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Paul_Hochman
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Nature vs. Nurture

Cal was certainly born with some unique genes. Do you think these genes (nature) dictated his/her life or do you think his/her personal experiences (nurture) dictated his life?
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JesseBC
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

I think the unanswerable-ness of this question is a major theme of the entire novel. We're not supposed to be able to answer it definitively -- that's the whole point of what Eugenides is saying about gender and sexuality.




PaulH wrote:
Cal was certainly born with some unique genes. Do you think these genes (nature) dictated his/her life or do you think his/her personal experiences (nurture) dictated his life?


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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

Could be, but why then does Cal choose to live life as a man? Did his experiences as a girl steer him toward this decision?



JesseBC wrote:
I think the unanswerable-ness of this question is a major theme of the entire novel. We're not supposed to be able to answer it definitively -- that's the whole point of what Eugenides is saying about gender and sexuality.




PaulH wrote:
Cal was certainly born with some unique genes. Do you think these genes (nature) dictated his/her life or do you think his/her personal experiences (nurture) dictated his life?





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belimiami
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

Although Cal’s learned female behavior play an important part in his life, his genetic code play an even far more important role in defining his gender. Throughout his female labeled childhood he encounters situations that are odd, (in the eyes of society) but innate. Given his innate manifestations, nature dictated Cal’s destiny.
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JesseBC
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

That's just the same unanswerable question with slightly different wording.

There's evidence throughout the story that Cal's gender identity is male, despite how those around him are responding to him as a female.

Where does gender identity come from? No one knows and most of us never have to think about it because our internal gender identity matches the way society responds to us. Talk to transgendered people and it's a much different (and more painful) story.

If the top genetic researchers in the world can't tell us where gender identity comes from, I doubt we're going to figure it out here.

And, really, it's this fluidity and uncertainty that makes the story so compelling. If we were able to definitively answer these questions, I don't think the story would be nearly as interesting because it would just be a matter of getting the right answers. The lack of answers makes it linger.





PaulH wrote:
Could be, but why then does Cal choose to live life as a man? Did his experiences as a girl steer him toward this decision?



JesseBC wrote:
I think the unanswerable-ness of this question is a major theme of the entire novel. We're not supposed to be able to answer it definitively -- that's the whole point of what Eugenides is saying about gender and sexuality.




PaulH wrote:
Cal was certainly born with some unique genes. Do you think these genes (nature) dictated his/her life or do you think his/her personal experiences (nurture) dictated his life?








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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

I personally think that both nature and nurture played key roles in Cal's evolution. Obviously his genetic makeup was a huge factor, but I wouldn't discount the fact that he was raised as a girl by his parents -- parents being among the biggest influences on a child's development.
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belimiami
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

Jesse:

That might be true in other cases. Because we are discussing our hermaphrodite character Cal, and what is stated in the book, it can be inferred that nature did influence his outcome rather than nurture. In the book there are various situations that Calliope encounters and decides to follow her instincts. For instance, the way she played with her neighbor as a child, which she would never tell her mother. Or the time when she falls in love with the Obscure Object, and keeping her parents in oblivion to the relationship they truly had. If nurture have an equal weight in dictating Cal’s personal experiences then why did she have lesbian experiences (which in reality weren’t lesbian relationships)? Wouldn’t nurture impede this from happening? The fact is that Cal followed his instincts from an early age and all the way through his metamorphosis.

On another note, the book arose in me the urge to look hermaphrodites in the in the internet. There is a very interesting case of a hermaphrodite man who lived his first 29 years of life as a female, and decides to finally live life as a male. In case you are interested the link is http://www.angelfire.com/ca2/BornHermaphrodite/.
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bentley
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

[ Edited ]

belimiami wrote:
Jesse:

That might be true in other cases. Because we are discussing our hermaphrodite character Cal, and what is stated in the book, it can be inferred that nature did influence his outcome rather than nurture. In the book there are various situations that Calliope encounters and decides to follow her instincts. For instance, the way she played with her neighbor as a child, which she would never tell her mother. Or the time when she falls in love with the Obscure Object, and keeping her parents in oblivion to the relationship they truly had. If nurture have an equal weight in dictating Cal’s personal experiences then why did she have lesbian experiences (which in reality weren’t lesbian relationships)? Wouldn’t nurture impede this from happening? The fact is that Cal followed his instincts from an early age and all the way through his metamorphosis.

On another note, the book arose in me the urge to look hermaphrodites in the in the internet. There is a very interesting case of a hermaphrodite man who lived his first 29 years of life as a female, and decides to finally live life as a male. In case you are interested the link is http://www.angelfire.com/ca2/BornHermaphrodite/.




Belimiami,

Your post is interesting. In rereading those sections of the book to rethink how to answer this question, I was struck by how hard a decision this was for Calliope (she loved her parents and grandparents) and just wanted them to love her and be what they wanted her to be and thought that she was. She seemed to go along with the nurture part to hide her basic instincts which she could not understand. She hid what she did with her childhood playmate and the fact that she was in love with the Obscure Object because she knew what happened to girls who were suspected of such things. Remember her idea was that what she was feeling and what she was doing were wrong and that her parents and society would not approve because they were lesbian activities (something that she did not want to be). She couldn't understand her Eartha Kitt voice, no breasts, no period, her desires, her height, her facial hair and everything else that made her different and set her apart from the other females she knew. She tried her best to be the daughter her parents wanted because she loved them.

So when Dr. Luce asked her questions, she hid the truthful answers because she was semi-aware of what was expected of her and other females. She did not want to be different; she wanted to fit in and be normal like everyone else. Normal as defined by what her parents and family and the mores of the time might consider normal.

Once she read the report and realized what everyone would not tell her (she then knew that she really felt and was male) and that explained all the things she could not understand when she spent hours in the basement at her school. She didn't want to be a female having female to female relationships. She wanted to be the male she found out she was (and then her relationships would make sense to her) between a male and a female.

So the answer I would come up with is that genetics is key and the outcome of the combination of these genes is what makes the person who they are and who they are not. Being nurtured as the opposite sex of what one really is creates inner conflicts which cannot be explained away by the individual; and eventually it all "bubbles up" and is exposed at one time or another in the adult life of this unfortunate person. It doesn't seem to me that the nurturing wins out in the long run; the genetics seems to and even worse...those basic instincts (nature) that could not be suppressed by nurturing any longer become exposed.

Message Edited by bentley on 06-25-2007 08:35 PM
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belimiami
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

Bentley:

Thank you for your input on the topic and it is very well expressed. I totally agree with what you.
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bentley
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

[ Edited ]

belimiami wrote:
Bentley:

Thank you for your input on the topic and it is very well expressed. I totally agree with what you.




Hello belimiami..sorry that I missed you here and on the other thread. But if you check back to the History thread..I responded (Bithynia question).

And you're welcome concerning the above and thank you as well for your compliment. "Middlesex" (in terms of reading it and fully understanding it and its connotations/connections) takes a lot of time.

Regards,

Bentley

Message Edited by bentley on 07-02-2007 12:47 AM
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

[ Edited ]
The following review from one of our editors is a fascinating look at nature vs. nurture. It was written for the following book, which is part of our Summer Clearance Sale:

"As Nature Made Him" by John Colapinto

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ISBN=0641825609&pdf=y&z=y


From Our Editors

Nature vs. Nurture

In As Nature Made Him, author John Colapinto offers a powerful true story that may shake beliefs you take for granted -- not least that doctors can be trusted to work in their patients' best interests. In lucid, impassioned prose, Colapinto, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, traces the life of David Thiessen, a boy sex-changed to female during infancy as part of a cruel experiment. In 1965, David (then named Bruce) was one of a pair of male twins. After a catastrophic circumcision accident, Bruce's penis was destroyed, while his brother Brian remained intact. Devastated, the twins' parents turned for help to Dr. John Money, a world-famous Johns Hopkins psychologist. They were searching for a solution. Instead, they found themselves pawns in a test designed to confirm Money's pet theory -- that gender is a purely social phenomenon, a matter of nurture, not nature.

Indeed, for 20 years, the doctor touted the success of the so-called "John/Joan" case. The surgically created girl, he claimed, had grown up contentedly feminine, in contrast to her rough-and-tumble brother. She fulfilled numerous stereotypes: shy, neat, and pretty, she loved babies and cooking. Most importantly, she considered herself a girl and seemed female to others. Gender, Money announced, was malleable. This finding was hugely influential, seized upon by everyone from feminist academics to pediatricians. And Money, already extremely powerful, rose to the top of his field, wielding enormous influence over surgeons and psychologists alike.

The real story did not emerge until many years later. For in fact, "Brenda" (the name the infant was given after surgery) had never felt female -- and was not perceived as a girl by others. Tormented by her peers, she was nicknamed "cavewoman" and sneered at for her mannish gait. She regularly got into brawls and was failing academically. Even the few bonds the unhappy child formed with tomboys were fragile, since she was perceived not as a tough girl but as a boy in a dress. In her teens, Brenda became suicidally depressed. She refused to go back to see Dr. Money, with whom she'd had annual visits until the age of 14. And she began to dress as a boy. Finally, her parents broke down and told her the truth. "More than anything else," David recalls of this revelation. "I was relieved. Suddenly it all made sense why I felt the way I did."

"Brenda" reverted to male. He had surgery to create a cosmetic penis and therapy to deal with his rage and depression. He changed his name to David, a reference, in part, to the biblical figure who slew a giant. Eventually, he married a loving woman with three children by other fathers. But all the while, the scientific theory supposedly based on his experience continued to guide medical protocols. Money claimed that the family had been "lost to follow-up" -- despite the fact that they never moved or changed their phone number. The case had special influence on the treatment of intersexed (that is, hermaphroditic) infants, who were increasingly "normalized" to female, despite evidence that, like Thiessen, many such children feel traumatized by the surgery and grow up to reject their gender. Finally, in 1996, biologist Milton Diamond, a longtime professional enemy of Money, tracked Thiessen down and revealed the truth to his colleagues, setting off a bomb that effectively destroyed Money's reputation.

Despite its wrenching subject matter, As Nature Made Him is an inspiring read. Colapinto has done a thorough job researching not only Thiessen's medical treatment but the social context in which it took place. And as with the best journalistic nonfiction, the author uses vivid and suspenseful storytelling to make complex ideas accessible. Colapinto builds an especially strong case against Dr. Money -- revealing horrific details about the doctor's treatment of the twins, to whom he showed pornography and even pressured to act out sexual acts, all in an attempt to "cement" their gender identities. Most of all, though, this is the story of one person: David Thiessen. With compassion and insight, Colapinto illuminates the courage of a remarkable individual who triumphed over the miserable treatment he received to become -- in the most literal sense -- a self-made man.

—Emily Nussbaum

Message Edited by PaulH on 07-05-2007 09:38 AM
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bentley
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture



PaulH wrote:
The following review from one of our editors is a fascinating look at nature vs. nurture. It was written for the following book, which is part of our Summer Clearance Sale:

"As Nature Made Him" by John Colapinto

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ISBN=0641825609&pdf=y&z=y


From Our Editors

Nature vs. Nurture

In As Nature Made Him, author John Colapinto offers a powerful true story that may shake beliefs you take for granted -- not least that doctors can be trusted to work in their patients' best interests. In lucid, impassioned prose, Colapinto, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, traces the life of David Thiessen, a boy sex-changed to female during infancy as part of a cruel experiment. In 1965, David (then named Bruce) was one of a pair of male twins. After a catastrophic circumcision accident, Bruce's penis was destroyed, while his brother Brian remained intact. Devastated, the twins' parents turned for help to Dr. John Money, a world-famous Johns Hopkins psychologist. They were searching for a solution. Instead, they found themselves pawns in a test designed to confirm Money's pet theory -- that gender is a purely social phenomenon, a matter of nurture, not nature.

Indeed, for 20 years, the doctor touted the success of the so-called "John/Joan" case. The surgically created girl, he claimed, had grown up contentedly feminine, in contrast to her rough-and-tumble brother. She fulfilled numerous stereotypes: shy, neat, and pretty, she loved babies and cooking. Most importantly, she considered herself a girl and seemed female to others. Gender, Money announced, was malleable. This finding was hugely influential, seized upon by everyone from feminist academics to pediatricians. And Money, already extremely powerful, rose to the top of his field, wielding enormous influence over surgeons and psychologists alike.

The real story did not emerge until many years later. For in fact, "Brenda" (the name the infant was given after surgery) had never felt female -- and was not perceived as a girl by others. Tormented by her peers, she was nicknamed "cavewoman" and sneered at for her mannish gait. She regularly got into brawls and was failing academically. Even the few bonds the unhappy child formed with tomboys were fragile, since she was perceived not as a tough girl but as a boy in a dress. In her teens, Brenda became suicidally depressed. She refused to go back to see Dr. Money, with whom she'd had annual visits until the age of 14. And she began to dress as a boy. Finally, her parents broke down and told her the truth. "More than anything else," David recalls of this revelation. "I was relieved. Suddenly it all made sense why I felt the way I did."

"Brenda" reverted to male. He had surgery to create a cosmetic penis and therapy to deal with his rage and depression. He changed his name to David, a reference, in part, to the biblical figure who slew a giant. Eventually, he married a loving woman with three children by other fathers. But all the while, the scientific theory supposedly based on his experience continued to guide medical protocols. Money claimed that the family had been "lost to follow-up" -- despite the fact that they never moved or changed their phone number. The case had special influence on the treatment of intersexed (that is, hermaphroditic) infants, who were increasingly "normalized" to female, despite evidence that, like Thiessen, many such children feel traumatized by the surgery and grow up to reject their gender. Finally, in 1996, biologist Milton Diamond, a longtime professional enemy of Money, tracked Thiessen down and revealed the truth to his colleagues, setting off a bomb that effectively destroyed Money's reputation.

Despite its wrenching subject matter, As Nature Made Him is an inspiring read. Colapinto has done a thorough job researching not only Thiessen's medical treatment but the social context in which it took place. And as with the best journalistic nonfiction, the author uses vivid and suspenseful storytelling to make complex ideas accessible. Colapinto builds an especially strong case against Dr. Money -- revealing horrific details about the doctor's treatment of the twins, to whom he showed pornography and even pressured to act out sexual acts, all in an attempt to "cement" their gender identities. Most of all, though, this is the story of one person: David Thiessen. With compassion and insight, Colapinto illuminates the courage of a remarkable individual who triumphed over the miserable treatment he received to become -- in the most literal sense -- a self-made man.

—Emily Nussbaum

Message Edited by PaulH on 07-05-2007 09:38 AM




That is pretty fascinating Paul..an interesting find. Especially in light of Middlesex.
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marcialou
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

It seemed to be about an even split between nature and nurture in Cal's case, with nature winning out only after puberty. In my limited understanding of the real world, nature is much stronger. I saw a TV show (NOVA maybe) about the Bruce/Brenda travesty. Bruce and the show reported it just as the book Emily cited: he *never* felt like a girl.

The only other "real life" knowledge I have of a similar case is that of Colby(?) professor Jenny Boylan. She was born an anatomic and genetic male but knew from age 3 that she was meant to be a girl. She fought her true identity long enough to marry and have two sons. As of the time she wrote "She's Not There" she had undergone a sex change operation and was still living with her family. She and her wife had become best friends and her sons, who were about 4 and 6 when she began to transition, were perfectly comfortable with the situation.

Marcia
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bentley
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture



marcialou wrote:
It seemed to be about an even split between nature and nurture in Cal's case, with nature winning out only after puberty. In my limited understanding of the real world, nature is much stronger. I saw a TV show (NOVA maybe) about the Bruce/Brenda travesty. Bruce and the show reported it just as the book Emily cited: he *never* felt like a girl.

The only other "real life" knowledge I have of a similar case is that of Colby(?) professor Jenny Boylan. She was born an anatomic and genetic male but knew from age 3 that she was meant to be a girl. She fought her true identity long enough to marry and have two sons. As of the time she wrote "She's Not There" she had undergone a sex change operation and was still living with her family. She and her wife had become best friends and her sons, who were about 4 and 6 when she began to transition, were perfectly comfortable with the situation.

Marcia




Very interesting.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Nature vs. Nurture

Here's a link to Jennifer Boylan's memoir:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ISBN=0641744838&pdf=y&z=y

And here's our review of it:

The Barnes & Noble Review

It may be voyeuristic curiosity that first prompts you to crack the binding of Jennifer Finney Boylan's first-person story of gender switching. But as you tuck into this amazing memoir, you'll find yourself transfixed less by the before-and-after photos than by an affecting, impossible-to-put-down narrative.
Jennifer spent the first 43 years of her life as James, the noted author of novels The Planets and Getting In, co-chair of the English Department at Maine's Colby College, and best friend of Pulitzer Prize–winning scribe Richard Russo (Empire Falls, Nobody's Fool), who contributes a touching afterword. Boylan begins her frequently self-deprecating and humorous tale with James's Philadelphia Main Line boyhood, then moves on to girlfriends and college; blissful first years of marriage to his wife, Grace; and the birth of his two sons.

It's against the backdrop of this achingly "normal" life that James comes to terms with the realization that he was born transgendered. "It has nothing to do with a desire to be feminine," Boylan writes, "but it had everything to do with being female." With hormones and surgery, James becomes Jenny, now a female faculty member of Colby College, a "sister" to his wife, and "Maddy" (that's Mommy+Daddy) to his children.

"The problem, as this memoir illustrates, is that the transgendered person's experience is not really 'like' anything," writes Russo -- which explains why this story is so startling. While Boylan's charm and wit endear him to the reader, we can't help but wonder about the untold memoirs in his story: the wife who lost a husband, a mother who lost a son, and two children who lost a father. - Sallie Brady
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