Study Guide

Middlesex Gender

By Jeffrey Eugenides


A book called Middlesex just has to deal with issues of gender. It's not Essex or Wessex or Sussex: it's freaking Middlesex. Born intersex with primarily male features but raised female, Cal is right smack in between two genders, and he has to learn to rationalize them both. Through a lot of introspection (and a stop-over at an underwater sex carnival in San Francisco) Cal ends up becoming the best of both worlds.

Questions About Gender

  1. How are Cal's genes at odds with his gender conditioning?
  2. In what way do Cal's parents and grandparents adhere to gender stereotypes? Do they ever defy them?
  3. Does Calliope adhere to gender stereotypes? In other words, does she act like girls are supposed to act?
  4. Why does adult Cal try to hide the female aspect of his childhood? How does he end up incorporating Calliope into his adult identity?

Chew on This

Because Cal is raised in a rigid gender stereotype (girls should wear dresses and play with dolls) it makes it that much harder for him to transition into a male gender.

Because Cal was so "girly" as a girl, he tries extra hard to be uber-masculine as an adult man.