Halifax West High School in Halifax in Nova Scotia recently welcomed its first transgender football player, Kennedy Cooley. Cooley transferred from a nearby school after feeling some of the student body, "wasn’t very accepting of the LGBTQIA community."
The 17-year-old senior told CTV News he’s had a very different experience at his new school.
"You feel like you’re a brother, you don’t feel like you’re a player," said the wide receiver. "They’re just so open, and they accept you for who you are."
Cooley was initially nervous to try out for the football team. He was scared that, "maybe somebody wasn’t okay with me being transgender," but his teammates and coaches welcomed him quickly.
"He’s very new to the sport, so I think he’s still in the process of learning the game," said head coach David Kelly. "As a teammate, he seems to get along well with everybody."
Cooley’s parents are also excited about the acceptance their son found at his new high school. "Everybody has been welcoming and just treats him like of the other guys," his mother, Pam Reinders-Cooley, told CTV. "That’s what he wants to be — included — and he wants to be one of the other guys. I thank the team for everything they’ve been doing and have done and continue to do. They seem to be a great group of kids."
Cooley’s father, Robert, hopes his son’s story will show other parents what can come from supporting your children. "He’s never been afraid of a challenge, and we’ve always supported him as much as we could," he told ABC News. "It isn’t always easy, but at the end of the day, your goal as a parent is to make sure your child is a productive citizen in society, and when we look at him, we see that he is a good kid."
Cooley also hopes his story will inspire others — especially other teenagers who are worried about taking a risk or fitting in. "If you’re unsure about going out for a team because you’re scared, or you just don’t feel like it’s right for you, take the risk," said Cooley. "Take the jump."