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Stony Brook University shifts to gender-neutral titles for homecoming court

The move is an effort to be more inclusive, especially of transgender and nonbinary students and others in the LGBTQ community.

Eight of Stony Brook University's 10 homecoming court

Eight of Stony Brook University's 10 homecoming court finalists. From left: RJ Samodal, Shayne Clark, Hayley Rein, Ian Lesnick, Natalie Korba, Allilsa Fernandez, Nicole Olakkengil and Grayson Valentino. Not pictured are Jules Zambito and Mike D'Adamo. Photo Credit: Stony Brook University/Luis Ruiz Dominguez

The age of the homecoming “king” and “queen” at Stony Brook University is over.

The school announced Wednesday that it is shifting to gender-neutral titles for members of its homecoming court. Instead of crowning a homecoming “king” and “queen” this fall, the university will choose three Stony Brook Royals, who can identify as any gender, the school said in a news release.

Ten students have been selected as finalists for the 2018 homecoming court, the school said. Its three members will be crowned this weekend.

“This is another step toward building a welcoming, caring, supportive and inclusive campus community where all students feel that they belong,” Lee Bitsoi, chief diversity officer and homecoming court judge, said in the release.

The university has had a decadeslong tradition of naming one male student and one female student to the homecoming court every year. But the process was not inclusive of all students, said Rick Gatteau, interim vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

Some students, especially transgender and nonbinary students and others in the LGBTQ community, “did not feel comfortable competing for these and other contests on campus,” the school said.

“Programs, events, and competitions that are categorized by gender put folks in the awkward position of either choosing to not be seen or affirmed for who they are or just not participating at all,” said Chris Tanaka, assistant director of LGBTQ* services. “This change has opened the door for more students to feel like Homecoming is an event in which they can fully participate.”

The change, initiated by the Student Affairs Homecoming Committee, helps focus on finalists’ characteristics as ambassadors of the school, instead of their gender, the release said.

The homecoming court will be crowned at Saturday’s homecoming football game against the Rhode Island Rams at 6 p.m.

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