February 13, 2006

Upon Reading "Middlesex"

Hi Quench. I'm posting from balmy Tunisia (which is not especially balmy today, but rather cool and drizzly) (and yet also not under two feet of snow, which is saying something, or so I hear). I sure wish we had a secret Quench handshake. That way, if I happened to run across a fellow Quencher in a mildly repressive North African society, then we would know each other for comrades. I will try to think of a good one.

Anyway, I've been reading Jeffrey Eugenides' novel "Middlesex" lately, which someone recommended to me this past summer after I spent some time in Detroit. The novel, if you do not know it, is one of those intergenerational, self-referential epics that seems to going over so well these days. Much of it unfolds in the suburbs of Detroit, at this house called Middlesex, which is something of a pun because the narrator (Calliope/Cal) was born with ambiguous genitalia. He was raised as a girl, but lives as a straight man. Now, the character of Calliope/Cal drives me up the wall for reasons that have nothing to do with gender; I find his eggheadedness grating, and the frame narrative about his adult life totally contrived.

All that aside, though, the novel has gotten me thinking about gender/trans issues in a new way. I know very little about this, and I suspect that Tunisia is not going to be the ideal place to educate myself, but I understand that there is something of a movement to discourage doctors from pressuring parents into letting them perform gender-assignment surgery on infants with ambiguous genitals. Or, worse, just performing the surgery and never even telling the parents. But I really don't know any more than that. Where does "the medical profession" stand on this? Are there old-school OB/GYNs who are very pro-surgery and then intersex-positive OB/GYNs who try to educate parents about their options? How weird to frame it in terms of "their options." Obviously, the newborn isn't given a lot of agency here.

The BGLTSA is probably running a workshop on this very topic next week, but for those of us who are reading remotely, any thoughts? Thanks, y'all. I miss you.


wannatakethisoutside said...

I reccomend reading Susanne Kessler's book Lessons from the Intersexed on this topic, as she is someone who has changed her mind on this topic and has also done extensive study on the attitudes and implicit and explicit demand on the medical community in their dealing with trans children/babies.

(Fausto-Sterling's "Sexing the Body" is more biological and technical, anything by Cheryl Chase is good, as well.)

More info also at ISNA.org

All that info is generally political, cause I guess I see you as a political kind of guy.

emily0 said...

As-salâm 3alaykun and hello, Tunisia!

Post us some nice pics innit? So we can be jealous?

the spinster said...

A) Thank you for the booklist! I will check these out when I get back to the States.

B) Sadly, my laptop is in drydock until the end of April. So even though I'm snapping lots of pictures with my digital camera, I won't be able to upload them anywhere for a while yet. This is where I was yesterday, though. :)

emily0 said...

Eww, a suburb of Detroit.