When a high school teenager becomes a varsity cheerleader, it does not become national news. But in the case of Anry Fuentes, it made history.
The 17-year-old became the first transgender teenager in California to make her local cheerleading 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 magazine. "I was just trying out because I wanted to be a cheerleader, and I wanted to dance and cheer."
The high school senior came out as transgender at the end of her junior year after struggling with her gender and sexual identity for many years.
"I knew that I didn't feel like most boys do," Fuentes said. "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.'”
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Her journey for self-discovery led to tension with her mother and Fuentes was forced to leave her home as a result.
"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. "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. I packed my stuff and I left, and I went to live with another cheerleader."
She told the Daily Beast that she is working with her mom now to work out their issues and hopes to move back home soon.
“I want people to see that I went through a rough time, but she’s coming along now,” she said. “It takes a long time.”
As for her school, Fuentes said they have been incredibly supportive, with fellow students raising money for her $600 cheerleading uniform.
"They were really nice," she told People. "They were like, 'We support you for who you are. We love you, and it's not going to change anything. We're not going to see you any differently.' "
School officials said she is not being treated differently than any other student.
“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,” Aaron Rosander, the school district superintendent, told the Daily Beast.
This is exactly what Fuentes wants.
"I'm kind of glad that it's getting out, so it can help others who are struggling," she told People. "I have been getting a lot of really nice messages from transgender girls and parents who are like, 'Your story is really touching, you're so strong.' It made me feel good, because I see that I'm helping."
Her message to other transgender kids: “I think anyone who is struggling with being uncomfortable in their skin... it’s OK. You’ll always have yourself. You’re living to make yourself happy,” she told the Daily Beast.