When Cassidy Lynn Campbell woke up on Saturday morning she ambled to her bedroom mirror and took a long, astonished look at herself.
“I was just thinking, what happened last night, what happened?” said the brown-haired 16-year-old. “It’s so crazy that I actually won.”
On Friday night Cassidy was named homecoming queen at Marina High in Huntington Beach, an event that wouldn’t normally get much attention if not for a single fact: Cassidy was born a boy but now lives as a transgender girl.
The Marina High senior put herself up for the title because she hoped to make a statement and draw attention to the push for equality for transgender people. She also became part of a small but growing movement as transgender teens nationwide enter competitions for traditional honors such as homecoming and prom king and queen.
“It seemed like a dream,” she said, recalling halftime of Marina’s football game against San Juan Hills, the homecoming finalists on the field to hear who would be announced queen.
Cassidy said her legs shook with nervousness as she stood at a podium next to her mother. Then, when she was named winner, she dropped to her knees and broke into tears. Friends began hugging her. The crowd chanted her name.
“It was all very amazing,” she said. She celebrated afterward by going to a Norm’s diner with about 15 friends and ordering the Lumberjack breakfast: pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausages and hash browns.
Her revelry came to a halt, though, when she returned home and saw what she described as ignorant and hateful attacks on social media. For a while, she grew angry and tearful. “They were voicing their opinion about something they don’t even know the full story about. I got really emotional. But when morning came, I was a lot better.”
In a previous Times story, Cassidy said she has felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body for as long as she can recall. As a child she went by Lance and wanted to wear dresses and skirts. In high school she began to change her gender. She now takes hormone blockers along with estrogen injections prescribed by an endocrinologist. Her mother, Christine Campbell, is supportive. Her father hasn’t discouraged her.
“I just think it is such a huge step for the transgender community,” she said Saturday, when asked to put her achievement into perspective. “The majority at my school wanted me to win. So many people embraced me and accept me for who I am. I think that is pretty profound.”
Times staff writer Adolfo Flores contributed to this report.