2020 Charlotte Pride Scholars
Welcome to the 2020 Charlotte Pride Magazine! This article is part of the annual Charlotte Pride Magazine, published this year as a special year-end retrospective for 2020. You can see all 2020 Charlotte Pride Magazine content here, as well as finding distribution locations for our limited print run.
This year, more than ever, Charlotte Pride was proud to award four new scholars in our Charlotte Pride Scholarship Program. Students across the country have faced a whirlwind of new experiences and challenges as they navigate their academic careers, jobs, and extracurricular activities in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Given the pandemic and the additional economic uncertainties, we were committed to continuing the scholarship program as a key component of our mission to strengthen and empower our local LGBTQ community.
Begun in 2017, the Charlotte Pride Scholarship Program aims to improve economic mobility for LGBTQ and ally college students from the Charltote metro area. Scholarships are awarded yearly, with applications opening each spring. For more information or to bookmark our application for 2021’s scholarship applications, visit charlottepride.org/scholarship/.
Be sure to keep reading along for two of our scholars’ application essays below!
Maryville College ‘24
Hometown: Indian Land, S.C.
Major: American Sign Language Interpreting with teaching licensure
Cornell University ‘24
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
Howard University ‘22
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
Major: Legal Communication
This scholar has chosen to remain anonymous and we are using a psuedonym because he is not yet fully out. We respect the coming out journeys of all our scholars.
Hometown: Cornelius, N.C.
by Milan Carter (she/her)
Whatever it is, you’ve got it.” My wide eyes stared up at the director, trying to conceal the trembles in my muscles after the particularly difficult audition. “I genuinely hope you join us in New York this summer,” she added.
When I received this compliment, I considered it a fluke. According to nearly all ballet standards, I was too physically imperfect to receive such an accolade. In that moment, my low arches, broad shoulders, and brown skin didn’t matter, the country’s most prestigious ballet school was telling me “We want you.” With a wink and a twirl, the ballet mistress disappeared and I was left standing there wondering why I was picked out of a room of perfect ballerina prototypes.
Every dancer yearns to exude a certain je ne sais quois, the sparkle that captivates the hearts of an audience and the minds of casting directors. Day after day, I trained myself to speak through my body: plié, pirouette, tombé. Simultaneously, my lips curled into a smile, as each muscle in my leg confidently fired, and my gangly arms gently followed. In class, there was no place for words, no time to overthink, and no room for doubt.
Contrarily, ballet also demands imagination. It is centered on leaving one life behind to create a fictional one, an escape that I desperately needed. I strived for technical perfection, both in and outside of the studio, hungry for the praise of my teachers and directors. Learning how to control every inch of my body gave me a false sense of control in my own life. But, when my left knee gave out, the rest of my life came crumbling down with it.
It is nearly impossible to describe what it was like to seemingly lose everything I had. Expressing how I felt became even more difficult when the one way I knew how to communicate was made impossible because of an injury.
In the past, lifting my leg into an arabesque would cure all my sadness and a grand leap would light a fire in my soul. After my injury, depression and uncertainty lived within my joints, leaving them locked with an ache that had no definite resolution. A long, painful grieving process followed. In the midst of accepting losing a potential career, I also had to mourn the loss of my first love and, in a way, who I was. I was always a dancer, and I now wondered what I would become if I could no longer use that as my sole identifier.
Over time, however, it became clear to me that sometimes losing everything is the best way to rebuild your life. Although I was intensely afraid, this loss gifted me the chance to explore other talents and interests that I never knew I had. I decided to join local youth government, mentor other students, and began collecting art. Additionally, I rekindled my love of writing, reading, and public speaking. My greatest weakness of verbally communicating emotions became my new strength, and it opened up prospective career path in public relations.
As I enter into this next chapter of my life, I feel exceptionally optimistic. Developing new interests led to my connecting with unique people, experiences, and ideas that I wouldn’t have been exposed to in my ballet bubble. Also, the challenges that I have faced resulted in my honing my interpersonal communication skills, being more adaptable to new situations, and becoming more empathetic towards those experiencing life transitions. Above all, losing my ability to dance professionally taught me to value myself as a whole person. I am more than a thin body used for aesthetic vision; I am a tenacious, adventurous, fashionable, and scholarly young woman.
‘A Little Bit of Glitter’
by Kelton Bloxham (he/him)
I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure and stress lately and have been planning on writing this for a while now. First off I want to say how much I love and appreciate everyone who has supported me on this journey to me becoming me. I love you all and I want the rest of y’all to know that I am gay and I am proud. I want to thank my dad and my brothers for the love they have shown and still continue to show, it means the world to me and I couldn’t have done this without them. #lovewins. July 23, 2018
For anyone wondering, yes that’s my coming out post. I know, how millennial of me to come out on Instagram, nonetheless I wouldn’t have done it any other way. With 1,300 followers that sure sent the message quite clearly. The challenges really hid behind the screen.
A month and a half before I posted this I came out to my dad, who just happens to be extremely devoted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; more commonly known as the Mormons. Growing up in a family of devout Mormons wasn’t healthy for a poor gay kid like me in the middle of Utah. My first memory was me trying to pray the gay away — trying is the keyword there. Clearly, no matter how much praying happened in my lifetime nothing changed.
Though I do thank my family for their “support” in my coming of age story, they weren’t there, yet I still forgave them because they don’t understand me entirely. Honestly, neither do I some days, so who am I to blame them?
I didn’t have support as a kid for what I was feeling. Therefore as a young adult, I was determined to find a way to help other kids like me. I began working when I was 15 at a local restaurant, and became a manager at the age of 16. This allowed me to begin hiring people and creating a safe space like none other. Within six months I had a crew that was well mixed and represented on all sides with minorities. This one crew allowed for a flourish in LGBTQIA+ culture as well as just really showing everyone what a family truly meant.
I went to my first Pride with them, I came out with their support, and most importantly I learned what it meant to truly love myself.
Another way I really expounded on my leadership roles was throughout my time as parliamentarian of the local Future Farmers of America chapter. I increased and made room for acceptance in the hearts of many. Agriculture and Rednecks aren’t the typical scenes for gay kids typically let alone, me being an acting leader. However, this act changed their hearts on what it meant to be gay.
Gay doesn’t come in a certain type of body, language, or religion. Stereotypically we’re forced to conform to whatever society thinks we “should look like.” One of the best things I was told was this, “Kelton… You’re a different breed of gay. What other gay kid do you know which wakes up at four in the morning to take care of his animals then go to church school for two hours?”
That was the best sentence I heard for years. Knowing that I personally can change thousands of minds and really just make them so much more flexible to change, even if they are yet to notice.
My future goal as of now is to become certified to teach American Sign Language as well as teach about Deaf Culture. Helping those who don’t have access to the necessary help and assistance which comes with the language deprivation in America’s education systems.
One day I would like to be married and adopt a deaf child and teach them about their culture and help in the most I possibly could. In order to receive this certification, I cannot attend any schools in North or South Carolina because they are yet to begin offering the courses, and training required. This reason alone is why I’m hoping you will still take my application into consideration.
For years I have worked on acceptance throughout the Carolinas. Living all over South Charlotte, and South Carolina I have touched the hearts and minds of many and am hoping to touch many more in the future along with your assistance.
Thank you for the consideration and thank you for giving kids like me a place to be true to themselves. Sometimes a little bit of glitter and loving is all you need.