Peace & Possibility Essay Contest Winners First Place - Jalen Carpenter
Growing up I did not know what “LGBTQ” meant. I was not familiar with the term and I did not know that it would affect my life so much. All I knew was that there was man and woman. I thought life was black and white and nothing in-between. Growing up I always felt off and I never felt complete with myself. Being a star athlete in high school and having a number of scholarship offers for basketball put my life on pause temporarily. I thought I was living my dream through basketball. Playing for Weber State was the best thing that happened to me at the time. I did not think my life could get any better. I felt like I was on top of the world. Not having to worry about paying for school and starting on the Women’s Basketball team was my dream. But in the back of my head, I still felt off. My sophomore year I came out as lesbian and I thought I was set. I was still confused with my identity and I was not familiar with the term “transgender”. I did not know what it meant and when I heard the word, I thought of drag queens. Therefore, I was embarrassed when I would hear or see anything regarding transgender people. The summer of my junior year, my whole life changed. I was in the closet about my gender identity and it made me depressed. I could not talk to anyone about how I felt because people would disregard my thoughts, saying things like “You can wait a year,” or “That’s not a real thing you’re just confused.” People were invaliding the way I was feeling and it made me suicidal. It was not until I got out of the hospital that I realized that I was battling with gender dysphoria. I came to terms with my identity. Nevertheless, I had a huge decision to make. Approaching my senior year of basketball, being the top player and captain I did not know what to do. I had everything I dreamed of and I was planning to go to play professionally after my season was over. I was straggling with continuing to play my last year and hold off on my transition or start my transition medically and I would have to give up basketball. Basketball was my life and I did not know how to live without it. It was all I knew and it was scary to think about a life without basketball. I choose to pursue my medical transition despite what others thought. It was the best decision I ever made and it felt good to make a decision for myself.
As a transman, being a part of the LGBTQ community means everything to me. Since I started my transition, I have learned how to appreciate the LGBT community more. I have had trials along my transition and I knew I could always rely on the LGBT Center on campus. Being openly a part of the LGBT community has made me confident enough to want to help more. I do not know all the answers and I am still learning along the way. I want to make a difference. I have been going to groups for the past year and telling other’s my story has given them the confidence to be true to themselves. I do not want to just help the LGBT community; I want to help people in general. No matter what is his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, or age, I want to help make a difference in someone life. Anyone I tell my story to they look at me like a noble man or they tell me I am brave. I do not consider myself being anything but just Jalen. I realized that having everything does not mean a person will have true happiness. At least in my situation I had everything set up for me in regards of being an athlete. However, the only thing I was missing was living my life authentically. I realized that I could not go living my life a lie so I walked away from “everything”.
Despite all of the things going on affecting the LGBTQ community, I am optimistic that things will get better. I believe that things have to get worse to get better. I think the need in the LGBTQ community is more unity. We must come together and be stronger than ever to fight against the adversity. Our rights matter and we have to keep fighting until we see a win. I am thankful for everything that I have experienced so far, the good and the bad. It has made me a stronger individual and I want to continue making an impact on people’s lives. With some of my experiences, I have felt like I was on the outside looking in. I do not want anyone to feel like they do not belong, and personally I will do my best to not make anyone feel that way. All I can do is continue to live my life authentically and hope that people will follow along. Life is great and we should not limit ourselves because of others opinions.