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Athletic scholarship recipients created less issues during freshman orientation if they were kept in coed groups. The 3rd year coed pair leading the athlete orientation group were able relate to the nuanced sports interests of the newcomers. The campus tour included the same material but emphasis was on the athletic areas of the university.

The leaders made sure the newcomers understood the university prided itself on high moral and academic standards as well as equal rights and respect for everyone which included bans on drugs and alcohol abuse and that being on a sports team would not shield anyone who crossed moral or academic lines. Sexual misconduct would lead to suspension pending expulsion including harassment of LGBT. Bourne Becken, on a baseball scholarship and River Stewart, on a field hockey scholarship, met during freshman orientation in 2004. In addition to their shared Scottish ancestry, their likes and dislikes were compatible. By mid-October they were dating. Their families liked each other and the couple spent summers as playground leaders for the township River grew up in. They each had a well maintained family handed down vehicle. A 3 year old 4WD Super Crew pickup and a 4 year old 4WD SUV. Their lives were happy and they maintained 4.0 grades.

They found themselves embroiled in a bloody incident near the end of the fall semester their senior year. The last regular football game for 2007 was on December 8. The game determined which team moved into post season play. The stadium was packed to standing room only. The home team had just made a touchdown with 20 seconds left in the last quarter bringing the score to 13-14. The cheering crowd was on their feet. The stands starting repeatedly shouting “GO FOR 2” encompassing the crowd. The ball was snapped, the holder ran as the roar of the crowd engulfed the stadium. Players scrambled forming a scrum atop the goal line. The ball carrier charged and leapt over the scrum. Unfortunately only his head crossed the goal line. The football never broke the plane of the goal line. The visiting team had won.

The home crowd was furious, vociferously berating and threatening their devastated team. Security was overwhelmed as fights broke out. Bourne and River remained bundled warmly in their seats as the stands around them emptied. It took 30 minutes to clear the rowdy discontented fans. Only then did they stand, easily managing to avoid the many still ongoing conflicts as they exited the stadium and parking areas. Once away the bundled up couple walked briskly along the quad heading to their off campus apartment. Small groups of disgruntled people still moped about loudly voicing their anger. As they approached the Library, they heard a terrified scream that was suddenly cut off. Looking towards the source of the scream they saw 3 men manhandling a struggling woman disappear into the bushes.

“Dial 911,” Bourne called out as he ran to the bushes.

River dialed 911 as she followed Bourne giving the details of the incident.

Bourne shoved his way through the bushes to the base of the building where he saw 2 guys holding the woman as the 3rd guy pummeled her. Her face was already bloody and battered.

“You God damned faggot,” the assaulter snarled. “Someone should have kicked your ass long ago!”

Bourne caught the drawn back fist of the cursing man spinning him around. Even in the dappled light, he recognized the arrogant redneck soused senior, the lead player for the university basketball team. Before the stunned man fully comprehended what was happening, Bourne slammed his fist into the man’s open mouth sending him to the ground in a spray of blood and teeth. The 2 equally intoxicated lackeys holding the woman were surprised and froze. Bourne saw the woman’s sweater had been ripped exposing her breasts and with the speed of his fastball pitch his fist connected with the face of the nearest guy laying him out as blood splattered. The last guy shoved the girl at Bourne who managed avoid her and duck almost avoiding the incoming blow.

River was still on the phone as she stepped into the small area between the bushes and the building, taking in the carnage and telling the operator they’d need EMTs as well as police. Bourne was slugging it out with the 3rd man when she saw the 1st bloody man push himself to his feet and flick open a switchblade as he angrily stumbled towards Bourne who was unaware of the danger. Without thinking River reacted, tackling the man’s legs sideways with everything she had. He let out a loud scream of pain as both knees were driven sideways shredding cartilage, ligaments, tendons and splintering bone. As he collapsed, the knife he still firmly clasped jammed into his gut. His unceasing screams of pain echoed off the building.

Having laid out the 3rd assailant, Bourne spun to see the commotion behind him. At first he thought River had been assaulted but she was rolling away from the screaming man. The couple exchanged momentary looks realizing that although bruised, they were okay. Almost as one they went to comfort the bleeding hysterical woman who had crumbled to the ground. Together they helped her back to the main walkway, with Bourne wrapping the blanket they’d shared in the stadium sbout her. They saw a unit of the campus police entering the quad and waved them down.

The EMTs stabilized the assailants and rushed them to the hospital. Once they regained consciousness the lackeys were treated and cuffed before transport to the hospital. Bourne was treated for a split lip and bruising on his face and knuckles. Ointment was applied to River’s few scratches. The victim could barely see through her swollen eyes and split lips. Photo’s were taken of her injuries.

The University was forced into damage control. The near riot after the loss blemished their normally stellar reputation as a safe university. The fights in the stadium and parking area were all caught on security and news cameras. Those caught at the time were arrested and jailed. Review of the footage would reveal other bad apples associated with the school for suspension pending expulsion.

The 3 assailants were clearly intoxicated with a nearly empty vodka bottle lying on ground. The leader had a large baggie of pot and a bottle of illicit pills as well as the illegal switchblade. The victim of the assault was a trans woman, a protected minority. Security camera evidence of their homophobic attack were indisputable.

The assailants were summarily suspended pending expelled and jailed. Despite their wealthy families hired high priced lawyers, the best they managed was a deal of 23 months in jail followed by 5 years of probation to go into effect after the transwoman was paid a $4,000,000 figure settlement including her medical and legal expenses.

The LGBT & Allies Union at the University honored Bourne and River for their actions saving the transwoman. With genuine modesty the couple insisted they were not heros but only did what was right. Becoming involved with the group as allies, they learned life for the LGBT was not a choice and far from easy. In addition a last semester class touched on the 1994 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4) since with changing rooms and showers involving PhyEd classes often revealed issues in students. LGBT issues were no longer classified as a psychological disorder.

The rigid gender role expectations of their Baby Boomer grandparents had been relaxed by their GenX parents. Bourne and River were Millennials and past rigidity was crumbling except for the ignorant rednecks. As LGBT Allies and the guidelines of DSM-4, they realized that forcing children into traditional gender roles usually had negative lifelong effects. Together they vowed to raise any future kids in a gender fluid manner allowing them to explore gender roles to naturally mature.

Upon graduation in the spring of 2008 with degrees in Physical Education, Bourne and River married in a small family ceremony. At the reception Mr. and Mrs. Becken proudly announced they had accepted PhysEd teaching positions in the same school district, he at the high school and she at the adjacent middle school. They rented a small apartment and began saving for a home. They lived comfortably on one salary while the other was saved for a home. As the 2008-09 school year wound down, they loved their positions and the school district was well satisfied with their performance. With secure employment and $35.000 for down payment, they went to a local realtor who was the spouse of another teacher. The were in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the economic misfortune of others, snapping up the now empty foreclosed home that was in their school district.

The 2007-8 ballooned subprime mortgage market recession forced home prices higher until it collapsed. Household debt as a percentage of disposable personal income was 77% in 1990, soaring to 127% by the end of 2007. Home mortgage debt relative to gross domestic product (GDP) increased from 46% during the 1990s to 73% in 2008. Many home owners had mortgages higher than the property value. In mid-2007 a couple had built their dream home only to divorce after their employer went belly up and walk away from their untenable mortgage.

Located in the eastern portion of North Heidelberg Township, the area was rural farming that allowed 2+ acre building plots. The newly purchased Becken home was a nice ranch style, 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and attached 2 car garage on just a bit under 2.5 acres of sloping land that featured an overgrown large vegetable garden, a small orchard of apple and cherry trees and several outbuildings. The property was delineated by barely penetrable hedgerows 20 feet thick which muffled sounds and maintained visual privacy. It kept the local deer and rabbit populations under control as well as human trespassers at bay. The driveway was 520 feet long off the south end of School Lane, a mile long northwest to southeast barely 2 lane rural road starting at Old Church Road and ending at Peacock Road. By turning left on Old Church Road their schools were just 6.5 miles away. By turning right it was just 1.25 miles to Pa. Route 183. The Berkshire Mall in the Reading suburb of Wyomissing was just 10 miles away. Even better, the eastern side of the property butted against the Blue Marsh Lake Recreational Area.

Blue Marsh Lake is an Army Corp of Engineers flood control project completed in 1979 attracting 900,000 people a year. The 1148 acre lake is surrounded by 6200 acres of mostly forested land with 36 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horse riding that completely encircles the lake. The damming of Tulpehocken Creek, a major tributary of the Schuylkill River,1 creating the lake. The water level is maintained at 290 feet above sea level in the summer drawn down 5 feet to provide for winter flood water storage. Built in the rolling hills of east central Pennsylvania northwest of Reading, the lake has many water filled inlets, arms and fingers. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission has armed law enforcement officers who regularly patrol the waters and monitor the boat launches to insure regulations are being followed. In the 3.4 miles above the dam the width of the main lake varies from 380 to 900 feet. This lower section has no outboard motor restrictions being open to jet-skis and boats towing skiers or inflatables. Boat launching areas, a swimming area and within 100 feet of the shores are no wake zones. The rest of the 4.5 miles of the lake as well as all the side inlets are no wake zones.

The Becken’s driveway opened onto the south end of School Lane where it met the east end of Peacock Road at a 20° back angle. Before the dam was built, Peacock Lane had continued in a northeast direction which was now submerged by the lake. The 90 feet of Peacock Road past the School Lane meeting point was now used as parking for 8 vehicles providing an access point for the Lake Border Trail and the Peacock Road Creek Canoe/Kayak Launch. The Lake Border Trail crossed Peacock Creek on a rustic narrow bridge built of 2 telephone poles spaced 4 feet apart topped by thick planks and sturdy wooden railings. When the lake was at it’s normal summer level, the water backed up into the streambed making it just deep enough to allow canoes and kayaks to transit the winding narrow 6 to 8 feet wide flooded stream into the quiet tree lined Peacock Creek backwater of the lake. The bottoms of the prone telephone poles were 3 feet above the water beside the launch.

The Beckens regularly walked and biked the trails around the lake or paddled kayaks or canoe on the lake. They had a pair of 26 inch mountain bikes with full suspension and a tandem cruiser bike. They had a pair of 10 feet kayaks and an 18 feet canoe. It was not unusual to see deer, squirrels, rabbits, and over 200 species of birds, especially waterfowl around the lake. They often fished from the shore and canoe catching largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish, yellow perch, black and white crappie.

The Beckens began trying for a baby as soon as they settled into their new home. Once pregnant
the couple told family living in Scotland they were seeking a needy young woman as an au pair for the twins. The position would be 5 days a week for 4 years, include room and board with the possibility of taking courses at Penn State Berks Campus in the evenings and Saturdays. They added their SUV would be available for her to use. They would also cover her airfare. Her wages would cover her college expenses with a bit left over for herself.

After checking around there was no family member interested in the position. However, 4 had mentioned a local who was having difficulties with the Neds. The young lady was caring, a proven babysitter and known for her willingness to help. She had recently graduated from school but was unable to afford university. The only complication was that she was a preop transwoman. Since the Becken’s experiences in their last year of college, her being a transwoman was a non-issue.

A background check turned up no issues and nearly a dozen personal references praised her. During an online interview, she broke down in tears to learn being a transwoman was a non-issue. With a written dated 4 year job offer she had no problems getting a visa. Since they normally rode to work together in the pickup, the SUV would be available for the au pair. In addition, if she wanted to further her education, she could take evening and Saturday classes at the Penn State University Berks Campus, just 10.3 miles away on 2 lane roads that kept off the often hectic 4 lane highways.

Just after the 2009-10 school year ended the Beckens became the proud parents of Brooke and Burn, fraternal twins as identical as possible for fraternal twins. As soon as they were strong enough, the proud parents took the infants on their treks about Blue Marsh with infant floats for canoeing and a bike trailer for biking or baby pack for hiking.

Since finishing school, 19 year old Lauren McAllister had several temporary au pair positions. The au pair position thus fit her requirements. Having a live-in position with room and board along with the availability of college was a dream come true for her. She arrived in Mid August to familiarize herself with the position and family. She and the Beckens hit it off and the twins accepted her. She loved their home and the surroundings, joining her employers as they hiked or biked the forested trails. They even managed to get her on the lake in the canoe. Lauren accepted their desire to raise the twins in a gender fluid manner. Thus the usually smiling infants were dressed alike, sometimes as boys, others as girls, often in gender neutral outfits. They played with traditional gender toys, both boys and girls. By the time they turned 3, the pair began dressing as girls for playing in girl mode or as boys for boy mode. Whatever the mode, each was called their birth name since both were gender neutral. To assist in the gender role exploration/swapping, they their hair was trimmed the same. The dichotomy never bothered the twins.

The grandparents were a bit confused by River and Bourne’s desires to raise the twins in a gender fluid manner. They understood their reasoning and as they saw the twins switching gender roles of their own accord, agreed to cooperate in the effort. As for Lauren, she flourished and grew to love twins. She did well in her classes at Penn State, and as the twins approached kindergarten, her time with the Beckens came to an end. With their assistance and guidance, she was ready to spend her final year at the main campus to complete her degree in Early Childhood Education.

When Brooke and Burn turned 3, they were offered the chance take ballet lessons. They attended the dance school’s end of year recital watching each class perform. The twins watched the routines with sparkling eyes.

As they drove home River asked, “Did you enjoyed the recital?”

“Yeah, it was pretty neat,” Burn answered.

Bourne asked, “Would you like to begin lessons?”

“Maybe, but there are no boys,” Brooke said. “That means we would have to be in girl time for every class. It’s not fair for Burn to have to be in girl time for each class.”

Burn sat by his sister nodding his head. “Is there something else we could go where we could have girl and boy time?”

The parents exchanged grins. Their effort to raise them in a gender fluid manner had made the kids a lot more aware of gender roles.

After a bit of research they found a gym that offered tumbling and basic gymnastics to mixed gender classes. The instructors were intrigued by the request to have the twins be treated in a gender neutral mode. In the fall when classes resumed, Brooke and Burn were enrolled. The black tights and leotard uniform was genderless. At the 1st lesson, even though they knew the twins were brother and sister, the instructors couldn’t tell them apart.

At age 4 they began playing soccer in a mixed gender local juvenile league. The twins also got their own bikes. They were allowed to ride on their property but could only venture on the trails if a parent accompanied them.

In mid-August 2015 they had driven Lauren to State College finish her degree. The parting had everyone in tears but they would still communicate. When the new school year began, Brooke and Burn began kindergarten. The elementary school offered pre and after school child care and was 4.3 miles from the Middle/Senior Schools. The pair dressed like boys for the 1st day, then girls for the 2nd. They decided each morning if they’d be boys or girls. The school and teachers had been told of the twins gender swapping so simply accepted what appeared each day. Their classmates were confused at 1st asking if they were girls or boys. The duo smiled and replied “Yes!” With the innocence of youth, they accepted that some days the twins dressed as boys and others as girls. Since they were not claiming to be trans and used their sex appropriate restrooms no matter how they dressed, objecting parents had no claim.

At age 7 they began mixed gender little League baseball. By age 8 they paired with their parents in paddling their canoe. By 9 the twins paddled the canoe while the parents sheparded them from kayaks. By 10 they were soloing in kayaks with their parents in the canoe. The twins did well in school and made friends amongst their classmates. Living rural lives, there were no nearby age mates with whom they could play. Any playdates had to coordinated with the involved parents. The twins were best friends and played well together, with no gender specific restrictions. They played with dolls and dressed up as princesses as well as running about the property climbing trees having mock battles with swords. Like most kids, they moaned about doing chores but always did the assigned tasks.

Bourne and River never pushed the kids to gender specific play. Neither sibling hesitated to wear the clothes of the other gender. They felt comfortable presenting as sisters or as brothers with the parents accepting both. They did draw the line at pretending to actually be the other gender.

As with most kids, when the parents announced a summer vacation to Disney World, the duo jumped with excitement. Although the trip wouldn’t happen until they finished third grade, the family reviewed what attractions they wanted to visit. After much discussion, the twins begged to make the trip as sisters so they could share the experience of undergoing a Disney Princess make-over.

Bourne and River exchanged looks of concern. They had never forced the duo to be their birth gender. Bourne spoke up. “The only way we’ll allow it is if you spend the entire trip as sisters.”

Burn quickly agreed. “Done deal,” Burn enthusiastically exclaimed. “Then I don’t have to worry about
‘manning up’. I can freely scream or giggle!”

Bourne sighed. “Has someone been hassling you about being a sissy?”

Burn bit his lips bowing his head as Brooke spoke up. “Several boys often get on his case during recess. If it gets too bad I chew them out.”

“How does that go over?” Bourne asked.

Burn answered. “It still hurts so I avoid them as much as I can.”

River sighed. “How do avoid them?”

“My girl friends and I make sure we get outside before Burn,” Brooke answered. “We grab his hand and lead over to where we play hop scotch and jumping rope. Even when we’re dressed as boys.”

“And the boys don’t say anything?” Bourne asked.

“No, Mrs. Withers, the playground monitor, stands just outside the door to make sure no one starts teasing.” Brooke answered. “Besides, he’s not the only boy who joins us. There are 3 or 4 others.”

“Just watch your back,” Bourne said. “If one of those jerks trip or hit you, you have my permission to knock them on their butt.”

During the Disney trip, Brooke and Burn dressed alike and had the time of their lives.

Brooke and Burn, picked up their parents love of the outdoors. When the weather was nice they went hiking and biking on the well maintained trails as well as paddled on the lake. Several times a year the family packed picnics and drinks and paddled the shore lines of the lake. From the Peacock Launch the stream meandered 375 feet through it’s tree lined course often with no sky visible under the overarching leafy boughs before emerging into the backwater tree lined 5/8 mile long Peacock finger of the lake that widened to 300 feet where it merged with the larger Spring Creek arm. On the north shore, a rock cliff jutted up 30 feet allowing a straight jump into the water which made it attractive for those seeking thrills. If they turned upstream Spring Creek varied in width from 400 feet at Peacock Creek until after 1.75 miles the Spring Creek arm of the lake narrowed into Spring Creek. Where Peacock Creek joined Spring Creek, the joined waterway turned northeast 90° while narrowing to 200 feet for 600 feet. Another 90° turn to the southeast maintained the 200 feet width for 1/4 mile then again turned 90° north/east widening to 500 feet for another mile until it joined the main lake in the wake allowed area which ended 350 feet north of Spring Creek. The Spring Creek arm was a tree lined no wake zone with the crowns often hanging over the water. Trees that fell either naturally or purposely from the surrounding forest into the waters were secured in place as havens for smaller fish.

Bourne, River and Brooke noticed Burn becoming a bit despondent after they started middle school. Whenever questioned he merely shrugged and seemed to shrink into himself avoiding Brooke. Then he stopped dressing in girl mode. Since they had been raised genderfluid under no pressure to present as male or female, they didn’t push. No amount of questioning bore fruit but each passing week Burn withdrew into a shell despite being told he could tell them anything.

New Years Eve 2023 the family watched the festivities and made resoltions.

“I’m resolved to discover Burn’s dilemma,” Brooke declared.

Burn lowered his head biting his lip before crying and running to his room. The smiling happy kid almost dissappeared. He still did his chores and earned good grades, but he avoided appearing girlish limiting himself to boyish activities. The only times he smiled was when hiking, biking or paddling.

On Memorial Day, the family was on the lake. Bourne and River in the canoe with picnic and drinks and the twins in kayaks. The lake was packed with boats, pontoons, kayaks and canoes. The family paddled down to Spring Creek then headed back towards the lake. With the parents following, the laughing twins raced down Spring Creek to the 1st 90° turn. Burn was a few feet ahead of the shore hugging Brooke. Angry yelling and shouts echoed across the waters beyond the turn.

A large Sea Ray twin engine boat came roaring about 50 MPH from downstream cutting the corner.
The twins had no time to react as the boat smashed through and over Burn’s kayak. The waves overturned Brooke. The roaring of the boat engines whined then died with the boat coasting across the water. Bits and pieces of Burn’s kayak were leaving a trail behind the boat. People were yelling and screaming as siren warbling as it approached. Bourne and River paddled as fast as they could, relieved to see Brooke pop out of the water by her overturned kayak. Other boats were rushing to the crash. The canoe was the first to get to the stalled boat, they saw Burn trapped underwater beneath the prop with the water turning red. The parents dove in to rescue their son. As they struggled several others jumped in to assist as the officers on the Fish and Boat Commission patrol boat arrived on scene in response to the many calls of the erratic speeder.

The clearly intoxicated driver of the boat was bloodied when the boat stalled. Finally the unconscious Burn was pulled from the mess under the outboard. A pontoon boat offered it’s open flat back as a place to drag the limp body from the water as several people began to triage the savage lower abdominal wound. River rode with Burn as the pontoon boat headed for the nearest launch to meet and ambulance and EMTs. Bourne and Brooke salvaged the remains of their picnic and tied her kayak to the canoe and quickly paddled for home. The vessels were put away then they rushed to the hospital

Burn was barely alive when they rushed him into surgery. The blade of the prop carved through his flesh and guts but missed major blood vessels. Reattaching his intestines was like a jigsaw puzzle. His genitals were shredded. They salvaged what flesh they could and stopped the bleeding thus stabilizing him. After consulting with the family a 2nd surgery was set for the next day to tidy up the injury.

When he awoke, Burn was understandingly groggy but happy to have his mother seated beside him. The last he remembered was seeing a big boat coming at him. Later, when Bourne and Brooke joined River, the tearful Brooke smothered Burn in gentle hugs. When things settled, Bourne told Burn of his injuries.

“The propeller tore you apart,” Bourne explained struggling to keep his voice calm. “They rushed you here and into surgery stabilizing you. Then the doctors came to us about how to proceed. Your genitals were shredded beyond repair and your bladder and urethra cut up. They explained they could not rebuild your manhood, the choices were a being a null down there or creating feminine genitals.”

“That’s when I perked up,” Brooke smiled. “As the doctors talked to us I figured out why you’ve been so withdrawn. As I started puberty, we couldn’t look alike anymore. While you didn’t want to be a girl, you did want to look like me when we dressed alike. When I heard the options for putting you back together, I told them to make you a girl so we could be real identical twins! So sis, my New Years revolution is accomplished!”

Bourne and River held their breathe as they watched Burn digest the news. Slowly, his look of deep thought morphed into a smile, admitting his withdrawal was because puberty was separating their twinness and he didn’t want to look like a boy in girl’s clothes.

Because he was in great physical state before the accident his recovery was a rapid 2 months. The drunken man was well off financially receiving 3 years in prison as well as to pay all Burnes medical bills plus triple that amount for restituion.

When school started, Brooke and Burn were once more dressed alike. He had regained bladder control. The hormones Burn was taking was beginning to change her shape to match her sister. While some people were against the unwanted sex change, the news of what had happened to Burn was well known thanks to the media and internet. Medical opinion supported the surgical decisions to transform the former boy into a girl. The Becken family was restored.

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In A Way

joannebarbarella's picture

The decision to bring up the children in a gender-neutral manner paid off as Burn was psychologically equipped to accept his enforced and unexpected genital reassignment surgery.


My5InchFMHeels's picture

That lake is Gorgeous... I generally launch at Sheidy and fish the finger each way about the same distance, around where the finger turns south east of the dock, and the same distance west when I'm going for pan fish. It was really nice that a lot of the story was about the lake, Kinda feel like I could look out of the boat and see them using the trails, or maybe I veered around them going from one fishing spot to the next.

Sans the boating incident, it was a feel good story!