Pendleton transgender teen first to be crowned prom princess

PENDLETON, Ore. – It’s a first for Nixyaawii Community School on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton; on June 3rd, Ryelynn Melton was crowned prom princess.

“I love the sparkles, it has the corset on it, I love the sleeves, I just love the design,” Melton referred to the dress she loved so much, she sold cupcakes to afford it.

It’s a dress, fit for royalty, prom royalty that is.

“I had the biggest dress there,” the extravagant red gown was also a way for Melton to raise awareness on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.

Melton, who’s a part of her school’s leadership program, didn’t think they’d be able to have prom. However, with the help of students and staff, they pulled it off last minute and it’s a good thing they did.

“I was just like in shock It felt amazing, I didn’t know, like, I was going to be able to win but I did win,” she said.

Ryelynn became the first transgender woman to be crowned prom princess at her school.

She called it an important recognition for the LGBTQ+ community.

“I have faced lots of discrimination at school from boys, it doesn’t get to me, but I think it’s important to normalize it, for people who aren’t in the LGBTQ to just be like ‘hey that’s normal,'” Ryelynn said.

Melton’s aunt, Willa Wallace, said there’s a native term they use for her niece’s identity, and people like her: Two Spirit.

“If you were born a certain way, it’s just how you were it was an accepted thing, so that they could feel that inclusion,” Wallace explained.

Ryelynn’s family urged how proud they are of their Two Spirit daughter.

“To see her classmates and her community and her school embrace her the way that they have,” Ryelynn’s father Randall said he was excited to see his daughter crowned princess.

The term was developed in the nineties to make sure Native Americans who identify as the opposite, or both qualities of man and woman, know they’re loved and included by their Native community.

They all hope people can work on being more inclusive and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s a lot of pride and the fact that Ryelynn feels confident enough to be who she is,” Randall said.

“She’s just a beautiful being and I’m grateful to be a part of this family,” Willa added.

“You can do anything even if you’re trans, so to win princess, just meant, a ton. Such a good experience and just feel like a princess,” Ryelynn said.

Ryelynn also helped organize the United Pendleton Pride Parade. It kicks off around 2 PM in downtown Pendleton on Saturday, June 12th.

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