Trans boy banned from playing male lead in school production of ‘Oklahoma!’

Sherman High School, Sherman, Texas

A trans teenage boy has been told he will no longer be allowed to play the male lead in his school’s production of Oklahoma! due to a brand new policy.

Last month, Max Hightower was cast in a leading male role in Sherman High School’s student production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1943 musical, and couldn’t have been more thrilled by the news.

“It was a beautiful day,” said Hightower’s father Philip of his son’s casting, in an interview with KXII.

But Max’s excitement didn’t last long. 

Oklahoma! the musical
Oklahoma! is a classic musical, often put on by high school theatre departments.(Getty Images)

Just two weeks after he had landed the role, the high school senior got a call from Sherman High School’s principal to inform him of a brand new policy at the Texas school.

“Actors and actresses could only play a role that was the same gender they were assigned at birth,” Max said, recalling the conversation he had with his principal.

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Since Max identifies as a transgender male, he was told he could no longer play a male role.

Max, who has been active in his school’s theatre department over the past few years, was devastated by the news.

Currently, there is no law in the state of Texas that would ban a trans student from playing a role in a play that matches their gender identity.

Although Republicans in Texas did pass a ban on drag performances earlier in the year, this was declared unconstitutional by a US district judge back in September.

Philip Hightower, Max Hightower's father.
Philip is helping his son Max Hightower fight for his rightfully-earned role in ‘Oklahoma!’ (KXII)

Additionally, any amateur theatre fan will know that, whether it’s a classic at Shakespeare’s Globe or a local pantomime, mixing gender roles is not uncommon.

When approached for comment, a spokesperson for Sherman High School confirmed that they had “no policy on how students are assigned roles”, but that for “this particular production, the sex of the roel as identified in the script will be used when casting.”

It noted that, this new policy was likely a one-time thing, stating: “the district is not inclined to apply this criteria to all future productions.

As if this news weren’t disappointing enough for Sherman High School’s theatre department, a spokesperson for the school announced that the entire production has since been suspended because of the play’s sexual content and profanity.

“It was brought to the District’s attention that the current production contained mature adult themes, profane language, and sexual content,” the statement read. Now, it says, “all aspects of the production need to be reviewed.” 

Oklahoma!, a musical commonly performed at high school level, does include themes of a sexual nature, violence, drunkenness, and murder. 

Still, it does come as a surprise that no one at the Texas high school had previously been aware of the content in one of the most famous stage shows of all time.

Hightower and his dad are determined to win back his well-earned role once production for the musical restarts.

“I expected him to be crying, but no, Max is a fighter,” said Philip Hightower.