Running for (and winning!) homecoming queen was one of the most impactful experiences of my life. As the first openly-trans homecoming queen at my university, I received a wave of publicity for my win. But the biggest impact was personal — being included in such a gendered, heteronormative tradition on my terms made me realize that I actually don’t mind those traditions when I’m able to participate in them alongside everyone else. Arguments of assimilation aside, that was one of the first moments that helped me come to understand my gender identity.

Last year, on the three-year anniversary of my win, I finally came out fully as a trans woman. Shortly after that, I wrote this — originally in verse-chorus-verse style, imagining a cheesy country accompaniment. I reworked it a bit and it’s still a little cheesy, but it means a lot to me because it illustrates just what winning homecoming queen taught me. It wasn’t about a wave of local fame, it wasn’t about glamour. It was about knowing I can access the same spaces as everyone else — as my full self.

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