Denair High School senior Anry Fuentes has wanted to be a cheerleader since she was little.
“I was really good friends with this girl named Selena and she was a cheerleader with Denair Youth Football, so I would just go and watch her cheer for the football players and go to her practices,” said Fuentes.
“I was like, ‘wait, I want to be a cheerleader too!’” she laughed.
Fuentes’ childhood aspiration to cheer on the sidelines of sporting events is not what makes her unique. Rather, it is Fuentes’ journey that ultimately turned her dream into a reality.
Fuentes is transgender. She was born a male, but identifies as a female.
“I first came out as gay my freshman year because that’s what I thought I was,” said Fuentes, “but I didn’t feel like a boy who liked other boys. I felt like a girl who liked boys.
“I knew that I wanted to be a girl,” continued Fuentes.
Although she has not undergone any surgery or begun taking hormones, Fuentes said that she now chooses to dress to reflect how she feels on the inside—as a girl.
“It’s a lot of work and it’s stressful because I’m not even on anything to actually be transitioning,” said Fuentes. “I have plans to start as soon as I find a job and get out of high school because transitioning will be a big part of my life.”
Fuentes can not only be seen wearing feminine clothing around the DHS campus, but also on the sidelines of every Coyotes football game, where she proudly dons a female varsity cheerleading uniform as the high school’s first openly transgender cheerleader.
“It means a lot. I feel respected,” said Fuentes. “I chose to wear the skirt for myself and I love wearing the uniform on Fridays. I wanted to feel good about myself.”
At first, Fuentes said that she was going to wear the male cheer uniform because she did not want to “make it difficult” and she was not even sure if wearing a female cheer uniform was even an option. However, her overwhelming desire to wear the female cheer uniform prompted her to reach out to her coach Robin Hilton.
“The price changed, but she said that was the only problem,” said Fuentes. “We had to go through the district and principal, and we had to call in my mom to let her know what was going on.”
In regards to Fuentes' decision to wear a female cheer outfit, DUSD superintendent Aaron Rosander said that all students in Denair schools are “supported and given equal opportunity in all programs and activities.”
“Gender identity and expression is protected by the law and is given unwavering support in Denair Unified,” said Rosander.
Since Anry announced that she is a transgender female, Fuentes said that she has been surprised to see how much support she has received, especially from Hilton and her cheerleading squad. Even though Fuentes said that this is all new to them too, her fellow cheerleaders have made a noticeable effort to refer to her as “Anry” and to use the correct pronouns.
“I love them so much,” said Fuentes. “I’ve never felt pushed away or that they don’t want me there. I’ve never felt like that. They’re making an effort and being really supportive.”
Although Fuentes has garnered a significant amount of support from her cheerleading squad and a majority of her peers, she said that she still encounters the occasional person who refuses to acknowledge her as identifying female.
“A lot of people have been telling me that I’m pretty strong for letting that go by because anybody would blow up,” said Fuentes, “but I can’t because I’m not going to force it upon them. If that’s how they feel, then I can’t change their opinion.”
Fuentes said that although transitioning thus far has been tough, she still continues to wear a smile and keeps working hard. In addition to scoring a place on the cheerleading squad this year, she has maintained a good academic standing and earned the Stanislaus County Seal of Multilingual Proficiency for her linguistic proficiency in Spanish and English.
“I’m not sugarcoating it, it was tough. But my life is given to me once and I’m going to make the most of it,” said Fuentes. “Everybody goes through that stage where they think ‘I’m never going to get out of this.’
“No—you are going to get out of it. I am living proof. I didn’t give up,” continued Fuentes.