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Today is a landmark day for human rights. The Supreme Court has officially outlawed the use, existence, and further creation of camps whose purpose is to change the sexuality of LGBTQ people—also called conversion camps. This is a day of liberation and celebration for the diversity we have in this nation. If you believe there is a conversion camp close to you, notify the police. We will not let people dirty the name of religion to fulfill their own bigotry any longer. We will—
“Bullshit,” George muttered under his breath, shutting off the T.V. and immediately standing up. “Disgusting. That stupid lawyer has no idea what she’s talking about.”
He looked to his wife, who was shaking her head in disappointment. The strokes of the knife against the onions got more and more erratic until the blade nicked her knuckle, causing her to yelp and draw her hand back in pain and shock. She sucked on the wound and sighed as George came up behind her with a piece of Kleenex and hydrogen peroxide to clean the cut.
“Oh, Barbara,” he said under his breath as his wife continued to shake her head, either at the cut or at the news she heard. “Don’t get yourself too excited. The churches and activists will take this down in an instant, don’t you worry, honey.”
George’s coos and Barbara’s complaints ceased immediately once they heard their daughter’s footsteps from above, trailing from her bedroom to the staircase. Their eyes traced their daughter’s outfit: loose jeans, a loose shirt with a nearly naked woman on it, and the checkered Vans that she begged them to buy for years. Her blonde hair kept getting shorter and shorter every year and the makeup she used to wear in middle school kept getting lighter and lighter until her face was bare and her eyebrows were unruly.
Barbara studied her daughter for a long moment, and, infuriated from the news report, shrieked, “What are you wearing, Violet?”
Violet almost slipped down the stairs at her mother’s outburst, catching herself only by hanging onto the railing for dear life. She stood herself up and looked down at her clothes in severe confusion, pulling down the shirt to reveal more of the woman and smoothing her jeans, trying desperately to find the problem that was offending her mother so much.
“What?” Violet asked softly, swallowing her defensiveness to not anger her mother more.
Her mother huffed and puffed in pure rage, her face turning red as she yelled, “Why do you have a naked woman on your shirt?”
Violet’s eyebrows shot up in surprise and almost let out the laugh rising in her throat. “This? This is Lady Gaga. She’s not naked. She’s literally wearing shorts and a crop top. I got this when I went to her concert. Remember?”
Her mother ruminated on this answer, eyeing her daughter closely. She decided that she could not accuse her of anything outright. After all, her own sister had short hair along with a husband and four kids. Stereotypes were not helping her in this instance. She let out a long breath to stabilize herself and clutched her husband’s hand.
“Change your shirt, Violet. It’s inappropriate,” she demanded. “And burn it while you’re at it.”
Violet’s eyebrows shot up her forehead. “Burn it? Are you serious?”
A glint of fury flashed in her mother’s eyes, causing Violet to step back. “Yes, Violet. Now go change.”
Violet huffed and rolled her eyes, slipping her backpack off and stomping back up the stairs. “I don’t have time for this. I’m gonna be late.”
“Well, it’s your fault for wearing that,” her father said after his long bout of silence. He carefully let go of his wife and grabbed his keys from the counter before opening the front door. “I’ll be waiting in the car.”
As the car approached a red light, George looked over his daughter’s appearance once again, taking in the way she scrolled through her Instagram, her mannerisms as she adjusted her clothes, the way she pursed her lips. He shook the accusatory thoughts in his head away and focused on the road ahead of him.
However, he kept his daughter in his peripheral vision, watching her as she exited the car, greeted her female friends, and walked to school. He cleared his throat after staring at her for what felt like hours and drove home, the accusatory thoughts making their way back into his brain, burrowing inside, and making a home inside his mind.
A Cure to Homosexuality: Homophobic Doctor Pioneers Vaccine that Allegedly Cures Homosexuality
It has been almost a month since conversion camps have been outlawed, and protests by homophobic groups have been skyrocketing. It has gotten to such a point that Dr. Mark Gaitman, a surgeon who had his medical license revoked when he began experimenting on his patients without their consent, has been advertising a vaccine he has discovered that “cures” homosexuality. More and more facilities have sprung up to meet the growing demand of concerned parents desperate to make their children straight despite human rights groups and the police force shutting them down left and right. The police chief has spoken out about these facilities and has said that the force is trying their best, but they are “spreading like a virus, one that will not stop until [parents] discover that their children are still humans despite loving the same sex.”
Violet and her friend giggled as they burst through the front door to Violet’s house and while her friend darted upstairs, Violet lingered back and made sure to lock the door to ensure she could hear her parents when they came home. She ran upstairs and slung her backpack to the corner of her bedroom and flopped on her bed, where her friend was already laying down. They immediately went onto their phones to show each other funny videos and pictures, laughing lazily at each one as the sun went down, casting the room in a creamsicle orange hue. After half an hour of procrastinating homework, Violet’s friend propped herself up on her elbows and looked at the door.
“When do your parents get home?” she asked, looking over to Violet, who was still on her phone watching videos.
“In a few hours, so I gotta keep watch,” Violet replied nervously, looking at the clock, “We can pretend to do our project until then.” They looked at each other. Violet let out a content sigh and laughed at the rare opportunity to be alone with somebody without being under her parents’ observation, and her friend laughed along with her.
A moment passed before Violet showed her friend a video of a girl dancing to a popular song. Her friend bobbed her head along to the song and smiled. “I wish I could dance that well. She’s really pretty, too.”
“She is, isn’t she?” Violet said, her pulse quickening for no apparent reason. “She’s hot.”
Her friend laughed and shrugged. “I’d say so.”
Violet propped herself up on her elbows, matching her friend, and locked eyes with her. She had only been around her friend in Spanish class, but she already felt a connection to her. A light blush crept up her neck and blotched her cheeks as she tried to regulate her voice. “Really?”
“Well, yeah, she’s very attractive,” her friend replied. “I wouldn’t mind if she asked me out. I’d be flattered.”
“Have you…have you ever been on a date with a girl?” Violet asked tentatively, picking at her hangnails so she wouldn’t have to make eye contact with her friend. “Sorry if that’s too forward. You don’t have to answer.”
“No,” her friend replied nonchalantly.
“Have you ever kissed a girl?” Violet asked, picking her nails at such a vigorous speed that she drew blood from the damaged skin.
Her friend pondered this for a moment, and Violet could feel her friend’s eyes boring into her soul. Her face wavered closer to Violet until she was forced to look up and re-establish eye contact with her. “No,” her friend whispered, “but I wouldn’t be opposed to it.”
Violet’s eyes widened, her heart nearly beating out of her chest. She gripped her chest just to make sure she wasn’t having a heart attack. She mumbled, in a voice so small it seemed to come from a mouse, “Me neither.”
Before Violet could take into account what was happening, her friend had leaned in to close the inch-long gap between their lips, brushing her lips against Violet’s for unspoken consent. Violet, in desperation, deepened the kiss and slowly pushed her friend onto the bed, the mattress groaning under the new shift in weight. She had never felt like this before. It felt as though something inside her had been found—completed. The sloppy kiss she shared in middle school with Jack paled in comparison to the loving and warm embrace of her female friend’s mouth on hers, and while she couldn’t wait to stop kissing Jack, she couldn’t wait to kiss her friend again.
Violet’s earlier nerves disappeared somewhere between the two girls’ lips, and she did not care to go searching for it. However, the two girls had been locked in such a heated exchange that they barely noticed Violet’s father coming home, his footsteps thundering on the stairs, and his explosion into his daughter’s bedroom.
“What the hell is going on here?” her father shouted in a voice deep and loud enough to rattle the entire house.
The two girls separated quickly, their lips left cold. They both looked up at Violet’s father, bug-eyed, unsure of what to do. The two girls shared a longing look before her friend gathered her things and squeezed by a red-faced George. He shook his head and slid her friend a twenty-dollar bill subtly, scratching his chin in anger. Her friend thanked him curtly and gave Violet a pitiful look before dashing.
Violet hugged her knees to her chest, the pain in her heart and the shame in her stomach enough to mask the betrayal she felt from her friend.
“It was nothing, Dad,” Violet mumbled, but even she wasn’t convinced by her answer. George stared at his daughter for a long time, watching her squirm under his toxic glare. The conspiracies in his mind were proven true, and now the conspiracies turned into facts. His daughter was a homosexual. A lesbian. A dyke. A queer. Disappointing. Disgusting.
Violet thumbed the cross necklace that seemed a thousand times heavier on her neck as her mother read Leviticus to her, repeating the same verse over and over. She sighed when her father started to yell at her and cried when her mother joined in on the verbal abuse, flinging all the words that seemed to hit Violet in the most vulnerable spots.
“You know what I heard of today?” her mother said, sitting down and taking out her phone. “It’s perfect.”
George leaned over to take a look at the website his wife pulled up, and his eyes lit up.
“Is this legit?” he asked.
“Seems to be.”
They both looked at Violet with judgemental yet soft eyes. They were disgusted by her yet loved her deeply. And with these conflicting feelings, they turned back to the laptop and clicked Book a Session.
Violet protested as best she could, but her father’s grip on her arm tight enough that any movement from her would cause ugly bruises to form. The car bounced against the gravel-turned-dirt road, and a tire almost got caught in a pothole deep enough to be a well. George complained under his breath about where his tax dollars were going, and Barbara hummed in agreement. Violet’s knuckles began to yellow because of her grip on her thigh as her familiar surroundings faded away into old warehouses and desert land. When the car stopped in front of a small dilapidated hospital, and her breath quickened once her parents got out of the car and opened her door.
“I’m not getting out,” Violet said defiantly, but when she saw the grave look on her parents’ faces, she pleaded in a quivering voice, “Please don’t make me go. Please.” If she had to be Fixed, she wanted to be Fixed in her own home, by her own parents, by people she loved. She wanted to make her parents proud of her again.
Her mother unlocked her phone to call somebody and whispered something into the receiver. Violet wanted to make her parents proud. She wanted all of this to blow over. So as two men in scrubs came out of the hospital with encouraging smiles on their faces, she sighed and climbed out of the car. They flanked her sides and took her arms, patting her forearms reassuringly as they went on and on about the wonders the procedure had done for them and how she would be perfect once she had been Fixed.
She looked back to her parents, her father staring up at the sky in prayer and her mother staring back at her. She almost saw a look of sadness in her mother’s eyes, but it quickly disappeared, and before Violet could protest any longer, the doors of the hospital slammed closed on any hope she had left of her life returning to normal.
But was it ever normal?
“It seems as though you are suffering from same-sex attraction. Is that correct? That’s what your parents have told me.” the man behind the desk said, his pale complexion contrasting against the wisps of black hair on the sides of his head. He adjusted his glasses to take a better look at Violet, eyeing her up and down. She covered herself as best she could by crossing her arms, but she still felt exposed.
“Y-yes. But, I promise, it’ll never happen again. It was just a mistake. Please let me go back home. I won’t do it ever again,” Violet begged, hoping to get out of the situation as quickly as possible, but the man waved his hand to make her shut up.
“Oh, but it will,” the man glanced at the paper in his hands, “little Violet. We’ll just Fix you up and send you back on your merry way.”
Violet had a million thoughts running rampant in her mind like scared mice bumping into each other and screaming in fear. I don’t want to change!
Do I? I don’t want to go to Hell. I want my parents to love me. It’s wrong. But people say it’s not. But Mom says it is. She says they’ll kill me if I’m open about it. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.
Maybe this will help.
Out of all those thoughts running through her head, the only thought that came out was, “Will it hurt?”
The man smiled, his eyes softening with pity as he gazed at the withering girl before him.
“No,” he said. But the look in his eyes said otherwise.
“You see, this program is very well-researched, and we’ve done many experiments.”
“Yes. We’ve had many willing participants in this study, and all of them have been Fixed. We are very successful. Your daughter will do well here.”
“And the cost?”
“$10,000. It will fund our offices and some will go to the Church.”
“I don’t think we can afford that…”
“Do you want your daughter Fixed? Or do you want her to be a fag? Since they’ve banned Fixing camps more than a month ago, this has become the new solution.”
“I’ll let you think about it.”
“How does it work? Will she be safe? We want her to be perfect, but alive.”
The two men who dragged Violet out of the car escorted her from the man’s office down a spiraling hallway. It was bland, with beige carpet and walls the color of a sickly yellow. As she stumbled down the hallway, urged by the guards, her eyes followed the pictures of happy straight couples and articles from people who swore they’ve been changed. Bile rose in her throat, and she had to put her hand in front of her mouth to prevent herself from vomiting. The hallway seemed to get tighter and tighter until she had to fan herself to get air. It seemed they had been walking for hours, and her knees buckled from under her.
“Researchers have discovered five genetic variants in a person’s genome that influence same-sex attraction.”
“They’re single-letter differences in a person’s DNA. You went to college, right?”
“Well, DNA is made up of nucleotides: A, G, C, and T. There are five places in a person’s genome that we know dictate their sexuality. We can change the code in these regions from homosexual to heterosexual using this knowledge. Gay to straight, essentially.
We’ll take a retrovirus, which is a type of RNA—which is genetic information—that inserts a copy of itself in the host cell, and then we’ll change the sequence of the retrovirus to match a sequence that will alter your daughter’s sexuality. And then we will inject it in her arm, and she will be Fixed.”
“This seems blasphemous…”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. The pope has said we should do anything we can in order to correct God’s mistakes.”
“I thought He didn’t make mistakes.”
“What do you think this is all about, then? He is almighty, but sometimes He can’t keep track of all His creations. Man created these unholy thoughts…it’s up to man to dispel them.”
The men dragged Violet by her arms to the end of the hallway where a metal door stood dauntingly. One of the men unlocked the gargantuan deadbolt and swung it open. The second man tossed her in carelessly, and Violet crumpled to the floor. She looked over her shoulder only to see the door slamming closed. The only sound she heard for a moment was the echoing bolt of the lock and the eerie silence that followed. A woman approached her with a false smile and a white hospital gown, her sharp acrylic nails digging into the thin fabric.
“Your facility is very…dated. It’s not the cleanest. I don’t think we feel comfortable leaving our daughter here in this…cesspool. Excuse my language.”
“I understand your hesitations. Our facility is only this undesirable because the government has begun targeting our facilities, so we’ve had to stay under-the-radar. We haven’t been able to make that many improvements without drawing unwanted attention, so we’re doing the best we can with the best we’ve got, ma’am.”
“Will it hurt her?”
Violet’s entire body was trembling as she hugged herself to provide any amount of comfort she could get. She just wanted to go home. She just wanted to see her friend again. She just wanted to be normal. The room did not help with her anxiety. It was very obviously old and dilapidated. There was mold in all four corners of the room, making its way down to the sink with its rusty faucet and dead bugs. A tile in the corner was broken, exposing the rotten underlayment infested with a family of cockroaches. Violet began to cry.
A man in a white lab coat shuffled into the room, interrupting Violet’s cry session. He looked nice, but Violet could not help flinching when he reached for the clipboard next to her chair. He looked at her with worry on his face before the expression dissipated as quickly as it appeared. He wrote a few things down on his clipboard, glancing up at Violet occasionally, and finally put it down. Violet’s nails were almost broken from how hard she was digging into the plastic chair.
The doctor looked up from the clipboard and set it down. He reached for the yellowed gloves on top of the zinc sink and tried to put them on, but they ripped from age. He tried on a second pair that held up better than the first and smiled.
“Let’s begin the exam.”
“Does it matter?”
The man took Violet’s blood, swabbed her mouth, and dropped the Q-tip into a small bag. She felt uncomfortable the entire time, and cold. She wanted to sleep. She wanted to curl up into a ball and die. She cried.
“Stop crying,” the man demanded, which made Violet cry harder. “You’ll feel great soon enough.”
When Violet did not stop crying, the man backhanded her hard enough to make her yell out in pain. She stared up at the man in shock, but he went back to his work as quickly as he had slapped her. She slowly wiped away her tears because the salty drops stung the red, raw skin on her cheek. She sat silently and let the man do what he needed to do without saying a word—without even breathing.
Eventually, the tests were over, and the man took Violet roughly by the arm and dragged her across the room and through a door into yet another hallway. Except one of the sides of the hallway was made of glass, and through the glass, she could see her parents sitting in an office listening to a man in a business suit. She caught her mother’s eye and immediately tore away from the man to slam against the glass, tears erupting from her eyes and her scream permeating throughout the entire building.
“Mama!” she shrieked, pounding against the glass. She continued to tear away from the man who tried to stop her and bloodied her knuckles as she punched the glass. “Mama, please help me!”
Her mother stood up slowly and hesitated to walk before running over to the glass with her husband in tow. She said something unintelligible to her husband before turning back to the glass, pointing to Violet’s cheek with a puzzled look. Violet gestured to the man behind her, who was desperately trying to gather her up and take her away. Her mother’s eyes filled with fury as well as her father’s, and they both glared at the man before turning around and arguing with the other man. He held up a contract and motioned to it, but George snatched it and tore it to shreds. The man feigned sadness before holding up a copy of the contract with a sly grin, and before George could snatch it again, he opened a drawer and let the contract flutter into it before slamming it closed and locked it. He tucked the key into his pocket and shrugged.
Her parents made their way over to their weeping daughter again meekly. Snot and tears were mingling on her face, and she screamed, “Would you rather have a gay daughter or a dead one?”
Her mother’s eyes widened before her head and shoulders dropped in defeat. She cupped her mouth and put her hands against the glass. Violet leaned in to hear and heard her mother say, “I don’t know anymore.” After Violet pulled away, she could see tears welling in her mother’s eyes before she sucked it up and turned away. She shared a long, woeful look with her father before she surrendered to the man’s clutch and was led away to the end of the hallway.
The man opened the door to a room that smelled of sterile chemicals with a Gharieni medical chair in the middle that was full of scratch marks deep enough to tear through the leather. She pushed against the man at first but soon realized any struggle was futile. She let the man toss her onto the chair like a ragdoll and strap her in tight enough to cut off blood flow to her hands and feet. He stood with his arms crossed before another man came in with a white lab coat, and he dismissed the other man before setting his eyes on Violet.
“Hi, Violet,” he greeted, pulling back his thin lips to reveal yellowed teeth. “I’m Dr. Davis. I’ll be performing this treatment on you. It’ll be quick. I promise.”
He turned away to grab something and turned back to reveal an instrument with the body of a gun and a barrel that came into the thin point, a short needle at the end. It glinted in the dim light provided solely by an overhead light that flickered now and then, and Violet had to swallow her screams. He put on gloves and grabbed disinfectant, pouring it on her arm and then patting it dry with a towel. He then grabbed a vial of clear liquid and swirled it around before inserting it into the gun. He then cocked it and turned to Violet.
“Ready?” he asked, raising his eyebrows expectantly. Violet shook her head and tried her best to squirm away from him, but he seized her arm and set it back in place, his knuckles yellowing from the force he was applying against her.
“You’re hurting me,” Violet squeaked out, but the doctor only scoffed.
“Quiet,” he muttered, bringing the gun down and lining it up with the blue vein that ran down Violet’s arm. He traced the vein and found a suitable place, scratching the skin with his nail through the glove. “You ready?”
“Please,” Violet pleaded softly, rolling her head over to make eye contact with the doctor. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Oh, but I do,” he said, motioning to the Bible on a desk on the other side of the room, “or else you’ll burn in Hell. Do you want that?”
Violet shrugged her shoulders as best she could with her bound arms. “Does it work?”
The doctor smiled. “We’ve had many successful experiments.”
“Okay, it’s time to Fix you, Violet. No more dilly-dallying.”
Without letting Violet react, he plunged the needle into her skin, and before Violet ripped away, he slowly pulled the trigger and injected the serum into her arm. Violet felt her eyelids droop immediately after the vial emptied, either from the serum itself or from her own anxiety. She let her head drop and her consciousness to go blank.
When Violet awoke, her parents were the first thing she saw. They were blurry, but she was sure the muddled figures in her vision were her parents. She heard garbled language from them, frustrated and reactionary. She felt lulled back into the peaceful sleep she experienced, but her mother began snapping her fingers in front of her face. Violet opened her eyes one more time and began seeing a much clearer picture: her parents crowding her vision with the man who performed the Fixing procedure in the background. He grinned proudly of whatever he had done, and when Violet adjusted herself in her chair, his grin widened.
“Will she be okay?”
“The procedure went perfectly. You will see results within 24 hours. Just let her sleep it off, and she’ll be bringing the boys in soon.”
Violet couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. She drifted back into her blissful sleep, regardless of whatever noises and gestures her parents tried to keep her awake. She just wanted to be gone.
Violet woke up once again in her bedroom. She enjoyed the familiarity, but she felt little else. She did not feel happy. She did not feel sad. She did not feel angry. She felt…numb.
She heard her door creak open, her parents looking in shyly. They slowly crept in, but Violet made no effort to greet them. She made no effort to do anything, really. Lifting the blankets off her was enough to cause her to sleep again.
“How are you feeling, honey?” her father asked. “What are you feeling? Sick? Hungry? We have cake in the kitchen to celebrate your Fixing.”
“I feel…nothing,” she replied, staring down at the carpet. Her parents exchanged worried glances, but her mother shrugged.
“Better than the latter, I suppose,” she said, doing a little dance before taking Violet to the kitchen and asking Violet to blow out the candles on the cake. Violet did so only because she was instructed to.
“We got you chocolate cake—your favorite,” her father said, cutting her a piece. But Violet did not thank him. She did not eat the cake. She walked back up the stairs and crawled under the covers. She had no favorites anymore. She had no taste. She could see no colors. She had no thoughts. The only solution was sleep.
When she went to school the next day, her friend approached her carefully with a meek smile.
“Hi, Violet,” she said in her screechy voice. “I’m sorry I put you in that position. Your dad found out I was your partner for the project. My family needs the money. I’m so sorry. Hopefully we can still be friends.”
When she received no answer, she grew more concerned.
“Hey, are you okay? You’ve been missing for a couple of days. Have your parents been treating you okay?” She glanced down and saw the scar that was left behind from the treatment, and she shakily covered her mouth and shook her head. “Oh, my God, Violet, I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry. You’ve been Fixed? This wasn’t meant to happen. I don’t know what was meant to happen, but it wasn’t this.” Her friend’s hand drifted to Violet’s, giving it a soft nudge, hoping to spark something between them. “I still really like you, Violet. Seriously. That wasn’t an act.”
But Violet felt nothing. She shrugged off her friend’s touch and walked away. She couldn’t handle her friend’s voice anymore. She couldn’t handle being in her friend’s presence anymore.
Later that day, the most popular and handsome boy in her grade approached her with a shit-eating grin. When Violet failed to look up at him, he tapped her desk with his knuckles, and when she continued to do her work, he snatched her paper away from her.
“Heard you’ve been Fixed,” he said with a wink. “You wanna have a go at it with me? Show you what you’d been missing when you were a lesbo.”
Violet felt nothing toward him, either. He was not handsome. He was not ugly. He just was. She looked around at all the boys in her class and found none attractive. She looked at the girls in her class and also found none of them attractive. She finally glanced up at the boy and shook her head. “No.”
She went back to her work, leaving the boy flabbergasted. But she did not care. She did not care anymore.
When she got home, she examined her scar closely. It had scabbed multiple times before Violet picked it away, leaving the angry red pinprick on top of her vein. Had the injection done its job? Was she normal now? Could she live a normal life now?
Violet stared at herself in the mirror, and her upturned nose she once found cute was now okay. The high cheekbones she once admired were now average. Her face that she once found so beautiful was now adequate. Enough. Sufficient. Fair. Unexceptional. Unremarkable.
What was the point now? What could she do now? She was Fixed—but was she?
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