Philosophy Faculty Publications

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Book Chapter

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Publication Source

Thinking with Irigaray


For over thirty years, Luce lrigaray's work on sexual difference has been the subject of debate about whether sexual difference is essential, necessary, oppressive, or some combination of these. I examine critiques from people who claim that her work is based on an essentialism that is dismissive and harmful to transsexual and transgender discourse. I argue that lrigaray's ethics, based on sexual difference, has the potential to lead to discussions about all difference, including differences in sexuality. lrigaray's complex understanding of sexual difference as natural, cultural, spiritual, and morphological can help us interpret transsexual narratives, narratives by people who seek medical intervention to attain the correct embodiment (Feinberg l996; Prosser 1998).

Transsexual and transgender narratives can also help us to better understand Irigaray's insistence that corporeality is indispensable for cultivating sexual difference. However, accounts of transgender experience — people whose gender identity does not correspond to their sex and assigned gender identity (Feinberg 1996; Halberstam 2005) — challenge any conception that sexual difference can be only binary.

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Document Version

Published Version


From Thinking with Irigaray, Mary C. Rawlinson, Sabrina L. Hom, and Serene J. Khader, Eds., 2011; pp. 111-128; permission pending from State University of New York Press.

Permission documentation is on file.


State University of New York Press

Place of Publication

Albany, NY