The effects were subtle. It happened over a course of many years. Initially, it went un-recognized by the medical community, as no one actually took serious note of genital size or were attune to the negligible changes in reproductive organ formation from patient to patient. The morphological alterations were slow. Occasionally, the more obvious anomalies were judged to be hermaphroditic, and these children were raised differently, were taught to be ashamed of their variation, and did not necessarily enter the general dating population. It took over two decades until women went to bed with men and realized that yes, some of them had labia. Their penises were markedly smaller. Their testicles, when visible at all, had not descended. More and more, what resided between men’s legs began to resemble what women themselves occasionally examined with their hand mirrors.
Men knew. Of course they had viewed pornography and saw, during their heated adolescent explorations, that they were formed differently than Lex Steele, just as boys a generation or two before them knew that they were unlike John Holmes.
Although the development of the aberrant traits was, over time, so slow as to be nearly imperceptible and occurred before birth to men who never knew what it was to look like Adam, societal expectations had not changed. The new generations of men furtively searched for a more legitimate identity, while others forged on along expected sociological paths, not knowing any other way forward than the roles civilization had assigned their fathers. Others sunk into moats of indolence and lassitude. They seemed to collectively suffer from an unfathomable self-loathing. And frequently, they accomplished nothing, drifting from one job to the next, making no distinct bonds with either women or other men.
A score of pediatricians in the District of Columbia, having come together for a conference, were the first group in the medical community to consciously register the transformations. Mothers had begun bringing their sons to their respective practices in increasing numbers. Every complaint related to the malformation or retarded development of their child’s genitalia. “It…well, it just doesn’t look right, Dr. Stone. It certainly doesn’t bear any resemblance to his father’s. Is something wrong with him, do you think? Will it start growing later?” By the age of six or seven, several of the case examples had even appeared to be forming an inchoate lactation system. In individual practices, the doctors had not considered the stray irregular patient to be entirely unusual, but collectively, when sharing their various cases, the sheer number alarmed them all.
One boy, killed in a sledding accident, was brought to doctors for experimentation, naturally, against his mother’s wishes. “Harold, they’ll call him a freak. Do you want that? Did you find him so terrible that you‘d allow him to be cut to ribbons? And for what? For what?!” The father, a scientist himself, allowed doctors to examine the boy’s genitalia. A sagittal view of his testes brought under a microscope revealed the presence of egg cells. And in front of his vas deferens and just above his bladder was a small, membranous pouch thought to be an emergent uterus. Doctors were simultaneously fascinated and staggered. They requested permission to do more tests. The digestive system was searched and estrogen-associated proteins were found in the tissue.
The story broke in the media and bolder men began stepping forward claiming their membership in the “pubococcygeal (or PC) brotherhood.” “Despite the misconceptions,” the PC Brotherhood spokesman said, “despite the fact that much of society sees this as a misfortune, we are no less masculine than men ever were. We take our name from the powerful muscle group that forms a figure eight, the sign of eternity, around the reproductive and posterior regions of the female. Some of us have these features, some do not, but like these muscles, we have banded together to form a powerful coalition, and we will not be shut out or made to feel limited.”
For the first time in history, genitals were shown on network television. “What’s causing this?”, one doctor spoke on Nightly News. “We don’t know. However, if these male children are still capable of normal reproduction after passing through puberty, we will potentially have an entire race of feminized men. Eventually, it is possible that men will cease to exist entirely. We will be a nation comprised entirely of women…and, well, genetic glitches.”
A source was sought. A foundation for the purpose was established by two dot-com titans and thus funded, scientists set to work scrutinizing environmental factors that might trigger genetic malfunctioning. The New York Times Op-Ed page hummed with daily essays on “Why the Y is under assault,” “The Eve Principle,” and “Don’t Mess with X-es.” Instead of expanding the definition of masculinity, embracing its new diversity, people clung to examples from previous eras: the Civil War, the Wild West. Others made reference to figures that frighteningly recalled the Aryan male of National Socialism. “Men should be upright and square-shouldered, lean muscled and silently powerful, like the classical Greek Doryphoros or Lysippos’ Apoxyomenos,” declared one aged editorial writer from Atlanta.
Men whose demeanor suggested that their genitals bore feminine traits were beaten in the streets and in the dark back rooms of bars. Several were killed, their dead bodies unclothed and legs splayed to exhibit their sexual disparity. The More You Know Council began running an aggressive battery of public service announcements featuring celebrities who spoke about the beauty of diversity, but the ads pre-dated the crisis. They related exclusively to racial issues and ultimately had little curative influence.
Some frightened fathers, whose aspirations for Little League sluggers and college football stars seemed in danger of vanishing altogether, began purchasing testosterone and injecting their young sons with it, often without their wife‘s consent or knowledge, until of course the needle marks were discovered at bath time. The men hoped it might ensure the proper formation of the genitalia, while depositing in the boys some seminal notion of what it was to be masculine. Didn’t testosterone produce those deliciously evil thoughts about women? Didn’t it promote the need for achievement and power and encourage the quiet and solemn character appropriate for a man? Some of these little boys grew breasts in response to such aggressive and unsystematic hormone therapy, prompting doctors to caution against the unmonitored introduction of foreign chemicals into a developing lymphatic system. They insisted on its danger to the normal functioning of a young child’s immune system and noted that it would make fundamental alterations to the body without taking into account the impact on the child‘s mental and emotional development. “The last thing we want,” said a spokesman for the District of Columbia pediatricians who made the original discovery, “is a generation of children who suffer from self-hatred or confusion because their parents further tampered with the course of nature.”
Eventually, tests revealed that water was to blame for the unusual genetic manifestations. The basic purification systems employed by the cities were not filtering out the estrogen excreted by women taking birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies. Detergents containing the compounds alkyl phenoxy polyethoxy ethanols, also regularly flushed into the water systems, returned in filtered drinking water to activate the estrogen receptors in cells of both males and females. Mothers mixed formula with tap water, and children drank it in their Tang. Girl-boys were first made and later born.
The Vatican, still weakened by scandal and seeking a passage to greater influence, used the subject of birth control as a toe-hold, and became extremely vocal on the ills of premarital relations. This, it was tacitly understood in their messages, was the harvest reaped from unlawful sexual congress, the consequence of fornication, not lawful love. It had tainted the good and the legitimate and would leave a stigma on mankind forevermore. But the people were too far gone, too unbelieving, too unwilling to trust the same men reputed to have lead little boys away like the Pied Pipers of Hamlin. “They of all people!” cried one outraged mother, “They have no right to say anything!” People did not flock to churches in any great number nor did they close themselves inside confessional boxes to seek prescriptive penances. Instead, they sought other forms of solace and consequently, made more anomalous babies, more über-females, more haphazard males.
Despite the backlash against the Vatican’s denunciations, there was an immediate government-imposed prohibition against the pill, although contraband supplies could still be bought through underground networks. It was often trafficked through the same connections that dealt in heroin and cocaine or it was sold for great sums and inferior doses by drug reps, who sat in the poorly lit parking lots of free clinics after dusk. “You’re girlfriend will need two of these pills to get the power of the one she used to take, understand? Now a thirty pack is two hundred and fifty. A sixty pack is five hundred.”
Census reports revealed that the genetic divergence appeared to grow outward from various geographical nuclei, usually urban centers, and did not reveal itself to any great degree outside regions with high population concentrations or areas that relied solely on well water. Apparently, the chemicals had not infiltrated the water tables, had not evaporated from urban reservoirs and become incorporated into the underground springs that fed rural land parcels. Scientists tried to extrapolate and determine, based on meteorological patterns, whether this would eventually occur. This did not appear to be the case, although it seemed that eventually the same phenomenon would afflict subdivisions.
There was a modest exodus of women from major metropolitan centers to outlying rural areas. Like urban pioneers of decades before, they sought inexpensive homes in socially inhospitable quarters. “Anywhere but the city,” said one twenty-seven year old publicist, “I can barely get a cell signal here, and my neighbors light firecrackers and drive their ATVs in the fields all night, but at least I know the water’s pure.”
Many women, however, remained in the city, because their careers were there. They met men carrying the genetic irregularity and married them because urban life—despite man’s consistent proximity to others—is still an isolated existence. The nights stretched into long, bleak periods of insomnia, and the streets outside the subway station were always the darkest when walked alone. The sexual variance did not induce a love of peace in those who carried it, nor did it diminish the number of predators. On the contrary, it seemed to increase their numbers: because with seismic change often comes unbridled rage. The women told themselves the difference in their men did not matter, but it did. It made us what we are now.
No asteroid collided with Earth. Humans did not fall victim to the post-impact atmospheric fluctuations alleged to have slain the dinosaurs. Instead, we evolved to become something entirely different. We developed and adapted, as there were certainly other factors, not detected by the era’s scientists that contributed to our new physiological morphology. If one were to suspend themselves over the great family tree of man, which begins with the Australopithecines, one might feel fortunate that we did not halt in our development as did the branches a. robustus and a. boisei. There was certainly every indication that humans would stop reproducing and would die out as the early hominids had done. Men’s capacity to produce egg proteins and egg cells had increased in direct proportion to their failure to manufacture sperm. And it appeared that this phenomenon would continue. Without seed, there could be no babies. But there were. There were babies in great profusion, thanks to fertility shots, to scientifically harvested spermatozoa, to the unwitting chemical enhancements brought to women in their processed yogurt, their veal cutlets, their grilled chicken and pan-seared tuna. The resulting male children all manifested an enhancement of the traits that had made their fathers so different. Even female babies began to show signs of gender dysfunction.
So, ultimately, Nostradamus was correct. The world was coming to an end, but only as his particular physical morphology had known it. There was no spiritual or environmental cataclysm to rout humanity. The seismic change was effected by degrees. It was—one might say—insidiously slow, so that it surprised everyone to find that they were not like their grandparents, and their grandchildren were, in turn, not like them. In all honesty, the outcome was self-inflicted. Humans themselves, their chemicals and their economic construct are responsible for what we have become and are becoming, as nothing is stable. We evolve still. We are the fruits of giant industry, a hearty crop grown from seeds scattered by bio-engineered agriculture and the more incautious segments of medical science. But perhaps, if our ancestors had had an opportunity to see what they would become—see us as we are now—they might have changed the course of things, treated the sources rather than the symptoms. I don’t think they realized they had that power. And therefore, I am: a veritable monster in the eyes of the historical observer, a creature worthy of a cage, of confinement in a zoological park. No, a curtained funhouse tent, beside a woman with seven chins, beside Siamese twins, beside men able to digest metal and breathe fire.
Yes, this might be the case if it were just me. But what history once considered abnormal is now as common as gender differentiation four generations ago. Now, we are uniformly masculo-feminine, not yet capable of auto-reproduction, but close. Science moves forward, although the more cautious mind would not equate this with progress. With our perceived forward motion has come considerable retrogression. Other anomalous qualities have surfaced and now feed the genetic pool: gill slits, limb elongations, hairlessness. We are not beautiful creatures, not by historical standards, but our culture has learned to accept this, to embrace it. Our ancestors did not endeavor to arrest the alteration of our species when it occurred, and now, we must resign ourselves to the consequences of their failure.