Tristan Young, a Missouri transgender teenager, was chosen by her peers as her school’s homecoming queen, sparking a fierce yet entirely predictable backlash from conservatives who apparently can’t intellectually comprehend that the honor is effectively a popularity contest.
The 17-year-old is the second transgender girl to win the honor at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, following in the footsteps of Landon Patterson, who was elected homecoming queen in 2015, according to NBC News.
“Being nominated and then becoming queen is so much deeper than just surface level,” Young wrote on Instagram. “I have had a very difficult high school journey, but having the support of my friends, family, and Oak Park has helped tremendously. I truly don’t know where I would be without it.”
Photos of Young, dressed in a sparkling purple gown, were posted to social media, leading to a barrage of comments — both supportive and hostile — on Instagram, Facebook, and X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. The North Kansas City Schools district Instagram account had to limit comments due to a flood of rude messages from anti-transgender online activists.
When pressed by the media to comment, a North Kansas City Schools official responded that the homecoming winners are selected solely based on student votes.
“Our students voted for this year’s King and Queen. The role of the school and/or district is to honor students’ voice and decision,” Susan Hiland, a spokesperson for the district, told NBC News.
Young also used the opportunity to congratulate and praise the four other homecoming queen nominees. “Tonight I stood on a field with four other amazing women, who are just as deserving of this honor as I am,” she wrote on Instagram. “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience with these women.”
Riley Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer whose claim to fame was competing against Lia Thomas at the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in 2022, and has since become an activist espousing anti-transgender policies in the name of “protecting” women’s rights, criticized the outcome of the vote.
“So stunning and brave,” Gaines wrote sarcastically on X. “Another reminder to all girls that men make the best women. I wonder if a female will win homecoming king or if it’s understood that both of these spots are reserved for males. Who’s to blame here?”
“One of these people is a male with an adam’s apple who won homecoming queen in @NKCSchools and 4 others are young girls who had their dreams crushed by a man. Can you guess which one is a male?” wrote Chaya Raichik on her Libs of TikTok account on X.
On the Libs of TikTok substack, Raichik claimed to have spoken with two parents — both of whose identities were kept anonymous — who were angered, disgusted, and disappointed over Young’s win.
“I’m appalled by NKC Schools’ continued support of the LGBT agenda. NKC Schools says they are ‘Champions for All Students’ yet by embracing radical political statements like this, they not only indoctrinate children, but they are placing certain student populations over others,” one parent said.
“Having two homecoming ‘queens’ that are boys is a disgrace to the NKC Schools community. I hope more parents, community members and district employees start speaking out and start protecting children.”
“As a woman, it breaks my heart to see these girls get passed over and a man stealing what is rightfully theirs,” another parent told Libs of TikTok. “As a parent, I’m enraged that the school district is celebrating this on all of their social media accounts (conveniently locking down comments). On the other hand I’m broken-hearted because I know the students voted for him. Although Kansas City is a liberal-leaning area of Missouri it is still more conservative than most cities. I don’t know how we’ve reached this point or how to turn it around.”
Others have rallied in support of Young.
“I uplift this against the transphobic comments against this young person who was named queen by their peers,” Justice Horen, the chair of the LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City, wrote on X. “I’m thankful the next generation of Kansas City is so kind.”
“Oak Park High School was my Alma Mater,” wrote another user on X in response to an anti-trans commenter. “Tristan Young was my friend. I can tell you from experience that Tristan Young wasn’t indoctrinated by a narrative. She was the nicest person I’ve ever had the pleasure of performing with. You have no idea what the f*ck you’re talking about.”
The outrage over Young’s win is reminiscent of the outcry over a gay male being elected homecoming queen in 2021. That student, Zachary Willmore, a graduate of Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Missouri, was roundly criticized for “stealing” the title from a cisgender woman. He later clapped back at critics in a TikTok video.
“Before I start this video, let me just put on my crown that I won fair and square because Homecoming is quite literally a popularity contest,” Willmore said in the video.
“A lot of you guys’ main points in the video of me winning was that I was stealing some little girl’s dream,” he added. “It was some little boy’s dream too, and that little boy was me. You guys are hiding your hatred and homophobia in a thick layer of fake empathy.
“I’m still friends with all the candidates I ran with for homecoming royalty — which for the record, there were boys and girls both running, there could only be one winner…. People were happy for me. You guys weren’t because of your fixed mindset.”
Other high schools have received backlash for challenging gender norms when it comes to electing members of schools’ homecoming courts — often to the consternation of school or district officials.
In 2020, a transgender female at an Indiana high school attempted to run for homecoming queen, but was instead listed as “homecoming king,” leading the school district to apologize.
In April 2021, an Ohio high school crowned a lesbian couple as prom king and queen, leading some parents to call on the school district to rescind the honor. Six months later, a high school in Orlando, Florida, elected a transgender female homecoming queen. In May 2022, an Indiana high school crowned a drag queen as prom king.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!