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High school precipitates a new reign Intern Natasia Gascon | Thu, Nov 11 2010 10:40 AM

By Intern Natasia Gascon

When Niko Walker’s friends suggested that he run for Culver City High School’s homecoming king, he scoffed at the suggestion, saying, “It’s stupid.”

“What’s the big deal?” he asked.

To many people at Culver City High, it is a big deal. Walker is transgender. He began high school as a shy “gay girl” named Chelsea, who preferred to dress as a boy. “Later on I came out as a transgender,” said Walker, who recently began the hormonal therapy to permanently change his sex to male.

Walker, who is vice president of the school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance, admits that he was fearful and insecure when he first broke the news to family and friends.

“It was hard to explain to them,” he said. “I had to explain that it was something that I had to do because this is what I am - not who I choose to be…I didn’t know how they would take it. I was very nervous.”

To Walker’s surprise and relief, his friends and family were accepting and encouraged him to educate people about being transgender. “My friends were there when I needed them. They did not give up on me,” he said.

Walker decided to run for homecoming king after his friends convinced him that it would be helpful and inspirational to others in the community.

“If I ran and I won, it would be a big thing,” he said.  “For someone who is struggling with their identity, if they can see a transgender win homecoming, they would be more comfortable with themselves.”

Homecoming Day arrived. When the results of the elections were announced, Walker was shocked. He had been elected homecoming king by the  students of Culver City High School.

“At first I was like: ‘Did they just say my name? I was so confused!” he said moments after he was selected as homecoming king by the students of Culver City High School on Nov. 6.

“After it set in, I felt really accomplished,” he said.  “I set out to prove a point and I proved it.”

Walker’s homecoming victory makes him the first-ever female-to-male transgender student elected homecoming king in the U.S. who has been allowed to keep his title. Another such student, Oakleigh Reed of Muskegon, Mich., was denied his crown after school officials determined he was ineligible to be king because he was enrolled as a female.

Luckily for Walker, the administration at Culver City High School has been encouraging. “I can’t thank the school enough. They were really supportive about it,” he said. He said that as far as he knows the school has not had to deal with a gender issue of this magnitude prior to his win, but concludes that the school has handled it in stride.

Principal Pam Magee said told the News in an email statement that students and staff have been “very supportive of Niko throughout the election process, which is reflective of the diversity that makes CCHS such a unique high school.”

“We have made history at Culver City High,” said Carmen Jovel, president of the school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance and Walker’s best friend.

“There has already been a trans-woman homecoming queen at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. and a cross-dressing homecoming king at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles,” Jovel claimed in a statement to the press. “However, Oak in Michigan won the title of homecoming king but was not allowed to keep his crown. Niko has been elected and will be keeping the title.”

Walker says he hopes that his recent victory will inspire troubled teens who feel like times are rough to hang in there and keep living. “I hope that it shows them that it gets better. It may seem hard right now. It may seem that no one accepts you and that no one likes you. But people are starting to open their eyes more. It will get better.”

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Jason A Jacobs Says:

Sat, Nov 27 2010 06:40 AM

Bravo to young Mr. Walker and Ms. Magee! Wonderful to see CCHS embracing diversity and free expression...quite a change from the '80s, before there was a GSA, let alone this degree of support from administration and student body. Go Centaurs into the 21st century!

Damon L. Jacobs Says:

Fri, Nov 26 2010 09:53 PM

I have never been so proud to have graduated from CCHS as I am now. Thank you to everyone involved for participating in such a respectful and inspiring triumph for human rights.

Todd Edelman Says:

Mon, Nov 22 2010 11:02 AM

Hooray! - Class of 1984

Christina Ibrahim Says:

Fri, Nov 12 2010 09:51 AM

I am speechless...I graduated in 1985..I would have done anything to be a part of any one of the organizations we had then. I especially remember trying out for the drill team. Claudine Arranda's little sister, Amanda, didn't think I had what it took nor the looks to be a part of the drill team..nor the cheer leading squad. Today, I am very accomplished in the medical and dental fields. I hold degrees in a couple of areas....I may not look like my high school picture...but I sure have more confidence than I know what to do with it...Look at me now...Much love to all the girls who were shot down because they didn't have what it took to be a true CENTAURIAN!!By the way, Ms. Amanda Arranda, I don't have to prove anything but thank you for showing me such disgrace on that day of try-outs. Where ever you are...I still love you for who I am TODAY!!!!

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