WATCH: FOLLOW A TRANSGENDER TEEN’S EMOTIONAL JOURNEY TO WOMANHOOD

Warning: graphic content.

Before August 30, 2016, getting stitches at age seven was the most time Emmie Smith had ever spent in a hospital.

That morning, she swapped her plaid shirt and jean shorts for a gown, tucked her hair into a cap, and prepared for surgery to conform her anatomy to the gender she already identified with: woman. In the operating room with her was National Geographic photographer Lynn Johnson. She and Emmie hoped they could demystify the procedure by documenting it, close-up and unflinching. “It was stressful and scary at times, but it almost created a mission other than just recovery,” Emmie says. “We were making something together.”

It had been a year and a half since Emmie had first come out as

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