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It Was Tolerance, They Told Us. We are Peacekeepers, They Said.

by Biluata

Author's Note: We were told to write a dystopian short story for my AP English class. I know that this is an extremely unpopular opinion. Please judge this work on the merits of its writing, regardless of whether or not you agree with the premise. This work is not intended to offend. If you are triggered by it, please do not read. It deals with the concept of whether or not you have to experience dysphoria to be trans/gender non-conforming. 

I used to stare into the mirror and cry. My body curved in ways that felt uncomfortable. Clothes may not be gendered, but bodies were. I could wear whatever I pleased but at the end of day, I always found myself at the same mirror, staring at the same body. I hated it. It was a joke, to me. Anyone who wanted to claim they were anything other than cis-gender without having dysphoria. It was just absurd. But my opinion was an unpopular one, so I kept it close to my heart, silently berating those who dared to make a joke of the struggles that people like me face every day. Others were not so prudent. Their opinions spread across the networks, ringing true for a few, but attracting the attention of a much more dangerous crowd.

It started with a rallying cry. Transmedicalists, they called us. Truscum gatekeepers. It spread like wildfire across the internet, igniting shallow. needy souls into some cruel facsimile of passion. It was just words, for a while. But the tides were shifting and we were too slow to notice, thinking that this wave of misinformed, maligned, and trigger-happy humanity would pass in time, that we would come back to our senses and that social norms would re-equilibrate this senseless murmuring. How naive we were, back then.

Females bared their breasts to the public, daring onlookers to call them anything but male. Of course it didn’t affect them, their brains were perfectly content with their female anatomy. The very idea of going out in public in such a fashion, not making any attempt towards androgyny, prickled at me in an uncomfortable way. I always pulled the collar of my shirt up a little further, hoping no one could see my binder, hoping that no one called my identity into question. Their aggression was discomforting. Everyone, even others in the trans community, mistook identities. Everyone used the wrong pronouns. If they didn’t bother trying to present themselves a certain way, then how could they expect people to just know what it was they were? I would always shake my head and hurry past. ‘It’s okay,’ I told myself. ‘It’ll pass.’

But it didn’t.

They came after free-speech first. This wave of anger, this new generation of humanity, they cut it down in the name of tolerance, in the name of peace, in the name of everything that they thought they fought for. Those of us who proudly wore our opinion, that transgenders and enby people had to have dysphoria to be properly labeled as ‘trans’, across our chests were cut down first. The rest of us, who kept our opinions quiet, for fear of this new generation’s anger, were slowly ferreted out, like mice flushed out of tunnels. Then came the re-education.

Freedom of thought was deemed more dangerous than freedom of speech. Those of us who could still question the absurdity of the usage of xe, xem, xyr or ze, hir, hir, or fae, faer, faer for people who were just playing at being transgender, were considered public menaces. It was, however, the generation before ours suffered the most. They were beaten over the incorrect usage of preferred pronouns, under the guise that mistaking someone’s gender orientation was a form of violence and oppression, in and of itself. Torn away from their families, they were sent to re-education camps, just like this one.

There is an elderly gentlemen sitting next to me now. His hands are bloody from the oozing wound on the side of his face. It’s an ugly gash, open and raw, like a gaping mistake. His eyes are closed, but his shoulders are shaking. I think he’s crying. Each silent, shuddering sob seems to echo a thundering roar through my head of wrong, wrong wrong. I lay a hand on his shoulder, hoping to pass some meager comfort. He flinches away, his milky eyes staring at nothing and everything. He sees all that is wrong with the world, but he, like I, am just one against the tide. In the changes time, what good could either of us do?

They sit us in classrooms. Long tables, each with seven to eight chairs. Every chair is filled. An uncomfortable silence fills the room, punctuated only by the creaking of wood or the rattling cough of the old woman from the far corner of the room. A room full of truants, full of old people who can barely walk and twenty-somethings who know nothing of the world yet. We are informed that the LGBTQ movement is no longer inclusive enough. The movement is now entitled LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, Curious, Asexual, Pansexual, Gender-non-conforming, Genderfluid, Nonbinary, and Asexual). I shake my head, marveling at the absurdity of the lengths we are now going to for inclusion. A person must be terribly insecure to require this amount of validation, I think to myself. My back arches and I grab at my chest, heart thundering, as my vision snaps white to black.

I sag back into my seat. There’s no more fight in me. It was gone, taken from the moment I was pushed into this godforsaken facility. I’m not insane, my brain whispers to me. I ignore it. ‘I will be good,’ I tell myself. The fear of punishment keeps my mind elastic and prepared. I memorize the lists of gender identities. I memorize the lists of preferred pronouns. I always was an excellent student.

“Thinking,” says the instructor as he stalks in front of the room, his breasts barely covered by the low-slung uniform, “is oppressive. People can be whatever they like, and we don’t have a right to tell them not to be. Until you understand this, you will remain here.” His finger hovers above the punishing button on the remote in xer hand. We shudder, a collective movement that ripples across the room. He smiles.

My name is Wish Isby Allskye. I identify as a nonbinary firegender sensualromantic aegosexual, but I am more frequently found in a state of gendervex. My preferred pronouns are e/em/eir/eirs/eirself and I believe that anyone can be anything they want. I believe that gender can be influenced from anything from the people around to outer space to music to kinship with animals.

This is tolerance, and I am a peacekeeper. 

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311 Reviews

Points: 0
Reviews: 311

Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:28 pm
Riverlight wrote a review...

Hello, @Biluata! I'm Vilnius, here to review your work.

My first impression of this short story is "Oh my word, what happened, did Millennials end up becoming too Conservative and were replaced by a more radical generation?"

I like your description of your characters, the old man and Wish. Both are, I think, are well-described and well-written. Even though the old man says nothing, we can still get some idea of what he's thinking.

You've developed a starting point for a much larger plot here. Already, you've got a few things set into motion. Despite Wish using... descriptions of eirself in ways that I am unfamiliar with, I sense that she doesn't like this new systemic society.

I really can't tell where this is happening. Europe? America? Russia? If I had to guess, I'd go with a major American city in New England, probably New York or Philly in a few decades or so.

I think describing how crazy things got in this fictitious world of yours really sets the reader into a mindset of "How did it come to this?" I like how you've made the reader think about extremism, and how little we value our freedoms sometimes.

Have a nice [*insert time of day here*]!!!

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24 Reviews

Points: 4033
Reviews: 24

Sun Feb 24, 2019 8:33 pm
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paperforest wrote a review...

Hm. I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I'm going to second everything that fraey said about reviewing having to take into account the content, and I'll start with some technical things that don't address the content and then try to figure out my opinion on this and attempt to state it without being too confrontational.

First things first, as a short story it had too much exposition. Even in novels you don't want to give this much backstory all at once without working it into whatever is actually happening action-wise in the story at the time, and with short stories you want to be even more concise and careful not to have too much explanation overshadowing the actual story. For the entire first half of this story, I had no idea where these thoughts/memories are being thought/remembered, and with no image in my head of what's happening, it's harder to feel like you're there with the character and keep straight what is actually happening.

I also don't know much about who the main character is outside their opinion on this issue, or whether I can trust their thoughts and memories at all. Especially because this topic is controversial, you really want the reader to trust that the POV character's recounting of events is in line with the truth of this world's history. I would start with a description of where the protagonist is, maybe have them sitting in a boring room, or in a classroom, or being ferried through the halls, and then let your message and the history and reality of this world be shown in the action and the main characters interactions with other characters. You could expand the characters of the old man, the instructor, maybe someone who agrees or disagrees with them, maybe show the incident that got the main character put in this place. Basically, give us more showing than telling, and more character interactions than just the main character thinking their opinions. Because you are arguing a point here, a good action for this story might be an argument between the main character and someone from the regime you've described.

Now, on to my opinion on the ideas this story conveys, which I know you didn't ask for, so it's enspoilered and no one has to read it. I apologize for the excessive length, as I'm trying to both understand your point of view as well as work out my own opinions on the issue at hand. I also apologize if I've offended anyone.

Spoiler! :

I'd like expand on what fraey said:
(i)t's a troubling situation to even come up with and say that the world turned into a dystopia because of this LGBTQIA+ movement.

I know you're exaggerating to make a point here, but it really doesn't make any sense to me for a world in which the LGBTQ+ movement has become dominant to then turn against a part of itself and become an enemy of free speech, when one of its major ideologies is that we have to accept people's differences and let those who society has long demonized just live their lives in peace. Whether I agree with your definition of trans/nb or not, I'm not going to harass you for it! The most I or any reasonable person would do is present the other side of the argument so that those who are still undecided on their opinion can find reasonable arguments for both sides before deciding what they believe.

I'd also like to address this:
The movement is now entitled LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, Curious, Asexual, Pansexual, Gender-non-conforming, Genderfluid, Nonbinary, and Asexual). I shake my head, marveling at the absurdity of the lengths we are now going to for inclusion

Apart from the ridiculous length of this acronym (that is what the + is for :) ), I'm not sure how this is any different from what it is now. I think that Genderfluid probably goes under the trans umbrella, and curious/questioning isn't so much a label but the possibility of a label so it doesn't seem quite necessary in the official acronym, but it also doesn't seem unreasonable to include it. I'm not quite sure what gender-non-conforming means but I suspect it would either go under the trans/nb umbrella if it's one's gender not conforming to the binary, or else it's a separate issue in people trying to expand society's definition of gender by dressing outside of the norm, and that is an action rather than an identity or sexuality label, so it wouldn't need to be a part of the acronym. I'm not sure what this is trying to show in the story though - are you saying that what we have here is already "too inclusive"? In which case, that's a much bigger issue than what I thought this was about: whether one can be trans without dysphoria. I'm not trans so I can't answer that, but I don't see how allowing the definition of trans to be more inclusive harms those who do experience dysphoria.

This story brings to mind the paradox of tolerance: "to be truly tolerant, a community must be intolerant of intolerance". So in your story, you've painted the society as being too tolerant, even of intolerance, this intolerance being that of the dominant ideology that "everyone must hold super-inclusive opinions and if they don't then we'll retrain them", right? This is confusing, because you have the group that wants to be more inclusive being intolerant, and the group that wants to be more exclusive being painted as the tolerant ones that have been beaten down by the intolerance of inclusivity?

Again, I know you're exaggerating to make a point, but it feels very contrived because the people in charge would have to hold two conflicting ideologies at once, that of respecting everyone regardless of opinions/beliefs, and that of forcing everyone to hold the same opinions/beliefs that they do. I'm not familiar with the discourse so I suppose it's very possible that there are such unreasonable people touting those ideologies together, but in targeting them in this story, I feel that you've conflated those who merely disagree with you with those who would harm you for your opinion. In doing so, you've targeted a lot of people who merely believe in inclusivity, as well as those who's identities hinge on that inclusivity and who would have nowhere to turn to if they were told they couldn't be trans or nb because they don't experience dysphoria. This seems extremely unfair to me, and is, I think, what makes this story possibly offensive.

Anyways, sorry again for the excessive length (you made me think a lot, that's good!) and I apologize if I've overstepped in providing my opinion. At the very least, I hope my technical advice is helpful!

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408 Reviews

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Wed Feb 06, 2019 3:42 am
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JustPerks wrote a review...

Hi. Let's talk about this story for a second.

First off, I just want to say that it can be hard to review something without taking into account the message or the content within the work. I'm a little too tempted to go over specific points within this, but I'll try not to let my feelings get too released here.

Something I want to address is that I would rather see the main character go through their life after this "movement" happened. I think it's interesting to see how worlds are developed over time in novels, but in short stories, I think it's best to really show the impact of this now, not have a sort-of "voice-over" on all of the events that led to the final scene of the story, with the main character alongside a group of people being told that the world had changed and thus, they needed to obey and follow those new guidelines.

I think that short stories can be interesting, but it can matter heavily on the character(s). Here, I don't really know how to feel towards this main character. The reader is told straightforwardly, that the MC feels dysphoria, and strives to wear non-gender-specific clothing to counter what they perceive as their biological form. I certainly feel pity for them, but I feel like a few things they declare in this story are highly - (should I say, possibly offensive) and almost makes me want to ask for you to write this in a different way.

Take the following quote:

Those of us who proudly wore our opinion, that transgenders and enby people had to have dysphoria to be properly labeled as ‘trans’, across our chests were cut down first.

I know I'm breaking what I said above, but I do want to point something out here - this isn't true? And kind of gets me frustrated at the speaker, as just because enby people haven't faced dysphoria, that doesn't make them any more deserving of declaring themselves to be enby/trans or anything? I'm perplexed as to why this motivates the MC so much to not want people to be happy as themselves??

Also, I'd say that if you knew going in that this was going to be highly offensive to people on YWS, then why post it publically? I think it's just a little frustrating to be told straight away that we can't say what our opinion is of the actual topic, as that's a troubling situation to even come up with and say that the world turned into a dystopia because of this LGBTQIA+ movement. At least, that's how I interpret it.

Finally, my single-most sincere comment would be to get rid of the last paragraph starting with the character's name. I think that exaggerates and is certainly harmful to those that describe themselves as non-binary? I would at least suggest deleting the "sensualromantic" term since the others are recognizable terms, but sensual/romantic are opposite of each other? Expanding on maybe different terms of linking those two types of love together would be interesting, but not in this current state.

This has been a ramble of a review, but I think I will leave this on this note: I'd be curious to know what your, the author, pronouns are and if you view yourself to be LGBTQIA+, and maybe that inspired a story like this? I'm just a little perplexed where you would come up with this version of a dystopian world.


Biluata says...

Hi! Thank you so much for trying to review my work without letting your personal feelings on the matter get too much in the way. I really do appreciate the effort. I didn't intend to stifle your opinion (or anyone else's for that matter), but rather, I was looking for feedback on a school assignment and I didn't really want to fight people on it. That being said, I'll try to clear a few things up for you since you asked. I consider myself to be a genderfluid person (I prefer they/them pronouns). I use the label genderfluid because my dysphoria will fluctuate in levels, unlike a lot of nonbinary people, who feel it constantly.

That being said, I do believe that you have to experience dysphoria in order to be trans/enby. I know it's been a really big argument in the community for a while, but the people on the opposite side of the issue really have some harsh and sometimes mean things to say about people who hold the same opinions I do. I wanted to write about a dystopian world where we have tolerance to the point of absurdity, though. Because the issue with respect is where do you draw the line? For example, the MAPS/NOMAPS movement, the honestly absurd amount of preferred pronouns that exist now, and the emergence of the billion 'tumblr genders'.

Personally, it doesn't make sense to me why anyone would call themselves trans/enby without experiencing dysphoria. To me, it makes it seem like more of a social movement/activity (especially with the surge in 'transtrenders' (I do dislike that word) that we've seen on a lot of social media sites). I personally have nothing against people experimenting and trying to figure out where they fit (by means of trying on different labels) but people who claim to be MtF or FtM or enby or anything of that sort without even trying to pass befuddle me.

Again, all that being said, I do strive to be respectful. If you have a strange gender with bizarre preferred pronouns, I will more than likely make that effort to validate you.

I sincerely hope that this didn't upset you too much. I know that it's a controversial issue, but in my opinion, it's one that needs to be talked about without malice or hatred. Just to address you final point about my last paragraph, I used the last paragraph to demonstrate the length of the re-education and the absurdity of 'tolerance to the point of absurdity'. I thought that sensualromantic was a nice way to set that up, since they do contrast each other.

Thank you so much again for your review. I really do appreciate it, though I do wish that you would have addressed the more structural things. As I said in my author's note, it was for an english project, so I really am just looking for constructive criticism, not to get into yet another argument about my beliefs on the LGBTQ community. If you'd like to discuss this further, you're welcome to contact me!

Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.
— Robert Brault