The San Francisco Chronicle posted a story online today about Oakleigh Reed, a transgender 17-year-old at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Mich., who was voted homecoming king by his classmates after he launched a Facebook campaign for the crown. But then school officials yanked Oak’s crown, declaring that students can only choose a boy for homecoming kind, and Oak — as he is known to his friends — is not a boy.
Oak has been coming to terms with his gender identity for some time, and his classmates and teachers and family have apparently been coming to terms along with him. His teachers refer to Oak with male pronouns in class. The school allows him to wear a tuxedo when he marches with the band. And he has been given permission to wear the male cap and gown at graduation.
But because he is “still enrolled as a female” at the high school, Oak can’t be homecoming king, school officials declared.
Another homecoming king has already been crowned. But Oak’s classmates, angry that their votes were ignored, have taken to Facebook to protest with a page called “Oak is Our King.” And they are encouraging everyone to wear T-shirts bearing that slogan to school on Friday, Oct. 1. The Chronicle says that the ACLU is considering taking on the case.
Now, I figure there are two ways to look at this, and I guess when it comes right down to it, you can see it both ways at once. First of all — and this was my first reaction — is to be angry at school administrators who completely discounted the choice of the majority of the students who wanted to honor their friend Oak by naming him homecoming king. We could see it as just another example of the way LGBT people, especially LGBT youth, are mistreated by a bigoted society.
That’s all true, of course. But look again and you can see a very bright silver lining to this cloud: The fact that the students voted a transgender teen as homecoming king. If that’s not progress, what is?
There will come a day when the “old guard” — the ones that take away homecoming king crowns and refuse to letLGBT students take their same-gender dates to the prom and insist they dress according to outdated gender stereotypes — will be gone and this younger, more open-minded and accepting generation will be in charge. And maybe when that happens, the young people of that day will stand aghast at the idea that same-sex couples weren’t allowed to get married, that gays and lesbians couldn’t serve openly in the military, that transgenders were ridiculed just for trying to be themselves.
I’m not saying we should stop fighting for those things now and wait for the inevitable change. I know I don’t have that much patience, and I am sure most of you don’t either. But I do think we can take heart in knowing that change is coming. Whether the bigots like it or not.