COLUMBIA, MO - In high school, the terms “Homecoming King and Queen” generate images of popularity contests, the cheerleaders and the jocks, and pep rallies. But after graduation, what does “Homecoming King” or “Homecoming Queen” really mean? For Mizzou students, it may soon be flipped on its head.
Laura “Josie” Herrera, a Mizzou journalism student, is breaking down gender barriers by running for Homecoming King.
Josie, who identifies as queer in both orientation and gender (genderqueer), has landed in the Top 10 Homecoming Candidates, which (besides Josie) includes four men in the King category, and five women in the Queen category.
“It’s definitely not something that happens very often, and as far as I know, this hasn’t happened at all,” Josie said. “In reality, making it to the Top 10 for me already feels like winning. My goal was to make it to the Top 30, and I’ve already gone by that by some great stroke of luck.”
Josie’s reasons for entering the running go beyond simply making the Top 30. “I like to think I’m always ‘bringing wreck’ and challenging how people see gender.”
Beyond that, Josie is hopeful that the participation and visibility will get conversations started about exactly what gender identity is, and being trans* or genderqueer.
“I really hope that this becomes another step in the larger picture of making our campus and Columbia a safer and more accepting place for the queer community,” the Miami, FL native said. “I really hope to make the process of being a visible campus representative easier for any queer/trans* person, or anyone from a marginalized community, to go through.”
While Josie has received overwhelming support from “chosen family,” including previous Homecoming Contenders, sorority sisters, and Mizzou staff mentors, the Mizzou journalist knows that not everyone is embracing this challenge to the norm.
“The people who decide and do interviews are staff and faculty from all over campus and even some community members. So the positive response is very real,” Josie said. “However, I know that a very large amount of people are very confused and curious as to how and why I am listed under the king category. That's valid.”
“I've always been out as queer (as far as sexual orientation), but this is a very public way as coming out as genderqueer and discussing my gender identity honestly and while I'm still ‘transitioning’ and finding what works for me,” Josie continued. “I'm sure there are still loads of questions and people are not supportive, but student leaders and the university is doing a brilliant thing and making it clear that they support me in the process.”
At the end of the day, Josie wants to pave the way for future queer, trans* and other LGBT to easily take part in all aspects of university life.
“If I can do something I love and help make accessibility a reality, then why not?”
By BRENT PETERSON – STAFF WRITER