After struggling with her gender and sexual identity for years, Anry Fuentes has made history by becoming California's first trans cheerleader
. Like many high school students, making it on her school's varsity cheerleading squad was a dream for the teenager. She had tried out the year before, but wasn't accepted. Not letting the rejection deter her, she kept trying
, and this past April was accepted.
I was wanting to get on that team [so] I'm going to get on that team. It's going to be like that all my life, I'm going to keep fighting for the things I like.
When Fuentes made the squad, she still identified as a boy named Henry, but transitioned at the end of her Junior year. Her squadmates have been
"really supportive", even helping her raise money for her uniform. She told reporters that "no one has ever made me feel weird or like I shouldn't be there".
Making the squad was never meant to be a political statement. Fuentes says that
she was "just trying out because I wanted to be a cheerleader, and I wanted to dance and cheer". The school says they have not given Fuentes any special treatment, and that they are working with her the way they would with "all students". While the school did initially ask her to use a single-occupancy bathroom, she is slowly beginning to use the girls' washroom on a regular basis. While Fuentes has found love and support at school, things at home have been significantly less accepting. She has moved out due to tensions surrounding her identity, but is optimistic that things with her family will improve. Fuentes has maintained a remarkably positive and upbeat attitude throughout, saying that she understand that "people are scared of what they don't know. When they know what it's about, they'll learn to understand it".
Fuentes wants to send a positive message to other youth "struggling with being uncomfortable in their skin" that "it's okay...you'll always have yourself. You're living to make yourself happy". And Fuentes is indeed happy, and living fully without regrets.
If I did regret it, then I wouldn't be this happy. It's much harder to hide than to come out as yourself.
Fuentes' message has reached other youth in similar circumstances, who have reached out and thanked her for sharing her story. She is an inspiration, and a true cheerleader, both on the field and off.