SAN YSIDRO - San Diego may be getting its first transgender homecoming queen this week, and she is overcoming many odds in a community that might at first seem very conservative.
Violet Ri, 17, is a senior at San Ysidro High School, is at the top her class, and she is also transgender. The amount of support she received surprised her especially in the predominantly Latino area in which she lives.
“Being a transgender in my community is better than what I originally expected at the beginning of my transition,” she told SDGLN. “There is a lot of people who seem to be transphobic, but there are a lot of opening minds and super nice comments about my transition and courage.”
Just minutes from the Mexican border and primarily a Hispanic campus, San Ysidro High School seems to be surpassing many other schools in the country when it comes to acceptance and support of their LGBT students.
San Ysidro High’s Senior Vice Principal, Juan Neria Jr., told SDGLN that the school promotes individuality and equality for everyone. He also says Ri is not discriminated against on which restroom she uses.
“For us, it’s not a big deal,” he said. “Big credit goes to our staff and our principal who has promoted equality for all students regardless of their ethnic background, their origin or whatever the case may be.”
That sentiment seems to be holding true for at least half the students at her school said Ri. She says that some students are still a little confused about what the term transgender really means. For them, they still think that she is simply a boy who likes to dress in girl’s clothing.
“They don't understand the concept and changes about being a transgender individual,” she said. “The rest are really nice and make super nice compliments about how courageous and happy I always seem to be, even when people in school try to bring me down.”
Her home life is also a place in which she feels safe and encouraged. Although her family was worried about her safety at first, after therapy and consultations, Ri says things have slowly begun to change, especially with her mother.
“She is really supportive and is helping the most out of everyone in my family. Everyone is getting used to the changes, but I see their effort and I am blessed to have them as my family.”
Winning homecoming queen would really mean a lot to Ri. She jokes that the attention alone would be well-worth the crown, but she understands having that responsibility also means she can do more for kids and adults who may look at her win as something inspirational.
“I would like to advocate,” she said. “Being one of the few, if not only, transgender homecoming candidates in San Diego, I believe that it is up to someone to show to the community that it is truly possible. I stand with the trans community as a leader and role model, hopefully, for some.”
Part of that leadership she says is being an example to trans youth that you should be true to yourself. You can be who you want to be and although it may be tough at times, it’s okay to express yourself completely.
“There is no time to waste. Look for people who support you and have the same views as you," she said. "Befriend people who are going through the same situation. Embrace being different.”
The homecoming queen will be announced at the halftime show during the home football game when the San Ysidro High Cougars play the Montgomery Aztecs, on Friday November 6. If all goes well, Ri will wear the crown and perhaps be the first transgender woman to walk the stage as high school royalty in San Diego.
However Ri says that she will not stop there. After graduating, she plans on attending college and getting her Master’s degree in the field of education. She also wants to help other teenagers get on the right track after they graduate.
“I plan on being a guidance counselor for students who wish to attend college,” she said. “Along that, I also wish to be known, and be an advocate like Carmen Carrera, Julie Van Vu, Andreja Pejic, and many more! The trans community is growing, and I would love to be one who helps develop it to the fullest.”
Ri is one of two transgender students at her school. But her story is an inspiration and a lesson to anyone who has ever felt different or afraid to be who they are. Feeling a part of something rather than apart from something can build courage through unity.
Perhaps Vice Principal Neria says it best, "She’s a part of our student body and that’s how the kids look at her, just like they would look at any other student. It’s Violet, she’s a Cougar and she’s a part of the Cougar family.”
Timothy Rawles is Community Editor of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @reporter66 on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.