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Fenichel, O. (1949). The Symbolic Equation: Girl = Phallus. Psychoanal Q., 18:303-324.

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(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:303-324

The Symbolic Equation: Girl = Phallus

Otto Fenichel

I

In the article, The Analysis of a Transvestite, I established the fact that at the root of this perversion there lay the patient's unconscious fantasy of being a girl with a phallus. If—schematically speaking—the homosexual has identified himself with his mother, and the fetishist has not relinquished the belief in the woman's possession of a penis, both of these formulations are valid for the male transvestite: he identifies himself with a woman in whose possession of a penis, furthermore, he wishes to believe.

My patient acted out this rôle of a phallic girl in order to be able to yield to feminine wishes which were opposed by intense castration anxiety. The perversion purportedly counteracted this anxiety, for its purpose, as I stated, was to say to the object: 'Love me like the mother (or like the sister); it is not true that I thereby endanger my penis'. I was able to demonstrate the probability that this is, in a general sense, the meaning of the transvestite act. It is a compromise between feminine wishes and an opposing fear of castration, or, since the fear of castration is the result of a heightened narcissistic evaluation of one's own penis, between the feminine wish and the narcissistic pride in one's penis. The exhibitionistic behavior of such patients has therefore the double meaning: 'I want to be seen and admired for my penis', and 'I want to be seen and admired as a beautiful girl'. In the earlier paper referred to, I described as the most important incidental factor in transvestitism the fact that usually the identification with the mother is at the

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This article, translated from Int. Ztschr. f. Psa., XXII, 1936, No. 3, is taken from a forthcoming book, Selected Papers of Otto Fenichel, translated by Henry Alden Bunker, M.D., to be published by W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., and is printed with the permission of the publishers.

Translated by HENRY ALDEN BUNKER, M.D.

1 Fenichel, Otto: Zur Psychologie des Transvestitismus. Int. Ztschr. f. Psa., XVI, 1930.

2 Freud: From the History of an Infantile Neurosis. Coll. Papers, III, p. 473.

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