Golden Mean by Margo Gorman, 19th June 2020

Victorina Press have asked me to do a short explanation of the Golden Mean and its significance to my novel, Michel-Michelle. The Golden Mean appears in the dream sequence which runs throughout the novel as symbol of gender differences. In the cover illustration for the novel, Michel-Michelle, named after Axel’s transgender father, Fiona Zechmeister  combines the open symbol of the Golden Mean with the pink and blue flag used by transgender people.

The Golden Mean also known as the Golden Ratio was identified by early mathematicians and  links nature, art and architecture. The symbol conveys how a part can be in perfect proportion to the whole. The main character,  Axel, is an architect so is familiar with the concept of Golden Mean and his dreams present the potential of male and female gender to be represented proportionately according to individual human characteristics rather than locked into the physical body. 

Individuals exist on a broad spectrum of gender differences. In this century there are many terms used to express relationships between human beings and/or gender identity for example bi-sexual, cis, gay, heterosexual, intergender, intersex, lesbian, queer, transgender and gender fluid. Socialisation of children in fixed terms, perpetuates expressions of difference as “other” and instils a fear of exclusion. Social structures still perpetuate discrimination and seek to shape humans into conformity. Rebellion against conformity can confuse the public and private dimensions of identity and lead to polarisation.

The Golden Ratio helped me relate to a non-binary approach to gender as distinct from biological determinism. Jennifer O’ Connell points out in the Irish Times on 12th June 2020, that the result of polarisation is “that most sensible, compassionate people approaching it with an open mind and a genuine desire to understand, take one look and back off”.  Emotive expression based on limited personal experience is not helpful to our understanding of gender identity. A public discussion in the context of human rights —including the UN convention of children’s rights— could be more helpful. As Jennifer O’Connell points out “affording equal rights to trans people does not erode anyone else’s rights. Human rights are not a zero-sum game.”


In Michel-Michelle, I chose to write about the son of a transgender person as a way of recognising gender diversity in the family and in the hope that we can open up spaces where gender differences can be explored without locking us into the determinism of biological identity.  If we can achieve a balance where each of us has the right to express personal human characteristics which are in proportion to a broader spectrum of possibility, the options become less polarised and more human.

Margo Gorman 19th June 2020

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