High School Won’t Let Teen Be King

While high school is not supposed to be a popularity contest, it’s got to make a parent proud to have their child chosen, by the other students, to be homecoming king.  Similarly, it would be absolutely devastating and infuriating to have the school step in and take that title away.  That’s what happened to Oakleigh Reed, a senior at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Michigan.  The teen is happy about the support from the other students, but notes that “sometimes it’s nice to have something tangible.”

Mind you, Reed is no troublemaker that drew votes via threats of violence.  Nor was he disqualified for having flunked out of school or being on suspension — the child is an honor student, even.  And there was no evidence of misconduct in regards to the vote — “I knew I had a lot of votes,” Reed said, “because people were telling me in the hallway, ‘Hey, I voted for you, I voted for you.'”  So why did the school take away Reed’s crown and title?

It turns out that Reed is actually registered as a female at the school.  Born Oakleigh Marie Reed, Oak, as his friends call him, is a transgender man.  Teachers use male pronouns — he, him, his — when referring to him and he wears a male tux when performing with the band.  He has also received permission to wear a male robe and cap at graduation.  But if that’s the case, why would the school strip him of his title, contrary to the wishes of the student body?

According to Assistant Superintendent Todd Geerlings, it’s simply because the ballot says to vote for a boy for homecoming king.  Despite the fact that the students, teachers, and even administrators recognize him as a boy, school officials decided that the students could not overlook Oak’s birth-assigned sex even though it clashed with his gender identity.  So, as kids are wont to do these days, Oak’s classmates set up a Facebook group, Oak Is My King.  They’ve also designed T-shirts and are planning to wear them in protest this coming Friday.

Now, while this story seems the usual tale of prejudice and discrimination towards someone who doesn’t fit the standard mold and, yes, the ACLU may be getting involved on Reed’s behalf, there is another way to look at it.  This is also the story of an openly transgender young man who was not only accepted by his peers, but voted homecoming king.  And when the school tried to take that away, still they rallied and organized and protested.  And this is in Michigan.  Not exactly the Castro district of San Francisco.

So while this was completely wrong and unfair, this story gives me hope — hope that our kids understand far better than we do that things like gender identity and sexual orientation really don’t matter; it’s the type of person you are that counts.

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