In a small Texan town, the stage was set for what should have been a memorable high school musical production of “Oklahoma!” However, the spotlight quickly shifted to controversy when a transgender student lost the lead role due to a new gender-based casting policy implemented by the district.
Sherman High School, located in the heart of Texas, found itself at the center of a heated debate recently, as senior Max Hightower, who identifies as male but was assigned female at birth, was abruptly stripped of his starring role just days after being cast. The reason? A controversial policy that decrees “only males can play males.”
For Max, who had never faced discrimination based on his gender identity in the past, this sudden change was nothing short of devastating. His father, Phillip Hightower, shared his son’s plight, revealing how the principal broke the news to him: “He said we’re instituting a new policy where only males can play males, and only females can play females.”
The decision not only shattered Max’s dreams but also disrupted the plans of other students who had been promised roles in the production. Frustrated parents are now rallying to appeal the school district’s decision, and they are finding support from unexpected quarters.
“I’m not an activist. I’m not a highly political person. I have both liberal and conservative beliefs. I’m just a dad that wants to fight for his kid,” stated Hightower, who is determined to stand up for his son’s rights.
The Sherman Independent School District attempted to clarify its position, stating that they do not have a specific policy on how students are assigned roles. However, they noted that, “as it relates to this particular production, the sex of the role as identified in the script will be used when casting.”
In a somewhat surprising twist, they added, “Because the nature and subject matter of productions vary, the District is not inclined to apply this criteria to all future productions.” This leaves room for debate as to whether the casting policy will remain in place for future performances.
Moreover, the district claimed that it is reevaluating the production after concerns were raised about the musical’s content, citing “mature adult themes, profane language, and sexual content.” This explanation, however, contradicts the initial reason given to Max and his family.
Max’s father was taken aback by this sudden shift in justification. “It struck me as kind of odd because it’s ‘Oklahoma!'” Hightower remarked, highlighting that the musical is far from being as controversial as some other productions.
Nevertheless, Max and his family have been heartened by the overwhelming support they’ve received from their community. After sharing Max’s story online, they were met with an outpouring of love and encouragement, which has been a source of strength for them.
“I’m not going to quit advocating for my son – ever. Max has shown me what real strength is,” Hightower declared, as he continues to stand firmly by his son’s side.
Max’s siblings have also voiced their support on social media, expressing their disappointment in the school district’s decision. His older brother, a sailor in the US Navy, emphasized that gender roles should be based on personal choice rather than an individual’s original assignment.
Max’s older sister revealed that female students who had been assigned the roles of “cowboys” in the musical also had their parts taken away, further highlighting the impact of the school district’s policy on students.
In response to the controversy, the district has decided to postpone the production of “Oklahoma!” originally scheduled for early December to later in January, as they work to create what they consider to be an “appropriate” version of the musical.
This incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing debate surrounding transgender rights, casting policies, and the complexities of balancing artistic expression with community values, all played out on a high school stage in Texas.