The 18-year-olds are believed to be the first queer couple to be elected prom king and queen in the Kings Local School District.
Annie Wise and her girlfriend, Riley Loudermilk, never expected to be voted as prom king and queen. "Usually prom king and queen is like a popularity contest, and neither of us are really on that popularity spectrum," Loudermilk told NBC News. Hence it came as a huge surprise to the young couple when their Ohio senior class elected them as prom royalty at Kings High School in Kings Mill, Ohio, on April 17. "It was so cool — it was like loud screaming, lots of tears," Wise revealed. "It was super overwhelming," she told CNN. "It was the best feeling in the world, definitely something I'll never forget."
The couple, who are both 18, have known each other since third grade, believe this is the first time an LGBTQ couple has been crowned prom king and queen in this district. While they knew their friends were voting for them for prom court, Wise and Loudermilk never imagined they had an actual shot at winning. In the days since the announcement, however, they've been showered with love and support from across the country. A photo of the couple shared on Facebook by the Kings Local School District to congratulate them has received almost 4.5k likes and over 2k comments.
While some LGBTQ commenters said they weren't able to be out at their prom, others applauded Wise for wearing a suit and said that their schools didn't allow girls to wear suits to prom. "It took me forever to find this suit that I wore because there's like no tuxes for girls in all of Southwest Ohio," Wise said. "But the response that I got from it is amazing. I've gotten people from our school saying that they're more comfortable being gay at Kings. It made it all worth it."
However, not everyone's happy about the new prom king and queen. Loudermilk revealed that the school district had trouble keeping up with and deleting negative comments on the Facebook post where many said the couple "needs Jesus." It has mostly been from adults they don't know and who don't live in their district, the teens said. Meanwhile, some parents at a school board meeting the week following the prom also raised objections to the prom court, with one parent reportedly saying: "Sorry, but I believe that there are still two genders, a male and a female. I think tradition stands for a queen that has a vagina, a king that has a penis and testicles."
School officials, however, stood by the decision. "This is solely a Kings High School senior class nominated and voted-on initiative," said Dawn Goulding, a community relations coordinator for the school district. Loudermilk said that while she and Wise expected to receive some negative comments as a gay couple, it "was kind of surprising that a bunch of adults were bashing teenagers." The focus on her gender was strange, added Wise, saying: "I just think it's weird that somebody who's old enough to be my mom is so worried about my genitalia and what's in my pants. I think that's more concerning than having a gay couple win prom, obviously."
"Most parents are really conservative, but a lot of their kids aren't conservative at all — they're very liberal," Wise said. "And a lot of those conservative people's kids voted for us, and I just think that's really cool that kids are learning on their own and not just taking all their information from their parents." She revealed that she's already seeing a positive impact from her and Loudermilk breaking a barrier. "Some people are saying that they're proud that their kids go to such an accepting school," she said. "There are some students that have told me that they're comfortable being gay at Kings and they're more comfortable with themselves now that they feel they have an accepting and supportive student body behind them."
Wise and Loudermilk hope their win helps other young LGBTQ people who might not be out yet. "I do hope it kind of just helps people realize that it's OK to come out, and it's also OK to come out at your own pace in your own way," Loudermilk said. "You will get hate from it, but there's also a really big chance that you're going to get so much love and support, like we did."