BOOK CORNER: ‘Gender Without Identity’ offers new theory of gender formation

By Marissa Wells

Contributing Writer

“Gender Without Identity,” by Avgi Saketopoulou and Ann Pellegrini, is an informative new book that presents a profound take on how gender is acquired. 

“We challenge the argument widely embraced by rights activists and many members of the LGBT community that gender identity is innate and immutable, charting another path towards the flourishing of queer and trans life,” the authors said. “Positing that the idea of an innate core gender identity is simplistic, problematic and even potentially harmful to LGBT people, we show that gender is something all subjects acquire.”

The authors were compelled to write the book to publicly share the ideas in which they strongly believe in.

“As clinicians working with the queer and trans community, we have both felt for a while that the theories we were trained in, and which circulate in our professional contexts, do not adequately capture the complexity of gender-becoming,” the authors said. “We wrote this book to offer queer and trans subjects the dignity of complexity that is so routinely afforded to heterosexual people and to people who are normatively gendered.”

“Gender Without Identity” is intended to reach a wide readership of people interested in gender and sexuality, including those in and outside psychoanalysis. The book may also prove to be beneficial to parents who are trying to be supportive of their children. In the book, Saketopoulou and Pellegrini use case studies strategically to make trans experiences more relatable, creating personal connections that help people understand, even if they were initially hesitant about those perspectives.

“More than anything, our readers leave the book with an expanded ability to think about trauma and its potential contributions to how people ‘acquire’ their genders without that being taken to invalidate non-normative gender experience,” the authors said. “Taking aim at the notion that our gender is innate, immutable or an authentic part of one’s selfhood, we instead propose that gender is something that can shapeshift in the course of one’s lifetime, sometimes in response to external events.”

In addition to being authors, Saketopoulou and Pellegrini are both professors at New York University and practicing psychoanalysts. They are both based in New York. For more information about the authors and their work, visit and 

“Gender Without Identity” is available for $29.50 via https://u and also at major booksellers online. It may also be ordered through independent bookstores.