In the Stanislaus County town of Denair, which takes up all of 1.9 square miles, the Denair High School football field is where varsity cheerleader Anry Fuentes finds so much joy.
“Just really wanted to be on the squad. I’m so happy, and I just wanted to be, like, a cheerleader out there cheering on the boys, not just on the sidelines,” Fuentes said.
She tried out a year ago but didn’t get in. Through hard work and perseverance, she made the squad in September. But becoming a cheerleader was just one of the challenges -- the next was coming out.
“It’s so much harder to hide than to come out and be yourself,” she said.
She is the high school’s first openly transgender cheerleader.
“Like, I found it really hard to, like, say the words you know … them actually coming out of my mouth, but once they’re out, they’re out. That’s it,” she told FOX40.
Her team and the administration have been very supportive, she said.
“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 superintendent of the Denair Unified School District said.
Many students and teachers even helped her buy her $600 uniform.
For the most part, the Denair community has been very accepting. But there is at least one person who Fuentes hopes will change her mind, and that’s her mother.
“Well my mom kicked me out,” she said.
She told FOX40 that she and her mother used to be very close.
“I’m not mad at her or hate her. I understand where she’s coming from. She was raised differently, and I can’t judge her for that,” Fuentes said.
Although she’s in her element chanting and dancing, she told FOX40 there’s still some uncertainty on how other people react.
“Not going to lie -- it’s hard. I mean, it’s a lot of attention, and it’s not something that I was looking for,” she said.
But she offers no apology nor compromise. This is who she is.
“If I did regret it, then I wouldn’t be this happy,” she said, smiling.
Fuentes will be graduating high school in the spring.