Cal, the narrator of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, sets the record straight at the beginning of his narrative:1 ‘Something you should understand: Em not androgynous in the least’ (p. 41).2 Cal rejects androgyny in favour of scientific exactitude: ‘5-alpha-reductase deficiency syndrome allows for normal biosynthesis and peripheral action of testosterone, in utero, neonatally, and at puberty’ (p. 41), There is no ambiguity: ‘I operate in society as a man’ (p. 41). His repudiation of androgyny is a refusal to live with gender or sexual ambiguity, and once his hermaphrodite status has been revoked, his (masculine) femininity can be sloughed off. Cal, as Calliope, was biologically hermaphrodite, and towards the conclusion of his story, Plato’s Symposium is cited by Cal’s new friend, Zora, who offers him an alternative explanatory narrative to the scientific category ‘5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites’:

There have been hermaphrodites around forever, Cal. Forever. Plato said that the original human being was a hermaphrodite. Did you know that? The original person was two halves, one male, one female. Then these got separated. That’s why everybody’s always searching for their other half. Except for us. We’ve got both halves already.3


Sexual Identity Modern Literature Literary Imagination Sexual Aberration Internalise Homophobia 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Tracy Hargreaves 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tracy Hargreaves
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EnglishUniversity of LeedsUK

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