October 28, 2009

Transgender Person Named Homecoming Queen...And It's Not a Big Deal

That's how the students at William & Mary reacted to the election of Jessie Vasold as homecoming queen. Here is an excerpt of the report from their student newspaper, The Flat Hat:

Jessee Vasold ’11 made history at the College of William and Mary Wednesday when ze was announced as the school’s first transgender homecoming queen, representing the Class of 2011.

Vasold identifies as gender-queer and prefers to be referred to with gender neutral pronouns: “ze” in place of he or she and “zir” rather than him or her. Vasold has also created a Facebook account for a female identity, Kathy Middlesex.

Friends suggested that Vasold run for homecoming queen. Even though Vasold thought that there was a good chance at being elected, Vasold said the win was still surprising to hear.

“We figured it would be something different for the school to go through, something that hasn’t happened too often,” Vasold said. “I was kind of surprised that I won because I knew the other girls running. I know that they’re really friendly; they’re wonderful people, so I was unsure.”

This year marks the return of direct voting by students. Last year, there was no platform to host voting, so the homecoming kings and queens were chosen by class officers out of student-submitted nominations.

The alumni website was used this year to choose the homecoming court. The alumni office had no oversight over the nominations for the court, which was a purely student initiative.

“I thought it was much better done this year because students actually could vote for who they wanted instead of having five or six class officers select who they think should be the winner,” Junior Class President Mike Tsidulko said.

According to Tsidulko, there is no rule against men or women running for opposite roles. Students who made nominations were simply asked to describe how the candidate exemplified Tribe pride.

“In general, most descriptions were about what activities they were involved in on campus or spiritedness at sporting events or any other kind of campus activity,” Senior Class President Alyssa Wallace said.

Those students nominated with a description were put on the ballot.

“It basically came down to nominations,” Wallace said. “Jessee was nominated, Jessee’s peers voted and Jessee won. That’s really all there is to it.”

Around campus, the reaction has been positive.

“I’ve only had people congratulating me. I know that one of my friends was in a conversation with someone who didn’t think that it was fair that I was able to run, because I’m not female-bodied,” Vasold said. “But it generated a really good conversation, so they were able to talk about a lot of different things.”

This is simply more evidence that the day is coming where homophobia and transphobia will be marginalized to an outer fringe belief and those that don't conform to what are now considered gender norms will no longer have to live in fear and cope with constant discrimination.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

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