A trip of a diplomatic mission to Betelgeuse VII.
Who is the ISTC? It is the Interstellar Transgender Consortium, the largest and most powerful transgender organization in the galaxy. Their history starts in the early 2000's, before the space era. At that time, there was an organization, created by LGBT people, to fight for their rights. But soon, transgender people found out that the organization does not clearly represent them. And yes, it was not quite for them. It represented only the interests of homosexual people, not that of transgender people or other rare sexual minorities, who were considered mental illness.
The point is that, in 2100, when space colonization started, the ISTC was formed and had an embassy on Moon, one on Mars and one in Jupiter System. From that point, the ISTC existed on its own, as an independent organization, unassociated but friendly to other associations. So, ISTC exists for over 900 Earth years. All this time, it fought for the rights of transgender people, for their integration in local societies and for equal rights to other citizen. From all transgender organizations, it is the strongest, the longest lived and the only one that has coverage in the whole galaxy.
Since 2977, the head of ISTC is Samantha Orleans. Her life is entirely dedicated to transgender people. She was born as a man, Abdullah, as the son of a very rich Muslim dictator. that ruled his planet in an extremist way. Abdullah went to a very good university on Barnard's Star, where he abandoned everything. He cut all ties with his former family and took a new name, quitting school and starting to work in buildings, interior decorations. At that time, he was Sam Orleans.
His father wanted to kill him, but, miraculously, he survived 3 assassination attempts. Then, once he earned some money, he decided to go further. First with cross-dressing, then with the use of hormones, he started to look like a woman, but still had the identity of a man. He lost his job and started to work in a night club. Falling from the son of a sultan to a sissy was very hard. People rejected him/her and laughed. Sam was bitten often by his former coworkers. Nevertheless, the decision to become a woman was stronger then anything. So, slowly, he managed to earn enough money for surgery. Getting breast implants was the first step. The second, a surgery to reverse gender, was illegal in Barnard's Star, but like anywhere in the Universe, bribery does miracles. Only that, the operation was not quite successful, it infected and was very painful.
Without any money, Sam, now a woman in all aspects but still with the name of a man, had no choice then to prostitute, to get some money to survive. It was very hard. Still, after some time, she managed to emigrate to Lacille, a star system where papers are not required. She presented herself as Samantha Orleans... and got an identity card with this name. This is the moment when Samantha was officially recognized as a woman.
However, her story does not end here. She worked in a factory, earned some money and built her own factory, producing silicone implants for breasts. She joined the ISTC as a formality, to increase sells for her implants, but soon, she became an active member. She then became an ambassador, or more exactly a person that actively goes to dictators and governments and fights for the rights of transgender people.
During one trip, she was kidnapped by the pirates in UV Ceti, who raped and tortured her. They placed her in a body farm, but soon found out that she is sterile and sold her as a slave to Proxima Centauri. She managed to escape and returned to the organization. For her efforts to help transgender people, which in some places were forced to emigrate and in others were subjects to public execution, she was awarded the Galactic Prize Of Peace.
Now, she is 70 Earth years old and very active.
The ISTC was surprised by the new terraformed planet Betelgeuse VII and the fact that so many people go there. Even more, the organization has no embassy there. So, Samantha Orleans decides to make a visit personally. She does not know what to expect, only is surprised that a whole planet, dedicated to transgender people and rare sexual minorities, can exist, without the ISTC or any organization getting implied. It all happened so natural, that the whole world was shocked.
She arrives to Betelgeuse VII and asks for an audition to the elected dictator, Caligula IV, who owns the title as Queen Of Betelgeuse, like the dictators who were before her. On the way here, she had plenty of time to read the constitution, personally written by Caligula I. She had also time to visit the memorial park, built in his memory. Now, she enters the palace, which is the only government building. It is in fact just a large house. At the entrance, there are small statues of dictators who reigned before: Caligula 2nd which was a transgender man and Caligula 3rd which was a transgender woman. The building holds only a few desks and those who work there don't seem busy.
Samantha, waiting for her audience, writes on her notes: Betelgeuse. A star near the end of its life and a civilization that is just getting born. Unlike other planets, I don't see huge statues built in remember of their founders, just a small park, built after Caligula I's death. The government is extremely small, like an embassy. There is no parliament, there is no ministry and I seen no other institutions. In the capital city, there is even no town hall, no mayor, just the elected sheriff living in its own house. The state is ruled by an elected dictator with nearly absolute powers, but, after its five Earth years of power, is judged in public for all its actions. The law, Caligula 1st's constitution, is respected and all what de dictator decides is made public. Everything done here is filmed live, so that anyone can see. Even more, two dictators were transgender people. It is probably the first time in history when a transgender got such a powerful role.
The door opens and Samantha gets face in face with the dictator. She can see, before her eyes, a woman, at the age of 30, wearing a simple dress, sitting on an iron throne and with an iron crown on her head. There are two other people in the room, which is not large. Cameras film everything. There are online panels.
"How can I help you?" says Caligula IV.
"Your highness, I am Samantha Orleans, president of the ISTC".
"Interstellar Transgender Consortium, I heard a lot of things about you. Feel welcome", the dictator answers with a smile on her face.
"We are pleasantly surprised by your new state and the fact that so many new settlers come here every day".
"Well, this is because people live happy here", she says, lighting a cigarette.
"We would like to open an embassy here, if you like".
The dictator looks a bit puzzled, then answers:
"According to the constitution, Betelgeuse VII is a free state. We have a neutral position and we will never get implied in external policy. However, we are friendly with anyone. Your request does not violate any law in our constitution, so, feel welcome".
"I heard that transgender people enjoy the same liberty as anyone else", says Samantha.
"Yes, that is true. You can see that two of our dictators were transgender people".
"But I also heard that you don't allow them to use hormones, have implants or undergone surgery".
"This is limited by the constitution", answers Caligula IV. "As you might know already, such transformations might have irreversible results, like the inability to have children, dependence of hormones and also the risks of cancer and infections. Anyone willing to transform its body, needs to subscribe a request, then wait for five Earth years for approval. This is to make sure that that person understands the consequences. There have been cases when a person wants to change back to its former gender, a thing that is very hard to do".
"I see", says Samantha, thinking about this subject. "I also know some cases, people willing to reverse transformation".
"Also, this is limited to a minimum age", continues Caligula IV. "You can see on our streets that even little children practice cross-dressing on a daily basis".
"Well, I didn't know that, but that is something I am here to do".
"If you want to visit our planet, feel welcome. I will give you a guide to help you. Feel welcome to go anywhere you want".
"Thank you, that will be very kind".
"If there is anything you need during your visit, please tell me. I will be happy to help".
"You are so kind... Thank you again".
"I will contact Astana, a close friend of mine. She will be your guide. Please, wait outside the room until she comes, I have many audiences today. Dismissed!"
Samantha moves on the short hall, waiting. She looks around. People come and go. It only takes half an hour until her guide comes. It's a small, young woman, with blonde hair, a yellow dress and flip-flops, emanating an unexplained joy. She looks and says, lighting a cigarette:
"Samantha Orleans? I am Astana East. I will be your guide".
"You?" she asks, very amazed. "Where are we going, child?"
"Anywhere you want".
"Are you instructed to take me on a tour?"
"No. I was expecting you to tell me what you want to see. The queen told me to let you decide and if not, told me to chose something at random".
"Now, that is something I never seen anywhere I were", says Samantha, amazed. "Usually, someone takes me on a tour, to avoid seeing certain things".
"We have nothing to hide", says Astana. "So, where should we go?"
"I would like to see the life of a family, to see people, to talk with them".
"Well, that is very easy. First, I will take you to my family. Then, we will take the first train we see and go to whatever town it goes to".
"Sounds fun to me".
Astana takes the old woman to her house. As they walk on the streets, Samantha notes: It took me only a few minutes to realize how amazing this place is. First, I seen two girls sitting on a bench, but it was clear that one of them was a guy. I could see the glued fake breasts rising from its dress. Then, I seen a woman talking on phone with someone else, but her voice was that of a man. It took me another minute to see a woman dressed in a men's costume, with glued mustache. It was so obvious that beneath the clothes it was a woman and not a man. And all this looks so natural. They are not hiding and others are not laughing about this. And there is something else. As it looks, every parcel is equal and all roads are identical. They intersect, forming perfect squares. It is a sign of egality between people.
They go to Astana's home, a yellow building with nothing special, surrounded by some vegetation. She opens the door and does the presentations:
"She is Samantha Orleans, an ambassador from far away. This is my husband, Thor. These are our children, Angel and Angela".
"Nice to meet you", they answer.
Samantha looks careful. Thor is dressed like a woman, with fake breasts and a long dress, reaching to ground. About the little children, they look like tweens.
"Is Thor a he or a she?" asks Samantha.
"I should be a man", he answers, but with a voice that sounds a bit like that of a woman. "I am a castrato. Over time, my voice tends to become like that of a woman, so I prefer to behave like one".
"Castrato?" asks Samantha, not understanding.
In the old times, 'castrato' were teens castrated from a young age, to preserve their juvenile voices and sing in the opera. Today, a 'castrato' is a male slave who has its genitals removed.
"He was born like a man, but was captured by pirates. He spent some time in UV Ceti as a slave, where they castrated him, then sold him to my dad, before we emigrated to here".
"They completely removed my genitals, everything", answers Thor. "This is why Astana chosen me".
"I am an asexual" she answers.
"Then, how is that you have children?" asks Samantha very surprised.
"Genetic engineering", answers Thor. "DNA samples were token from both, then inserted in two sample cells from our body. Basically, they are mixed clones of us, grew in incubators".
"I am a virgin", continues Astana. "And I have a strong repulsion to anything related to sex".
Samantha watches how the two light a cigarette. Even the children, which appear to be around 7, are also smoking. Astana comes with a glass of milk and some cookies.
"An asexual and a castrato", she says. "Rare sexual minorities".
"Mariella, oh well, Caligula IV, our dictator, is a sfenist".
"As I see, this is more a planet for rare minorities then for transgender people", says Samantha.
"You see", continues Astana, blowing a cloud of smoke through her small lips, "nobody talks about us. We are discriminated and rejected from anywhere. This is our home".
"Is there any census, are there any official data about population structure?"
"Depends on what you want", continues Astana. "If you want the total population and the age, it is official, but data like gender, orientation, religion and even the name you chose, is confidential. Identity cards only have your identity number, your address and some biological parameters on".
"Because this ensures freedom. The freedom to be who and what you want".
After a short visit to Astana's house, Samantha wants to make a trip around. There are hovering cars on Betelgeuse, like anywhere in the galaxy. The richest have flying vehicles or their own spaceships, but most of people prefer to travel by train between towns, walking inside each town. So, they go to the train station, which is pretty small and take the first train that comes. Each train is automated, with no pilot and on each route there is one at every hour. There are two types of trains: some that travel at 1500 km/h, on special lines, connecting remote areas, while others, slower, connect towns at a maximum of 1000 km. The first to come is a slow one. It is a single wagon that will travel with 150 km/h. Towns are placed at 20 to 30 km each.
As the train departs, the first thing Samantha notices is the landscape. Not far from the capital, which is just a town, there are large forests. A wilderness. Betelgeuse shins above, big and surrounded by its purple haze of ejected gas. Sometimes, you cannot see anything but trees. Then, as the railway crosses a river, the landscape changes for a few seconds. It is clear that this planet is recently terraformed. Rivers did not have time to stabilize their valleys. There are many waterfalls, alternating with marshes and lakes. Sometimes, high stones rise from the flat ground, all illuminated in the red light that Betelgeuse reflects anywhere.
The first stop comes at 25 km, a town named Ever Lasting Dream. Samantha watches how some people get in the train, while others get out. She looks amazed and writes on her electronic notepad:
We took the train. It is the best way to see people, to talk with them, to listen them. On a nearby bench, I see a virualophile talking with an eterophile. They talk about planting pepper seeds. Behind me, there are two cross-dressers, both girls if I judge by their voices, talking with a sfenist guy about weather. I must confess that I've never seen something like this in my whole life. From the first station where we stop, some children also got in the train. Judging by their ages, they must be born here. For them, more then for anyone, cross-dressing is so natural, like walking and sitting on a chair.
The train then climbs a hill and reaches to a large dam. From there, the railway follows the lake for a few km. On one side, there are rocky mountains or hills that reflect in the water, while on the other, the terrain appears flat and covered with forest. Samantha does not say a word. She listens people in the train, to get an idea about their way of life. From time to time, Astana talks. Then comes a new stop, the town of Dryland Spring, surrounded by hills. On one of the hills, there is a factory. The train starts moving again through pastures and grain crops. There are small gardens on the way. Then, comes a long tunnel, followed by a high bridge over a deep valley and another tunnel. After this, Samantha is amazed by the landscape. It is a large lake, encircled by mountains. Rocks are unusually white, with a reddish reflection from the star. The lake appears violet. And then, after another tunnel, the train enters another depression, with more flat land, a small lake in the middle and another town. This is Zip City. Here, Samantha wants to get down and explore.
As she gets out from the train, she remarks that all the streets look the same. They are all parallel, intersecting with other parallel streets, forming squares. In each square, there are four house parcels.
"This town looks similar to the capital", she says.
"All towns look the same. This is our settling program, to offer the same start to all newcomers".
"I like that, but on the other hand it is a bit boring".
"Not for me", answers Astana, lighting another cigarette.
Samantha watches children going home and people on the streets. Astana takes her to the town center, a concrete square surrounded by a few shops and pubs. Not much, as she can see. There are benches, so they both sit. Astana lights another cigarette, while Samantha starts to talk with other people. At first, she doesn't say who she is. When she does that, the responses shock her:
"We don't need anything, let us live as we do".
"Don't tell me how you want things to be".
"Why don't you build your own planet?"
"Listen, grandma, why don't you order a beer and leave us alone?"
Samantha notes in her diary: People love this place. They respect themselves and their way of life. And they don't want anyone from the outside to interfere with them. If you act like one of them, they all treat you as a close friend, but if you show you are an outsider, they reject you.
From all I've seen, they came here with deep scars from their past. They try to hide their wounds, but tell about them to any newcomer, to help. I never encountered one single person that was not abused or at least forced to behave different before coming here. It is this hidden pain that keeps them together. It is the will to have a normal life, accepted as any other citizen, that motivated them to come here.
As far as I can see, none of them have heard about ISTC or another organization. None of them are members. And somehow this makes sense. I first expected to see many homosexuals here, but it is all wrong. In fact, I encounter people belonging to minorities that nobody talks about and usually are considered mental diseases. There is almost no organization that recognizes or represents them. When they found an opportunity, they all came here. Nobody helped them and they don't want anyone to disturb them.
Then, Samantha looks at the children. Surprisingly, there are many and they seem to pay no attention to her.
The free state of Betelgeuse VII is relatively new. The ISA base was opened in 2996 and now it is 3009. It passed 13 Earth years since the planet was terraformed. With this value, I assume that a significant part of the children are born here. They are so different from other children I know. more polite, but in the same time having more freedom, they seem to find the world they grow in, even more normal. Cross-dressing is something they get used with from a very young age and find it the normal way things should be.
However, there is one thing that I don't understand at all. Everyone here seems to be smoking. There is no smoking ban at all, even for children, which smoke together with their parents just like in other places children are eating candy. I don't get it, but after what I've seen, I don't argue with these people.
Astana doesn't stop here. Each town has a dam, built to provide the community with water and electricity. There is a lake and close to it a forest. This is the point where people go and hangout. So, she takes Samantha to the lake.
"I've never imagined to see this", says Samantha. "You, people, live in paradise".
"When I came here, I mean when me and Thor came here, we felt like moving from purgatory to paradise".
"That is true, Astana. Compared to the life of other people like you, outside Betelgeuse..."
"It all depends. We come from Epsilon Eridani".
"There is better then in other places. But still, I heard about people rejecting transgenders".
"No, it is not like that" says Astana, filling her lungs with smoke. "People reject obscene. Also, people make a confusion, associating transgenders with gay people. They are different things. I've seen gay people licking each other's face in public. that is obscene. Also, I've met transgenders working as whores around a brothel. You've seen Thor. He would never accept to do something like that. Obscene is rejected, decency is accepted".
"Perhaps you're right, but still many don't have any choice. When I was younger, people rejected me and I had to prostitute, to survive".
"Yes, but you passed that phase and fought for human rights".
"Yes, I did".
"Well, some people never change. Some, just like to do obscene things and live their lives in a brothel".
Samantha does not answer. She knows very well the truth. Some do, some don't. As far, she found no brothel on Betelgeuse, no public nudity, no obscene gestures. Just people, living a normal life, working and being happy.
"Perhaps this is why so many people come here", she says, after a minute of silence.
"Yes, you got it right. A decent, normal life".
She continues writing her notes:
I remember a sissy, I took it an interview a few years ago. It was exactly the humiliation that it loves, to be bitten and insulted. During my trip here, I never found anything like that. By far, no. People respect each other and are friendly to each other.
I also remember the gay parade on EZ Aquarii. Many transgenders were there too. It all ended in a bloodbath, as 'natural' people started to beat them with stones and whatever they could find. I interviewed a protester and he told me: 'If they behave in public as we do, we have nothing against, but they provoke us'. After what I've seen here, on Betelgeuse, I am starting to understand that sometimes we are guilty and responsible for the fact that people reject us.
Arriving at the lake, Samantha is delighted to see people being happy. Teens hangout and around them love is in the air. Adults come with their children to a picnic. Some people sit on the rocky shore and fish. They all look happy and enjoy the time. On one side, there is a small sand beach, where some people take a sunbath, while a few take a swim in the lake. On the other side of the lake, some people ride hovering rolls through the forest. From distance, there is no way to tell what gender does each have.
"They seem so happy", says Samantha.
"Each town has a place like this", answers Astana.
"A part of my life went through my eyes as I sat here, Astana. I remember when I was a prisoner in UV Ceti, when I was bitten and tortured. There is no nature. They all live in spaceships and have no idea how beautiful nature is. But, even if you take one pirate from UV Ceti here, it will not understand the beauty of your world, because they simply cannot. If nobody told you how beautiful is a flower and you've never seen one, you will simply not understand its beauty when you accidentally find one".
"I don't get it. How could someone not realize the beauty of a flower?"
"I've been in UV Ceti and I know. I've seen them when they land on a planet and burn everything to rubble. You have to know that something is beauty to see it".
"Thor has been there and knows what a hell ass is that star system".
"Well, my point is a different one. This planet is a paradise, but only for people like you, who have suffered and want a peaceful life. Not everyone will be happy here. Some prefer a more obscene life. I mean, a pirate from UV Ceti will never like this place. Its life here will be like your life there, a nightmare. The same can be said about those gay people who were licking each one's faces and those transgenders working in a brothel".
"That's obvious", answers Astana, with a big smile. "And besides, who wants a pirate from UV Ceti here?"
Samantha does not finish her talking with Astana, but writes it down on her notes:
Betelgeuse VII is a paradise for those who love nature, for those who want to be treated equal, for those who want a new life. For those who have a BDSM, who are attracted by humiliation and who like obscene actions in public, this is not a good destination. It is all up to you, to decide if the life here is what you want or not. As for me, this clearly is the place where I want to spend the last days of my life.
Astana guides Samantha back to the capital city. The old TG woman takes a ship back. Almost each day, a ship carrying 7500 people arrives here, but less then 10 people go back. Somehow, Betelgeuse convinces all to remain. The fact that each newcomer gets a small house and a parcel and mainly the fact that finding a job in a booming economy is so easy, convince people to stay. After a while, they adapt fast to the new way of life.
Inside the ship, Samantha leans in the cryogenic tank that will freeze her in liquid helium for the journey back, waiting to get asleep. She thinks about the world she leaves behind. "A unique society is getting born near a dying star". She falls asleep. All the 40 days, how long the journey takes, pass as a single second. She wakes with the same thought in her mind. "A dying star". She goes to a window at the orbital station where her ship arrived, in Alpha Centauri. There, she can see the dark sky with stars on it. And there it is! Betelgeuse, the red shoulder of Orion, is shining.
Samantha knows that paradises don't last forever. As for now, there is nothing that seems to endanger Betelgeuse VII. She looks at the star, remembering its reddish appearance, with its surrounding haze. Each day, about 8000 people go there. Each Earth year, about 3 millions settle to Betelgeuse. Let's add the newborn children and you get the math, how its population has reached 57 millions. And it is still growing.
"No, Betelgeuse! You will not explode. You will stay there. All those children need you as you are" she whispers.
She has no idea that soon things will change. That star will die and nobody has any idea about... yet.
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