Tag Archives: Jeffrey Eugenides

Ownership.

20 Apr

Leslie Feinberg would not be surprised that Jeffrey Eugenides failed to interview any intersex individuals about their lives before he wrote his novel, Middlesex. The novel took almost ten years to write but during that time Eugenides did not interview one intersex person about their experiences. Journalist Karen Rivers writes, “[Eugenides] is…the man who ‘endeared’ a hermaphrodite to legions of readers.” This condescending statement confers an authority to Eugenides over the intersex experience which does not exist. Feinberg describes a similar outcome when hir biological sister took control and defined hir life for literary purposes. Similarly, a review for Middlesex entitled “Born Ambiguous” quoted author and ISNA board member, Thea Hillman. Hillman criticized Eugenides because “by using a person with intersex as a literary tool without ever talking to one, he’s not doing anything different than the doctors who use people with intersex as case studies.” Other intersex activists agree that Eugenides did not have the right to create an intersex man to serve his literary ends. I couldn’t believe Eugenides used his character’s voice to write, “I don’t care if I write a great book anymore, but just one which, whatever its flaws, will leave a record of my impossible life” (302). Eugenides neither has the authority to claim the intersex experience for his novel nor the necessary research about intersex lives to support a sweeping narrative! Similarly, Feinberg expresses the same disbelief. Zir writes “Hyde is trying to bury my life in fiction while I’m still living my non-fiction journey and struggles.” The fact that Hyde and Eugenides claim an authority over experiences they do not have illustrates that not only doctors but also authors exercise undue authority over trans and intersex individuals’ lives.

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