Stephen F. Austin High School went down in the Texas history books when they voted senior Mel Gonzales homecoming king last month, making him the first openly transgender student to wear the crown.
For trans trailblazer Laverne Cox, stories like Gonzales' are heartwarming. When MTV News caught up with the transgender actress and force behind the October 17 documentary "The T Word", she shared her thoughts on the newly named king.
"Over the past several years there have been several trans folks who have been named homecoming kings and queens at their high schools and that's pretty awesome," the "Orange Is the New Black" star said. "Whenever I hear stories like that it gives me so much hope that there is -- that we are creating a world that excepts people as themselves."
The 17-year-old began hormone replacement therapy during his sophomore year and has since legally changed his name and gender identifier. And his story has echoes in those of the young stars of "The T Word."
Cox's one-hour doc, which premieres on Friday on MTV and Logo TV at 7 p.m. ET, invites viewers into the lives of seven trans youths, ranging from ages 12 to 24. With varying levels of parental and societal support, the TV special explores each individual's journey as they work to overcome challenges, including coming out, bullying, dating and anti-transgender violence.
"Part of the reason I wanted to do 'The T Word' is, I think, you know, in a very cliché way that children are our future," Cox admitted, "and I love speaking to young people because there is such a sense of hope and possibility for the world around them and for their lives. And I think it's actually really important that we, as a culture, don't sell our kids short."
"Don't give them any reason to not be hopeful, to not believe that the world can change for the better for everybody," she added. "We owe that to them."
Immediately following the 7 p.m. ET airing Friday, Laverne will co-host a live after show on MTV.com and Logo TV, to continue the conversation and answer questions from a live studio audience and viewers at home via social media using the hashtag #TWord.
"I believe that there is no way you can watch 'The T Word' and walk away thinking that any of these young people should be denied the same rights that everyone else has," she explained. "They are so dynamic and smart and brave and sweet that at the end of the day it's just when we get to know people as people [as a society we'll realize the trans community] should have the same rights that everybody else should have."
Be sure to tune in to “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word” on Friday, October 17 at 7 p.m. ET on MTV. Then catch up with Laverne and the cast on the MTV.com aftershow immediately ater the special airs.
For more information on transgender rights and resources go to Look Different.