Homecoming: a time of parades, pep rallies, and the crowning of the school’s king and queen. This year, Patrick Henry High School in San Diego put a new twist on an old tradition. The student body elected Rebecca Arellano as the first female homecoming king and her girlfriend, Haileigh Adams as their queen.
It’s a small wave in the sea of change for gay teenagers—and girls in general—but it’s one worth noting.
I have been out of high school for exactly ten years and out of the closet for almost the same amount of time. While my suburban New Jersey high school was no Mississippi, it certainly wasn’t as progressive as Patrick Henry. We didn’t even have a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), an after-school activity that has become a staple at American high schools in the last decade. There were three or four openly gay students, one of whom was a close friend. As far as I’m aware none of these students (or myself) encountered major harassment or bullying. Interestingly, my close friend experienced far worse at home than he ever did in the halls or cafeteria of our high school.
It seems that some things still haven’t changed. The students of Patrick Henry High School (albeit along with their district superintendent and school board) seem supportive of the homecoming elections, but the school has received hateful phone calls and emails from adults outside the community. I’d like to commend both girls for handling this media circus with grace and dignity. Since the controversy broke out, they’ve asked various news sources to not show the video of them at the homecoming dance and have declined to comment further to avoid putting their school in a negative spotlight.
Thankfully, before dropping off the radar, Rebecca Arellano posted what I would call an empowering status update on her Facebook page: “For all the girls who think tradition should be continued, go back to the kitchen, stop having sex before you’re married, get out of school and job system, don’t have an opinion, don’t own any property, give up the right to marry who you love, don’t vote, and allow your husband to do whatever he pleases to you. Think about the meaning of tradition when you use it in your argument against us.”
Some have attacked this message as an indictment of traditional values, but I see it a beacon for the true embracing of “live and let live” feminism. What Arellano is arguing for is the right to evolve, to think up new definitions and new traditions—and dare I say it, let a girl be crowned king.