Hello. My name is Che-Che Turrubiartez. I’m from Chicago, Illinois.
Back in 2009, I used to be part of this youth group at the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. And, you know, every single year at the Day of Silence, we had an “ask” and our “ask” was was to CPS, which was Chicago Public Schools, to change their policies about discrimination against LGBT people, gender nonconforming and trans folk to be inclusive. And so they did. And in order to raise awareness for that, I decided to run for homecoming queen at my school.
Now that this policy has changed, it’s not like they can say no, you know? Who are they to say that I can’t? Who are they to say that I don’t identify as a woman or as trans or as gender nonconforming?
I started making posters, I started making buttons. As soon as I started posting stuff, people started finding out. And, oh my god, I got so much hate.
I remember that, you know, one day, this one kid came up to me and he said, you know, “Why’re you doing this? You know, you have a dick. You don’t have a pussy. You’re a guy, not a woman.”
And the next day, this other kid came up to me and they told me, “You know, I think that what you’re doing is really great. I identify as trans and sometimes I don’t feel comfortable. So I think it takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing.” And that – that made me feel amazing, that made me feel great because that was the point.
I remember the day they made the announcements to the top 3. Usually, what would happen is that we would have a pep rally in years before, but this year we had it over the intercom.
So I was in class and I remember someone just saying, “Hey, hey, the speaker’s on, the speaker’s on.”
They’re like, “We’re going to announce the homecoming nominations.” And I’m just nervous thinking, oh, it’s not going to happen. Whatever.
And they’re like, “Oh and the third nominee is Che-Che!” And the classroom is just like, Holy…
They’re all looking at me and they’re like, “Dude, you’re, like, top 3. And I’m just laughing and smiling.
I remember being called into the principal’s office and talking to the principal. She’s like, “Che-Che, why are you doing this?”
And I told her, I explained to her, I was like, “There’s this new policy. There’s people here, you have students here who are trans and they don’t feel safe, so I want to raise awareness.
And she was like, “Okay.” And then she’s like, “You can go.”
And I’m like, “What? Is everything fine?”
And she said, “Yes, everything’s fine. Just know that I’m taking a lot of shit for this.” It was not more of like I’m shocked because she swore at me and I’m so offended. It was more because “I’m shocked that you swore but you’re agreeing with me and you’re willing to take this shit and let me do this.” You know? So that was awesome.
Moving forward to the dance. I remember the night of the dance. I find my friends, start dancing with them. The night goes on. And then I go to the back, I sit down in a booth with my friends.
And the principal comes up on stage. They announce third place, it’s not me. I’m thinking, okay, cool second place, that’s awesome. They announce second place and it’s not me. At which point, I’m just like, holy shit, what?
And then the principal’s like, “And this year, your homecoming queen is…”
And then people just start chanting my name. And I’m just like, oh my god, shivers are going through my spine, my skin and I feel so excited. I’m like, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”
And they’re like, “Well, go on stage. You have to go on stage.” As I get towards the stage where there’s a crowd of people, you know, people are just chanting “Che-Che, Che-Che” and then all of these other people start booing and they’re just like, “Boo!” They’re like, “Faggot!”
And when I get on stage and they put the crown on me, the crowd just erupts into his roar. And I remember being so mesmerized by that because I was thinking just a few seconds, I was scared. I was scared that I was gonna get beat up. I was scared that someone was going grab me and just punching at me or what happens afterwards. But as soon as I saw all those people being happy for me – oh my god, it was the most insane feeling.
That night, I had about more than 10, 15 people come out to me. I didn’t know there was that many queer people at the school. So when students, you know, younger, freshman, sophomore, juniors and even seniors were telling me, “Hey, I’m also queer. And I think that what you’re doing is great.” That – that made me cry.
The reason why I ran for homecoming queen earlier that year was to create visibility and to have people be comfortable being who they are. At the end of the day, if you don’t stand up for people, I feel like that leads to forms of oppression, different forms of oppression. And in the end, who’s going to stand up for you if there’s no one else to stand up for anyone.