Genderpunk 2077: Three

There were a handful of gusts on the train platform, but it was far from crowded. Trying to board a train in the morning would have gotten me arrested; during rush hour the trains are always so packed that boarding is prioritized by license, with Social Services officers on hand for enforcement. One more way provisional license holders got screwed over by the system, I guess. Thankfully crowds were sparse enough now that boarding wouldn’t be a problem, and I might even manage a window seat. I always prefer sitting in the window if I can—if you’re looking out the window, you can’t make accidental eye contact with other riders.

I wasn’t waiting long. Getting a good seat was no problem, and the train was moving again within the minute. Riding to Underview would take about half an hour, so I could take it easy for a bit… Or I could if I weren’t haunted by the weight of my past and my gender (or lack thereof). That was the trouble with downtime like this: There was nothing to distract myself from looking inward and cringing away from myself in disgust.

On the other hand, I haven’t been on a train in three months! I could spend a little time exploring… But I already knew every car was going to look about the same, aside from the people and the ads. Besides, people don’t really wander around on trains, so I’d be bringing attention to myself, and attention was the last thing I wanted.

Looking at the other riders was interesting though. The train lines ran through all of Sidereal City, and even though access to any given stop was restricted by license and need, everybody rode the same trains. It was one of the only places in the city that you could see a mix of elements. Just in my car there were a couple of gusts dressed in faer purples, a small group of waves all in shades of blue, and a crag traveling alone in a green suit. There was even a mixed element couple sitting in the back of the car; the spark’s bright red dress a stark contrast with sis wave partner’s soft blue shirt and pants.

You typically saw a mix of ads on the train for the same reason… Or you would if corporate ads weren’t all homogenous slop aimed at some indistinctly gendered person. Not ungendered though, stars forbid. There was an EleMart ad proudly sporting their corporate slogan (“Every Need For Every Element”) and it was hard not to be bitter at how I was riding this train specifically because EleMart refused to sell to ungendered folks like me.

It’s impossible to forget I’m ungendered when every single interaction in this society depends on licensing. Every time I have to eat or go shopping or talk to someone new I’m restricted by what my licenses allow. I didn’t have any beyond my one provisional license, and even getting that one landed me deep into debt. That stupid provisional license was hours away from ending life as I knew it.

Stars, why did things have to turn out this way? My parents had been gendered: A Taurus and a Virgo, according to city records. Our family wasn’t rich, but we managed to live an okay life, as far as I can remember. But they were in an accident when I was seven, and without any other relatives to take me in, I was pushed into the foster system. I was forced to leave the only home I’d ever known and resettled in Underview. Everything I took for granted vanished almost overnight.

Social Services didn’t offer the slightest shred of sympathy, of course. My case worker was an ex-homicide detective who was reassigned to foster work after an Internal Affairs investigation went against sim. Se wanted to be back on the streets, not pushing papers for some kids no-one wanted, so se didn’t. There were resources and support programs for kids like me, but my case worker would refuse to file the paperwork, not wanting to make more work for simself. I hated sim, and all my crying in those days didn’t make me any other friends either.

I’d been out of school for years by the time I turned high school age. While Underview didn’t have a school, neighboring districts did, and with the right license I could have taken the train to one of them. But that would have required paperwork that was never filed, so when other kids my age were assigned a gender and granted their first set of licenses, I was struggling to make ends meet working odd jobs. Around the time I turned 20 I learned there was a provision in the law for kids who missed their official gendering, but by that time it was too late. So fuck me, I guess.

I hated thinking about the past. The only thing that ever came of it was depression, so I tried to push myself forward and keep my mind on the present. That wasn’t much relief though, what with me riding a train back to the same gray district that I yearned to escape as a teen. My ungendered friends had warned me against leaving, of course. “You’re better off here,” ne’d say. “You’ll end up as corp property, just like the others.”

I insisted I was different; I was going to do this the right way. I applied for a call center job at Axiom so I’d be granted an interpersonal license, something that would allow me to live in a gendered district. That also meant I wouldn’t have to commute. I could log in with my phone and take shifts from anywhere, and I could work my own schedule. I’d never have to worry about starting on time or missing a train because of my license. I’d make the calls, I’d pay my off my debt, and I’d earn my way to a basic interpersonal Gemini license.

Of course the work was shit. The leads Axiom sent me were garbage, and since I only got paid for verified signups, more often than not I wouldn’t get paid. By the end of my first month on the job my optimism had started to wane and depression, my constant companion, crept in. I found it harder and harder to take shifts, and by the end of my second month on the job, there were days where I didn’t take a shift at all. By that time Axiom was starting to get pushy about my licensing debt since I couldn’t even afford to make a single monthly payment, and that came to a head yesterday when they initiated legal action to revoke my provisional license. I scraped the last of my savings together to file a counterclaim last night in a desperate attempt to buy myself more time, but the summary judgment I received this morning told me my case hadn’t even bought me 24 hours. I expected my contract with Axiom to grant me a new life, and I’d barely lasted three months.

Let’s face it, I was fucked. I had until the end of the day to come up with 250 shields or my license was gone. Maybe if I’d logged in for shifts more often I could have worked something out with Axiom, but that ship had sailed now for sure. I’d spent years trying to get out of Underview and now I was riding back in shame, having fucked the one opportunity I’d ever get to leave. I might as well take the train straight to Axiom HQ and tell them to do whatever they wanted with me.

Okay Spica, deep breaths. You’re very hungry right now, and hunger makes you really pissy. You’re going to get off the train in Underview, have an honest-to-goodness meal, and then make a plan for unfucking your life. One step at a time. Mercifully, the train was just now pulling into the station, so I wouldn’t have to spend any more time stuck in my own head. Time to move.

A note on gendering in Genderpunk 2077

By the year 2077, gender has been refined to a science, which in theory allows every person to grow to their full potential. City schools administer the gender testing battery to all children entering high school, assigning each of them to one of the twelve genders. At that point the child is granted a full set of minor licenses for their gender, which grants them some new measure of independence in society. The ultimate goal for every high schooler is to pass their senior year licensing exams and earn all of their basic licenses.

There is some flexibility built into the system. If someone isn’t gendered for some reason or their parents believe the wrong gender was assigned, they can be tested (or retested) until they turn 18 years old, granting them a new set of minor licenses (along with revoking the old ones). Once a person is 18 though, the test isn’t considered accurate enough for legal gender determination. If a person hasn’t been gendered by 18, they’ll more than likely remain ungendered for life.

In theory there’s a way around the test as well. A person can legally claim any gender they have a full set of basic licenses for, and for ungendered individuals, that provision is their only hope of someday claiming a legal gender. However, earning any basic license outside of the school system is challenging at best, so in practice the vast majority of people only have licenses for the gender they were assigned in high school.