California high school elects gay male prom queen

Sergio Garcia, an 18 year old student at Fairfax High school in Los Angeles was elected Prom Queen last week.
From the LA Times:

Garcia, 18, spent most of his years at Fairfax openly gay and wanted to be part of the Los Angeles school’s prom court — but not as prom king. He felt that vying for prom queen would better suit his personality, so he decided to seek that crown, running against a handful of female classmates.

While the reporting about Garcia makes it seem that his bid was somewhat of a joke, I take his statement, “I see myself as a boy with a different personality. . . . I don’t wish to be a girl; I just wish to be myself,” to heart. It’s these nuances that really begin to break apart our understandings of the categories male and female as rigid and in opposition to one another.
Also, I never thought I would see this phrase in a mainstream newspaper:

“I think that indicates where our society is right now. That the young people, they are not involved in this whole argument about gay rights. They think this whole fight is silly. They just accept people for who they are,” Uribe said. “Gender-bending is just kind of in,” she said.

Join the Conversation

  • Tia

    I can’t quite put my finger on it, and maybe someone can help me – or tell me I’m being stupid – but something bothers me about this. Not about the fact he’s gay, or that he won, but something in the title of it all. A male took the prom queen title. And he won it, and that’s great for him, but I’d feel a little shafted as a female that two guys have queen and king but no woman was there to represent the infamous highschool royalty. Is it okay that he ran for queen because he’s gay? Or maybe he’s effeminate? If your typical, buff football star ran for prom queen, would this be equally accepted? And what about girls for prom king? Or is only cool if the girl is a short-haired, sports loving lesbian?
    I don’t know. Maybe it rubs me wrong because I get the sneaking suspicion that this cross-gender participation would not have been as accepted for everyone.
    Maybe I’m missing some info here, or maybe I’m just pessimistic this morning.

  • x-creepy-doll-x

    He sure looks fabulous! OK, now (see poster above) let’s see a girl elected king! XD I agree it’s gonna take longer, but sooner or later it is gonna happen.
    See this stuff makes me happy because when and where I went to school (Alabama; class of 1986) you (as a female) had to sign up with a boy, of a certain specified age group, from your same school, ahead of time, and show up at the door with only that particular guy, to be allowed to go to the prom. Even if you bought your ticket, you were NOT allowed to go alone, or with a group of girls, or with a group of friends, or with another girl, or with a boy from another school. You would be turned away at the door. Boys could go alone or with a girl from another school though. So this ended up with
    1. me pissed off and wanting not to go at all.
    2. Mom pressuring the crap out of me.
    3. me going with a jerktastic asshat of a guy and hating it.
    Progress is progress, man! I say yay for the gay prom queen!

  • hoolissa

    Yes, if he is allowed to run for queen, then female-bodied people should be allowed to run for king.
    I really like these news though, especially the quote “gender-bending is just kinda in,” haha, i love that gender-bending is becoming “cool” :)

  • Avatar

    Well then I think you’ve missed the point. The idea is that gender is disregarded entirely. I can see why you might feel shafted but nobody was shafted. The girls in the school got to vote. They chose him. I think that shows that they are strong enough not to be afraid of a little competition.
    I think the same thing would happen if an equally liked lesbian girl ran for prom queen. This is a statement of gender equality.

  • Pantheon

    I read on another blog that there was a lesbian girl who won prom king in some other town 8 or 10 years ago. Unfortunately I don’t remember which town, so I’m not 100% sure its true.

  • llevinso

    I just love love love this quote from him: “I see myself as a boy with a different personality. . . . I don’t wish to be a girl; I just wish to be myself.” It’s so simple and beautiful. Why is it so hard for people to accept and understand?

  • Pantheon

    I’m pretty sure the issue is popularity rather than gender or anything else.
    Also, I dunno, you may have a point, but I just can’t get worked up about representation or lack thereof in the *prom court*. Its such a silly popularity contest in the first place. Even in a movie like Mean Girls they had to make up some reason for people to care about it (they said that whoever wins prom queen was in charge of some sort of student committee for the next year, something I’ve never heard of a school actually doing).
    Anyway, I think its cool that a gay kid is that popular in the first place, but hopefully we’re getting to the point where that isn’t something unusual enough to make the news.

  • mk

    You’re probably thinking of Krystal Bennett, who was prom king at Ferndale High School in 2001. The school’s reaction wasn’t so awesome:

    Principal David Hutchinson says it is one way to deal with homosexuality, but it may not be the best way.
    “In this venue it wasn’t as appropriate,” he said.
    That’s what some students are telling the principal. Hutchinson admits although they don’t want to deny Krystal her crown, it’s unlikely they’ll ever crown another woman King.
    Hutchinson says based on student input, the school will more clearly define who can and can not be nominated for king and queen. The school says it got about 10 calls from the community, a few complaining, but most callers were just curious.

  • cand86

    Well, it’s not really the same, but a couple of years ago, a transman was allowed to run as prom king in my hometown of Fresno, which eliminated the rule requiring it to be only bio guys. He didn’t win, but it was nice to see it so close to home and with the administration standing behind him, even though it definitely displayed a lot of ugly transphobia.
    I’m glad this guy got to win prom queen . . . it’s cute and sweet.

  • Marc

    When I first heard the story, I was completely happy for the guy. But in thinking about it, there’s something that truly bother me …
    I am slowly analyzing it and I have to wonder: “Why does society associate gay male with feminine characteristics?” That is, it sees males as “less of a man” for being gay.
    This story has all sorts of gender implications, especially how we see women and men, as well as how we construct homosexual characteristics. I would have liked it better had this young man voted Prom King despite his sexuality.
    A better question, I suppose, is why do homosexuals sometimes self-stereotype, in that thinking if they are gay, they are more in touch with their opposite gender? What, exactly, are characteristics specific to one gender or another anyway? What are your thoughts?

  • cand86

    I guess my response would be why we have to see it as self-stereotyping, and not just accept his self-identification as someone who feels more in touch with the opposite gender even if he doesn’t identify as trans.

  • taalibba

    Yay for him!
    Regarding the news story that Miriaim cited, I’m confused as to why the reporter thought that “young people” accepting gay, lesbian and transpeople for who they are takes them out of “the whole argument over gay rights.” Doesn’t that qualify them as a strong voice in this fight?

  • Miriam

    I think we need to separate gender identity from sexual orientation here.
    I don’t think the reason he didn’t feel comfortable running for Prom King had to do with his sexuality necessarily, but how he felt about his gender identity. While they are often conflated, perhaps because there is more room in the queer community for gender exploration, they are two distinct things.
    Not all queer people see their gender identities differently, or as non-normative, but some do.
    This is reflective of the overall conflation of gender identity with sexual orientation, which is a result of an extremely heteronormative culture.

  • Honeybee

    I’d say the main reason is about defining people based on what sex they are attracted to since that’s the prevailing sexuality. I.e., whatever gender you are attracted to, you are most associated with the the opposite gender.
    So if he is interested in men, then that makes him similar to a woman since they (generally) like men. If a woman is interested in other women, they get associated with men.
    I think beyond that though, as a general observation, whether it’s true or not, if you look at how gays are portrayed on TV or those you know, most gay men are more feminine then straight men, and most gay women are more masculine then straight women. Not true as a whole, but I think most people believe this as a general rule. So that’s a further reason to do this.

  • everybodyever

    “Young people, they are not involved in this whole argument about gay rights. They think this whole fight is silly.”
    Oh, GREAT.
    If she really thinks that’s true, then maybe, as founder of a support group for GLBT kids, Virginia Uribe could do something about that — rather than portray teenagers as politically disinterested nitwits to national newspapers.

  • ikkin

    A couple weeks ago I was in my favorite cafe hanging out with a couple of my friends (a couple gay men) when we saw a gay couple come in and sit down. Normally, this would have been of little interest to us since seeing other LGBT downtown is really common in Austin. But, what stood out to me (and my pals) about this couple was a re-appropriation of gender normative gender roles in a way we didn’t really think was all that revolutionary or helpful against the fight for gender equality. What seemed to be going on between the couple, which consisted of an obviously wealthy, overweight gay man (around 50 years old) and a very young, thin man, was a re-enactment of a stereotypically dominating husband and submissive, subservient wife. The older man sat down while the younger man (a twink, by gay standards) filled drinks, got napkins, refilled ketchup ramekins, and did it all with the grace and femininity of Beaver’s mother.
    On one hand, it’s great to see a LGBT couple living happily and openly in our society. On another hand, it’s counterintuitive for me, as a feminist, to see that kind of dynamic in a relationship and not feel uncomfortable. And I think that’s how this prom queen issue could strike us. I, for one, will simply withhold judgment until I see if this phenomenon affects the gay community positively or negatively.

  • Mollie

    These were my sentiments as well when I read this last week. Not that I don’t automatically support him, or gender bending (as I do it myself), it’s just that… something rubs me the wrong way from a pro-woman perspective. Yes, this kid is gay but he still has male privilege…

  • Honeybee

    Does he though? I thought only heterosexual men have male privilege in our society?
    Certainly homosexual men have alot less then heterosexual men, and I think you could argue a straight woman has more privilege then a gay man in today’s society.

  • ggg_girl

    I don’t know, I have to agree with Tia.
    It’s great that he was elected but so far I haven’t heard any discussion at all here or at other blogs about the men taking up space factor. Even though it’s a prom court competition, it’s still a public role. Hopefully their will be women elected prom king if they decide to run. It would be nice to see feminist blogs mention these issues though.

  • llevinso

    Yes he still has certain privileges being that he is male. It’s safe to say that when he was growing up not everyone knew he was gay but he was still regarded as a boy and so the privileges that go with that came to him. The privileges that come with being male start at birth. Just like, let’s say, the privileges of being born white.

  • sara

    Why/how is he holding his head at that really unnatural and painful looking angle? My neck hurts just looking at it!

  • Punchbuggy Green

    Well, I think it would conflict with his identity to be a prom king. I know he is gay and not transgender, but maybe he would never feel comfortable being a prom king, and he obviously feels comfortable being a prom queen. So if he and people who feel similarly as him could not compete for prom queen, they would be completely excluded always and everywhere from prom court (or whatever it’s called). So I guess it depends on whether you think it is important for every high school everywhere to make sure that a girl gets to be prom queen, or if it is more important that people who feel Garcia are not always excluded at every high school from participating in an important (or what some people feel is important) part of high school.

  • Punchbuggy Green

    “Yes, this kid is gay but he still has male privilege…”
    True. But I bet all the female students running against him have heterosexual privilege. And there is a certain amount of privilege that goes along with conforming to gender roles (especially in high school!!!). He doesn’t have that privilege.
    So I guess I don’t see your point.
    One thing that I see as awesome is that he is being rewarded for being a male who acts femininely, in a world that so devalues what is feminine, especially in males.

  • llevinso

    “But I bet all the female students running against him have heterosexual privilege.”
    We don’t know that for sure. In a high school where a guy is running for prom queen it is possible that a lesbian or bi-sexual girl was also running for the title. We just don’t know. I doubt that each student has to write down or publicly declare their sexual preference before vying for the title.
    Also, I feel like you’re getting into a type of oppression olympics territory that is unhelpful. Like you’re saying heterosexual privilege is worse than male privilege. Both are privileges and should be acknowledged without one having to be better or worse than the other.

  • Punchbuggy Green

    Huh. I guess I can’t mention other types of oppression without engaging in “oppression olympics.” Guess I’ll stop then.

  • Stephanie

    I was really uncomfortable with this, actually. So a gay man can win a crown, but not if he’s running against REAL men. The only way a gay boy could possibly win is if he ran against woman, similar to him in statues and therefore more comparable for the crown. The heterosexual men still got to have their own crown, and anyone who isn’t “manly” enough is downgraded to the same crown.
    I’d be much more comfortable if (under the assumption that prom courts are not going to be eliminated altogether) that people ran for a general position, and the two people with the most votes win regardless of their gender. THAT would have been progressive. This is just the same old stereotype that gay man equate woman and that both are bellow true, tough, REAL men.

  • Kriss

    My friend, a gay male, won Prom King and switched crowns with the Prom Queen. =D

  • Zyfron

    I also have mixed feelings. In a lot of ways, it seems weird for a man to be queen. It seems like it simultaneously perpetuates the idea that gay men are feminine and that trans women are just confused gay men. I mean, not this incident specifically – but just the way that it seems to reflect those sorts of prevailing views which are so often voiced elsewhere makes me uncomfortable.
    I don’t know. I guess it’s a fine line between just being able to accept harmless things with joy and feeling compelled to notice or point out how even harmless and happy things can be indicative of non-harmless societal trends.
    What definitely makes me a little uncomfortable is that it seems like this was only possible because he was gay. And just in general, society’s tendency to conflate one’s sexuality with one’s gender is troubling in a lot of ways.
    Still, I much prefer to hear about gay boys winning popularity contests than to hear about them being mercilessly harassed or attacked – so in that sense it’s certainly a big step in the right direction :)

  • Honeybee

    I see what you’re saying but it is important to note that HE was the one who decided to run for prom queen. It’s not like the school or other boys pushed him into that category, he purposely decided for himself that that was the best category for him.
    I respect his choice to associate himself with whatever gender he prefers.

  • SweetDanger7

    This is horrible …. If “he” was SO popular …He could have won as king Too!
    The idea that gender is disregarded entirely is off , then WHY have king & queen , and it was taking away from the other girls,
    that were real girls
    “not a boy with a different personality. . . .not wishing to be a girl; just wishing to be HISself,” which happens to be male.
    Gender does make a difference and it should stay that way , if all were one gender or liking thier own kind , there would finally be no more , because without help they CANNOT reproduce within themselves,
    2 males …2 females.
    As for as the lesbian girl that got queen …. At least she still knew what sex “gender” she is.
    May God have mercy on us all!

  • C. L. Minou

    Something about this story bothered me too, though perhaps as a trans woman I’m just too close to it. But yes, on the equation of gayness and femininity, yes on the idea that prom king is only for “real men,” and while we’re at it, there’s something just a bit–disconcerting? unconsciously trans- or femmephobic?–about Sergio’s constant reinforcing of how he’s a man, not a woman.
    But maybe, like I noted on my blog, when a trans woman was elected prom queen, (warning: triggery))she didn’t get nearly the same kind of respectful treatment as Sergio did. And by respect, I mean simple stuff. Like using her name.