(CNN) – In a metallic gold dress, her two-tone hair curled into waves effortlessly, Evan Bialosuknia looked like the undisputed queen of her high school homecoming dance.
She had been nominated for her Orlando school homecoming dance courtship, with enough votes for her name to appear on the ballot for homecoming queen. He thought he might have a chance to win, although he tried to avoid any illusions, he said.
“I was very excited to walk in the welcoming party and be a part of it, but I was also nervous even if I won. What if people did it to make fun of me?” The 17-year-old student told CNN. in the last year of school. “People are cruel these days. You never know what could happen.”
Those fears faded as soon as he heard thunderous applause when his name was mentioned during his high school homecoming game in late September. Classmates from Bialosuknia voted for her to be homecoming queen, the first transgender student at Olympia High School to wear the crown.
Bialosuknia said her coronation has made her feel more at home at school, and the support of her classmates has shown that most of them see her for what she is.
“It was also like a relief from so much anxiety,” he said. “Just knowing that I have everyone by my side and that they are actually here for me … makes this transition process feel so much better.”
She has received mostly positive responses
Bialosuknia is more comfortable in her own skin than most 17-year-olds. But her trust was hard-earned, said her mother, Marnie. Bialosuknia’s transition is a “long and difficult process,” her mother said. One in which her family is supporting her.
Since her coronation, Bialosuknia said she has been inundated with messages of support and pride from her peers. He has also received hate messages, but said that the people who sent him those messages “do not understand and will never understand.”
“For me to win is not trying to change anyone’s opinion so that they accept and understand me,” he said. “It’s just to show that anyone can do anything, and if you’re part of the LGBTQ + community, it doesn’t make you weirder or more lonely than everyone.”
While Marnie Bialosuknia said she was excited for her daughter, she acknowledged that many trans teens do not belong to a similar student body of support or live in a supportive home. A 2019 study of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that just under 2% of US high school students are trans, and that trans students are more likely than cisgender students to experience violent bullying and suicide risk.
“My hope is that, maybe five years from now, this is not newsworthy,” he said. “Evan is the first, but she won’t be the last.”
Bialosuknia can be seen beaming in images of her coronation. When called by her name, she followed the line of her fellow nominees and hugged each one as they cheered her on with enthusiasm. The marching band, standing in socially estranged formation on the school’s soccer field, applauded. She bent down so that a school administrator could place the tiara on her head. His smile never wavered.
“If you present yourself as a strong, outgoing and beautiful person, then this is what you will look like,” he said.
It’s advice she adopted herself, and by projecting that confidence, she begins to feel it too.