“I grew up in Salt Lake City as a mixed-race child adopted by white parents. Growing up in Utah, I faced many obstacles: I was not religious. I had an early autism diagnosis. I discovered at a young age that I was a part of the LGTBQ community (though I did not have the vocabulary to describe that part of my identity yet). And I was often the only Black person in the room.
I am the middle child in my family. My older brother is my parents’ only biological child. Unfortunately, my mom had stage four lymphoma cancer which, combined with the treatment, eventually led to infertility. This prompted my parents to adopt me and later my younger sister. My birth mother was a 19-year-old single mother of two when she had me. She had her first baby at 14 and her second at 18. While many people would shy away from school, friends and extracurriculars, she continued her education and cultivated her interests. When she had me, she made the difficult decision to place her baby for adoption. She went on to complete her education and create a loving family, even when the odds were stacked against her.
Even though my knowledge of my birth mother is solely based on the memories of my adoptive family, it inspired me to find courage and strength in myself, despite the obstacles I may face. As I grew up, it was always challenging trying to find where I belonged, even within my home. It wasn’t until I got into college that I really began to make strides.
When I started my college journey, I wanted to find a home, establish relationships and cultivate memories that would last a lifetime. As I worked towards my degree, I had to overcome one of my biggest obstacles: my own self-doubt. I was unsure I could complete an honors degree at a higher-level institution, that I could pass a hard class, and that I belonged here. This was reinforced by years of teachers telling me to give up and that I was not good enough. My birth mother’s story about how she handled every obstacle with grace indicated to me that anyone can reach for the stars if they allow themselves, no matter what hand we are dealt. The words of others can only affect us if we already hold those beliefs or allow those sentiments to take root. For me, I decided I was no longer going to live the narrative others created for me.
While at the U, I succeeded academically and earned three scholarships. I made the dean’s list, played intramural soccer, rode the Muss Bus to Seattle and joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority, where I was awarded ‘Most Involved’ within my chapter. Currently, I am a researcher in two labs where much of the work I do is centered around LGBTQ+ issues and maternal attachment.
My younger self would be very shocked to see me here, finishing my degree and walking at graduation, and I am so proud to be here.”
—Bergen Meyer, 2023 University of Utah graduate