By Molly McMann
Jamie Taylor was a hermaphrodite — but she didn’t know it.
Had her birth taken place in a hospital in the Outside World, the doctors would have explained to Jamie’s 15-year-old mother that although her baby had a penis, she also had a vagina and two X chromosomes. They would have explained that hermaphroditism was a very rare but well-documented genetic variation that occurred only once in every five million female births.
The doctors might have reassured Stacy Taylor that throughout the history of womankind, hermaphrodites had been celebrated for their grace and loveliness, and that Jamie would grow up to become one of the most beautiful women in the United Queendom.
But Stacy Taylor did not learn any of this because she did not have her baby in a hospital in the Outside World. Stacy lived in a Gated In commune where a midwife with little medical training looked no further than Jamie’s penis before declaring her to be “a healthy boy.”
The Gated In communes had been formed some 25 years earlier by religious conservatives who felt that the U.Q. had become too liberal. No longer able to stall legislation in Parliament, nor influence public opinion, nor even retain the allegiances of their adult offspring, they took their husbands and children and “seceded” from the queendom.
This political crisis was resolved when Queen Elaine granted the Gated In communes self-governance, provided they renounced secession and ensured that all children born Gated In would be registered for Citizen ID cards and permitted to leave at age 18 if they chose to do so.
In one such commune, Jamie Taylor grew up – as a boy. During the years she was in diapers, the only person who saw Jamie’s unusual combination of genitalia was her mother. But having herself grown up Gated In, Stacy had only the sparsest of sex education. She had barely glimpsed the penis that impregnated her, and had no clue what other body parts might be found between a boy’s legs.
When Jamie was four years old, her mother was suddenly gone – dead of a burst appendix that did not respond well to prayer. Since Stacey had no other family, Jamie was sent to the community’s Home for Orphaned Boys.
When she became old enough to notice that some children were girls and some were boys, Jamie was puzzled. Instead of being dressed like the other girls – who all wore long dresses, aprons and bonnets — Jamie was given black denim pants and long-sleeved white shirts like the boys. And instead of letting Jamie’s hair grow down her back like the other girls, the matrons of the orphanage tied her blond hair back in a pony tail and lopped it short the way they did with the boys.
Six-year-old Jamie tried to explain this apparent mistake to the matrons who ran the orphanage. The first time she said it, they only laughed, but the second time they exchanged awkward glances and tried to get Jamie focused on something else. When Jamie persisted in her line of questioning, the matrons eventually lost their tempers, warning her that she would go to Hell if she kept saying sinful things. Jamie did stop saying it, at least out loud, and after a few years she stopped believing it too.
Living with the boys meant playing sports, and although she was always the smallest of her age, Jamie did well enough because of the natural grace, dexterity and poise that all herms possess. She could have been an exceptional dancer had dancing not been a sin. Singing was not a sin, at least not church hymns, and by the time she was twelve Jamie was the lead soloist in the church choir.
She loved the music, but tried not to think about the lyrics, some of which told of the coming end times when God would punish those of Her children who were “wicked” — and by Gated In reckoning that included most of the world’s two billion people. Jamie could not imagine God being so cruel and began to doubt much of what she was told about the Outside World.
At the commune’s school, the children received a fairly good education in math, science and languages because these subjects testified to the perfection of God, who created Woman in her own image and gave her a man to serve her and impregnate her at the time of her choosing. Art, Literature and Music were censored for appropriate content, while U.Q. History itself stopped at the Year of the Gating. Only events as momentous as the death of Queen Elaine ever trickled inside the gates.
When puberty came along, it was increasingly apparent that Jamie was not like the “other” boys. As they became tall, muscular and hairy, she only looked more and more like a girl every day – and not just any girl, but an exceptionally feminine girl. Being a herm, Jamie quickly became more beautiful than any woman in the community.
And then she grew breasts. True, they were smallish, being proportionate to her ballerina-sized body, but they were undeniably breasts. Though she enjoyed how it felt to touch them, they confused her and she did her best to hide them by wearing overlarge shirts and slouching. Having successfully suppressed her childhood thoughts of being a girl, Jamie now assumed she was a deformed and freakish boy.
The only thing Jamie had in common with the boys was an unspoken lust for the girls. Her maturing penis was often rock hard in her pants during school, and even at church as she ignored the sermon and gazed at the bare necks of girls in the pew in front of her.
At night in the dorm room, each boy found his own secret way to masturbate, hands under blankets in the dark. In her top bunk, Jamie waited until she was certain the boys were asleep, and then she unbuttoned her nightshirt, exposing her little breasts, and caressed herself between her legs. She did not realize how different her body was as she wettened her fingers in the nameless slit behind her penis and stroked her erection until she was bathed in sweat and silent orgasm.
It was customary in the commune that after their 18th birthdays the boys would each be paired with a girl the same age in an arranged marriage. Often, the girl got her first choice so the boys did their best to get the attention of the girls they most desired. Though Jamie was attracted to several of the girls, she did not bother to try to make any of them notice her. She could not imagine she would ever be chosen first by anyone.
Several of the boys had birthdays close together and on the evening before Jamie’s 18th birthday they talked her into going with them to eavesdrop on the mothers discussing the matchups. The group of five slipped silently to the meeting house and positioned themselves under an open second story window. Because Jamie was the smallest, she was recruited to stand on the shoulders of one of the boys to listen to the adults’ conversation about the matchups.
Although Jamie was terrified of getting caught, she liked when the boys included her, so she allowed them to hoist her up just under the screenless window held open with a stick.
As Jamie listened, the mothers reviewed their lists of which girl preferred which boy. Rebecca liked Johnny and Hannah preferred Alexander. The women agreed those matchups would be fine. They debated whether Abigail would be better matched with Jason or Bill and agreed to give it more consideration before making a final decision.
“Now we get to the hard part,” one mother said. “As you see on the list I handed out, three of the girls picked Jamie.”
Jamie had to suppress a squeal of delight. She was amazed to hear that not just one girl, but three had chosen her. But her happiness was short-lived because an older woman’s voice said, “well, we need to find other matches for those girls. And we have to gently inform Jamie he won’t be getting married to anyone.”
“It’s sad,” another said, “but for some reason God allowed him to be born this way, so She must have a plan for him.”
“Whatever Her plan may be, marrying one of our girls surely could not be part of it. It would be too unfair to the girl.”
“Yet three of them chose him, Alice.”
“Which is exactly why we don’t always let the girls pick their husbands. They’re too young to fully understand. That boy is a freak of nature – an abomination of a normal male.”
Other voices now joined in, all in agreement.
“I, for one, refuse to let him be married to my daughter.”
“As do I.”
“And not my daughter either.”
Jamie did not hear how many of the mothers joined in because she felt dizzy and fell from Jason’s shoulders. The boys caught her before she hit the ground and they all slipped quietly away.
“What did you hear, Jamie?” asked Johnny. “Did Hannah pick me?” Back in their dorm room, Jamie did her best to tell the boys what she’d heard of their matchups, but her voice was sorrowful and she seemed about to cry. The boys could tell she must have heard something about herself. They all loved Jamie as a little brother and went easy on her in sports because she was so small, but there was obviously something wrong with her.
Johnny pulled Jamie aside and tried to say something encouraging. “You know it doesn’t matter who the girls pick,” he said. “The moms make the matches, and I’ll bet they have someone who’s gonna be just right for you.”
Jamie only nodded. She was going to miss Johnny, and all of the boys. That night in the dorm, after the last light went out, Jamie lay in bed waiting for the boys to fall asleep, as she often had done. But this time it was for something more important than masturbation. Her natural grace and light weight made it easy for her to climb down silently from her bunk without waking any of the boys.
Jamie had no truly personal possessions, not even a photo of her mother (because portrait photography was the sin of vanity). She took her Citizen ID, her birth certificate and the savings account book they’d given her when her mother’s life insurance check came.
She stuffed these few items in the pockets of her black denim pants and slipped quietly out the door. No one saw her as she walked to the edge of the commune and climbed over the gate.