US: Trans prom king hopeful put on ballot as queen

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A transgender student who hoped to become prom king at his Pennsylvania high school is seeking an apology from his principal after he found himself listed on the ballot for prom queen instead.

18-year-old Issak Wolfe, a senior student at Red Lion High School, hoped to be elected king at his school’s prom later this year.

Three years before, Wolfe, known at the time by his birth name, Sierra Stambaugh, had realised he was transgender and begun transitioning from female to male.

“I’ve always known I was different. I knew I wasn’t like the other kids,” he told the York Daily Record.

Wolfe received the backing of his parents and the support of most of his school. Aside from some initial “negative feedback”, he said, the majority of students and teachers at Red Lion accepted the transition and now refer to Wolfe by his chosen name.

Now in his senior year, Wolfe decided to run for prom king and was given the go-ahead to do so by prom committee members and organisers, who reassured him that he would be placed on the correct ballot.

However, when ballots were put up in the school’s cafeteria last week, Wolfe found he had been listed as ‘Sierra Wolfe’ under the ‘prom queen’ category.

“For a transgendered person, it is degrading to have that, and I wasn’t even warned,” he said.

Responsibility for the decision to put Wolfe on the prom queen ballot has been placed on the school’s principal, Mark Shue, who said Wolfe’s prom king aspirations were “not traditional”.

“I would like an apology, at a minimum,” said Wolfe. “I wasn’t given a fair opportunity. I mean, if I don’t win, I don’t win … but I’m not a queen.”

A petition asking for Mr Shue to allow Wolfe to run for prom king, organised by Wolfe’s mother, Cheyenne Stambaugh, and his girlfriend, Taylor, far exceeded their expectations in terms of support gained. The pair had hoped to reach 100 signatures, but are already at almost 3,000.

Mr Shue has not commented on the incident. Red Lion High’s superintendent, Scott Deisley, asked for press to “respect our privacy in this matter” for the wellbeing of students.

In March a high school student from Georgia filed a federal lawsuit against his school, alleging that the administrators removed him as student body president, after he proposed to make the prom more inclusive to LGBT students.

In 2010 student Constance McMillen became a figurehead for LGBT-inclusiveness after a long conflict with her school over her right to take her girlfriend to prom.