Bring It On: Challenging the Cheerleading Conventions

By Phoebe Myers

Cheerleading is not exactly known for being the most inclusive environment. Movies like the Bring it On series show the cheerleading world to be a highly competitive space filled with mean girls and a few muscular guys used as “bases”.

I’ve never cheered before in my life, but I definitely appreciate the hard work that goes into the acrobatics and learning the routines. Growing up in a small midwestern town (Oxford Ohio, coincidentally…), cheerleading was prevalent at all the football games. My high school was notoriously bad at football, but the cheerleaders always led the crowd to having a fun time.

I was so happy to hear about the story of Anry Fuentes, the first transgender cheerleader on her school’s cheerleading squad.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 10.08.18 PM
Courtesy of People magazine

Fuentes still identified as a boy when she joined the cheerleading team at Denair High School in Denair, California. She didn’t realize she was transgender until her junior year, and sat her teammates down to explain to them why she decided to make the transition.

“They were really nice,” she said. “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.'”

It’s a great sign that an arena as traditionally “American” as cheerleading is starting to be more inclusive of all kinds of people.

However, although Fuentes’ teammates were very supportive, her mother did not react nearly as well to her announcement to transition.

“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.”

So while it’s great Fuentes was able to maintain her position on the cheerleading squad with relative ease, there are still a lot of issues transgender people face, often with those closest to them.

Hopefully, with more stories like Fuentes’, we can all start to become a little more accepting.

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