TROY, OHIO — For Carter Evans, Homecoming 2022 at Troy High School was just another event where he was able to show up as his true, authentic self. Being crowned Homecoming King was the icing on the cake.
The post above from his school district, highlighting Evans and Homecoming Queen Ally Wolfe, has been shared and seen by thousands of people. A majority of them celebrating what they perceived as Evans' bravery for daring to wear a slip dress, but for those who actually know him, it was par for the course.
"It's not my first year wearing a dress to a school event. I wore a skirt with a blazer to homecoming last year and a black dress to prom last year," Evans said.
For years, with the love and support of his parents, Evans self-expression has never been stifled. However, like any teenager, he did struggle at times.
"I've spent so much time, even though it doesn't really look like it, hiding behind this wall and feeling like I simply couldn't do and be the things I wanted to be," Evans said. "I dressed up a lot as a kid and then I'd go to school and wear khakis and a button up. Back and forth, back and forth. It just got so tiring. Then, I was like what happens if there doesn't need to be a wall and I get rid of the wall completely. I did and I couldn't be more happier."
Kimberle & Matthew Evans, Carter's parents, say they've been supporting their child his whole life.
"When you go to Wal-Mart or any other store, Carter's brother would head straight to the nerf guns and Tonka Trucks. Carter went to the Barbie aisle and all things glittery and pretty. That's just who he's always been since he had a personality," Kimberle said.
The only time the couple could remember having pause about something their son wanted to wear came from their instinct to protect him.
"When he wanted to buy the princess dress, it was out of protection because we knew, yeah, you can absolutely have it and wear it but it was what do we do for public sake not for embarrassment. It's just for protection," Kimberle said.
Seeing their son crowned Homecoming King felt like a testament to how they raised him, a sign they did right by loving and supporting him unconditionally.
"To see him stand out there. Confidence up. It takes a strong individual to do that," Matthew said
However, the couple knew there would be some backlash. Matthew overheard several adults speaking poorly of his teenage son.
"They were saying. it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair to the boys. Homecoming King in air quotes and they were talking pretty loud," Matthew said of the encounter. "I could not be quiet so I did intervene and said hey, would you like to meet him and they said what do you mean.. I said that's my son."
The type of love and support Kimberle and Matthew have shown to Carter over the years is paramount for LGBTQ+ youth according to psychologist Dr. Amanda McKinney. She's the director of Modern Mental Health in West Lafayette.
"For these kids, their lives literally depend on it. I know that feels like a really extreme statement but all the research shows and is extremely clear that LGBTQ youth in general have a higher rate of all mental health problems and anxiety," Dr. McKinney said.
According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth are more than four times likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. The nonprofit estimates every 45 seconds in America, a young person part of the LGBTQ+ community attempts suicide.
Dr. Mckinney says family support can change those statistics.
"Studies do show that having even one adult in their life is going to reduce the likelihood of them attempting suicide by 33%. Having one adult in their life is a huge, huge difference. Both parents being accepting, we're looking at a reduced rate of suicide by about 45 to 50%."
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"He wouldn't be alive if we didn't love and support him," Kimberle said as the interviewed wrapped up. She's a nurse and knows all those statistics.
The family says they don't worry about the opinions of those outside their home and circle, something they stress heavily to their son as he makes his way through this world, out and proud.
"I've always known how proud they are of me, but to hear it, I always hear it, but to hear it more and more it hits my heart," Carter said.