The Queer Issue

What I know About...

I thought I knew everything about dicks. Hey, I'd lived with mine for over 30 years, so you'd think I was well versed in the subject. But no, I found out there was a lot to bone up on... especially after I cut mine off. Whoops. Did I say "cut it off"? I didn't mean to. Well, yes, I meant to cut it off, but I didn't mean to say that I cut it off. Because for a long time after I'd cut off my dick, I maintained that I hadn't. Pardon my Zen, but first they cut off my dick; then they didn't; then they did. No, really.

How does that work? Well, one of the very first things I wanted to know from all the surgeons I interviewed was how they were going to cut it off. They explained that first they would slice my penis open lengthwise, then they'd scrape out the spongy stuff. Next, they would sew it up and pull it inside out, sort of like pulling a sock inside out by the toe. So the outside of my penis would become the walls of my vagina-to-be. Are you with me? Finally, they'd stuff the inside-out penis up inside me (don't worry, everybody's got a lot of flexible erotic tissue there, and it's very easy to make room for something like an inside-out sock). Et voilê! A new vagina! I paid my money, they did their magic, and that's how they cut off my dick.

I was very happy with the surgical explanation of my genital transformation. I was no longer a guy: I was woman, hear me roar! I started hanging out with a group of highly educated lesbian feminists in my then-hometown of Philadelphia. I wanted to know everything about this feminism stuff, and they wanted to know everything about why I considered myself to be a real woman. They were concerned about my phallus, which they defined as my male privilege and sense of entitlement. Well, I proudly told them how the doctors cut off my dick. I figured that would wash well with my new group of friends: I'd heard how many lesbian feminists wanted to castrate men, and here I was, having done exactly that! But no. None of this went down very well.

"You didn't cut off your dick at all," my lesbian feminist friends explained. "You simply turned it inside out and stuffed it up inside you." Aw, man!

I was crushed. Was I still a guy? No, not really. But I did stop calling myself a woman, and I began calling myself a transsexual lesbian. I hadn't really cut off my dick after all.

Years passed and I moved to San Francisco, where I hung out with a group of SM dykes known as the Outcasts. The Outcasts were an offshoot of the old Samois organization of SM lesbians; but the Outcasts included women who were bisexual and transsexual as well as lesbian. My sister Outcasts understood that I hadn't really cut off my dick, but we had a great time beating the hell out of each other anyway. Hey, we were the oddballs; and after six years of oddball life in San Francisco, I did what many San Francisco oddballs of the day did: I moved to Seattle. It was in Seattle that I discovered that I had, in actual fact, cut my dick off--bless the Seattle SM dykes.

See, I wanted to attend a Seattle-based SM dyke conference called PowerSurge, but they had a rule about tranny dykes: the dick-in-a-drawer rule. Any woman with a dick could attend PowerSurge, as long as she could take out her dick and slam a drawer on it. Hey, I could do that. Omigosh! Everything fell into place. I had cut my dick off after all!

Today? Oh, I still have a dick. I have several of them, in fact, in a cute little box by the side of my bed. They come in all sizes and shapes. I have a penis, sure, but it's an innie, not an outie. As for my phallus, well I'm still shaving bits of that sucker off every day of my life.

And that's what I've learned about dicks that I didn't know before they cut mine off.

Kate Bornstein is the author of Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook. Her new play, Strangers In Paradox, opens in San Francisco next spring. She really misses Seattle SM dykes.