For Jessee Vasold ’11, the first transgender person elected as a class homecoming queen at the College of William and Mary, the day’s events were not anything too out of the ordinary.
As a member of the court, Vasold attended the pep rally and parade. Vasold was presented at the football game during halftime.
“It was pretty normal,” Vasold said. “The only difference I feel like from anyone else was that after halftime, a reporter wanted to talk to me.”
Vasold’s selection was only the third time that a transgender person has won the title of homecoming king or queen at an institute of higher education in the United States.
“It’s still a new thing and I think that it might surprise people coming from William and Mary,” Vasold said. “I kind of expected that it would be this big … at least on the [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning] news websites and locally.”
Vasold identifies as gender-queer. According to Vasold, gender-queer is a concept that can be adopted by anyone who feels that they do not fit into traditional gender classification, or anyone who sees the gender binary as an oppressive social institution and wishes to protest against it.
“It’s kind of a political identity, while simultaneously being a gender identity,” Vasold said. “And a lot of times you might see the people … just changing from day-to-day. Some people identify as gender-fluid, so what their gender is may depend on how they dress.”
According to Vasold, personal reactions to Vasold’s crown have only been positive. Vasold has received e-mails and Facebook messages from well-wishers all over the country.
Vasold’s selection as junior class homecoming queen has lead many at the College to question what the nature of the position should be.
“That just puts into question what a homecoming queen really is,” Emily Matson ’12 said. “Does a homecoming queen really have to be a girl through and through? Or is it more about having the physical appearance of a girl? … I think it puts a lot of definitions that we’ve traditionally assumed into question.”
The Office of Student Affairs has not heard any positive or negative reactions from alumni or students.
“I have not personally had any reactions at all. Nobody has called our office or anything like that,” Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Constantine said.
Many students are unconcerned with Vasold’s selection as junior class homecoming queen.
“I don’t even think it’s a big deal at all,” Adriana Green ’12 said. “If he was voted, he was elected, so obviously a lot of people know him and like him. I think it should be more about personality anyway.”
Online message boards, however, have become a forum for those both in support of and against Vasold.
“I know that this is probably something new to them, but I think that they maybe need to just stop for a second and think about that they’re talking about a person,” Vasold said.
The election of Vasold as junior class homecoming queen has also gained the attention of national media outlets.
The Huffington Post cited the College’s homecoming election Monday, and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News brought up Vasold in the “Reality Check” segment of “The O’Reilly Factor” Monday night.
While Vasold’s family did not initially agree with Vasold’s acceptance of the junior class homecoming queen crown, Vasold said they have shown love and support.
The family has also been concerned for Vasold’s safety, given the media coverage of the election and angry reactions online.
“My sister has been really upset about the comments, not only on The Flat Hat website, but on other websites,” Vasold said. “She said, ‘They’re really hurtful, because you’re not an it. You’re my brother. You’re not an it.’”