Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times/AP
05/29/2009 at 08:00 AM EDT
Eighteen-year-old Sergio Garcia stood in the gymnasium and made the senior class at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles a solemn promise: "I will be wearing a suit, but don't be fooled," he said. "Deep down inside, I am a queen!"
The openly gay senior was running to become a member of his school's prom court – but not as prom king. He felt that vying for prom queen would better suit his personality, so he decided to seek that crown, running against a handful of female classmates.
On Saturday night – wearing a charcoal-grey tuxedo – Garcia won the coveted crown, reports the Los Angeles Times
"It just shows how open-minded our class is," said Vanessa Lo, 18, the school's senior-class president.
Garcia's quest started out as a bit of a stunt – he wasn't sure
the school would allow it – but his campaign for queen ended up being serious and sparking dialogue about gender roles on campus.
"At one time, prom may have been a big popularity contest where the
best-looking guy or girl were crowned king and queen. Things have changed
and it's no longer just about who has the most friends or who wears the
coolest clothes," Garcia told a crowd of seniors while campaigning. "Sure, I'm not your typical prom queen candidate. There's more to me than meets the eye."
Feelings about his campaign were mixed. A group of his female friends campaigned for him wearing pink crowns. Many students and teachers supported him. Many said he was stirring things up unnecessarily, and thought he wasn't taking a high-school tradition seriously. But several students said that Garcia's eloquence eventually convinced them he was being serious.
"His speech was great," recalled Unique Payne, 17, a senior who said she voted for Garcia. "I did it because I support the gay community," she said.
As for Garcia, an aspiring choreographer and hairdresser, it was proof that you can accomplish anything – no matter your sexual identity.
"I see myself as a boy with a different personality," he said. "I don't wish to be a girl; I just wish to be myself."