I have been diligently trying to educate myself more about transgender and intersex issues. So when The Chancellor informed me about a new young adult novel about an intersex teen, I was intrigued. I’ll admit that since I am straight cisgender woman, my response to the novel is purely my own response. I am ignorant about the “authenticity” of this narrative, so anyone who has any more insight is welcome to educate and correct me. I just know that I learned a lot and have a lot to think about.
Kristin Lattimer is a senior in high school, facing prom, track meets, and moving forward in her relationship with her boyfriend, Sam. But it all starts to fall apart when she has sex with Sam for the first time. The horrific pain sends her to the doctor’s office and leads to the discovery that she was actually born intersex–in other words, she looks like a female, but also has y-chromosomes and very small testicles, not to mention the lack of a uterus. Kristin struggles to reconcile who she has always been with who she “is” now, as well as the responses of her friends and family members. Kristin’s identity and gender are more complex than she realizes, especially when she begins to understand that “sex” and “gender” are not the same thing at all, particularly when her sex is at complete odds with the gender she has always known.
Gregorio was a fifth-year surgical resident when she met her first intersex patient and became inspired to write about her. Her young adult novel is a great conversation starter for young adults, especially because a cyberbullying incident shows how words and hurtful comments can be far more damaging than physical abuse. I wondered if some of the focus on Kristin’s gender was a bit heteronormative (especially since she insists she is a girl who likes boys), but there is an episode where an intersex character identifies as a lesbian and balances out some of the gender-orientation presentation in the novel (this was my hugest complaint about Middlesex: Cal is an intersex character who falls in love with a girl when identifying as a girl, but then identifies as a man later and still loves women. It seemed like…a copout, I guess). This was an interesting and well-written novel, and I am curious to see what kind of discussion and responses will emerge.