Phoebe Glick, Permit to Pass

I wanted to alter my gender but they had privatized gender so I had to pay a fee.

I went to the Gap to buy a blazer.

The blazer was expensive; you had to sign over three paychecks to the Gap in order to take the blazer home.

I calculated how many hours of work I would have to do before I could come back with three paychecks and take the blazer home.

It seemed impossible to me that I would ever be in a position to turn over three paychecks at once and still be able to pay for everything else I needed during that six-week period.

I was informed that I had another option: I could take out a mortgage on the blazer. I just had to consent to paying 11.6% interest per payment and wearing a plastic tag on the sleeve that read “ON LOAN FROM THE BUREAU OF GENDER EXPRESSION” and had a very small alarm system inside of it in case I tried to take the blazer with me across State lines.

I walked out of the store wearing my mortgaged blazer, feeling satisfied, having paid for my gender that day.

A couple weeks later, I was wearing my mortgaged blazer and back at the Gap, casually browsing the shelves, when I happened upon an A-line layered tank dress that I felt really called out to me and maybe even reflected back to me a part of myself that either had been repressed for many years or had just come into existence at that moment.

So I brought the dress to the clerk, who informed me that I could only have the dress if I traded in the blazer.

The catch was that trading in the blazer would not exempt me from finishing my mortgage payments, which were even more daunting now than they were when I started because I had fallen behind on my payment schedule and so they raised the interest to 16.9%.

I figured I was going to be in debt from the blazer either way, so I said I’d rather keep the blazer because at least on days when I really wanted to wear it, it would seem somewhat like the debt was worth it, whereas if I traded in the blazer I would have the sensation that I was making payments for no reason.

But then I felt the horrible, particular realization creeping over me that I didn’t even want the blazer anymore because I had been wrong about it reflecting the alteration to my gender that I had wanted to make, and that now I was wanting to make another, different alteration reflected by the dress, which I hadn’t even known about when I first bought the blazer. I faced this realization like staring into the eyes of a wild animal, and preemptively felt the confusion and despair soon to be put on me by the authoritative State in punishment for making an alteration and going back on it, as if I wasn’t grateful for the great privilege of being allowed to even make alterations in the first place.

While I was falling into confusion and despair from this realization, the clerk saved the day by telling me there was actually a way I could have both the dress and the blazer, which conveniently would shield the fact that I had made one alteration and then wanted to go back on it.

I would just have to go to the Bureau of Gender Expression and obtain a permit to carry multiple gender alterations.

And of course the interest on the blazer would go up to 72.2% and I would have to pay a mortgage on the dress with a starting interest of 11.6% and a flat fee of two additional paychecks in addition to the cost of the permit, which was six additional paychecks plus three hundred hours of public speaking to various academic institutions and nonprofits in the interest of instilling a global awareness of the rights we have as citizens of this great State and our ease of access to benefits such as gender alterations, which allow us to live as our best selves.

I was already in way too deep so there was no way I could turn down these conditions. I left the Gap wearing my mortgaged blazer and holding my dress, which was wrapped in an impenetrable silicone casing and plastered in fluorescent neon tape with flashy lettering that read “NOT TO BE TAMPERED WITH UNLESS BY THE BUREAU OF GENDER EXPRESSION” and I had to press a button on the top of the casing every fifty seconds or an alarm would go off alerting the State authorities that I was trying to take the dress with me across State lines which was punishable by imprisonment and fees and hours of public speaking.

I had no idea where the Bureau was and everyone I asked pretended not to see me, or pretended they were on the phone or late to a meeting or otherwise unable to recognize me since I looked like such an unidentifiable mess.

It began to lightly rain, and so I was grateful in that moment that my dress was encased in silicone.

The light rain frizzed my hair and ruined the velvet of my blazer and I climbed the marble stairs to the State asking each passerby for help and each one looked beyond me and the words I spoke became so easily ignorable that the city absorbed them like a paper towel and they blended into a soundscape of screeching wheels on concrete, the deafening crunch of the recycling of bodies into titanium and stainless steel appliances, the blaring of the alarm on the silicone dress casing which began when I inevitably lost count and failed to regularly press the button, the militarized vehicles sponsored by the State to embrace every accident of design and nature and crush them into the flat clear day.