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False Positives
At least the nanites didn't insist on long hair. When I got it cut, it stayed cut for as long as you'd expect. And I got it cut pretty often these days; when I had a male body, I didn't have anything to prove and I might sometimes let it get a little shaggy between cuts, but not now, not if I wanted people to see me as a man despite my messed-up body.
Author(s): Trismegistus Shandy | 1 Warnings!
Content Keywords | Status: Completed | To Disqus!
MyReviews: 0

False Positives
Posted: 2018-11-04 14:48:43 | Updated: 2018-11-04 14:54:08
Words: 6979

I pulled up to the gate and showed the guard my invitation; she waved me through and directed me to visitors' parking. At this angle, the Lamp didn’t look as much like an old-fashioned Arabian oil lamp as it did in certain photographs, but you could see how it got that nickname; all round and bulbous in the center, with a long curving balcony-thing about three or four stories up.

And, of course, there were genies inside.

I parked and looked in the rear-view mirror, combing my hair and straightening my tie. Nobody was quite sure how much the genies understood about human gender — obviously not enough — but to whatever extent they did, I had to give the right impression. These stupid breasts might be immune to hormones or mastectomy, but I’d bound them down as tight as I could — which left them still pretty noticeable — and I’d worn not just masculine clothes, as I did every day, but formal clothes, a suit with jacket and tie.

At least the nanites didn’t insist on long hair. When I got it cut, it stayed cut for as long as you’d expect. And I got it cut pretty often these days; when I had a male body, I didn’t have anything to prove and I might sometimes let it get a little shaggy between cuts, but not now, not if I wanted people to see me as a man despite my messed-up body. Of course, some people were understanding enough once I explained; transgender people had never been so high-profile, even though there were now less than one percent as many as there used to be. And straight, cis people seemed oddly more understanding of trans people who’d only had to put up with it for a few months than they had been of those who’d suffered through it their whole lives. People are weird; it’s no wonder the genies haven’t figured us out yet.

Time to do my part.

I walked up the sidewalk from the visitor’s lot to the main entrance. One of the genies' human employees greeted me at the front desk, and I showed him my invitation. He looked me over and nodded. “The Dazhenir are expecting you, sir. Right this way...”

He led me down a winding hallway to a round archway into a big room roughly the same shape as the Lamp as a whole. Five of the genies — the Dazhenir — were sitting, or crouching, on big ottomans around the room; there was an empty human-style chair in the center. “Good luck,” my guide whispered, gesturing toward the empty chair.

I walked in and sat down.

“Connor Tallman?” they all said in unison.


“Tell us what you wish.”

I took a deep breath, and tried to remember the speech I’d been rehearsing. But I’d gone blank on it all of a sudden. I’d have to improvise.

“Okay. So, a few months ago, you granted a wish to a transgender person. She explained how some humans have the wrong body, the wrong biological sex — it doesn’t fit their minds, their personality. And our doctors had figured out how to sort-of kind-of fix their bodies, with cosmetic surgery and hormones; they weren’t fully functional, they couldn’t reproduce, and sometimes they didn’t look quite right but at least they were better off than before. But then you, um, gave us these nanites —” (The folks on the forum had said I should say “gave us” rather than “infected us with”; at least I remembered that part of the speech.) “After that other wish somebody made last year, the paraplegic veteran? And it made people’s lost eyes and limbs and stuff grow back, which was great, but it also made trans women’s penises grow back, and trans men’s breasts grow back, and they really weren’t happy about it.”

“This was explained to us, and we corrected our mistake.”

“But, see, the patch you gave us for the nanites didn’t just fix their bodies. Whatever method you used for detecting trans people and deciding to change their biological sex to match their minds... it wasn’t perfectly accurate. You got it wrong about one percent of the time. And I’m one of the false positives.”

Two years ago

It hadn’t been so bad when the genies first arrived. There was some suspicion about their intentions at first, but after a while all but the most paranoid accepted that they hadn’t come all this way to conquer Earth, not when they had plenty of terraformable (or wherever-formable) planets much closer to home. They wanted to help, they said, and after they granted our first few “wishes”, most of us believed them.

They’d fixed global warming, to start with, by scattering thousands of little machines around the planet that sucked carbon out of the atmosphere and spat out diamonds. Not just rough industrial diamonds, but big jewel-quality diamonds. Everybody who didn’t work in the diamond industry and some who did thought that was a good thing.

And then they’d released those nanites that infected all of humanity within a few months, growing back lost limbs and curing a lot of diseases, though not all. Practicing Jews and some others weren’t happy about circumcisions being undone, but someone made another wish and the genies released a patch for the nanites' software that said not to undo any further circumcisions. Those who wanted to got re-circumcised and it stuck, that time. But the post-op transsexuals had a more serious problem; many of them had spent their life savings on surgery that was undone in a few days, and it was almost a year before a trans person was selected in the wish lottery.

In the meantime, somebody wished for an end to racism. The genies' understanding of the causes of racism lacked in subtlety and nuance, because their solution was another nanite patch that randomized everyone’s skin colors. I had pastel green skin for several months before somebody else wished away the spectrum of unnatural colors, and we were back to the old “red and yellow, black and white” — but still randomized, and changing every few months. By the time they released the software patch to fix gender dysphoria, I’d gone from pastel green to Swedish pale to a Hispanic light brown, none of which bothered me much; everyone else had the same problem, which made it not much of a problem.

Those software patches for the nanites took a few weeks to propagate to all the humans on the planet, starting in the places where the genies had built their Lamps. So by the time my nanites got infected with the latest patch, I’d already heard about it on the news. At that point there wasn’t any hint of its being sometimes inaccurate; all the people interviewed were trans, and happy to have their bodies fixed even if in some cases they weren’t happy about being abruptly uncloseted.

When I first heard about it I’d texted my friend Sheila to ask if she’d gotten the patch yet. No, but she was going to take a trip to Minneapolis (the nearest big city to the North American Lamp) and meet up with some local trans people who’d definitely gotten it. She’d never had the full surgery, but she’d been on hormones since we were in high school and had minor facial surgeries in her mid-twenties, and the genies' first nanites had undone all those years of progress. She’d been utterly devastated; she hardly went out in public for a week, she was so depressed.

A few days after she contracted the new patch, she called me again, burbling with delight; she was already showing symptoms. I had dinner with her a few days later, and she was already looking more feminine than I’d ever seen her.

The next day at work, I noticed I was still hungry after I’d finished the lunch I’d brought. I got some chips from the vending machine, finished them off in short order, and made two or three more trips to the vending machine in the course of the afternoon. I finished off a whole frozen pizza for supper, where I’d normally eat it over the course of two or three meals. By then I was getting a little suspicious; I remembered Sheila talking about how hungry she got after she was infected with the new patch, before she started changing. And next morning, when clumps of my beard were falling out, my suspicions grew more definite.

But why?


“You were not transgender, and yet our nanites changed your sex?”

“That’s what I’m saying.” Or babbling. Get it together, man, a hundred thousand people worldwide are counting on you.

“This is perplexing. Our scan of your brain indicates the usual markers of a female identity.”

“Your scanner is wrong. I’m a guy, damnit!” And when had they scanned me? Just now? When I walked through the archway into this room? When I walked through the front door? It didn’t matter; I forced myself to take slow, deep breaths. I couldn’t get angry with them.

Five months ago

“You shaved your beard,” my co-worker Roger remarked in surprise.

I was pretty sure I already knew what was happening, but I wanted to buy time to deal with it. “It was getting annoying with all this hot weather we’ve been having,” I lied.

“Yeah, I thought the genies were supposed to have fixed global warming.”

“It took us a century or two to screw up our atmosphere, it might take them several years to fix it,” I rejoined. I wasn’t sure why I was defending them; I wasn’t feeling very well disposed toward them at the moment. Habit, I suppose.

I got through the work day somehow, rushed home, and stripped off. When I repeated the measurements I’d made that morning, they confirmed my suspicions: my nipples were definitely getting bigger, and my genitals smaller. And there were lots of little chest hairs in the lining of my shirt, which had fallen out in the course of the day.

I called Sheila and told her what was happening.

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “Connor, why didn’t you tell me?”

“I just did,” I said, not quite realizing at first what she meant.

“I mean, about being trans... I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that. I know what it’s like to be afraid to tell people, even people I know I should be able to trust —”

“Sheila, you’ve got the wrong idea,” I interrupted. “I know the genies' new nanites are supposed to look at people’s brains and figure out their gender identity... but they got it wrong in my case. I don’t want to be female. This is scaring the shit out of me; I finally know what you felt like all those years... at least sort of.”

She was quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry. I should have known better than to make assumptions like that... Oh my God, what if it’s because you were hanging out with me while I was changing?”

“Has anybody else you’ve been with had this happen?”

“Not that I know of...”

“Or other trans people you’ve talked to?”


“I’ve been searching online and so far I haven’t found any other accounts of people like me. But it’s hard to tell because I keep finding so many stories about real trans people getting changed; if there are others like me they’re not easy to find.”

“Well. We can keep looking. Meanwhile, there’s somebody else I want you to meet.”


“Our sources indicate that many humans whose gender identity does not match their biological sex have denied this in order to avoid shame or social stigma. Is this the reason you assert that you are a guy?”

“No! I’m cool with transgender people. I’m just not one of them. Or I wasn’t until you changed me.”

“We apologize. We thought we understood how to tell male from female humans, but we were mistaken. We must do further research.”

Five months ago

So Sheila made some phone calls, and a couple of days later, I met her for supper again after work. The person sitting with her looked kind of androgynous, but was wearing unambiguously masculine clothes, and had hair even shorter than mine. (I’d just had mine cut, the day after I noticed my beard falling out.)

“Hey,” Sheila called, “this is Stan. Stan, this is Connor.”

“Sheila told me something about you,” Stan said.

“Is the same thing happening to you, then?” I asked.

He smiled — I thought he might have been suppressing a laugh. “No; just the opposite. Until a few days ago I had the same problem you’re about to have.”

The light went on in my head; he was like Sheila, only he’d been born with a female body where she’d been born with a male one.

“I thought he could maybe help you out,” Sheila explained. “You know, with making yourself look as masculine as possible under the circumstances.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’d rather find a more permanent solution — the genies messed me up, so presumably they can fix me — but that will help in the meantime.”

“How much have you changed so far?” Stan asked.

I squirmed in my seat. “The, um, breasts are still small enough to hide, but they’re getting bigger every day. My scrotum’s empty and my penis is still there, but pretty small.”

He nodded. “Depending on how big they get, we might still be able to conceal them with the right binding and clothes. At worst, we can probably de-emphasize them. What are you using to bind them right now...?”


“Listen,” I said to the genies, “gender identity is really complicated. Maybe you can refine your brain-scan criteria and have fewer false positives and false negatives the next time around, but I’m pretty sure there will always be a few mistakes if you’re using some automated process to decide whether and how to transform people. Why not just ask us?”

“There are too many people dissatisfied with their bodies to deal with one by one,” they said. “Wishes must be for general solutions to problems affecting ten thousand or more humans. There are too few of us on your planet to spend our limited time helping individual humans, however much we regret inadvertently harming them.”

“Then give us the means to change ourselves. Give us devices we can use to reprogram our own nanites.”

“Another human has already wished for this. Unfortunately, there is danger that antisocial humans would find a way to use such a technology as a weapon against others of your kind.”

They’d refused to give us new energy sources for the same reason. “You can’t fix it so nobody can use it except on themselves?”

“Not at your present level of development. Your minds are not orderly enough to reliably control technology with your thoughts.”

“Then can you at least let us turn off the part that makes hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery ineffective? Let the people who slip through the cracks in your filter get fixed up the old-fashioned way, if you won’t help us directly.”

“This too could be weaponized.”


“The same technology could be used by antisocial humans to prevent other humans from healing after injuries to the reproductive organs.”

“Oh. Yeah, that would be a bad thing. Well...” I paused in thought. All the things I’d planned to ask for had fallen through.

Five months ago

The genies had given us several new technologies for growing more food with less damage to the environment, and they had been in use for at least two growing seasons in most parts of the world. But food still wasn’t getting distributed everywhere for political reasons, and the genies weren’t willing to intervene directly to stop that. There were still places suffering famine or malnutrition because local warlords would steal all the food coming into the area and make sure only their followers got any.

And the reports coming out of those areas said almost nobody was changing sex there, unlike everywhere else.

That decided me. I’d stop giving in to the huge appetite my nanites had given me, and see if I just stopped changing, or if I suffered from malnutrition and starvation. I saw my doctor every day and had blood tests, and ate a carefully measured diet, just what someone my height and weight ought theoretically to need and not a bite more.

That lasted four days. The blood tests didn’t show any obvious problems — my nanites weren’t breaking down fat and muscle to use for fueling the transformation, which had ground to a halt. But the hunger — it got worse every hour, until I thought I couldn’t stand it, and then it got worse again. Hunger was keeping me awake half the night and I was stumbling through the day at work, bleary and falling asleep for a few moments here and there. My incipient breasts didn’t get any bigger, but they didn’t get smaller either, and my scrotum remained empty.

After four days of that, I decided it wasn’t worth it. The nanites had already cost me my manhood, in a real sense; my toddler-sized penis hadn’t had an erection since my beard started falling out, and probably never would again even if I managed to keep it from going all the way and turning into a clitoris. And I’d have to live with this gnawing hunger for the rest of my life, making it impossible to pay attention to or enjoy anything else. One morning I gave up on the diet, ate all the food I had in the house in one sitting, and went out for another breakfast. I then stopped by a convenience store and bought two bags of chips, a can of peanuts and a package of jerky to snack on at work.

Within another four days, my transformation was complete.

I called up Stan and told him I’d given up on the diet and that the changes were continuing apace. He made sympathetic noises and asked if there was anything he could do to help.

“Yeah,” I said. “Can we meet sometime — somewhere more private than a restaurant — and can you give me some more pointers on how to make a female body look as male as possible?”

So we did. He came over to my house and showed me a better way to bind breasts, which he’d verbally described at supper a few nights earlier. He pointed me to a webstore that catered to trans men and advised me on what to buy to fill out my boxers with the right general shape, something with a greater air of verisimilitude than a pair of socks.

They were having a clearance sale. Imagine that.


“So,” I said, “I guess we’re back to improving the criteria the nanites use to identify transgender people. You’ll need brain scans of a bunch of people like me who were changed by mistake, male-to-female and female-to-male both, and also people who were transgender and didn’t get the transformation they wanted...”

“We will undertake this research. Is there anything else you would wish in order to repair this mistake we made?”

I thought some more. “Maybe, instead of trying to figure out our gender by looking at different parts of our brain, you can try to figure out if we’re happy with our bodies or not?” That could solve a lot of other problems besides gender dysphoria, I thought.

“Our nanites can detect unhappiness fairly reliably. Perhaps better than than they determine gender, perhaps not quite so well. But to reliably identify the causes of unhappiness, we would have to understand humans much better than we do.”

“Well, scratch that. Hmm. Can I have a few minutes to think?”

“We will listen to you until noon, local time.”

Five months ago

By the time my changes were complete, the binding wasn’t helping as much as it had at first. Larger, looser shirts helped some, but anybody who wasn’t half blind was going to notice the fact that I was now biologically female.

My boss, Teresa, called me into her office the day after my changes were too big to hide anymore.

“I just want you to know that you have my total support,” she said. “If anybody gives you any hassle about being, um, transgender —” she paused and glanced at something on her monitor, probably an article about gender dysphoria — “tell me and I’ll have Wanda in Human Resources give them a stern talking-to. Second offense and they’re out the door.”

“Thanks,” I said, and meant it; but then she had to mess it all up:

“And congratulations,” she said. “I never realized how much you were suffering inside, and I blame myself, partly — I must not have made it clear that you’d be perfectly safe here if you decided to come out and transition.”

“But I —”

“I know this must come as a great relief to you and so many others,” she said. “Now that it’s obvious how many of you there are, we can’t ignore you anymore and you don’t have to hide. I’m sure there will be rough spots here and there, but I’ll do my best to make sure none of them are on the job.”

“Um. Thank you, I guess. But I’m not really...”

“Don’t worry — you’re welcome to go ahead and start using the women’s restroom even if the nanites haven’t finished changing you. And if you’d like some advice about women’s professional attire, you can ask me anytime — or Sara in Accounting, I know she’s okay with transgender people. Her brother’s trans, if I recall correctly... Or was it her brother-in-law? I know I remember her telling me about him.”

“I’d rather go on using the men’s room,” I said, finally getting a word in edgewise. “And thank you for being so supportive, but I’m not actually — well, I guess I’m transgender now but I wasn’t before. I’m still a man inside.”

She looked at me pityingly. “You can transition at your own pace, of course,” she said. “You have my full support, whenever you’re ready to come out. But I don’t think you’ve got so much to worry about as you would have had before. Just be sure to talk to Wanda about updating records when you decide on your new name.”


I kept thinking. And some imp of the perverse suggested that they might do with sex what they’d done with race — have us all randomly change sex two or three times a year. It would have one big advantage over just making an incremental improvement to their nanites' auto-detection of gender: nobody would be left out. Everybody would get to be their preferred sex half the time. On the other hand, everybody would suffer gender dysphoria half the time, too, right?

Not necessarily, I decided. Kids growing up with that probably wouldn’t get fixated on one gender identity. After a generation or two of that, we’d probably be better off, a world with no sexism or gender dysphoria. Would it be worth all the suffering to the older generations in the meantime?

But then I thought again about the nanite-reprogramming device they’d refused to give us. Why did it have to be a device?

“...What if, instead of a little remote control thingy, you program the nanites to respond to chemical cues? Like, if you want to change sex, eat some Brussels sprouts. There can’t be many people who actually like that stuff, but if you’re desperate enough to want a change of sex, eating a few Brussels sprouts would be a small price to pay.”

They didn’t respond right away, and I hastened to add: “The Brussels sprouts thing was kind of a joke. I mean, not entirely, but we should do some research, figure out some food or spice that not many people enjoy eating but isn’t too rare or expensive.”

They replied: “Having the nanites respond to a chemical cue in food is feasible. However, it is subject to abuse, as antisocial humans could introduce the chemical trigger into others' food or drink by trickery or force.”

I thought of a disgruntled employee in a restaurant kitchen putting finely grated Brussels sprouts into the Soup of the Day just before they quit their job. Or terrorists dumping essence of Brussels sprouts into a city’s water supply. “Yeah, that would be bad. But then the people who get changed could just eat some more Brussels sprouts — or whatever — and change back.”

“Would they not suffer greatly from this ‘gender dysphoria’ in the meantime?”

“Yeah, pretty much. Hmm...” I thought back to the days when I’d eaten eight to ten thousand calories a day to fuel my transformation, and how it had stopped while I tried to starve it.

“What about just making it just depend on caloric intake? If you’re getting as many calories as you need, or a little more, nothing happens. Or if you’re not getting enough, obviously. But if you eat a lot more than you need, the extra calories go into transforming you, changing your sex. Oh, and it would need to take into account the extra calories children and teens need for growing. — And obviously nobody would transform if they’re pregnant or nursing.”

They were silent for a long moment, and then said: “This is acceptable. Antisocial humans could force-feed others with high-calorie foods. But if they have power to do that, they would have power to harm their captives in many other ways than by changing their sex. Is this what you wish?”

I thought it over, and couldn’t think of any obvious drawbacks. “Yeah, go for it.”

Four months ago

Teresa wasn’t the only person who thought I’d been a closeted trans woman and was finally getting a magic fix for a problem I’d never had the courage to ask for help with. The liberal talk shows were full of stories of people like that, naturally enough; heartwarming stories all, and I didn’t want to take away from their special moments. The conservative talk shows couldn’t decide which they hated more, the Muslim extremists who were stoning their abruptly-uncloseted trans people, the anonymous transgender person who’d made the wish, or the genies who’d granted it. I called in to one such show, when another false positive like me was a guest, but apparently I didn’t hate the aliens enough:

“Human gender is sometimes too complicated for even humans to understand,” I was saying, “so we shouldn’t be surprised that the genies' first attempt at gender-detection software wasn’t 100% accurate. Another wish or two and maybe they’ll get it right.”

“Gender’s plain enough,” the host insisted. “What you don’t understand is the alien agenda,” and he cut me off.


They had me wait in the lobby for a couple of hours while they programmed the new nanite patch and tested it in the simulator. Then they called me back to another room and had me inhale a few breaths from something like an oxygen mask. When I left, I was Patient Zero for the new patch.

I emailed the NeoTG support group list as soon as I got to my hotel, CC’ing Sheila and Stan and some other friends, then went down to the nearest buffet restaurant and loaded up plate after plate. I put it away until I couldn’t find any more room, and crawled off to bed. I made myself pig out again at breakfast, despite my gastrointestinal distress of the night before. By lunchtime, my new and improved nanites had gotten the message, and it was no longer a chore to eat a bigger than average lunch; it would have been agony not to. Before I reached home, the überhunger had kicked in; I’d bought several bags of assorted chips at the last gas station and munched on them pretty much continuously until I stopped in Minneapolis to eat supper and sleep, and all the next day until I reached home.

Four months ago

So there were others like me out there, and between radio shows and news articles and Internet forums, we managed to gradually find each other. Someone created a new forum for us, actually a new sub-board on an existing transgender support group site, and I became one of the more frequent posters. I also joined a new Chicago-area meetup for false positives, and eventually met more than a dozen others like me. It seemed there were probably thousands of us in the U.S., somewhere between half a percent and one percent of the number of pre-existing trans people, but of course not all were “joiners”; some responded to the unwanted change with immediate suicide, or by becoming recluses, and others had all the support they needed from family and friends without feeling a need to meet with others like them.

Nearly all of us were entering the wish lottery every week. Some of us had been doing it before this happened to us, of course; I’m not sure what Yolande had planned to do with her wish before she turned male and her husband left her, but she had a lot to say about the piece of her mind she wanted to give the genies. We spent almost as much time talking about what we would wish for — about how we would wish for the genies to clean up the mess they’d made — as we did about how we were freaked out by our new bodies and the way people were treating us.

I haven’t said much about the bigotry and mistreatment I suffered during the months I spent with a body of the wrong sex. Not everyone was as understanding as Sheila, or even as well-intentioned as Teresa; some men looked down on me because they saw me as a woman, and some people of both sexes, despite everything that had happened in recent months, were down on me because I was female but insisted on dressing and being treated as a man. I had my share of men staring at my breasts, amorphously bound down though they usually were, and got groped a couple of times in crowded public places. But if you really want to know what that was like, look at any of the memoirs written before all this happened, by people like Sheila and Stan. From what I’ve heard, it was all much worse in the old days, before the nanite patch made it obvious how many previously-closeted transgender people there were and that almost everyone knew somebody who was trans. For all the mistreatment I received, mostly from strangers, I got a lot more understanding from my friends and people I worked with — along with plenty of well-intentioned misunderstanding. But however nice they were, people still looked at me differently than I was used to; there was no getting around that.

When the genies informed me that I’d been chosen in the wish lottery, and told me when to show up at the Lamp, I made a list of all the best ideas I’d heard in the meetings or read about on the forum for how to get them to fix the problem. There were a lot of crazy ideas, too, that I ignored... almost certainly the genies would have turned me down if I’d asked for them, but better safe than sorry.

I told Teresa about the wish and she approved my request for the days off without cavil, even though it was short notice. I packed my bag and left the next morning.


When I checked my email, my inbox was deluged: congratulations, thanks, inquiries whether I’d started changing back yet, requests for clarification about exactly what I’d wished for. I answered the ones that seemed to need a response while I heated up a frozen pizza, one of those left over from my last transformation. I was still hungry after that, and had room for a few cookies after the second pizza.

By the time I returned to work the next day, my breasts were noticeably smaller and easier to bind; they were gone by the end of the week, and my little friend was still a little undersized, but definitely back in business. Sheila and Stan threw a party for me the following weekend; all the neo-trans people I knew in the metro area came to get exposed to the nanite patch, though some I’d already exposed when I met them for lunch or supper during the week. Sheila had also invited several false negatives, trans people who hadn’t gotten transformed along with all the rest.

“They turned down everything else I asked for,” I was telling some of them, who’d asked me about my interview with the genies for the seventeenth time. “Except for just tweaking their gender-algorithm. And that wouldn’t have helped everybody, and it might have hurt people that got lucky the first time around. They rejected everything we’d brainstormed about on the forums — all the sane ideas I actually brought up, anyway — and I was stumped, and about to just ask them to try to improve the gender-algorithm, when I thought of this other solution.”

“So we just have to eat like three times as much as normal and we’ll change back?” Yolande asked. Turning male had pretty much wrecked her marriage, which (reading between the lines of her story) was kind of rickety to begin with; she’d been way depressed the whole time I’d known her, and had shown up to only about one support group meeting in three, but she looked hopeful today for the first time.

“Maybe not three times as much, exactly,” I began, but just then someone said: “Hey, look at this!” She was holding up a tablet with some kind of video playing on it; several people crowded round to look, and she sent the link to others' phones and tablets. Moments later Stan put it up on his big screen.

A reporter or vlogger was interviewing someone I pegged as probably trans (though a moment later I mentally amended that snap judgment, thinking maybe a butch lesbian? or something more complicated?): overweight, with breasts and hips too big to hide under the loose overalls, and a buzz cut. And the caption suggested trans, too:

Leonard Ostendorf — Rothsay, Minnesota

Something sounded familiar about Rothsay, and it nagged at me for a few moments as I listened to the interview. Leonard identified as male, all right, and had been biologically male until a week ago, when he started changing.

Right about the time I did, in fact. And I remembered: I’d stopped for lunch in Rothsay on my way home from the Lamp.

There were short interviews with two other neo-trans people there in Rothsay, one MtF and one FtM, who’d both started changing within a day of my stop there; all more or less overweight, and none happy about the change. Then the reporter said there were scattered reports of other new changees, mostly in Minnesota and Illinois. And then:

“This past Monday, the genies' weekly press release mentioned a new software patch for the nanites that now inhabit all of our bodies. Buried among the list of new disease cures and bug fixes was a new feature, the result of a recent wish: that the nanites should change a person’s sex if the person eats a high-calorie diet sufficient to fuel the transformation.

“Five months ago, the genies released an earlier patch that was intended to help transsexuals by changing them from the chromosomes out, more thoroughly than human sex-change surgeons ever could. But their nanites couldn’t always identify transsexuals accurately; a few thousand people were changed by mistake.”

Then there was a few seconds of stock footage from an interview with Irene Stiller, a member of the Canadian parliament and probably the most famous false positive, before the Minnesotan vlogger returned.

“Was this latest wish made by one of these unfortunate persons, hoping for a way to reverse what had been done to them? Or was it motivated by a desire to cure obesity and discourage overeating, the form of the discouragement being merely suggested by the genies' mistakes with the earlier patch?

“As usual, the genies have not released the name of the wisher, but the geographical pattern of the latest changes suggest that Patient Zero for the latest patch traveled from the Lamp near Rugby, North Dakota to Chicago, Illinois on or about November 13-14. At least four of the changees here in Rothsay all ate lunch at the same restaurant on November 13, and two changees in Dixon, Illinois both stopped for gas at the same convenience store the following day.”

“Oh, shit,” I said.

“You were there, weren’t you?” Sheila asked.

“I’ll have to look at my gas receipts to make sure, but I know I ate at a buffet in Rothsay, and I guess I must have stopped at that gas station. I just didn’t realize they’d set the caloric requirements so low...”

“How specific were you?” Stan asked.

“Not specific enough... obviously.”

“Don’t worry too much,” Ted said, clapping me on the back. “You just gave people another reason to eat healthy. Looks like all those folks could stand to burn off some calories transforming, and if they keep eating like that, they’ll change back in another couple of weeks, right?”

I could only hope so.

Ten years later

You know what happened next, of course. Thanksgiving was five days later, and despite warnings, an estimated 38% of Americans ate enough that day to trigger a change. And the following Monday, I was doxxed by hackers who’d gotten into the transaction records of the restaurants and gas stations along my route. I spent several terrifying days hiding out in Stan’s apartment (Stan isn’t his real name, if it isn’t already obvious), while an angry mob burned me in effigy and my house in reality. The genies released another nanite patch a few months later, increasing the caloric requirements for the transformation trigger, but by then the damage had been done; I’ve changed my name, my face, and my country of residence, and I almost never see my old friends anymore, not in person.

I still consider myself a benefactor to humankind. Just improving the genies' gender-identity algorithm wouldn’t have helped gender-fluid and non-binary people the way my wish did. And it wouldn’t have whittled away at sexism the way my wish eventually did. Within five years, an estimated 95% of people under thirty had tried being of the opposite sex for a while, and a surprising number — a lot more than the tens of millions of trans people the nanites had originally transformed — decided to stay that way. The wage gap between men and women has decreased by half, and it’s still decreasing — just to mention one of the more quantifiable improvements. Certain places where women were especially badly off had large numbers of women, especially young women, becoming men to escape bad situations or simply to expand their opportunities, and the shortage of women instigated those countries to modify their laws and customs in self-defense. It will take a generational change to make the new attitudes to gender as deep and pervasive as they should be, and that will take a long time; we’re all living a lot longer and having fewer babies with the latest version of the nanites. But in a few centuries, most of us old folks will have died off, and the people who grew up with the idea they could be a girl today and a boy next week will be running the world. Good luck to them.

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