Just one month after being asked to leave his private Christian school, transgender teen Stiles Zuschlag was crowned homecoming king at his new school.
Zuschlag, who came out as transgender in 2015, transferred to Noble High School in Maine after Tri-City Christian Academy refused to accept his transition.
According to Zuschlag, the TCCA wouldn't allow him to play on boys' sports teams and even threatened to take away his valedictorian honors if he didn’t undergo Christian counseling.
His experience at Noble High School has been a different story from day one. Upon his arrival at the school, administrators asked Zuschlag about his preferred pronouns and told him he could play on either boys or girls sports teams.
"We want all students to feel like they belong here at Noble High School," Nancy Simard, director of counseling at Noble High School, told NBC's WCSH-6. "That's a small thing we can do to help them feel like they're a part of the community."
Zuschlag says he initially put his name in the running for homecoming king as a joke. "I asked on Snapchat as a joke to put me in and people actually did it," he said. "I didn’t really expect them to. I still can’t believe they did that for me."
When he arrived at the school's homecoming football game, Zuschlag was even more surprised to learn that he'd won the crown. "After I won at the homecoming game, I almost started crying. My friends all put me in, people I didn’t even know put me in, everyone voted for me on the final ballot," he recalled.
Zuschlag said that the experience of being rejected by his first school was painful, but he ultimately realized it was a blessing and he hopes to raise awareness and inspire other transgender teens.
"I’ve been degraded so much in the past, I’ve conformed to other people’s beliefs and standards just to make them happy and comfortable. I’ve put myself in situations really hurtful to my mental health just to keep peace," Zuschlag told The Huffington Post. "God forced me out of that situation, that school, knowing that my mental health was far more important than my education. The only reason I stayed at the school for so long was for my education, for my GPA, and to just learn about God. But I was also dying there mentally and I suffered a lot. God took me away from that to help me be a better person, to breathe again, to be happy again. I’m so grateful He did that for me."
Refinery 29 has reached out to Tri-City Christian Academy for comment.