The assistant principal shouldn't have been surprised.
When Tony Zamazal, a senior at Spring High School, approached the administrator in a school hallway a few weeks ago, Zamazal had already been wearing women's attire since October. Following the holiday break, he figured it was time to bust it out at school.
"And I remember thinking, 'Okay, this won't get my faced punched in,'" Zamazal told Hair Balls.
People were getting accustomed to seeing Zamazal, a lithe 19-year-old, in attire that men aren't traditionally known to wear. And with prom bearing down in but a handful of months, Zamazal wanted to take the initiative and make sure that these recent sartorial choices -- the only gendered shift the high school had seen in some time -- would be allowed at the school's mid-May dance.
"I walked up to [the assistant principal] and told him that this is what I'm wanting to do, asking if this was even possible," Zamazal, who has not yet opted for any hormone supplements, said.
Others had been able to wear what they'd wanted, of course. Across Houston. Across Texas. He wouldn't be the first boy asking to wear a sparkling dress and inches-high heels to a school dance. The issue, by and large, seems to have faded.
But apparently the assistant principal was a gender-specific throwback. "Basically, he just shut me down like that, and without even actually talking to me to discuss it," Zamazal said. "It just really hurt. I was hoping he would tell me to come in later for an actual discussion, and actually get an answer."
But nothing. The assistant principal walked off. Zamazal would have to go to prom as the rest of the young men did -- in a coat and tails, rather than in the wig and rouge and slip he's found himself wearing more and more often. And that's where the issue currently stands. Despite having a date lined up, despite looking forward to his first prom as much as any of his classmates, Zamazal stands in a sort of purgatory, waiting to hear whether the principal and school board will judge his gender choices for him.
As it is, Spring's administrators are currently on spring break and couldn't be reached for comment. Prior to their departure, however, a spokesman for the school district was asked to explain what in Spring's dress code would prohibit any student from wearing the dress and heels Zamazal so desired. The spokesman couldn't identify any passages. Indeed, in looking over the brief dress code offered online, there seems to be nothing that should prohibit Zamazal from arriving in whatever attire the female students can also wear.
"This used to happen all the time -- it was common that students who want to dress outside their assigned or perceived gender were denied permission," said Deb Murphy, a youth worker with HATCH Youth, an organization dedicated to aiding Houston's LGBTQ adolescents. "Now more schools allow them, so long as no naughty bits are showing."
While Murphy said she wasn't explicitly familiar with Zamazal's case, she noted that she would be monitoring the school's decision.
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"If it's not explicitly forbidden by dress code, and if they've already allowed him to dress in what we consider a feminine fashion, I'd really like to hear them explain why prom is different," she said.
While Zamazal waits -- it's already been nearly a month since his initial discussion with the assistant principal -- he eyes HATCH's forthcoming prom as a potential solace. But that's still a few months off. And right now, Zamazal just wants to find someone, anyone, who may be able to offer their experiences as a potential guide as these last few months of high school wind down.
"I really haven't spoken with anyone who's gone through this, but I would really love to," he said. "If there's anyone out there that would want to talk with me with what I'm going through, I'd love to talk to them, but at this point I really haven't had that privilege yet."