On Sept. 20, 16-year-old Cassidy Lynn Campbell was crowned homecoming queen at Marina High School in Huntington Beach. Unlike many homecoming queens, however, Campbell is transgender, and according to the Huffington Post, is only the second transgender woman to be voted homecoming queen of an educational institution in the United States. Though this is an obvious indicator of the United States’ path to equality and socially conscious thinking, there is still much to be done for transgender equality.
Campbell’s homecoming queen crowning follows the recent passing of California Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial bill to allow transgender students in public schools to participate in sex-segregated programs and facilities in line with their self-perceived gender.
Campbell, born male as Lance Campbell, has been living as a woman for the past three years. Campbell was quoted as saying she has “always felt trapped in the wrong body.”
Campbell has certainly made progress in the grand scheme of things. Her win made headlines on major news outlets such as People magazine, the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post, and she was approached by MTV with the prospect of doing her own show.
But it is deeply disheartening that in such a progressive generation for the LGBTQ community, assimilation into society for transgender people continues to be remarkably slow. Transgender teen Kasey Caron, for example, has been forbidden from running for his high school’s homecoming king, despite the teen identifying as male, according to the Daily Mail.
High school is already a time when most students are facing crises in their own self-esteem and identity. It is both cruel and inhumane for any school to put their students through this type of treatment.
So what is to be done?
Though there is no cut and dry solution for solving any issue of transgender inequality, there are steps that can and must be taken immediately to cease unnecessary suffering for the transgender community. These ideas of change will focus on the younger generations.
First and foremost, this change needs to come within the public school system. Transgender students are subject to the highest risks of bullying and harassment from fellow students. If students can’t feel safe within their own schools, where can they? The longer the issue of transgender equality is ignored, the more it is reinforced to these young people that it is not acceptable to simply be themselves.
These young men and women could be the future leaders of our nation. Sending a message to them that their identity is not acceptable is dangerous for current and future generations alike. It is downright irresponsible for government legislation not to step up and take control.
Second, change needs to come through the media. Though some television outlets have included gay and lesbian characters, the integrating of transgender characters within movies and TV shows would be highly beneficial to the self-esteem of these young people everywhere. Though these characters would be fictional, this representation would reinforce the acceptance for the transgender community within society as a whole, an acceptance these young people so desperately need and deserve.
Third, more efforts need to be made to integrate the transgender community. Such efforts would entail building gender-neutral restrooms in all public areas, as well as gender-neutral changing rooms in clothing stores. The USC community is already making strides in this effort by including gender-neutral restrooms in many academic buildings.
Though these attempts might seem small individually, together they hold great power in increasing acceptance of the transgender community.
Flip through any history book and the same lesson will be repeated: Segregating any community of people leads to a catastrophic result.
Caroline Kamerschen is an undeclared junior.
Follow Caroline on Twitter @c_kamm