How High School Proms Became Battlegrounds for Gender Identity Rights
LGBT teens are like all other teenagers trying to make their way through that rite of passage known as the American high school. They want to be accepted and they want to be able to participate equally at school ceremonies such as homecoming and the prom.
The royalty "crowned" at these events has become in our time a source of controversy, thanks to a handful of brave students who are challenging gender norms. The result has been lawsuits, some shameful shenanigans (see Mississippi), and some very gratifying results for our side.
One school, for example, recently made headlines by deciding to do away with the traditional gender roles surrounding their prom and will hold a gender neutral affair in May. That decision came after a transgender student at Mona Shores High School in Michigan, Reed Oak, was voted by students to serve as its homecoming king earlier in the fall, but school officials denied him that crown.
"Reed is a popular student at Mona Shores who has identified as a male from a very young age," the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan wrote in a press release. "His male identity is widely accepted by his teachers and classmates. He was permitted to wear a male uniform for the marching band and will wear a male cap and gown for graduation. However, after his classmates voted for him to serve as homecoming king, the school district said that Reed could not be chosen because his school records indicate that he is female."
The decision was hardly greeted with universal applause. Since the decision a few weeks ago, some of the school’s students and a few blogs have been in an uproar over the school’s decision to steer away from tradition to hold a gender neutral prom court.
According to FoxNews.com, Sam Kuiper, who graduated from Mona Shores High School in 2009 and played in the school’s marching band alongside Reed, said he doesn’t think a "permanent change" to prom traditions was necessary. "It should be flexible enough to be changed on a case-by-case basis," Kuiper wrote.
Kuiper also said he hopes other nearby school districts can learn from the incident. "Other high schools should take note of how the situation was handled by Mona Shores High School and possibly shape their policies around our end result."
Another student, senior John Skocelas, told Wood TV, a local TV channel, he thought it was wrong to change the policy based on one student. "It’s our vote," he told the NBC affiliate. "It’s not what the school wants, it’s what we want."