Growing up in Spanish Fort, a small suburban town in rural Alabama, Mars Peterson began to look outside the box. During high school especially, he began to explore what gender identity best suited him.
“I don’t always adhere to the stereotypes of gender, which made it really hard for me to figure out what felt comfortable for me,” said Peterson. “There were so many societal stereotypes that I felt like I had to align with in order to be a trans guy.”
According to Peterson, he found out about Montevallo through a high school teacher who told him about the theatre program. College Night was also a big influence in coming to UM.
“I’m so passionate about theatre and College Night has a close atmosphere that I just love. I didn’t even really know that campus was as inclusive as it is,” said Peterson.
Since coming to campus, he expressed that he has felt incredible support both inside and outside of the classroom.
“My purple parents are both trans and Purple Side just sucked me in. It’s just such a family, which was something I needed,” said Peterson.
“I really was drawn in by how unapologetically himself he is,” said Robin Stevens, one of Peterson’s purple parents. “He’s so supportive, and he always tries to make people feel welcome and stands up for what he believes in.”
After going through different identities that “just didn’t fit,” Peterson realized that he was “just a guy.”
“I’m allowed to wear things that maybe aren’t what people want guys to wear or, like colors or things that society doesn’t think I should like,” he continued.
To Peterson, he described Montevallo as a safe haven for trans people and College Night in particular resonated with him because he believes it nurtures LGBT youth in a way that they’re missing.
Coming from a high school where he was one of the only trans people, Peterson expressed that coming to Montevallo’s campus felt like a total 180.
“Coming out to my parents and not having that support there and then coming to Montevallo and having that family with College Night, was just something that really encompassed me as a person and helped me really find myself,” he said.
Peterson’s partner, Ana Munoz, described him as brave.
“He came from a family that didn’t quite accept him and then came here and just went all in,” said Munoz.
During Welcome Weekend, he met his purple parents who took him under their wing. Since the only other trans person he knew before college was his brother, they made sure that he saw where he fit best.
“A big overarching message of College Night is inclusivity,” said Peterson. “So, it’s kind of surprising to me that I’m the first trans person running for leader.”
Because the College Night shows are student written, Peterson hopes that College Night can shine a light on the diversity of Montevallo’s campus.
“More LGBT people represented on stage is definitely what I’d like to see happen in the future,” said Peterson. “Even eliminating the genders in leaders is a great step a step that I know I’ve talked to Marion about.”
While Peterson expressed not having any qualms about running for Purple Side leader, he hopes that gender roles of the leaders is brought into question.
“There’s so many antiquated ideas about the leaders like, who leads cheers and who starts their speech first,” he said.
“Eliminating genders for leaders is a step that hopefully will invite people that don’t adhere to one side of the gender binary or the other,” Peterson said. “Inviting non binary people to comfortably be able to pursue a leader position without having to choose one side or the other, I think, is a great step to giving even more inclusion into our little game.”