Fault Lines: Tort Law as Cultural Practice

By David M. Engel; Michael McCann | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Regulating Middlesex

ANNE BLOOM

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit
day in 1960; and, then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near
Petroskey, Michigan, in 1974.

From Middlesex (Eugcnides 2002, 3)

The Concern of the magistrates was less with corporeal reality—with what
we could call sex—than with maintaining clear social boundaries, main-
taining the categories of gender.

(Laquer 1990, 135)

Middlesex is the title of a best-selling book in the United States. Authored by Jeffrey Eugenides, it is a fictional account of the life of an intersexual, who is raised as a girl until puberty, when she makes the decision to live life, more or less, as a male. Like many intersexuals, the protagonist of Middlesex struggles with feelings of monstrosity. Although fictional, the themes of Middlesex echo those of the real-life saga of David Reimer, whose story was publicized widely a few years ago, in another best-selling book titled As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (Colapinto 2000). David was not born intersexed but, rather, as a biological male, named Bruce. At about six months of age, however, Bruce's penis was destroyed during a botched circumcision. On the advice of medical experts, David's parents decided that the appropriate course of action was to reconstruct Bruce as a girl, who they renamed Brenda.

Over the next several years, Bruce/Brenda underwent several surgeries, in which his penis and testes were removed. Somewhat later, he took estrogen and grew breasts. Although his doctors reported otherwise, Bruce/Brenda suffered severe psychological problems stemming from the sex change operations and related treatments. At the age of fourteen, following several threats of suicide,

-137-

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