A gay student elected homecoming king at Brazoswood High School in Clute had the perfect response for his bullies.
After Joel Mireles captured the crown in a popular vote, homophobic classmates reportedly protested his win by creating T-shirts with the hashtag “#NotMyKing.”
Mireles responded by purchasing one of the T-shirts and wearing it to school—along with his crown.
“I just thought, if I bought one, it would be a statement saying, ‘This isn’t affecting me and you guys aren’t hurting me,'” Mireles told WTSP-TV.
Since Mireles’ cousin, Danielle Pena, posted the above photo of him wearing the T-shirt on Facebook, it’s been shared more than 400 times.
“You deserved that crown, Joel,” Pena wrote in her post. “Now I’m the one who looks up to your courage. I hope one day I am not affected by the hurtful hate in people’s hearts. I love you so much and I’ve never been so proud!”
Mireles, a senior who’s interested in theater, called himself “an average student” and said he never thought he’d be elected homecoming king. But he campaigned by hanging handmade posters, and handing out candy and donuts.
“Typically it’s someone who’s in athletics or usually it’s football,” Mireles told WTSP. “I was shocked. I didn’t really know what to do. Then one of the members of student council put the crown on me.
The next day, when Mireles’ friends showed him negative posts on social media, he was bothered by the bullying.
“‘I didn’t want to go eat lunch because I thought people were looking at me so I stayed in the theater classroom and told my mom to come pick me up early,” he said.
But then it “just passed over” and Mireles realized “it didn’t matter.” Pena said Mireles told her, “It’s okay, it doesn’t bother me. I won! They can’t take that from me.”
In her Facebook post, Pena also criticized school officials for not responding to the bullying.
Superintendent Danny Massey subsequently issued a statement to Chron.com.
“We are proud of Joel and our Homecoming Queen for being selected by a popular vote of the senior class to represent Brazoswood for Homecoming two weeks ago,” Massey said. “We take claims of bullying seriously, and are dedicated to ensuring all our students are learning in a respectful environment.”
“No Brazosport ISD student has sold, wore or distributed shirts displaying the hashtag #notmyking. Brazoswood High School’s Homecoming king purchased the shirt shown on social media for himself online. Joel is a great kid attending a great school and has a very bright future,” Massey added.
Mireles told Chron.com he knows who created the T-shirts and shared screen grabs of them being made. But he declined to identify the student.
“In my opinion, it’s whatever. They said what they said,” Mireles told Chron.com. “But for me, they [the school officials] are being lenient on the no-bullying policy, and they need to stop being so lenient, because this had the potential to be tragic.”
Mireles said response to the photo of him wearing the T-shirt has been “mostly positive,” which “feels really good.”
He also has the support of his mother, Molly Salinas.
“I just want him to be him,” Salinas told WTSP. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted, is for him to be him.”