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By Conor Garcia, Digital Organizer 

CW: This article deals with mental health and suicide prevention

When I was 21 years old, I hiked a mountain with my roommate. For these purposes, we’ll call him Ben. I had shut myself in my room for over a month, and Ben was determined to get me out of the worst of it. He packed us both backpacks, drove us out to his favorite mountain in the state of Colorado, and we were off. 

We didn’t talk at all aside from the occasional warning about a tricky part of the path or pointing out an interesting sight. My pack was heavy, and by the way it sat on him, I could tell his was a little lighter. I figured there was no harm in asking to transfer some of the things in my pack to his. To my surprise, he told me no. 

About a quarter of the way up, I had to break. I was sweating up a storm, already exhausted, and taking off a backpack had never felt so good. Ben was sweating, but not nearly as tired as I was. He set his pack down and sat and waited for me. Didn’t scout ahead, never asked me if I was ready to keep going. He just offered me water and a granola bar, and waited. I checked out his pack to see it was surprisingly light: in fact, it was only about half full. I’m not the confrontational type, so I let it go. We continued up the mountain and I was fading fast. I’d stop, Ben would stop with me, and when I was ready we’d go on. 

About 3 miles from the top and after about 5 hours, I insisted on splitting my pack. Ben asked me to sit, which I wasn’t about to say no to. He explained that he didn’t really know what was going on with me. If it was depression, anxiety, family issues, or all of the above, he just knew I was carrying something. While he’d love nothing more than to take some things from my pack, he couldn’t. What he could do is walk with me up this mountain. He could slow down, wait, and make sure I had what I needed to do it, he just couldn’t carry it for me. We ended up getting to the top, making it back down, and Ben drove us home and made dinner. We sat, I talked, he listened. 

This month, TEP has been discussing Suicide Prevention and Awareness. There are so many of us in the 2TIGE (Two-Spirit, Trans, Intersex, and Gender-Expansive) community who are carrying things in our packs. Our mental health, our physical health, and our basic needs are a very simplistic start. For TEP to say that we can take things from your pack to make it lighter would be a lie, but we can go on that hike with you and give you what we do have to get up that mountain yourself. And it doesn’t end with our staff. Our Community Captains are dedicated to making sure all 2TIGE people not only know that their community is out there, but that they belong in it. From clothing swaps to community dinners, to food pantries and so much more, they want to be here for you. If you see yourself in my story, we strongly urge you to see if our inTRANSitions program has assistance we can provide. If you see yourself in Ben, go check out our Grow Power Locally page and get more information on becoming a Community Captain for your local area. A good friend of mine loves to say that you can change a life just by saying “hello,” and sometimes that can mean saving it. 

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