Gen(es)der: Where’s the Middle Ground?

One thing I’m finding enjoyable about Middlesex is how the author challenges you (reader) to think around some familiar concepts. The concept of romantic loves gets mixed up with a concept of familial love; gender concepts get mixed up with concepts of sex; historical concepts are mashed up with fictional narratives. The novel has a lot in it that could be discussed, but I’m keen on this “binary” issue. So, moving on…

It appears that binaries are ubiquitous (1/0, X/Y, Black/White, love/hate, yin/yang, saved/damned, etc.), right? To be fair though, all these either/or distinctions are conceptual, limited and defined by our wonderfully perceptive…brains: cultural trends have shaped how a modern brain interprets a ginormous amount of sensory information. And it just so happens the brain likes orderly arrangements, conceptual boxes that allow information to be filed away/accessed quickly. Chances are this has been selected for via evolution, but aren’t we post-modern now? Mmm, evolutionary lag. Isn’t black and white part of a spectrum? Love and hate, that too? And those x/y chromosomes, you have em or you don’t, but Middlesex clearly illustrates there’s a lot more to it than a simple and neat binary construct.

This last issue is a great one, because in one corner we have genes that cause certain sexual traits, while in the other there are environmental experiences that can cause changes in sexual development. Look! It’s the old nature/nurture binary. Bottom-line is: it’s always complicated; deal with it or be dealt with.  Or, that’s how it seems–another choice filed away into another binary. Really, what IS it with these things?  Are our decisions always pushed into this narrow and (maybe) permanent way of thinking?  Well, since I don’t have Yoda here to show me the truth of the force or whatever, I’ve deferred to a Zen monk about the topic.

Taizan Maezumi’s opinion:
“The life in our heads, the life we think is our life, is not our real life. Our real life is the life of everything and everyone…I am  not devaluing thoughts. Just do not mix up what we think with what actually is. Constant change IS the real life, and is therefore unknowable. Since we also are constantly changing, each of us is also unknowable…When you see that nothing is fixed, there is peace.”

Wow, that’s helpful, like a sack of rocks. Actually, that was just a chance for me to segue into talking about a couple recent developments that reflect Taizan-roshi’s ideology as it would pertain to gender and sexual identities: pomosexuality and postgenderism.

The first movement (really called “Post-Modern Sexuality) quaintly regards sexuality “as a fluid and incalculably unique journey that is beyond definition. (It) literally means anything you want it to mean. It means anything goes. And it represents an end to all the confusion, oppression, fear, and restraint that comes with trying to identify with a restrictive label.” Interesting! It seems a lot like our Zen-buddy’s claim that “nothing is fixed.” How about postgenderism? More complicated definition, but here goes.

Hughes and Dvorsky say:
“Postgenderists argue that gender is an arbitrary and unnecessary limitation on human potential, and foresee the elimination of involuntary biological and psychological gendering in the human species through the application of neurotechnology, biotechnology and reproductive technologies…Postgenderists do not call for the end of all gender traits, or universal androgyny, but rather that those traits become a matter
of choice. Bodies and personalities in our postgender future will no longer be constrained and circumscribed by gendered traits, but enriched by their use in the palette of diverse self-expression.”

Again, a little more grandiose, but interesting! It’s as if these two movements complement each-other, and they must apply to Middlesex in some fashion. I think that I’ll just leave this up for discussion. Go to!

-M. Walker

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~ by th3flatline on March 24, 2008.

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