Humiliation and transgender regulation: Commentary on paper by Ken Corbett

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This commentary reads Ken Corbett's Boyhood Femininity alongside the Lawrence King case to examine shame as a means of regulating gender nonconforming boys. Corbett describes the dominant clinical discourse on feminine boys that understands them to be nonconforming, extreme, and disordered and notes that such discourse depends on the presupposition that boys must be masculine. This discourse is at once ontological and normative, asserting both that boys are naturally masculine and that they need to become masculine, a paradoxical imperative that may account for the ways in which the discourse is haunted by anxiety about the location, durability, and persistence of masculinity. In responding to the framing of boyhood femininity as a disorder, Corbett inverts the diagnosis; as a response to the reading of gender variant youth as inappropriately arrested in their psychosexual development, he diagnoses the profession itself as suffering from a developmental lag and suggests that the diagnosis that condemns a femme boy to psychic stagnation and unhappiness projects its own failure to see beyond normative gender presumptions onto the phenomenological life of the feminine boy. Corbett asks us to consider boyhood femininity as the scene of gender's emergence rather than as the site of its failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-384
Number of pages9
JournalPsychoanalytic Dialogues
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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