Transcryptums: An Ettingerian Reading of the Trans-subjective Landscape in Transparent
Refereed Article, 2018
Cavanagh, S. L. (2018c). Transcryptums: An Ettingerian reading of the trans-subjective landscape in Transparent. Transgender Studies Quarterly, 6(1), 20–42.
This article brings the psychoanalysis of Bracha L. Ettinger to the question of mourning in the television series Transparent. As evident in the television series, and in everyday life, there is a troubling metonymy linking trans* lives with death. The appeal to death is often in stark contrast to the way trans* people experience their transitions as giving form to a new and invigorating commitment to life. Despite this, there can be something haunting and unspoken bothering familial relations post-transition. These cryptic experiences are well dramatized in Transparent. From a matrixial perspective, a transition always involves Others and rechoreographs intimate relations in conscious and nonconscious ways. Part of what happens post-transition is a non-cognized change in the matrixial web. Because so much of the matrixial is associated with metaphors of reproduction, life and death, it may be that the vocabulary of death (as metonymy of loss) is used to condense a vicissitude of unprocessed experiences in the matrixial. In other words, we lack ways to work through what has been changed in the relationality between intimate Others occasioned by a transition. The signifier “death” thus overwrites interpersonal familial relations. This article offers a way to understand and unpack the metonymic association using three key psychoanalytic concepts: the psychic crypt, the cryptic carriance, and the transcryptum. By bringing these concepts to the question of “mourning without loss” (van der Weele 2017) in Transparent, this article considers how transitions can enable a “working through” of unacknowledged familial trauma passed down between and within generations.