Gary Couzens is a British writer whose work has been published in The Magazine of
Fantasy & Science Fiction, Interzone, The Third
Alternative, Peeping Tom, Psychotrope and Urges, and in the anthology
Bizarre Sex and Other Crimes of Passion (Richard Kasak Books). This story previously appeared in
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All materials copyright 1996-1997 by their respective
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posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).
All materials copyright 1996-1997 by their respective creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).
by Gary Couzens
Part FivePenny sits in the back as Richard drives to the hospital.
The voice seems so convincing, so reasonable. It (he) even has a name: Peter. So logical and yet so absurd. She thinks: My name is Penelope Jane Walsh. Less formally (more usually), Penny Walsh. I am female, single, twenty-five years old. I do not have a male alter ego.
And yet she does. According to Peter, if nature's dice had landed another way, and she were a man, she would be him.
And Peter wants to be her.
- Tell me, she says to him. Why do you want to be a woman?
- I don't know. I always have. Ever since I was little, I've had this sense I was in the wrong body. When I was at school, I had to prevent myself from going into the girls' toilets. I did once, and everyone laughed at me.
- I'm sorry for you. But I still think you're exaggerating. I don't think I'm very feminine. I only wear a skirt because I have to for work. Outside work, I slop around in leggings or jeans. I don't wear makeup. I've got one posh dress I never wear, except to weddings.
- It's all very well for you to say. That's your choice. You have that choice: you're a woman.
- I know I am. I wouldn't want it any other way.
- You can't imagine it any other way.
- Well, no. I wouldn't want to be a man. That's the last thing I'd want.
- Then how do you think I fucking well feel? I can imagine it, but I can't fucking have it!
She can feel tears prickling his eyes, a band about his throat. She feels his iron self-control. If Michelle and Richard weren't in the front seat, he'd be crying. Or maybe he wouldn't be.
- Then why don't you do something about it? she says. It's no good wallowing in self-pity.
- What do you mean?
- You can get a sex change.
- You can't just "get a sex change"! Do you know what's involved in that?
- Well, no. I can't say I do.
- You've got to get a psychiatrist to certify you're genuinely transsexual. If he doesn't believe you, you can't get the operation. You've got to live as your chosen gender for two years. I'll have to have electrolysis treatment to get rid of my facial hair. I've have to take hormones. And then, if I'm lucky, they'll let me have the operation. That costs a lot of money if you get it done privately. Do you know what they do there?
- No doubt you're going to tell me.
- They cut your penis off. They fold the scrotal tissue into a hole they make between your legs: that's your vagina. The glans becomes the clitoris. They restructure the urethra. Only an expert can tell the difference between that and the real thing.
- Stop it! You're making me sick!
She breaks contact. It's her own fault; she asked him for details and she got details.
She's still feeling queasy when they reach the hospital.