It’s time to update homecoming

The+court+looks+on+as+seniors+Jalia+Ward+and+Hannah+Lumpkins+are+crowned+Homecoming+Queens.+While+the+coronation+is+a+cherished+tradition%2C+changing+the+titles+would+be+one+simple+way+to+include+more+genders.

Kaelin Kerpash

The court looks on as seniors Jalia Ward and Hannah Lumpkins are crowned Homecoming Queens. While the coronation is a cherished tradition, changing the titles would be one simple way to include more genders.

It’s that time of year again. Floats covered in streamers roll down streets, students dress up for their themes and the school transforms into another world as classes decorate their individual areas. But for many, there’s one aspect of Homecoming season that is a lot less glamorous: the egregious reminder of the school’s deeply ingrained gender binary.

This year, despite talks of phasing Spirit King and Queen into Spirit Royalty, the titles remained the same. We no longer have male escorts, who were typically chosen by staff while the girls had to go through a popularity contest. This year, only girls were included on the court, going through the same process as always. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying these fun traditions should be eradicated, but we must acknowledge that the way they’re enacted excludes a lot of people who don’t fit within the gender binary.

In attempts to rectify this exclusion, many high schools and colleges that have attempted to make such traditions more welcoming to all face backlash. Articles refer to nasty Facebook comments calling these actions ‘lefitst’ and ‘radical,’ asking why fun traditions have to be altered for genderqueer people. ‘Can’t they just deal with it?’

No, they can’t. They shouldn’t have to. The point of altering homecoming king or queen titles is to be more inclusive, not less. 

At Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., two students of any gender from the homecoming court are chosen as “Homecoming Royalty.” At Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., homecoming court is made of 10 students regardless of gender, and similarly to Evanston Township, any two can be selected to be “Homecoming Royalty.” At Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., homecoming queen and king were switched to one “Homecoming Wildcat,” the school’s mascot, who can choose between a queen, king or gender neutral crown. 

“‘We are honoring our homecoming tradition while updating it to be more inclusive and representative of our diverse student body,’” Northwestern University homecoming committee member Yari Gallegos said. “‘These changes at universities across the country represent the growing diversity of their respective student bodies and the move towards creating more inclusive spaces.’”

Some people don’t get comfort at home and that can be hard and it can really hurt your development as a person… school should be a place [where] everyone can be comfortable.”

— Ash Herring

Updating homecoming traditions will not take away from the broader community; it only serves to enhance the experience for people the current culture excludes. This one small thing can be a key step in expanding how we interact as a community, especially with our nonbinary peers.

Freshman Ash Herring has known their identity since they were young, and wants to see more of a change in the way we represent traditions and inclusiveness.

“[Identifying] can be a very personal thing. If you do [have] to say ‘I identify as what I was assigned as at birth,’ when you personally know it’s not true, it can be hard to say that to yourself,” Herring said. “Some people don’t get comfort at home and that can be hard and it can really hurt your development as a person… school should be a place [where] everyone can be comfortable.”

We are in a world already unaccomodating to nonbinary or genderqueer individuals, a world where just going to use the restroom can cause needless stress and anxiety. All members of our community deserve recognition, deserve to feel seen and valued. Homecoming court is one place where we can really make a difference, allowing students of any gender to be represented.

“While the school does do a fairly good job with gay, lesbian and bisexual support, we could work a little harder for the trans and nonbinary community,” Herring said. “Identifying as trans or nonbinary is affiliatied with loving yourself, because it’s just loving yourself for who you are.”

We need to show the trans, nonbinary and genderqueer community more love. We need to make sure the traditions we uphold include all members of our community. These changes should not be accompanied by guilt trips and backlash from cispeople who don’t see the point. It does not take away from anyone’s experience, but it can mean the world to someone else.

Updating homecoming traditions is just one step. We have another 12 months until the next homecoming week; are we going to sit passively and allow this non inclusive environment to perpetuate? Or are we going to take active steps? Instead of asking what we have to do, we should be asking what we can do.

More steps toward gender inclusivity