Popinjay–The Beginning: Aubrey’s Story, Part One

Singer-Songwriters are often asked, “Which comes first, the lyrics or the melody?”

I’ve heard as many different answers to that question as there are singer-songwriters.

I’ve been asked over the years, “Which comes first, the idea (theme) or the story?”

My answer is, “Yes.”

Popinjay came to me in 2011 after I had read an article about a transfemale who had won Donald Trump’s beauty contest and how Trump promised that that would never happen again–he changed the rules.

At the same time, I saw Boys Don’t Cry.

I thought, “Wouldn’t the world be a better, happier place if people were never so confused? If nature didn’t screw up in the womb?”

Thus, Popinjay was born.

What follows over the next three installments is how Aubrey Zeman unintentionally created the dystopic world of Popinjay  with her creation of the Z Chromosome, a creation that was designed to make the world a better and happier place, but a creation that was used, instead, to create a horrific world of True Gender.

The events of Aubrey’s Story take place 150 years prior to the events of the novel “Popinjay”.

Aubrey’s Story


The Arrival

On Tuesday, 13 August 2002, four-year-old Aubrey Zeman awoke—that day was the day she’d get a new sibling! This was better than her birthday and Christmas all rolled into one.

troll_babyAubrey had dreamed about her new sibling the night before. She laughed throughout her dream as the new baby looked like one of her troll dolls.

Still, she didn’t know whether she had a new baby brother or a new baby sister.

Although Aubrey’s parents could have had a simple test to determine the gender of the child, they had not. The same when Aubrey was born four years earlier: No test for gender. Mr. and Mrs. Zeman liked surprises. Plus, she had overheard her mom saying to an older friend, “What difference does it make: boy or girl? The baby will be just as loved no matter the sex.” Aubrey didn’t fully understand the word “sex”, but she knew it had something to do with the type of toys you played with, the colors you liked, how you were supposed to behave, and what bathroom you were supposed to use when you were at a restaurant or the mall.

And so, for months, her parents and Aubrey, with as much help as a four-year-old could contribute, had prepared the new baby’s room in gender neutral colors of grey, aqua, and coral, with a hint of bumblebee yellow for fun. Aubrey even helped in selecting the new baby’s name: Kelsey.

Secretly, Aubrey wished for a baby sister. Boys at her Pre-K school were always rough and shouting and pushing everyone around. Plus, she had lots and lots of baby doll dresses she could dress Kelsey in, and boys don’t like to be dressed in baby doll dresses, she had already learned that in her four-short-years.

Mom had begun to feel the baby coming after supper the night before. Midwife Sylvia had arrived shortly after and the bedroom was prepared: Aubrey had helped dress the bed, first with a plastic covering over the mattress and then with two layers of soft cotton sheets. Strange medical instruments sat on a table—set up by Midwife Sylvia.

Midwife Sylvia stayed the night in the small guest cottage behind the house.

Throughout the next morning, Grandmother tried to keep the girl busy with games, a walk around the block, and even continuing stitching on the new quilt for the baby-about-to-arrive, but the little girl was an effervescent of excitement. She finally was getting a baby—what? A brother or a sister?

Mom and Dad were in the bedroom along with the midwife. Mr. and Mrs. Zeman didn’t like hospitals, either. Aubrey had been born in the same bedroom four years earlier. They weren’t new age hippy types and belonged to any kooky religious group—they just liked the idea of their children being born at home. The Zeman’s were intent on raising their children as natural and simple as possible in the brave new world of ever growing and encroaching technology and this phenomenon called the Internet that was on the cusp of taking over everyone’s life.

Shortly after lunch—Grandma had made Aubrey’s favorite peanut butter and honey sandwich, of which the little girl could only manage a couple of bites–Aubrey heard excited voices coming from Mom and Dad’s bedroom. Grandma rushed from the living room, Aubrey behind her. Grandma opened the door just enough to stick her head in. Aubrey, at Grandma’s hip, squeezed her head between Grandma’s thigh and the door.

Dad was holding mom’s hand and talking in rapid whispers to Mom. The midwife was on the phone, a restrained excited calm in her voice. Aubrey scanned the room: She couldn’t see her new—what? brother? sister?

Grandma pushed Aubrey from the opening and shut the door. “We’re going to my house for a bit. Your mother needs to rest,” Grandma said, a fake smile at the end of her words.

Aubrey fought to stay home, but her grandmother won, and she spent many, many days at the old woman’s house. Aubrey tried to be as bad as she could be—screaming, throwing things, playing with her food, being mean to Mr. Peacock the Cat, and refusing to take a bath or brush her teeth. Still, she was kept a prisoner in the old woman’s home and was forbidden to see her new sibling.

Then, one morning, after what seemed like forever to the four-year-old, Grandma said, “You want to meet your new sister?”

aubrey_kelseyWhen Aubrey finally got home, Kelsey was lying on the living room carpet. Aubrey ran to her new sister, lay down beside her, kissed her, and whispered in the newborn’s ear, “I’m going to love you forever. We’re going to have so much fun. I’m happy you don’t look like a troll.”


The Turning Away

04 December 2019

Thank God!

Aubrey stabbed with the tip of her pencil to make a deep, dark period at the end of the sentence. The gray tip snapped. Aubrey brushed the shard off the paper and the desk, stood, marched to the front of the room, and flicked the finished essay on top of the slush pile of other finished essays. She perfunctorily smiled at the graduate assistant and left the lecture hall.

The crisp cool Baltimore breeze whispered of snow to come that evening. Thank God, she thought more gently. In one hour, she’d be on a plane back to Oklahoma and her family. She pulled her iPhone from her coat pocket and hit Messages. She poked at Kelsey’s name and thumbed, “Final fucking exm fini. Headed 2 airport. Home in 5 hrs. ”

Kelsey did not respond. Aubrey wasn’t expecting a response, not really. Kelsey had never felt obligated to respond to anyone’s text. Especially the last few months. Still, her sister could have at least—no, wait her brother. Damn it! I’ve got to remember—remember: Brother. Brother. Brother. He, him; he, him; he, him.


Kelsey hadn’t liked being dressed in doll clothes. Growing up, Kelsey was always rough and shouting and pushing everyone around—especially Aubrey. Despite being four years younger, Kelsey began bossing Aubrey around from the first words that came out of her—fuck!—his mouth.

Two years to get used to the idea, no, the reality, that Kelsey was not female. Kelsey was male, after all. Male. Why? Because some doctors fucked up years ago and now some other doctor says Kelsey has always been male.

Cloacal Exstrophy

kloh-ey-see—Latin: the common cavity into which the intestinal, urinary, and generative canals open in certain mammals; a sewer, especially an ancient sewer 

ek-strə-fē—Greek: a birth defect resulting in the eversion of an organ, literally, a turning inside out

In real world words, a baby’s bladder and part of the intestines open to the outside, the pelvis is split open like a book, and the genitals are unrecognizable as male or female.

That’s why, 17 years ago, Aubrey had stayed at her grandmother’s house for two months. Kelsey was undergoing surgery after surgery to correct her—his—bladder, liver, pelvis, and whatever it was between the legs. The doctors and consultants determined the flattened, short thing between Kelsey’s legs that was split like a serpent’s tongue was a clitoris.

So, advanced medicine and the latest in nano-technologically aided surgery sliced and trimmed and made the thing smaller and more in line with what the doctors and surgeons had been taught a clitoris should look like.

Aubrey didn’t remember the moment she first saw her sister—brother—but had been told stories, and there was the video tape of her lying down next to Kelsey and whispering in her/his eye that she would love her/him forever.

Aubrey did love Kelsey as they grew. But, Kelsey didn’t seem to love her with the same dedication, intensity, and genuineness that Aubrey loved Kelsey. Kelsey was a rough and tumble tom-boy.

Then Kelsey started school. Mr. and Mrs. Zeman were called to many conferences about Kelsey’s aggressive behavior, the fighting with the boys, wanting to play on the boys’ teams (when the school had  perfectly good girls’ teams), wandering into the boys’ bathroom to pee. Of more concern to the Zemans, Kelsey’s low test scores. As with Aubrey, Kelsey’s IQ was 159–Einstein level.

Kelsey’s aggressiveness abated in junior high, the school and state mandated test scores went up, and Kelsey seemed to be over whatever growing angst she had experienced in childhood.

“Perhaps puberty has calmed her down,” Mr. Zeman said, facetiously.

But, puberty never set in for Kelsey. At least, not the correct puberty.

Kelsey grew taller than Aubrey. Muscles formed. Her voice deepened. Facial hair sprouted in small dark clusterous blooms.

Plus, Kelsey began to like girls. The Zemans were a progressive family, and if Kelsey was attracted to girls, they had no problem. Society at that time, though, had yet to fully accept alternative lifestyles as actual normal lifestyles, and they worried about the bullying that might take place in high school and the social stigma of being a lesbian.

And, it did. Kelsey was called a dyke, a butch, a homo, a lezzy, a retard, and a ghetto bitch. Kelsey fought those who had the cohones to voice the derogatory epithets to her face. She was suspended, often, and she was finally placed in the school district’s academy, which was a euphemism for the school where the principal sent the loser kids who don’t or can’t or refuse to fit into any form or definition of social normalcy.

Then, a few days after Kelsey’s fifteenth birthday, came the phone call. It was a doctor who had been an intern for the lead surgeon who had operated on Kelsey all those years ago, the attempt to fix the mistakes of God and nature. The intern, now a full-fledged doctor, had called around Kelsey’s birthday to see how Kelsey was doing, to recommend counseling and hormone treatments and just give plain, good ol’ moral support to the Zemans.

This time, though, she wasn’t calling to wish Kelsey happy birthday, suggest more help, or provide moral support. This time, she had news.

Fifteen years earlier, her mentor doctor and many more on the advisory staff had made a mistake.

Two months before Kelsey’s fifteenth birthday, this doctor explained, an intern who was specializing in gender genetic dysmorphia and defects came across Kelsey’s casefile and ran tests on the tissue and blood samples that had been preserved.

Much advancement had been made in the understanding of cloacal exstrophy as well as gender genetics. Before, doctors had to rely on present research, their education, their experience, and their best guess.

Kelsey’s genetic profile was male.

No one had to tell Kelsey this bit of news. Kelsey had been telling the world for years that she was a he. Maybe not in words, but in actions and deeds and temperament, and in spirit.

No one had listened.

Aubrey had been away at Berkley, her freshman year, when her father phoned her just before Thanksgiving break and told her the news. She was more than a little angry and hurt: She was pissed to the gills and ready to buy an automatic weapon and mow the goddamn doctors down.

Aubrey seethed over the lost years with her baby—what? sister? brother? freak?

Kelsey took the news better than any of them. When told, he fell to his knees and wept and sobbed like a baby. His parents joined him on the floor, putting their arms around him, and wept as well. Then, after a few moments, he stopped, choked in a breath, stood over his parents, and said, “He has risen.”

At first, Mr. and Mrs. Zeman were confused as to why their child was making such a religious reference. They had neither discouraged or encouraged either of their children in any religious bent.

However, over time, they began to understand that Kelsey wasn’t making a religious statement. As Kelsey rose from his knees, he was announcing to the world that he was being reborn as the male he had been born to be.

Nothing could be done to undo the past. Aubrey’s anger finally subsided, and she changed her major from English literature to genetic and gender science. Her ACT and SAT scores were perfect, and she could choose any college and any major she wanted.

English lit, though, had sounded more fun, and she enrolled her freshman year at Berkley.

Even though she had perfect scores in high school in her advance science classes, science was always a bit of a dry bore for her, not very challenging. But, getting into the heart and soul of a sonnet or a play or novel was quite another and more interesting challenge.

Perhaps, as a gender geneticist and researcher, she could find a way to eliminate defects such as cloacal exstrophy. In recent years, gender birth defects such as Turner’s Syndrome and congenital anomaly of the genitalia such as pure gonadal dysgenesis and true hermaphroditism had all but been eliminated through hormonal treatments after birth.

So, Aubrey applied for, received a full scholarship, and re-started her studies at Johns Hopskins.

What if we could stop the defect before the hormones that determine sex are released, to inhibit the defective X or Y gene with—Aubrey laughed to herself and then finished her thought—an AZ chromosome. AZ for Dr. Aubrey Zeman, the great gender geneticist who created the life-saving chromosome inhibitor and saved Civilization.

Such an inhibitor would allow the baby to be born asexual. Then a synthetic X or Y chromosome would be slowly introduced that would allow the baby to form as its true gender. No more confusion. No more ambiguity. No more trans-this-or-that. No more bullying. No more heartache.

No more children like Kelsey.

Everyone would be perfect. A perfect gender society.

When she return to Johns Hopkins after Christmas break, Aubrey presented her proposal to the Dean of Genetic and Gender Studies and Research. The professor was amazed at the undergraduate’s dissertation-quality proposal, her research analysis, as well as her passion, and encouraged her to conduct real research, giving Aubrey her own lab and two graduate assistants, who didn’t much like working for an undergrad.

Life, however, wasn’t any easier for Kelsey during those two years. He made the news, did copious interviews, and was examined by copious specialists, all of whom offered their own particular solution to Kelsey’s “problem.”

While some praised Kelsey’s bravery in “coming out,” citing him as an example and poster boy for others who suffered the same birth defect and gender misidentification, others condemned him as a freak of nature, an abomination, an abhorrence to all that was natural and true. He was a cause célèbre for both sides, and, at times, he felt he was being drawn and quartered.

Finally, after two years, right after Thanksgiving of Aubrey’s junior year at Johns Hopkins, Kelsey refused to give any more interviews, to accept any more requests to speak, to allow any more poking and prodding by specialists.

As Aubrey was in the air on her way back to Oklahoma and the long Christmas break from college to be with her mom, dad, and brother—Kelsey went into his bedroom, the room in which had been born, and shot himself.

Aubrey’s Story, Part Two

Feel free to leave comments, or email me @ Mike@LMGSwain.com

LMG Swain





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