Introduction from the Diversity Editor

Justin Shubert

Justin Shubert, PsyD, PhD, is a psychoanalyst in Los Angeles. He is the chair of APsaA’s Committee on Gender and Sexuality and the co-chair of the Committee on Diversities and Sociocultural Issues at the New Center for Psychoanalysis.


Justin Shubert

In early May of this year Lyn Yonack, the incoming TAP editor, approached me about becoming TAP’s diversity editor. This position, the first of its kind at TAP, marks our organization’s important, newfound dedication to issues of diversity, and I’m very glad to be filling it.

As a gay man in psychoanalytic training, I felt alienated at times. Well-meaning instructors assigned homophobic readings without contextualization, peers made insensitive remarks that went unexamined, and senior analysts presented heteronormative models as fact. My outsider status allowed me to recognize, on such occasions, unconscious aggression toward members of my LGBTQ+ community that seemed invisible to its perpetrators. While many of us have felt like outsiders at times, all of us unconsciously participate in multiple systems of “isms.”

Following George Floyd’s barbaric death on May 25, our nation reached a tipping point where turning a blind eye toward racial injustice was no longer tenable. Across the country passionate protests erupted, amid a pandemic, to demand that Black voices, those so violently silenced in our country, be heard. Horrified by the video of Floyd’s murder, we could better comprehend the suffocating weight of oppression and powerlessness on its victims. We vowed to identify and combat systems of oppression in our society, and within psychoanalysis.

How do we crack open a field that has been closed to so many? How do we bring more diverse voices to our institutes and treat more diverse patients? Our profession’s ability to exist and thrive in the upcoming years depends on how we answer these questions.

To start, we must define who we seek to include. What do we mean by “diversities”? Ostensibly, committing to diversity means embracing people from disenfranchised social groups. Most psychoanalytic theories are written by and for privileged white people. Privileged white people also teach most of our classes, supervise most of our candidates, and treat most of our patients. This results in a homogeneous perspective which can exclude, offend, or even harm people who, for example, are Muslim, Black, queer, Mormon, disabled, or poor. We must make psychoanalysis accessible to more people.

This is from the mission statement of the Diversity Section of APsaA’s Department of Psychoanalytic Education (DPE):

The concept of diversity is an evolving one. In psychoanalysis, the diversities may include race, ethnicity, religious belief, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, socioeconomic status, and political affinity. There are other categories of diversity such as ideological beliefs of various sorts, attractiveness status, incarceration status, psychological mindedness, and a multitude of others. The Diversities Section of the Department of Psychoanalytic Education seeks to address educational issues related to the diversities from a broad perspective that is dialogic, inclusive, and practical.

Each of us unconsciously enlists an endless number of social categories to enact power structures that deem some people superior to others. In the field of psychoanalysis, the symptoms of these power structures materialize in various forms, including curricula dismissive of the effects social forces have on the individual psyche, the discouragement of certain candidates to train at our institutes, and homogeneous demographics of patients in our consulting rooms. Revelatory psychoanalytic papers have been written by Black, gay, and transgender analysts in an attempt to tell us their stories, pleading to be heard and to improve our work, but they are not commonly included in our syllabi. A crucial component of committing to diversity then, more than including members from any one group in particular, involves listening to those who we have unconsciously sidelined or silenced.

As diversity editor of TAP, I will offer writings that open our ears to these voices within our community and help us think about actions we can take toward inclusion. To that end, in this issue, Donald Moss provides a nuanced, powerful article about the pernicious effects whiteness has on its “host.” I conduct an interview with Sandra Walker, who shares her veteran’s perspective on elitism in psychoanalysis and the opportunity we have right now to make meaningful change. Anton Hart, Lauren Jones, and Jordan Dunn summarize a significant study that assesses how our institutes are addressing the diversities. We plan to publish the full results of this study in our next issue. You will also find an article in the next TAP by Mark Blechner about the psychodynamics of racism in order to help us reckon, as a profession, with our “conscious and unconscious racism.”

My hope is that these articles, and those in future issues not only expand our empathy for those who walk in different shoes, but also encourage us to take action, in our practices and at our institutes, to recognize our biases and welcome a richer array of clinicians, patients, and ideas into our field.