Homecoming Court and LGBTQ Inclusivity

West students celebrate the school’s annual Homecoming dance, an event tied to the decades-old tradition of Homecoming King and Queen. Photo courtesy of Marina Soen (12).

West students celebrate the school’s annual Homecoming dance, an event tied to the decades-old tradition of Homecoming King and Queen. Photo courtesy of Marina Soen (12).

Every year high school students await homecoming season to nominate their peers for the much anticipated court. Students involved in school activities like sports, clubs, and leadership race for the chance at the titles of Homecoming King and Queen. But is this tradition outdated? Gender nonconforming students sharing the hopes to be nominated are faced with two choices: sacrificing their identity for the crown, or opting out of the experience entirely. Society’s been doing a great job progressing toward a more inclusive world. It’s 2022: gender-queer students should be given the same opportunities at Homecoming without having to give up their identities. 

  While generally still a minority, the number of nonbinary students in high schools is larger than one might assume. In a report published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that nearly 1 in 10 public high school students identify as “gender-diverse.” With such a presence in school populations, it’s about time schools start considering allowing gender neutral titles in Homecoming court nominations.

   West SAGE/GSA President Mars Padi (12) commented, “Since our freshman year, the number of genderqueer and just generally LGBT+ students has increased.” The upperclassmen alone (the grade levels which get nominated for Homecoming court) tend to experience an increase in gender nonconforming students throughout their high school years. “Many of us were closeted and others haven’t fully figured out our identities, or had even started questioning,” Padi added. Nearing the end of 4 years of self exploration, those who have found themselves in a gender identity outside the labels male and female should be able to participate in school dance court nominations just like their cisgender peers.

   Identifying as genderfluid (a gender identity outside of the gender-binary), Padi feels they missed out on the chance of the Homecoming crown: “If I was nominated and voted as [Homecoming] ‘queen’, it would be considered misgendering and would make me feel uncomfortable… It would make my peers believe that I identify as a girl and continue to perceive me as so.” Integrating a non-gendered term for Homecoming court provides genderqueer students with the affirmation they need. Padi noted that a third option would comfort them “[knowing] that others see [them] for who [they] say [they] are, and let others know how [they] identify.”

   The hopeful transition to a more inclusive Homecoming court is nothing new. In 2017, Northwestern University crowned their Homecoming court under the title of “Homecoming Wildcat” and gave the winning student the choice of a crown, tiara, or a more gender neutral accessory. Purdue University has also gone gender-neutral in terms of their Homecoming courts, crowning students with the title “Homecoming Royalty” and has even further demonstrated LGBTQ inclusivity by not restricting Homecoming court couples to heterosexual pairings. The list of schools who have enforced the transition to a gender inclusive Homecoming court goes on. The change is possible; We just have to continue to push for and encourage the transition at a local level.

   What people may fear is the loss of such an old high school tradition. However, the inclusion of a third, gender neutral Homecoming Court title does not mean omitting the words “king” and “queen” from Homecoming season entirely. Perhaps instead of having the student body vote for one queen and one king, students can simply just nominate their peers. Upon being nominated, candidates can then be asked which title they are most comfortable with: Homecoming king, queen, or just Homecoming crown. This way, gender nonconforming students are able to comfortably partake in homecoming nomination season.

*The opinions expressed in our Opinion articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily express the views of the Signals Staff or West High as a whole.