Embracing each other and smiling broadly, Shealynn Stillman and Charley Gittins made history Friday night.
With the announcement of Maria Carrillo High School’s homecoming royalty, the couple — two girls — became the first same-sex couple in the school’s, and maybe the county’s, history to win the honor.
In a twist on the fall tradition, Maria Carrillo students placed two sparkling tiaras, rather than a tiara and a crown, on the heads of its junior homecoming “princesses” during the halftime celebration at Friday night’s football game.
The 16-year-olds have been dating about a year and identify as pansexual, which they say means they consider gender irrelevant to choosing a partner. Having a couple of the same gender on the homecoming court is a first at Maria Carrillo and appears to be a first in the Santa Rosa City Schools district, based on a survey of local high schools.
“It feels amazing,” Stillman said after the royalty was named for all four classes. “I’m speechless.”
Asked if they felt like they just did something important, the girls said almost in unison: “Yes, absolutely.”
They had talked about running for homecoming court over the summer, Gittins said Friday afternoon. She was sitting with Stillman on some shaded steps at Maria Carrillo before heading home to get dressed for the game. “But it was just a dream sort of thing, like ‘I’m going to go to Africa one day.’ ”
Then school started, and when a friend suggested that they run, the dream seemed more like a reality. The pair agreed to run and their friend started spreading the word.
Last week, they learned to their surprise that they’d received a large number of nominations from their fellow students.
“This was a student-driven movement,” said Trevor Brady, leadership teacher at Maria Carrillo. “We had no idea that this would happen or … the level of support that the two would receive. It speaks highly of the student body and their support for equality.”
He said there was never a question between him, the school administration and class officers about whether the pair should be able to run, though their nomination did pose some logistical questions. Typically, students nominate couples, with the male half of the couple running for king and the female running for queen, or princess in the case of the junior class.
So Brady and the junior class president met with the girls to make sure they were comfortable with the nomination and figure out the best way to move forward, including what they would want to be called if they won.
The girls, who beat out two boy-girl junior couples in being selected to the homecoming court, decided they both wanted to be called princesses.
Since their nomination, people they barely knew had been walking up to voice their support or say they voted for the couple, Stillman said.
That happened again Friday night. Two cheerleaders came up to them after the honors were announced.
“It makes me want to cry,” said one girl, who hugged them both. “I’m so proud of you guys.”
Seniors Anthony Giordano and Vanessa Barron, crowned homecoming king and queen, are a couple, too, for five years. They said there was no opposition to the unusual honor among students.