Another day, another terrible story about gender discrimination in schools making life harder for kids who are simply trying to exist. Today, it’s a story from North Texas, where a trans student was cast as a leading role in a school production of the musical “Oklahoma!” then lost the part because of a new school policy saying students can only be cast in roles that align with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Max Hightower, a trans boy, was thrilled to get cast as Ali Hakim in the school musical.
“It was just overwhelming,” he said. “I was so excited. I ran and told all my friends.”
But after the school principal told him about the new policy, and that it meant he would lose the role, his excitement was dashed.
“We just had this giant cry sesh outside of the choir room,” he said.
Students at Sherman High School told HuffPost that about a dozen students who were trans, nonbinary, and cisgender, lost their roles in the musical because of the policy. Three parents said their daughters were cut from the play because they wore masculine clothing for their roles.
Meghan Cone, the communications director for the Sherman Independent School District, told reporters the policy isn’t a blanket one and may not apply to other productions in the future.
“As it relates to this particular production, the sex of the role as identified in the script will be used when casting. Because the nature and subject matter of productions vary, the District is not inclined to apply this criteria to all future productions,” she said in a statement.
In theater, it’s extremely common for actors to play roles that don’t align with their sex or gender identity. Nearly every play has chorus actors who switch between sexes throughout the show. Like most other productions, “Oklahoma!” doesn’t include any casting notes that say sex should be a factor.
“I am really disappointed that the school district didn’t take the opportunity to educate the concerned person about gender-blind casting and the history of theater,” a parent of one of the affected students said. “But instead of doing that, they had a knee-jerk reaction and decided to make a policy change that has now forever ruined the history of theater at Sherman High School.”
Christina Shelton, the mother of another trans student at the school, is waiting to see if her child will be affected by the policy as a member of the University Interscholastic League theater program, which competes around the state.
“Is this politically motivated? Is this religiously motivated? What are you supposed to tell your kids?” she said. “It’s just not a friendly place for LGBTQ students.”
This story has been updated.