Foucault: Herculine Barbin (Intro)

You can disagree with Foucault on postmodern thinking and deconstructing history. But please consider what he has to say about the existence of transgender individuals. If you have a more educated understanding than I do, please let me know in the comments!

Here’s some of my brief thoughts on the matter. I am ready to learn a lot more on this but I wanted to address some of this at least for now! Hope you enjoy.

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In Foucault’s introduction to “Herculine Barbin”, Foucault argues for the complexity of sex and the need to dispose of binary characteristics of sex. He mentions the case of a hermaphrodite living in the 1860s-1870s where, with growing intensity, sexual identity was sought to be defined by medical doctors in order to get peace with these irregularities in nature.

The problem with identifying with a particular sex, if not feeling that particular way, is that this can lead to complete disenfranchisement from one’s social circles, as is mentioned by Foucault in Alexina’s case, the writer of the memoir, Herculine Barbin. Alexina was born a female but was later operated on and became a man and thus felt at odd with her peers who were so effortlessly defined by the Victorian society they lived in.

I relate this account to my own personal experience with transgender acquaintances and one personal friend, who is attempting to change their sex from male to female. I have fortunately surrounded myself with people that are sensitive to the change that occurs in the mental fabric of the person and thus mainly have had positive experiences with peers accepting my friend. I remember having dinner with a number of friends and sitting next to this person and engaging effortlessly and wondering whether there should be some hesitation in speech to express my support for her situation.

As I read Foucault’s introduction, I wonder. It is perhaps often, that transgender — and definitely intersex people, as Foucault is concerned with — are treated differently. I do not think there is any established way of communicating with someone who is experiencing this sort of societal isolation, we must treat each person and case differently.

However, as with most things, there are certain guidelines one should adhere to. I am glad that I am surrounded by those that are ready to listen and appreciate rather than question and condemn.

Before you go…

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I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers and until next time,

keep reflecting.

Written by

Author of “Up in the Air: Christianity, Atheism & the Global Problems of the 21st Century” on AMAZON | Exploring Ethical Living | IG: jakub.ferencik.official

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