This year’s homecoming royalty at Lincoln High assumed their respective thrones through a gender-neutral voting system that school officials hope is more inclusive.
“It was a simple way we could be more inclusive to all our students and still bridge that with some traditions that we and other schools have in terms of homecoming,” said Principal Mark Larson.
Traditionally, students have voted for four girls and four boys in each grade for homecoming royalty. The top vote-getters in each category are named homecoming king and queen, prince and princess, duke and duchess and lord and lady — one pair of titles for each grade level.
This year, students were asked to vote for eight students per grade, with no gender distinctions.
The school didn’t change the royalty titles, but did give the finalists an opportunity to express their gender identity before narrowing the finalists to four. Then the top female and top male vote-getters in each grade were crowned. That means students identifying as genders different than their biological sex could be included in the gender category of their choice.
Every year, administrators talk to all the finalists to get bio information for the ceremony, but also to make sure they’re comfortable with being homecoming royalty, Larson said. Sometimes students aren’t comfortable with it because of social anxiety, because they weren’t planning to attend, or because of gender identity issues.
This year, students could have been included in a different gender category during the final voting, although such a change wouldn’t be made without first having a conversation that included the students' parents, Larson said.
Larson said he and the student council sponsor began talking about the change last year as a step that made sense to be more inclusive of all students.
It’s an important change, he said, but in some ways didn’t seem like a big one given Lincoln High’s culture.
“In some ways it doesn’t seem like a big deal at Lincoln High because it’s been a part of our culture in terms of being as inclusive as possible in all situations,” he said.
Lincoln High is the first LPS high school to make such a change.
But Lincoln High joins a growing number of high schools and colleges across the country moving to gender-neutral roles for homecoming royalty.
Those include the University of Nebraska at Omaha, which last year switched from calling royalty “king” and “queen” to calling them “royals,” a title that could include any combination of men, women or transgender students.
And high schools from Maryland to Oregon have changed their traditions so both voting and selection is gender-neutral, which means two boys, two girls or transgender students could be crowned as royalty.
Larson said he’s not sure if a change in titles — away from “king” and “queen” — will happen, but there may be a conversation about where to go next.
“I think any time changes like that happen, I think it’s best if it happens slowly,” he said. “I think this was simple change but one made so all of our students could feel more included in the process.”