English Term Paper on Gender Identity and Sex Categorization

Gender Identity and Sex Categorization


Jeffrey Eugenides and Judith Butler are two people who share the same theme of gender identity and sex categorization in their works. Middlesex, a book written by Jeffrey and Undoing Gender, a book written by Butler both display a wide discussion of gender identity and sexual categorization. Undoing Gender addresses the issue of sexuality and gender identity using scientific theory. Middlesex talks about a character Cal initially known as Calliope who lives a life in the middle of male and female gender. Cal came to the disturbing realization that she was a character in between a girl and a boy while everyone else knew her as a girl or female. This therefore presents a crisis in her personal life, which informs the title of the book, Middlesex.

Gender Identity and Sex Categorization

The book therefore presents the theme of gender identity. This is because the story continuously addresses the struggles the character undergoes to find a human identity in her Middlesex form. This means that her quest is to make people understand her as a normal person and not view her as an intersex. The declaration that Cal makes to show her coming to birth on two occasions set the theme into motion in the entire story. She narrates that her first birth was as a girl and the second birth as a teenage boy (Eugenides 3). This clearly indicates that she later lived a life pursuing a gender identity because both sexes had a share of her physical body.

Judith Butler, in a show of support for the people with the intersex condition, dwells on the topic of the subversion of gender identity by the traditional thinkers. She insists on the need to stop thinking of gender and sexuality as a two-sided concept (Butler 7). This means that the writer encourages people to think past the male-female and masculine-feminine categorization of humans. She generally attacks feminists who have used the two sided gender concept. The author argues that this has traditionalized the human view on gender, which has affected the view of the society on intersex people (Butler 3).

The authors of these books have used characterization and conflict to bring out the theme of gender identity. Butler uses conflict with other ideologies to bring out her stance on the gender identity and sexual categorization of intersex people (Butler 201). This is embodies in her support and attacks on theories and perceptions from quarters such as scientific ideologies and feminist theorists. Her queerness and argument informed by discursive thinking helps in bringing out a new perspective on the theme of gender identity (Carroll 201). 

Jeffrey heavily used characterization to embody the story of intersex people. The story brings her out as a physical body perceived by the people as female. On the other hand, Cal made a discovery that her body had male characteristics as well. The condition later leads to Calliope choosing to live as a man in her later years. However, he is poised for another rebirth, which is the identity as a Middlesex (Eugenides 3). In addition, the Jeffrey has used other means such as setting and symbolism in expressing the theme. He for example metaphorically brings into comparison the difference between nature and nurture in influencing the life of the protagonist. This ideally brings into play the metaphorical differences displayed in Greek and American forms of civilization and social perceptions. The differences play a major role in this story because the protagonist ascribes to both systems in her genealogy and present life (Carroll 188).

Science and Gender Identity

The theme of gender identity in both books receives scientific attention and possible interventions as suggested by scientific research. The book, Middlesex reveals that the parents of Cal had a strong desire to have a girl child. They therefore resorted to using science to find the solution. However, this worked against them because the genes in the child were recessive to living a complete life of a female. This brings out the conflict between science and nature or culture (Eugenides 9). The story depicts science as an equal failure because the procedures did not sustain the femininity of Calliope. This is because despite having a girl in the body of Calliope, she would soon choose to live as a male and later as a Middlesex. It further reveals that science was at fault in trying to classify Cal into either of the acceptable gender.

Judith equally finds fault with the different psychoanalytic literature that address the topic of gender identity. This includes her critic of the works of people such as Joan Revierre among other renowned writers (Butler 64). She analytically goes through the discourse of gender identity and finds both history and some scientific work as repressive of the sexuality and identity of middlesex people (Butler 65).

Culture and sexual identity

According to the two literary works, it is important to note that nature and culture equally fail to offer the solution of sexual identity to the intersex people. This is because in both Greek culture and the modern American setting there is the general culture of identifying people as either male or female. Furthermore, it is rather unconventional for a man to exhibit feminine characteristic traits. Conversely, it is queer for a woman to have masculine features and behaviors. This means that the society finds it practically abnormal for femininity and maleness to pair up in a single physical body. Therefore, the intersex people continue bearing the name abnormal people in the eyes of the society (Eugenides 414).

Feminist movement offers no solution to this problem faced by the intersex people. This is because all it cares for is for the equality among the already identified and socially correct genders. This still leaves the people who would like to live on the middle ground with no way around but to conform to the norms of the society through sexual correction because no one understands them (Eugenides 431). It is important to note that sexual correction does little to help this so-called abnormal minority. This is because they subsequently undergo social and sexual suffering after the sexual corrections.


The authors, through their works therefore clearly push towards the identification of the third sex, Middlesex as normal in the society. Jeffrey, through the portrayal of the life of Cal brings out the need to end sexual correction. This is evident in Cal running away from home to escape the surgery she was to undergo in her adolescent stage (Eugenides 439). What follows is a series of events that help shape the life of Cal that drives him towards discovering his true self. In addition, author Judith Butler came up with the theory of performativity (Butler 210). This theory insists on the need to allow the intersex individual to live both lives. She argued that the individual learns their true self through the performance (Butler 210). This helps in making choices as to their identity since the decision is from within.

The theme of gender identity and sexual categorization receives much attention in both works of Butler and Jeffrey. It casts a shadow of reality that the world needs to wake up to and offer a comprehensive solution. It is unacceptable to dehumanize other people on grounds of their intersex nature. 

Works Cited

Butler, Judith. Undoing gender. Routledge, 2004.

Carroll, Rachel. “Retrospective Sex: Rewriting Intersexuality in Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex.” Journal of American Studies 44.1 (2010): 187-201.

Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. Random House LLC, 2011.