A Maryland high school is introducing a gender-neutral homecoming court this year to offer students the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they would prefer to be called a "king" or "queen," regardless of their gender.
Students from each grade level at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School will vote for two classmates from a selection of finalists, with the two winners being crowned at the homecoming football game at the school. The change allows the two winners to be, for the first time, two boys, two girls, transgender students, or a boy and a girl.
"It provides an opportunity for all students to be involved in something that was exclusionary," said Jacob Rains, president of the schoolwide Student Government Association. "It is really not our job, especially with a gender-neutral and transgender population at B-CC, to tell people that boys have to be kings and girls have to be queens. Who are we to put people into those categories?"
The decision came as the result of a four to one vote last week of officers within the schoolwide Student Government Association. Student leaders are currently making an effort to be more inclusive, and the school has an active LGBT club called Spectrum. In addition, the student newspaper profiled the experiences of one transgender student last year, writes Tess Koman for Cosmopolitan.
"It's so important for kids to see the school is accepting and that we recognize they exist," said Nadia Gaylin, a B-CC senior. "That is so huge and can honestly change lives."
However, not all of the over 2,000-member student body support the move. Many took to Instagram to mock issues related to gender identification while others outright objected to the idea.
"Wow, this really makes sense?" one person wrote. "Really disappointed that students couldn't vote on this or something."
The news reached students by text message and a school email group, which also announced another large change for the school — an additional gender-neutral bathroom will be placed on the third floor of the building.
The change within the Montgomery County school comes at the same time that other schools across the country are looking at the effect that gender classifications have on students. High schools across the county have already begun to make changes to their graduation robe assignments such as offering the same color to each student instead of having girls wear one color and boys another.
School bathroom access for transgender students has also become a subject for national debate lately as transgender students have pushed for the right to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity rather than their sex at birth, writes Donna St. George for The Washington Post.
While B-CC is the first high school in the county to adopt a gender-neutral homecoming policy, the notion has already come up elsewhere. Students from a gay-straight alliance at Madison High School in Wisconsin created a petition in an effort to make the same change at their school, with over 1,000 students and staff members signing it. Principal Beth Thompson said that while the idea is more common at universities, it has worked for the Wisconsin high school.