Herculine Barbin and Gender
Much as the issue on sexuality remains an unresolved conflict among medical experts, religious and judicial authorities, and hermaphrodites themselves under austere criticism in the 19th century, the search for identity in terms of “true sex” seems far from leaving the mystery which a French rural child of the mid-1900s had originally brought forth. On this ground, there appears no particular border by which we may hold in full recognition the sex of a hermaphrodite in the sense of confident truth especially that Herculine Barbin herself occurred to have not established a definitive claim of what identifies her or where she belongs considering the unity of her biological constitution, nature, and will altogether. While Barbin’s account of personal life was left hanging in non-identity, however, the boy-girl’s manner of presenting her memoirs is rather disposed in its character to lead our study towards an examination of thoughts, feelings, and circumstances which bore significant impact upon her sexuality and psycho-social behavior as a soon-to-be-revealed hermaphrodite.
In his composition of “Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite”, Michel Foucault expressed “for herself, she was still without a definite sex, but she was deprived of the delights she experienced in not having one, or in not entirely having the same sex as the girls among whom she lived and whom she loved and desired so much” (Foucault, 5). Despite her female name ‘Alexina’ and her knowledge of being a girl, as declared and attached to her assumed identity by the family at birth, Barbin felt for the ‘same sex’ just as what the ‘opposite sex’ normally would. Beyond disclosure of her duality in sex, this projects an evidence of her strong natural inclination to possessing one of the chief traits of a male, as having unusual desire for fellow women is contrary to the basic attribute of a female sex. Hence, the gender of...
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