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.”