On New Year’s, Cal opens his eyes in the tank and sees that the onlookers are not disgusted. Cal feels free and begins to forget about the Object. The police raid Octopussy’s Garden. Cal calls home from the police station. Chapter Eleven answers and tells Cal that Milton died in an accident.

Analysis: Chapters 23 & 24

Although early in his journey, Cal believes that presenting as a girl leaves him vulnerable, he quickly realizes that vulnerability is not inherently gendered. The existence of predators like Ben reveals that naivete and lack of options also leave someone—male or female—vulnerable to attack. When the homeless men attack Cal, he faces different kinds of violence depending on which gender they believe him to be. First, thinking he’s a boy, they threaten physical violence toward him and sexual violence to his perceived girlfriend. The threat of sexual violence transfers to Cal when they believe he’s a girl. Finally, when confronted with his genitals, they beat and urinate on him out of homophobia and transphobia. Their perception of Cal’s gender changes the virulence and shape the violence takes but not the desire for violence itself. Bob Presto, although not physically violent, also preys on vulnerable people. Instead of responsibly calling Cal’s parents like his girlfriend urges, Presto chooses to look at Cal’s runaway status as a sign that Cal desperately requires some sort of safety and stability. Because openly gender nonconforming or binary transgender people often have difficulty finding acceptance and jobs, Presto can more easily exploit them because they have fewer options for housing and employment.

As the only intersex person Cal meets, Zora plays an important role in teaching him the normalcy of being intersex. However, Zora doesn’t function as a mirror image of Cal because they want fundamentally different things as intersex people. Zora embraces her difference from the mainstream because it makes her feel special and important. Her research therefore involves searching out other cultures that not only see intersex as normal but special, even sacred. Cal has never wanted to be different or special, even rejecting the Greek food Tessie fed him because it separated him from his classmates. He grew up in a family that worked very hard to assimilate into mainstream American culture, and Cal express a similar desire for assimilation in his 2001 sections, in which he cultivates a mainstream, albeit old-fashioned, masculinity. Therefore, while Cal envies that Zora could pass for a non-intersex person, Zora would never dream of doing so and actively claims her intersex identity. Cal and Zora thus demonstrate that intersex people are not a monolith, both because the term intersex includes many different conditions and because individuals relate to their intersexness differently.

Cal finally admits the limits of genetics in Chapter 26, advocating for a model of the universe that makes room for both fate and free will. However, Cal doesn’t reject all he has previously observed about genetics and fate because of the reality of his body and because, as he has observed, his family repeats similar patterns of behavior. He conceives of his gender as a choice because he rarely felt dysphoria when living as a girl, and now he doesn’t consider being a man easier because of his biology. In other words, for Cal, living as a man is a manifestation of him taking the genetic cards he’s been given and playing them in a way that suits his life. Milton has a similar attitude toward his Greek-American identity. He uses his Greek heritage when it suits him, primarily as a marketing gimmick, and still lives with his Greek-identifying family, but he ultimately chooses American habits, values, and mannerisms. As hinted at throughout the novel, fate and free will are not entirely separate but two related mechanisms that create a person’s life.

Although Cal finds freedom in the interest and desire he sees in the voyeurs at Octopussy’s Garden, this joy is short lived because it is based on another kind of othering: fetishization. Octopussy’s Garden derives its appeal from displaying bodies that society considers abnormal. It further mythologizes these bodies by giving the performers stage names that involve mythology, like mermaids and Greek gods. Therefore, the voyeurs do not accept Cal as he is but as Hermaphroditus, a fantastical being. That Cal must always be under the influence of drugs in order to perform hints at the incomplete nature of this liberation. As we’ve seen multiple times in Middlesex, an inability to look at something head on is a sign that a person considers that thing to be dirty or shameful. Cal’s participation in this kind of performance also brings to mind the vaudeville play about the minotaur, which eroticized the taboo and frightening nature of the minotaur. As Desdemona and Lefty erotized the minotaur, the voyeurs find Cal’s body fascinating because it is unusual and taboo. In narrator Cal’s descriptions of his dating life, he expresses a desire for a sexual relationship that more closely resembles something conventional and romantic, not a fetish, demonstrating that this type of sexual interest at Octopussy’s Garden could not fulfill him.