Vive la différence!

I like tradition. I also appreciate people tweaking tradition.

Jessee Vasold

Jessee Vasold

For example, there is Jessee Vasold,  who was elected Class of 2001 Homecoming Queen at the College of William & Mary. She identifies as gender-queer (an identity that is outside the traditional man-woman gender binary).

And Nikole Churchill, the first non-African American Homecoming Queen at Hampton University (an historically Black school).

There was controversy in both cases, although at W&M the fuss was more off-campus than on. At Hampton, folks had more trouble.

It is understandable. Black women are still struggling against racism, so some did not see Nikole’s crowning as another step in liberation. However, electing Jessee is a strong statement against restrictive gender roles.

Nikole Churchill

Nikole Churchill and Court

The choice of homecoming queen does not rank with voting for President. Yet, these elections reflect some continuity with the election of Barack Obama last year. We can let go of labels and caricatures. And simultaneously we can honor difference by celebrating it.

That may seem a paradox. Yet, until we are able to acknowledge and celebrate difference we will not be able end the power our fear of difference has to distort our common life.

Vive la différence!

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