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Critical & Experiential: Dimensions in Gender and Sexual Diversity

Book reviewed by Angie Fee PhD. Psychotherapist/Supervisor/Trainer in Sexualities & Genders.

This book is divided into 16 chapters, beginning with a bold and challenging introduction - clear in the editors disdain and disappointment in mainstream psychologies, paving the way for new pioneering and subversive narratives which are currently positioned at the edges and which the editorial restates in the foreground.

The book highlights the gaps in counselling/therapy training whereby the binary categorisation of sexuality and gender simplifies and reduces complex phenomena such as identity and desire to psychological or biological models. I’m happy to say that these chapters are a threat to the powerful and privileged position heteronormativity has in social institutions such as education, medicine, psychological theories and therapies, family and relationship structures. As such, the chapters complicate and challenge the normalising practices of heteronormativity and its understanding of identities and desire.

I liked the editor’s resistance against any particular ‘flow’ of content, queering the very ordering and standardisation that is being contested in the chapters content. This makes the reader think about what they are reading, unaided by any logical structure of chapters.

For me one of the key chapters is An Analytic of Belonging. The author draws attention to the regulatory character of heterosexuality in psychological therapies and how it has become the ‘unspoken’ in psychological theories. He emphasises the importance of the therapist’s awareness of their own intersectional identities in terms of how they situate themselves in their clinical practice, giving credence to feminist research on the notion of situated knowledge, indicating the kind of power that enables a certain kind of knowledge.

I like the idea of critical thinking being applied to the lived experience, taking it out of the realms of academia and pedagogy. Through this, the chapters tell new stories of identity and desire through privileging lived experiences of knowledge and exposing how stories of identity and desire are embedded in cultural discourses.

This book tells those untold emerging stories, illustrating how the regulatory nature of heterosexual discourse organises desires into binary categories that does not account for the complexity and fluidity of desires that underpin peoples lives.

As a trainer in Sexualities & Genders on post graduate counselling and psychotherapy courses, I will be gladly be adding this book to my course reading list.

Want to read more from Dr Angie Fee? Here's a link to her earlier blog: The Personal is Political

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