Transgender girl crowned homecoming queen at California school

23 September 2013

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 16-year-old transgender girl said on Sunday she experienced "ultimate joy" when it was announced she would be crowned homecoming queen at her Southern California high school.

Cassidy Lynn Campbell, who was born biologically male but identifies as female, won the popular vote for homecoming queen at Marina High School in Huntington Beach on Friday.

Campbell took the crown just over a month after the state's governor signed a law to aid transgender youth in public schools.

"Honestly, it was just so surreal. I couldn't believe it," Campbell told Reuters, explaining how she broke down in tears before being crowned on the Marina High football field as fellow students cheered her on.

"I prepared myself not to win. When they said my name and I saw those balloons it just overtook me instantly and I dropped to the floor. It was ultimate joy," Campbell told Reuters.

Some of that joy turned quickly to sorrow and "hurt" due to "disgusting comments" about her achievement posted on social media, Campbell said. She said she later realized the comments were "based on ignorance" and not something she would dwell on or take too personally.

"I'm fine. I've had the time to look at the situation and evaluate it more," Campbell said.

Transgender-rights advocates have welcomed similar developments as signs of greater acceptance of a group that often faces prejudice. In 2009, students at the College of William & Mary, a public university in Virginia, elected Jessee Vasold, a transgender student, as homecoming queen.

Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed a law requiring public schools to allow transgender students to choose which restrooms to use and whether to join the girls' or boys' sports teams.

Supporters say it is the first state law to require equal access to sex-segregated school facilities based on the gender with which students identify, rather than their biological gender. Opponents complain the law is too vague, and could lead to abuses.

Some school districts, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, already allow students to participate in sports programs and choose school facilities in accordance with their gender identity.

In July, the Arcadia School District in Southern California settled a transgender discrimination lawsuit filed when a middle school student, who was born female but identified as male, was barred from using male restrooms and locker rooms at school.

Campbell's mother, Christine Campbell, told Reuters she was "amazed" by her 16-year-old's accomplishment.

"I never thought that in my lifetime I'd experience an event like this, and especially for the event to be my girl. It's been difficult, amazing and emotional all at the same time," she said.

"I'm so proud of her and not just because she's my daughter - she could be anybody's daughter today. I look at a lot of things differently now." (Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Dana Feldman in Los Angeles; Editing by Tom Brown and Stacey Joyce)

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