“For a good five seconds I was speechless, I was thoughtless, I was totally blank, and then I realized – Hey, I won!” When Culver City High School Senior Niko Walker was crowned Homecoming King on Nov. 6 at the Homecoming Dance it was another moment in Culver City history that may not have looked extraordinary, but it was. Niko Walker is transgendered, and he used to be a girl named Chelsea. He started his senior year in his new gender identity, and now he is king.
When Crossroads spoke with Niko, we asked him “How do you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?” his answer was one you might hear from a lot of young men. “I’m rather shy, really,” he claimed. “I am very out-going, I’m an activist, I’m pretty enthusiastic, but if I don’t know someone, I tend to just hang back and listen rather than talk.”
He said he was impulsively interested in running for the Homecoming Court, but then dropped it. “One of my best friends really talked me into it, so I went for it, and wow, I’m still just so excited. It’s a major thrill.”
In a year when a rash of teenage suicides have played all over the news, the volatility of adolescent sexuality and identity has a lot of high schools taking a new look at bullying and wondering how to protect these vulnerable children from their peers. What is it about CCHS that creates this culture where differences are not merely tolerated, but celebrated? Niko offered, “We are so diverse in Culver, we just have everyone, and in an environment where people are more accepting of new things, it’s just another one that we are open to.” After breath and a moment to think, he added, “I don’t think I’d have done this at like, Venice [High] or Hamilton [High]. But I knew Culver would be open to it.”
Coming back to school in September with a new identity was a challenge. “I do have to clarify for people who knew me before. I say that I’m straight, it’s just that I’m a guy now. I was born a girl, and I’m in the process of transitioning. Most get it.”
He gave one last exclamation over the adventure of running and winning. “It’s just so great that this is CCHS 60th anniversary, I mean, it’s so cool to win this now. Imagine what the campus, what the culture must have been like 60 years ago, and what we have now.”
In a high school that prides itself on diversity, Niko is the king.