Strictly speaking of physical sex, we all start out the same, as female, which is the natural default sex. Inside the womb, a hormone wash will turn some of us from the female sex to the male sex. The rest of us will remain female sexed. This is our physical sex.
Gender is another thing. Most of us will have our gender aligned with our physical sex. Some of us will have a misalignment and our sex and our gender will not match. It’s really very clear and simple.
[pullquote]Up until the point of the hormone wash, we are all female sexed and we all have clitorises. If we have the hormone wash, our clitorises will grow and turn into penises. Also, in the hormone wash our ovaries will descend and will become testicles. Therefore, we all start off with the same female genitals but some of us will have our genitals turned into male genitals. [/pullquote]Up until the point of the hormone wash, we are all female sexed and we all have clitorises. If we have the hormone wash, our clitorises will grow and turn into penises. Also, in the hormone wash our ovaries will descend and will become testicles. Therefore, we all start off with the same female genitals but some of us will have our genitals turned into male genitals. One would think that both sets of genitals would be equal and just physically different, but somehow they are not equal. The penis somehow became a symbol of power and dominance, while the clitoris is relatively forgotten.
You can hear and see examples of penis dominance everywhere in our culture and in our language. Take a good look at our profane words. They’re all about dominating with the penis. The strong penis dominates the weak.
Then there’s the clitoris, and there’s no dominating there. In our language, the clitoris has no power. It has nothing. It is just pushed to the side and forgotten. The word “clitoris” is almost looked upon as an obscene word. The clitoris is practically invisible when it comes to symbolic representation and language, while the penis is viewed as a dominating force.
Enter the transgender people, especially those who are born into male bodies but their gender is female. Many of them still have their penis, which may be viewed as a powerful and dominating force. In reality, these penises are neither powerful nor dominating. Many of these folks take hormone replacement therapy which shrinks the size of the penis and decimates the sexual drive. The hormone therapy attacks the testosterone in the body and reduces it to very low levels. Testosterone is the sex drive hormone in both sexes. If you greatly reduce the testosterone in the body, you greatly reduce the sex drive of that individual. The penis is not powerful or dominating; it’s actually small and weak. In reality, it’s almost like there is no penis at all.
Because some transgender women have penises, some people will still view these folks as men with powerful penises. You can hear the fear of these people as they rally against women in male bodies when it comes to public accommodations, or in “women only” events and spaces. Even if the women have had surgery to align their physical sex with their gender, these folks are still viewed as men who used to have powerful penises. We need to educate the people who demonize the penis in this fashion.
We need to educate and examine our views on penises and clitorises. We need to stop our current language of dominant penises and forgotten clitorises and replace them with much friendlier and much more respectful terms. One female artist in New York City, Sophia Wallace, shows with her work that we must teach “cliteracy” and reduce the “phallacy” in the way we look at genitals (http://tiny.cc/k0uv3w). We need to be more open and positive about the clitoris and we need to stop viewing the penis as dominant. We also need to realize that women who identify as women _are_ women, no matter what their genitals are or were, and men who identify as men _are_ men no matter what their genitals are or were.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has three grown children and works at a local Fortune 500 company. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org