Can one be a woman with a penis?

8 mars 2016

Je me suis levé à six heures du matin. En fait, je voulais bien me coucher plus jusqu’à ce que le soleil brille et joue sur mon corps, mon visage et mes jambes… mais en vérité, je me couchais dans l’ombre d’une boîte qui ressemble à un cercueil.

En me lavant, j’ai pensé d’une carte postale de France sur laquelle je me suis imaginé que j’écrirai quelque chose.

And then I come to wonder why ones have to live and base their judgements on definitions and expectations of others, whom ones may barely know or ever see in their lives. How can one be sure that one is right to live up to others’ standards? More often than not, when I think about a normal person, who may have to follow some tradition and have his or her own social duties to fulfill, I come to the point to ask myself what tradition is, what it means to follow it and to perform the duties that befall the one, and how one can be sure to be complete and happy if one carries out all the things, if they are not for the sake of ones’ heart and common sense. Who set out and defined all those things in the first place? Then I think about the transsexuals. What they think and what they really feel about themselves and their bodies always intrigue me. I often wonder what the words “man” and “woman” denote. And what the transsexuals really want when they want to change their sex organs. Can one become a “gender”?

A normal man, as expected by the society, should be well-built, muscular perhaps, strong, brave, possess a phallus and be desirous of a person of weaker sex. A normal woman, on the other hand, should be pretty, soft, demure, possess a vagina and be desirous of a man. What the society expects a man and a woman should be is a harsh binary system which leaves almost no room for differences and diversity. And I doubt that what transsexuals are claiming for is totally based on the definitions and expectations of such society. I wonder what a vagina would do for the mind and spirit of a transsexual woman that a phallus fails to do. Can one be a woman with a penis? It means that one can always wear skirts, high-heels, whatever one wants, one can sway as walking, wear mascara, cry often, have sex with men while one possess a penis. It is totally possible. So then why does one need a vagina? Is that because a vagina makes one become a woman in the full sense of the word, as defined by the society? But how can one be sure that a vagina can make one become a woman? The same with a penis and a transsexual man.

Whilst it is undeniable that ones can have total freedom over their bodies, the cause of transsexuals cannot help making me think that gender identity is oversimplified into the differences between two legs of human creatures. Man is then a human being with a phallus, and woman is one without a phallus. I wonder what makes a man a man and what makes a woman a woman if after a surgery and some medical treatments, a man can become a woman and vice versa. Then, with or without phallus defines who one is, as can be seen from the point of view of the society. What if gender is identified in the eyes of with or without a vagina in favour of female? A man then could be a human being with a vagina, and a woman is one without a vagina. You could, in the case, call your mother father and your father mother. What then?


Copyright © Albertine, from, website of L’Institut suisse Jeunesse et Médias

I think that it is the way in which female is defined in favour of male by the analogy with/without: male/female : stronger/weaker sex. And queer is then defined as something that does not fall into any extremes of the binary system and that does not have all typical sets of characteristics standardized by the society, which is the result of the confusion of a mindset that does not welcome diversity and pluralism.

Guy Hocquenghem, French prominent writer and theorist, philosophy professor at University of Vincennes, Paris argues that “Ours is a phallocentric society” and that:

Sex is the first digit of our national identity number in the efficient ordering of the modern world.  And neurosis is, above all, the impossibility of knowing (and this is certainly different from innocent ignorance) whether one is man or woman, parent or child.  Hysterical neurosis is, as we all know, the impossibility of knowing whether one is woman or man.  All homosexuals are more or less hysterics; in fact, like woman they have a profound identity problem, or rather they benefit from an uncertain identity.

The phallus alone distributes identity, non-sublimated use of the anus creates the risk of identity loss.  From behind, we are all women; the anus is unaware of the difference between sexes.

The difference between sexes and the attraction for the opposite sex are the conditions for sexual identity [which] is entirely dependent on the double assurance of resemblance and difference, narcissism and hetero-sexuality[i]

And Judith Butler, in her book Undoing Gender published in 2004, also contends that by choosing gender identity for oneself and for others, ones ensconce themselves in the binary concepts of male/female recognition. It is also pertinent to note that in their views, ones must be either a man or a woman, undoubtedly with the socially entrenched dispositions and preferences.

Although intersex and transsex sometimes seem to be movements at odds with one another, the first opposing unwanted surgery, the second sometimes calling for elective surgery, it is most important to see that both challenge the principle that a natural dimorphism should be established or maintained at all costs. Intersex activists work to rectify the erroneous assumption that everybody has an inborn “truth” of sex that medical professionals can discern and bring to light on their own. To the extent that the intersex movement maintains that gender ought to be established through assignment or choice, but noncoercively, it shares a premise with transgendered and transsexual activism.

The latter opposes forms of unwanted coercive gender assignment, and in this sense calls for greater claims of autonomy, a situation that parallels intersex claims as well. What precisely autonomy means, however, is complicated for both movements, since it turns out that choosing one’s own body invariably means navigating among norms that are laid out in advance and prior to one’s choice or are being articulated in concert by other minority agencies. Indeed, individuals rely on institutions of social support in order to exercise self-determination with respect to what body and what gender to have and maintain, so that self-determination becomes a plausible concept only in the context of a social world that supports and enables that exercise of agency. Conversely (and as a consequence), it turns out that changing the institutions by which humanly viable choice is established and maintained is a prerequisite for the exercise of self-determination. In this sense, individual agency is bound up with social critique and social transformation. One only determines “one’s own” sense of gender to the extent that social norms exist that support and enable that act of claiming gender for oneself. One is dependent on this “outside” to lay claim to what is one’s own. The self must, in this way, be dispossessed in sociality in order to take possession of itself.[ii]

And as far as gay identity is concerned, the phallocentric view, along with the devaluation of the anus, render thinkable the opinion that puts tops, especially typical tops, who use their phalluses most often in sexual intercourses on the apex of the myriad of gay males, and consequently, highly sought after because of rarity, which, in turn, may exacerbate the inner-homophobia among gay tops meanwhile bottom shaming is not uncommon.


Sometimes I feel like my mind is shrouded in mist. Yet once for a while, lying in the darkness of my study, watching the fluorescent gleaming from my neighbours’, I think my mind then is indefatigable.

I am interested in the life and works of Tony Duvert.

I went out to have broken rice for dinner then I had a stroll back home. The cloud shattered in the dark sky, it was cool and fresh as if a rain has just passed. I wondered how lives would be in the old days of French colony.

Today, I attended the very first lectures of the module in History of Vietnam’s Communist Party, a part in the political propaganda programme required for almost every editor, reporter and staff member working in public sector in Vietnam. I could not stand the lectures that I stared out the window once in every minute, thinking that my life was passing by while it was sunny and breezy outside. I thought about the carte postale de France.

Can one be a woman with a penis? I wonder.

[i] Hocquenghem, Guy, “Famille, capitalisme, anus,” chapter 3 of Le désir homosexuel, Éditions Universitaires, 1972. Caithin and Tamsem Manning trans. Reprinted in Semiotext(e) 6, Anti-Oedipus: From Psychoanalysis to Schizoanalysis, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1977.

[ii] Butler, Judith, Undoing Gender, Routledge UK, 2004, p. 6-7.

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