In the past couple of months two transgender individuals, Oakleigh Marshall Reed and Andy Moreno, were denied their rights as students to become homecoming king and queen respectively at their high schools. Andy Moreno was told by principle Dinnah Escanilla of North Dallas High School that she could not run for homecoming queen because she is male. Similarly, after the senior class voted to declare Oakleigh Homecoming King, school assistant superintendent Todd Geelings stated, “the issue is simple: The ballots gave two choices—vote for a boy for king and a girl for queen.” Oakleigh is listed as a female in Mona Shore High School records, which Geelings used as justification to strip Oak of his title. The actions of both of these adults can only be described as clearly transphobic.
In both situations, adults used their positions of authority to enforce transphobia and deny the students right to express who they are. Transphobia is defined as negative feelings, attitudes, actions, or behaviors, against those who identify with and/or express a gender that does not match their biological sex. These adults demonstrated both a lack of understanding of transgender issues by maintaining the notion that sex at birth is the ultimate indicator of gender identity, and also a lack of compassion towards these students by refusing to take their gender expression as legitimate.
The students, however, at both schools demonstrated overwhelming support for their transgender peers. Students at Oak’s high school started a facebook group Oak is my King that states:
Oak Reed received the most votes for homecoming King. Period. Our School not only lied to students, but they also promoted trasnphobia. Our school has made it clear that they don’t want a transgendered student to represent Mona Shores. As students, we must stand up to assert the rights of Oak, and transgender students everywhere.
The students also encouraged peers to wear “Oak is my King” T Shirts pictured below.
Similarly students at Andy’s high school had an afterschool rally, where students and local activists expressed their support of Andy and all transgender youth. Queer Liberaction member Elizabeth Pax vocalized her support of Andy to the crowd by yelling, "Transgender people are born with the brain of the [gender] they identify as and the body of the other gender," Pax said. "Andy is, in fact, a biological woman. Her brain is the brain of a woman."
Adults must start listening to their students. Denying students their right to be homecoming King and Queen because of their gender identity is a form of gender bashing. These actions tell our youth that they can’t be who they are, but must fit into stereotypical gender identities. This is particularly disturbing in light of recent news of anti-GLBT bullying in schools. Most bullying against GLBT youth is directed towards people’s gender expression. In other words, young boys are teased because they appear “too feminine” and girls because they appear “too masculine. It is time for adults to take the cue from youth and stand in support of young people who bravely express who they are, rather than engage in gender bashing that leads to a culture of intolerance and violence.