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Evan Bialosuknia started to get excited when she made her senior class homecoming court earlier this year, but she didn’t want to get her hopes up.

“I got on homecoming court, which was really exciting. I thought it stopped there,” the 17-year-old Orlando high school student told The Lily. “And then I was like, you know, why don’t I try to get homecoming queen?”

At her school, each grade votes for its class’s queen and king. After learning he was a candidate for king, fellow senior Lucas Fanha messaged Bialosuknia on Instagram and asked if she’d like to campaign together. Fanha’s fellow Brazilian students also supported them, and the school’s Gay Straight Alliance also campaigned for Bialosuknia.

On Sept. 24, during halftime at the homecoming game, Bialosuknia, wearing a gold sparkly dress with a high side slit and flat gladiator sandals, learned she had won — and was crowned the first transgender homecoming queen in Olympia High School’s history.

“I felt a mix of emotions. I had to pinch myself, just feeling loved and accepted by everyone, which I didn’t feel my whole life,” Bialosuknia said. “I just smiled throughout the whole night.”

The crowd cheered as she and Fanha — who was voted homecoming king — made their way to the field. There she donned a crown and black-and-gold sash and was given a bouquet of flowers. The marching band, for which Bialosuknia is a drum major, played the Bruno Mars song, “Leave the Door Open.”

“It’s amazing, but hopefully in the next five years this isn’t so newsworthy,” Bialosuknia said. “I’m the first, but I hope I’m not the last, and I just hope that people will start to open up and see that it’s normal and that trans women are women.”

Fanha, who is 18, called it the best moment of the night. He said they didn’t really know each other before — there are about 700 to 800 seniors in their class — but have become good friends since.

Fanha said Bialosuknia is the first trans person he’s known. “She’s like a really kind person, and I just love her so much. She’s so cool.”

Bialosuknia called Fanha “very, very sweet”: “I couldn’t have asked for a better king,” she said. “He was one of the main people who campaigned for me to win queen, so I don’t think that I would have won [without Fanha’s support].”

In her free time, Olympia’s homecoming queen hangs out with her friends; she likes to play with makeup and try on outfits. She hopes to attend Pace University in New York or Florida Atlantic University next year and study business or social media marketing.

Bialosuknia’s popularity is not typical for teens who feel their gender identity does not align with their sex.

“There can be tremendous benefits, especially in terms of mental health, [to coming out],” said Ellen Kahn, senior director, programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign. “There are also serious risks to consider, especially for people who are not yet independent adults and are dependent on their families for where they live, and the food they eat, going to college or other things.”

Many states have introduced bills that curb trans rights, often directed at children. The Washington Post has tracked at least 170 proposed bills targeting trans children in 2021.

Studies have shown that personally knowing someone who is LGBTQ translates into being supportive of marginalized people, Kahn noted.

Bialosuknia began questioning her gender identity at a very young age, she said. She’s the baby of the family, and when she was 2, she told her parents, “I’m a girl.”

She said that when she and her brother would visit the toy store, “he would get action figures, and I’d get Barbies or Bratz dolls. I wore nightgowns to bed, I had long hair, I painted my nails.”

Her mother, Marnie Bialosuknia, says she eventually saw her child try to conform to traditional gender norms. “Once Evan got into public school with other boys and girls, by around fourth or fifth grade, she was playing flag football, trying to suppress what she was really feeling and trying to be who she thought she was supposed to be,” Marnie said.

In her freshman year of high school, Bialosuknia came out as gay and presented herself as more feminine, wearing drop crop tops and ripped jeans, jewelry, makeup and manicured nails, she said.

Earlier this year, on Father’s Day, she came out as transgender. “It just clicked that day, and I’d been thinking about it for a long time, that I was trans and that I’ve been a woman this entire time,” she said.

Her mother said that the family was not surprised, nor was their pediatrician, whom they had consulted when Bialosuknia declared she was a girl as a toddler.

A couple of months ago, Bialosuknia started taking hormones to transition. She says there are hard parts about the medication, but she has started to see some changes already, which she finds exciting.

“My skin has gotten a lot softer. My breasts are starting to develop, and my hair grows more even though I already had long hair,” she said. “It’s just really fascinating — to see your body going through a whole other thing of puberty when that’s what you should have been going through when you were little.”

But on top of the pressures of high school amid a raging pandemic, Bialosuknia said that last December, she went through a deep depression. With therapy and medication, she says, her mental health has improved.

“I ended up figuring myself out, which was one of the main causes,” she said. “It’s important to know that good things come out of it, and it gets better. You can be whoever you want to be and still be beautiful in their own way.”

A 2019 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost 2 percent of high school students in 10 states and nine urban school districts identify as transgender, and that trans students are more likely than cisgender students to experience violent harassment and risk of suicide. About 27 percent of the trans students said they felt unsafe going to or from school, 35 percent reported being bullied at school, 24 percent said they had been threatened or injured with a weapon at school, and 35 percent reported they had attempted suicide.

Bialosuknia’s mother, who is a registered nurse, said she had some concerns about the transition because of the long course of medical treatment her daughter will need. But having seen her daughter’s depression, accompanied by suicidal thoughts, she doesn’t want to see other children suffer similarly.

“Mental health, anxiety, depression are very high in transgender kids, and it’s important not just for other kids like Evan to see [her become homecoming queen] but for other parents to see your job as a parent is to build this child up and help them be who they are supposed to be,” she said.

Both Bialosuknia and Fanha have faced some harassment, they said.

“There’s been a lot of negative comments, but I try not to read them,” Bialosuknia said, noting that it’s mostly older adults she doesn’t know commenting on her social media posts. But she does find it “mind boggling” when people who describe themselves as Christian tell her that being trans is a sin, that she’s going to hell.

To them, she says: “God loves everyone. So you’re wrong, you’re literally ignorant and wrong.”

Homecoming may be over, but the spotlight it has brought her is something Bialosuknia is adjusting to, and hoping to use to help others.

“I definitely do want to share my story with as many people as possible and maybe become an influencer for the LGBTQ community, especially for the trans community,” she said. “It’s a lot for a 17-year-old, especially a 17-year-old trans girl, but I definitely think that it’s something that I want, so I’m not going to, like, let this opportunity go to waste.”

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