High School Swaps Homecoming Royalty for Gender-Inclusive 'Liberty Leaders'

Two Iowa high schools have announced they've phased out homecoming kings and queens in favor of a gender-neutral approach. And other schools across the country are already following suit.

Oct 16 2018, 4:41pm

Photo by Marta Locklear via Stocksy

As anyone who’s ever watched a John Hughes film knows, homecoming crowns are often framed as the rightful property of blonde cheerleaders and broad-shouldered white jocks. But now, a Iowa high school is trying to make homecoming a more inclusive, less heteronormative place for people of all gender identities, races, and sexual orientations.

Iowa City’s West High School held their homecoming last weekend, The Gazette reports, and this year there was one important difference between their event and others like it nationwide: Students decided to do away with gender-specific titles like king and queen. Explaining the move, 17-year-old student Anjali Huynh explained that homecomings have historically overrepresented “white, heterosexual students of privilege.” Instead, Huynh and her fellow West High students wanted their homecoming court to be truly diverse. “There are students of different backgrounds, of all races and genders. There are several students on this court who would never have been on the court previously.”

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West High isn’t alone in wanting to reform homecoming to make it more welcoming to, and celebratory of, the broader student population. Liberty High School, also in the Iowa City district, recently moved away from using gendered terms to recognize “Liberty Leaders” instead. Speaking to The Gazette, an Iowa LGBTQ nonprofit explained that other high schools across the state were following suit: “I’m hearing it a lot more and more,” said Nate Monson of Iowa Safe Schools in a comment on the decision to forgo gendered titles. “Homecoming is about celebrating the successes of the school and its students, and LGBTQ students and alumni are a big part of that. It opens the doors and paves the way for transgender and gender non-conforming students to also be a part of that.”

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This isn’t just an Iowa initiative. Last month, The Chicago Sun Times reported that Purdue University had become the first American university in history to institute a gender-neutral homecoming court. Instead of being called king and queen, the students who won their crowns were simply termed “homecoming royalty.” Meanwhile, other institutions are opening up the king and queen titles to trans and non-binary students. In September, Maryland’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School announced that anyone could be a homecoming king and queen, regardless of their gender identity.

Whether they’re liberty leaders or homecoming royalty, it looks like homecoming may become a tradition that is more reflective of the lives of US teens in the years to come.