Monday, September 27, 2010

Trans student not homecoming king because of Mona Shores High School cissexism


High schools have long been a bastion of gender policing, most recently punishing Constance McMillan* and Alexis Lusk for their sexuality and gender. And now, at Mona Shores High School, the cissexist administration is using homecoming as an excuse to champion the gender binary. Oak Reed was voted homecoming king recently by his classmates and friends. Since he is trans, school officials decided that that simply wouldn't do.
Assistant Superintendent Todd Geerlings said the issue is simple: The ballots gave two choices -- vote for a boy for king and a girl for queen...And, in school records, he said, Oakleigh is still listed as a female..."They told me that they took me off because they had to invalidate all of my votes because I'm enrolled at Mona Shores as a female," Oakleigh said.
Oak and his friends are understandably upset. He was surprised because school administrators and teachers had already given him the basic respect of treating him as his actual gender. "They let me wear a male tux for band uniform, and they're going to let me wear the male robe and cap for graduation...[Teachers] call me Oak, and they say, he, him, his."

His classmates, the ones who elected him in the first place, have intensified their support of their king. One student, Nick Schrier, started a Facebook group called "Oak Is My King" protesting the school's decision (click on the link to join!). The group suggests writing letters to the local paper and wearing shirts proclaiming their support of Oak on the day of the game. "It's the senior class that votes for their representative," Reed said. "What they did was taking away the voice of the senior class."

The article profiling this incident is at first benign, but actually another example of cissexism masquerading as objectivity. The reporter avoids referring to Oak's very clearly stated gender through pronouns; Oak is constantly referred to either by his first name or as "the teen". Alone, this would be troublesome. But especially in conjunction with pained references to Oak's prior name and surgery plans, it betrays a cissexist denial of Oak's gender as truly his on the part of the reporter.

An arbitrary popularity contest is far from the biggest struggle facing trans people today. But this is an excellent example of how cissupremacy and the kyriarchy are regularly perpetuated: by making sure that the genders of trans people are seen as less legitimate and less real than the genders of trans people.

Also see Monica at TransGriot's coverage.
*Originally mis-identified as Candace.

10 comments:

  1. Ughhhhh. I've always hated the tradition of voting for homecoming/prom king/queen - especially as a high school teacher. When something like this happens, I hate it even more.

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  2. I just don't get stuff like this. Why enforce strict gender rules on an event that is supposed to be for and by the student body? At my high school, a female classmate tried to get nominated for homecoming king. Her gender and sexual orientation were fairly heteronormative as far as I know; she was just a goofy, funny, outgoing kid and she and most of the student body agreed that she had a kingly personality. Obviously, she was forbidden from winning. SO ARBITRARY. This case is so despicable because the school is communicating to their trans student, "I know we go along with your name and pronouns, but don't expect us to REALLY consider you a man."

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  3. Follow up comment: I think the logic teachers and administrators might have been using, at my own high school and at Mona Shores, is that it's "unfair" to all the cis boys who want to run for king... when the whole thing's a big popularity contest, anyway, which are inherently unfair in a kyriarchy.

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  4. Not only does the school's decision go against the obvious will of the students (way to show you're supporting your students, Mona Shores!), but it's just malicious. At my own high school, and at the high school I did my student teaching at, homecoming king and queen are absolutely meaningless titles. It's a fun popularity contest (if you actually like anyone who's running) that has absolutely no consequences. After the game and dance, it just becomes another picture in the yearbook that most people skip over.

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  5. Q: why is this even news?

    A; male privilege aided and abetted by cis feminists.


    I think some serious self-examination of which stories on trans people you choose to signal boost is in order here.

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  6. Deleted two defensive comments.

    @Anonymous - I agree that the traction this story has gotten in comparison to usual coverage of discrimination against trans people is, well, problematic. I also agree that trans men are often over-centered in feminism, particularly in contrast with the exclusion trans women face in feminism.

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  7. I'm not sure if this story is getting some huge blow-up in the news that I'm not seeing, but I am going to be a little defensive wrt RMJ here. I totally agree that trans women face a lot of misogyny both without and within the trans community and are often excluded.

    But in terms of this blog, discrimination of any kind is news worthy, and I don't think there's a problem in her having chosen to write about it nor do I think her history is particularly transmisogynist.

    Q: why is this even news?
    A: because it's messed up that gender identity is such a big deal, no matter WHO it happens to.

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  8. Faye, taken as a critique of the story as it has manifested in the blogosphere at large, I think it's totally fair. Trans people are almost NEVER covered in the media, and this story has broken through because it's reflecting many forms of privilege, most notably race and male.

    Contrast that with the story I covered on Friday, which resulted in three blog posts, two media stories, and absolute silence since the initial incident (to the best of my knowledge). Violence is worse than losing homecoming king, and that shit happens all. the. time.

    I'm committed to report and analysis of stories that are not covered by the MSM (including big blogs like Jezebel), and I try to particularly focus on stories about trans people, which except for a few exceptions are very regularly underreported. I posted this less than two hours after the initial report came through my google alerts. Had I waited until morning to write on this, I would not have simply because everyone would have already read about it.

    However! This doesn't make me really that much less guilty than Jezebel editors of centering privileged experiences. We still posted largely the same story, and saw many of the same things in it - I knew when I saw the initial report that it would be something people wanted to read about.

    I'm not exactly sorry for writing about it - as Faye said, and as I tried to express in my conclusion, it's not life or death, but it IS fucked up. Nonetheless, there's plenty of oppression to write about - my choice of this particular story was in many ways reflective of privilege.

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  9. *taken as a critique of the post in the context of the blogosphere at large.

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  10. Wait, back up, he got voted Prom King in the first place? And some portion of the student body supports his right to be Prom King?
    Frankly, I don't expect anything better than the behavior displayed by the adults involved here...the kids on the other hand. They are impressing me.
    Then again, I live in the South. Tolerance by any number of people about anything is impressive.

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