Transgender Charlotte student nominated for homecoming king

Senior must raise most money for international charity to win

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: February 4, 2014 in News

UPDATE (Feb. 7, 2104, 10:06 p.m.): Charlotte transgender student wins homecoming race, crowned at East Mecklenburg High School

East Mecklenburg senior Blake Brockington holds the fundraising box that will determine if he becomes homecoming king on Friday.

East Mecklenburg senior Blake Brockington holds the fundraising box that will determine if he becomes homecoming king on Friday.

UPDATE (Feb. 7, 2104, 10:06 p.m.): Charlotte transgender student wins homecoming race, crowned at East Mecklenburg High School

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A 17-year-old transgender senior at East Mecklenburg High School has been nominated by his peers to run for homecoming king. The winner — whoever raises the most money for an international charity — will be crowned this Friday at East Meck’s homecoming basketball game.

Blake Brockington, who’s spent all four years of high school at East Meck, says winning the homecoming king race would raise awareness and provide an example for other transgender youth.

“I honestly feel like this is something I have to do,” says Brockington, noting few other transgender male students have had the opportunity.

Last September, a Pennsylvania school district axed a transgender student’s attempt to run as homecoming king. In October, though, a transgender male student was elected at his Concord, N.H., school.

Brockington says winning will mean the most for several younger transgender students he mentors, including a nine-year-old boy.

“He really looks up to me. That’s my heart,” Brockington says of his mentee. “He has support now and he will be able to avoid just about everything I’m going through and I don’t want him to ever have to be scared. I feel like if I do this, that’s one red flag for everybody to say, ‘Nobody should be scared to be themselves and everybody should have an equal opportunity to have an enjoyable high school experience.’”

That’s an experience Brockington hasn’t had. He came out as transgender at the end of his sophomore year. At home, his step-mother was receptive, but his father rejected the notion. At school, Brockington faced taunts, mostly from other boys, as well as a lack of understanding and education from some teachers and, even, some guidance counselors.

“It was pretty black and white; there was no gray area,” says Brockington. “It was either they were really supportive or really not supportive, and it’s still like that. … I’ve had a hard time with counselors. They’re like, ‘You’re not a boy. This isn’t your name. We’re not going to call you that.’”

But, Brockington says he’s known he is transgender since he was child. He didn’t know what it was called, but always remembers identifying as a boy. He and his mother, he says, had “a very heated discussion” when she told him he was a girl at six years old. Eventually, though, he found the words to express how he felt.

“It was winter break my sophomore year and I was on Tumblr,” he says. “I found out what transgender was and said, ‘Okay, that sounds like me.’”

He came out gradually to friends and then attended the Queer Youth Prom held by Time Out Youth Center, a local LGBT youth support and services organization.

“After that, I was like, ‘I don’t have to do this anymore — I don’t have to hide anymore or not be myself,’” he says. “I came to school my junior year and said, ‘Hey, I’m Blake.’”

Teacher Martha Deiss, whom Brockington had for a civics and economics course his sophomore year, says he was one of her brightest students.

“A great student,” Deiss says. “Always had the highest grades.”

But, Brockington’s coming out and a mix of personal and family struggles made sophomore year a particularly “rough patch.”

“That was the year that everything was kind of coming to a head, I think,” says Deiss. “He had a rough year.”

Brockington, who now lives in foster care, says life at school and elsewhere has gotten better. He’s staying focused on class work and extracurricular activities. He plays rugby for a student club at the school and, when he turns 18, hopes to play for the Charlotte Royals, a local, LGBT-inclusive rugby team. Band, too, has kept him grounded, where he’s been a drum major for two years.

Support from teachers like Deiss, his social worker, foster parents, and doctors and therapists have made all the difference. Next fall, he’ll attend the University of North Carolina-Charlotte where he intends to study mathematics with a minor in music and education.

To win the homecoming king title this week, Brockington will have to raise the most money for Mothering Across Continents. The school is contributing to the international non-profit’s efforts to build a school in South Sudan.

Brockington is getting the word out through friends at school and co-workers at his part-time job.

And, even if he doesn’t win, he’ll still be among a dozen guys on the school’s homecoming court, though Brockington is aiming for top spot.

“We’re hoping for king,” he says.

Want to support Brockington’s homecoming bid? Cash donations inside sealed envelopes can be dropped off at East Mecklenburg High School’s main office, 6800 Monroe Rd. Donations must be made before the end of the school day on Friday. Donations can also be dropped off before Thursday at Time Out Youth Center, 2320-A N. Davidson St. The homecoming game is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday.

UPDATE (Feb. 7, 2104, 10:06 p.m.): Charlotte transgender student wins homecoming race, crowned at East Mecklenburg High School