Dex Frier was named one of two “royal knight” seniors at the March 23 prom at Johnson High School in Gainesville, Georgia. In a change from previous years, the 2019 ballot used gender-neutral terminology and was not divided along the lines of “king” or “queen.” It was, instead, a list in which any two students could be voted prom royalty regardless of their gender identity.
That decision came after more than 31,000 people expressed their support for 17-year-old Frier via an online petition.
Frier’s friend, Sam Corbett, thanked supporters in a statement posted to the petition Monday, calling the array of signatures from all over the world “a symbol of the united support of human rights, but also a testament to the power of the individual.”
“This plan was one of compromise on both sides, and we would like to thank administration, both at the school and county level, for listening and welcoming our concerns ― and most importantly, implementing a plan to address them,” Corbett wrote. “We hope this petition has not only pushed society further towards human rights equality, but also inspired someone to do the same for an issue in their community.”
Prior to the March 23 dance, Frier had been nominated by the student body as one of six candidates to be senior prom king. The student, who has publicly identified as transgender since his sophomore year, said he was later told by school officials that he would only be permitted to run as prom queen.
“Just because I’m not legally male I was going to get excluded from something that every guy has the opportunity to be in high school. It was really upsetting,” Frier told BuzzFeed in a March 21 interview. “As a student I felt I had the right to be put on the ballot.”
He continued: “I don’t know of many trans people who go to this school [but] I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this. It hurts being told you don’t deserve the same rights as someone else because you’re not the same as them.”
Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield responded to Frier’s claims in a strongly worded March 21 statement issued to local media, which read in part, “I am not interested in being responsible for placing our school district in the middle of a national social, societal and legal issue which would have the potential to substantially disrupt us from our core mission of providing an education for the boys and girls in our community.”
“Prom should be a time for students to fellowship together and celebrate their local school,” Schofield added.
But by March 23, the compromise had apparently been made.
Classmate Aniyah Norman told the Gainesville Times that she and other friends of Frier’s had planned to make “a visual statement” at the dance with hand-held, Mardi Gras-style face masks painted in the colors of the transgender flag.
“We support Dex because we value Johnson’s all-inclusive atmosphere,” she said. “Prom is for the students, by the students. This has nothing to do with legal issues, or Johnson’s administration, but with the intolerance evident in this county.”
For his part, Frier is hopeful the gender-neutral update to Johnson High School’s prom voting system will be permanent.
If not, “I’m going to be really upset because I should be the first and only person who has to go through so much trouble in order to be who I want to be,” he told CBS.