Monday, July 10, 2023

Unborn that Way

Taylor looked up from the screen of their flat and across the central square.  It was still midmorning, at the heart of the first shift.  Everyone should be working, or in the Edcenter.  But it was a beautiful spring day, the air tart and clean, the sky a perfect blue, speckled with little puffy clouds.  It was as good as the best Virtual, only with that little bit extra, that unreplicable kiss of a soft breeze on your hand, that complex stirring of organic scent, new flower and chlorophyll and the rising of life after winter.

The square was bustling, because of course it was.  Technically, it was firstshift on a workday, but it was also the day after Matchday, and everyone knew what that meant.  The whole world slowed down after Matchday.   Tall oaks and maples planted a century ago cast down beneficent shade, the light playing down through their breeze teased leaves.  Couples and throuples and polys mingled and laughed and lounged on the grass, balancing worklife on the lifeside.   At the center of the park, a single deactivated combat and interdiction golem sat powered down and at peace, the lenses of its sensorium gazing fixed up at the blue, weapons binnacles empty, a statuary reminder of victory in the Culture Wars centuries ago.  

In the shadow of the great ancient bipedal machine, the young, teeners and twenties, connecting with their matches, and their energy sparkled, casual and flirtatious and excited.  

Which made this whole thing harder.  

Every one of these groupings, Taylor knew, had Clearance.  Had received the necessary reviews and approvals.  Had been matched with viable partners, single or multiple.

But Taylor themselves had not.  They had waited, hoping their message tone would chime on their flat, just like it had for everyone else they knew.  Excited chatter had filled the dorm as the day progressed, rising with each tone.  That chatter had subsided again as the afternoon waned, had grown more quiet as other dormies had gone out into the cool spring night to meetngreet their matches.  

Taylor'd not made a fuss of it, not called attention to themselves, trying not to detract from the pleasure of the day.  They'd tried to fade out of view, not to Be That Person.  Riley and Avery had noticed, of course, dear old friends that they were, and the three of them had huddled in a sympathetic klatch for a while. "I'm sure it's nothing," Riley'd said, smiling.  "You're just so lovely and compats with everyone." "Just a glitch," Avery affirmed.  "They'll be in touch soon.  You are beautiful and loved." 

But Riley's match was in Zone 9, and Avery's in Zone 19, and after staying as long as they could, they both left with a similar reluctant sigh.  

Finally, finally, long hours after everyone else, the message had come through.  It wasn't a match, or matches.  It wasn't the particulars of their Compatibility Cleared.  Just a terse formal instruction to report to the Region 12 Intimacy Coordination Center.  Not to Advisor Hayden, who had been super helpful, not to Testing for some additional assessment, but to report to the Office of the Senior Regional Intimacy Coordinator.  No details.  Nothing about why.  Taylor'd felt like the bottom of the world had fallen out, a cold stone in their stomach.

Across the park, through a gauntlet of happy hormones, stood the elegant glass edifice of the Regional Coordination Center.  On the ninth floor, in suite 9.077, the Senior Regional Intimacy Coordinator waited.

Taylor took a deep breath, and started forward through the throng.


"I know you're anxious to know what this is all about," Senior Regional Intimacy Coordinator Mx. Turnberry said, after Taylor had settled into a proffered chair.  Turnberry was a small person, with busy little hands that fidgeted across the surface of their neat, expansive desk.  Behind them, the window was bright with the light of morning, their face gently shadowed.

"Anxious is a good word for it," Taylor returned.  

"Let me reassure you.  You've done nothing wrong.  You are beautiful and loved."

"Beautiful and loved," Taylor repeated, but without enthusiasm.

"I won't lie to you.  We have a...complication."  The word chilled the room.

Mx Turnberry fiddled with their flat for a moment, then continued.  "Same gender attractants used to be embedded in the broader population, forced to keep themselves hidden by retrogressive and oppressive norms.  Same gender attractions and variant gender identities were forcibly suppressed, which we all acknowledge now was a terrible, terrible thing.  The Awakening changed all of that, and the Culture War finalized it, although it took most of a century, we together finally did the work to free the norms of culture from that primitive way of thinking.  It's been three hundred years since we cast all of that aside."

Taylor pursed their lips, waiting impatiently for the familiar monologue to end.  "I mean, of course, I know this, this is elementary ed stuff.  Why are you telling me this now?"

"There's a..."  Turnberry flushed, slightly.  "Let me be more direct.  There's a problem with your intimacy matching."  

"A problem?"

"We...uh...don't have any matches in system for you right at the moment."


Mx. Turnberry shook their head.  "Not at the moment."

"But the testing?  The assessments?  The psychexam and ideologograms?  Those results were...I thought I had passed."

"You did.  You did exceptionally well," affirmed Turnberry, earnestly.  "You are beautiful and loved, wonderful just as you are."

"Then why...what's going on?  Everyone I know is being matched.  What's wrong with me?  You're not telling me something."  Taylor's thoughts circled, swirled, repeated.  "What's going on?"

"I know this is potentially traumatizing," said Turnberry, their voice measured.  "And be assured that I will do everything in my power to fix this.  You deserve an answer.  Let me show you something."

Turnberry swept their fingers across the haptics on their flat, and a neat hidef holo appeared.  Graph lines snaked across a glowing grid, frequency tracked over time.  "It wasn't really something anyone considered, back when we came to better understand the fluidity and variability of gender.  Cisbinidenting folx like myself and my partner could always choose to live into their birth gender.  After the Culture War, those who chose differently were finally free to have full autonomy over their bodies and gender identities.  No-one would ever again be forced to live into the false assumed binary of tradsexuality."

The graph glowed and shifted, a line spiking upwards, holding, then descending precipitously.

"That freeing came with a price, one that became more evident as time passed.  It's well known that queer identities are a fluid social construct.  But...ah...they're also genetic.  A question of an individual's brain structure and hormonal balance.  We are born into ourselves, our particular and uniquely beautiful identities shaped by the genetic contributions of our birthing person and our seeding person."

Taylor closed their eyes, and suppressed an impatient groan.  "Yeah yeah yeah.  I know this."

"Given the choice to live into their gender and our prior overpopulation, a supermajority of queer folx chose, well, they chose not to reproduce."

"A right is chosen, a new world flows in," Taylor murmured, their words involuntarily following the lyrical cadence of the old kindergarten song.

"It does," said Turnberry.  "Of course.  It's the responsible choice, particularly as we right-populated into the collective reimagining of our ecology.  Which is what makes the outcome so very...." they paused, genuine pain on their face.  "Ironic.  Or tragic.  Some combination of the both."

Taylor's eyes widened.  "What are you saying?  I can't be..."

"Seventeen generations, in which queer folx reproduced at a rate less than one quarter that of an already intentionally reduction-focused tradsexual population.  Genetic screenings of embryo slates for Wellbaby and Chosenchild Parenting Preference Protocols also had a nontrivial impact.  The genetic predispositions to certain identities that had always passed along covertly under oppressive hegemonic tradsexual reproduction norms just...didn't.  Pass along, I mean."

There was a pause, then Turnberry continued.  "Have you known anyone who shared your identity?"

"I haven't.  But I thought...I assumed..."  Taylor's voice petered out, choked away by a rising dread.  They went on.

"Are you...are you saying that people like me were...bred out of existence?"

The Coordinator struggled to meet Taylor's gaze. "No no no no.  'Bred' is an assumption of imposition.  This wasn't some perverse twentieth century eugenic nightmare.  It was a choice, one made by millions, one that affirmed identities and birthing preferences and the social good, one informed by the intersection of gender and climate, one that..."

"But you're saying there are no more actually queer people."

Turnberry looked a little distressed.  "No, we would never say that, of course we're all queer in our own way, and mutations do occur regularly even in a hypermajority tradsexual population.  There will always be some."

"How many?  How many like me right now?"  Taylor's voice, tinged with heat.

Turnberry flushed.  "'s a little.."

"You're the Senior Regional Intimacy Coordinator.  You know the answer, and it's my right as a citizen to know.  How many?"


"Only seven in the region?  That's so few.  Almost no-one."

Turnberry inhaled through their nose, let out a long sigh.  "Oh, Taylor.  That's not what I'm saying.  Seven total unassigned in your age moeity, for all regions, everywhere.  Four are unpaired same gender attracted birthing persons, two are birthing-person-presenting post-transition, alternate gender attractant.  And there's you."


"Just you."

There was a long silence.  "I'm the only gay man on the planet?"

Turnberry recoiled as if struck.  "You know we don't ever use those ur-fascist heteroassumptive terms, Taylor."  Their voice edged colder, repressing their offense at the slurs.  "You know better.  But you're upset, so I'll let that pass without dinging your social score.  But yes.  You are the only cisbinidenting same gender attractant seeding person currently in the global dataset.  Within your age moiety and psychodemography."

"I'm sorry.  I'm...but...but maybe the moieties above me?  Older?  Younger?  Maybe there's some..."

"They're not matches.  We've tried.  Their pairings/groupings are too settled, or their testing indicates unacceptable levels of compatibility.  The numbers are just so low."

Taylor slumped back into their chair.  "I...what can"

Turnberry softened.  "Look.  This is so, so upsetting.  Traumatizing.  Not just for you.  For all of us.  This has been taken to the highest levels, to all of the Regional Intimacy Coordinators.  Even Global's paying attention.  We're monitoring all tests, we've prioritized your Match.  You'll have your Matchday, you will.  Just not now."

Mx. Turnberry looked as earnest as they could.  "You're an important person to all of us.  You are beautiful and loved."

The platitude, like a cold wind in the leaves.  A hiss rose in Taylor's ears, and the world spun.  Beautiful. Loved.  

But not now.