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E I G H T Transsexuality and the Floating Phallus The textual placement of the phallus was vital to the success of the Maya texts. These documents were intended to evoke an understanding of the preconquest bloodletting rituals, but this understanding had to come, for the most part, without the public display of the ceremony. The mid-colonial importance of these texts centered on the figure of the phallus and the fantasy of transsexuality. If the phallus was placed appropriately in the text, the reading of this document could serve both to entertain an audience and to convince the people that preconquest kings, lords, and nobles sought to protect society by doing everything to commune with the ancestors and the gods. The fantasy of transsexuality signified the gender and sexual crossing that was done in order to protect the community. The texts themselves contained a strategy of memory: they worked to make the people remember the preconquest rituals even when those rituals no longer were performed. The rituals in this sense were a strategy of resistance, an attempt by traditional Maya nobles to regain control over the Yucatecan population. One should recall here that the strategy of transsexuality did not signify any sense of gender “equality.”1 From the perspective of the Maya writers at the time of the conquest, transsexuality in these texts was used to assert the power of the warrior in a society that considered warfare to be a key event in the life of the community. The warriors, almost all male, used their own blood to create, maintain, and recreate life. In essence, they copied the feminine sphere in order for them to gain more power and control. So the blood rituals and the strategy of transsexuality were used to assert an ever more dominant masculinity. This chapter seeks to uncover such a strategy by focusing on theoretical material related to the phallus and transsexuality. This material is used to see the ways in which the texts maintained a floating phallus and a symbolic transsexuality. THE PHALLUS WITHOUT A BODY The centrality of semen and blood to the political system, as the ritual markers of lineage, connected directly with the phallus. The leader derived power from his knowledge of semen and blood, both ritually shed from the penis. He imparted this knowledge to other nobles in an obscure language which could not be understood by most people. It was this connection with the phallus, then, that stratified gender in Maya society. Jacques Lacan argues that the phallus is central only in an androcentric universe . If this phallus is hidden, if it does not fit into a male-centered perspective , then it is meaningless. And the desire for the phallus itself is symbolic, not some natural drive for the penis.2 Yet this is not what was seen in the Maya case. This was not a space where a triangulation of Maya desire could be observed . The phallus was not always desired, not always the central signifier.3 To suggest that it always was the central element of desire is to support an Oedipal colonialism.4 In political documents that stressed “Zuyua” speech,5 the narratives themselves were based on a particular concept of (unintelligible) speech and language . The phallus which was desired was located on the body of the central leader of the Maya community, but this phallus was always hidden and never mentioned. Unintelligible speech necessarily was a language of stratification. As a game that the nobles played when they attempted to prove their nobility , it was presumed that the commoners could not understand this language. The language itself was based on the blood and semen located in the phallus. As such, that phallus itself was a political weapon, used to stress differences in social status. This phallus was related directly to political and social strati- fication, and it must be understood as such. In Maya society it was not to be viewed as a castration complex. The hidden phallus in the Zuyua texts was extraordinarily powerful. It 1 8 4 From Moon Goddesses to Virgins stratified society based on age, class, and gender, and it controlled the political rituals. It never was shown; on the contrary, the texts focused on the desires related to the ruler, and thus presented the body parts of those he desired. This notion of the hidden phallus, attached to the male body, contrasts directly with Lacan’s perception of Western society, where the (male...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780292798984
Related ISBN
9780292777446
MARC Record
OCLC
608351540
Pages
344
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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