For many students, going to homecoming is a rite of passage, and being crowned homecoming king or queen is a coveted prize. One university, however, is shaking up the rules for the crown in an effort to be more gender-inclusive.
The University of Minnesota has decided to do away with the titles of "king" and "queen," and instead is changing the titles to the more gender-neutral "Homecoming Royals."
"We wish to promote a spirit of inclusion at the University of Minnesota," reads a statement on the university website. "This change allows the University to select the best student representatives for the U of M based on campus and community involvement — regardless of gender."
The title, the university says, is meant to be inclusive to students of any gender identity, whether they identify as transgender, cisgender, or gender non-conforming.
"What in the past would have been called 'King' and 'Queen' will now be called “Royals” and can be any combination of any gender identity," the statement says. "Being crowned as Royalty allows you to embody the true meaning of being a Gopher: a student who respectfully represents the University’s values, connects with the diverse members of the University community, and has excellent school pride."
The move sends a powerful message of not only tolerance, but acceptance for students who are gender-fluid or who don't identify as male or female. This move by the university opens up room for those who don't fit within the confines of the gender binary. As the university says, being Royalty isn't about gender norms — it's about embodying the university's values and showing school pride.
The University of Minnesota joins a number of other schools that have begun making strides in inclusivity. Last week, the UK's St. Paul's Girls' School announced that it was introducing measures to allow students to define their gender identity. And just last year, Oxford University began encouraging students to use the gender-neutral pronoun "ze" instead of "she" or "he."
Given the current political climate in the U.S., it's a relief to see schools step up and advocate for students to be themselves.