Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Crystal Vera's Quest For The Crown

High school senior Crystal Vera created a lot of buzz when she ran for prom queen. Now the trans girl is ready to tackle the future.

By Michelle Garcia
An exclusive posted June 26, 2007

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.

“My 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.”

Eventually those 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.”

In September, 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.

“A year 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."

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