A Psychoanalytic Approach to Community Justice

This just got accepted to this conference Reinstating Transgression. A rough draft of the paper should be up on this site soon.

Using Helplessness to Reimagine the LGBT Community: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Community Justice


It appears to be an exciting time for gay and lesbian citizens in the United States of America; the blockades to same-sex marriage and openly gay military service are being questioned within the mainstream political sphere. To sustain and build upon this momentum, Equality Across America (EAA) organized the March for Equality in Washington, DC, which generated interest in building EAA chapters across the nation. The organization’s mission is to gain “equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.” The vague and inclusive mission statement does not reflect the organization’s focused and exclusionary politics, which reinforce dominant socio-economic hierarchies. In this essay, I examine their events, speeches, and promotional material to highlight a growing trend within the US LGBT political movement of narrowing primary objectives and rejecting issues and people connoting helplessness. National LGBT organizations routinely ignore HIV and AIDS, violence against youth and transgender people, racism, labor issues, and various people deemed “stereotypical” and instead focus on access to marriage benefits and military service. This realignment, as demonstrated by the EAA, creates the illusion of a self-reliant, simple, and strong community that can sustain itself; this image has symbolic capital within the national imaginary. By focusing on two of the most conservative and blindly nationalistic issues within the spectrum of LGBT issues, activists avoid controversy. Lack of controversy gives the newly fabricated gay and lesbian movement mass appeal, allowing corporate sponsors and upper to upper-middle class LGBT people and allies to donate without hesitation or fear of systemic changes, instead only slight reform occurs. This idealized and helpless-free version of LGBT life hides the pain and systemic injustices done to community members; injustices that could be addressed within the public sphere and used to build alliances, if the national organization recognized helplessness within the community. This fear and rejection of helplessness is a systemic issue within US culture and causes citizens to allow the government access to and outright control over an increasing larger segment of public and private concerns. I use the work of psychoanalysts D.W. Winnicott, Melanie Klein, and Adam Phillips to intervene in EAA’s paradigm of community and grassroots movement building and demonstrate helplessness as an innate feature of humanity that has significant potential within the political and in reshaping a more accurate sense of self, community, and democracy.

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Filed under abstracts, queer

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