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We are honored to be one of 30 global youth platform partners in the launch of an initiative by @ChimeForChange (CHIME FOR CHANGE) and @weareirregular (Irregular Labs) to explore gender and our fluid future through the lens of Gen Z. We're so excited to share this story of an incredible young person, Alan Belmont. Check out the other content and partner platforms in the link below. The writer of this piece is Mackenzie Wagoner.
Full report: https://www.irregularlabs.com/gender
Last spring in Indianapolis, then 17-year-old Alan Belmont made history when he became the nation’s first transgender prom king. If Belmont’s campaign seemed like a long shot — he ran for prom king in, of all places, the conservative Midwestern birthplace of Mike Pence — his win is the canary in the coal mine for the deeply gendered high school ritual, and the billion dollar industry that supports its binary traditions.
In between his freshman college classes, Belmont hopped on a call to talk about who has the right to the titles of prom king and queen, and what prom attendees of the future will be wearing. Hint: it’s not your average penguin suit.
Why did you decide to run for prom king?
I think a lot of people would call prom king and queen a popularity contest, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. I don't think I ever was popular until I won prom king. I'm a trans guy. When you think of the popular kid, a trans person is never in your mind. The main thing that I wanted to say by running was: Yes, this is something that has never happened in our school. And this could be a historical, great moment, but I don't want a trans person running for prom king to be the most amazing thing in the world. It’s just prom king and queen. It’s just high school prom, everyone does it.
Tell me about your transition — when did you know that you identified as male?
I started thinking about gender my sophomore year when I met someone agender online. They educated me on they/them pronouns and what a trans person really is and what it all means. I went into the library and I got this book called Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. I started reading it and relating to the feelings that the trans guy in the book was talking about having. I went to a meeting that the gay straight alliance at my school was having where this guy was talking about the spectrum of gender and what it means to be trans. He had a full beard and had a deep voice, and I didn't realize he was trans until after the presentation even happened. I was so shocked and amazed, and it was that presentation that really got me questioning my own identity. And that's when I realized how valid all the feelings I was feeling were. I asked my friends if they would shorten my name and call me Al. I wanted to see how it felt.
When you were getting ready for prom, how did you decide what to wear?
I learned a lot about how men dressed through being in show choir because we would have dress up days where guys would come in wearing suits. So for prom I got this really nice like $300 suit because I thought, you know what, I'm running for prom king. I went to a department store and I got a pair of dress pants, a suit jacket separate, a white collared shirt and a tie. I didn’t know what a fitting was. I got fitted at a regular tux shop in the mall, just like any other guy would. And they were like, "Okay, here's your cufflinks and your bow tie and your button cover.” I was like, "Oh my god. This is a lot more than what I thought it was.”
Who did you take with you? And what did it feel like to win?
I went with my ex-girlfriend. When I found out I won, the crowd was cheering and I knew they really supported me and were looking out for me.
If you could go to prom again, what would you wear?
My boyfriend is a senior in high school still. He's probably going to go to prom this year. And he's like, "I don't want prom to be the girls in cool, crazy dresses and all the guys just in black suits. We should go to prom this year in some cool outfit.” And I was like, "Okay, let's do it”. Platform heels and dress pants and a collared shirt, but with a cool jacket — it’s not necessarily suit and tie. Now, with social media being something that everyone is a part of and with fashion and culture being more normative, a lot of people are now going to start wearing things that are more out there to prom. I think guys will get involved in it, too.
Where do you look for fashion inspiration?
Mitch Grassi from Pentatonix is very fluid in his gender expression. It really helped me when I was coming out. I learned that it's okay to present yourself as feminine even if you are a guy. And that applies to trans people, too. Just because I'm trans and I was born as a girl, doesn't mean that that should be taken away from me. I do drag, for example.
A lot of people think that's weird — they’re like, "Hold on a second. You were born a girl, right? And you're a guy, but now you're dressing as a girl again?" It has nothing to do with dressing as a girl. It is a way for me to express a side of femininity that I couldn't if I was just wearing feminine clothes, because that would make me feel weird. I can put on huge lashes and this big wig and these ridiculous clothes and still be viewed as a guy. And it's something that's so freeing for me to do. If a cis guy were to put on makeup like James Charles or Jeffree Star —they do it all the time and no one questions it. Makeup is a form of expression and it’s something that I want to participate in. Just because I’m trans, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have to.
Tell me why it’s important for you to be able to express a spectrum of gender:
Gender identity and gender expression get mixed up a lot. My gender identity is a man, but I express my gender in a lot of different ways. I don't always wear super masculine clothes. I do because I want people to acknowledge me as male. I would say that my gender expression coincides with my gender identity in the same way that how I express myself does not define who I am.
How do you think the future of prom can support more fluid gender expressions and identities?
I would love to see a prom with a lot more cool clothing. But I also want to see, at least from my school, a trans girl do the same thing that I did. In Indiana, people are not as open about gender expression and gender identity. This is where Mike Pence is from. In my community, there’s a lot less open acceptance of trans women than there is of trans men. It seems nearly impossible for trans women and trans women of color to gain acceptance among cis normative people. It is a lot easier for me to pass. It has a lot to do with the way that hormones affect bodies. I cannot wait for a trans woman in Indiana to make a name for herself and to be unapologetically herself. To live as herself, for herself, and to make representation more valid. I just can't wait to see that happen.
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