viernes, 24 de diciembre de 2010

Middlesex

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Specialized readers may have come across me in Dr. Peter Luce's study, "Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites," published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology in 1975. Or maybe you've seen my photograph in chapter sixteen of the now sadly outdated Genetics and Heredity. That's me on page 578, standing naked beside a height chart with a black box covering my eyes.

My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license (from the Federal Republic of Germany) records my first name simply as Cal. I'm a former field hockey goalie, long-standing member of the Save-the-Manatee Foundation, rare attendant at the Greek Orthodox liturgy, and, for most of my adult life, an employee of the U.S. State Department. Like Tiresias, I was first one thing and then the other. I've been ridiculed by classmates, guinea-pigged by doctors, palpated by specialists, and researched by the March of Dimes. A redheaded girl from Grosse Pointe fell in love with me, not knowing what I was. (Her brother liked me, too) An army tank led me into urban battle once; a swimming pool turned me into myth; I've left my body in order to occupy others -and all this happened before I turned sixteen.

But now, at the age of forty-one, I feel another birth coming on. After decades of neglect, I find myself thinking about departed great-aunts and -uncles, long-lost grandfathers, unknown fifth cousins, or, in the case of an inbred family like mine, all those things in one. And so before it's too late I want to get it down for good: this rollercoaster ride of a single gene through time. Sing now, O Muse, of the recessive mutation of my fifth chromosome! Sing how it bloomed two and a half centuries ago on the slopes of Mount Olympus, while the goats bleated and the olives dropped. Sing how it passed down through nine generations, gathering invisibly within the polluted pool of the Stephanides family. And sing how Providence, in the guise of a massacre, sent the gene flying again; how it blew like a seed across the sea to America, where it drifted through our industrial rains until it fell to earth in the fertile soil of my mother's own mid-western womb.

Sorry if I get a little Homeric at times. That's genetic, too.

(Jeffrey Eugenides, "The Silver Spoon", Middlesex)

My mother and father were sitting only a foot apart during this speech, but each heard something different. Milton heard the words that were there. He heard "treatment" and "effective." Tessie, on the other hand, heard the words that weren't there. The doctor hadn't said my name, for instance. He hadn't said "Calliope" or "Callie." He hadn't said "daughter," either. He didn't use any pronouns at all.

(Jeffrey Eugenides, "The Oracular Vulva", Middlesex)


Más de una vez llegué a sentir algo que podría expresarse con algo muy parecido a "mi pobre niño" o "pobre hombre", aun cuando la frase mental que se formaba a continuación en mi cabeza, durante más de la mitad del libro, era la de "mi pobre niña". ¿Quién sabe? Es muy posible que llegara a experimentar ambas al mismo tiempo. Sé de sobra que las sentí intercaladamente, y a la velocidad del rayo, durante toda la lectura, ¿por qué no juntas?

No es de extrañar. Cal es un muy buen narrador, tan buen narrador que, aunque nunca dejé de saber y sentir que era un hombre el que narraba (con un desastre genético de por medio, pero hombre a fin de cuentas), fue imposible no sentir a la niña que fue como real. La sentí, sentí a Callie tanto como a Cal y lamenté la desaparición de la primera tanto como celebré la aparición de él. Aún así el cambio fue sutil, tan bien llevado a cabo que cuando finalmente terminó de ocurrir lo sentí como lo más natural del mundo, como si en realidad nada hubiera pasado. Y es que realmente no interesa. Calliope, Callie, Cal... a fin de cuentas es la misma persona. ¿Por qué tendría que cambiar mi reacción como lectora por un simple cambio de género? ¿Por qué tendría que cambiar mi actitud hacia otra persona sólo por eso? ¿Voy a reducir todos los ires y venires, todas las anécdotas familiares, cada una de la ironías y Deus ex machina presentes, y por tanto y mi experiencia, a algo tan superficial como el género o el sexo? La respuesta a algo como eso la conozco desde mucho antes, pero Eugenides terminó por confirmármela.

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