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When high school senior Landon Patterson was elected her high school’s first-ever transgender homecoming queen earlier this fall, more than just her family and friends showed up. The Westboro Baptist Church came to demonstrate against her, but Patterson was bolstered by the support of her mother and her cheerleading coach, and Patterson’s high school community rallied against the protest.

Patterson shared her experiences coming out, transitioning, and ascending to high school “royalty” at the inaugural lecture in the Graduate School of Education’s “Out Front! LGBTQ Leaders to Learn From” speaker series Wednesday in Askwith Hall.

Patterson, a current high school senior from Kansas City, Mo., who spoke on her experiences coming out as transgender, emphasized the importance of a supportive family and school community in empowering her to transition. During the talk and panel discussion that followed, Patterson shared the personal confusion she had felt during adolescence regarding her gender identity.

“I began to realize I wasn’t normal,” Patterson said. “I wanted to play Barbies.”

Patterson said that due to social pressure and consistent bullying at school, she initially came out as gay. She had never heard the term “transgender” until inspired by a YouTube personality, Gigi Gorgeous, who herself came out as transgender. Crediting in particular her mother and cheerleading coach, who were both there for the talk on Wednesday, Patterson stressed how lucky she felt to have been accepted as a woman by those around.

The Ed School’s QueerEd, a student-run group which promotes the inclusion of BGLTQ issues in education, helped to sponsor the talk.

“Landon is an example of a courageous student,” said David A. Hay, co-chair of the organization.

“Unfortunately the story you are about to hear is the exception in our country and not the norm,” Hay said during his introduction, referring to the support of Patterson’s community that resulted in her election as high school homecoming queen.

The night concluded with a question-and-answer session featuring Patterson, her mother, and her cheerleading coach. Many audience members asked questions regarding the impact Patterson’s high school administration had on her transition. One challenge Patterson said she encountered was inadequate accommodation for transgender students in the design of her high school’s bathroom facilities.

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