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Transgender Student Wins N.H. Homecoming Election

Ray Ramsey, left, hangs out with his friends at a Concord High School volleyball game on Oct. 4, 2013. Ramsey, who plays the trumpet in the band, was the first transgender student to be nominated for Concord High School's homecoming court and won the title at the school's game last weekend. 

(Concord Monitor - Andrea Morales)

Ray Ramsey, left, hangs out with his friends at a Concord High School volleyball game on Oct. 4, 2013. Ramsey, who plays the trumpet in the band, was the first transgender student to be nominated for Concord High School's homecoming court and won the title at the school's game last weekend. (Concord Monitor - Andrea Morales)

Concord — After Ray Ramsey was crowned Concord High’s homecoming king last weekend, after the cheers from the crowd and hugs from friends, he walked over to his dad. Standing there, his dad grabbed him by the shoulders, looked him in the eye and said, “I am so proud of you.”

“And I just lost it,” said Ray, recalling the moment.

For Ramsey, his family and all of Concord High, this year’s homecoming was one for the history books.

That’s because Ramsey, a senior, is the first transgender student to be elected by fellow students as Concord High royalty.

“He’s just been through a lot, and he’s just a really strong person,” said Anna Robert, the homecoming queen and Ramsey’s good friend. “When I heard his name called, I was like, ‘I can’t even believe it,’ you know?”

Ramsey, now 17, told his family and friends that he was interested in girls when he was in eighth grade. Then, during his junior year, he came out as transgender. Since he entered high school, he’d been asking some people to call him Ray instead of Rachael, but that year he asked people to start referring to him with male pronouns as well.

Even when he was a kid, Ramsey dressed like a boy and acted like one. He has an early memory from kindergarten when a friend asked why he dressed like a boy. Without even thinking, he gave a simple answer: “I’m a boy-girl.”

“I don’t know why, but I remember saying that, and thinking back now it’s an accurate description,” he said.

For homecoming, every student club nominates a king and queen, then the student body votes from that slate of candidates. Ramsey was nominated through Tide Pride, a club for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

He was the first transgender student nominated, although another male student from Tide Pride was named king several years ago.

“It’s a big deal,” said Heather Oullette-Cygan, the club’s adviser, on Ramsey’s win. “I think it means a lot for our school, it certainly means a lot for the kids in the club and even the LGBT students who aren’t necessarily in the club.”

Ramsey doesn’t consider himself a popular kid, but friends and teachers disagree.

“Ray’s a huge part of our school,” said senior class adviser Lisa Lamb, adding that Ramsey won the homecoming vote in a “landslide.”

Since his win last weekend, he said students he doesn’t even know have been congratulating him in the hallways.

Beyond being in Tide Pride, he’s a member of the marching band, involved in theater and does the morning announcements on Fridays. He’s a self-described “music freak” who performs in school talent competitions and even sang The Star Spangled Banner before the homecoming game. Through it all, he never hides who he is.

“He doesn’t fear any of the repercussions of being completely who he is, and that’s one of the most inspirational things about him,” Robert said.

Ramsey said he’s always found a welcoming environment at home and in school. When he first decided he wanted to be called Ray, he was nervous about telling his parents. Instead of telling them face to face, he wrote his dad a note and left it by the coffee pot one morning.

Shortly after, his father broached the subject.

“We were driving home from work one day and he was like, ‘You know you can talk to me about anything, right?’ and I knew that’s when it was coming,” Ramsey said.

His dad told him he was okay with Ramsey’s decision and would take him to the doctor and support him in any way possible. Ramsey began talking with his doctors about surgical options last fall.

Right now he is still physically a girl, but he plans on going through hormone treatments and possible gender reassignment surgery in the future.

That same day, as Ramsey and his father sat in their truck, his father addressed how much times have changed.

“He goes, ‘You know, can you imagine if you had been born like 20 years ago? What would be going on? Would you still be like this?’ ” Ramsey said. “I was like, ‘I probably would, just not as publicly.’ ”

Indeed, stories like Ramsey’s are more public today, said Vickie Henry, a senior staff attorney at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. A few weeks ago, a transgender teen in California made national news when she was elected homecoming queen, and transgendered students have won similar awards in several other states. These stories can go a long way to improving school culture for LGBT and all students, Henry said.

“Showing these positive examples is just unbelievably valuable for the youth in the schools,” she said.

To Principal Gene Connolly, Ramsey’s win shows the best of what Concord High is and can be.

“Kids here have a heart and they know what’s right, and they love Ray and they support Ray,” he said. “It’s one of the things that really makes this school special.”