My name is Eli Garza. I am a transgender man from San Antonio, TX.

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Hello, my name is Eli Garza. I am a transgender man from San Antonio, TX. I discovered The Venture Out Project through a post on Facebook. When I read the information on their website, I instantly felt like I found what I had always been looking for. Without hesitation I signed up for a week long ski trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I have lived my whole life in Texas where our winter’s average to 60 degrees and snow is that very rare occasion where we shut down the whole city. In San Antonio I am very involved in our LGBT community. I serve as a board member for our San Antonio LGBT Center and I am the chair of the LGBT employee resource group at my job. I love the outdoors. As a child, my family took camping trips every Easter weekend. This past summer my brother and I hiked Big Sur in California, and in December I gathered a few friends for a “Texas” winter camping trip. It wasn’t until I discovered The Venture Out Project that I found the two things I am most passionate about (the LGBT community and the outdoors) together in one.

Going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a week long ski trip was not something that was in my comfort zone. I had only seen snow twice, I had never skied before, and I had never taken a trip with strangers. My friends and family worried about my well-being in 30 degree temperatures. I was anxious about what this experience would be like, but Perry and the whole crew from The Venture Out Project were very helpful and comforting. Before the trip they kept constant contact with me letting me know what kind of clothes I should take, where to find discounted ski tickets, and workout tips to prepare for the skiing.

During the trip, the people that were once strangers soon became friends and mentors. They all helped me with dressing appropriately for the day, they would lend me gear, and they helped me learn to ski. I had an absolute blast. From crashing into trees to pizza wedging down a steep hill, it was all amazing. I learned that hot tubbing is crucial after a day of skiing, that Travis and Luke need to become my personal chefs, and a puzzle of Jackson Hole Resort is impossible to complete.

The snow and the skiing were a great part of the trip, but that is only a small portion of what I took away. Since my transition, I had never been around other transgender men I could relate to. I know trans guys in my area but none that I am close to. I was so inspired by the other trans men in the group and how comfortable they were in their skin. One night, we were having a conversation about tattoos and one of the guys said, “I have a tattoo of a transgender symbol so I never forget I am trans.” He doesn’t know this, but that comment stuck in my head. Since my transition, I have been trying to forget that I am transgender. I had never seen how comforting and easy it was to love yourself for everything you are. I took off my shirt for the first time during this trip and it was as if I took of a mask I was so desperately trying to keep on. Through these seven days, I began to love myself more and more for who I am.

I’d like to thank The Venture Out Project for all the work they put in to making these trips happen. To everyone who I met at the trip, thank you for helping me discover the love for skiing, Jimmy Chin, and myself. I left San Antonio as a self-conscious (transgender) man to spend time in the snow with some queer people and I returned as a very proud TRANSGENDER MAN who is okay at skiing.

Posted on March 31, 2016 .