Transgender girl wins bid for homecoming princess at Colorado Springs high school amid concerns

September 13, 2014 Updated: September 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm
photo - Scarlett Lenh after being named Homecoming Princess. Photo courtesy of Facebook
Scarlett Lenh after being named Homecoming Princess. Photo courtesy of Facebook 

Scarlett Lenh was officially crowned the 2014 homecoming princess for Sand Creek High School during Friday night's football game.

Scarlett, however, is biologically a guy. She was born Andy Lenh and this school year started identifying as a female transgender.

"It was really exciting. It felt really good. I couldn't stop smiling," Scarlett said after she found out at an afternoon assembly that the majority of the junior class had voted for her over three other candidates.

Two of the other girls who were nominated by their peers were "extremely supportive," Scarlett said, and the other "was really upset."

Scarlett, 16, has dressed in girls' clothing for the past few weeks and also uses the girls' bathroom at Sand Creek, which is on North Carefree Circle in Falcon School District 49.

Both issues are concerning to some adults and students.

"It's craziness," said Jana Neathery, whose granddaughter attends Sand Creek.

"Originally, it was a joke that he was going to be nominated for homecoming princess, but he got a lot of nominations," she said, referring to Scarlett, "and now there are a lot of upset girls because a spot was taken from them.

"I'm very sympathetic that he's transgender, but he should be on the boys' side, not the girls'."

Scarlett said that being in the running for homecoming princess was no joke to her.

"One of my friends mentioned it, and I didn't think anything of it because I didn't think I'd be nominated. But, now, it really matters to me," she said. "This is something I've wanted to do since my freshman year. I want people to be themselves and not feel uncomfortable in their own body and mind."

But Scarlett's behavior does make some uncomfortable.

"I think it's wrong because he's actually a guy, he's not a girl, and he hasn't been doing this his entire life - he's only been recently doing it," said Jarrod Clarke, a junior at Sand Creek.

"We know him pretty well," another Sand Creek student who asked not to be identified said of Scarlett. "He's only cross-dressing, putting on girls' clothes."

Sand Creek student Michael Carl said he has been a friend of Scarlett's since the seventh grade.

"He has always been there for me and is truly a good person," Michael said. "I support him because it takes a lot of courage and a lot of character to do what he is doing."

Scarlett said she has gotten positive and negative comments after recently coming out as transgender, from "Do your thing," "Be yourself" and "We have your back" to "This isn't right" and "It shouldn't be like this."

D-49 spokesman Matt Meister said he could not comment on the issue due to student privacy laws but in a statement said, "The leaders at Sand Creek High School and in District 49 respect the decision of the Scorpion student body in electing their homecoming court."

The statement went on to say, "Our board policy sets the standard that we do not exclude any person from participating in any program or activity on the basis of gender identity and gender expression."

Neathery also is mad that Scarlett uses the girls' bathroom.

"It's ridiculous - he's interested in girls, and they're allowing him to use the girl's bathroom," she said of Scarlett.

When asked by The Gazette if she is attracted to girls, Scarlett said, "For the last year and a half, I haven't been attracted to anything."

Neathery said that when she complained to the principal, he told her if a girl feels uncomfortable in the bathroom when Scarlett is in there, the girl should leave.

"I suggested he go to a nongender-specific restroom, whether it be in the office or the teachers' lounge," Neathery said. "I said, 'So my granddaughter can put on jeans and say I feel like a boy today' and go into the boys' restroom?'‚ÄČ"

In June 2013, at another local school, a transgender first-grader who also was born a boy but identifies as a girl won the right to use the girls' restroom at Eagleside Elementary in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8.

Coy Mathis' parents took the case to the Colorado Civil Rights Division, claiming the district's refusal to allow Coy to use the girls' bathroom violated Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act. The division ruled in favor of the girl, saying keeping the ban in place "creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive."

Still, it's strange to have a student who has a male body in the girls' restroom, some students say.

"We thought he was doing it as a joke. He's a guy and doing this for whatever reason. But he's still a guy," Jarrod said.

Scarlett said her high school counselor told her he would speak with administrators to "figure out a solution."

"For a while, I tried to avoid using the bathroom as much as I could at school. But when I do, I have used the women's restroom," Scarlett said. "I didn't make a big deal about it."

Scarlett said she has known since she was 7 or 8 years old that she felt like a girl and not a boy.

"It was always in the back of my mind. In middle school I tried to block it out. This year, I got serious about expressing it," she said. "I see it as a great thing. I hope it helps people understand if they want to be something and work hard at it, it can happen."

Scarlett told her family this week.

"It was really hard," Scarlett said. "My mom didn't like it, but she wants to support me for what I do in life."

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