“For tens of thousands of years human beings were held prisoner by gender.”
Two featureless dots, one cherry red and the other apple green, faded onto the hi-res display as the narrator continued in a smooth contralto.
“Throughout the 21st century, unchecked sexual dimorphism among human beings meant any male-female pair could reproduce.” At this point a third, smaller, cherry red dot popped onto the screen with an accompanying sound effect like pulling a cork. As a titter spread around the classroom I turned to give Jones-Vasquez an arch look which they returned. JV was a touch taller than me with dark, close-cropped hair, high cheek bones, a long thin nose and full lips. We had been best friends since grade school and were inseparable, although my parents had certainly tried. We even tried dating once and although JV’s skin was soft against mine and the kissing was nice we soon bored of the diversion and eventually stopped referring to each others as lovers even though it annoyed Prof. Sun-Davis in a particularly glorious way.
“Through the first half of the second millennium the population grew—” More red and green circles appeared each with their own red or green child “—aided by declining mortality rates due to advancements in medical science including the widespread eradication of infectious disease. Combined with unchecked reproduction there was explosive population growth.” The small dots grew big, paired up and had children of their own, soon the whole screen was covered in red and green.
“By the end of the century the world population had exceeded 10 billion people and the Earth was on the verge of an environmental catastrophe.” The screen went black.
A single light blue dot faded in at the center of the screen. “Faced with environmental devastation that would have led to the extinction of the human species a new world order was born.” More blue dots slowly faded in to join the first. “No longer would we be slaves to our sex. No longer would the urge to reproduce hold us back from self-actualization. The generation that grew up in the 22nd century saw the end of sexual discrimination, they saw the birth of True Equality — they were given a Choice.” One light blue dot turned red, another green, and slowly the screen was covered evenly with dots, mostly blue, but with an assortment of red and green mixed in. “Today, those who are chosen for procreation, the Gynes, are empowered to choose their gender. They will go on to become our mothers and fathers. Through their sacrifice the human race will continue.”
JV slipped me a square of paper, on it they had sketched a hairy phallus, underneath JV had written “Want one?” JV was trying to make me laugh but they were trying to provoke me as well. JV knew I had no desire to be a Gyne. The cartoon brought back a memory of walking in on my parents while they were naked together, they had ashamedly pulled the sheets over their bodies trying to hide the ugly lumps of flesh and tufts of hair.
Prof. Sun-Davis stood up and brushed the video away. “Today is the day. You’ve taken the tests and we’ve reviewed the results. Some of you have been chosen to become a Gyne while others have not—” She put out her hands, fingers spread, palms down to try and quiet the excitement in the classroom. “—the results are on their way.”
While the professor tried to regain control of the classroom I looked around and tried to guess who had been chosen. Benson-Reeves of course, BR was born to be a Gyne, it was rumored that BR wore dresses at home. Naturally, JV and I had played dress-up when we were younger; JV would put on their mother’s bra, stuffed full of socks, and I would ball up undershirts around my arms and shoulders trying to look masculine, then we would trade off. However, our parents didn’t own any dresses; clothes like that are seen as hopelessly out of style at best, obscene at worst.
My full name is Kelly-Reed but JV always calls me Kel, JV likes to find ways to irk people and, on learning that I hated the nickname, JV made sure to use it at every opportunity.
“—wanna get out of here?”
I rolled my eyes, for many in the classroom this was the most important day in their life so it didn’t surprise me that JV was flip about it. JV didn’t really have a chance of being chosen as a Gyne, they had goofed off the whole way through the process: skipping out on tests and intentionally baiting the interviewers during the psych exams. I had taken the process seriously, my parents had instilled me with a sense of duty to the process if nothing more, but was sure I had hopelessly botched both the test and exam. There was probably no reason to stay besides a sense of decorum but, before I could respond, the school admin came in with a bin full of glossy white envelopes each bar-coded and stamped with a student’s name. Prof. Sun-Davis called each of our names in turn and the students filed up one at a time to reverently receive the white envelope and return quietly to their desk to learn the contents.
JV got back to their desk first, tore the envelope open, and triumphantly waved the card around the room. “Blue dot, bitches!”
When I got my envelope back to my desk I paused for a moment before opening it. I knew I would find one of three things inside, a blue dot meant I could continue to focus on my education and career while a red or green dot meant I would be a Gyne. A red dot meant the tests had shown I most strongly identified as a female while a green dot meant I would become a man. But, before I could open the envelope, JV snatched it from my desk and ran out of the classroom; I grimaced an apology to my professor and ran after them.
When I caught up to JV they were sitting on the low concrete wall out in front of the school, crying. Never overly emotional, I’ve only seen JV cry a handful of times: when their father left, at the deaths of a favorite dog, and when they nearly flunked out of school in the 9th grade. JV was holding a plastic card on their lap, it had a red dot on it.
“You’re going to be a mom.” JV spat out bitterly.
“No, there must be some mistake—” I started, but my head was spinning. Something about the idea appealed to me. It was as if I knew instinctively that I was meant to be a woman.
When I reached for the card, stunned, trying to read my name stamped above the red mark JV shoved me away roughly.
“You want this? You really want this, don’t you. You want to be someone’s whore. You want to pop out babies like some pregnant bitch.”
JV pushed me again, hard, and my chest hurt where they struck me; I was overcome by panic and couldn’t breathe. I took a step back and stumbled off the curb.
“I thought we would be together forever. But you’ll forget all about me in a couple years, after the geneticists have had their way with you, and you’ve had your first taste of—”
I saw JV’s eyes widen as I took another step backwards; they saw the bus before I did. I only had time to throw up my arms as the metal grill bore down on me. The air was knocked out of me as JV threw their weight against me and I fell back.
JV was right about a lot of things, motherhood changed everything and I took to it right away. People thought it strange that I didn’t name my child after my maternal grandmother as is customary but baby Jones-Matthews would be lucky if they took after their namesake, even if JV was taken before their time.