Principal Won’t Allow Transgender Student to Run for Prom King
A transgender teen from a central Pennsylvania high school says school officials won’t allow him run for prom king, the York (Pa.) Dispatch reports.
Issak Wolfe, a senior at Red Lion Area Senior High School in York County, Pa., was running for prom king but was upset to discover his the school listed him instead for prom queen.
"I’ve always known I was different. I knew I wasn’t like the other kids," Wolfe told the Dispatch. Wolfe, born Sierra Stambaugh, came out as transgender about three years ago. He added that his transition experience has been mostly positive, except for some teachers who "gave me negative feedback"; his friends and family have been supportive. Wolfe, 18, has not undergone surgery but plans to do so soon.
The student had been campaigning for prom king and even double-checked with the prom committee and advisers to make sure he would be listed on the ballot for prom king. But when the prom ballot was revealed, Wolfe was upset to see that he was listed under prom queen.
"For a transgendered person, it is degrading to have that, and I wasn’t even warned," he said. Wolfe was told that the school’s principal, Mark Shue, decided to switch him to prom queen. According to Wolfe’s father, William Stambaugh, Shue explained his decision was "based on tradition and he wasn’t comfortable putting Issak on the boys’ side of the list," the Dispatch writes.
"(Shue) said the king was always a male and the queen was always a female. And he feels that’s the way it should be," Stambaugh said. He added that he understands Shue’s reasoning but wishes "he made a more progressive decision." Wolfe echoed his father sentiments and said school officials are good people who made a poor choice. He adds, he would like an apology for the embarrassment. Wolfe has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about the incident, however.
"I would like an apology, at a minimum," Issak told the newspaper. "I wasn’t given a fair opportunity. I mean, if I don’t win, I don’t win, but I’m not a queen."
A petition on Change.org has been created and urges school officials to put Wolfe’s name on the ballot and to read his correct name at graduation.
"We are trying to bring attention to this story so that people out there in Issaks’ position know they are not alone, so that my boyfriend has the chance to stand up on stage wearing the crown he deserves, the prom king sash firmly across his shoulder," the petition reads. "We must let Mr. Shue know that we will not stand for any discriminatory acts. Every one deserves to be treated with equality and respect that a human being deserves."
The petition was shared on Reddit and as of this writing has 2,722 supporters.
A number of readers responded to the Dispatch’s story and left positive comments, which some may find surprising since York is located in a conservative part of Pennsylvania.
"So disappointing, I had thought Red Lion was making great strides to bring diversity and acceptance to this small town," one reader wrote. "This decision teaches kids that it is not ok to be who you are unless you fit into the administration’s specific box. It is a dangerous path and puts children at risk."
"This makes me so sad. Good for you Issak! People need to stop using ’tradition,’ as an excuse for oppression," another said. "Thank you for being so brave and getting a rural area talking and beginning their education in understanding transgendered individuals!"
One reader wrote, "Sad that the Principal made this decision. but happy that this young man has his parents support...Someone needs educated and it isn’t this student."
This isn’t the first time a high school has taken issue regarding prom and the LGBT community. An Indiana high school made headlines in February after a group parents, teachers and supporters from Sullivan, Ind., urged officials to create a "traditional" prom that would prohibit gay students from attending. The incident gained even more attention when Diana Medley, a special education teacher from a different school, said homosexuality is unnatural and immoral.
"I believe that it was life circumstances and they chose to be that way; God created everyone equal," Medley said. "Homosexual students come to me with their problems, and I don’t agree with them, but I care about them. It’s the same thing with my special needs kids, I think God puts everyone in our lives for a reason." She went on to say that she doesn’t believe members of the LGBT community have a purpose in life.
"No I honestly don’t. Sorry, but I don’t. I don’t understand it," Medley contiuned. "A gay person isn’t going to come up and make some change unless it’s to realize that it was a choice and they’re choosing God."