Saturday, March 2, 2013

Transformation Caption Story - The Program

I've had this story brewing for quite a while.  Originally, it was only going to be around ten frames, but as I wrote it, I realized that it required quite a lot of back story.  That realization coupled with my affinity for world-building, and the story grew.  I wanted it to be a relatively short (text-wise) story at around 5-7 pages, but it ended up being over 20.

I usually have no issue with longer stories, but with this, that meant that I needed to find more "before" pictures to modify.  It's difficult sometimes to find suitable pictures simply because porn stars (which I invariably use - who else has a plethora of naked pictures sitting on the internet?) really aren't known for changing facial expressions.  They usually only have two or three (happy, indifferent, and mid-coitus).  So I have to convey the situation with words and body language.  Those sorts of pictures can be sort of difficult to find.

I have noticed something, though.  Men are vain - probably more so than women.  I know that goes against the stereotype, so let me explain.  When I'm looking for pictures to use, I've noticed that all women need is a camera and a mirror.  They don't think anything of putting a picture with bad light and no production value on the internet.  Men (at least the ones who will put a picture on the internet) aren't like that, however.  They have to have good light.  They need production value.  And they almost always "fix" it in Photoshop.  The issue is that those pictures aren't really suitable for my purposes.  I want unaltered pictures.  I don't want them airbrushed.  I don't want them desaturated.  I want raw pictures.  Bumps, bruises, and bad lighting - that's what I need to get the best results.  Sadly, that rarely happens with pictures of men. 

Anyway, once the story was complete, I realized that I needed about four more "before" pictures.  It actually took quite a while to get those pictures right.  I considered incorporating the "history" section into captions, but I ended up realizing that stock photos of doctors and politicians would have looked cheesy.  In the end, I'm happy with the final result.  I hope you all enjoy it.


The Program





We all have a choice.  That’s what they tell us.  That’s the common belief - that we can choose whether or not to abide by The Program.  But that choice, that freedom - it’s all a lie.  If someone chooses to ignore The Program’s “suggestion,” well, that person can look forward to a life of poverty.  It sucks, but that’s reality.  That’s the world we live in.

Every school child knows how it got like this, and most of us are taught that it was a revolution that led to an unprecedented level of prosperity.  Me?  I was taught the same thing, and I believed it wholeheartedly.  It all made so much sense, and was backed up by nearly ever scientist who bothered to give an opinion on it.   On the surface, it seems like such a no-brainer that it’s not uncommon for school children to stand up, and ask, “Why did it take so long?”

That’s a bit more complicated.  Maybe we were waiting on science to catch up.  Maybe we just were ignorant, and that ignorance took quite a while to remedy. 

Twenty-three years ago, after a decade of build-up, the country began to change.  I admit, those first few years, it had to be difficult for them.  Being raised knowing what you were, and then, being told that you’d been living a lie?  There were quite a few people who rejected The Program back then. 
And then the studies started to come out.  People who accepted The Program were nearly twice as productive, that they were happier, that they were less prone  to addictive behaviors, and were generally healthier.  It didn’t take long for businesses to restrict themselves to only hiring people who’d accepted The Program.  

After a few years, rejection of The Program meant a life lived on the fringes, only fit for menial labor.  No college.  No real future.  Just the drudgery of hard work and an unhappy life.  There were lawsuits, of course, but they all failed.  After all, it was all for our own good, right?  Why should we complain?  Why should we resist?

And in truth, there weren’t that many who did.  And now?  Now it’s an exceeding rarity for someone to reject The Program.

Gender is psychological, not physical.  It has almost nothing to do with a person’s genitals.  It’s a simple truth we’ve all been taught since we were old enough to know the difference between boys and girls.  Some people call it the backbone of our culture, that we are enlightened enough to know that simple, inalienable fact, and are capable of doing something about it.

Originally (in 1972), it was intended to help identify transsexuals early in life, to ease the transition.   As the originators (Dr. Klein and Dr. Alleman) soon found, however, was that, according to their tests, it was much more prevalent than previously thought.  Suppressed by culture, pushed by society, these people had resigned themselves to living a lie, and more often than not, they didn’t even know it.  That is the effect of social conditioning. 

For ten years, the original study followed seven-hundred and twenty five people who had all taken the test.  What they found was shocking – nearly all of the people who the test identified as the opposite sex (but had been living as their birth sex) were deemed categorically unhappy.  Many of them were addicted to alcohol or drugs, and the rate of criminal activity was nearly seventy percent higher than in society as a whole. 

That was the seed of The Program.  Or, at the very least, it was the seed of the seed. 

In 1994, just before Klein’s death (at 81), he and Alleman revisited their study.  To help, they brought in a young, up-and-coming developmental psychologist named Amanda Tully.  Tully was instrumental in further tweaking the tests, incorporating genetic coding, brain mapping, and stringent monitoring of the endocrine system.  Five years later, they were satisfied that their system (a series of tests performed over a ten-year period) was nearly perfect (though they’d spend a further ten years working on it, testing it).

Meanwhile, in 1997, a middle-aged biochemist named Simon Faustein had the breakthrough of a lifetime.  He’d been working on performance enhancement for a less-than-reputable lab (who specialized in helping athletes get to “the next level”) trying to develop a way to prompt muscle growth without the harmful side effects of steroids and human growth hormones. 
Faustein was only an average (at best) scientist, and many people attribute his discovery to pure luck.  Of course he claimed it was intentional (and he would; he lived off of that discovery for his entire life).  We’ll probably never know the truth.

Everyone knows the basics of his discovery – he discovered the genetic code responsible for our bodies’ development (in regards to gender).  It seems like such a small thing, but it enabled other (arguably more talented) scientists to discover certain anomalies.  In short, sometimes, physical gender was a mistake. 

It didn’t take long for Tully, Alleman, and Klein to incorporate those studies into their system, and they found that those genetic markers, those genetic mistakes, were nearly always present in the people they identified as “Cross-Gendered”  (those people born male or female, but who the system identified as the opposite sex). 

In 1999, the scientific community almost universally accepted The Tully, Alleman, and Klein (TAC) system as a nearly foolproof “gender test,” and it began to be used by psychologists everywhere.  Sadly, Alleman died before he could see the fruits of his life’s work, and Klein followed him to the grave less than a year later. 

Tully, however, kept working.  She was convinced that the TAC system was far more useful than as merely a diagnostic tool for transsexuals, and she began lobbying for mandatory testing in public schools.  It took almost seven years, but eventually, she got her wish. 

Of course, as with nearly all publically run programs, it quickly fell into the trap of poor execution.  What started out as a revolution in our understanding of gender was soon viewed as little more than a joke.  The program was scrapped after less than a year because of “public outcry and limited usefulness.” 

Tully, however, was undeterred, and continued her campaign to incorporate what she considered “the greatest leap forward in our understanding of causes of human nature” into everyday life.  She envisioned a world where people weren’t constrained by their physical sex, but were instead, free to live their lives as their (true) emotional, psychological, and mental gender. 

It wasn’t until 2012 that she found a kindred spirit in Senator Glenn Wallace.  Wallace, we all now know, was in a unique position in that he’d seen his own brother suffer the consequences of trying to live a lie.  Wallace’s brother, Samuel, had committed suicide at the age of twenty-two because he was unable to deal with his own transsexualism.  According to Senator Wallace, his brother was “never truly happy as a boy” but “couldn’t come to terms with how identifying as a girl would be viewed by the people he loved.”    And so, the boy lived his lie, and died never having known the feeling of true acceptance (from himself or those he loved). 

The partnership between Tully and Wallace would irrevocably change the course of the world.

Driven by the strength of common purpose, the scientist and politician set about changing the way the country viewed gender.  They were armed with Tully’s (universally accepted) science and Wallace’s penchant for political machination.  It was the exceedingly rare perfect partnership.    

It took almost three years, but in 2015, the two succeeded in persuading Congress to revisit the use of the TAC system in our schools.  This time,  however, it would be under Tully’s supervision (and would have an adequate budget).  Tully took those hard-won prizes, and ran with them, instituting a comprehensive testing program in our schools. 

The results of those tests were made available to the students and parents, but were largely ignored by an ignorant public.  The true value, however, was in getting the general populace accustomed to the idea that gender is much more complicated than merely what’s between a person’s legs.

Meanwhile, Wallace spearheaded a campaign calling for tolerance and acceptance of those people, like his late brother, who had, for so long lived their lives trying to be something they had no business pretending to be. 

“My brother Sam wasn’t that different from the rest of us,” the Senator said in one of his more famous speeches.  “He was compassionate and caring.  He loved his family.  All he wanted was to live his life.  All he wanted was to be himself.” 

“But for so long, we’ve told people that you are the sum of your parts.  You’re a man.  You’re a woman.  No, I don’t care what YOU think.  You are what I say you are.  And we’re going to ostracize you if you don’t accept that.”

“Sam, God rest his soul, couldn’t accept that, and he showed that he would rather die than live that lie.  Wrap your mind around that fact.  How many others out there are in that same situation?  How many others are on that same precipice?  And when they fall over that cliff, when they finally give up, do you know whose fault it is?  Ours.  Yours.  Mine.  Everyone.  It’s a culture that says it’s okay to shun someone because they don’t fit into the mold of what you expect them to be.  It’s a society that forces people to make choices between all bad decisions:  live a lie, be shunned, or die.  Those are your choices.  And it’s all our fault.”

Over time, the message began to sink in, and, under Tully and Wallace’s influence, our country ushered in a new age of tolerance.  There were detractors, of course – hardline bigots and extremists – but as the years passed, they became less vocal.  Public opinion had shifted, and holding onto that past bigotry had become socially unacceptable. 

As his message was spread, Wallace climbed the political ladder, and thus, gained more and more influence.  By 2021, he was the leading candidate for his party’s nomination for the 2024 Presidential election. 

By the time the election rolled around, his popularity had skyrocketed, and he won in a landslide.  That’s when the seeds of change began to blossom. 

Was it all part of a larger plan, orchestrated by Tully and Wallace over a decade?  Or was it a natural extension of their work?  The debate still rages, and neither would ever comment on it.  What we all know, however, is that in 2026, The Gender Assessment and Reassignment Program was formed. 

At the age of eighteen (the optimal age for testing) every child in the United States would be tested, and then, given a recommendation.   If they were among those whose recommendation did not coincide with their birth gender, they would be offered a service in which the government would pay for and facilitate the transition to that person’s natural gender.

It was affectionately known as The Program.  That was almost two decades ago, and the rest, as they say, is history.
























Some of these pictures were very, very difficult to modify.  The "before" pictures, of course, were the most time-intensive, but some of the "flattening" I had to do was quite extensive.  The model wasn't exactly chesty, but because of angles, in some of the pictures, they were very noticeable.  I'm particularly proud of how well this story flows (visually), and I think it actually hits an emotional chord. that a lot of us can understand (even if the story is pure fantasy).  

2 comments:

  1. Nikki, you really did a terrific job by composing this caption story! Especially since it is quite twisted: the program seemed to have failed on this shown person, as it lead him to misery rather than liberation, as good as the intention behind seemed to be. Maybe due to failure of incorrect test results regarding this subject, maybe by society not properly prepared for the transformed people, maybe the lack of appropriate opportunity, who knows. However, I really liked your very inspiring story and the captions you created for it.

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    Replies
    1. The intention was to show that people, no matter what their intentions, will always be subject to human nature. In trying to combat a perceived problem (society forcing people to live their lives as their genetic gender, regardless of how that individual sees him- or herself), they've inadvertently done the same thing. We, as a society (or culture) have this need to tell people what they should and shouldn't be. That's not going to change anytime soon. Nobody can tell any of us who or what we are. We have to answer that question for ourselves.

      As to whether or not the "test" was right is irrelevant. He never wanted to be a girl, so he never should have been "forced" to become one.

      I also wanted to address the fact that bigotry will always exist. No matter how "accepted" minorities (in terms of race, sexual orientation, or any other method of putting people into one-dimensional categories)are, there will always be people who reject acceptance in favor of bigotry. It may lurk under the surface, but it's there all the same. Again, it's human nature to be uncomfortable (and sometimes hate) anything that upsets your view of how the world should be.

      I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying that bigotry will always exist, and there's nothing any of us can really do about it. We can change societal and cultural norms, but what an individual thinks is almost impossible to change.

      I'm not sure what that says about people in general, or what I'm really trying to get at. I just thought that showing that would make this story a little easier to relate to.

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