Meet Aniya Wolf, a student at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Wolf, who identifies as a lesbian, was excited to go to her school's prom — until she received a message days before saying she wouldn't be allowed to wear a tux to the event.
She said she has long identified with masculine traits: "I've just always been like this, ever since I was little," Wolf told a local ABC News affiliate. "I was always more masculine. You wouldn't catch me playing with any Barbie dolls, I'll tell you that right now."
The school, however, denied Wolf's request to go to prom in a tux.
The school sent Wolf's family a message saying that she could not attend the prom in her preferred garb. "I am so sorry to be the bearer of such disappointing news," the message reads:
Wolf tried attending the prom anyway but was turned away.
On Facebook, Wolf said that she tried to attend prom despite the school's warnings. "Sadly, I was not admitted into the prom," she wrote. "I was forced to leave. The principal threatened she would get the cops. What an experience."
But she seemed to be keeping her sense of humor, writing, "Lol they can't take my pride"
Here's the bigger problem.
It's important to note that the school's decision is not about Wolf's sexual orientation — it's about her gender presentation.
Wolf's predicament raises a larger point: High school is the place gender norms are set. While children are given positive and negative reinforcement for their gender presentation long before puberty — think toy cars vs. Barbies — it's during and after puberty that norms of dress and behavior are most stringently solidified, policed and enforced. You could go as far as to say high schools are the prime enforcers of the gender binary — students enter high school as kids and emerge as "men" and "women."
Proms serve as a sort of crucible: Whether it's high schools banning trans men from running for prom king or forbidding students from bringing a date of the same sex, prom is the place where you see the institutional weight behind gender norms.
It's little wonder many trans people remember high school as a painful period in their lives. Not only do trans people have to suffer bullying from peers, but they face further bullying from the institutions that are supposed to protect them. How can a school tell its students not to harass gender-non-conforming students when the schools themselves single out — and in this case, exclude — gender-nonconforming people along the same lines?
Wolf's supporters have taken on the school for singling her out.
Some students, alumni and observers — including talk show host Montel Williams — have spoken out about the school's decision:
Wolf herself isn't backing down.
"I think my experience shouldn't be any different than anyone else's because of something I was born with," she told local reporters outside of the dance. "You know, a lot of girls' dresses, I mean I'm not saying that all of them are this way, but they do show a lot of skin. I think I'm dressed pretty modestly."