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NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) - One at a time, JP Imprinting is printing "Oak is my King" t-shirts, supporting a transgender Mona Shores High School senior whose campaign for homecoming king was blocked by school administrators.
Among the students who plan to wear one on Friday -- the homecoming queen.
"I did vote for Oak," Tina Gutowski told 24 Hour News 8 on Wednesday.
Gutowski figures she was among many students who voted that way -- and whose votes were tossed aside by Mona Shores administrators.
"I see him as just a regular kid, just a regular boy, you know, living life," she said of Oakleigh Reed. "I wouldn't have had any issue with him standing next to me, not that our king doesn't deserve the position at all."
Since 24 Hour News 8 broke Oakleigh's story on Sunday, membership on an "Oak is My King" Facebook page has grown from about 100 to more than 7,000 -- with support from around the world.
Supporters have posted comments from Maine to California, Canada to Mexico, from as far away as Germany, Japan and Australia, many proclaiming, "Oak is my King."
"It's crazy," said Nick Schrier, a Mona Shores senior who created the Facebook page. "None of us expected this story would ever get this big, but we're glad the message is getting out there, that people are learning equality will be fought for.
"I think it's making our school look great. I think it's showing that the student body at Mona Shores is really supporting all students and that we are willing to stand up for equality."
Oakleigh -- who goes by Oak -- is listed in school records as a girl but plans to undergo a sex change operation at age 18.
Schrier said his vote for Oakleigh was not meant as a message.
"It was never an issue of gender or being transgendered. We didn't really think of it that way," Schrier said. "We think of Oak as a boy, and we thought he'd be a great representative for homecoming king."
The senior, who plays trumpet in the band and is president of the school's National Honor Society, campaigned for homecoming king and was getting votes -- some say enough to win -- but school admninistrators invalidated the ballots. Rules state students were to vote for a boy for king and a girl for queen.
Many have supported that decision in on-line comments.
Schrier says he believes the school should apologize and change its rule. School officials have defended the decision and say it was supported by attorneys.
"Homecoming is sort of over and there's nothing you can really do to reverse that, but I think we can definitely learn," Gutowski, the homecoming queen, said. "I think prom king should definitely be a consideration."
As for the t-shirts, printing company owner John Rho says proceeds will help offset the cost of Oakleigh's sex-change operation. So far, the company is printing 100, mostly for Mona Shores students.
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