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Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Let’s Talk About Trans: ‘Trans-Positive’ Discourse, Australian Psychology and Gender Euphoria

By 2009, NATALIE LYSENKO

Abstract: The rise of social justice discourses in ‘mainstream’ psychology (Sue, 2003) has led to changes in the profession relevant to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) communities. While homophobia and heterosexism have been the focus regarding ‘sexual minorities’ (Petchesky), more recently ‘transpositive’ (Raj, 2002) psychology has come onto the agenda. In place of aetiology and pathology, ‘trans-positive’ discourses tend to talk about the issues of trans people in terms of human rights and culture. While not replacing older medicalised discourses on trans, the influence of ‘trans-positive’ discourses has become present in ‘mainstream’ psychology, as seen in recent literature and policy of the American Psychological Association (APA). Currently there is little in the Australian psychological literature on trans issues and the Australian Psychological Society (APS) has no policy on trans. Martin (2008) is one of the few psychologists in Australia writing about current practice with trans clients. While he takes a stance that could be characterised as ‘trans-positive’, there are tensions in how trans people are positioned in his work. While arguing for the development of ‘transpositive’ ethical guidelines by the APS, the present paper touches on issues to be worked through in doing so. The present paper speaks to psychologists in Australia, aiming to highlight that a ‘trans positive’ stance is not sufficient: improvements to policy and practice need to be made in the context of greater engagement with trans issues by Australian psychology.

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