Androgyny in Modern Literature by Tracy Hargreaves

By Tracy Hargreaves

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Mrs Blackwood claims that she can read her husband and elder son like an open book; but the kind of book Dennis’s ‘type’ might feature in would not be part of her reading matter: those privately printed monographs, essays and medical case histories constituted a secret sub-cultural discourse, invisible to the dominant world at large and available mainly to those with a professional interest, evident from the frontispiece of Lind’s Autobiography of an Androgyne. Even Dennis and Antoinette do not appear to have a basis for understanding ‘what’ they are in the taxonomies of sexual desire.

With the association of this memory came another: the pleasure he had experienced at his mother’s breast. The cultural, or spiritual, value of the phantasy came with the association made by the Fathers of the Church in arguing for the truth of the virgin birth of Christ. Freud’s reading transformed the story of divine androgynes and hermaphrodites, symbols of plenitude, into a drama of desire contained by threat. The male child at the fulcrum of this drama assumes that women possess the same genital structure as his own: The child’s assumption that his mother has a penis is thus the common source from which are derived androgynously-formed mother-goddesses such as the Egyptian Mut and the vulture’s ‘coda’ in Leonardo’ childhood phantasy.

Lind adapts current epistemologies: sexology and evolutionary theory are mapped onto classical mythology and sculpture, and he reanimates them within a narrative of his own life that, to Herzog’s contempt (and Lind’s credit), he refuses to feel shamed by. Lind is selective with medical theories that give his narrative some scientific credibility before elaborating on his sexual adventures as a passive homosexual, a male-tofemale transvestite, and a partial transsexual (his chapters have a new sub-heading on every page, ‘I am Held up on Broadway’, ‘Glimpse into Hell’s Kitchen at Night’, ‘An Evening in a Squad Room’, ‘Ethics of My Conduct’, ‘I Am Court-martialled’).

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