We love this cheerleader, the first trans member on her squad
Three cheers (and a pyramid/the splits and a basket toss) for this cheerleader, Anry Fuentes, 17, the first transgender student on her school’s squad.
“When I was first trying out for the cheer squad, I wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to be the first transgender girl,’” she told PEOPLE. “I was just trying out because I wanted to be a cheerleader, and I wanted to dance and cheer.”
Not only did she make Denair High School’s team, but she made varsity.
“It was the best moment of my life,” Fuentes told TODAY.com. “I’ve been wanting to be a cheerleader forever. It made me sad when I didn’t make the team last year, so I just thought in my senior year it has to happen.”
Back in April when she made the team, Fuentes was not yet out as trans and was given a male cheerleading uniform. “I knew that I didn’t feel like most boys do,” she told PEOPLE. “My freshman year I came out as gay. I didn’t even know what gay was. Going into my junior year, I started doing research. I was like, ‘Am I really gay?’ And I was like, ‘No, I’m transgender.’” Then, in a group meeting with her squad, she revealed her identity.
“Some were still calling me Henry and using male pronouns,” Fuentes told TODAY.com. “It was a little scary because I didn’t how they would react. I was really nervous about what words to use, but the cheerleaders were super sweet, saying, ‘We’re proud of you, and we love you for who you are.’” Aww. Best. Team. Ever. And if you think her fellow squad members were supportive, her coach and the school superintendent were, also, embracing the cheerleader themes of school spirit, positivity, and acceptance. Denair’s cheerleading coach, Robin Hilton, told TODAY.com she wanted Fuentes to “feel safe.” “Our community has always accepted her from the very beginning,” Hilton said. “The squad has embraced her and they have been friends forever. Now that she finally feels happy and confident, she wants others to feel that way, too.”
Forever is right. The high school has under 300 students and Denair itself has a population of about 4,400 people and is less than two miles wide, so everybody knows everybody. Teachers and students even helped raise $600 for Fuentes’s uniform (!!!).
Aaron Rosander, the school district superintendent, gets an A+ in our book, too. “We’ve dealt with Anry like we’ve dealt with all students: we welcome them all, we support all the kids on their journey through life,” he said to KTXL. And… now our hearts have all melted into feel-good mush-goo.
I hope Denair High School’s acceptance will spread to schools across the world. “At first it was to help myself because I wanted it to be done with,” Fuentes said to TODAY.com. “Now I feel like I want to help.”
However, even though Fuentes was accepted at school, she wasn’t by one person: her mother. “I don’t think she fully understands what it is, and I feel that maybe she is overwhelmed,” she told TODAY.com. “She’s not very accepting at the moment.” Fuentes even left her mother’s home. “She told me if I didn’t start dressing like the gender I was issued when I was born that she was going to throw all my stuff away,” Fuentes said to PEOPLE. “That gave me the hint that she didn’t want me there anymore because she knew I wasn’t going to stop dressing as I felt.” So, Fuentes went to live with a fellow cheerleader, though hopes to return home eventually. In regard to her cheerleading, “It should be something normal, something no one really worries about,” Fuentes told TODAY.com. “It should be all about just being another member of the team.” Exactly, girl. We’ll cheer to that.
(Images via Instagram)