The Student Government Association passed a resolution Tuesday that will change the tradition of Mr. and Ms. Madison in an effort to be more accepting of non-binary and transgender communities. Finalists to the Madison Royal Court will be asked how they’d like to be addressed if they’re elected a winner.
The finalists will now campaign to be Madison Majesty, instead of the Mr. and Ms. Madison title. Winners will be announced as Your Majesty and have the option of various titles (Mr., Ms., Mx. or none). The gender-neutral Mx. is used for those who don’t identify as being of a particular gender.
“I think that JMU needs to be a more diverse campus,” Sophie LeFew, a junior spanish major and SGA representative, said. “You open it up to a lot of people who historically have not been represented. I think that it is a step in the right direction.”
The topic was discussed for over 30 minutes during a meeting held in Madison Union. Some individuals expressed amendments to the official resolution that was passed, but none were added. Discussion around this topic started last spring.
There hasn’t been a specific incident at JMU that spurred this resolution. During the discussion, SGA President Jewel Hurt, a senior political science major, stated she believes that this resolution wasn’t taking anything away from students participating in the Madison Royal Court; she asserts that it expands the available options.
Hurt announced during the meeting that in a group chat she’s in with 300 other university student body presidents, the topic of changing homecoming traditions to confront this issue came up. It isn’t something that just JMU is doing, according to Hurt, and JMU is trying to be on the forefront of this issue.
“I wholeheartedly believe in it,” Hurt said. “I believe that we should be representing all students and be allowing all students to take part in our processes and be recognized for their contributions to the community.”
Some SGA members expressed concern that the student body didn’t have enough input on the decision. However, with Homecoming occurring at the end of the month, others felt it was important to pass an amendment before elections began.
“I was aware that the resolution was being created a few weeks ago,” Colin Moor, a junior economic and political science double major and chairman of the University Services Committee, said. “I believe it was a good idea, but I had some reservations about the timing and the speed of how the resolution was put together. I felt that [the] resolution was rushed and lacked any real student input.”
Hurt and SGA sought feedback from groups such as Madison Equality and the JMU Board of Visitors. Some individuals expressed that this was a major change to a JMU tradition, but Hurt argued that the Mr. Madison title wasn’t even introduced until 1992, even though JMU integrated men into the university in 1966.
“More people and more voices will be able to be recognized,” Hurt said. “I think being inclusive is always a good thing on our college campus.”
Cecily Thomas, a senior communication studies major and president of Madison Equality, helped write a draft of the resolution. Thomas and Hurt discussed at length how the change could best accommodate the needs of the JMU community.
“I want the JMU body to realize that being a Duke means that you’re passionate about not only school, but you’re passionate about people,” Thomas said. “I think that by opening it up to gender nonconforming folk, trans folk and by making it more inclusive, that we can see more of a side of JMU that’s normally silenced by that gender binary.”
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