HILL AIR FORCE BASE — During the federally recognized Pride month of June, Hill Air Force Base hosted its second annual luncheon event to recognize the LGBT community, at which reality TV contestant Jackson Carter talked about how he overcame obstacles in his life involving obesity, sexual orientation — even entertaining thoughts of suicide at age 8.
It started when he began school in Roosevelt, a small Utah town on the Ute Indian reservation. As one of only five white boys attending the school, Carter was teased mercilessly.
“I know, you are probably thinking I was born a white man in American, how hard can it be dealing with race issues, but I was discriminated and picked on,” Carter said. “As a kid, you don’t understand what makes you so different from these other kids, so I would go home sobbing every day, and my mom and I treated the problem the American way — laughing and eating, and suddenly all the bad feelings went away.”
It worked for a while, Carter said, but then he started getting heavier. When he was 6, his family moved to Layton, where he was teased because of his weight. “I contemplated suicide, thinking my life was so terrible, the only option was to commit suicide, I thought,” Carter said.
Things got even more challenging when he came out at 14 years of age as gay, which he said in conservative Davis County wasn’t a popular decision.
When Carter was watching a television show, one of the characters announced he was gay, and it was like a light bulb suddenly went off for him. “I realized that was the word that matched my feelings I was feeling toward boys that I should have been feeling for girls,” Carter said.
Carter’s school experience continued to worsen as word spread through the school — until one day during shop class, someone wrote Carter’s name with the word ‘faggot’ written next to it on display for the class. Carter and the student were both sent to the principal for disturbing class.
Soon afterward, Carter transferred to Ogden’s OUTreach, a LGBTQ youth resource center, where he started meeting other people like him and began to see life with a different perspective.
“The OUTreach center saved my life. I met confident and productive gay men and I thought, ‘It can’t be all that bad. Maybe it will be OK,’ ” Carter said. “I started to come out of my shell and become a little more comfortable, but there was still one thing I couldn’t keep under control — my weight. I felt broken and that there was nothing I could do to fix myself.”
Things changed when he applied and was chosen to be a contestant on season 14 of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” He was the first openly gay contestant on the show. “It was such a big step for me because I was never going to ask for help. I thought you were weak if you asked for help, but I’ve since learned that I was wrong,” Carter said.
On the first day of the show, weighing in at 328 pounds, Carter thought his weight would just melt off without much effort on his part. Carter got on the treadmill and things seemed to be going well, until the room got hazy, his limbs started to go numb and he fell off the treadmill, unconscious for the next couple of hours while he received oxygen and IV treatment.
“I didn’t anticipate that, and I didn’t know how I was going to get up every day knowing the process was going to suck, that I would throw up and cry on camera, and get yelled at,” Carter said. “I had to look into myself and ask myself what I wanted. Was I going to be the kid before, unwilling to ask for help facing my demons, or was this the time I was going to stand up and do something different?”
Carter ended up losing 138 pounds as a result of the show.
He stressed to the audience that the world around oneself is only a perception, that a person can change his mind and how he looks at the world.
“You can wallow in self-pity, saying something is too hard, or you can … look at it with a different perspective and get past it,” Carter said. “Things aren’t going to go as planned or be great all the time. Believe me. I get it, but if you put the work in and change your mind about a situation, you can do anything.”