This came to me after reading a story about a genie. (Obviously.) My nit-pick concern is how to deal with tenses, as I sort of go back and forth between present and past – any suggestions would be appreciated. Also not sure if this story is worth continuing, since its original goal was teasing out my own issues. Shocking, I know. Anyway, thoughts on whether you’d like to see more would also be appreciated.
“I don’t understand.” I’d gotten the lamp as a lark, at a local thrift store. It was nothing impressive: tarnished metal, battered in a few places, curving upward into a classic “genie’s lamp” spout. I figured I would put it on a shelf, next to my LEGO Star Wars scene and Happy Meal toys of Robin Hood and Peter Pan. An interesting conversation piece, right? Something amusing and unusual, to prompt a laugh from guests and a distraction for me when I should be working. No one ever expects to find themselves in the middle of a fairy tale, the middle of 1001 Arabian Nights. You think about it, sure. Ask your friends, have late night discussions about what you would do with those three wishes. You never expect it to happen.
“I believe your culture is full of stories about genies, Master. Jinn, Ifrit, whatever you wish me to be called.” The jinni spoke with an androgynous voice, emanating from a smokey body, not clearly male or female. In true fairy tale fashion, the incense-like smoke originated from the lamp and spread upwards into an unreasonably solid-looking cloud. The smoke continued to pour out, but hadn’t expanded past the jinni’s “body” or filled the room; the only smell was a subtle hint of something floral, impossible to pin down. When the jinni spoke, the cloud around its face swirled, and subtle puffs of smoke emerged out from where its mouth would be, like breathing out on a cold day. “What is it that you do not understand? As the one who freed me from the prison of Solomon’s seal, you are entitled to three wishes, delivered to the best of my ability. A superficial read of your thoughts indicates you already understand the general guidelines from countless tales of fiction: no taking of life, no returning of life from beyond the veil, no wishing for additional wishes. There are more esoteric rules, but I will appraise you of those if and when you encounter them. For all that, you are entitled to three wishes, Master.” I could hear the capital ‘M.’
How do you decide on what to wish for, when wishing for what you always wanted would erase and rewrite your entire life?
I’m trans. Transgender, transsexual, whatever. What’s between my legs doesn’t match what’s between my ears. For the last five years I’d been transitioning: therapy, hair removal, name changes on document after document, hormones. For the last two years, I’d been living full-time as Rebecca, presenting myself and interacting with the world as the woman I am. Recently, I started researching surgeons for sexual reassignment surgery, or SRS. (No, I haven’t had “the Surgery” yet.) Growing up, I dreamed of opportunities like this, to change my body and change my life. I fantasized about magical body-shaping spells, mind-transfer rays, alternate timelines, and even more outlandish possibilities. I would have given almost anything to not be trans, to “just” be the girl I knew I was. I constantly regretted the missed dresses and dates and sleepovers of a youth spent pretending to be a boy. And now I had an opportunity to change all that, to change me.
Part of me was kicking myself, asking just why I was hesitating. Make the wish, rewrite history, and be done with it. I’d have never been trans, would have always been a girl. I wouldn’t have considered suicide because my body was so foreign to my identity. I wouldn’t have gone to party after prom after wedding after funeral dressed in someone else’s suit and tie. I wouldn’t have had to come out to girlfriends, bosses, parents, siblings. I wouldn’t have had to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for hair removal, hormones, doctors’ fees, new wardrobes, therapy. I wouldn’t have to live my life as one of the smallest, most reviled minorities in modern society. Trannies. She-males. Chicks with dicks.
I wouldn’t have grown closer to my mom over the course of my transition. Bonded with members of the trans community. Discovered my love of performing personal narrative and telling my own story to the world. I wouldn’t be who I am today, if I weren’t trans.
“Do you have a name, jinni? What should I call you?” I needed some time to think. To stall.
The jinni cocked its head. “You may call me whatever you wish, Master. But, in the time before I was bound by Solomon, I was known as Jannah. Paradise, in English.”
“And…” I paused, realizing that asking ‘are you a boy or a girl?’ of a cloud of talking incense might be ridiculous. “Do jinn have genders?”
Jannah laughed. At least, I think it was a laugh. It sounded like fire crackling when a new log is thrown onto a pile, and like bells, too, somehow. “We do, Master, although we jinn are not as firmly bound to male and female as the Children of Adam. Or as bound as some of the Children of Adam.” I think Jannah cocked an eyebrow at me, but it was hard to tell through the smoke.
I admit it, my heart started racing. I hadn’t even voiced anything about being trans, and Jannah already seemed to know something was up. Stupid mind-reading. Was I going to go down in myths and legends as the woman unlucky enough to find a transphobic jinni? I had visions of smiting. Horrible, horrible smiting.
That laugh again. I could listen to that laugh all day. “Fear not, Child of Adam. You are my Master,” (again, with the capital M), “and I could not harm you even should I wish to. But, as I said, jinn are less bound to male and female than humanity. Just as Allah made you of clay, to be formed and solidified, we jinn are made of fire, forever shifting and racing from one form to another.”
I calmed down, slightly. Maybe I’d make it through this bizarre experience after all. But I couldn’t help pressing my luck, saying, “So you know I’m trans.” It was really more of a statement than a question, and I was prepared for an outburst of biblical proportions.
“Such words you humans come up with, and such concepts since my last time free of that lamp!” Jannah appear to sit down in mid-air, one leg over the other, and looked at me with a relaxed attitude. I wondered how long Jannah had been in the lamp, what being in a lamp was like – was it I Dream of Jeannie? Disney’s Aladdin? Something I couldn’t even imagine? “I know, and it matters not. Again, you are my Master, and only your wishes and well-being are my concern. Not what’s between your legs.” Jannah glanced down, and I felt the irrational desire to cover my crotch, even though I was fully clothed. Jannah’s words did give me pause, however.
“You are a lucky one, Master. Many of my kin have become dark and twisted in the time since Solmon, but I see no pleasure in causing harm.” My mind was racing. How can you tell if someone is telling the truth, let alone a magical jinni? You can’t just ask, because if they’re lying they’ll just continue to lie. What good is saying ‘Are you a mean ole’ literal genie, or a happy friendly Disney genie?’
At last, I replied, “I need some time to think, Jannah. I’m going to take a walk.” I grabbed my keys and headed for the door.
“As you wish, Master. I shall await your return.” As I closed the door, I could see Jannah turning on the TV, a truly odd site in a day already filled with weirdness.
I walked along the street, crunching the remaining ice and snow under my boots. Three wishes. How could I decide on three wishes? The first one seemed easy: money. I would need to work out the details, but some amount of financial security. I don’t think money can buy happiness, but I sure think it can remove a lot of obstacles in its way. But what kind of money? Winning the lottery? Always having luck with stocks? A magical appearance of cash in my bank account? Guarantees to a good job with a safe future? Did I want to be comfortably well-off, or obscenely wealthy? I ultimately decided on something of a compromise between “comfortable” and “obscene”: I would wish to win a lottery drawing of twenty million dollars (after taxes), and have exceptional intuition about how to make money in the stock market. Enough to never have to worry about money again, but not nearly enough to – say – buy a space shuttle or lose all connection with reality. Hopefully. I also had some plans for that money in terms of charity: political causes I believe in, and especially supporting LGBT (and T-specific) support groups and organizations.
In my contemplation, I’d walked all the way to the Lake Michigan, about a mile from my house. The water was frozen near the shoreline, and waves crashed up and over the ice. I pulled my scarf around me as I continued walking.
One wish down. The second one also didn’t seem too tough: health for me and the ones I cared about. Not to live forever (which might be a forbidden wish, anyway) but for myself and the people I loved to live long, healthy lives, free from major disease, Alzheimers, whatever. Another solid, practical wish. A boring wish, even, but something that seemed difficult to argue with.
I started heading back to my apartment, through the pedestrian tunnel under Lake Shore Drive and back west.
The third wish, I knew from the start, would be the impossible wish. The “trans” wish. The one that, in a perfect world, I could waste on superpowers or proof that aliens exists, or something utterly and obscenely ridiculous. A trip to the moon, maybe. It would even be nice (in a sick, paradoxical sort of way) if I was miserable enough to wish my current life away, to reset the clock and say “I wish I’d been born genetically female, and happy with that identity.” But I couldn’t honestly contemplate that much rewriting of my life. And somehow not rewriting my life, allowing myself to transform into a ‘real’ girl without changing anything else, would bring up a bit of confusion when it turned out that, oh!, I had a vagina all along.
So what about more complicated wishes? ‘I wish that a medical treatment would be developed (stem sells? gene therapy? I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about) to allow trans people to ‘grow’ the proper sex organs in a lab for seamless and problem-free transplants.’ But that would undoubtedly be super expensive, meaning I’d be making SRS even less accessible, and transitioning even more a class issue. What about ‘I wish for the ability to shape shift’? That’d have the bonus of being fun, letting me resolve (cheat) some other body issues, and…still end up with lots of questions about where the hell my penis went.
Maybe I wasn’t thinking big enough. ‘I wish that nanotechnology existed allowing for inexpensive and flawless body-rebuilding, allowing people to basically take a pill for SRS.’ How many times had I read that story on Fictionmania or BigCloset? But those stories never seemed to deal with the inevitable fallout. Trans people aren’t the only ones with body issues, and I wasn’t sure I want to live in a world where dramatically reshaping your body was as easy as popping a pill.
‘I wish to be the crotch fairy, with the power to let trans people’s genitals match their identity! KA-POW! Penis! KA-BLAM! Vagina!’ OK, that idea made me giggle (and I’ve talked before about wishing for a ‘vagina fairy,’ but I’m not sure I want to be a Crotch Fairy for the rest of my life. Or, y’know, ever.
Perhaps the scariest wish of all, and the most alluring, was this: I wish for good mental health, to be comfortable with my trans identity, and not to regret what was ‘lost’ in my childhood and adolescence. Scary in its simplicity, and in the idea I’d ‘waste’ a wish in something that seems like it should be do-able on my own, yet continued to be just out of my grasp.
As I approached my apartment, I worried about how mundane these wishes seemed. I could – quite literally – wish for the moon. I could change the course of history, impact the lives of billions across the planet. Could I roll my third wish into the second? Wish for good physical and mental health, and still have that third wish left over for something more exciting?
Returning to my apartment, and seeing Jannah still on the couch, I realized I was about to find out.