There it was, monster, in black and white, in a battered dictionary. . . . A venerable, old book, the shape and size of a headstone, with yellowing pages that bore marks of the multitudes who had consulted them before me. . . . Here was a book that contained the collected knowledge of the past while giving evidence of present social conditions.

Here in Chapter 23, Cal describes Callie’s thought process when looking up the words she overheard the doctors use to describe her in a dictionary. This moment crystallizes for Callie the idea that she isn’t normal and is perhaps even monstrous. Before this moment, Callie tried to hide her body, never undressing fully in the locker room and growing her hair long to hide her face. The doctors further hide the details of Callie’s condition by couching their language in words she won’t understand, keeping her from hearing factual information that she could use to understand herself. Their secrecy allows Callie to read monstrosity into her condition because it makes her think it’s not something that can be publicly acknowledged. Like the minotaur, who Minos locks away to hide the secret of his wife’s sin, Callie sees her condition as something that can’t be directly mentioned but hidden by jargon.

Even after rejecting the idea of his innate monstrosity, Cal struggles with the second part of this realization, that social conditions often dictate the conditions of monstrosity. At the age of fourteen, Cal experiences violent homophobia from Jerome and transphobia from the homeless men who attack him in Golden Gate Park. Society labels gay and transgender people as threats, which in turn makes them vulnerable to attacks. Even though Cal is neither gay nor transgender, the way he doesn’t fit within the binary of male and female arouses a similar type of fear and hatred. Cal carries the burden of this understanding in the way he refuses to cultivate intimacy with the women he dates. He never undresses in front of them and refuses to have sex because he fears not just rejection but a confirmation of his own monstrosity.