The word home carries many different connotations. To most, an image of solidarity, acceptance, and love comes to mind. However, this is not the case with everyone. To some, home is a dark, violent place. This is the sad and unsettling truth to many LGBT youth. Although acceptance for the LGBT community seems to be more and more each day, many still believe the acceptance is unattainable. My name is Colton Carpenter, and I identify as a gay male. I am an advocate for The Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection, as I see the value in keeping a haven offered to everyone, no matter age, sex, race, or sexuality.
I was born and raised in the small town of La Crescent, Minnesota. I had a fairly normal childhood: I went to school, I made friendships, I even tried sports – even though I was god-awful. But I always knew I was different. It took me until the age of thirteen to realize that I was gay. For two years I was forced to hide my secret, as I believed that I would lose everything. I had no organization to turn to, or no guidance from any adults. For many years I hated myself. I would awake in the middle of the night because I had nightmares of my mother finding out I was gay. It took a lot of inspiration from media outlets in order for me to finally accept myself. However, I spent most of my dark times alone, without anyone to talk to. No person should ever have to travel through dark times alone. I have been fortunate to have a community that is supportive enough to maintain this Center that offers help to those in dark times, and also stands as a reminder that La Crosse is a place of safety and love for all it’s inhabitants.
The Center is not only vital, but it is one of La Crosse’s greatest amenities. Through hard work and time, Jackson and his team have been able to inform the town of La Crosse and surrounding area, create a program for the younger community, and put on a pretty amazing drag show. I can honestly say that my pride in the La Crosse is abundant. The Center reminds La Crosse that everyone has a place. Everyone is equal, and everyone deserves love.