Kasey Caron is a 17-year-old high school senior who likes cats and pumpkin spice-flavored things. He’s a member of the National Honors Society and an assistant drum major in the marching band. He was also recently nominated to be homecoming queen.
Yes, you read that right: queen.
That’s because Caron is a female-to-male transgender teen and the school he attends, Richland High School in Johnstown, Pa., says it has a legal obligation to put him on the queen ballot because his birth certificate lists him as female.
That’s despite the fact that Caron identifies as male, is listed on his driver’s license as male, and has told the school that he would like to be on the king ballot.
An appeal to the school board did little to help. The board deferred to the school and, while they said Monday that they’d look into the issue again, it will likely be too late to benefit Caron. The homecoming game is on October 5.
It didn’t always look like it would end this way, though, Caron said during an interview with Fusion.
At an early September board hearing, Caron said the school counselor originally asked which ballot he’d prefer to be placed on and recalled the feeling of inclusion when he thought his wishes would be respected.
“It was hard to turn the corner without someone congratulating me, hugging me, and promising me their vote,” he said at the meeting, according to a statement on The Keystone Student Voice, a site devoted to LGBTQ news that has supported Caron in his campaign to be listed on the king ballot. “I had never felt so accepted, so supported, and so respected in my life. I was sure I was going to make it onto court, and this would be a major step forward for me, my school, and the young LGBTQ community.”
That feeling faded quickly, he told Fusion, when school officials then objected.
“I don’t understand where they’re coming from,” he said. “They know me personally.”
Richland School District officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Caron said the town is small and he’s known most of his fellow students and teachers for years. He has friends whose parents are on the school board, he said. And most people have generally been accepting. When he told the school he is transgender a couple of years ago, they worked with him, making him a copy of a key to the officials’ locker room, so he could change and use the restroom there. His guidance counselor had a meeting with his teachers and talked to them about appropriate pronouns, he added.
He lost some friends over the years, he said, but most have come around eventually.
“They matured and got over it and over the years, the students have changed a lot,” he said, adding that there’s more acceptance and that he’s stopped letting bullying affect him because he knows it’s something they’re doing “only because it’s something they don’t understand.”
The whole situation, Caron said, has been “sort of a surprise,” because the school “has been supportive” in the past. And he’s disappointed in the ruling because “it’s like sweeping the problem under the rug,” he said.
“The problem is someone else is going to come through and have to deal with this one day and the fact that the school board did not make a decision means someone will have to fight the same fight, which I’m trying to avoid,” he said. “Even if I didn’t win, I was hoping it would make it easier for someone else. They’re completely ignoring the issue…there’s not going to be any precedent and I think it’s completely unfair.”
Caron is also waiting to hear back on several other requests, like whether he’ll be allowed to sit on the male side and wear male graduation regalia during graduation ceremonies in the spring. He’s also asked for a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school and for gender identity to be protected under the school’s anti-discrimination policy.
Being on the homecoming court isn’t something the teen really spent much time considering before the issue arose, he added, but it’s become important to him now. At this point, he’ll be on the queen ballot and if he wins, Caron said, he’ll probably hand the crown to the next person in line. First of all, he said, he doesn’t want to wear a tiara, and “that’s not what this is about.”
Caron recently wrote on the blog XOJane in a post called I’m a Transgender High School Student, and My School Won’t Let Me Run for Homecoming King that “I wanted to be on homecoming court now, just to show my school and kids everywhere that it was OK to be different and be yourself. And that gender wasn’t as black and white as some people made it seem. That it didn’t matter what was in between your legs, but what was in between your ears and in your heart.”
“In a few short weeks, this issue has become much more than just a fight about a high school popularity contest,” he continued. “It has become a huge battle for the LGBT community as a whole and the way transgendered people are seen and treated in society.”
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.