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TBP: Behind Every Man ...
by Radioactive Loner
Radioactive Loner -- all rights reserved

You know, things could have been a hell of a lot worse: I always remained human.

Oh, that's a bit of a misnomer. If you were to look around at the patrons of the Blind Pig Gin Mill, one of my favorite hangouts, you would see humans, all of them. The fact that some have scales, and some have fur, and some have horns, and some happen to be animate pencils [audience laughter] -- no, I'm serious, people. Inanimorphs can end up as many unusual forms, and, man, it's a tough life. Imagine every single sense you have being different ... seeing, smelling, touching, hearing ... it's all out of whack. An entirely new sensorium. But they're all still human. Most people just don't seem to get that.

But it's a lot harder to pick out (and thus exude prejudice against) those of us to whom the Flu left only the ability to flip genders. And I'm glad that I'm not that easy to pick out. Hell, I'm still victim to prejudices when people find out I'm a gendermorph, but you can't tell on first look, really, unlike so many of my friends. I hate the prejudice directed against my friends, and I fight against it ... but, at the very bottom of my heart, I'm glad that I'm not victim to the worse of it.

Now, up until recently, I didn't really have the ability to morph back and forth between genders. I was stuck as a woman. But a trip out to the mountains, where I visited a neohippie commune, ended up leading to a rather traumatic event ... an event that helped get me 'unstuck,' so to speak. (The medical term for being stuck in one form is 'morphlock.' Dr. Stein, the very man who is the 'S' in SCABS, one evening amusedly commented to all of us in the bar that medical dictionaries had practically tripled in weight after the advent of the Martian Flu, thanks to all the new medical terms and conditions introduced.)

And so, now, here I remain: first, Paul. Then, Tara. And now, both.

I think I'll stay as Tara for a little bit. Unusual to watch, isn't it? The first time I saw myself do that in the mirror, it really had me shaking for a while. Interestingly enough, I didn't do that until recently, because of that morphlock. I didn't watch myself become a woman the very first time I became Tara; I got sick with what I thought was just a really bad case of the normal flu, and woke up the next morning as a woman. And I was stuck that way for several months.

It's an odd phenomenon, SCABS, and the entire idea of morphing -- doing what you just saw -- basically threw pretty much the entire scientific community into one big, fat, confused tizzy. Now that I can change once more, I investigated the scientific theories out there, and basically, most people have thrown their hands up in confused despair. After all, for example, when I am a man, I am heavy. But when I am a woman, I am thin. So where do the extra pounds of weight go? Do they just disappear? That can't happen ... at least in the old school of science. Does it go into a tesseract? Just magically disappear? Do I convert mass from surrounding air? Scientists are still very confused.

And it's not only the scientific community, it's society at large, too. I mean, think about it. Prior to the Martian Flu, prior to this "flip," you basically had two major preferences: heterosexuality ("hetero" being Greek for "other, different") and homosexuality ("homo" being Greek for "same, like"). Yes, this discounts many other sexualities, but those two comprised the majority of 'mainstream' American culture prior to the Flu epidemic.

Then, boom, you got the Martian Flu, and you have gendermorphs. Suddenly ... assuming your taste in gender remains the same ... when you're in one form, you're a heterosexual, while you're in the other, you're a homosexual. You see, as Tara, I like women, so in this form, you'd call me a lesbian. Now ... as Paul, in this form, I like women, so you'd call me a heterosexual.

But it's still the same preference for the intellect, what makes me me, and now we have two different labels for it. In one form, I'm gay; in the other, I'm straight. Now, if I switched back and forth, liking men as a woman and liking women as a man, would I, who is both Tara and Paul, be bisexual? As you can see, our old labels for sexual orientation begin to grow hazy and vague, proving themselves insufficient to the task.

Biology can be odd, too. As a woman, I'm subject to menstrual cycles. As a man, I am not. Now, many of the girls in the audience may be thinking, Great, when the time of the month hits, just pop on over to Guyville and stay there for a bit. Nope. Doesn't seem to work that way. I've not really yet worked out exactly how everything corresponds to everything, yet, but if I pop over to Guyville in the midst of a period, I just resume it whenever I pop back.

Paul and Tara have very different metabolisms. Paul's more the frathouse metabolism: he can eat an entire pizza in one sitting. Tara's more the supermodel metabolism: a good salad can fill her up. So when Paul eats a pizza, does it end up on Tara's thighs and butt? No. It seems to correspond with what fills each other up. As Paul, I'm on an exercise program, trying to shed the weight, get back to a fit male body. Does this mean Tara will accordingly lose the same weight, waste away to a bare skeleton? As far as I've been able to tell, no; exercise done with Tara's body improves that form, but doesn't improve my male form, and vice versa.

What I'm trying to say is that there seems to be a separation, a uniqueness, as if each body has its own life. Again, something I note only from observation, and not from surefire scientific knowledge. SCABS has left the scientific community gasping in the dust, trying to catch up with all its various oddities, and I am by no means a scientist. I am, in fact, an actor.

Yes, folks, an actor, the very scourge of your teachers ... the oh-so-unserious, impractical career choice that has led many a starry-eyed teenager to major cities across our country, trying to eke out a living on the stage. Gendermorphs have opportunities for some really unique roles. Shakespeare offers many moments where women dress as men, such as in "Twelfth Night" -- and gendermorphs bring a whole new dimension to that. And the advent of gendermorphs made possible stage productions of old transgender films such as "Switch" or "Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde" -- the PG-rated version, thank you very much. I hear that giggling in the back!

In any case, it also opens up a world of opportunities, in that now I can audition for women's roles as well as men's roles. That's a unique advantage to this career, wherein what could be a liability in other careers proves to actually be an asset.

I'll now take some questions from the audience. Since you're without mikes, I'll repeat the question to you all before I answer it.

Will I change back and forth for you naked? [audience laughter] No, I really don't think that's going to happen, buddy. Hey, go easy on the guy, teach, I'd probably ask the same thing were the roles reversed. [audience laughter] That guy's probably in for some detention time. Oh, well.

What's the strangest SCAB I've ever met? I'm not going to answer that question. [pauses] Except to say that those Martian Flu victims who've had to deal with unusual body forms are some of the more noble people I've ever had the honor to meet. When someone endures through such a life- changing event, the inner strength they end up displaying is nothing short of amazing.

What? No, go ahead. Don't worry about being too personal. If it's too personal, I won't answer it. No, I would have wondered about that, too. She asked how I handle clothing with the change. Well, when I know I'm going to be called upon to morph, I usually wear something that can accommodate both forms, like the sweat pants and sweat shirt I'm wearing today. Usually, it's something that doesn't really look great on either form; what's too baggy for Tara is a bit too tight on Paul, just as a function of height and weight. So usually, I'll dress for one of the two bodies. This of course ignores stage costumes, which are an entirely different matter; they're usually sewn to accommodate the change.

How do I feel about "SCABS"? It's a very dumb television show, and I expected more from Showtime. The CGI looks fake and the actor and actress playing the gendermorph character look nothing alike. It comes from when you want to use celebrities who aren't SCABS to play SCAB characters. It's like when they made up Roma Downey to look like an African-American for that one episode of "Touched By An Angel." Not convincing at all.

What's "Touched By An Angel"? Well, I have a certain love for television shows from the '90s and '00s. It's old 2-D stuff, and I think the reference would take too long to explain here. Check it out the 'Net if you like.

Why am I touring, talking about gendermorphism? Good question. Very good question. Careful, they're going to think I planted you in the audience. [audience laughter] Well, basically, I just want to bring you my story as an example, as perhaps part of a larger message. I want you all to realize that it's what's in your heart that counts, not what you look like. I'm me, whether I'm this ... or this. High school roles such as the class athlete, the drama clubs, all the various cliques have existed for decades upon decades, now, but try to remember that that's not just the homecoming king there, there's a person behind there. Same with those you'd exclude because they might be more academically minded.

Also, your high school is right here in the city. No doubt you've run into SCABS, and maybe been afraid of them. We're human, just as you. It's not right to fear the other, and you let yourself in for a world of disappointment and pain when you pass up the opportunity to get to know someone just because their form's different than that to which you're accustomed.

Well, your teacher's giving me the sign that your class periods are about to change, so I'll wrap this up. If you take just one thing away from this, I hope you'll take a message of tolerance. I'd also like to invite any of you to come see me as Portia in "The Merchant of Venice," which is the first production of Shylock's Advocates, a new community theater group I've just founded. The show begins this Saturday, and students get a discounted rate.

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