At 19, Crystal
Vera has already made history. This May the high school
senior at Roosevelt School of the Arts in Fresno, Calif.,
became the nation's first transgender prom queen.
Her moment of
glory attracted massive attention: MTV and Bravo wanted
interviews, Fresno's gay pride parade named her as
grand marshal (she rode in the parade in her tiara,
sash, and sparkly blue gown), and the blogosphere
buzzed with news of her win. For the LGBT community,
Vera's win was a remarkable statement--and one
Vera initially had reservations about making.
friends would constantly ask me to run for queen,"
she says via phone. "But I just wanted my prom
to be fun and my senior year to be relaxed. I
didn't want to be stressed-out. I knew that this
would take a lot of work."
friends wore her down. One day Vera walked into the
school cafeteria to find a mob of supporters urging her to
put her hat in the ring.
"I was so
touched by how my classmates accepted me, and that they
respected me so much that they would want me to be prom
queen," she remembers. So Vera's
campaign began. She handed out rainbow flyers and
chatted up her classmates, the high school equivalent to
shaking hands and kissing babies. The Roosevelt School
of the Arts, where Vera (still known to some teachers
and classmates as Johnny) excelled as a student,
cheerleader, and dancer, is a progressive magnet program for
fine arts with a student body of 500 students. But
before Vera's run for queen, no one knew just how
progressive the program was.
In the end,
the transgender teenager beat the
other contenders, whom she described as equally
popular and well-liked as she, by a 5-to-1 margin.
After the prom
the whirlwind continued. "The following Monday when I
walked into each of my classes, my peers would all get up
and clap for me," she says. "When I went
to lunch, the whole cafeteria--I will never
forget this--everybody was clapping. It's just
so wonderful to know that times are changing. People
are changing. Things like this bring us hope as
individuals that things will be better off for us."
Vera will study fashion design at the California
College of the Arts, something she's dreamed about doing
since she was 14 years old. Whatever challenges she
may face, she'll always be able to draw strength from
the memory of her prom.
from now, if I'm going through a hard time," she
says, "it will be good to look back and remember that
not all people are cruel and rude."