing, for example, alternative forms of access for trans people seeking mental health services in public hospitals in Buenos Aires, resisting medical gatekeeping practices and respecting people’s self-determination and expertise on themselves. In Chile, several psychoanalyst collectives, inspired by feminist organizational practices during the Mayo Feminista (Feminist May) (Hiner & López, 2021), have developed separatist workspaces to challenge the sexist power dynamics experienced in previous institutional settings and broad psy feminist’s networks. In Brazil, many psychoanalysts have challenged the traditional setting of private practice by bringing psychoanalysis to the streets, favelas, and urban periphery through what they call perifanalistas (periphery-analysts), anti-racist collectives, and clinicas da borda (border clinics). Throughout my research, I verified that, for many psychoanalysts, becoming collectivized was a way to resist Bolsonarist gender and race violence and invent forms of political actions (Besoain, 2023). As Saketopoulou & Pellegrini (2023) point out “gender is never straightforward; it is never, that is, only about gender”, as it intersects with other categories of difference such as race, class, age and disability, making space for complexity and facilitating access to a psychoanalytic listening available to all.

These collective acts of defiance do not offer a singular practice or knowledge as a definitive solution to human rights violations and systemic violence based on racism, state-violence and cis-heteronormativity. Instead, they view inquiry itself as the response. In essence, the response becomes a question directed towards the very subject who voices it. This time, it is psychoanalysis itself that is being questioned and critically examined. Psychoanalysis, as a complex and ever-changing field, is queering itself, beginning to embrace transition as an act of becoming (Gherovici, 2023), implicating itself in the process. Gender and feminist mobilizations have opened up a flow that is impacting psychoanalysis by creating space for “translational freedom” (Saketopoulou & Pellegrini, 2023) through various psychoanalytic inventions that are expanding the boundaries of psychoanalysis as both a theoretical and political entity.

Psychoanalysis is alive, and it is becoming. Let us remain attentive to the inventions that are yet to come.


Carolina Besoain (she/her) is a Chilean psychoanalyst and researcher studying the relationship between psychoanalysis, gender studies and intersectional feminist geographies. She co-founded Colectivo Trenza, a psychoanalytic organization in Santiago de Chile devoted to mixing psychoanalysis with feminism and gender studies in psychotherapeutic practice. Currently, she is a research fellow at UFRJ´s Psychoanalytical Theory Program with the project: “When Feminist Activism Shapes Psychoanalysis: Acts, Defiance and Appropriations in Latin America”. She can be contacted at


[1] The Sexual and Gender Diversity Studies Committee (S&GDSco) has presented this award at the IPA Congress since 2021 to foster members’ participation in creating knowledge, and knowledge transfer and exchange at the intersection of psychoanalysis and sexual and gender diversity.

[2] The International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) was founded in 1910 by Sigmund Freud and a group of his early followers. The IPA serves as the global governing body for psychoanalysis, bringing together psychoanalytic societies and training institutes worldwide. While the IPA has made significant contributions to psychoanalysis, it is not without critiques, especially those that point out the IPA’s homogeneous composition (mostly white heterosexual men from the Global North), rigidity of training and practice, limited engagement with the social and the political, access issues of psychoanalytic training and affordable treatments, etc. (Frosh, 2006).

[3] The IJP is the oldest journal in the field, established by Freud himself.

[4] Dolto, F. (1986): Religión y Psicoanálisis. Interview with Francoise Dolto. In Psyche. Periódico de psicología y psicoanálisis, Year 1, N° 3, pp. 2-5.

[5] Bleichmar, S. (1997). El traumatismo en la apropiación-restitución [Trauma in appropriation-restitution]. In Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Eds.), Restitución de niños (pp. 182–187). Buenos Aires: Eudeba.

[6] See the work of Griffin Hansbury (2017), Paul B. Preciado (2020), Patricia Gherovici & Manya Steinkoler (2023), Ana Maria Fernández (2021), Tania Rivera (2023), among many others.

[7] Gherovici, P. (2023, forthcoming publication). Gender transition between life and death. Keynote lecture, Psychology and the Other Conference, October 2023.