Hundreds join QL protest in support of trans teen denied the chance to run for homecoming queen
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of “Team Andy” turned out in full force Thursday afternoon, Oct. 14, as hundreds of students from North Dallas High School, leaving the building after the final bell, flocked over to join a protest organized by members of Queer LiberAction.
QL staged the rally in support of NDHS transgender student Andy Moreno, who was not allowed to compete for homecoming queen.
On Monday, Oct. 11, election results were announced listing the finalists for king and queen. The final election will be held at homecoming on Friday, Oct. 15. Although she reportedly received more votes than at least one of the finalists, she was not allowed to compete.
About 20 people gathered outside the high school on Thursday afternoon before students were dismissed.
Among those was Francisco Herrera, a friend of the Moreno family who was there with his family and children.
“We’re longtime friends,” Herrera said. “We’re here to show full support.”
He said he had been friendly with Moreno’s sister Daisy for years and was close to the family.
LGBT liaison officer Laura Martin said that she arranged for quite a few police to be present because of gang activity at the school. She was worried that the protest would be an excuse for some students to cause trouble.
But when school let out, QL organizer Elizabeth Pax encouraged students to join the protest and hundreds gathered around her.
“The principal is ignorant on this issue,” Pax shouted into a bullhorn.
They began chanting, “Revote!” “Team Andy” and “Whose queen? Our queen!”
“I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school, it was the students who decided on homecoming queen, not the principal,” Pax told the crowd.
Students reported that North Dallas High School Principal Dinnah Escanilla had gone out of town earlier in the day, so she was not there to witness the support students showed for Moreno.
Many of the students joined the protest, some carrying their own “Team Andy” signs that they had downloaded from the Queer LiberAction website. Others had written Team Andy across their stomachs or on their shirts.
“This couldn’t have been more fabulous if I dreamed it,” said QL organizer Gabe Coppinger.
“That students are supporting Andy is the new twist,” said QL founder Rick Vanderslice. “The derision is coming from the principal.”
Annie West is married to a man and moved to Dallas from Norman, Okla. She said she attended the rally because she was upset about a suicide in her hometown last week following a heated debate about a Gay and Lesbian History Month proclamation at a Norman City Council meeting.
“I am so proud to be here on this day to witness history changing before my eyes,” West said. “The youth of America believes in equality and I think adults should learn from this.”
Martin and other officers were pleased at how peaceful the rally remained. A few students shouted anti-gay slurs, but students said they had a right to say what they wanted as well.
Students who had not met Moreno clamored to meet her and a crowd gathered as MTV filmed her telling her story.
Voting for prom king and queen takes place on Friday, Oct. 15, before the homecoming game. Although Moreno’s name is not among the finalists for queen, Ruby Ortega is among the finalists for king.
When Moreno was nominated for queen, Ortega, also a male-to-female transgender, decided to run for king.
“I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable,” Ortega said. “I decided to run with her so she wouldn’t have to run alone,” Ortega said.
Ortega spoke to Escanilla about running. The principal allowed her to run based on birth gender.
Although she may be elected king, she’s planning to wear a dress to homecoming. She said she told the principal who didn’t seem to have a problem with that.
“I plan to wear something they wouldn’t expect the king to be wearing,” she said.
Moreno said she believes that Escanilla doesn’t understand who they are. She said Escanilla called her a transvestite and kept repeating that she was a boy. When Moreno tried to explain transgender, Escanilla said, “Whatever you are.”
Moreno said that all of the recent teen suicides in the news recently motivated her to run.
She said she understands that homecoming queen wasn’t the most important thing in the world. She ran because she thought it would be fun.
But she said she also ran because it bothered her that other LGBT teens were committing suicide.
“I want to show them that it’s OK to be who you are,” she said. “After high school it gets way better. I’m doing this to make high school better and easier for people who aren’t as strong as we wish they were.”
She said it bothers her that so many LGBT teens feel they are alone.
“You should stand up for what is right even if you are standing alone … because you are not alone,” she said.
In the two days of voting a number of students cast their ballots for Moreno on the first day. On the second day, an assistant principal reportedly handed ballots back to students who had voted for her and were told to vote for someone else.
“I was getting a lot of the votes,” Moreno said.
She thinks if voting were allowed to proceed without interference, she would have placed in the top three to become a finalist — and she believes she would have won.
Moreno said that throughout her school career, she had never been bullied. She chose to attend North Dallas High School because of its reputation for zero tolerance of bullying, and Moreno commutes to Uptown each day from Pleasant Grove.
While she won’t be homecoming queen, Moreno’s looking forward to going to the homecoming dance on Saturday, Oct. 16, and seeing her friend Ruby crowned homecoming king.
But the message she said she hopes other LGBT students get is to be themselves and that they are not alone.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.