“This is the only ‘me’ you get.” A simple declaration by the resigned House (Hugh Laurie in a raw and surprisingly emotional performance) at the end of the newest House, M.D. episode “The Softer Side." Acceptance by one’s family and friends frames this episode’s narrative, a theme explored for both patient and doctor. Set against the diagnostic backdrop of an adolescent boy with “genetic mosaicism” (he has both XX and XY chromosomes, making him equally male and female), the episode touches on several key themes that so often make House compelling TV.
Jackson’s genetic condition makes him "different." Born equally male and female, Jackson's parents had to choose years earlier whether their newborn baby was to be a boy or girl. Surgery and a lifetime of testosterone treatments will help Jackson grow into a “normal” young man. His parents (his mother, really) have decided to keep information from him, saying that “he’s not ready for it.” On the other hand, his mother in particular, seems to be forcing him into the “boy” box, making him choose “basketball or hockey” when he would prefer dance. She cannot accept Jackson for who he is, and therefore tries to make him into who he “should” be.
Collapsing while playing in a school basketball game, Jackson's parents, along with House's team are convinced that young man's illness must be related to his sexuality. Trying to diagnose the inquisitive young man without revealing the parents' secret proves difficult, and eventually 13 lets the cat out of the bag, forcing the parents to deal with Jackson's ambiguous sexuality and their own issues related to it.
And like Jackson, House seeks acceptance for who he is, not to be folded, spindled and mutilated into someone else’s version of who he should be. House’s advice to the parents at the end of “The Softer Side” ring wise and true—and--coming from a lifetime’s experience. “You gave birth to a freak of nature. Doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to treat him like one,” he admonishes the parents after finally diagnosing the boy with simple dehydration.
It’s good advice, and advice that perhaps Blythe and John House would have been wise to follow with their young, socially isolated genius son. In some ways, the scene contains echoes of House’s season-three conversation with the dwarf-mom in “Merry Little Christmas.”
At its core, House M.D. is the story of Dr. Gregory House’s struggle with both his physical and emotional wounds. From time to time, House has made (sometimes elaborate) attempts to diminish his physical pain. When he has succeeded ("Meaning") we are privy to a completely different side of House, more easy going and far less impatient. But we've also seen indications over the years that House somehow connects his isolated, miserable existence with his razor-sharp edge concerned about sacrificing that as the cost for living pain-free.