Tigard’s first gender-neutral homecoming
Do we care who wears the crown?
October 27, 2017
PRO gender-neutral homecoming
Tigard High took a huge step towards improving inclusivity in the community. This year’s homecoming had a modification compared to past homecomings. Instead of just having a king and a queen, Tigard High School crowned two members from the official gender neutral court chosen by the student body. This change helped Tigard grow and develop new traditions that will propel the school and the student body forward.
Senior Sierra Kruse, ASB Vice President, was inspired to make the change by Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. A lot of time went into researching and studying different models and setups to improve flexibility of the homecoming court. Hoping that the student body’s eyes will have been open, Kruse wants to help students feel included in traditions that they may have felt left out of in previous years. Voting will still be left up to the students, and leadership has been getting feedback that there is more variety in the choices. There will always be people who don’t accept the changes, many kids in the student body that have felt conflicted about it might be confused or need the changes that are being made to be clarified. Leadership is still open to answering any questions. Kruse made it clear that she, Jesse Abell, and the entire resources committee are willing to help clear up any confusions. The structure of the dance and the parade won’t be changed, neither is the “institution of homecoming”, it’s just the “language of it”.
“This year we worked alongside Jesuit in making the changes because they had a similar goal. I love Tigard, and this is a change that works towards making everyone feel represented on court no matter gender, identity, and sexuality. It shows that everyone is welcome on the same platforms, and that their voices can and will be heard. I think this is a step towards Tigard living up to its potential when it comes to inclusivity,” Kruse said. “It gives more people a chance to feel represented and catered to. It also demonstrates to students that don’t feel represented at Tigard that they are valued here. Homecoming court has lots of stereotypes associated with it and this change opens it up to all kinds of students. The biggest change is in the small acknowledgement of students at Tigard High with sexualities and gender identities that don’t often get catered to. We hope that this is a start in Tigard adapting our wonderful traditions to keep up with our evolving times.”
Wanting the tradition to be accessible for everyone instead of excluding people, voting opened up to be more inclusive of the entire student body. This change has been an ongoing discussion for years, originally being brought up by various students around the school. After the new ASB leaders transferred in, Abell has been supporting the student body in working on it and creating it.
“It’s just including everyone in a tradition. Homecoming is an important part of high school and when you’re in college you’re probably going to forget some of the things you learned in class but you’ll probably remember homecoming,” Abell said. “I think if there are people who felt like they couldn’t see themselves in that tradition, it will improve their connectedness to the school, and hopefully, the people who already saw themselves as apart of that tradition will feel like the community has grown because of that.”
According to leadership, this new voting system will be operating on a trial basis,with many people hoping it’ll be a success and help shape the future. Many students are on board, as is the school administration, who called the District Office to make sure to get their approval before giving the plan to go ahead. Hopefully this adaptation to the tradition will continue, as it has bettered the student body, making many students more open minded. A lot of thought and planning had gone into making sure that the change would help Tigard High grow as a community.
“The best solution to a problem that not everybody can be satisfied with is the new homecoming system,” said sophomore Ethan McClelland. Understanding that there will be people who want to stick to old traditions, McClelland wants to make sure that everybody feels like they have a place here at Tigard High School. He hopes that the change will set an example to others schools so they can work towards helping the entire student body feel, “included, loved, and a part of the community as a whole”.
“I think there are always going to be people who want the standard king and queen system, but as time goes on, systems need to kind of change and adapt to what people identify as and how they relate to gender. Overall, I think the system is good and people will just need some time to get used to it,” McClelland said. “This system, I think, really does a much better job at including everybody and especially around homecoming. As well as not having any separation based on what you identify with or the color of your skin or your sexuality or anything.”
ASB Resources, Claire Cordill, believes it’s time for a change. She wanted the homecoming court to be more inclusive of everyone in the student body. Taking away the labels that regarded gender, Cordill expected the reaction she received from the student body. She expected that there would be some students more upset than others but that there was, “nothing too extreme or unexpected”.
“With this change we have made court more inclusive to all students who may not feel comfortable with the gender parts of homecoming and court. I wanted to make some kind of positive change and when this idea was brought up, I figured I’d take it on,” Cordill said.
Other schools have also had conversations about a non gender specific court or have the student body just vote for people that they would like to see represent the school. Eliminating the titles will result in a universally inclusive homecoming court. Principal Andy Van Fleet is supportive of any ideas that improve inclusivity. He believes that a “universally inclusive homecoming court” will improve unity in the student body.
“I want to take away the idea that two people who got voted have to be a couple, that’s awkward to me. No connotation, not voting on a royal couple. Voting for two people who embody Tigard High School,” Van Fleet said. “When you define that role [by gender] you box people in and box people out. My goal is to support as much inclusivity as possible and make all of the students feel supported regardless of race, gender, political ideology.”
Ironically, in spite of Van Fleet’s concern that having couples can be awkward, this year there was a couple on the royal court. Sophomore Maddie Rough was crowned royalty during the assembly along with her girlfriend sophomore Luna Pelaez. She believes Tigard is setting a future with a student body filled with open-minded people. Although there are students that are unsupportive of the new system, Rough thinks that it’s a great addition to the school. The new gender neutral court also leads to other advancements being made around the school. Students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community will hopefully feel better represented here at the school. It also meant a lot to students to see Luna and Maddie on court and LGBTQ+ students being represented.
“Tigard is setting the future to show that anyone no matter of race, religion, or sexual orientation can represent the school. Homecoming has always been a boy and a girl, excluding couples of the same sex from ever being nominated. Now anyone, whether or not you identify as a boy or girl, can be on the court,” Rough said. “The LGBTQ+ community is small at Tigard High and not everyone supports it, so I think it’s a really big step for two people part of that spectrum being on sophomore homecoming court. I will always fight for equality amongst everyone.”
Tigard High has taken great steps to work towards helping everybody in the student body feel more included. This year’s new gender neutral homecoming court has already improved inclusivity around the school, and it may have been a small change to the system, but the act made a big difference to the community here at Tigard High. Hopefully, this will lead to more action being taken around the school to help improve the student body as a whole.
CON gender-neutral homecoming
The long awaited announcement; the students had a feeling of what was coming and that was the mood coming into the assembly. The students filed in, some excited, some annoyed. A change to the homecoming court was met with some applause and boos as the names were called to announce those selected to this year’s court.
The homecoming court needs to maintain its traditional ways, representing each grade with one girl and one guy on the court, not the gender neutral royalty of this year.
Students are the main focus in the school and the reason that teachers and administrators work here, yet they neglected to inform us of a change that impacts us all. Students only found out that there was going to be a change to the homecoming court by word of mouth. No explanation was provided by the leadership students which left the student body wondering why and how. If the students vote for gender neutral homecoming then that’s what it will be, but I just don’t think that’s the case. If everyone were to vote, I think that the majority would go to traditional values and keeping things the same. The students need a voice and until that happens this homecoming court has not been fair to the whole student body.
“Two to three years of planning with different groups of students went into this before voting was opened up,” leadership advisor Jesse Abell said. This process has been long and tedious to get things changed for a small minority within Tigard High School. Students within leadership were concerned that not everyone within the school was being represented. Leadership has worked for the past two years trying to bring gender neutral homecoming to the student body, but it felt as though leadership was trying for something new without any influence from the student body. A vote about this change in format was not offered to students because leadership thought it would be nearly impossible to inform all of the students.
One way to go about change is being open with administration and expressing concern about the changes brought up without any student input. Our goal as a student body is to work together and come together on issues such as a gender neutral homecoming. Discussions before and after need to happen and change can’t be so sudden. “The student body needs to vote for the two people that they want to represent their class at the dance,” Principal Andy Van Fleet said. “A school that has taken away the court altogether is Hillsboro High, while other schools have talked about a change to the court as well.” But we shouldn’t follow what’s popular in today’s culture. Tigard should do what makes sense for the majority of its students.
There has been a gap from administration and leadership to the student body. So many students disagree with the change but how many are willing to stand up and say something? Students don’t want to get called out by people who disagree. “Other students will get offended and overreact when you disagree with their opinion so it’s hard to stand up to them and it’s just not worth causing problems,” sophomore Jacob Theodoroff said. A number of students were afraid to talk to me for this article for fear they would get hated or accused of being homophobic because they preferred a traditional homecoming court.
The purpose of the traditional homecoming isn’t meant to exclude anyone, it is supposed to include the whole student body, electing one girl and one guy represents everyone and not just a select portion of the grade. With this change we have not only changed the tradition of the court, but we are now excluding even more people. Allowing two girls or two guys to both be in the court in one grade completely excludes either all of the girls or all of the guys in the grade. Half of a class has been excluded in this situation.This is exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen. When we begin focusing on a small minority within the school, we exclude almost all of the student body which is the greater majority in this case.
This decision should not have been reached with such a select group of people. Give us, the entire student body, the information we need to know such as — “we are removing titles”; “we are trying to be more inclusive”; “we want everyone to feel safe.” Then let us vote. At the end of the day, if the majority of students vote for change and to remove homecoming titles, then that’s the right thing to do. But until that happens this change hasn’t been the right thing to do. Not one student that has a different opinion about this has been given a chance to speak. They are immediately criticized for not being “all inclusive”.
This change hasn’t been beneficial to the student body. The goal of the homecoming queen and king is not meant to offend anyone. These titles aren’t put in place to bring someone down; these titles are there to bring people up as reigning royalty. These students elected by their peers will remember their homecoming forever. They will remember being nominated and put on the court, but will they really enjoy being remembered as the court instead of a prince and princess or king and queen? This title is important to maintain since it brings distinct recognition to those students while keeping the tradition alive. Without a king and queen or prince and princess, this tradition is not so royal.