When Jackson Harrison arrived at Arizona State, the nonbinary gymnast thought they won the “gay lottery.” Now a graduating senior, Harrison says they’ve realized their dreams.

Harrison competed last weekend at the GymACT National Championships, their final collegiate competition. While the Sun Devils wound up placing second, Harrison says their college career isn’t defined by missed chances; but rather, their triumphs.

They sent the following note to Queerty:

I want to thank my coaches and my teammates. I would not be where I am today if it were not for my coaches here in Arizona, along with all my teammates. They supported me even when I wasn’t always the best version of myself. They truly taught me what it means to be a team and a leader. Having the opportunity to do college gymnastics with a group of people who are so supportive of someone like me was a dream. They allowed me the confidence I needed in order to express myself on the competition floor. It is with everything they gave me that I will move forward, and blaze a trail for other queer athletes, in any sport, to compete as themselves.

Harrison also posted an inspirational message on social media.

“It is with this that I remind myself that nothing is ever perfect, and it certainly is a good thing that nothing ever has to be,” they wrote in a farewell letter. “My college career is not defined by missed opportunities this weekend, but by everything I’ve been able to accomplish and everything I’ve done for my team and my community.”

Those accomplishments include being an out and proud nonbinary person. When Harrison was in high school, they tried to suppress their queerness. Their shame only got worse as time progressed.

“I went from wearing makeup to school every day, always having my nails painted, and wearing the most creative outfits I could put together because I thought it was fun, to only wearing athletic clothes because I thought it made me look more masculine,” they wrote in their coming out essay, which was published on Outsports. “It’s not that I had stopped liking that stuff, it’s that I started to hate the person it made me look like.”

Those feelings changed when Harrison stepped onto ASU’s campus as a freshman. They started to embrace their queer self, and were instantly accepted.

“I must have won the gay lottery because the amount of support and acceptance I have been gifted with throughout my life is unreal,” they wrote. “The ASU men’s gymnastics team is a family and when I moved here, I became part of that family, full queerness and all.”

Harrison’s incredible experience at ASU is a good reminder that life can’t be pre-planned. In their farewell post, they say that enrolling at ASU wasn’t only their “last choice,” but a “temporary solution” to the fact they couldn’t make a Division 1 team. There are only 12 men’s NCAA Division 1 gymnastics teams, and competition is fierce.

But then Harrison says they “felt the all-consuming bond” on their team, and realized they were home.

Still, their path wasn’t linear.

Harrison wanted to walk away from gymnastics in 2022, just one year after publishing their coming out story. But they wound up staying, thanks to the support from their teammates. The following year, the Sun Devils finished as national champs.

“When I made the Championships, my life changed forever,” they write. “For the first time in years, I felt like there was a future for me in this sport. I’d given up on my being successful outside of my team, but then it happened.”

Along the way, Harrison became a household name, and connected with scores of other out athletes. The first Adidas NIL ambassador from ASU, Harrison’s exceptional athleticism made them stand out. This past February, they shared a now-viral routine, set to a remix of “Vogue.”

Werk, werk, werk!

“This is what I do ;),” Harrison wrote in the caption.

Olympic legend Matthew Mitcham commented in kind. “Slay,” he wrote.

Now graduated, Harrison’s journey in life, and gymnastics, is just beginning. They earned a degree in organizational leadership and project management.

Harrison says they accomplished everything they wanted on campus.

“I came into college knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and i am now leaving, three majors, 120 credit hours, and an entirely new perspective later, with the distinct realization that I was right,” they said.

“All I ever wanted to do was gymnastics. And through many ups and downs, I now find myself in a position where I never want to leave the sport. So I allowed myself to create the opportunity to live a life where I don’t have to, where I can stay, and live and breathe everything there is to know and to be about gymnastics.”

We love Harrison’s attitude, and can’t wait to see what they accomplish next! The future is bright, both on and off the mat.

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