"And Adventure We Did" - A Heartfelt Reflection of the Queer Youth Backpacking Trip

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I want to express how meaningful this trip was to me, and how grateful I am for each one of you. Your experiences and perspectives, stories and humor, were and are so unique and irreplaceable to me. 

When I first said "hello" to you all, I had no idea what to expect. I'd met two or three other trans people my age before, but only briefly, and to run away into the forest with strangers for a week was a little intimidating. I was scared and overwhelmed; unsure of where to go or what to do to blend in.

Within *hours*, I felt more at home and understood than I ever have with other groups. There is an unspoken kindness and voiceless empathy that connects us, even when we aren't looking for it. From putting up tents in the drizzly rain, to having a vegetable-off at the pond, to sitting around the campfire desperately trying to keep a flame alive, that first night felt like the beginning to an adventure. 

And adventure we did. I'll never forget clambering up the slick rock face of Mt. Cardigan, and finally reaching the top to see miles of beautiful mountains cloaked in green forest. Or reaching South Peak of Mount Doublehead, where the sheer joy of being alive and being connected to a wild, beautiful place overwhelmed me. Watching the storm roll in on Mt. Doublehead and lightning flash through the clouds was amazing, sure; but what made it unforgettable was the community and love I felt surrounding us. Even just sitting on the trail, laying flat on the ground felt sacred- not caring what got dirty, but rejoicing in the gift of nature and friendship and life. 

So thank you, friends, trailmates, beet squad. Thank you for being yourselves, truly and proudly. My favorite part of this trip (and I'm still struggling to put this into words; it's what i tried to express before we drove to the airport) was the unashamed truth that I heard and saw in each of you. A group of trans people like this felt to me like not just a gathering, or a convention- but a celebration. We were alive, and real, and HAPPY. The world seems to portray trans stories as ever-suffering (and often for good reason), but when all your representation suffers, one begins to wonder if there's anything to like about being trans. On this trip, I loved myself for the first time, not in spite of being trans, but because of being trans. I had that strength because of the strength I saw in you, and I can never thank y'all enough. 

(To Lex and Graham- your existence and leadership and joy inspire me to grow up and make the world a better place, like you are doing every day.)

- Will (age 16)

perry cohen