AUTHOR'S NOTE: Earlier today I read a clickbait piece in which a mother claimed that a flu vaccine turned her son gay. Though I am firmly pro-vaxx (vaccinate your kids, folks) the idea of a child turning gay or trans as a vaccine side effect tickled me. Maybe I'll expand on this more in a future story, but this fake news article touches on it. Enjoy!
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4 October, 2016
In the early hours of the morning Campbelltown resident Jacqueline Short, an ironic name for a young woman standing at 183 centimetres, prepares for a ten kilometre run. Dressed in a sports bra and running shorts with only a tank top to cover her, she pulls her hair into a high ponytail, and throws herself into ritual stretching. To the outside observer Jacqueline might not appear much different from other aspiring female athletes, but for those who’ve known her from before May of last year the changes have been drastic.
Her mother, Suzanne, is on the verge of tears as she tells the story, despite the number of times it’s been repeated. “It was flu season,” she explains, “and you know the smart thing you do is to get your shots… but after, the change was almost instant. You could see it in his eyes. There was something behind them that just died, and he’s never been the same since.”
Before that fateful visit Jacqueline was Daniel, the first born son from Suzanne’s second marriage. In a visit to the family home Suzanne is quick to pull out album after another featuring her boy, a tall and domineering athlete with aspirations to play in the NRL. She beams with pride as she shows off the rows of sporting trophies housed in a glass cabinet in her living room, beside a framed New South Wales jersey signed by the 2005 State of Origin championship team.
She’s fast to reject the notion that Jacqueline is transgender. “I always tell him I love him no matter what; he’s stuck with me, but all this business, it’s not him. No, Daniel was a man’s man, with a man’s dreams. There was nothing different about him. NRL and footy, they were his life. Something changed in him.”
When pressed on the subject Jacqueline appears reluctant to speak. “One day I was just an average bloke, and the next I wake up, and I’m crying. Everything is wrong. Who I was was somebody else. I don’t know how else I can explain it.”
The transition into Jacqueline has been anything but swift, with experts weighing in on her condition. Neuroscientists, endocrinologists, biochemists, and psychiatrists the world over have been summoned to investigate her case. In march of this year Jacqueline was approved for the use of feminizing hormones, and permitted to live in a gender role that better matches her identity.
Suzanne goes on to say she’s scared of what might happen if Jacqueline changes her mind again, which becomes a point of contention in the household. With every word Jacqueline struggles to maintain her composure, and goes on to assure her mother that her condition is just the way of things.
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Approximately one thousand kilometres to the north and a short drive west from the central Sunshine Coast, Dr. David Khurmi files through the dozens of subpoenas issued to his facility, the optimistically named Institute for Future Science. It is here that scientists boast the creation of the Fluvetone Quadrivalent, a new strain of influenza vaccine purposed for low-cost production in Australia and abroad.
“In laymen terms, the Fluvetone Quadrivalent vaccine has the ability to mimic the influenza virus as it mutates,” Dr. Khurmi explains. “Many outside of the scientific community regard it as something that only exists in the realm of science fiction, or as a scapegoat for many social ills. Few seem to understand the degree of testing and screening a new medicine must endure before it is even put to trial.”
He lays out the pile on his desk of the letters directed to the institute by lawyers and concerned citizens enquiring about potential side effects to Fluvetone Quadrivalent, most notably of which feature stories similar to that of Jacqueline and Suzanne. Some letters claim that children as young as four years old have developed sudden bouts of gender dysphoria, a psychological condition describing the anxiety of existing in an unwanted gender role, after being inoculated with Fluvetone Quadrivalent.
Dr. Khurmi chuckles wearily at assertions that the institute’s vaccine and gender dysphoria are linked. “The current neurological models cannot pinpoint specific differences between a transgender brain, and a brain belonging to a member of the general population, let alone offer definitive proof that our vaccine alters brain chemistry in such a way.”
Exact numbers of the transgender population have been difficult to ascertain, with some sources saying as many of one in a thousand members of the general population are gender variant. Others report those numbers as being much higher, and growing exponentially each year.
Dr. Khurmi goes on to say, “those whose loved ones are displaying transgender tendencies must learn to accept such things as a part of life. Perhaps, instead of trying to root out the causes of transgender people, and laying blame upon a favourite scapegoat, their efforts would be better devoted to giving them the care they deserve.”
The legal team representing Suzanne Short in her case against the institute, Spurlock and Miller, were approached for this article, but declined to comment.
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Back in New South Wales, Jacqueline prepares herself for the Queer Prom, a formal event for Sydney-based LGBTQI youth under the age of eighteen. She feeds strands of hair around a curling iron and wishes she had someone experienced nearby to help her. Behind her door a strapless emerald ballgown with diamantes along the bust sits ready to adorn her.
She admits to feeling anxious. “I have a date with another girl. She’s trans as well. We met on an internet bulletin board, and then she asked me for coffee. Well, not coffee so much as air hockey and a movie. It was good. I really like her. Maybe we’ll make something of it.”
Hearing about the Institute puts her on edge. According to her, the Fluvetone Quadrivalent vaccine is all she ever hears about. Her mother, Suzanne, has made friends in the anti-vaccination activist community, who frequently hail their discoveries as progress.
“I keep telling her that I am who I am, and sueing some doctor isn’t going to change that. I wish she’d stop talking about my life like it was a mistake.”
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