One Giant Leap by White Station High School 

It was one small step for a teenager, Brandon Allen, but a giant leap for humankind.

I'm sure you've seen it or read about it by now, but last week White Station High School (Go Spartans!) did something historic and important when they crowned Allen Homecoming Royalty — not king, not queen, just royalty.

It only takes small steps to pave the way for change and make equality a reality, and White Station is well on its way. What happened last week is a win for not just Allen, but the entire LGBTQ+ community. It's a big deal. There's much to be said about it.

click to enlarge Brandon Allen - EMMETT CAMPBELL
  • Emmett Campbell
  • Brandon Allen

First, there's Allen, the brave high school senior who unashamedly (and rightfully so) wore a sparkling gold dress to homecoming and who is obviously not afraid to be his authentic self. This is what not conforming to the norms that you don't agree with looks like. This is what being a trailblazer looks like. This is what courage looks like.

Then there are the students. The students who support him, accept him, and ultimately voted for him. They clearly understand what it means to be open-minded, to be kind, and to be an ally. And if the world needs anything right now, it is more people like these students — who know how to truly be tolerant. If these kids are the future, then the future is sure to be bright. If these are our future mayors, lawmakers, doctors, lawyers, and judges, we might be in good hands.

This is progress. Seven years ago, I was a senior at White Station, and I don't think I, or many of my peers, were half as open-minded or tolerant as these students. And we definitely didn't have an ounce of the boldness Allen possesses.

The world is changing. I think the crazy and ubiquitous acts of hate and violence occurring in this country are a double-edged sword. The effects are devastating on one hand, but on the other hand, they are forcing youth to grow up faster, to mature quicker, and to realize early that tolerance is the antidote to hate. So hats off to these kids for showing us adults the way.

Still, Allen's win wouldn't have been possible without the school and its administration opening the door and setting a tone of tolerance. This year, for the first time, the school ditched its traditional, binary titles of Homecoming King and Queen, and instead introduced the gender neutral, all-encompassing Homecoming Royalty title.

White Station's principal, Carrye Holland, even in the face of critics and haters, explained the school's position best in a Facebook post: "Here's the thing: it's Brandon's right to run for homecoming court under Title IX. It's the students' choice of who they want to support as homecoming royalty. I'm exceedingly proud to be the principal of our amazing school. You don't have to agree, but disrespectful comments will be deleted. WSHS loves and supports everyone, regardless of who they are or what they believe. Thank you for the love and light from so many of you."

Taking this stand, doing the right thing by all students, even when you know everyone won't agree, is huge. We need so much more of this in this world. We need more Allens and more Hollands to stand up. We have got to start taking steps like White Station has done to make everyone feel included and valued no matter who they are or how they identify.

If the world continues to ignore those whose identity differs from what's considered "traditional" or "normal," then we will forever be dimming the light of people like Allen. We need lights like his to permeate the darkness and the hate that seems to prevail in this country. I'm glad the White Station community not only sees Allen for who he is, but they also accept him, respect him, and let his light shine uninhibitedly.

This is real, tangible progress, and I'm proud that it happened at my alma mater. But honestly, I'd be just as proud to see it happen at any school in the city or across the country. Because this is what we need more of — more tolerance and love, less hate and violence.

Maya Smith is a Flyer staff writer.

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