©Megan Newton Photography
It wasn’t until I realized that I was conflating fear with uncertainty, that this process could begin to unfold. When my brother, Caleb, and I ventured off into the Flattop Wilderness in Colorado, we came across a giant lake imbedded in a valley, surrounded by cliffs, and he came to a complete stop. Our normal adventures are made up of long days until dark with a few dumpster veggies and an early crash to wake up and do it all over again. But that day something was different. We still had several hours of light left and yet I watched as he threw his backpack down and asked if we could stop. Out of his backpack came an extra set of boxers, that he said he packed for me in case we wanted to go swimming.
I threw my backpack down and immediately changed. Our normal is to race in. But the water was cold and rocky and he took a head start, inching in towards the middle, water almost up to his calves. I looked over at him and paused. “I only have 1 binder. I don’t want to get it wet.” He looked over at me and immediately told me he didn’t care what I was wearing or not.
I stripped down to boxers only and came sprinting in the alpine lake. I closed my eyes and didn’t look down at my chest. Rule #1 of not wearing a binder is to not look down. But when I dove into the water, winning the race of course, I forgot what existed. With him, and only him, could I pretend that I was a young boy in the body I always wanted, and finally free.
It was in that moment that I became certain that I would get surgery. It was the first imaginary taste of what it could be like to not be so afraid of my own body. I had no idea it would take me another year to do it and what freedom could actually taste like, but I knew it was the first step in a long journey of making decisions that would ultimately save my life. I went home and made a to-do list and wrote at the top, “the map to freedom in my skin, or one step closer to letting my bones off the hook, or something that sounds dreamy but certainly doesn’t feel that way all of the time.”