Friends, classmates, and supporters are speaking out after a student at Mona Shores High School in Michigan was denied the title of Homecoming King last week. Oakleigh Marshall—known to his friends as Oak—is a 17-year-old senior honors student whose winning votes for the race were disqualified by school administrators, because he is still listed as female on school documents.
Oak won the position after just a one-day campaign on Facebook garnered him much support from other students. But on Monday, the school principal called Oak into her office to explain that because he is enrolled as female, the votes do not count. “In order to be eligible for homecoming king, the ballot clearly states you must be a boy … He, as I use the pronoun correctly out of respect, is not a boy,” Principal Jennifer Bustard commented to Wood TV.
Yet Oak has proven to be stable and secure in his gender identity. His transition has been a lifelong process, and after going through years of counseling, he plans to have sex reassignment surgery when he turns 18. The school has already made other accommodations for Oak, including permitting him to wear a male tuxedo for his band uniform, and a male cap and gown for graduation. Faculty and friends refer to him using male pronouns. Tammye Nash for the Dallas Voice calls the incident “a glimpse of the change to come,” taking encouragement in the fact that Oak’s election represents acceptance and a shift towards equality.
Oak stated that he is happy with the outreach of support he has found, which ranges from fellow students who began a Facebook page that states “Oak is my King,” to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has released a statement and is interested in getting involved with the case if Oak agrees. The teen’s mother has also spoken out on his behalf, saying “It just breaks my heart that all these people all voted and it was taken away, it was completely taken away from him.”
GLAAD will continue to monitor coverage of Oak’s story as it progresses, ensuring that he is represented fairly and accurately by the media.