A Conversation With Jeffery Eugenides
I've received a lot of mail from intersex people and I'm happy to say it's been almost universally positive. While writing the book I was in contact with ISNA (the Intersex Society of North America) and, when the book originally appeared—and far fewer people knew about it—the ISNA people appeared pleased with my treatment of the subject. At a reading I did in Portland once, I was briefly picketed by some intersex people who objected to my use of the term "hermaphrodite." They find the term pejorative. I met with them briefly after my reading and discussed their objections. The accommodation I came to is as follows: When speaking about living people, I try to use the word "intersex." But when speaking about Greek mythology and literary characters like Tiresias, I reserve the right to use the normative, historical term: hermaphrodite. The word comes to us from the myth of Hermaphroditus, after all, and who am I to throw out the Greek myths?
But, yes, I've gotten a lot of feedback from intersex people. Letters of thanks. Fascinating e-mails. People come up to me after my readings to tell me things I didn't know. From what I hear, Middlesex is also being read by lots of pediatric endocrinologists. So both sides of the debate are reading the book and, hopefully, something good may come of it.
What are the most unusual questions you've been asked about Middlesex?
They usually involve my pants. People want me to remove them. It's difficult to convince some people that I make things up for a living. They think all this really happened to me, which it didn't.