I'm Still Standing

I’m Still Standing

by Jennifer Sue

Harry was a top notch auto mechanic in northern Lebanon County, Pennsylvania just outside the town of Fredericksburg. By twenty five he had started his own quite successful business, Blue Mountain Auto. Emma ran the office with the assistance of the daughter-in-laws while both sons and their daughter worked in the four bay shop with their dad. The son-in-law joined the business as a body man in a smaller two bay body shop annex. It truly was a family business. The business originally sat on a ten acre plot that was divided into two acre plots, one for the business and four for their homes. Needless to say, it was a solid, often profane, gearhead family.

The extended family was finishing their annual Thanksgiving feast, relaxing, as they enjoyed warm homemade pumpkin pie. Several of the men had to loosen their pants to handle their expanded girth. Everyone sat back smiling as the turkey induced lethargy spread.

As usual, Emma asked her grandchildren what they wanted for Christmas. The explanation was that Grandmothers had a special hotline to Santa. One by one she asked each excited kid as the adults chuckled at their excitement and anticipation. That was about to change.

“So Ryan, what do you want for Christmas?” Emma asked her three year old grandson.

The bright eyed tyke eagerly spoke. “I want a pretty dress with lots of lace.”

The room fell silent.

“You jerk,” Benj scolded as he cuffed his youngest brother on the back of his head. “Are you some kind of sissy? Boys don’t wear dumb dresses!”

The male cousins all snickered at their youngest cousin. The girls giggled. The aunts and uncles winced.

Ben glowered at Ryan and scowled at his wife. “I told you you’re babying him too damn much!”

Ryan was confused. He was old enough to sense everyone in the room was unsettled by his request but knew Benj and his dad were quite upset with him. It was not the first time this had happened. “But Gammy asked what I wanted so I told her,” he sniffed as he fought to hold back the tears the aggressive attitudes of the others threatened to evoke.

“Damn it, Ryan, you’re boy,” Ben snapped. “Boys do not WANT dresses, especially lacy dresses! It’s about time you grew the hell up!”

Ryan just didn’t understand but knew he was in trouble. The tears could no longer be held back as he began sobbing.

“Crying??? Now you’re crying? Jesus H. Christ! I’ll fucking give you something to fucking cry about!” With that Ben angrily stood pushing his chair back, snagged Ryan by the arm yanking him off the booster chair. With the crying boy helplessly dangling by his arm, Ben dropped back into his chair, draped his son over his lap, and began wailing on his kicking butt.

The room filled with Ryan’s screams as the rest of the family watched in stunned horror at the beating.

“BEN! BEN! THAT’S ENOUGH!” Emma yelled as she scrambled to retrieve her beaten grandson.

Ben’s eyes were wild and he was panting as his eyes refocused on his mother. Emma snatched Ryan from his father’s lap and cuddled the by then hysterically crying lad. Giving her son the hairy eyeball, she carried her distraught grandson to her rocker where she cuddled and rocked him until he cried himself to sleep.

Needless to say the holiday spirit was destroyed. The normal after meal gathering of watching football was ruined. As Emma comforted her grandson her daughter and daughter-in-laws quietly cleaned off the table and put away the leftovers. The kids were upset at the brutality of Ryan’s punishment. They had all been spanked, it was simply a part of their family discipline. They didn’t like it but had accepted spanking as a legitimate punishment. But those spankings were done after they adult explained what they had done wrong and had announced how many swats they were getting. The swats were firm but never truly painful. But none had ever been so brutally spanked. At worst it had been five or six open hand swats, more shocking than painful and never leaving marks. What they witnessed was a beating pure and simple. The family dynamics was forever altered.

It was common for the men to enjoy two to three beers a night after work and the women to relax with a glass or two of wine. After this incident Ben began drinking more, often intentionally getting drunk. The loving relationship the couple had enjoyed was strained to the breaking point. It took Gloria’s mother-in-law and sisters-in-law united effort to keep her from leaving Ben.

Before that changing day Ryan had been a happy child, loquacious smiling and giggling, enjoying playing with his cousins. After the brutal spanking, the boy’s happiness evaporated. Instead of joining his cousins in play he avoided them. The smiling face the family had known was gone, replaced either by intense concentration on whatever he was doing or a seemingly perpetual frown.

The other significant thing was that Ryan refused in any way to acknowledge must less listen to anything his father said. To be so utterly ignored by his youngest infuriated Ben, aggravating his guilt. The way he’d lost control angered him. He knew he’d made a huge mistake, but found it impossible to apologize. His marriage was in shambles and a tangible wall had arisen between him and the rest of his family.

As Christmas approached Ryan refused to participate in any way. While his cousins watched Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas and numerous other Christmas specials Ryan refused to even remain in the same room. While they laughed and cheered for the heroes and sang along to the songs, Ryan snuggled into a corner of the adjoining room retreating from reality. When it came time for the meal Emma had to gently rouse the almost catatonic lad. At the dinner table Ryan ignored all attempts at communication, refusing to respond when asked if he wanted something on his plate. The servings of food placed on his plate were eaten mechanically with no reaction to the taste. Dessert was refused by putting out his hand in the familiar STOP motion. Needless to say the formerly jovial Sunday joint family meals were stiff and stunted.

When they family prepared to go to the Christmas Eve Service at church Ryan refused to get dressed. He simply went limp like a ragdoll neither hindering nor helping his mother, Gloria, as she dressed him. He refused to walk to the car or into the church, Gloria had to carry him. Once in their pew he curled up beside her into a ball hiding his head against his thighs and covering his ears with his hands. He had to be carried out at the end.

The next morning his brothers eagerly leapt from bed to hurry down to their Christmas Tree. They quickly rushed back to their shared bedroom to rouse Ryan as they were not allowed to open their gifts until he joined them. Ryan silently and stubbornly refused. Gloria had to carry him down to the Christmas tree.

As the obligatory photos were taken, the excited older brothers posed with their morose younger brother slumped between them before the Christmas Tree. Ben filmed as the boys tore into the presents with oldest brother Benj reading the name tags to dispense the gifts. George excitedly tore into his presents with Benj right beside him. Squeals of delight erupted as they discovered what was inside the wrapping. Ryan forlornly sat surrounded by his gifts showing no desire to open his gifts. Upon seeing his hated father filming, he moved and stacked the wrapped gifts to build a wall to hide behind. No amount of coaxing could get him to show the slightest interest in opening his gifts. Even when Benj opened Ryan’s gifts for him, the tyke looked at them but refused to acknowledge them.

Later at the grandparents his brothers and cousins tore into their gifts while Ryan defiantly sat with arms crossed a frown on his face. Benj again opened Ryan’s presents and once more the stubborn kid glanced at the gifts but refused to touch them.

The normal Christmas euphoria of Ryan’s cousins and brothers bled off due to his glum countenance. The adults exchanged looks of concern. They had never seen a toddler hold a grudge and anger for so long. The normal seasonal joy was greatly diminished.

Emma sat beside Ryan pulling him onto her lap. While he didn’t resist he certainly did nothing to make the task easy. “Ryan, please tell Gammy what’s wrong?”

Everyone watched with baited breath.

“I’m bad...,” Ryan sniffled.

“Oh baby! You’re not bad,” Emma soothed.

“Yes I am,” Ryan insisted. “I got spanked when I told you what I wanted for Christmas. That made everyone sad. I knew I wouldn’t get what I wanted and I didn’t.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t get what you wanted,” Emma cuddled him. “But you did get a lot of presents. Don’t you like them?”

“No,” Ryan replied firmly and without hesitation. “They’re all toys for boys! I wanted a doll and pretty dresses!”

Everyone drew in their breath. Ben set his jaw and clenched his fists.

“Ryan, honey,” Emma began as she gathered her thoughts. “Dolls and dresses are for girls.”

“But I am a girl,” Ryan petulantly insisted. “I don’t want yucky boy toys!”

“You dummy,” Benj exploded. “You got a willy! That makes you a boy!”

“Is that what this is all about?” Ben angrily exclaimed as he fought his instincts to once again beat the child. “You little dipshit! We’ve been putting up with your crap for a freaking month! You ARE a damn boy! I don’t want to hear any more of your crap about being a damn girl! You’re a boy and will start behaving like one!” Then he turned to Gloria. “I’ve told you before to stop babying him! This is the damn nonsense that comes from being too easy on him. He’s a boy, treat him like one!”

Ryan shrank as he feared another spanking. He could feel the anger and disgust of the rest of his family. Even though he had a willy he KNEW he was a girl! But he was also terrified by the hatred his family was demonstrating.

Emma stood her youngest grandson on his feet. “Your daddy is right, Ryan. You are a boy. So let’s not have anymore of this being a girl nonsense. Now go play with your toys.”

Gammy had been his one source of comfort against his father. His mommy couldn’t stand up to him like Gammy could. Now she’d cast him out. He was devastated.

Everyone could see the hopelessness on his face but there was no solace in their expressions.

Numbly he shuffled to his gifts and sat. Listlessly he pushed a truck back and forth. It was clear he had no enthusiasm and the play was forced.

The rest of the day was stilted. Ryan was silent and clearly depressed. The rest of the family pointedly ignored him unless he was behaving like a boy.

That night when they arrived home his father stormed into his bedroom, grabbed his beloved Teddy Bear and took it outside. It took all of Grace’s strength to restrain the screaming boy as they watched Ben set the stuffed animal on fire. Ryan screamed himself hoarse before finally passing out.

*****

Ryan forever viscerally hated his father. He would never trust the man and as much as possible avoided him. He quickly learned there would be no reprieve or let up on the pressure he conform to being a boy. While he never mentioned being a girl or asked for girl toys, he never lost the belief or feeling that deep inside he was a girl. Begrudgingly he slowly allowed himself to be forced into a boy’s role. Even when prompted he steadfastly refused to ask for anything. A warm smile and laughter never returned to the dispirited lad.

The family had always been sports oriented. The kids, boys and girls, began kiddie soccer as soon as they reached age four. T-ball followed at five with Little league after that. Once in junior high the boys and girls began school sports. As the family expected, Ryan followed in the footsteps of his brothers and cousins. But there were several differences. They were outgoing and gregarious while Ryan was a quiet introvert. The others visited friends or invited friends over. Ryan had no friends. They were fully involved in their sports, enjoying their activity and giving it their all. Ryan stumbled through sports, doing just enough to avoid being benched while showing no spirit. They were fully engaged with their teammates. Ryan simply ignored the camaraderie keeping to himself. If the team stopped for a treat after a game, Ryan resolutely refused the offer.

When the family gathered, Ryan would sit off to one side, avoiding getting involved with whatever activity was occurring unless he was ordered to do so. During meals he’d sit with the others, but refused to get involved with any conversations. If pressured to speak he’d simply shrug his shoulders or answer yes or no. If pressured to join an activity, he’d reluctantly stop whatever he was doing to glare daggers at whoever was applying the pressure as he dejectedly followed their instructions. His put-upon dispirited attitude dragged the others down until they simply let him stay off in his own quiet world.

No one ever dared asked him what he wanted for Christmas. In fact, the family noted Ryan absolutely unequivocally refused to ask for anything. The same held true if anyone asked him what he wanted. If they went to restaurant he’d refuse to place an order but would eat whatever they ordered for him. The same applied to someone was asking what he wanted to drink, he simply drank whatever they brought.

In school he was a loner. He’d work with others if required but never brought any enthusiasm to the group. At recess he avoided his classmates choosing to run laps around the playground. He never volunteered in class but if called upon would answer. His homework was always done correctly and neatly, on tests he seldom scored less than perfect. In efforts to find out what was bothering him the teachers often questioned the never smiling seldom speaking constantly sullen child if something was wrong but he never complained or revealed any issues. Notations were made on his records but nothing could breach his solitude. Since he did his work and earned good grades and never acted out, they let him slide by. A frustrated school psychologist labeled Ryan as being autistic, specifically Aspergers.

With two older brothers and three older male cousins he was strongly encouraged to defend himself. While preferring to avoid fights, when they backed him into a corner they unleashed a buzz saw. The five boys learned that while they could defeat the younger boy, doing so was not easy nor was it painless. If they goaded Ryan into fighting it was a no holds barred donnybrook that saw everyone bloodied even if it was a five to one brawl with the others being from one to six years older. They'd knock Ryan down but with his patience snapped he'd pop back up, use any weapon of opportunity he found, tasting his own blood from a bloodied nose of split lip sent him into berserker rage. By the time Ryan was eleven, the older boys wisely stopped provoking him.

In elementary school the other students thought Ryan was weird and simply ignored him. Middle school was different. Three elementary schools fed into the middle school so when Ryan entered his self-induced solitude drew the attention of bullies. The bullies had a field day with the sullen seldom speaking weirdo. They were confident he’d never report their harassment.

After six weeks of school, six seventh and eighth grade bullies trapped him in a boys restroom on Friday at the start of lunch. They began pushing him around, slamming him into the walls and stalls. Ryan refused speak as they shoved him around. The six ridiculed and insulted the silent lad, their fun morphing to anger as they couldn’t get a rise out of the abused quiet boy. Their ‘playful’ harassment burgeoned into anger.

That all changed when one of the eighth graders angrily slammed Ryan face first into the tiled wall. Ryan was lapping up the blood pouring from his nose as he turned to face the six. The boys were stunned by the silent lad. Up until then Ryan’s eyes had projected a sad fatalism. Now his eyes blazed. With a blood curdling yell he launched into the six boys. Fists flying, feet kicking, head butting he tore into them.

Four minutes later several girls screamed as Ryan limped into the cafeteria. His blood splattered shirt was ripped. His jeans and sneakers were covered in blood. Partially died blood encrusted his face, coagulated bloodsicles dangled from his clogged nostrils guiding a trickle of blood over his lips. Forced to breathe through his mouth, each exhale sent droplets of blood spraying. While one eye was swelling shut and turning black his other eye had returned to his normal fatalistic stare.

The lunch monitors followed procedures and called for the school to be locked down. They rushed to Ryan who had numbly picked up a tray to go down the food line.

Ryan’s brother George and cousins Jeanie and Katie left their seats to rush to the battered boy. The three quickly explained Ryan was their brother/cousin. Katie and Jeanie tried to coax Ryan to tell them what had happened.

“If Ryan came in like this,” George bluntly told the monitors. “Whoever did this to him is laying on the floor. If they goaded him into fighting, he destroyed them. You’d better call ambulances for them, because he goes berserk. Just follow the trail of his blood.”

The principal and vice principal rushed in seeing Ryan mutely standing with his cousins still trying to coax him to put down the tray and sit down. George repeated his warning that whoever did this to Ryan was now f-d up and needed medical attention.

They followed the blood trail to the rest room where they found the six boys. Three were unconscious, the other three were moaning in pain. Blood was everywhere. The stalls had all been damaged. All seven boys were taken to the hospital.

Ryan suffered a concussion, a broken hand, a broken ankle and numerous bruises. Of the six who foolishly attacked him, four broken arms, one had a broken leg, one had cracked ribs. All had bloodied noses and split lips with between two to four teeth knocked out and concussions.

The police investigated. The six tried to say that Ryan had jumped them but none of their stories matched. The fact they were known troublemakers and all significantly larger than Ryan made their stories suspect, especially since Ryan was known to be a non-aggressive loner.

“They started pushing me around but I didn’t react until they bloodied my nose,” Ryan reluctantly admitted after much prompting. “Then I started fighting back. When they stopped fighting so did I.”

The six boys finally confessed they ambushed Ryan and were suspended for ten days but no one faced legal action. Needless to say no one ever messed with Ryan again.

Ryan refused to remain in the hospital past the initial night so they put a walking cast on his ankle. Monday he stoically limped into school. He face and the fingers of his broken hand were purple. His black eyes had recovered enough so he could see. Any doubts that lingered in the minds of his classmates about just how weird and bizarre Ryan were confirmed.

The fight had a major effect on Ryan. While he never mentioned that he was not a boy but a girl after that Christmas when he was three, he knew it was true. As he grew older he simply could not relate to the things guys did. As he aged he watched his cousins and brothers go through puberty. The voice change, the body bulking up, the hair sprouting everywhere and their near constant state of being a horndog were bad enough, but it was their imagined constant threat of being seen as less than manly that really made them obnoxious. Under the influence of testosterone their already boisterous, oft bragging, snips and snails and puppy dog tails boyhood quickly evolved to foolhardy acts of daring do, swaggering, chest pounding, sexual braggadocios, rabid masculinity and apparently a lower IQ. That was most certainly true for the six boys who cornered him in the restroom. Even worse, Ryan could sense the testosterone beginning to bubble in his body.

With his injuries he was physically limited and couldn’t help in the service station which meant he had a lot of free time which he used to research male puberty and ways to stop it. The ideal solution would be to take testosterone blockers but that was not going to be allowed and he had no way to work around that. The same held true for over the counter supplements that would increase the estrogen in his body. Doing so would slow down the testosterone poisoning but not stop it. The only way to stop it cold and permanently was castration which his family would certainly never allow.

However they wouldn’t have to know. After his ankle and hand healed he walked five blocks to the local supermarket he bought a one quart plastic funnel. He bluntly told his family he was not attending the family Thanksgiving celebration at his grandparents. Since the holiday eight years before his dour attitude and grumpiness brought down the holiday joy. No amount of demanding nor cajoling could make him change his mind. Knowing the day would be worse if they forced him to attend they finally gave in to him.

After everyone headed off to the grandparent’s Ryan cut off the wide top leaving the three inch long tip which tapered from one and a quarter inch diameter where it had been cut off to three eighths inch diameter at the exit tip. Taking a three and one half inches by quarter inch rubber band, he wrapped it several times around the narrowest part of the tapering tip. Then he rolled the mass to the wider end. It took several attempts re-wrapping the rubber band with fewer turns until he was able to roll it all the way up. Next he double checked that he was alone in the house. Removing his pants and underwear he maneuvered his testicles into the open top of the funnel tip, then holding his breath he rolled the rubber band off the tip. The pain as the over-stretched rubber band snapped around his scrotum was intense, as if he had been kicked in the balls. He gritted his teeth to keep from crying out in pain.

The sharp agonizing pain slowly morphed into a painfully throbbing toothache like torment that almost took his breath away. It took all of his will power to let the rubber band do the job he needed done. As he fought the pain he realized the throbbing was keeping time with the beat of his heart. To lessen the temptation to undo the agony he slipped his clothes back on. After fifteen minutes the throbbing pain felt as if it was twisting his intestines into knots until he couldn’t take it any longer and rushed to the bathroom to kneel before the porcelain throne and empty his guts. For the next hour he suffered dry heaves as the intensity of the pain in his scrotum and guts slowly diminished but never ended. Exhausted, he finally fell asleep draped over the porcelain bowl.

It was late when the family returned home. It had been the best Thanksgiving in years. Quite pointedly everyone avoided even mentioning Ryan. Grace became anxious when she checked in on Ryan. For a brief moment she feared he’d done something horrible. She almost walked past the boy’s shared bathroom until she smelled the distinctive odor of stale vomit. Turning on the light she found Ryan stretched out across the toilet. Relieved that he’d only been sick she gently she woke him.

Ryan looked ill but insisted he simply had a bit of flu. After rinsing his mouth he headed to bed. Exhausted by the pain he slept through the night. By morning, the pain was a dull steady ache. After making sure he was alone he took a hand mirror and looked at his scrotum. The flesh was swollen and deep purple almost black in color. Shivering, he dressed and ate a bowl of cereal.

It took two days before the ache faded. If anything Ryan was even quieter and more subdued than before the holiday. Twelve days after doing the deed Ryan was sweeping in the service station when he felt something weird on his thigh. It took a moment for him to realize what it was. Slowly moving to a corner he shook his leg and a shriveled black mass that was the size of a cotton ball dropped from his pants leg. A quick look around assured him no one was watching. Bending down he picked the object up realizing half of it was the rubber band. Quietly he dropped it in the garbage. Never again would he be threatened with testosterone.

One thing that helped Ryan to maintain his sanity was to not give rein to his insistent girlishness. He acknowledged that in his heart and soul he was a girl. But because of his family circumstances he had to pretend to be a boy. That dichotomy was why he isolated himself from his family and everyone else. While he had to portray a boy he didn’t have to nor did he ever embrace it. He put the absolute minimum of effort into the role. By the same token SHE held herself back from expressing her true self because it would simply make her already tenuous situation totally untenable. She knew that if she gave into her feminine self she could no longer pretend to be boy. So while she acknowledged she was a girl she could not risk expressing herself. All she could do was submerge herself while planning her future girlishness. Her self castration was the first major step on that long slow route to being herself. In the mean time she had to continue her unhappy charade as Ryan.

With the all the adults engaged in the family business, the kids grew up playing out back or in the warehouse storerooms. They were often drafted into menial clean up jobs sweeping floors, gathering trash, washing parts, or simply holding a drop light. They were given a weekly allowance in return for their efforts. Ryan was the only one to save his money. Since he had no friends he never went out with them. Going to movies or buying candy or soda was not on his radar. The only time he went shopping was if his mother took him for clothes. While the rest of the family received gifts at Easter, Christmas and birthdays, Ryan’s clear lack of interest and outright disdain for any gifts he received resulted in everyone simply giving him money which he accepted with a polite thank you. Every cent he got was saved.

The family had a tree shaded picnic area in the center of the joint property with a nice in-ground swimming pool. The kids and adults used the pool every weekend with the kids using it everyday. Ryan was the only exception, adamantly refusing to use the pool, even on the hottest day.

As the kids aged they were eased into performing simple mechanical tasks. By twelve they were doing oil and filter changes and tune-ups under supervision. The girls worked right beside the boys getting greasy and skinning knuckles. Once they began doing regular work they were placed on job rate pay. Most oil and filter changes were jobbed at fifteen minutes with a job rate of $5.00. It didn’t matter if they did the job in ten minutes or sixty minutes, they earned the job rate of $5.00. Of course they’d catch hell if the job took too long.

The kids quickly came up to the expected job rate, but few tried to do better. The money they earned would be theirs to go to video games, make-up, movies or dates. The more they earned, the more they had to spend. Ryan quickly exceeded the job rates. Since he didn’t joke around or talk sports or any other subject, the no nonsense nearly silent youth diligently applied himself to every task and despite being the youngest, became the highest paid of his brothers and cousins. While they wanted time off to hang with their friends, Ryan worked any and all jobs socking away his money. Unlike the other guys, he also worked with his uncle in the body shop learning how to He never went anywhere unless forced to do so and almost never spent his money.

When he was thirteen Ryan began looking through the local papers for nearby yard and estate sales. Any that looked promising he rode to on his bike towing a wagon. What he was looking for was tools. Unlike his cousins and brothers, he wanted his own tools instead of constantly borrowing them. It took him a few months, but he managed to put together a solid set up of metric and English wrenches as well as socket sets in long and short lengths in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and 1 inch drive sets. Slot, Phillips, assorted torx, Robertson, hex head screw drivers, nut runners, assorted interchangeable bits, pliers of many types, hammers, punches, hack saws, drills, impact wrenches, even an air compressor and tool boxes. He also created plumbing, carpentry and light metalwork tool boxes. If what he purchased was too large for him to get home he made arrangements for them to hold it until he could get back with an adult and a truck. The adults admired Ryan’s responsibility, independence and take charge attitude of getting and using his own tools while his brothers and cousins didn’t.

The kids were told they didn’t have to make a career in the family business, but they would know enough not to be ripped off. At fifteen each teen received a junker car, vehicles that were not worth the expense of fixing them. The teen could repair the car and modify it as they saw fit. Assistance and guidance from the adults would be provided for large tasks and the parts gotten at cost, but for the most part the kids were expected to do their own work. The vehicles were put in the teen’s name and they had to pay for their own insurance. If they wanted a better car, they could trade theirs in but had to make the payments on their own.

The guys wanted sporty cars with high horsepower. The girls wanted cute cars. No one had any idea what Ryan wanted. Grandpa Harry did his best to get his grandkids something close to what they wanted. Ryan was fourteen when the vehicle he wanted was towed into the shop. When the cost of repair was too high, the normally quiet Ryan stepped forward asking his grandfather to make an offer on the vehicle promising he’d pay the difference between what he paid for the junkers he bought for the others. Harry looked at his grandson for a few seconds then nodded. In a way the adults thought his choice made bizarre sense for the antisocial teen. The deal was quickly made. Ryan had his vehicle. When his cousins and brothers learned what he’d bought, they laughed and walked away shaking their heads.

It was a fourteen year old short yellow school minibus on a Ford E350 chassis with 5.4L V-8 Flex Fuel engine generating 255hp with a 5 Speed Automatic OD w/Tow/Haul package with Power and tilt steering. The rear was tandem wheels, all wheels were 16 inches 8-hole lugs with disk brakes. The overall length, bumper to bumper, was 25 feet. The overall width 96 inches, the overall height including rooftop air-conditioner was 120 inches. The interior height was 78 inches and the interior width was 92 inches with the seating behind the driver 16 feet. The engine and transmission both needed to be rebuilt. The minibus was towed to the fenced vehicle storage yard.

A week later he set to work removing and stacking the passenger seats. The he removed the hood to the engine compartment, pulled off the front bumper, grill and fenders, storing each and the associated parts in the cleared seating area. Then he pulled the engine and transmission, using a tarp to cover the open front end. A work bench and space was provided to so he could rebuild them.

Ryan continued checking the sale adds and buying tools. He bought an acetylene torch set up, a MIG welder, and an old 220 volt electric welder which he repaired, cleaned up and stored in the minibus.

In High School Ryan’s girl cousins, his middle brother and one male cousin took college prep courses. His older brother and two male cousins took the Vocational Technical School courses for auto mechanics which was a half day of basic academic classes and a half day of auto mechanics covering the full gamut of courses from electronics to diagnosis using computers and scanners as well as auto body repair. As they completed high school, they went off to college or began working in the family business. Ryan was a straight ‘A’ student so when he opted to go to vo-tech in 9th grade everyone was surprised. They also knew trying to talk him into taking college prep and going to college would be useless. The quiet intense teen learned how to properly use his acetylene torch set up, MIG welder, and 220 volt electric welder

Ryan used the completion of middle school as the kickoff for another small step toward his quest to release the girl deep inside him. Up to this point it was family practice for the guys to have crew cut style haircuts. His middle brother and one cousin broke that practice during their time in high school but never got into shoulder length and longer styles. Ryan let his hair grow, keeping it tucked under a baseball hat. As it grew longer he kept it in a back of the neck ponytail tucking it into his shirt. Thus he was able to keep it from brazenly sticking out keeping the length of his hair under the family radar.

While Ryan was rebuilding the engine and transmission on the minibus he continued perusing the local papers for sale items, discovering his next major purchase. Harry didn't ask why his seldom speaking grandson asked him to drive the pickup with ramps and tie down straps to pick up his latest purchase. That simple request was more than Ryan spoke to him in the previous six months. Harry waited patiently in the truck as Ryan knocked on the front door. The man came out to the adjoining garage and opened the overhead door. As soon as he saw the motorcycle he sighed. After paying the man, he and Ryan pushed the cycle up the ramps to the back of the truck. The bed was 97 inches long, the cycle was 95 inches long. Harry just sighed as Ryan strapped it in. As intense as Ryan was about doing things right, Harry didn’t bother to check the straps.

As they drove home Harry spoke. “You do know your mom is going to be pissed off. I assume that’s why you didn’t tell me what you were buying giving me plausible deniability.”

Ryan simply nodded his head making his grandfather smile at the quiet youth’s intelligence and ingenuity.

When they pulled up in front of the garage, everyone was waiting to see what Ryan had bought. Grace almost exploded as she saw the motorcycle. “Ryan! You know how I feel about motorcycles! So do you, Harry! Why did you let him buy it?”

“I had no idea what he was buying until he rolled it out,” Harry answered. “You know I had no choice but to bring him and it back. If I hadn’t let him load it, he’d be pushing it back home right now.”

Grace sighed knowing he was right then joined the others as they checked out the bike. His older brothers helped him roll the 2005 Harley-Davidson Screamin' Eagle Fat Boy that Ryan had bought in ‘as is’ not running condition. The bike had a fuel injected 1690cc 4-stroke OHV V-twin engine with electric ignition and start, a five-speed transmission and belt drive. The overall length was 95 inches. The front suspension had 5.1 inches stroke and the rear suspension 3.24 inches. It had disc brakes, a 5 gallon fuel tank, weighed 780 pounds, had lockable hard saddlebags 7.5 x 26 x 14 inches and a lockable hard 17.5 inch long x 24.5 inch wide x 12.2 inches high with a top rack of 20.5 x 15 inches.

By the time he turned 16, the school minibus and the motorcycle were up and running. He easily passed his driver’s licence exams for standard vehicles and motorcycles. From then on he rode the cycle nearly everywhere he went. Although the minibus was licenced and running, Ryan was far from being done working on the vehicle.

As the months passed the family grew concerned that Ryan didn’t seem to be growing. By the time he turned sixteen he showed no sign of the normal puberty induced growth spurt his brothers and male cousins experienced at around age twelve-thirteen. They shot up four-five inches in a few months, bulked up in the process and exhibited the family’s normal hirsute characteristics. Ryan didn’t look much different from when he’d started middle school. He’d grown two inches to five feet six inches, shorter than his female cousins. In addition he was skinny with a low body mass. They knew the recalcitrant boy ate healthy meals but never took large portions or, heaven forbid, had seconds... and never ate dessert. They discussed the possibility of anorexia but Ryan’s constant activity put that notion to sleep. There was also no question that he was far stronger than expected for someone his size. In addition, his stamina was phenomenal.

Several times Grace tried to get him to a doctor for a physical exam but he adamantly refused. The one time she simply took him to the clinic he exited the car and walked away totally ignoring her. When she began to follow he broke into a run successfully evading her. Her nerves were nearly shot and the rest of the family was on edge when he showed up at home five hours later having walked/ran the sixteen miles from the clinic to their home.

The only time he agreed to see a doctor was when his schooling and driver’s license required it. Even then he refused to allow his mother to come into the exam room and stubbornly refused to undress. Since he appeared to be in good shape despite his size and lack of development the doctor acquiesced with his insistence to not strip. The reason Ryan refused to strip was that he knew such a physical would reveal his self-castration. The only time he was vulnerable to discovery was changing for Phys-Ed classes. Fortunately everyone thought he was a weirdo, a scarey dangerous weirdo, who they didn’t want to antagonize. As a result the locker he used was in an isolated alcove that everyone avoided thus allowing him to avoid normal lockerroom antics.

Ryan wrote a letter to a local RV dealer provided asking to buy, for a nominal price to cover the paperwork, an old camper due to be scrapped that had a function shower/commode combo unit as well as a functional kitchen. The letter explained he was converting a minibus into a camper that he was rebuilding so the cleanliness and appearance were of no consequence as they would be dismantled and repaired. The dealer was a customer of the Wilson family service station and knew Harry quite well and asked him if Ryan was capable of doing what he intended, not wanting to saddle the family with the junk trailer.

Harry shook his head smiling. “Ryan is quiet and an absolute loner. But if he’s the hardest, most efficient worker out of all my grandkids. He’s already rebuilt a broken down Harley and has rebuilt the engine and transmission on the minibus. If he wants the kitchen and bath from a junk trailer, he will rebuild them better than they were new. Knowing him he’ll probably rebuild the trailer chassis into a trailer to tow behind the minibus which is why he wants the title.”

Ryan picked up the trailer with the minibus. The trailer was a dual axle with fourteen inch rim wheels and electric brakes. It had an overall length of twenty two and a half feet, was eight feet wide and 10 feet tall. The combo shower/commode unit and the mini-kitchen were removed, dismantled, cleaned up, updated and reassembled. The cabinets, table and beds were dismantled as was the plumbing and electrical systems, all to be reused in the minibus. Then the external roof and sheathing was carefully removed.

The rear exit door of the minibus was reduced to thirty inches so the combo shower/toilet fixture could be installed on the driver’s side while the mini-kitchen was installed on the passenger side. Two tankless hot water heaters, each putting out three gallons a minute, one electric and the other propane, were installed side by side above the rear door. The electric, fresh water and waste water hookups were in externally accessible compartment under the mini-kitchen. Inside the truck frame at the rear of the minibus a fifty gallon fresh water tank was installed in front of the tandem wheels above the drive shaft with two forty gallon fresh water tanks, one on each side in front of the tandem wheels, a forty gallon grey water tank was installed under the floor behind the tandem wheels on the driver’s side and a forty gallon black water tank behind the tandem wheels on the passenger side. Under the front extra fuel tanks were added for a total capacity of one hundred gallons. A bank of batteries was mounted beneath the floor.

The passenger compartment was converted into a mini efficiency apartment with a built in bed above the driver’s side externally accessed compartments with bulk storage drawers beneath it and cabinets above it. A roof mounted air pump style air-conditioner/heating unit was installed on the roof. A wood/coal burning stove was added just to the rear of the passenger side main door.

Wood/coal/charcoal storage bins were installed in place of the front passenger seat. A lounge chair was next to the stove. A small table/chair was next to the mini-kitchen on the passenger side Most of the side windows were replaced or greatly reduced with metal and the entire minibus was insulated. A sturdy full roof aluminum pipe roof rack was built and installed. A ladder to the access the roof was added on the passenger side beside the central back door. Two twenty gallon propane tanks were mounted externally beside the rear door on the driver's side along with a custom extendable mast with a remotely directly twenty inch satellite dish on the outside. A 120 volt generator was installed into the belt system of the engine. A motorized awning seven feet wide was mounted The exterior was sanded and primed before painting it dark green. The last thing to be installed was solar panels covering the roof. The custom built camper minibus and trailer were solidly built and quite self contained.

The remnants of the camper trailer were modified and rebuilt into a steel framed custom built box trailer eight feet wide by fourteen feet long by nine feet high creating an interior space seven feet wide by ten feet long by seven feet high. The exterior of the trailer was clad in the sheathing he’d removed from the camper trailer. The driver’s side of the trailer held racks on which tool boxes with all of his hand and power tools were secured. Long handled garden/yard tools like shovels, rake, hoe, axe plus others were secured on roof mounted racks. The acetylene torch set up, MIG welder, and 220 volt electric welder were also allocated secure space. In the front was a thirty gallon built in fuel tank and an externally exhausted electric generator as well as his air-compressor. The passenger side of the trailer was set up to secure and carried his Harley. The large gate at the back of the trailer, when lowered, doubled as a sturdy access ramp. A motorized awning above the gate extended five feet to cover the rear entrance. The door from the original trailer was installed above the tongue to allow access from the front. A roof rack and solar panels were mounted on the roof of the trailer. An access ladder was mounted beside the door above the tongue. When the awning on the rear of the minibus was opened it extended a foot over the top of the trailer. A removable ladder mounted inside the mounted minibus roof access ladder was used to create steps down to the tongue.

Ryan could set the camper in a campsite and travel on the cycle using the saddle bags and trunk to haul his purchased needs. By the end of his junior year the camper minibus was liveable so he moved into it, separating himself even further from his family. He ate meals with his family, took showers, and did his laundry in the family home but slept in the camper, even in the cold of winter as the solar panels provided enough power even on the coldest days to keep the inside temperature at or above fifty five degrees.

The family watched the quiet intense teen diligently work on his project. By this time the family was quite concerned with the recalcitrant boy as he spoke even less than before and cut down his already greatly reduced family interactions. If they came to the minibus he’d let them check it out, answering their questions as briefly as possible. Despite his self isolation his work ethic was impeccable and his work flawlessly efficient. To them it seemed he had no interests outside working to earn money and work on his bus.

That was not true but he never gave them a clue as to other interests. During his senior year of high school he began developing his escape plan. The closest Walmart was in Hamburg, 25 miles east of the family estate outside Fredericksburg. Riding there on his Harley, the first thing he bought was a prepaid Visa placing $2000 on it. Then he bought a new top of the line laptop. At first he used his family connection, then he installed an RV satellite internet hookup on the mast he attached at the rear of the minibus. With that he had internet that would work wherever he traveled. On another trip to Walmart he purchased a mobile phone with an unlimited Verizon plan. All billing was done via the internet. He plotted his escape route from his despised boyish existence and made a long term reservation in a campground. He’d also obtained five certified copies of his birth certificate.

Ryan researched a place where he had easy access to all the medical providers he’d need to transition to his true female self. After weighing all options he settled on Phoenix, Arizona. While the medical costs were similar to the other areas, Phoenix had the advantage of an inexpensive place to stay as well as a open well paying job opportunities. After online job searches, he e-mailed several resumes. Most ignored a youth his age. However, one manager was impressed by Ryan’s work experience and his course work from the vo-tech school as well as the glowing recommendations from his teachers so he contacted the school to verify the resume was real. The fact he had achieved numerous certifications as well as his Pennsylvania CDL license was impressive for a just graduating high school student. The manager wanted to see this go getter so they had a Skype conversation. Ryan's appearance had surprised him. He was expecting a bulky guy and doubted Ryan could do much of what he'd claimed and why he wanted to leave the family business to travel across the country.

Ryan used the phone to explain how he'd rebuilt the engine and transmission of the broken down mini school bus and then converted it into a camper showing his handiwork on the minibus as well as the trailer and the Harley. Then Ryan gave the manager a tour of the family service station including the body shop. Ryan was able to answer every question quickly and accurately impressing the manager while demonstrating his knowledge of mechanics, body work, and diesel engines.

Ryan returned to the minibus to explain why he wanted to move away from the family. "You'll find this out when I get there so I'll be totally honest up front. I'm transgender. My family has refused to accept that and it has driven a wedge between us. To avoid the frustration of not being able to be the girl I am inside, I put all my energy into learning and becoming the best mechanic I could be. I'm moving to Phoenix because of the treatment options available to help me transition. I'm leaving as soon as I graduate and will arrive in Phoenix as my true female self. I'll have to live as a female for a year before I can even consider gender confirmation surgery. I need a good job to be able to afford what I need. I will be a model employee. My attendance will be not be an issue since I've never missed a day of school from kindergarten on. By starting the position presenting as a female we should avoid the transitioning issue. The only issue I can foresee is the co-workers not thinking a skinny girl could be a top notch mechanic. I do not drink nor smoke. I've never taken drugs. I've never partied. I've never dated. I never go out with friends because honestly I've never allowed myself to have friends. I'm willing and able to work any shift and any weekend time you may need. I promise that you will not regret hiring me."

The manager thanked Ryan for his honesty and said he’d consider his application. Ryan thanked him for his consideration and the call disconnected. Ryan didn’t hold out much hope.

The manger liked what he’d seen during the skype interview but wasn’t sure about hiring a transsexual. While it was the politically correct thing to do, the trucking industry was not known for being politically incorrect. Personally, he had no issues with LGBT issues. The company had a few gay employees but to his knowledge had never had a transsexual. Like many labor intensive businesses this shop had been having issues with employees knocking off work, coming in late, being under the weather due to too much partying not to mention drug use. The younger employees were not motivated to excel doing just enough to coast by. Even worse was the problems were not confined to younger employees but extended to middle aged and even older mechanics. He decided to contact corporate.

In a three way skype the branch manager, VP of Employee Relations, and the VP of Corporate Operations Ryan was discussed. The two from corporate knew the manger was impressed with the applicant as they were when they reviewed Ryan’s resume. The manager had recorded Ryan’s skype and the corporate execs were impressed by Ryan’s drive and sincerity. After a bit of discussion they decided to offer a six week probationary General Technician Level 1 position stressing that the position could be terminated at any time during the probationary period without giving a reason. They figured if Ryan was as good as he claimed they could move him up levels or get rid of him if he proved to be a dud. If he accepted the job offer on those terms it would prove he was eager to prove himself.

Ryan was more than delighted to accept the job offer agreeing to start on the second Monday after his Thursday graduation allowing him time to travel cross country and set up his camper.

With a job secured, Ryan set about making living arrangements. Ryan’s needs were few so the camper minibus was more than adequate for his needs. Searching the Phoenix area he found over a dozen RV parks. Several offered monthly rates. He selected Destiny RV Resort 416 N. Citrus Rd., Goodyear, AZ, just 13 miles from his employer. By paying in advance he had reserved Lot 1 just off Citrus Road in the northeast corner of the RV park for three months with options to continue renting the site on a monthly basis for a year. The monthly rate for the off season, May 1 to Oct. 31 was $430. The on season rate, Nov. 1 to April 30, was $500. Both rates were far less than renting an apartment. The rates included cable TV with metered electricity. Thanks to the solar panels his electric use would be low. While making the reservation Ryan had told the park owner he had just graduated highschool and was looking to permanently move to the Phoenix area and had already landed a good paying job. He provided his employer information so the RV Park could verify his employment.

Despite his costs setting up the minibus, trailer and Harley, by the end of his senior year Ryan had saved $25,000. Everything he wanted was moved out of the family home into the trailer.

At his insistence, he drove his Harley to the school for his graduation. The family that was able to do so felt compelled to attend the ceremony. At the graduation ceremony the grads sat on the risers with their families spread in chairs before them. Alphabetically, Ryan was the fifth from last diploma.

“Ryan has been a unique student,” the superintendent said as he prepared to hand Ryan his diploma. “He has achieved many firsts. After reviewing school records, he is the first student to have had perfect attendance from kindergarten through grade twelve. In elementary school he earned all “A”s and maintained a 4.0 GPA through middle and high school. He is the first student at the County Vo Tech school to earn a 4.0 GPA in every course, something that had never been done in the 52 years the school existed. Ryan has received I-CAR Certifications as an Automotive Body Technician and Refrigerant Recycling & Recovery Technician, completing the one year of work related experience in that field at his family owned Blue Mountain Auto working after school, weekends and summers. In addition Ryan has completed the courses to become a Bus, Truck Mechanic & Diesel Engine Specialist, a Heavy Truck Mechanic/Maintenance Repairer, a Maintenance Lubrication Mechanic, a Diesel Engine Assembly Specialist and an Outdoor Power Equipment Technician Certificate. As if those achievements weren’t enough, Ryan completed the Automotive Master Mechanic/Technician, the Certified Emissions Inspector and the Certified Safety Inspector programs, having completed the one year of work related experience in that field at Blue Mountain Auto. He's also earned the OSHA/CareerSafe 10-Hour Certification. Most impressive is that Ryan holds ASE Automobile & Light Truck Certification, Collision Repair & Refinish Certification, Truck Equipment Certification, Alternate Fuels Certification, Auto Maintenance and Light Repair Certification, Transit Bus Certification, Advanced Engine Performance Specialist Certification, Electronic Diesel Engine Diagnosis Specialist Certification, Light Duty Engine Machinist Certification, School Bus Certification, Medium-Heavy Truck Certification and is an ASE specialist in Undercar Exhaust Systems and Hybrid/Electric Vehicles. Ryan has also obtained a CDL License.”

The audience applauded as his family cheered while Ryan accepted his awards, certificates and diploma. Even with all the honors he still didn't crack a smile or speak. As soon as he was off the stage he slipped away instead of rejoining his classmates on the risers. Shrugging out of his gown, he dropped his gown and hat at the return table and left. Tearing down the road he headed back to the minibus camper and trailer. After securing the Harley in the trailer he jumped behind the driver’s wheel and pulled out on the road heading away from the school.

In the crush of gown clad bodies on the stage the family didn’t realize he wasn’t there. As the grads turned their tassels and tossed their hats in the air the air filled with cheers, whistles and shouts. Then the grads made their way to greet their families.

The Wilsons weren’t surprised that Ryan didn’t hurry down to greet them. After five minutes they began to wonder where he was. After ten minutes of unsuccessful searching the family re-gathered. Harry had an epiphany. “Damn, I bet the squirrelly bastard took off!”

The idea momentarily stunned the rest of the family before they realized the truth. When they checked the parking lot they noted the Harley was gone. Piling in their vehicles they drove home to find the minibus and trailer gone. Grace and Emma broke down. The rest comforted them as best they could. They’d all known Ryan had been supremely unhappy and barely tolerated everyone ever since that horrid Thanksgiving fifteen and half years before. In the months that followed they seldom spoke about Ryan, they often wondered if his issues went back to his insistence he was a girl.

*****

Ryan headed north away from the school then did a loop traveling 3 miles to pick up I78 east until he reached SR501 at Bethel, Pa. From there he headed south on SR501 switching roads as needed. After two hours and 77 miles he pulled into the Walmart Supercenter on US40 in Aberdeen, Md. He pulled into the parking lot of the Walmart selecting spaces as far from the store as possible. Only when he shut of the engine did he relax. He was finally FREE!

Once inside the store he headed to the SmartStyle Hair Salon by Regis to finally get his straight red hair styled. Not having any experience in styling hair, he went for a simple style having bangs cut with the rest hanging straight and trimmed to his shoulder blades. Upon seeing her true self for the first time she smiled utilizing muscles unused for fifteen years. The boy was already fading away like a nasty fifteen year nightmare .

Snagging a shopping cart she went shopping for the first time. During the last year Ryan had researched sizing for girls’ clothes and felt he could make accurate choices. While nervous, she headed into the lingerie department buying a 3 pack of simple cotton panties and a simple “A” sized bra. Then she picked out clothes nervously taking them to the changing room to try them on. To her relief no one said anything. She selected one pair of jeans, one pair of shorts, four simple tops and one floaty circle skirt. She bought two thigh length night gowns, five pair of no-show socks and a pair of girl’s sneakers. Then she selected a women’s wallet and a canvas school bag styles shoulder bag. While trying on the clothes she realized she didn’t have mirrors in the camper so she headed to the hardware department where she picked up 3 packs of sixteen pieces of six inch by 6 inch mirror tiles.

In the health and beauty department she selected a six pack of Dove Pink Beauty Bar and a twin pack of Dove Fresh Deodorant. Feeling brave she checked out the fragrance aisle. The selections both excited and intimidated her until she discovered Love'S Baby Soft. They had a two piece set consisting of a small spray bottle of Cologne Mist and, what really grabbed her, a five inch deep pink Teddy Bear. Tears came to her eyes as for the first time in years she remembered her long lost much beloved cuddly Teddy Bear. The box went into her shopping cart.

She looked through the make-up but didn’t know how to use it much less what to select. She did select a three pack of black scrunchies to secure her pony. Unsure if she could handle facing a cashier, she used the self serve checkout.

The sun was setting as she returned to the minibus. Quickly she changed out of her boy clothes and slipped into a panty and bra which she modestly stuffed with tissues, then jeans and a top and a pair of sneakers. Then she pulled her hair back into a ponytail using a scrunchie to secure it high on the back of her head. The way it swung about made her giggle as she drank in the delightfully girlish sensations. With the fading light she carefully applied the mirror tiles to the door of the shower/commode creating a mirror two feet wide by six feet high.

By the time she stepped out of the bus it was twilight. She crossed Pulaski Highway to the McDonalds for supper. That night, the last Thursday of May, she slept in a nightgown for the first time. As she snuggled beneath her sheets she sighed with contentment. With a happy smile she clutched the small baby powder scented deep pink teddy bear to her chest. The mental oppression and depression that had overshadowed her life was not gone, but it had been significantly reduced.

The morning light woke Ryann. The name change came to her in a pleasant dream, the first nice dream she recall. It was quite a relief from the nightmares that had been part and parcel of HIS normal night.

After rising she took a quick shower. Wetting herself, turning off the water, soaping up with the pink Dove soap and washing, then rinsing off was almost exhilarating. After using her Dove deodorant she dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Then she returned to the McDonalds for a relaxed breakfast.

After a relaxed meal she drove five miles north on US40 to Spa Trans in Harve De Grace, Md where she had an appointment. Spa Trans was a specialty store that catered to the needs of those who were on the Transsexual spectrum. The owner was courteous, friendly and knowledgeable. After discussing Ryann’s desires, she was fitted for “A” sized breast forms receiving instruction on how to glue the forms in place as well as how to remove them allowing appropriate time to allow the skin to breathe. She also had a makeover receiving intensive instruction on how to apply and remove makeup with a makeup kit appropriate for her complexion. She also received instruction on how to do a simple manicure and pedicure.

Since it was obvious to the owner that Ryann was just coming out as her true self, she accepted Ryann’s insistence she wasn’t interested in being glamourous. In fact, the owner found it refreshing as many of her customers came in for the GLAMOUR works, often with a photo shoot. It was lat afternoon when Ryann left with a spring in her step. Even in jeans no one would question that she was a girl.

She headed back to the Walmart to fill out her wardrobe, purchasing practical feminine outfits avoiding glitz and glamour. She headed south into Belcamp, Md stopping to spend Friday night in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel where she ate supper.

In the morning she had a nice relaxed breakfast in the Cracker Barrel before driving a few blocks getting onto I95 south to I695 west around Baltimore, MD. I95 south to I495 west around Washington DC, I66 west to I81 to Knoxville, Tn picking up I40 west going around Nashville to the Flying A travel center in Fairview, Tn. where she spent the night. It had been a grueling eleven and a quarter hours on the road traveling 756 miles. After eating a late Saturday evening supper at the Denny’s she crashed for the night.

In the morning she took a shower, dressed, ate breakfast at Dennys, emptied her gray water and black water tanks at the RV dump station, then headed out on the road on I40 west. At Memphis I40 crosses the Mississippi River then on to Little Rock, Ak picking up I440 south to I30 west past Fort Worth, Tx where it ends at I20 west to the Love’s Travel Stop in Weatherford, TX in ten and half hours traveling 694 miles snagging a sub from Subway before crashing for Sunday night.

In the morning she headed out on I20 west past Toyah, Tx. where it ends at I10. She then headed west to Love’s Travel Stop in Anthony, Tx having driven for eight and two thirds hours traveling 597 miles. She ate supper at Chester’s Chicken before crashing for Monday night.

The next morning she ate breakfast at McDonalds then headed out on I19 west. After six and a half hours and 434 miles she pulled into the Destiny RV Resort on Citrus Rd., Goodyear, AZ. When she checked in she made arrangements to use her lot number as her mailing address with all mail delivered to the RV park office. Her job at Inland Kenworth, which she’d be starting Monday, was 13 miles away. Tuesday night was the first she slept at her new address. It was also the first time she snuggled into bed smiling as the years of oppression finally lifted from her shoulders.

Having allowed herself seven days to make the cross country trip, she spent Wednesday exploring the RV park and surrounding area. From her lot she was 250 feet from the pool and 150 feet from the laundry and office. There was a Walmart Supercenter 7 miles away. She set up a checking and savings account and topped up her prepaid Visa card at a BMO Harris bank. She headed to a nearby office of Arizona Driver’s Auto License Services to change her Pennsylvania licenses to Arizona licenses. As expected they were busy but they did have a system allowing the scheduling of appointments which she did for Thursday afternoon. She headed to the Inland Kenworth to fill out her employment paperwork, sign up for her direct deposit, and see about securing a place for her tools.

The manager was in the showroom when he heard the deep throated rumble of a Harley pull into the lot. Looking outside he saw a blue jean clad slender girl step off the cycle. After flipping up the helmet visor she removed her full head helmet and shook out her long bouncy ponytail. The pretty girl grabbed her shoulder bag from the trunk mounted behind the seat and secured her helmet inside before purposely striding into the showroom. He wondered what she wanted.

“My name is Ryann Wilson,” the thin girl asked as she approached a secretary. “I’m starting on Monday as a General Technician so I stopped by to fill out any paperwork and see about bringing in and securing my tools.”

Needless to say the woman was surprised and caught off guard with her mouth fishing open and closed.

“Ms Wilson, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” the manger held out his hand as he approached saving the secretary. “I’m Howie Lance, the branch manager. That’s a nice looking Harley. Is that the one you rebuilt?”

“Yes sir,” Ryann replied with a genuine smile.

“I’m impressed,” Howie answered “If you can come with me I’ll have my secretary give you the paperwork. When you’re done, I’ll have the shop manager take you on a tour of the shop and show you your work area. You’ll be able to secure your tools there.”

Twenty minutes later Glen Norman, the shop manager, escorted Ryann into the shop. Naturally, everyone looked over toward the thin girl wondering what she was doing there. Howie followed behind the pair to see what the reaction would be.

“We’ll have none of that,” Howie called out as one man gave a wolf whistle. “Listen up everyone. This young lady is Ryann Wilson. She’ll be starting Monday as a General Technician.”

That most certainly grabbed everyone’s attention.

“Ryann finished high school last Thursday,” Howie explained. “She grew up in her family’s successful mechanic and body shop. She’s been working on vehicles since she was twelve.” Then he glanced at a paper in his hands before reading off the list of achievements the school superintendent had shared at her graduation.

The men were stunned that a skinny young girl could have achieved so much.

“I personally verified this information and have copies of her certifications and qualifications,” Howie added. “In addition, when she was fourteen she bought a broken down school minibus. She removed and rebuilt the engine and transmission, then gutted the interior and scratch built a camper interior that is now her home. She rebuilt a twenty two foot broken down camper trailer into a fourteen by eight by seven feet box trailer to tow behind the minibus to carry her tools and equipment. She arrived here yesterday after making the cross country trip. She’ll be coming by tomorrow to offload and secure her tools so you can see her minibus and trailer. They are spectacular as is the Harley she rebuilt. I’m sure you all heard it purr when she pulled in.”

The men chuckled as they eyed a blushing Ryann trying to figure out how a skinny little thing had accomplished all that.

“While I shouldn’t have to tell you I will remind you we have a strict harassment policy,” Howie continued. “Ms Wilson, would you like to add anything?”

“Just that I’m a devout loner,” Ryann firmly declared. “I’ll be a good co-worker but I’m not looking for friends. I value my privacy and have my own agenda and goals that are not work related. Thus I will not be seeking nor accepting after work hours fraternization. If you ask I will refuse. I’ve never dated, never drank, never smoked, never done any type of drugs and never partied nor do I have any intent or desire to do so. I will do my best to be sociable in the shop and will say ‘hi’ if we bump into each other outside of work, but that will be the limit of any socialization. I mean no offense by this, I’m simply forewarning you. I guess I should add that when I was in sixth grade in middle school, six seventh and eighth grade boys attempted to molest me. I put all six in the hospital for several days with numerous broken bones. No one has attempted to touch me since. Also, I do not prank and have no tolerance of pranks.”

The men just looked at the little spitfire not sure whether to believe her or not.

“Gentlemen, after reading her resume and knowing she grew up with two older brothers and three older male cousins, I’m sure Ryann can defend herself,” Howie added. “There is policy in place against pranks and while we have not enforced it, we can do so. If she says she doesn’t prank, she doesn’t prank. Now, just so it’s clear, I don’t expect any of you to help her any more than you help each other. She will do the same work you do. If she doesn’t or can’t, she will be let go. Also, if an sabotage is discovered, there will be hell to pay. You’ll be blackballed and face prosecution. Thank you for your time.”

The men returned to work as Glen showed her around the large shop then showed her work area with work bench and area for tool storage. She made arrangements to drop off her tools Friday morning. As she left she circled the shop on the Harley the men checked it out. It was a good looking hog and purred like the tiger it was.

Thursday she had her first doctor appointment with a gender councilor at Family Psych Associates in Phoenix. Since she had no insurance she paid cash for her visits. Quite bluntly she told Dr. Kline her history including her self castration at age eleven. Dr. Kline was horrified not only about her self castration but also her family’s utter rejection of her gender dysphoria. If what Ryann stated was true it was a miracle she was so level headed although it explained her determination. Dr. Kline made arrangements at Phoenix Family Medical's Tempe walk-in clinic for a full physical and complete blood work-up. The also clinic handled hormone replacement therapy.

Ryann once more explained her history and self-castration to Dr. Warren, the physician she’d be seeing at the clinic. The doctor closely examined Ryann’s groin, amazed that the determined then eleven year had managed such a clean self castration with no one being aware of what she’d done. The physical exam revealed that Ryann was in good shape and able to begin HRT as soon as the psychologist gave her approval. She made it to the Arizona Auto License Services in time for her appointment.

Friday morning Ryann left the RV park with her minibus and trailer. When she pulled into the Inland Kenworth lot her rig drew attention. The staff had been keeping an eye out for her arrival. The shop manager waved her to pull inside the building at her work area to unload.

Ryann knew everyone would be curious about her workmanship so left the door open so her new co-workers could check out her workmanship. And check it out they did. They were impressed with the compact living quarters and the trailer. The paint on the minibus and trailer and the Harley matched perfectly. The workmanship was impeccable and was clearly not commercial grade, it was far superior. As Ryann offloaded the tool boxes she needed and secured them at her workstation she answered questions about what she’d done to rebuild the three units.

By the afternoon she was back at her lot in the RV park. That evening she sent a brief e-mail to her family letting them know she reached her destination, had secured a long term site for her camper minibus, and had a good paying job. She refused to tell them where she was. She received several rather nasty replies from her siblings and cousins for HIS abrupt absence which she curtly replied that they were the reason he left. She resolved to send a brief monthly status update receiving brief summaries of the family status.

*****

Ryann quickly proved her mechanical skills. Inland Kenworth provided eleven uniforms and weekly laundry service so all service employees had a clean uniform every day. Within a week she was removed from probationary status and shifted to the evening shift. While she answered questions and assisted the other mechanics if the asked for help she did not chat nor join them for lunch or outside of work. She steadfastly maintained her privacy and isolation.

Ryan was unafraid to tackle any job. Within six months she’d risen steadily from a level one General Technician to a level 9 taking and easily passing the appropriate ASE tests. Along the way she earned the grudging respect of her macho co-workers. She was earning $24.75 an hour with overtime to $37.12 averaging 20 hours a week grossing $1732.40 a week.

She’d been cleared to begin HRT after two months of weekly counseling sessions. She had her Arizona standard drivers license, her motorcycle license, and her in state CDL. After three months she was able to join her employer sponsored Blue Cross/Blue Shield Health Plan which covered her HRT. Since she’d never had male puberty inducing testosterone coursing through her body, she responded to the estrogen cocktail like a young girl entering puberty. Ryann’s gender neutral skinny straight body bloomed. Within a year she developed feminine curves with a cute rounded butt and perky ‘A’ cup breasts, a figure very similar to her mother. She also had endured full body electrolysis to leave her flesh smooth and hairless.

After a year on HRT and with papers from her doctors she was able to have the gender markers on her licenses changed to female. She made arrangements with the main office via Howie to save her vacations for her gender confirmation surgery, the first two years she earned one week each and two weeks each for the third through fifth years.

At the start of her fifth year of employment, with the permission of her employer, she bought a junked Mini Cooper and had it towed to a corner of the Inland Kenworth lot. Over three weeks she rebuilt, on her own time, getting it running up to specifications to meet the Arizona vehicle inspection standards. She knew that when she had her GCS she’d be unable to ride her Harley for several weeks so needed another vehicle to get around.

At the end of the fifth year she took the eight accumulated weeks of vacation to have her gender confirmation surgery. While the surgery was painful, she returned by taxi to her minibus camper in the RV park after two weeks. She had purchased several skirts before the surgery so she avoid wearing pants as she recovered. Using the Mini Cooper she was able to make all her doctor appointments. Now that she was complete she began tentatively exploring her femininity. In the past she’d led a decidedly tomboy existence, only infrequently wearing skirts when she needed to reinforce her slowly burgeoning girlishness. Now that she was complete, she bought her first dress. It became normal for her to change into a skirt after work.

At the end of her ‘vacation’, Ryann returned to work just as intense and driven as before her long vacation. After five years, outside of corporate personnel only branch manager Howie knew that she was a transsexual. No one suspected the truth. Naturally, amongst her co-workers, many unfounded rumors rose and fell away to explain Ryann’s self-invoked solitude. Most felt she had been sexually molested at her family business, fleeing as soon as she could but having developed her mechanical aptitude there. They were close to being correct, while she hadn’t been sexually molested in the way they thought, by refusing to accept or even acknowledge her gender issues they had sexually molested her.

Ryann's gross yearly income was $90,085, net $54,051. Living as frugally as she did Ryann's yearly expenses were: rent $5580, food $3900, insurance $3500, household cleaning supplies, toiletries & clothing $2600, vehicle fuel $800, vehicle upkeep $2000 for a total of $18,380. This allowed her to save an average of $34671 a year which she invested in the stock market. By making wise investments she earned an average of five percent on her investments. By the end of six years she had accumulated $283,868

Since her surgery, twenty four year old Ryann finally felt complete. However, her solitary frugal life style was so ingrained she had no idea how to change it. The truth was she didn’t really want to change. She was so damaged by her family she couldn’t bring herself to allow anyone to become emotionally close. Dr. Kline, her counselor, was concerned about Ryann’s inability to form emotional ties to anyone. It was the only stumbling block to her pursuing a full happy life.

Since Inland Kenworth provided three weeks vacation starting the sixth year of employment, Ryann had three weeks available. At the urging of her counselor Ryann decided to return home to confront her family. Ryan put in for her three weeks vacation over the Fourth of July. As Howie approved it he informed her that upon her return to work, because of her skills and drive, he was giving her a promotion. As prep for the trip she installed a set of top of the line external quadrophonic speakers hidden from view inside the wheel wells.

As she did when she first arrived in Arizona, each month she sent a short e-mail to her family letting them know she was safe. In turn her mother and grandmother sent her longer e-mails letting her know how the family was doing as well as asking where she was and asking her to return home. Ryann simply ignored their requests. In her April e-mail Ryann asked if the family still had their all day Fourth of July picnic. That set off a glimmer of hope in her mother and grandmother. In the May e-mail Ryann said she had three weeks of vacation over the fourth and wondered if the family would like to see her. The women were delighted they would finally get to see the wayward boy and asked for details. In the June e-mail Ryann committed to visiting, promising to arrive on the morning of the Fourth. The family was delighted while Ryann was nervous. She had not told them of her change.

As Ryann drove east, she took shorter daily legs. While she worried about the reception she’d receive she was determined to confront her family. If they accepted her, fine, if not, she’d tell them off and walk away never to return. She refused to allow them to ever abuse her again.

She reserved a space for the night of July 3/4 in an RV campground just five miles from the family home. In the morning she carefully dressed in a pair of cowboy boots, a pair of denim Daisy Dukes, and a red kerchief style halter top. The outfit showed off her smooth shapely legs, her firm rounded tush, her toned flat stomach, and her perky breasts. She wore her shoulder length red hair in a cute bouncy ponytail with bangs touching her eyebrows. There was no way anyone could mistake her for a boy.

The family was anxiously waiting for the long lost Ryan to arrive. Her brothers and cousins had all married with at least one child each. They saw the once familiar green minibus they last saw six years before pull into the parking area behind the picnic pavilion. The passenger side was facing the pavilion. Family matriarch Emma and Ryann’s mother Grace led the family as they gathered in anticipation of the return of their prodigal son.

Ryann took several cleansing deep breaths in an effort to still the butterflies filling her tummy. Reaching over she cued up the song. As the musical intro began playing she stepped out of the minibus but didn’t step around the front in their view.

The family was clearly puzzled as they heard the familiar into.

Standing I'm Still Standing: Songwriters: Bernie Taupin & Elton John

You could never know what it's like
Your blood like winter freezes just like ice
And there's a cold lonely light that shines from you
You'll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use
And did you think this fool could never win
Well look at me, I'm coming back again
I got a taste of love in a simple way
And if you need to know while I'm still standing you just fade away

Taking another deep breath Ryann slowly walked around the front of her van to defiantly stand facing her family with feet spread about twenty inches apart and hands akimbo.

Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I'm still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind
I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah
I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah

The song clearly announced a challenge to the old family status quo. The family was stunned. The clearly defiant person confronting them was barely recognizable as the withdrawn, meek, mousey and quiet Ryan they once thought they knew but at the same time was undeniably female. The dichotomy was difficult for them to assimilate or accept.

Once I never could hope to win
You starting down the road leaving me again
The threats you made were meant to cut me down
And if our love was just a circus you'd be a clown by now

Ryann closed half the distance to her shocked family and resumed her stance while defiantly making one on one unwavering eye contact until the other looked away at which point she shifted her gaze to the next person.

You know I'm still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I'm still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind
I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah

The almost angry defiant words cut into the hearts of the listening family. For the first time the members of the family began to realize that they had, by their refusal to address the elephant in the room, they had effectively stuffed the reticent boy into a closet where they didn’t have to deal with his issues.

I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah
Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I'm still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

Ryann stood tall with a slight smirk on her face as she watched her redneck family wilt before her undeniable girlish radiance.

I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah
I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah
I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah
I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah
I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah

The silence after the song ended was almost stifling.

“I am now the girl I’ve always been despite your refusal to not only acknowledge my true being but doing everything you could to crush me. I will not burden you with my presence. Do you want me to get back in the minibus and leave?” Ryann asked. “But know this, if I leave it will be forever as I will cut off all communication.”

“Please don’t go,” Grace begged as tears flowed down her cheeks. “I... I want to get to know my d... daughter.”

“Please stay,” Emma tearfully requested.

Ryann’s grandfather Harry and father Ben were clearly torn. They felt being a family was an unbreakable bond. At the same time they simply could not accept that anyone in the LGBT spectrum was not a pervert. Ben especially was the bad guy in ‘disciplining’ Ryan and had great difficulty even considering he might have been wrong. Wisely, they knew better than to voice their concerns as their wives clearly wanted Ryan.

Within minutes, hugs were being exchanged. Most of the family openly accepted Ryann despite their almost innate disdain for LGBT. Ryann explained her employment at Inland Kenworth. They were proud that when she returned to work she was scheduled to become the second shift shop foreman.

Ryann stayed three days before returning to Phoenix. While the family had not fully healed, they had made significant progress. Even her father hugged her goodby as she left for her Arizona home.



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