Power, Orgasm, And the Psychohormonal Research Unit

Kira Triea

I’ve wondered why researchers at Johns Hopkins were so concerned with the genitals of a barely teenaged hermaphrodite from a family of absolutely no standing or financial resources. My experience at the PRU [Psychohormonal Research Unit] leads me to believe that a need to express and preserve androcentric control is at the root of the medical industrial complex’s fascination with my (our) genitals. The amount of medical resources which were brought to bear against a fourteen-year-old intersexed kid are pretty amazing, considering that life-saving surgery and treatments are routinely denied people at Hopkins. Why all the unsolicited attention?

Doctors act as enforcers of genital and behavioral conformity for the Penis Club. As high priests of the biological technocracy, and as privileged possessors of “secret” knowledge, they wield their power to ensure that only owners of a medically approved, “viable” penis are granted membership in the Penis Club. All others are by default granted membership in the Vagina Club. The penis does need to be “viable” as its purpose is not seen as being for pleasurable gratification, but as the mechanism by which members of the Vagina Club are penetrated. Intersexed neonates who have no clearly defined membership qualifi- cations for either club are modified at Hopkins to become members of the Vagina Club. The fact that I was older meant that they couldn’t dismiss my interests in the matter as casually as they do with neonates. The fact that I was already verbal required them to tread with a little more care in their quest to neutralize my hermaphrodite genitals.

Hopkins doctors view themselves as compassionate, helpful people who save lives and alleviate suffering. They assumed that since I was raised as a boy, I must want to become a member of the Penis Club. They attempted to utilize technical means to alleviate my suffering as a “defective male.” That was the first gender label that they assigned to me. When I first arrived at the PRU I was evaluated by John Money. He assumed that I had a male gender and, being fourteen years old, knew the “facts of life.” He asked me if I wanted to fuck someone or if I wanted to be fucked by someone else. Since I didn’t completely understand what he was talking about, he showed me a pornographic movie. I first learned the mechanics of penetrative intercourse from this movie, in which a guy with an immense penis had rough, almost violent, penetrative sex with a woman. Money had drawn another blank, as the movie did nothing but frighten me. This technique would probably have worked if I’d been shown a movie which portrayed kissing, hugging and soft affection. But Money and Hopkins do not postulate a soft world. Their world is the hard sex-dipoled landscape of power and domination, peopled with those fortunate denizens who are able to fuck others and those who are equipped only to be fucked.

Like earthlings faced with the arrival of some sensitive and mysterious alien, the PRU psych squads continued their attempts to divine the hermaphrodite creature’s “true sex.” Not having the sensitivity or intelligence to obtain this information by asking, they decided to inject me with testosterone and observe the results. “Put the electrodes here, the hermaphrodite runs over there. Put the electrodes there, the hermaphrodite runs over here.” My reaction to testosterone was considered a litmus test for my eligibility for the Penis Club, and it was a test that I failed completely. At this point they reconsidered their labeling of my gender. Money now decided that I was a “failed male,” i.e. female. My “true sex” had been discovered. Like shards of genetic pottery scattered amid the ruins of my childhood, my femaleness manifested in my desire to keep my body, my soft skin and shape and voice, as they were. They shifted gears, now they worked to prepare me for initiation into the Vagina Club.

I go blank when people tell me that “in other cultures, intersexed people were respected as Shamans.” This knowledge was of absolutely no value to me at all when I was fourteen and faced with either hormonal mutation and surgery or vaginoplasty. But there must be some truth in it because I can think of no other reason why they would invest so much energy in my genitals. They must have been profoundly awed by my genitals! Since they were different from normal genitals, they must be more powerful! Since I had declined membership (“failed”) as a Penis Club initiate, it was now of paramount importance to make me a member of the Vagina Club as soon as possible. There was no other alternative.

As a member of the Vagina Club I was treated differently at the PRU. Money no longer talked to me of fucking and being fucked. People called me “sweetheart” or “honey,” and tried to talk with me of boyfriends and perhaps even marriage. Money told me a story about another hermaphrodite who had a vaginoplasty and whose boyfriend had even visited her in the hospital. I don’t remember hearing the words “orgasm” or “Lesbian” the entire time I was there, over three years.

I first had an orgasm four years ago, during what I call The Awakening, in which I became fully aware of my life and the implications of being intersexed. I seriously doubt that Dr. Howard Jones, who performed genital surgery on me, paid any consideration at all to that function. I have no clitoris at all; whatever was there before seems to have been relocated, perhaps entered into the witness protection program and now living in Arizona. Jones seems to have taken care though, to ensure that I was able to be penetrated, as my “vagina” seems to be deep enough to allow for that. Part of my left upper arm was pressed into genital duty here, which bothered me greatly when I came out of surgery. I wish I’d been consulted, or at least informed. Of course, why would I need to be informed? The objective was to make the hermaphrodite fuckable.

I have spent the last twenty-three years crawling free of the wreckage of the impact during puberty of my anatomy and biology with the PRU. In the last four years I have managed to get back some of my carry-on baggage: I have become accepting of my intersexuality, orgasmic and sexual. I am relatively stable, and I am aware of myself as a valuable and unique person, an intersexed person who is feminine. I actually think I’ve done pretty well, considering the technological big guns which were brought to bear on me at the PRU. I’ve come to the conclusion that my genital grigri must be very strong indeed, a mojo so “viable” and enduring that it protected me from the death they envisioned. Perhaps I should follow my clitoris out to Arizona and become the founder of The Church of the Resurrected Climax. I think though, that I will stick around, where me and my Magical Snatch can stir up some really troublesome voodoo.