Consider a photo of a penis. How long you want to consider it for is up to you – most people I know don’t find them particularly photogenic.
Now, answer this question…
Does the penis belong to man or a woman?
In the bad old, unenlightened, days the question would have been a no-brainer. The penis was seen as invariably male. More than that, a swinging dong was the very quintessence of masculinity.
Now, of course, we live in a better world, and know that transwomen are women and, thus, that penises may belong to men or women.
Visually, males and females have incredibly similar penises, so there’s no way to tell, from the photograph, the gender of owner of the penis. You would need external information.
If, for example, we are told that the photograph is of a trans-woman’s penis then we know that the penis is female.
Or do we? It’s not uncommon for men not to transition until middle-age. Would a photo of their penis, taken pre-transition, remain a photo of a male penis, or would it retrospectively become a photograph of a female penis at the moment of transition?
In some ways this is not unlike the miracle of transubstantiation, an article of faith for Catholics, where the communion wafer becomes the body of Christ (although, of course, during transubstantiation the wafer becomes chewed, soggy and unappetising…completely unlike a middle-aged man’s penis)
Of course, the issue isn’t just limited to your collection of penis photographs. Even if you were holding the real thing in your hand, you still would not be able to tell if it was male or female, without speaking to the owner (which, to be fair, you probably should have done before you started holding his/her penis). Unless you commune with the host, there is no way to know whether the penis has undergone transubstantiation or not.
This could be problematic. Matters relating to who has, and who has not, had Holy Communion are principally of interest to God, who presumably has his own methods for finding out. Knowing who has a female penis has more practical applications; knowing which women are at risk of testicular cancer, for example, or knowing which women are stunning and brave for doing exactly what they want, or even just knowing which women are most eligible for accolades and women’s roles.
We could ask, “Do you have a penis?”, but that seems awfully blunt while, at the same time, managing to carry a certain degree of ambiguity about just what your intentions are.
There are different problems with the term ‘cis-woman’ – at the moment it’s seen as acceptable way to refer to the people who don’t have a penis, but it’s clearly exclusionary. How can it possibly be fair that transwomen can be women, but they can’t be cis-women? This is just another barrier that bitter women have thrown up to protect their privilege. The next battle will clearly be for female penis-owners to claim ‘cis’ for their own, so its long-term use is problematic.
These are all weighty problems, that need long-term consideration.
With transubstantiation the matter was decided by a lot of old men in dresses threatening eternal punishment if it wasn’t accepted as truth, and people getting down on their knees, professing their belief and having it fingered into their mouths.
There, of course, the analogy breaks down, because the mysteries of the female penis are nothing like that.