“… a workshop on Administration of Human Sexuality …” Apparently this is a thing …
It is a poorly-lit, windowless, narrowly-rectangular meeting room in a drab, functional office building somewhere in the United States of America. It features a long, rectangular, cheap wood veneer table that fits with enough room left over for people to walk around it and the chairs lined up against it – just. The chairs are filled with around 20 nervous, fidgety ten-year-olds, a parent or guardian standing behind each one. There are manila folders on the table, one for each child. None have yet been disturbed. At the head of the table, opposite the room’s single door, sits a prim, uptight, European-descended pale-skinned woman of middle age, dressed in the olive-drab uniform of her agency, close-cropped mousy-brown hair all but invisible under her military-style cap, waiting for the clock on her phone to show the precise time for the start of the session. From her expression and obvious weariness, she has given too many of these sessions already today. As the clock digits fall into place, she raps twice on the table with her knuckles, gaining the attention of those around the table, and begins speaking, in a tired but nevertheless clipped-authoritative voice.
“Thank you all for being here today. Congratulations, young people, on having your tenth birthday this month, and therefore graduating to the next stage in the sexual identity which we, in keeping with our duties and responsibilities in your Administration of Human Sexuality, have assigned to you.
“In front of you is a folder. Please be sure that the one before you has your own name on it, and no other. If it is indeed yours, you may now pick it up.” A general motion of gathering, opening, and inspecting.
“In it, you will find a questionnaire, which we will ask you to fill out now. That questionnaire will help us determine how well we have administered human sexuality services to you over the past year, and allow us to take any corrective action.
“The rest of the packet contains information on the codes of dress, comportment, etiquette, and general behavior expected of your sex and your age, with some slight adjustments for your own personality – which is why you should be extra sure that the packet you have is your own. After you have completed the questionnaire, I will ask you to look over this information, and ask any questions you may have about it. Take your time, and read carefully, as what you see before you will be how we evaluate your progress, and ours, over the coming year.
“Oh … and the packet, of course, contains a pencil, with which you can complete the questionnaire. But before you begin that, a quick check: how many boys do we have here today?”
Four hands went up.
The woman’s head jerked up in an expression of serious displeasure. “Mabel?” A sharp, accusing tone directed at another uniformed woman at the other end of the room. “That’s one over quota. What is going on here?”
Mabel’s voice was matter of fact. “Captain McConnell, 2481 has persisted with male identity despite all training to this point in time.”
All eyes turned to 2481, a skinny, blonde, blue-eyed child seated near the middle of the table, with an equally skinny, blonde, blue-eyed male guardian behind him. A guardian with a haunted look in his gaunt and craggy face.
The child said, simply, “I am a boy.” And the guardian blurted out, “And what do you expect us to do …?”
Two menacing clicks! interrupted the guardian. The clicks of magazines being inserted into semi-automatic rifles, by the two armed guards that had entered the room, apparently in response to a silent signal from Captain McConnell. The guards positioned themselves on either side of 2481 and ‘his’ guardian, shoving children and adults brusquely aside in the process, and stood at attention, awaiting orders.
They were not long in coming. “Take them to detention”, McConnell barked. “I will not now take time from this meeting to determine whether these – people (she spit the word out in venomous distaste) have exhausted their indulgences, though at the age of 10 I don’t see how 2481 can have failed to do so. I will decide later. Go.” The guardian made some slight motion of resistance, and was immediately cold-cocked by one of the guards, rifle stock to the head. She then dragged him out of the room by the collar, while the other carried the catatonic 2481.
The three properly-assigned boys sat together on the opposite side of the table from where 2481 had been sitting. McConnell went to 2481’s spot and got their attention with a hard stare and brutal scowl. “Three boys out of 20 is far too many as it is, damn you!”, she snapped. “You already know why, unless your training has failed too, in which case somebody on the staff (she waved an angry hand at Mabel, who did not react) is going to feel the heat. Further evidence of your history of despicableness is in this year’s material. Learn it well and behave accordingly. Or you will learn early just how expendable you are. Our accountants like to limit expenses whenever possible.”
With a snort, she returned to the head of the table, sat down, and glared balefully at the children and their guardians, who eventually all broke eye contact and sat or stood, downcast, the children looking at the papers with their assigned status on them.
“Questionnaires,” Captain McConnell commanded. The children got the papers and pencils out of their packets, and began writing. In silence.