Crowns to Sashes

LSE Homecoming Court ditches king and queen titles as it shifts towards inclusivity


Ksenia Gevorkova, Online Editor

One of the biggest tropes in countless high school movies is the beloved homecoming king and queen. It’s been done over and over, with teens fighting over the crown and dramatic twists and turns as they all compete to achieve the ultimate title. With big coming-of-age movies such as “Mean Girls” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” using the school dance to advance the plot, it serves a critical role in creating a significant turning point for the characters. 

For decades, people have looked up to movies like these for the “perfect” high school experience, but for many students this isn’t a possibility. By glorifying one way to live your life, certain individuals who do not fit into the mold of the actors in such movies can often feel isolated and like they don’t belong. 

With the changing social environment and people coming to terms with gender identities and sexualities that may not be seen as stereotypical, change was needed. LSE took the initiative and changed the Homecoming king and queen into a Court, making it more inclusive for people who do not identify as female or male. This change challenges the stereotype of a straight couple being the most ideal of the night. 

According to an article called “Gender-neutral homecoming: No more kings and queens in effort to include LGBT students “ by Linh Ta in 2018 when an Iowa school changed to a homecoming court there was “ more diversity in the people nominated for homecoming recognition, including students with special needs, LGBT students and students with varying racial and ethnic backgrounds.” This shows that this small shift is not occurring just in Lincoln but all across the US, as people are wanting to include more diverse students. 

People had strong opinions on the change to a Homecoming Court, however, for the most part, the feedback was positive. Ryan Yakel (12), one of the final twelve nominees for the homecoming court, believes that it was a good change and that it is a step in the right direction. 

“I think it’s pretty nice because, in my opinion, it kind of takes away the gendered aspect of Homecoming royalty because I know there’s something [off] about choosing a king and the queen and the princes and princesses,” Yakel said. “I don’t know, it just feels a little weird because you’re kind of forcing them,” Yakel said.  

Oftentimes, forcing someone to conform to a gender role they do not identify with can hurt the individual and cause them to try to hide their true gender identity. By enforcing the idea that there can only be a king or queen, homecoming can limit the opportunity for people who do not identify with a specific gender and can make them feel not welcome in this tradition. 

LGBTQ+ youth are especially susceptible to the ideas about gender society pushes on them. According to the article, “’Young People Are Taking Control Over Their Gender Identity.’ New Research Examines Diversity of Nonbinary Youth”, written by Madeleine Carlisle in 2021 for Time magazine, around 26 percent  of LGBTQ+ youth identify as nonbinary, and an additional 20 percent  are questioning their gender. This is a large chunk of the LGBTQ+ population and shows how many students are also having to deal with the repercussions. With many aspects of life being gendered, it makes it very difficult for those who do not want to or cannot identify with just one to live their daily lives while staying true to themselves. 

A person who is nonbinary often doesn’t associate with being either female or male, and it can be very harmful to push a gender upon them when it makes them feel uncomfortable. This is  why many people change their pronouns after adopting a new gender identity since it’s a simple way for people to respect them and affirm their new identity. There is even an ““emphatic response” from those surveyed: that respecting a young person’s correct name and pronouns is a crucial step in making them feel affirmed in their gender identity.” according to the Time article. Whatever pronouns a person chooses should be respected as there can be serious consequences otherwise. 

As found by the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, “respect for pronouns is correlated with a decrease in attempted suicide, and is associated with a real increase in quality of life and mental health for young people.” In fact, nonbinary youth who said “no one” respected their pronouns had a 2.5 higher rate of attempting suicide than those whose pronouns were accepted and used by people in their lives. 

For transgender youth, this concept is just as important as according to the Trevor Project, transgender individuals report increased rates of depression, suicidality, and victimization compared to their peers. Transgender individuals, unlike nonbinary, often identify with a specific gender but that gender does not correspond with their birth sex. Out of individuals 13-21 about 1.8 percent are transgender and they experience significant distress regularly. According to an article on the Human Rights Campaign, nearly half of transgender youth have been bullied on school property, and oftentimes they will also be more susceptible to mental illness. By respecting gender identity, people can help relieve some of this distress and it is a simple way to validate and support the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Homecoming Court doesn’t only affect non-cisgender individuals, cisgender referring to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex, but also has a big impact on people with different sexuality than a stereotypical heterosexual attraction. 

“King and queen seem like a couple, so when I was growing up, I was always confused because I always thought you choose a school couple to be king and queen.  It kind of takes away [the idea that], okay they are not together, it’s just a court of six people and it can be anyone, regardless of gender or anything,” Yakel said. 

Oftentimes in the media, the Homecoming king and queen are portrayed as the goal for the canon movie couple. The boy and girl both win, go through an exciting montage, and then they end up living a happy life together. This fantasy, however, directly excludes youth who do not find attraction to the same gender or find attraction to multiple genders. 

The media has often excluded LGBTQ+ individuals, however recently that has begun to change. Slowly major television networks and streaming companies have been adding more diversity to their cast of characters and are beginning to represent multiple sexualities. Even big corporations such as Disney, which has often been associated with children and has shied away from inclusivity, has started to include characters of various sexualities. 

Cyrus Goodman from the TV Show Andi Mack recently became the first openly gay character on Disney, which just shows how this is the start of a new decade. On Oct  27, 2017, an episode aired where he came out to one of his friends, and claimed this legacy. By having one of the main characters of a Disney show being openly homosexual, Disney also began to follow the trend of inclusivity and set the precedent that other children’s television shows can also include characters such as this. 

Although, recently there have been advances, for decades prior there was little to no representation in the media and often our traditions reflect that. Homecoming royalty is one of these traditions that is from this older way of thinking. It focuses on a particularly straight group of individuals and although two people who are not dating can be nominated, it is often portrayed as a couple. A court, on the other hand, prevents this entirely and directly impacts the students at Lincoln Southeast High School (LSE) in a positive way. 

“At LSE, we are trying to promote a safe environment for everyone and allow all students to be whoever they want to be. This was the admins’ first step in adapting tradition for the student’s benefit,” Student Council President Kendal Fenton (12) said. 

LSE  is one of the first schools in Lincoln to transition to a homecoming court instead of the king and queen royalty and many schools across the country are also doing the same. 

“I think it definitely paves the way going forward. Hopefully, in the future, we get more full-on representation of anyone in this school, ” Yakel said. “ There’s no gender to it, it’s just a court. And plus its six people now which is a force that opens the door for two more people to be on this court of people, and so hopefully it just increases like the representation of different aspects of the school.”

Representation is always a struggle, however as rates of openly LGBTQ+ individuals rapidly grow it is necessary to give them a place to shine. By providing an environment that doesn’t dull any voices, there is sure to be change in the future, one bright and full of inclusivity.