Jessee Vasold ’11 made history at the College of William and Mary Wednesday when ze was announced as the school’s first transgender homecoming queen, representing the Class of 2011.
Vasold identifies as gender-queer and prefers to be referred to with gender neutral pronouns: “ze” in place of he or she and “zir” rather than him or her. Vasold has also created a Facebook account for a female identity, Kathy Middlesex.
Friends suggested that Vasold run for homecoming queen. Even though Vasold thought that there was a good chance at being elected, Vasold said the win was still surprising to hear.
“We figured it would be something different for the school to go through, something that hasn’t happened too often,” Vasold said. “I was kind of surprised that I won because I knew the other girls running. I know that they’re really friendly; they’re wonderful people, so I was unsure.”
This year marks the return of direct voting by students. Last year, there was no platform to host voting, so the homecoming kings and queens were chosen by class officers out of student-submitted nominations.
The alumni website was used this year to choose the homecoming court. The alumni office had no oversight over the nominations for the court, which was a purely student initiative.
“I thought it was much better done this year because students actually could vote for who they wanted instead of having five or six class officers select who they think should be the winner,” Junior Class President Mike Tsidulko said.
According to Tsidulko, there is no rule against men or women running for opposite roles. Students who made nominations were simply asked to describe how the candidate exemplified Tribe pride.
“In general, most descriptions were about what activities they were involved in on campus or spiritedness at sporting events or any other kind of campus activity,” Senior Class President Alyssa Wallace said.
Those students nominated with a description were put on the ballot.
“It basically came down to nominations,” Wallace said. “Jessee was nominated, Jessee’s peers voted and Jessee won. That’s really all there is to it.”
Around campus, the reaction has been positive.
“I’ve only had people congratulating me. I know that one of my friends was in a conversation with someone who didn’t think that it was fair that I was able to run, because I’m not female-bodied,” Vasold said. “But it generated a really good conversation, so they were able to talk about a lot of different things.”
For Vasold, the election of the College’s first transgender homecoming queen is a significant step forward for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community on campus.
“It’s definitely amazing that the students are in a really good position, in a really good spot on how they think about things,” Vasold said. “I think that it would be a good time to show student support on these issues.”
Vasold has played a significant role in the campus’s GLBT community.
Vasold is currently the Student Assembly Undersecretary of Diversity Initiatives for GLBT Affairs. Last year, Vasold served as co-president of the Lamba Alliance, the College’s GLBT advocacy group.
“I think students are really appreciative of just being able to have him at William and Mary,” Tsidulko said. “I think it’s a mark of how progressive our values are here … that’s certainly something that’s appreciated.”