Episode 33 – Archetypal Dynamics of Gender Transition

Nov 15, 2018

Lisa, Joseph, and Deb circumambulate the difficult issue of gender reassignment. They discuss the significance of teen girls wishing to transition and the current tendency to foreclose the meaning of this and move rapidly into medical procedures, a process of concretization instead of curiosity and exploration. Lisa discusses previous examples of symptoms and their diagnoses in history, leading to an understanding of the influence of cultural factors on mental illnesses and diagnosis. Finally, gender reassignment is considered as a Promethean venture, and although it is now possible to challenge the gods of genetics, it is also truly awe-full. We suggest that gender transitioning, like much else, can be psychologically transformative only if there is a conscious relationship to it.

Lisa’s writings on the topic include three articles in Quillette:

This article in the Jungian journal Psychological Perspectives:

And a chapter in this book, which also includes a chapter from UK Jungian analyst Bob Withers:

Here’s the dream we discuss:

“I am lying in bed with a man I do not know and we are both naked. We are covered by a thin blanket. The man’s right-hand man comes in the room to discuss something with him. The man in bed with me gets up and does not clothe himself but nonchalantly takes off his penis and hands it to me. It is not bloody or gory and he seems to know that he can put it back on; I am just holding it for him. I’m not sure what to do so I take it under the blanket and lay it on my lower abdomen. The man tells his partner, as he points at me, that he should take a picture for his Dad because they see the outline of the penis under the blanket.”


  1. Lara

    Thank you for your podcast. It strikes the nerve because my 21 year old brother wants to transition and is poisoning himself with hormones. I am surprised that while wondering why transgender has become a trend in society, none of you mentioned the real reason – money. Money made by unethical therapists, surgeons, counselors, medical loan companies (most kids have to take out a loan to go through reassignment surgeries) etc. Also, as far as expectations before surgery not matching the reality after surgery – had patients been educated about the actual results (real photos of reassigned genitalia), 99% of them would not go through it. I can see how this type of education is not in the interest of the money making machine. Either way, thank you for a great podcast!

  2. Tyson

    Gender transition is a physical band-aid on a psychological problem. The idea that we can take a psychologically sick person, give them pills or surgery and make them sane is a result of over-materialism and an overemphasis on the physical while ignoring the psychological. While cross-dressing is a sexual fetish that can be used as a form of play, gender transitions do not change a person’s mind because ultimately, fulfillment and happiness cannot last if it comes from physical possessions or physical qualities, happiness must be found from within.

    • Joseph23455

      Gender Transition is such a profound and serious process – all sides must be considered and weighed. Understanding that sometimes the fantasy of becoming another gender is a sign of a spiritual process, which can and must be honored on a spiritual level, is indeed one important consideration.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment Tyson.

  3. Patricia Irick

    This was an interesting topic. As a woman who was always a tomboy and now is 64 years old, I cannot express how joyful it was for me to attain an androgynous status in the community. If I could have avoided all the trappings of womanhood, I would have done it. Motherhood, being a potential sex-object, projections of my intentions, the glass ceiling, birth control, the cattiness of many women,the anger of men when the feminine doesn’t know her place… I miss none of it. I love now that people can talk to me as just another person. I hope the teenage girls bloom.

    • Joseph23455

      What a wonderful story of individuation Patricia!

  4. Michal Ginter

    In many traditions, there are gods who either possess both genders permanently or sometimes manifest as male and sometimes as female.

    Also, to offer a counter-point to the view that transitioning is akin to usurping god-like powers: in many species of fish, females will turn into sperm-producing males when circumstances require it. 🙂 Radiolab’s short series called “Gonads” explores this and other interesting aspects of the long journey from gonads to sex to gender.

  5. Flemming O. Behrend

    I graduated from The Assisi Institute as an Archetypal Pattern Analyst in 2016. I have had to deal with my own gender fluidity all my life and have researched and lectured on this subject many times. I found your podcast to be fabulous and very insightful. I wish more young people seeking transition could listen to your discussion. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Joseph23455

      Hi Flemming,
      Thank you for your work in the world. It is so important to bring every dimension of gender and sex to awareness in the culture. Your affirmation of our work is very kind and appreciated.

  6. CMW

    I wish this podcast had demonstrated more curiosity about the meaning of the current rate (unknown) of teenage girls interested in transition, rather than assuming it was “the monster in the room.” What if these gender diverse teens and young adults are the collective unconscious’ way of healing a paradigm of toxic masculinity which has lost much of the nuanced relationships to responsibility and stewardship that were traditionally part of males roles? In other words, could an injection of males who were socialized as females into society actually be a move towards wholeness?

    The current research I have seen is that one percent of people who transition are interested in de-transition. I appreciate your desire to protect that one percent.

    I was noticing the lack of any reflection on two-spirit identities, or some of the brain research that demonstrates an actual sense of “this is not my body” for secondary sex characteristics in transgender individuals (link posted here:
    To add some context to Michael G’s comment, I believe it is clownfish that all start life as male.

    I am looking forward to the day when a trans or gender diverse Jungian analyst might step into this space to provide a more nuanced interpretation, much the same way that you all gave space to Dr. Fanny Brewster to explore Jung and racism.

    • Jill

      Great, episode. Quite applicable to the torment I have experienced all my life, from 12 years old up until today – 28 years old. .

      It was indeed like I was possessed by a spirit that required me to dress as a woman. I loved it and hated that I loved it. I wanted it to go away. I was deeply ashamed of my being, paranoid of being discovered. I spent alot of my time depressed in solitude. I hid it from everyone including my family. That killed me.

      Now I can safely say I feel more sane having it out in the open with me – almost as if it has pleased the spirit enough. This, it would seem, is a part of my Being…how anyone can say that it doesn’t mean anything or is simply a sexual fantasy when it has caused me so much trauma over the years?

      So I ask myself, what does it all mean? Why God? This episode certainly gave me some insight into the possible answers.

      I am curious though – no mention of hijras or eunuchs…Castration effects the physical characteristics of the body and it was practiced for a long period time, started a long time ago… as a religious act. I mean, the mythology of that culture must SURELY have some insight to this topic. Bahuchara? No mention.

    • Matthew Kopp

      I think culturally in the USA there have been extremely strict gender normalcy roles which got even worse in the 20th century with homophobia. I like seeing the photos in the 19th century with men with their arms around each other, something that became taboo in the 20th century specifically because if awareness of homosexuality. In other words homophobia changed male behavior and restricted gender ideas. So I think very much that what is happening is an enantiodromia. But this is specifically why I question medical transition as a solution. I could care less if everyone in the population wore a dress and make up. LOL! Straight and gender conformity is an extremely fragile identity IMO meaning living a stereotype or expectation. But so is living a female stereotype. Jung’s teleos was that of ultimately integrating both masculine and feminine qualities and going beyond that where neither trait is at the center of our ontological sense of self. But for me that took 45 years to finally experience that. I want a world where people can explore gender, but I have seen people go from gay to straight (both men and women) and straight to gay (both men and women) why would this not have a similar enantiodromia in many people? The difference is they are sterilizing themselves to concretize their feminine and masculine sense of self. Hijra do the same, but in Somoa Fafafina don’t they just dress like women. I would prefer that this was structured more in that way. More as third and fourth gender with out invasive surgeries.


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