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'Right to Joy' Izzy Sederbaum's journey back into the woods

Sederbaum joyfully zips along on his bike down a city street.
Courtesy of Izzy Sederbaum
Sederbaum joyfully zips along on his bike down a city street.

Nearly five years ago, Izzy Sederbaum found himself in the national media after a harrowing attack by a cougar while mountain biking with his friend. The friend suffered fatal injuries, and Izzy has spent the time since then healing emotionally and physically. Sederbaum is also a transmasculine individual and so was his friend, and part of his experience following this traumatic event also had to do with anti-trans rhetoric from people online. Sederbaum spent time in the outdoors and around wildlife while growing up, so when KDNK’s Hattison Rensberry spoke with him about these experiences they began with how the attack changed the way he approaches outdoor recreation.

"Sederbaum: I started approaching the outdoors again with a lot of anxiety and a lot of fear and worrying that I would be a burden on my friends as I tried to navigate these spaces, and it's just been kind of this very slow process about. Stretching my comfort zone, but I only started riding in the back country last summer, so we're talking four years after this happened, right. And I've just been very fortunate that I have a close group of friends who love this type of writing and so I've just been wholly supportive and like a lot of it has just been continuing to be like very conscientious about that. There will always be risk anytime you get on a bicycle and just trying to be, be prepared and also just be very gentle with myself.
What I've told people is that it's very exhausting having high levels of anxiety. Anyone who's experienced some sort of trauma, I think would be able to identify it with this. Is that something kind of get. Gets a little bit broken and you're just highly anxious about whether it's driving, whether it's going into the woods, whatever it is.
And that is very exhausting. And so I think that was also the thing is that as I was getting used to going back, like I was just so mentally and emotionally drained every time I would go into something that like resembled woods, that was. I was not, that was what I was not prepared for. Right? I think I was prepared for the anxiety, but I wasn't prepared at how tired I would be.
And so what was really hard about it was also just to me, going into the woods is something to do because I love it because it, it, it just makes me feel better. I find it as a way to manage anxiety, and so how you processes your anxiety is now a source of it as well. So that's been, it's been a journey, right. Uh, I'm, I'm very proud of myself to see the kind of progression over the course of these last five.

Rensberry: In the process of creating the film, what was the part that you felt was most important to include that was integral and is a non-negotiable for you when talking about this experience and talking about your process coming out of it?

Sederbaum: I think for me, and this is where the title came from, and just how trans people are talked about, but also people of other marginalized identities, black people, disabled people. I think there's kind of this idea that we deserve our suffering, and so the one thing that I wanted to really fight back against is, I think it's a radical act to show people, in my case, to show trans people like experiencing joy, experiencing it the way they want to. I was like, this is not gonna turn into trauma porn. And so I just really wanted it to be about, about healing and about finding community and about inviting people in and, a big part of it was to tell my story for the first time. Cause I had never spoken to the media because I knew things would just get kind of twisted the way they often.
When something is super sensationalized. So a lot of it was about like, I wanna be able to tell my story the way I want to. But I, the, the big part of it was like, I, I want this to to be a glimpse into just like showing what the outdoor community with the outdoor industry has the capacity to do by telling the stories of people who are not the run of the mill, like skinny, straight, white.

Rensberry: As a trans person who does outdoor sports, if you were talking to a younger version of yourself, how would you talk to them or what advice would you give them?

Sederbaum: I've been in the outdoor industry much longer than I have identified as trans or even knew I was trans. I was a bike mechanic for for years, and actually it wasn't until I kind of retired from doing that full-time that I had the capacity for a lot of different reasons to like figure out my own identity. So for that reason, I, I think that I had a leg up in navigating the space cuz I was used to some of the bull-. Cause I had, you know, I experienced the outdoor industry as a woman. I think that I would tell a younger version of myself to like, seek out community sooner and seek out people who wanna help you achieve your goals, whether you're riding in the back country, whether it's getting faster, whether it's just, it's learning how to mountain bike, whatever it is, right? Because I think that that's what's been so amazing about my process and getting, getting, you know, back into the woods as it were, has been meeting people along the way. And, and the same thing with running this team is that meeting people who like really want to get into sport, want to get into the outdoors and, and feel overwhelmed by it. Right. It is really overwhelming. You go and read like a magazine like Outside magazine or Bicycling magazine, two magazines I enjoy. But they, there's a version you see and it's like, oh, if I'm not this thing or I don't have access to these things and this gear, like, can I do it?
What's the point? And so, I think I would tell myself and I would tell other young people, like, just get, get out in whatever capacity you can and enjoy yourself and find what makes you really happy in the outdoors. And keep working toward that. And I know, I don't mean to sound like I, I understand that there's a lot of privilege in that too.
Like I, at the end of the day, I, I am trans, but I know this is a radio thing, but like people look at me and see that necessarily offhand, and I am white and it, it comes with a lot of privilege. But I think to whatever degree you can, you can just like find your people and then find the thing that you wanna do go out and do it. There's no need to wait. I think a lot of people get caught up in the like, I don't know how to do this. And it's like, there are these, there are steps you can take there, find your people and find what makes you happy and get out there. The power of the internet is bananas, for better and for worse, but like the ability to meet people who have similar likes, who have similar identities to you is just amazing.

Rensberry: Is there anything else that you'd really like to share about the process of making this film or about this experience in general?

Sederbaum: I mean, I think it, it was much more emotional to make the film than I thought it was gonna be. I thought I was gonna make a movie and maybe get posted on the internet. And like, it seems that people are really enjoying it, and that's really amazing.
And so if you wanna tell your story, find a friend who wants to record you, right. And do it."

The world premiere of Sederbaum’s film The Right to Joy is on Friday during the evening film program at Five Point’s 16th annual Flagship Film Festival in Carbondale.

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.