But Jackson Carter, a 21-year-old youth drop-in center volunteer from Utah, has changed all that—and he's having a big impact on the show with his empowering message for LGBT people, whether they be small, medium, large or extra-large.
Keep reading for my one-on-one with the role model who proves that a positive message is one size fits all...
BC: Did you always know you'd be out on the show, and why was that important to you?
BC: For older people, hearing that you came out at 14 is a shocker. We were not even dreaming of being openly gay in any way at that age. How did you come to decide you'd come out so young and who was your support network?
JC: Haha. I get told that a lot. "Back in my day, we used to wait to come out when we graduated from high school and moved to either New York or San Fran and then came out to our parents over Thanksgiving dinner." Coming out was definitely not an easy decision. It never is. But ever since I was a young kid, I remember always being drawn more towards men than women. This always really troubled me and I would beat myself up over it all the time. It wasn't until I was 13 or 14 that I started to understand that what I was experiencing were romantic feelings. And by this time, I had several great gay icons in the media (mostly "Jack" on Will and Grace and "Marco" on Degrassi) to look up to and I had a group of close friends who seemed to be pretty okay with gay people.
But I think the biggest support I had was at school and OUTreach. When I was 15, I transferred to an arts school and made friends there who told me about OUTreach. OUTreach had some great volunteers for me to look up to and made it pretty easy for me to figure out who I was and what I wanted. I will forever be in debt to them for what they did for me and I hope every queer teen in America finds something like that.
JC: I truly believe that some kids handle it better than others because they have a stronger support system at home and within their peer group than others. I 100% believe that had I not had such loving and supportive parents, found such a unique place to go to high school or had my amazing role models at Ogden OUTreach, I wouldn't be here today. There was more than once when I was young (the youngest was eight years old) that I considered or attempted taking my own life.
If there is a kid reading this who is being bullied or considering suicide, I would like to say this: You are special, you are unique, there is nobody in this world like you and that is exactly why we need you here. It takes all kinds of people to make this world run and you have a place. You will never know how many people love you and would miss you if you were to disappear. So find a place where you can be you (a club, an afterschool activity, etc.) and focus on the good people in your life instead of the few bad ones.
JC: I definitely feel like there is a uniform in the gay community. Every man is expected to have washboard abs, a tiny waist, athletic legs, etc. Sometimes I feel there is more pressure for gay men to be fit than there is for women to be fit. That being said, I always found myself struggling to find a place in the community where I fit in. I didn't fit in at the clubs, I was never really into the bear scene, I struggled to find dates.
However, having started my weight-loss journey, I realize now that a lot of that was just insecurities that I was facing on my own. Sure, there are going to be people who are fatphobic, but if I had felt confident the way I was, I'm sure I would have fit in better in every situation. So to all the young boys reading this, know that you are the only one you need to impress. If you feel comfortable being skinny/athletic, that's great. If you are a little overweight but still love yourself, that's fine, too. Never change your image or body based on what you think others want. Do what makes you happy and the rest will follow.
And for the record, I still have quite a ways to go and I am not skinny by any stretch of the imagination, but for the first time in my entire life, I can say that I love every part of my body—the weird mole on my neck, the belly I'm still trying to work on and the excess body hair are all things that make my body unique and I love me for me. I don't need anyone else's approval to be happy about me.
JC: In just seven weeks, I have lost over 60 pounds, and that is the most successful I have been in any weight-loss quest I have ever been on (and there have been a lot!). I have tried every diet on the market. Since being on the show, I have discovered the secret to weight loss: Diet and exercise. I know it sounds crazy, but it works!
The thing that works best for me is lots of lean protein and green vegetables (the more green on my plate, the better). Also, I have to keep my exercise plan fun. If I don't like what I'm doing, I won't do it. I like to go to fitness classes or try new sports. Current obsessions are boxing, spinning and rock climbing.
JC: My big weaknesses are candy and bread. To this day I can't walk past a bakery in the grocery store without giving it a second glance. Luckily, I have been able to trick my sweet tooth by turning from candy to fruit. If I get a sweet craving, I pick up a mango or some banana chips and I feel completely satisfied.
BC: Did you get along with the other contestants, or was there any rivalry stirred up?
BC: If someone came to you and asked, "Should I sign up for Biggest Loser?" what would your advice be?
NBC's The Biggest Loser is on Mondays at 8/7c