Jalen Garza is a woman of many titles. Last weekend she received another one to add to her already full repertoire: ACU’s 2022 Homecoming Queen.
Jalen, a senior youth and family ministry major from Helotes, spends her average week leading sorority meetings as the president of Delta Theta, tending to her duties as a senator for the Student Government Association, staying present within her department and being an ambassador for the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
As all of the Homecoming queen candidates were introduced and escorted across the field, anxiousness contagiously filled the crowd. Breaking the silence of the children playing by the end zone and the chatter of the fans was the winner’s name: Jalen Garza.
When that moment came for Jalen, she felt a multitude of emotions, with shock trumping them all.
“For me it was surprising, shocking and processing in the moment,” she said. “I, in that moment, knew that it was going to mean a lot to my club and different people on campus.”
Jalen describes herself as “openly queer.” She said that has come with challenges, but she eventually found her harmony between her faith and her sexuality.
“Both my faith and my queerness have come together in a very beautiful and inspiring way that my education and my experiences kinda go hand-in-hand in that,” Garza said. “Whatever systems and beliefs are held by an institution, you can still succeed. You can still have support of your colleagues, your friends, your professors, your church congregants. Anyone and everyone can thrive.”
The university’s Sexual Stewardship Policy recognizes “there are individuals who identify as LGBTQ or who experience same-sex attraction within our community,” but the policy distinguishes between those feelings and acting on same-sex attraction. According to the policy, the university continues to believe “Scripture teaches that God intends for sexual relations to be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman… We hold to the historic Christian view on this issue while being respectful of those who disagree with us.”
Delaney McKeown, her girlfriend, said her win represented major acceptance from the student body.
“Just to know that was a win that was voted by the student body, I think a certain level of acceptance is felt through Jalen’s win,” said McKeown, senior psychology major from Weatherford. “Just something like we are accepted here, and not only are we accepted here, but we can thrive here and it can be a place for us too if someone who is queer can win Homecoming Queen.”
Corinna Gokingco, Delta Theta vice president, said Jalen’s win speaks to how strong of a leader she is and how impactful she has been on campus.
“Jalen is so accepting and so welcoming it exemplifies what someone who comes out of ACU is,” Gokingco, senior accounting major from Temple, said. “She shows acceptance and genuine kindness and grace, while also being true to herself.”
The Homecoming Court selection process changed this year to include more involvement from the winner. After her win, Jalen is responsible for starting a campus initiative with a grant $1,000 and she wants to make her impact on ACU leaving a place for all to feel welcome. She plans to create a ramp for Mackenzie Hall targeted toward handicapped students and visitors on campus.
“I feel like there’s huge accessibility problems here at ACU, and there are several buildings that are not wheelchair accessible,” she said. “Even if we don’t have that many students in a wheelchair, students and athletes get injured all the time.”
Although she understands this will not solve the issue for this building on campus, she plans to advocate to the ACU community to make a more satisfying impact.
“We never want to push anyone away- I think that’s really important,” Garza said. “It should be a place for everyone to thrive and get to deepen their faith and their education.”