Even though students nominated Andy Moreno for homecoming queen, North Dallas High School principal says she can’t run

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

SISTERLY SUPPORT  |  Andy Moreno, left, has her family — including sister Daisy Moreno, right — and her friends backing her up in her bid to be the 2010 homecoming queen at North Dallas High. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)
SISTERLY SUPPORT | Andy Moreno, left, has her family — including sister Daisy Moreno, right — and her friends backing her up in her bid to be the 2010 homecoming queen at North Dallas High. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Like most teenage girls, Andy Moreno wants to be homecoming queen. And her classmates want Andy to be homecoming queen, too; they are the ones who nominated her for the honor.

But Dinnah Escanilla, the principal at North Dallas High School where Andy is a senior, has said that can’t happen.

Why? Because Andy Moreno is transgender.

Escanilla suggested that Andy run for homecoming king, instead.

Andy, 18, said this week she began thinking about running for homecoming queen last year. She felt like she would have a good chance at winning because she’s popular in school and has never been bullied by her classmates because of her gender identity.

Andy said she is also a good student, taking two advanced placement courses plus calculus and physics, and has never been in trouble at school.

But that, apparently, isn’t enough to make her homecoming queen material in some people’s eyes.

Andy said she always identified as female. And she made a promise to herself that once she started high school, she would be open about who she is.

Fortunately, her family is supportive.

Andy’s sister, Daisy Moreno, said Andy has always worn makeup but this year also began going to school in women’s clothes. It was Daisy who contacted Dallas Voice when she found out school administrators weren’t going to let Andy stay in the running for homecoming queen.

In addition to her sister’s support, Andy also has the encouragement of her mother, who has helped make posters for Andy’s homecoming queen campaign.

But Andy acknowledged that her mother worries about her.

“She warns me that people can be evil and I should watch how I present myself,” she said.

Her father, she said, has been a bit more reticent. Still, “Dad’s coming around in supporting me,” she said, adding that she has never felt rejected in any way by her father.

Andy also has two younger brothers, ages 4 and 14. She said her teenage brother is “completely fine with” the fact that she is transgender.

She said that when their mother talked to her brother about the issue, she asked him if he was embarrassed to bring friends home.

His answer: “No, why would I?”

Andy said she has gone to school dances in a dress and never had a problem. In fact, she said she has had support from many other students and, surprisingly, by some of the staff members.

“The security guards, counselors, teachers — and the cafeteria ladies love me,” she said.

Although the family lives in Pleasant Grove, Andy said she chose to attend North Dallas High School in Uptown because it was known for its diversity and tolerance.

She started transitioning in her freshman year, and in her sophomore year, a Gay-Straight Alliance formed at the school with the blessing of the principal at the time. Andy said he was very supportive of the group.

But since a new principal took over this year, Andy said, things have changed. “They watch us [the GSA] more than any other club,” she said.

Andy said that the counselor, who is the GSA sponsor, told her recently that the administration didn’t want her to run for homecoming queen, and that she should prepare herself for that opposition.

Earlier this week, she met with the principal and another woman she identified as a principal for the day who is also an attorney.

“She was asking me why I wanted to run,” she said. “She asked, ‘Why is this so important to you?’”

Daisy was upset over the way the two administrators had treated her sister. “The principal kept calling her a transvestite,” she said. “She’s not a transvestite.”

Andy added, “She said, ‘You’re a gay man.’ I told her I’m not and she said, ‘Well, whatever you are.’”

But Andy said she doesn’t think the principal is trying to hurt her. She thinks, instead, that the administration is afraid of what alumni attending the homecoming game on Friday night, Oct. 15, might say.

Because the principal is new, Andy suggested, she doesn’t want to cause waves or attract what could be adverse publicity.

After Fox 4 News aired a story about Andy on Wednesday, Oct. 6, she said school was a little awkward the next day.

She said friends told her she was the topic of discussion that day, and while most of her classmates were supporting her, a few voiced opposition to her run for homecoming queen.

Friends told Andy that their teachers set aside regular lessons for the day to discuss the issue. But her own teachers did not.

Andy said she didn’t hear any nasty comments from students in school. But Daisy said comments like “You’re a bitch” were posted on Andy’s Facebook page.

Other comments — including “I’m embarrassed to have graduated from there. It’s a homo school” — were posted on Andy’s Facebook page and on her friends’ pages.

But North Dallas High School has a zero tolerance policy for bullying. And Andy said two students were given tickets by security guards this week for calling another boy a faggot. The students will have to appear in court downtown and will be required to pay fines.

Still, the principal has not been above making threats, Andy said.

“When I told her I could go to the media with the story, she said, ‘Well, I could close down your GSA,’” Andy said.

She said the principal told her that she was only running for shock value.

“If I wanted to run for shock value, I would have run as king,” Andy said.

But not all the faculty and staff take the same view as the principal. Andy said staff who saw her in school on Thursday, Oct. 7, told her to fight back. And she said the others running for homecoming queen are friends of hers and have encouraged her to stay in the race.

One friend was assigned to give a current event talk, and “She’s making me her current event,” Andy said.

“I’ve heard of parents who are mad at the principal for not giving me a chance to run,” Andy said.

The principal has not spoken to the media and the Dallas Independent School District spokesperson did not return a call to Dallas Voice.

But DISD officials issued a statement that they supported the principal’s right to decide how to handle the situation.

In her statement, DISD spokesperson Sandra Guerrero said the school district “is proud to have one of the most aggressive anti-harassment policies among school districts in the state of Texas.”

Voting for finalists for homecoming king and queen was held on Tuesday and Wednesday. The top three vote-getters for king and top three for queen will be announced on Monday, Oct. 11.

Andy said that on the first day of voting, she seemed to be ahead. But on Wednesday, she said, an assistant principal was interfering with balloting, telling students who turned in a ballot with Andy’s name on it that they could not vote for her and needed to choose someone else.

Andy said she has friends on the committee counting the ballots and will challenge the results if she believes she has won and is not allowed to move onto final balloting to be held at homecoming or to serve as queen.

She said that friends have been making Team Andy T-shirts and banners and her campaign posters remained up at the school. And, she said, her best friend is a male-to-female transsexual but is running for homecoming king.

And said she hopes they win the titles together.

While waiting for the ballots to be counted, Andy was planning to attend her first Youth First Texas meeting after a school counselor encouraged her to visit the youth center.

She said she hoped to talk to others who have been through similar situations and get some advice from them.

But she will still be spending the weekend waiting for Monday when she will find out if she is one of the finalists, and hoping for the chance to attend the homecoming dance on Saturday, Oct. 16, to take the floor with her trans friend as king and queen of the ball.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.