“True Sex” in Herculine Barbin

According to The Free Dictionary, Euphemism refers to an example or an act of substituting an indirect, mild or vague term for one, which is considered to be offensive, harsh or blunt. The euphemism used in relation to Camille’s lack of a “true sex” relates to the story of Barbin’s life.

Since she was a hermaphrodite and designated as a girl since birth, the change of sex from female to male and becoming suddenly reclassified as a man makes her desolate and, thus, she commits suicide at the age of 30. This is an example of an offensive, harsh and blunt substitution of the sex from female to male that identifies a clear reflection of euphemism. Given the fact that nothing appeared extraordinary at the time of Barbin’s birth since she was deemed to be a female with no suspicion or medical equivocation for over two decades, the sudden change that Barbin experienced when starting living as a male is the very thing that brings the highest level of euphemism in (Barbin 120).

The lack of a “true sex” leads to euphemism through Foucault’s story. The reader can be able to ascertain how Herculine harbored articulate and provocative thoughts as she imagined how her body probed with the scientists instruments aimed at suddenly changing her sexuality from male to female. It was an attempt aimed at forcible changing of Herculine from a female to a male that led eventually to her catastrophic demise. Barbin’s forceful transition from female to male through an encounter with the lawyers and doctors and her subsequent death calls for an urgent scientific and juridical need of assigning a true sex identity for each individual. This will ensure that such cases as the one that Herculine Barbin underwent do not recur in the future (Foucault 150).



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