Before her surgery, Sydney Walther, 21, said she had been terrified of going out in public and being stared at by unknown faces. But today, she said those fears have dissipated, and it’s “as if a weight has been lifted” off her shoulders.

The Virginia resident traveled to New York City last year for what she described as a “life-changing,” gender-affirmation surgery at NYU Langone Health.

“It is the first time in my life that I can be myself,” she told NBC News. “I can go to the store and not worry about, ‘Are people trying to figure out who I am?’”