Kennedy Cooley, a transgender senior at a Canadian high school, became the first transgender student to join the football team

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated September 20, 2016 02:10 PM

A transgender teen is thanking his new teammates for accepting him after he transferred schools to join the high school football team.

Kennedy Cooley, a senior at Halifax West High School in Halifax, Canada, left his old school because said he was unaccepted and lonely there, and had high hopes for Halifax West.

“I’d heard that a lot of the guys are like family, they really get along together, they all know each other, and they’re really close friends, and I was just really nervous about going in there and maybe, somebody wasn’t okay with me being transgender,” Cooley, 17, tells CTV News.

But he immediately became another member of the family.

“Everybody was so accepting, it’s amazing,” Cooley says. “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.”

Cooley, a wide receiver and the first transgender member of the team, is still picking up the nuances of the game, but head coach David Kelly says Cooley is fitting right in.

“He’s very new to the sport so I think he’s still in the process of learning the game,” Kelly says. “As a teammate, he seems to get along with everybody.”

Plus, Kelly adds, having Cooley there “gives them a perspective that they probably would not have had before.”

Cooley’s mom, Pam Reinders-Cooley, is thrilled with how the new school has accepted him so far.

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“Everybody has been welcoming and just treats him like one of the other guys,” Reinders-Cooley says. “That’s what he wants to be – included – and he wants to be one of the other guys. I thank the team for everything that they’ve been doing and have done and continue to do. They seem to be a great group of kids.”

Cooley hopes that his experience inspires others.

“If you’re unsure about going out for a team because you’re scared or you just don’t think it’s right for you, take the risk, take the jump,” he says.