After a transgender teenager was told he could not run for prom king, prompting a backlash, officials at his Georgia high school decided to make the prom court categories gender-neutral — leaving an opening for the student to still be crowned school royalty.
“I think they changed the categories because they were starting to understand exactly how far our movement could go,” the teenager, Dex Frier, who came out as trans in his sophomore year, told NBC News. “Our superintendent said that he didn’t want to put our school in between a hot topic, but he did that by neglecting to have rules that dictate gender-ruled ballots in the first place.”
Frier, a 17-year-old senior at Johnson High School in Gainesville, Georgia, told NBC News last week that school officials had removed him from the list of prom king nominees and encouraged him to enter as a prom queen contender instead. A petition started last week calling for Frier’s return to the prom king ballot amassed nearly 32,000 signatures before claiming victory.
“Not only are we confused at this decision, but we are severely disappointed in the Hall County School Board,” the petition stated. “The two core beliefs of Hall County Schools are outlined on their webpage: ‘The Most Caring Place On Earth’ and ‘Character, Competency, and Rigor…For All.’”
The petition stated that the decision by the school to remove Frier from the prom king ballot “fails to reflect” the core values of the Hall County Schools and displays “a transphobic attitude that endangers many more than just Dex.”
Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
Frier said a compromise was reached with his high school after he and his grandfather met with school officials late last week. Instead of listing “prom king” and “prom queen” titles, winners would be named “Royal Knights” in honor of the school’s mascot.
“I wasn’t thrilled to hear that they made a completely nonbinary ballot, but it was better than being exiled from the group,” Frier told NBC News. “I would have preferred the situation be left alone, because everyone was fine with it as it was, but I was grateful to still be included though.”
Frier, along with one other boy in his senior class, were crowned Royal Knights at their prom on Saturday. In line with the night’s masquerade theme, they were given feathered masks as their trophies instead of crowns.
“It was amazingly overwhelming to win,” Frier said. “They called my name, and all I could hear were my friends cheering for me. I just smiled extremely wide, and when I got to the bottom of the stairs, all of the people that had helped make this happen were either sobbing hysterically or smiling so wide I thought they would hurt themselves.”