"Please sit down," said Dr. Dunkel, in the calm, professional voice she had developed over her fifteen years as a clinician, "I want you to be as comfortable as you can."
The sullen-looking teen seemed to hesitate for a moment, then slouched into one of the large chairs opposite her own. She looked at the teen appraisingly. He appeared to be a normal fifteen year old boy, if there was such a thing, wearing a Raiders tee shirt and worn-out jeans that might have been black at one time. His hair was short and appeared to be dyed green.
"Now, according to your parents, your name is Andrea," she began, "But you prefer to be called Andy. Is that what you want me to call you?"
"Yeah, it's OK," the boy nodded. "I mean, it still kinda works, I guess." There was a tinge of hostility and bitterness in his voice.
That was somewhat unusual; most patients she saw wanted to change their names. "Andy, then. You can call me Sarah." Pausing, she went on, "Now, before we begin, I want you to know that all I want is to help you with this, no matter what. I don't want you to see me as an authority figure. All I want is to try to find out what the best course of action for you is."
"Now, I'm sure that you've already gotten lectured about why teens your age aren't normally allowed to have transformation devices. You really don't need to hear that again from me," she added, giving what she meant to be a sympathetic smile, although as was often the case in these situations, she started to think of her own experiences with the TF gun at that age. "Normally, all that they would do is have you speak to the school counselor a few times. However, your parents were concerned about the fact that it does not seem to be wearing off at the normal rate. I understand that that was why your teacher first noticed it, correct?"
Andy gave a reluctant nod, but remained quiet, which Sarah noted down on her pad.
"So you had gone into school as a boy, then? Was this something you had done before?"
"No!" the teen spat, then he slumped some more. "I mean, I didn't mean to do it. I just sorta forgot."
Sarah smiled a bit, recalling a number of times when the same thing had happened to her old friend Tedd Verres. "OK, then. No one is accusing you of anything," she added soothingly. "That was a week ago, correct?"
The boy gave another quiet nod.
"And it hasn't worn off since then?"
Andy gave a bitter look. "The vice principal made me change back."
"But you've changed again since then, I see," She said as she took more notes. "Did your parents let you keep the trans device?"
With a non-committal shrug, Andy said, "They don't know where I hide it." a sly smile crossed his face.
"And why have you been hiding it? Is it very important to you?"
He seemed to be about to say something, but it caught in his throat. Finally, he weakly said, "Yeah."
She leaned forward, and tried to make eye contact. "Andy, I know you might not want your parents to know about these things, but it's important that you trust me. I won't reveal anything that you tell in these sessions." leaning back again, she said, "Now then, how long have you been using the TFG?"
Sarah noted that this would make it at least four months. "And how often did you use it to become a boy?"
"I...", he began, shaking his head, "It's not like that! I mean, we...I would do every couple of days. But I always changed back, you know? Sometimes I did it a few times a day, kinda switching back and forth. I just liked being a boy sometimes."
"Sometimes? So you wouldn't want to always be a boy?"
A sour look came across his face. "Eeew, no way!"
"I see," she replied as she took some more notes. This was case was a bit more complicated than many, but still not that unusual... except the prolonged transformation. That would probably require some genetic and morphological tests.
"So, do you change whenever you can, or only when you feel the need to do so?"
Andy looked off into space, and answered, "I dunno. It's like... sometimes I just feel like a guy, right? But not always." Then, in a sudden panic, he cried out, "I not some kind of freak or anything like that, OK?"
Sarah dropped the notepad to he lap and put her hands out in a conciliatory gesture. "No one is accusing you of being a freak, Andy. No matter what you are going through, I assuring that it is perfectly normal for you."
Picking up the pad again, she continued, "Now, then. You would only do it some of the time, then. Those times when you did, did you feel as if you should be male, or did you do it just because you thought it was fun or something?"
"I... I dunno. It's like, I keep feeling like something inside me is changed already, you know? That was why I wanted to try it, 'cause I... I dunno." After several seconds of silence, he added, "But I feel the same way when I want to change back, too. It's like something inside me keeps changing its mind or something." He started shifting around in the chair uncomfortably.
"And do you dress like this when you are a girl?""Sorta. I don't like to." After a few seconds, he added, "It always feels strange, but it's not like it's any big deal."
"What about dressing as a girl when you're a boy?"
"Nuh-uh! That would be just weird!" Then, as an after thought, he added, "Except, well, that's kinda what I did the day I got caught. But I swear I didn't mean to!"
"So when you are a boy, or want to be a boy, you dress and act like a boy? And you dress and act like a girl when you are a girl? Am I right?"
He looked away from her, but slowly nodded.
Sarah nodded back. While it was too soon to say, it probably was not simply a case of morphological transvestitism - a common, and usually perfectly healthy, situation where a person would 'wear' another sexual identity periodically, only to return to their 'regular' self later. Sarah noted to make sure that she gave the gender profile tests to Andy in each 'phase', to see if the results were different over time. That was often necessary in cases like this.
"Do you ever use it to change in any other way?"
"I kinda played around with if for a bit yeah. We all did, it was just sorta fun thing to..." his voice trailed off and his eyes went wide, as he realized what he had said. "Oh, God," he said with "I didn't mean that, I mean I..."
"It's Ok, it's Ok. I won't ask about your friends if you don't want to tell me about them. Although I would like to know if they were the ones who had the idea to experiment with the TFG."
"No, that was me," Andy said with a shake of his head, "I mean, they were all interested and all, but I was the one who really wanted to. I just... I mean, I'd already kinda felt like it even then, right?" He began to squirm even more, as if he were very uncomfortable. However, his face now wore a warm smile that had definitely been absent before.
"Did you change the way you dressed and acted if you felt like being a boy, even before you had the TF device?"
"No... but it was like, I really wanted to sometimes, you know?" Sarah realized that his body language and the tone of his voice seemed to shift over the conversation. Her eyes narrowed, and she watched Andy intently; she had some suspicions as to what was happening.
"So, then. About the changes themselves. When did you notice that it was taking a longer time than normal to wear off?"
"Well, it's like, I didn't really think about it, you know? I mean, I sorta knew it was supposed to only last a day or so, but most of the time I changed back after a few hours anyway. I stayed as a boy all weekend once, but I just figured it was, I d'know, it was just sort of lucky that I didn't have to change if I didn't want to."
"Would it always last until you used the TFG to change back?"
Andy shook his head briskly. "When I stayed a boy more than three days, I would start to change back. It would take maybe half an hour or so to change all the way, though."
Sarah sat straight up. "It wouldn't be like the usual change, then?"
Andy shook his head again. Then he said, "Uhm, excuse me, but can I go to the bathroom? It's uhm, kind urgent."
Sarah had been expecting this. Normally, she wouldn't want to interrupt a session, and it was now already over an hour, but with these assessment sessions she was willing to take as long as necessary "Yes, but be right back."
Andy's face brightened, and he practically bounced out of the chair. "thanks!" he said, and grabbing his gym bag, bolted from the room.
Sarah spent the next fifteen minutes finishing some notes about her impressions so far. As she had anticipated, when Andy returned, 'he' was now a girl, with considerably longer hair - all of it green - and wearing a dress in a slightly darker shade of green. The difference was dramatic. She looked at Sarah with a sheepish grin.
"I'm really sorry I didn't tell you I was going to do that, but I just had to change. Please don't tell my folks?" she added, and her smile twisted nervously. "Daddy would hit the roof if he knew I had it with me."
Sarah grinned, and even gave a small chuckle. "That's quite all right. I understand that these impulses can be overwhelming. However, I would like to know what you do when you feel you need to change while at school or some other public place."
The nervous grin returned. "Uhm... I can usually find some way to do it. Sometimes I've cut class to go change. When I'm not at school, well, I can usually find some place to change, though it can be kinda awkward sometimes."
"Well... I usually could go to the girl's room to change my clothes. A girl dressed in guy clothes isn't a big deal, right? So I'd then go out and sneak to somewhere that I could change where people wouldn't see me. One time a janitor caught me in a closet at the mall, but I was able to run off and I guess no one knew who I was so they didn't catch me later."
Sarah nodded. This was fairly common behavior for the type of patient Andi appeared to be. "Tell me, Andi, do you feel as if your boy self is a different person from your girl self?
"No, I'm always me. It's just that, you know, sometimes I'm a girl, and sometimes I'm a boy."
"Do you recall everything that you do and say as a boy?"
"Sure. Why wouldn't I?"
"I simply wanted to see who extensive the personality differences were." This probably ruled out MPD, an unlikely scenario in any case.
"No way... I'm always the same. I mean, I act like a girl when I'm am girl, and like a boy when I'm a boy, but that's it!"
That seemed a bit too emphatic to Sarah, "You seem much more cheerful now than while you were a boy, though. Is that normal?"
"Well... not really. It's just that, you know... I was kinda worrying that you'd tell my folks about it."
"You mean that you came here as a boy?"
She began to look extremely nervous. "Uhm... Actually, I well... I changed while you were talking to my Mom."
"Ah, I see. Weren't you concerned that she would see you when she came back out?"
"Well, duh! That's why I was in the bathroom when she left to go take care of the bill!"
"Wouldn't she suspect anything?"
She shook her her briskly again. "They never notice stuff like that."
Sarah sighed, and noted this as well. "I gather that they never noticed anything odd about your behavior, then?"
"As if they were ever around to! They're both too busy with their work."
"How do you feel about that?"
"Well, it's OK, really, I mean, I get to do what I want most of the time. I could turn into a panda and they wouldn't notice... no really, I did it once just to see. It was like I wasn't even there."
More notes. She wasn't sure if the girl was lying or exaggerating - but she did know just how much a child could hide from her parents if she wanted to. It was not entirely implausible.
"What about your friends? Did any of them suspect anything?"
"They all pretty much knew anyway, so it wasn't like I was hiding from them."
"I see. Speaking of friendships - I know this may not be very comfortable, but it could help me understand you: are you more attracted to boys or to girls?"
Andi blushed and averted her eyes. At length, she finally softly said, "I don't know."
"You don't know which you are attracted to, or you don't know which you are more attracted to?" Getting no answer, she added, "Andi? Can you tell me how you are feeling right now?"
"I just don't know!" she sobbed, "It's all so confusing... I mean, I never really thought about until..." she stopped short and the blush grew deeper.
"Until what, Andi? Until you started using the TFG?"
She remained silent for several seconds, and then finally said, "Until Lisa kissed me."
"Lisa is a friend of yours?" Nod. "Did she kiss you without your permission?"
"I... no. I mean, I kissed her back. It was a few weeks before we got the TF gun. We were just kinda kidding around, and it just sorta happened... it was kind of exciting but then later when I went home, it scared the hell out of me! I just didn't know why we did it... I didn't want to think that, well, that I was gay of something."
"Do you think you are 'gay or something'?" After more silence, she went on, "You know, I'm not about to judge you, and as I said before, I won't tell your family. Whatever the real you is, you have to be honest about it."
"I just don't know..." she sulked. "I went out with some guys last year, and I know I'm... I mean..." the blush returned.
"Do you have sex with those boys? If it bothers you to tell me, you don't have to."
"I kinda fooled around with some of them, yeah."
"There's nothing to be ashamed about that. While you are rather young to be having sex, I know that it is normal at your age. It is also normal to experiment with sex roles and sexual orientation.
Especially," she added, "if you happen to have a transformation gun on hand. By the way, do you mind if I take a loot at it? I promise to give it back to you."
After some hesitation, she opened her bag and handed the device to Sarah. She looked it over for a few minutes, then set it on the small table next to her to take a few notes about the model and manufacturer. When she was done, she returned it; Andi, who had become quite agitated, was visibly relieved to have it back.
"Thank you. That may help us determine the cause of the persistence problem. Getting back to Lisa, do you think that kissing her had any influence on your decision to try the TFG?"
"Noooo... at least I don't thinks so. We'd been talking about trying to get one for a while, me and Lisa and a few others. It just seemed like a fun thing to try, right? Except... I already wanted to anyway. I kept wanting to be a boy! When Lisa kissed me, it really weirded me out, especially since I was definitely a girl right then. I mean, I felt like a girl, not like a boy at all."
"And that bothered you?"
"Yeah... I mean, I guess I had been sorta interested in her anyway, but I thought it was only when I want to be a guy! I couldn't figure out why I wanted to be with her when I was a girl... it didn't make any sense!"
"Were you ever interested in boys when you felt like a boy?"
Andi's eyes grew wide. "I..." she hesitated for a moment, then softly answered, "I guess so."
"Andi, listen to me," Sarah said sternly, "It's important to face these feelings. I've known many people who try to run from these kinds of feelings, and it always ends up hurting them. When I was a few years older than you are, one of my closest friends nearly ruined her life trying to deny her emotions. Now, just because you feel these things, now, it doesn't mean that you will always feel them... but they are a part of you, even if it is only while you are trying to find out who you are. You need to be able to face them."
She backed away again, "I am sorry if I was a bit harsh about that just now, but it sounds like something you need to resolve. You can't go through life afraid of your feelings."
Andi nodded, causing a few tears to fall from her watering eyes. Sarah smiled comfortingly, and passed a box of tissues to her.
"Do you want to keep talking about this?"
"Uh... yeah. I guess." After a pause, she continued, "It only got weirder after we started using the TFG. Uhm... well... we kinda... we did it." She began crying. "When I was a guy. And when I was a girl and she was a boy. Even when we were both girls. I just... I don't know, I thought we were in love or something, and it just seemed so, like, wild or something, so daring and over the top, right? But then I started coming on to her when we were both guys... and she just freaked. I don't even know why. We kinda stayed together for a while, though, but then last month she just exploded and... she just hates me now. I haven't talked to her since then." Her sobbing grew more intense, as the words and feelings poured out of her.
"There, there, Andi... let it out. That's a lot to keep bottled up like that."
"Why the hell did we do that?! It's just crazy! It's all like some kind of weird dream now... I can't believe I did those things. It's just so... so freaky. Like I was a... like I am a freak. I just can't take it!" She broke down again.
Sarah was a bit shaken; she hadn't expected this kind of revelation just in the assessment session. She took a deep breathe, put her hand on Andi's shoulder, and went on. "Andi, listen to me. You aren't a freak. You are going through some very difficult things right now, but it doesn't make you strange or a bad person. These feelings are perfectly natural, and not really any different from those most people have. You have to believe that."
She leaned back into her chair, then leaned over to pour some water from the pitcher into a paper cup, which she then handed to Andi. "Here, take this. I'll give you a few minutes to collect yourself, and then we can go on if you want."
For several minutes, the girl was wracked with sobs. Finally, as the crying ended, she asked, "Do we have to keep going? I mean, I really don't know if I can..."
"No, that's quite alright, Andi. We've already gone much farther than I have hoped. Let's get your things and I'll go to speak with your mother again."
"Andi and I had quite an intense discussion, Mrs. Silverston, and I think that she has quite a few issues to deal with. While it will take quite a bit more work to determine all the details, I think that it is very likely that Andi has issues with both her gender and and her sexual orientation, and that she is feeling considerable confusion over those issues."
"Issues? Just what do you mean by that?" Erica Silverston replied. "Is this something that is going to require much of my time?"
Sarah sighed; so, it was going to be that way, is it? "Am afraid that it will require quite a bit of attention from both of you," she said, a slight edge entering her voice, "One of the things I discussed with Andi was her - and his - relationship with the both of you. She clearly feels that you do not give her very much attention, and while Andi makes light of it, I sense a great deal of resentment in her about it. While I do not believe that this is related to her gender issues, it is very likely that they could have been addressed earlier if you had given her more time."
"Fine, fine, then," interjected Michael Silverston with undisguised irritation, "So then how do we stop her from doing this any more?"
"It's not that simple, I'm afraid. Aside from the psychological issues, there remains the question of the anomalous effect the TF device had on her. We have already done a physical examination of her, and we may need further work depending on the results of those tests."
"Also, she clearly feels a deep need to experience these transformations. From what she told me, this was not an isolated incident, and she showed clear anxiety at the possibility that the TF device might be taken away from her. I was able to get some information about the device she is using, which may help in determining the cause of the unusually long duration changes, but I would strongly recommend against forcing her to give it up."
"What is going on with her, really? Is she... uhm, trans gender is the term, right? That would mean she wants to become a boy permanently, right? We're willing to do whatever she needs..."
"That is one possibility, yes, and we are licensed to perform permanent basal-morphology transformations here at this clinic; we were the first to perform the procedure, in fact. However, both legal and ethical considerations require several months of therapeutic assessment before committing to a permanent alteration. Furthermore, there are several possible physical complications, and we will need to determine if any of them could be an issue before proceeding."
"In any case, it is very likely that this would not be a suitable answer for Andi. While I can't make a diagnosis yet, there is reason to think that she is sequentially intergendered, and may never develop a single gender identity." Seeing their confusion, she added "This means that she would have a need to alternate gender on a regular basis, and would most likely need to have a shapeshifting license."
"Oh, God," Michael moaned, "Why did this happen to her? Why did it happen to us?"
"This isn't something that 'happened' to Andi," she spat, thinking of Nanase again, "it is a part of her, a part of who she is. This is something you are going to have to accept about her."
Somewhat defensively, Erica replied, "Of course we will," she said, bristling, "We only want what's best for our daughter. It's just that this, well, its a lot to take in."
Her husband added, "I'm concerned that this sounds like it could be very difficult for her. I just hoped that there would be, well, a simpler answer. I don't want this to be a burden for the rest of her life..."
Sarah relaxed a little, "I'm sorry if I bit your head off just now. It's simply that I have seen too many families turn their backs on children who did not meet their expectations. I'm sure that you will do whatever is best for Andi, but I am not going to mislead you about her situation."
"I... thank you, doctor. I can appreciate how you feel."
"Your welcome. There is one other thing, however. I would like to arrange some session with the two of you as well, and her brother, both together with Andi and individually. No matter how this works itself out, this will take considerable adjustment for all of you, and I think you will all need some help in getting through it."
Both of the Silverstons were clearly irritated at this, but Erica said, "Yes, of course. Whatever you think is best. We will need to look into the scheduling, but I am sure it can be arranged."
"Thank you. Do either of you have any questions before leaving?"
"Yes, actually," Mr. Silverston said, "If you don't mind me asking something so personal, but are you... like you patients?"
"Am I morphogenically dysphoric, you mean? No." She went on, "I am a woman by birth, and heterosexual. However, I have extensive personal experience with transformation - in fact, my husband and I are old personal friends of the Verres', and he and his sister are both licensed shapeshifters." She neglected to mention that their two children were as well.
Both of them goggled a bit, as they realized that she was that Sarah Dunkel. She smiled slightly at this; notoriety can be fun, sometimes. After an awkward moment, Erica nervously interjected, "I see. Well, thank you very much, doctor. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of you in the future."
After they left, Sarah slumped into her chair. Fortunately, this was the last case for the day, and she could leave once she had finished some paper work. She walked over to her working office to finish her notes and file them. As she was finishing this, her sister-in-law, Ellen, poked her head into the office.
"You were working on the Silverston case, right? I just got back some of the lab results, and I think you should see this."
"What is it?" she asked, taking a look the chart. Non-Human DNA? She groaned inwardly. "Chimeric ancestry. Damn it, I should have realized - her hair color was natural. As if this weren't complicated enough already..."
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