The University of Northern Iowa crowned its 2013 Homecoming Queen on Friday, October 11, making headlines in the process – their new reigning queen, Steven Sanchez, is the first openly gender queer person to receive the title.
Sanchez, 21, identifies as both male and female. In order to respect her preference, this article uses both male and female pronouns to refer to Steven Sanchez, a nod to the article posted on Huffington Post.
“I identify as gender queer so not really one or the other,” he said in an interview with Reuters, when asked about her gender and whether or not she was in transition.
Her decision to run for Homecoming Queen reflects her commitment to promoting LGBTQ causes in her school, as well as in mainstream media.
“One of the main reasons I did this was to raise awareness of LGBT issues and trans students on campus and I feel like just by running I did that,” said Sanchez in a video posted by UNI.
The video shows him getting ready for the announcement of the Homecoming Queen while talking about how embraced and accepted he has felt at the University, a stark difference from her previous experiences as a teen growing up.
“My peers were always the worst,” she says in the interview. “You know kids, they don’t like anything that’s different.”
Through her experiences growing up, she has learned that attempting to conform to expectations put upon her didn’t help the bullying and teasing – it was obvious that she wasn’t being herself, which led to more harassment.
Nowadays, Sanchez just does what he wants to do, learning to be happy and “not let other peoples’ perceptions of me affect how I feel about myself.”
Through the work she has done to accept herself, she has found a large community of support at UNI, where she is appreciated for who she is.
“Steven is just trying to be himself — and be herself,” UNI Proud adviser Ruth Chananie told reporters on Friday. “It is a statement to say that every person should be accepted for who they are, and be included regardless of their gender expression, sexual orientation or any other thing.”