Blake Brockington is a 17-year-old senior at East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, North Carolina and was recently nominated by his fellow students to run for homecoming king. The winner was determined by whoever raised the most money for an international charity.
All well and good, you know, no big deal, except that Blake Brockington is transgender. And he says winning the title of Homecoming King would raise awareness and provide an example for other transgender youth.
“I honestly feel like this is something I have to do.”
Brockington says winning will mean the most for several younger transgender students he mentors, including a nine-year-old boy.
“He really looks up to me. That’s my heart. He has support now and he will be able to avoid just about everything I’m going through and I don’t want him to ever have to be scared. I feel like if I do this, that’s one red flag for everybody to say, ‘Nobody should be scared to be themselves and everybody should have an equal opportunity to have an enjoyable high school experience.’”
That’s not the experience Brockington had; he came out as transgender at the end of his sophomore year and while his mother was receptive, his father rejected the notion. At school, it was more of the same, with Blake being taunted and bullied, mostly by the boys, and facing a group of teachers and administrators, and even guidance counselors, who suffered from their own of understanding and education in the matter.
“It was pretty black and white; there was no gray area. It was either they were really supportive or really not supportive, and it’s still like that. … I’ve had a hard time with counselors. They’re like, ‘You’re not a boy. This isn’t your name. We’re not going to call you that.’”
Blake says he’s known he was transgender since he was a child, but he never knew what it was called; still, he has always identified as male, and he remembers an especially heated argument with his mother when she told him he was a girl at six years old. It took several more years before Blake learned there was a name for what he was feeling, for what he was, and for a way for him to express it.
“It was winter break my sophomore year and I was on Tumblr. I found out what transgender was and said, ‘Okay, that sounds like me.’”
Shortly after that he came out to his friends and family, and even attended the Queer Youth Prom held by Time Out Youth Center, a Charlotte LGBT youth support and services organization. He realized he didn’t need to feel ashamed or afraid; he no longer had a need to hide.
Still, that doesn’t make his transition from female to male any easier. That first year was rough, and even changed his family dynamic; Blake now lives in foster care, but says life at school and elsewhere has gotten better. He’s a good student and an even better athlete, playing rugby for a student club at the school and hoping to play for the Charlotte Royals, a local, LGBT-inclusive rugby team when he turns eighteen.
And he’s found a strong support group in some of his teachers, his foster parents, and doctors and therapists who have made all the difference. Next fall, he’ll attend the University of North Carolina-Charlotte where he intends to study mathematics with a minor in music and education but for now it’s all about being King. Blake set out to raise the most money for the charity, Mothering Across Continents, an international non-profit looking to build a school in South Sudan, in the hopes of not just being on the Homecoming Court, but of being King.
And he did it.
Last Friday Blake Brockington became the first transgender teen crowned Homecoming King in North Carolina with an announcement made during a halftime ceremony at the school gym.
"Throughout my life I haven't always been treated equally as a male, so I've always wanted this and everybody has told me I couldn't do it. ‘You are a girl,' even though I've always identified myself as a male."
Blake’s foster parent, Donald Smith, said he was proud of Blake’s perseverance to overcome the challenges he faces: "He really is hoping that it helps those behind him going through the same challenges and struggles."
And one of Blake’s teachers, Bill Allen, the student advisor for the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, says East Mecklenburg is known as a school of diversity and hopes that Blake’s achievement is the first step in representing what many of the students believe: "Our young people understand we are all different. We have all races, genders and religious backgrounds. We have kids representing 30-40 languages in this school and people learn to accept each other as they are, and I think this is an example of what is going to be happening in North Carolina."
Blake, for his part, wants to keep it kind of simple, with a simple message to inspire students to never give up on their dream:
"They can be themselves regardless of what anybody else says. Even though you go through some things and have some negative encounters in your life, anything is possible. You can do anything you set your heart to."