Independence eliminates gendered labels in homecoming court


Avery Phillips (11) smiles for the camera while attending a GSA meeting. Phillips was one of the members on the junior homecoming court this fall.

In coordination with the Loudoun County Public School Board’s new policy on transgender and gender-expansive inclusivity, Independence High School fully eliminated gendered labels for its homecoming court as it approached its fall Homecoming Week. In the future, students may vote two people onto the court regardless of those two people’s genders. The two seniors on the court who receive the highest number of votes will now be deemed homecoming “royalty” in place of the labels homecoming “king” and homecoming “queen.”

The decision was made in accordance to Policy 8040, implemented by the School Board to promote incluisivty for transgender and gender-expansive students. The policy states that schools will now improve inclusivity towards transgender and gender-expansive students in terms of pronouns and identification, access to activites, access to facilities (such as restrooms), and professional development/training. 

This policy arose in LCPS amid the presence of the Virginia Department of Education’s policy on treatment towards transgender students. Following the passing of Policy 8040, all LCPS high schools are required to eliminate gendered activities (ie. homecoming “king” and “queen”) if they do not serve educational purposes.

The elimination of gendered labels on the court means that anyone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community can be nominated for the court, including those who are transgender, gender-expansive, or homosexual. Adrian Cote (10)–a transgender student at Independence–states, “It’s very inclusive to people who identify outside of the binary [and/or] outside of heternormativity. Anyone can [be nominated for the court].” 

Despite the passing of this policy, a binary couple was still the one to be crowned. Seniors Brian Courtney and Tatum Wall were crowned homecoming “royalty” this past Friday during halftime at the football game against Potomac Falls. 

Following the passing of Policy 8040 by the School Board, schools have begun making other changes in their community to create a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students, such as making all-gender bathrooms available around the school. However, there are still aspects in the school community that remain undetermined in the nature of their compliance with the policy. Independence High School Principal John Gabriel states, “There could very well be blind spots […] this policy is new this year so we’re all trying to navigate our way through it.”