If life were like a movie, the story of a high school's first openly transgender football player would be a tearjerker. Fortunately, sometimes life is better than the movies, and any tears shed while reading about Kennedy Cooley, who goes to Halifax West High School in Halifax, Nova Scotia, are guaranteed to be the happy kind. The 17-year-old student has made international news for earning a spot on the football team at Halifax West, where he transferred because he had heard the community was more accepting of LGBTQ identities, CTV News reports. Bustle has reached out to Halifax West High for comment and will update if/when we hear back.
Cooley told CTV News that he was initially nervous to sign up for tryouts, but he wound up being chosen as the team's wide receiver. His fears about feeling excluded were quickly put to rest as his teammates proved to be totally relaxed about his gender identity. "You feel like you're a brother, you don’t feel like you’re a player. They’re just so open and they accept you for who you are," he said, according to CTV News. Cooley is the first transgender member of the team, but head coach David Kelly told People the player has no trouble fitting in socially, and may even provide some perspective to teammates who don't have much experience with LGBTQ identities.
Cooley's parents are understandably excited about the school's welcoming attitude. His father told ABC News that raising a transgender child "isn't always easy," but supporting them is worth it in the end.
It's been a big year for the LGBTQ community in the sports world. Just last month, the Rio Olympics were attended by a record-breaking 56 openly LGBTQ athletes and coaches, including a married couple on the British field hockey team. Chris Mosier, the first transgender athlete to be named to Team USA, was featured in a Nike ad during the Games. Although transgender athletes remain a source of contention in some circles, things appear to be looking up, albeit at a glacial pace — 15 years ago, professional athletes still tended to shy away from coming out for the sake of their careers.
Cooley's story is a breath of fresh air in a year that got off to a rocky start, particularly for the transgender community. Here's hoping Halifax West High's welcoming football team is indicative of larger change to come.