Middlesex Character List

Cal Stephanides

Calliope Helen Stephanides, the narrator of Middlesex, is a Greek-American hermaphrodite growing up in Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s. S/he explains her/his family's history through the development of the genetic quirk that causes her/him to develop both masculine and feminine genetic qualities. Born to Milton and Tessie Stephanides in Detroit Michigan in 1960, Cal is raised as a girl for the first fourteen years of his life, until he discovers at age fourteen that he is biologically male with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. Cal is reserved, often preferring to stand by the sidelines instead of acting or talking to people. He writes Middlesex to understand his own life story, as well as that of his parents and grandparents. Cal often focuses on the importance of objects and circularity within his life, as well as different types of loves.

Desdemona Stephanides

Desdemona, Cal's grandmother, immigrates from Greece with her brother/husband Lefty in 1922. Despite her misgivings, she and Lefty marry after fleeing the Turkish Army, and she spends the rest of her life worrying about and atoning for that sin. Desdemona has always had the soul of an old woman, and at the end of her life, she stays in bed, complaining of imaginary maladies. Desdemona's revelation to Cal of her past transgression is a key piece of Cal's self-discovery puzzle.

Chapter Eleven Stephanides

Chapter Eleven is Cal's older brother and the son of Tessie and Milton. He has a highly mathematical mind, although he disappoints his family by dropping out of an engineering program in college to become a hippie and live in the woods of Michigan. Chapter Eleven's open mind inspires Cal tell his family about his decision to live as a male. Chapter Eleven also takes over the family hot dog business after Milton's death and quickly runs it into the ground.

Lefty Stephanides

Eleutherios "Lefty" Stephanides is Cal's grandfather, who immigrated from Greece to America in 1922 with his sister/wife Desdemona Stephanides. As a young man, he is hardworking and dependable. He runs an illegal speakeasy during Prohibition and the Depression, and eventually starts a restaurant after the speakeasy is no longer profitable. When he gets older, he falls victim to a gambling addiction, forcing him and Desdemona to move in with Milton and Tessie. He has a stroke the day of Cal's birth, which deprives him of the ability to speak. He eventually succumbs to dementia and ill health.

Tessie Stephanides

Tessie is Cal and Chapter Eleven's mother, the wife of Milton, and the daughter of Lina Zizmo, Desdemona and Lefty's cousin. She is petite and reserved. Although she originally plans to marry Michael Antinou, she realizes that she loves her second cousin Milton instead, and she marries him. Tessie is often overpowered by Milton. She always wanted a daughter, and therefore has a special relationship with Cal when she is a child. Although confused, Tessie accepts Cal's decision to live as a male. Tessie eventually moves to Florida with Aunt Zo after Milton's death.

Milton Stephanides

The son of Desdemona and Lefty Stephanides, Cal's father, and Tessie's husband. He is more American than his parents, and rejects Greek culture for scientific advances. He woos his second cousin Tessie with his clarinet, and when she rejects him, he rashly joins the navy. Tessie later marries him, and Milton uses the organization and American conservatism that he learns in the Navy to start a restaurant and then a chain of hot dog stands. Although Milton loves his children, he cares too much about his property and business and neglects his family. Milton dies trying to retrieve the ransom money he paid to Father Mike.

Peter Tatakis

Peter Tatakis, or Uncle Pete, is a friend of the Stephanides family with a passion for European culture, whose position as a chiropractor gives him the credentials to serve as the residential doctor to the family. He advises the Stephanides on the right time to have sex in order to have a girl. Although he avoids the Stephanides after Milton's insult to the Greeks, he comes back around when Cal runs away.

Dr. Philobosian

Dr. Philobosian is an Armenian doctor whom Lefty and Desdemona meet as they are fleeing the Turkish Army. Because he gave them food, Lefty and Desdemona help him flee Turkey after his whole family is slaughtered. In Michigan, he is the Stephanides' real family doctor, who delivers (and fails to recognize the gender of) Cal. Dr. Philobosian is very old during Cal's lifetime, and his antiquated methods and discomfort with nudity prevent him from realizing Cal's abnormality until Cal is fourteen.


One of Cal's cousins, the son of Father Mike and Aunt Zo.


One of Cal's cousins, the son of Father Mike and Aunt Zo.


One of Cal's cousins, the son of Father Mike and Aunt Zo.


One of Cal's cousins, the daughter of Father Mike and Aunt Zo.

Father Mike

Father Michael Antoniou is the assistant priest at Assumption, the Greek Orthodox church that the Stephanides attend. He is married to Aunt Zo, but was once Tessie Zizmo's fiance. He is never chosen to replace the head priest at the church, and his personal and professional frustrations cause him to pretend to be Cal's kidnapper. His actions cause Milton's death, and Zoe divorces him when he goes to jail.

Aunt Zo

Father Mike's wife and Milton Stephanides' sister, Aunt Zo is a gregarious and funny woman who doesn't like being the priest's wife. She constantly henpecks Father Mike, who is not as successful as her brother. She hates the time she spends in Greece, and when Father Mike goes to jail for his kidnapping scheme, she divorces him and moves with Desdemona to Florida.

Father Greg

The head priest at Assumption when Tessie conceived Cal.

Lina Zizmo

Tessie's mother and Desdemona and Lefty's cousin. She is Desdemona and Lefty's only contact in America when they arrive, and she promises not to tell their secret. She doesn't love her husband, Jimmy Zizmo; after he dies, she eventually moves to the Southwest to live with her lover. She is a vivacious woman who has been completely Americanized.

Lucille Kafkalis

A girl from Desdemona and Lefty's village in Greece. Lefty doesn't see her as a marriage prospect because she has bad hygiene.

Victoria Pappas

A girl from the Stephanides' village in Greece. Lefty doesn't like Victoria because she has a mustache.


The prostitute whom Lefty sleeps with in Bursa. She looks like Desdemona.

General Hajienestis

The insane Commander in Chief of the Greek forces in Asia Minor. His actions cause the Greeks to lose the war and Desdemona and Lefty to flee to America.


The Turkish leader at the time of the Greco-Turkish War.

Major Arthur Maxwell

A British major stationed in Smyrna to protect British interests. He is unsympathetic to the Armenians and Greeks.

Aristedes Sterghiades

The Greek civil governor who removes Hajienestis from Smyrna.

Captain Phillips

A more sympathetic member of the British Army in 1922.

Mrs. Bidzikian

A murdered Armenian woman whom Dr. Philobosian is helping when the Turks slaughter his family.


Dr. Philobosian's wife, murdered by the Turks in Smyrna.


One of Dr. Philobosian's sons, murdered by Turkish soldiers in Smyrna.


One of Dr. Philobosian's sons, murdered by Turkish soldiers in Smyrna.


One of Dr. Philobosian's daughters, murdered by Turkish soldiers in Smyrna.


One of Dr. Philobosian's daughters, murdered by Turkish soldiers in Smyrna.


A passenger on the Guilia to America and the best man (koumbaros) at Lefty and Desdemona's wedding.

Captain Kontoulis

The captain of the Guilia, the ship Desdemona and Lefty take to America. He officiates their wedding.

Princess Si Ling-chi

The Chinese princess who discovered silk in 2640 BC through the accident of a cocoon falling into her teacup.

Penelope Evangelatos

Cal's ancestor who first carried the mutated gene in 1750.

Dr. Peter Luce

When Milton and Tessie discover Cal's abnormality, they take her to see Dr. Luce, a famous sexologist in New York. A large part of the sexual revolution, Dr. Luce has studied all sorts of sexual phenomena, as well as written many books, articles, and even a column for Playboy. He tells Cal's parents that, since Calliope has been raised as a girl, they should perform a surgery to make her genetically more like one. When Calliope reads the report, however, she panics and runs away.

Jimmy Zizmo

The husband of Lina Zizmo, Jimmy Zizmo is an amateur herbalist, an antisuffragist, a big-game hunter, an ex-con, a drug-pusher, and a teetotaler. When he incorrectly suspects that Lefty is having an affair with Lina, he tries to scare Lefty but ends up supposedly crashing through the ice of the river. He reappears later as Muhammad Fard, leader of the Nation of Islam.

Father Stylianopoulos

The priest at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church when Desdemona and Lefty arrive in Detroit.

Julie Kikuchi

Cal first sees Julie on a subway in Berlin. Eventually, they begin to date. Julie is a photographer, who is in Germany to photograph the old factories. Although Cal is frightened at first, he eventually tells Julie about his secret and his past, and they seem to have a promising future together.

Euphrosyne Stephanides

Lefty and Desdemona's mother. She is dead by the beginning of the story.

Minister Fard

Also known as Farrad Mohammad or W.D. Fard, he is the leader of the Nation of Islam in Detroit's black ghetto. Fard is incredibly persuasive and offers the African-Americans of Detroit the culture that they desperately thirst for. Later, Desdemona discovers that he is actually Jimmy Zizmo, who survived his crash through the ice. Threatened by Detroit authorities, Fard/Zizmo leaves Detroit, disappearing into the history books.

Sister Wanda

The Supreme Captain of Minister Fard's Temple No. 1, Sister Wanda is trying to create a silk business for the girls she is teaching. Before this, she was a beautician.


An aspiring photographer who works with Lefty, taking photos of girls in lingerie with automobiles.

Mabel Reese

One of the models for Lefty's automobile erotica. She is from Kentucky.

Gus Vasilakis

The father of one of Milton's potential dates.

Georgia Vasilakis

The mother of one of Milton's potential dates.

Gaia Vasilakis

One of Milton's rejected dates.

Jeanie Diamonod

One of Milton's rejected dates.

Vicky Logathetis

One of Milton's rejected dates.

Sophie Georgopoulos

One of Milton's rejected dates.

Mathilda Livanos

One of Milton's rejected dates. She is beautiful and bored.

Miss Barrie

Cal's eighth-grade Latin teacher, who introduced him to the phrase "Ex ovo omnia," which means "Everything comes out of an egg."

Jimmy Papanikolas

A family friend of the Stephanides present at the fateful Easter egg cracking party during which Cal is conceived. He is also Cal's godfather.

Mrs. Watson

A family friend of the Stephanides present at the fateful Easter egg cracking party during which Cal is conceived.


The nurse who helps deliver Cal and whose beauty distracts Dr. Philobosian from realizing Cal's "deformity." She eventually marries Dr. Phil.

Bart Skiotis

The contractor hired to build Assumption, the Greek church that the Stephanides attend. He is crooked and siphons off money, using shoddy building materials that eventually wreck the structure.

Jimmy Fioretos

A friend of Milton's, who advises Milton to move the restaurant.

Gus Panos

A friend of Milton's, who advises Milton to sell the restaurant.

Marius Wyxzewixard Challouehliczilczese Grimes

An African-American activist who preaches on a street corner near the Stephanides diner. He is attending law school and befriends a young Calliope, exposing her to Detroit's racial divide. Later, during the riots, Milton thinks that he sees Marius throw a Molotov cocktail into the Stephanides' diner.

Jane March

The real estate agent who sells the Stephanides their futuristic home on Middlesex. She is originally going to stop them from purchasing it, but in a moment of crisis allows them to buy it.

Clementine Stark

Calliope's first friend in Grosse Point. When they are seven, Clementine practices kissing with Calliope and begins to realize her sexuality. Clementine moves away when her father dies of a heart attack.

Georgie Pappas

A family friend and mortician, who helps Desdemona pick out her funeral arrangements.

Steve Munger

Chapter Eleven's close friend growing up. He is also nerdy and unpopular.

Mayor Coleman A. Young

The first black mayor of Detroit.

Carol Horning

A classmate of Calliope's, who grows breasts over one summer.

Jenny Simonson

A girl at Calliope's camp, who also develops quickly.

Rebecca Urbanus

A girl at Calliope's camp, who gets her period while performing a musical number.

Miss Grotowski

A math teacher at Calliope's school.

Dr. Muller

A German scientist who studies Desdemona because he is convinced that the Mediterranean diet is superior to other diets.

Sophie Sassoon

A family friend of the Stephanides who works at a salon and waxes Calliope. Her name is a reference to the famous hairstylist Vidal Sassoon.


A Hungarian woman who works at Sophie Sassoon's beauty salon and waxes Calliope's upper lip.

Meg Zemka

Chapter Eleven's small, mousy college girlfriend. She is a Marxist hippie who despises Milton and Tessie.


Cal's college girlfriend. She was savagely raped when she was thirteen. They bond over their common woundedness.

Mr. da Silva

Calliope's eighth grade English teacher. He exposes her to classic literature in a welcoming environment.

Maxine Grossinger

A quiet girl who lives in Calliope's neighborhood and attends Baker & Inglis with her. She suffers a brain aneurysm in the middle of their performance of Antigone and dies.

Miss Fagles

A teacher at Calliope's school who helps with the play. Her name is a reference to the famous Homer translator.

Rex Reese

A boy who drunkenly drives his car into a lake, killing his then-girlfriend. He later woos the Obscure Object, much to the dismay of Calliope.


The Obscure Object's brother. He has a crush on Calliope and attempts to have sex with her. He has died his red hair black and has an obsession with horror films. His discovery of Calliope and the Object's relationship inadvertently leads to Calliope's accident and the discovery of her mutation.

Carol Henkel

The girlfriend of Rex Reese. She is killed in a drunk driving accident.

The Obscure Object

The subject of Calliope's adolescent desire. She is a fiery redhead who belongs to the "Charm Bracelet" contingent of Calliope's school: pseudo Eastern popular girls with Wasp-y looks and style. They grow close over the summer because the Object feels lonely and isolated by her distant family. They eventually start a sexual relationship that neither of them acknowledges. After Calliope's accident, they never see each other again.

Dr. Craig

One of the doctors to whom Dr. Luce shows Calliope.

Dr. Winters

One of the doctors to whom Dr. Luce shows Calliope.

Ed the barber

The barber who cuts Cal's hair when he runs away from Dr. Luce.

Myron Bresnick

A man touring the country in an RV with his wife. They pick up Cal during his flight.

Sylvia Bresnick

A woman touring the country with her husband in an RV. They pick up Cal during his flight.

Ben Scheer

One of the people with whom Cal hitches a ride. Scheer first impresses Cal with his Eastern coolness. Eventually, Scheer tries to take advantage of Cal and Cal runs away.


One of the Deadheads whom Cal meets in San Francisco.

Bob Presto

A man who runs a strip club in San Francisco called Sixty-Niners. He saves Cal and employs him as a wonder there, pretending he is "the god Hermaphroditus."


Bob Presto's Namibian girlfriend who helps take care of Cal.

Mr. Go

A patron of Sixty-Niners, fascinated by Cal's condition.


An intersexual person with Androgen Insensitivity. She is a beautiful, leggy blonde obsessed with her book about hermaphrodites. She takes Cal in after working with him at Sixty-Niners and educates him about their conditions, providing a halfway home for him.


A pre-op transexual from the Bronx. She works at Sixty-Niners as Ellie and her eel (Carmen's penis, which has not been removed).