Historically, the homecoming football game marks a time at every high school when traditional gender roles are especially reinforced—boys ask girls to the fall homecoming dance, and the homecoming king and queen are crowned at halftime.
Today, with the infinite amount of information available online and the growing number of transgender individuals in the public eye (such as Laverne Cox, one of the Emmy-nominated stars of “Orange is the New Black”) high schools are beginning to accommodate students who do not fit into strict gender roles — by nominating openly trans students for homecoming king and queen. Transgendered students are coming out earlier in life and homecoming court is no longer reserved for cis-gendered students only.
The following high school students were assigned a gender at birth other than the gender with which they currently identify and earned the largest number of votes for homecoming king or queen at their respective schools.
Cassidy Lynn Campbell – Huntington Beach, California
Just last year, at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, Cassidy Lynn Campbell became the first transgender teenager in Orange County to become a homecoming queen.
“I realized it wasn’t for me anymore and I was doing this for so many people all around the country and the state and possibly the world and I am so proud to win this not just for me, but for everyone out there,” Campbell told KTLA the night of her big win.
Born Lance Campbell, Campbell began her transition from male to female at age 13 and continues to document her journey on YouTube.
“If I win, it would mean that the school recognized me as the gender I always felt I was” Campbell said prior to winning. “But with all the attention, I realized it’s bigger than me. I’m doing this for the kids who can’t be themselves.”
Mel Gonzalez – Sugar Land, Texas
In September, Mel Gonzalez, born Melanie, was elected homecoming king at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas.
“I’m humbled and honored and shocked,” Gonzalez said. “I was treated like any other male candidate and experienced no backlash.”
Gonzalez began hormone therapy his sophomore year. By junior year, he had legally changed his name and gender and started a Gay Straight Alliance chapter at his high school in an effort to create a positive and welcoming space for other LGBT students on campus.
Gonzalez, 17, used his homecoming win to show “that a guy like me can live a normal life and still be visible in the community and be widely accepted. I think that is an incredible feat.”
Since Gonzalez’s record-breaking win (he is the first trans homecoming king in Texas), other trans teenage boys have reached out to him via Facebook and Tumblr, asking for advice and thanking him for positively representing the transgender community.
Scarlett Lenh – Colorado Spring, Colorado
Earlier this year, at Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs, a city known for its politically conservative and religiously observant residents, Scarlett Lenh, a junior, won the title of homecoming queen.
“The leaders at Sand Creek High School and in District 49 respect the decision of the Scorpion student body in electing their homecoming court. Our board policy sets the standard that we do not exclude any person from participating in any program or activity on the basis of gender identity and gender expression,” said district spokesman Matt Meister about Lenh’s win.
Sage Lovell – East Cobb, Georgia
Most recently, 16-year-old Sage Lovell recently represented her entire junior class as one of four girls elected to homecoming court this year at Walton High School in East Cobb, Georgia. She is the first transgender woman in the state of Georgia to participate in a high school homecoming court. As a junior, she was not eligible to become homecoming queen, but will be eligible for the title next year.
“I’m so flattered to be representing my school,” Lovell commented. “It means a lot to me, in a place where people tend to be extremely conservative, that something this liberal would happen.”
Lovell was all smiles as she made her way onto the football field during halftime at the homecoming football game last month, accompanied by her father Joseph Lovell.
Lovell was born male and realized her attraction to men while in middle school. She first came out as gay her freshman year of high school and began to realize she was female shortly afterward.
“…Toward the end of my sophomore year and over the summer was when I was kind of like, ‘Okay, I’m not male in any way… I am female and that’s when I would sort of say I started my transition,” Lovell explained. She learned about various non-binary gender identities online, on sites such as Tumblr.
Luckily for Lovell, coming out as trans was also a relatively easy process. Coming out to the people she trusted helped her realize that everything would be fine in the end.
Students like Lovell also help public schools learn how to best accommodate their transgender students, such as by installing gender-neutral bathrooms. When she has to use the restroom, Lovell uses one of two bathroom facilities on Walton High’s campus that each have a single toilet and a locking door.
Additionally, a high school in Ashland, Oregon has, as of this year, eliminated the titles of “homecoming king” and “homecoming queen” entirely, to make homecoming court less gendered. The school’s student body has chosen instead to elect three outstanding students to “Grizzly Court,” and recognize them for their accomplishments, regardless of their gender.