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Conversion Dysphoria Blues

by Reis Asher

Conversion Dysphoria - Reis Asher
Editions:Paperback: $ 12.99
Pages: 301
Kindle: $ 6.99ePub: $ 6.99

What if cyborgs suffered body dysphoria?

In his mid-forties, former cop turned career bureaucrat Nolan Rogers is diagnosed with terminal cancer. His best friend Elly Takahara convinces him to undergo the process of body conversion, where his brain is transplanted into a robotic body. The operation is successful, but Nolan quickly finds himself adrift in a body that doesn't eat or physically react to emotion. For the first time in years, he's suffering from a new kind of body dysphoria, a sensation he hoped to have left behind when he transitioned to male decades ago.

During this crisis, he meets Tallis, a proud nonbinary body convert who sued his parents for the right to give up his flesh and blood body. Tallis is fire to Nolan's water, and whereas Nolan just wants to fit in, Tallis is determined to stand out in a world where being a cyborg marks one for discrimination and worse. Despite hitting it off poorly, an undeniable attraction blossoms between the pair, and they become entwined in a complicated relationship.

Nolan can't understand Tallis, but he wants to. Trapped in his own narrow confines of what he believes the world to be, Tallis challenges everything he thought he knew. Can Nolan learn to love who he is now, or will he find himself drawn into the ranks of the Regretters, an organization of cyborgs campaigning to outlaw body conversion altogether?

This book is on:
  • 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Independently Published
Cover Artists:
Pairings: M-NB
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Non Binary, Transgender
Protagonist 1 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Age Difference, Class Differences, Everyone is Queer, Most Mindblowing Sex Ever, Opposites Attract
Word Count: 64548
Setting: Garden City
Languages Available: English

Chapter One

Nolan Rogers sighed as he watched his body travel down the long conveyor towards cremation. It wasn’t like he was sad to be rid of the body he’d waged a war with for so long, and yet, letting go seemed like something to mourn; the end of a struggle he’d devoted his entire life to. The scars he’d worn with pride were not on this new body: it was flawless, a clean slate on which to etch the story of his life going forward.


“My therapist was right. It is weird attending your own funeral.” Nolan gripped the railing as his longtime friend Elly smirked. The black hair, purple turtleneck and long, black woolen coat she wore were appropriate for a casual body funeral at least, unlike Nolan’s faded t-shirt with a synthwave album cover on the front. His leather jacket looked even worse, but it smelled like his old body. Smelled like home, unlike the new car smell he had going on right now. He’d never thought the smell of old musky body odor could be so comforting, and yet there it was, a reminder that he was human after all.

“You would say something like that. I’ve upgraded my body so much it looks nothing like it did when I first woke up as a cyborg. As for being human, I barely remember it at all.” Elly laughed, that open-mouthed chuckle that made her seem so comfortable and at home in her form that Nolan's jealousy stung in response.

“Guess that means you don’t miss it.” Nolan averted his gaze as the coffin pushed through the curtain. There was definitely no going back now, though in reality that door had closed when he’d signed the forms to release himself from his cancer-ridden corpse.
“You really miss it? I’m surprised. Never pegged you for the sentimental type." Elly shrugged. "I guess working for the Bureau of Records makes you a hoarder of superfluous things. Who knew?"

Nolan grunted, shrugging off the teasing insult. To him, living in a mechanical body was a completely new experience—a rebirth, rather than a transformation. This felt nothing like his transition the first time, navigating the murky seas of gender as he tried to make his body match the vision in his mind, and yet it was similar, in a strange sense. Cis folks who underwent body conversion were known for their higher regret rates than trans people. People who'd never had any question in their mind that their body matched their internal identity struggled when placed inside a machine. Still, Nolan hoped this was the last time he'd ever have to emerge from his chrysalis in a new form. He was tired of being a butterfly, only to find himself wrapped up in another cocoon, undergoing changes to his shape once again.

He just wanted to live.

Robotic bodies were expensive, and the brain usually gave out long before a full replacement was needed. At forty-five, Nolan knew this was probably his last body, barring some kind of freak accident—but malfunctions and upgrades meant he could never fully guarantee that he'd die in the body he occupied now. He might have to change again, and the mere thought of that exhausted him.
Elly was an outlier, always upgrading to become the best version of herself. Living on the cutting edge. Nolan wished he could seize her stable sense of self that made its home in any place her brain took up residence. He felt adrift in an alien spacecraft, only that craft was his own body. He wondered how she navigated so easily through shifting sands, the landscape of her body constantly in flux. She'd always adapted so much better to change than he had, opting to overcome her limitations instead of accepting them as Nolan did.

“I'm good,” Nolan clarified. “I’m not about to become a Regretter. I finally have the body I’ve been dreaming of, in many ways. It’s simply... difficult to say goodbye to old things. To the fight itself, perhaps. I spent so long thinking about gender and now I have a body I could only dream of in that regard. There's nothing left to strive for, at least in terms of my physical form.”

“Hate to be the one to tell you, Nolan, but there are as many body conversion opponents as there used to be transphobes. The war’s not over just because you won one battle. There are still people who are going to want you in a box, only now, it's going to be that they're angry at you for daring to beat cancer by converting. Some things never change.” Elly turned on her heel and walked away, her hair flowing behind her as the heels of her thigh-high black boots echoed off the concrete floor.

Nolan looked back at the conveyor. It was surreal to think his body was nothing but ashes, and yet he was the only one to be disconcerted by that fact. Objectively, he looked so much better now. Gone was the gaunt face, the chemo baldness, the death-rattle of his lungs as they struggled to draw breath. The wide eyes that never quite matched his demeanor, the small cheekbones, rounded face. His eyes were blue now, his new skin weathered to look like a well-aged forty-five year old man's might. He had a jawline he would have died for at twenty, with handsome grey hair that gave him a distinguished gentlemanly aura. The genitals he had now—well, they were good enough that he'd cried bringing himself off last night. Nothing a flesh-surgeon could do had held a candle to this fully-integrated system designed to replace the human sexual organs.

He’d never been good at letting go, though, and that old bag of bones held sentimental value. Like moving to a new house, he had to get used to the shape of his new walls before he could truly call this body home. Meanwhile, the place he’d inhabited for so long had burned to the ground, nothing more than ashes he'd take home in an urn as a macabre trophy. His body might have been a shack to others, but to him, that old body with the tattoos, scars, and surgically created penis was home to him. A condemned ruin, perhaps, but home nonetheless. He was supposed to have gone down with the ship, but he'd survived death, and he was acutely aware of the fact that he should feel better about it.

He supposed that was why they held body funerals, but he felt stupid going to his own funeral, like a pretender who shouldn't be here at all. His friends were ready to throw a party, but he was still hung up on something he couldn’t quite name, a loss just out of reach. The psychologist had warned him that conversion dysphoria was common. Perhaps it was a little of that.

The lines on his face marked his age, but none of them were in the places he remembered. They'd all been manufactured to his specifications, giving him the appearance of an older man. It was too weird for him when old folks put their brains into the bodies of twenty year olds. Deceptive, almost. He'd only ever told the truth, and yet...

It all felt so surreal, like none of this was truly happening. The images of rivers and waterfalls projected onto the walls of the crematorium faded out to reveal bare white-painted brick, only intensifying the feeling that this entire new existence was all artifice and he'd died on the table as soon as they'd placed his brain into the canister.

He looked down at his leather jacket. In his day, wearing a leather jacket to a funeral was borderline blasphemous, but he wasn't a twenty year old punk rebelling against his own body and the system anymore. Body conversion wasn't a protest in his case. He'd had no other choice if he wanted to live.

Well, there'd been death, but what kind of choice was that? He wasn't ready to die yet.

He just wasn't sure he was ready to live like this.


About the Author

Reis Asher lives in a fast-growing cat colony in rural Pennsylvania with his husband. He is the author of the nonbinary thriller Killing Games, published by NineStar Press, and the Nick Fabian series of transgender detective novels. He is transgender and bisexual, and wants to bring queer and diverse stories out into the light.

Catch him on Twitter @landale where he's happy to interact.