A transgender Texas student was kicked out of the lead role of his high school’s upcoming musical after his principal introduced a new gender casting policy.
Sherman High School senior Max Hightower landed the lead role in “Oklahoma!” last month, his father, Phillip Hightower, told local CBS affiliate KXII.
But the 17-year-old’s excitement didn’t last long.
The principal called to inform him about the new policy they implemented.
“Actors and actresses could only play a role that was the same gender they were assigned at birth,” Hightower told KXII, detailing his conversation with the principal.
Max Hightower identifies as a transgender male, meaning that he could no longer be cast as the male lead.
“I was devastated,” Hightower said.
Max Hightower had been part of the school theater throughout high school, and had previously portrayed female roles.
“But they allowed Max to dress up as a male,” his father said.
“All kinds of actors have played all kinds of parts,” he added. “I mean, I grew up watching Mrs. Doubtfire.”
“I expected him to be crying, but no, Max is a fighter,” Hightower added.
The Sherman Independent School District (SISD) said in a statement that there is no blanket policy on how students should be assigned to their roles.
“As it relates to this particular production, the sex of the role as identified in the script will be used when casting. Because the nature and subject matter of productions vary, the District is not inclined to apply this criteria to all future productions,” it said.
It also said a broader review of the production was now ongoing.
“It was brought to the District’s attention that the current production contained mature adult themes, profane language, and sexual content,” the statement said.
“Unfortunately, all aspects of the production need to be reviewed, including content, stage production/props, and casting to ensure that the production is appropriate for the high school stage.”
Despite the drama over the high musical, Hightower said he’s been stunned by the “outpouring of love and support” for Max.
“I’m not going to quit advocating for my son — ever. Max has shown me what real strength is,” Hightower said.