GV student groups support transgender homecoming king

Courtesy Photo / Google
High School Student Oak Marshall was denied the title of Homecoming King because he was born a woman.

Courtesy Photo / Google High School Student Oak Marshall was denied the title of Homecoming King because he was born a woman.

Samantha Butcher

Student organizations at Grand Valley State University have rallied around Oak Reed, a transgender student at Mona Shores High School who was stripped of his Homecoming King crown last month.

School officials told Reed, who has a female anatomy but identifies as a male, that the votes for him were invalid because he is registered at the school as a female. Reed, 17, plans to have a sex change when he turns 18.

Some student groups on campus, including Amnesty International and Out ‘N’ About, have shown support for Reed.

Molly Barnard, president of the GVSU chapter of Amnesty International, sent Reed a letter of support that Amnesty members signed. Barnard, who graduated from Mona Shores High School in Muskegon in 2008, has known Reed personally for over a decade.

“Discrimination is never acceptable, but for anyone who knows Oak, they know that it is heartbreaking to see such a good person go through this kind of experience,” she said.

After receiving her letter, Reed told Barnard, “It’s one thing for people to join a group but another to visually show it with a small note and a signature.”

Out ‘N’ About, a group that aims to promote awareness about LGBT issues on campus, has also shown support for Reed. After hearing that Reed had been denied a position on his Homecoming Court, the organization invited Reed to participate in their annual Pride Prom in February.

“We thought it would be a great way to show our support for Oak,” said Amy Simpson, president of Out ‘N’ About. “We also thought it would be an important reminder of why we hold events like Pride Prom – not everybody was able to enjoy or even experience their high school milestone dances. In many circumstances, this is due to systematic discrimination. Pride Prom is a fun social event, but it is also a symbol of how far we still need to go as a culture.”

Simpson said Reed has contacted her, but she cannot say for certain whether or not he will attend.

Barnard said that while it was encouraging to see people supporting Reed, the lack of acceptance was disheartening.

“I think that being transgender is becoming more tolerated, but there is a huge difference between tolerance and acceptance,” she said. “Although many are not aware of this, we do have many transgender students here at Grand Valley State University. Issues like this are important to our community because they impact our students on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not.”

Although he was not allowed to be on court, Reed said the school has been very supportive of him. A Facebook group, “Oak is my King,” has more than 12,000 members, many of whom are Reed’s classmates.

Teachers at Mona Shores use male pronouns, and Reed is allowed to wear a tuxedo for band concerts. He will also be wearing the male cap and gown at graduation.

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