When I was in high school I didn’t have a homecoming dance, but I saw a lot on TV and I would get quite invested. From what I could tell, the ritual of crowning a homecoming queen could either be a way of celebrating teen girls or a cruel means to tear them down. I don’t know if it’s at all like this in real life, but homecoming queens seemed all powerful when I saw them in the media. For my favorite fictional characters, being crowned meant being validated socially; it meant being recognized as a young woman. I felt a thrill of middle school hopefulness when the compassionate girl was celebrated over the mean girl, when she could conquer all her struggles with bullying and adolescence and finally got the appreciation she deserved.
Unfortunately, I don’t think homecoming queens normally feel that empowered in real life. At my school, we saw the running and competing of girls as a sort of beauty pageant; it seemed sexist and outdated.
But this week I ran across a truly beautiful story of a homecoming queen, a story about a girl who spent her teen years bravely defending her rights to be exactly who she is. The heroine in this story did win the crown and I think I felt even more elated than I had ever felt watching my favorite teen dramas.
Cassidy Lynn Campbell is a sixteen-year-old woman. She attends Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California. She is transgender and she has spent her high school career reaching out to other trans women; she even catalogued her experience on her YouTube channel. On Friday she was crowned homecoming queen.
Her running meant something profound and important. Before the dance she told the L.A. Times, "If I win it would mean that the school recognizes me as the gender I always felt I was." Her win sends a resounding affirmation to trans and cis women alike, to teenagers of all genders and all walks of life: “I’m doing this for the kids who can’t be themselves,” she explained.
Her win is historic. One of the first trans girls to win homecoming queen, Campbell “instantly just dropped to the ground and started crying” when her name was announced. I don’t know many individuals, let alone high school students, who have done something so important and brave for the world. Way to go, Cassidy!
Unfortunately, Campbell’s crown has not silenced all the ignorant haters out there. The internet is full of people writing cruel things about the girl. She explains, “It’s just sad that everyone has to be so judgmental about it, and so hateful, and so mean and so negative.” In tears, she posted a YouTube video to respond to the negative attention and although ignorance might be breaking her heart, it won’t break her spirit. She will continue to fight for LGBT rights. Her strength is to be admired and her actions and activism are sure to inspire and empower girls around the world.