Gender Neutrality in Awards & Titles

Mason Hagarty, Editorial Editor

Being recognized by your peers or teachers is a big deal for high school students. Unfortunately, at Belleville West those awards come with gender specific titles like Miss or Mr. Maroon. Pronouns are critical as that is how we identify and address people. Unfortunately, some schools still have a hard time breaking the binary and using more gender neutral terms. The time has come for Belleville West to reevaluate these titles and embrace a more gender neutral approach. 

Gender identity has become much more than a binary issue. Gender neutral terms for those who identify as nonbinary often use the pronouns they, them, “ze,” “xe,” or “hir”. These pronouns aren’t considered when crowning a homecoming court or for awards like “Mr. Maroon.”

A 2017 CNN article cites a Global Early Adolescent Study that concluded “culturally-enforced gender stereotypes – which are linked to an increased risk of mental and physical health problems – are firmly rooted between the ages of 10 and 14.” 

While Belleville West does offer an organization called Spectrum which is for those who identify as LGBTQIA+, there really is no effort on the part of the administration to recognize these students for who they are when it comes to awards.

An op-ed in the Pitt News points out the importance of such awards: “Everyone deserves to feel included and respected, despite gender identity. If schools take the step in creating gender-neutral homecoming courts, they can help set the new standard for other institutions and traditions regarding gender stereotypes and stigmas.”

These titles of recognition should be based solely on character and academic achievement, and there is no harm in having two prom royalty winners that both identify as non-binary. There is no reason why “Majestic Maroon” has to be simply male or female. 

Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest high school recently changed their approach to homecoming and prom recognition by changing the titles to “royalty” and “high court.” 

““We believe this change will reflect and celebrate the diversity that is present within our student body and community,” Victoria Flores, the school’s Student Council sergeant-at-arms, told KRQE.”

Tradition is sometimes used as an excuse for not changing something, but it’s not hard to make new traditions, especially when it’s the right thing to do. In today’s student body, gender identity isn’t as clear cut as boy or girl. There are shades of grey that must be respected and honored with nonspecific prefixes. At the end of the year, when it’s time for teachers to nominate students for “Mighty Maroon” awards, there is no “Miss” or “Mister” in front of those awards. It’s time for our school to be that open minded about ALL awards.

Inclusivity is extremely important to students. It’s long past time to eliminate gender specific terms in lieu of more gender neutral means of addressing students at Belleville West.