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rfindlay's picture

This is going to be all over

This is going to be all over the place, but oh well! So. I admit that usually I do the readings about two hours before class, but not in this case. I started it last night, and had to force myself to stop reading and go to bed at two. I read it on the van to Swarthmore, which is pretty hazardous with the hills and sharp turns. I want to read more now!

As for my actual response, I want to go deeper in what Sarah Sherman was saying. Rather than simply explaining that yes, his (I'll be referring to Cal as the speaker) grandparents committed incest, and that was the reason for his hermaphroditism, he feels the need to tell the story of how his grandparents came to do just this. Although I squirm at the idea of incest, having a brother myself, I found that I understood, and indeed, hoped that Desdemona and Lefty would "get together." They belonged together in my mind, almost from the beginning. This 'crime or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude' (page 74), an unspeakable taboo in many societies, was talked about at length, and placed in a more benign light. Perhaps the discomfort that many feel about incest, myself included, relates to the discomfort that some feel about trans issues. They can't understand the psyches of transgendered individuals firsthand, so they decide that it's unnatural or simply strange. Transgendered people become the "other." By eliciting our pathos with the grandparents, Cal (and the author by extension) has his audience on its way to understanding the seemingly incomprehensible: changing your outward gender to fit your inner.

I wonder what everyone's impression of Cal could be. Some have said they see Cal as neutral, some already as a man. Personally I think of him as a transman; that is, perhaps never fully in the category of "man" simply because of his past experiences as a woman.

By the way, I fully understand why I was so confused in the beginning as to who is related to whom, in what way. And why on earth is the kid called Chapter 11?

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