Jeffrey Euginides book, Middlesex, is about the integration of an extended family of immigrants into American culture in the 20th century, from the perspective of an hermaphrodite. The fictional narrative of the social and political upheavals of the 20th century is fascinating in itself. But the most powerful punch of the book is about the narrator’s sexuality and his/her struggles in adjusting to the cultural mandates re gender and sexuality.
Euginedes makes the reader vividly aware of how tenuous our sexual identities are and how intense the social pressure is to conform to the prevailing mandates on this issue. He delves into the biology of sexuality and gender and its powerful influence on what it means to become male, female, or some combination thereof.
By tackling sexual/gender identity, he assails one of the lynch-pins of what I like to describe as “the way things are.” This palpable entity is a template through which we see the world in our day to day life. It consists of myriads of basic assumptions that we subscribe to, and to which we must subscribe, if we are to become human. And sexuality and gender identity are two of the most basic of these “basic assumptions.” Common sense tell us what it is to me a man or a woman. But, Euginedes makes us very aware of just how specious and culturally determined “common sense” is.
One reason that hyper-conservatives are so virulently opposed to the gay-rights issue is because in the depths of their heart it addresses the issue of what is real and what is un-real. To let go of this lynch-pin (sexuality and gender identity) is to accept that real and unreal are very nebulous terms It would entail accepting what the sociologists describe as The Social Construction of Reality. ( book by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman)
Note: Forgive me for not delving into the difference between gender identity and sexuality!