Originally published: Feb. 7, 2014, 9:15 p.m.
Updated: Feb. 8, 2014, 12:15 p.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In what may very well be an historic first for the Queen City, a transgender student was crowned homecoming king Friday night at East Mecklenburg High School.
qnotes first brought you the story of 17-year-old East Meck senior Blake Brockington earlier this week, after he was nominated by his peers to run for homecoming king. In order to win, Brockington had to raise the most money for Mothering Across Continents, an international non-profit working to build schools in South Sudan.
Brockington blew the competition away, raising $2,335.55 of a total $3,203.22. Some of the money flowed in from across the city and state, with local LGBT youth services agency Time Out Youth Center helping to collect the funds.
“This means a lot to me because I know that for me this a dream that has finally been made and for others this is an inspiration,” Brockington said after the homecoming ceremony.
“I hope this makes everybody know that they can be themselves regardless of what anybody else says,” he added. “You can do anything you set your mind to.”
Brockington’s foster parent, Donald Smith, said he has supported his foster son throughout the homecoming race.
“Blake is definitely someone who perseveres,” said Smith. “Somebody made a comment to me that Blake needs to pick his battles and my response was I support every battle he’s chosen so far. That’s really how I support him.”
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Bill Allen, an East Meck teacher and advisor for the school’s gay-straight alliance, says students and faculty at the school accept and honor diversity.
“Our school has always been trendsetting,” Allen said. “This is just another step. Our school accepts people the way they are.”
Allen said past homecoming and other school events have included the welcomed participation of openly gay and lesbian students.
Brockington, who is headed to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte next year to study mathematics, music and education, 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.’”
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.
Earlier in the week, Brockington said winning the homecoming king title would be an opportunity to raise awareness.
“I honestly feel like this is something I have to do,” Brockington said, 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 said 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.’”
Brockington’s win on Friday is believed to be the first time a transgender student has been elected homecoming king in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
East Meck’s homecoming traditions are unique. In order to win homecoming titles, students must raise the most money for a non-profit. Additionally, East Meck has a “reverse homecoming,” with homecoming queen crowned at a fall football game and homecoming king crowned in a spring semester basketball game.