A Canadian high school football team is welcoming its first transgender student player, who recently transferred after he said he felt unaccepted and lonely at his former school.
The team is "very family-oriented," Kennedy Cooley, a senior at Halifax West High School in Halifax, Nova Scotia, told CTV News.
"You feel like you’re a brother, you don’t feel like you’re a player," the 17-year-old, who plays wide receiver, said. "They’re just so open and they accept you for who you are."
The welcome has been a pleasant surprise for Cooley. At his former school, the teen said he felt some of the student body "wasn't very accepting of the LGBTQIA community."
But after transferring to West Halifax, however, he said he's found the opposite to be true.
Though Cooley was initially "really nervous" to try out for the football team and scared "maybe somebody wasn't OK with me being transgender," he was proven completely wrong.
"Everybody has been welcoming and just treats him like one of the other guys," his mother, Pam Reinders-Cooley, told CTV News.
"That’s what he wants to be -- included -- and he wants to be one of the other guys" she said. "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."
The football team also has a lot to thank Cooley for, too, according to their head coach, David Kelly.
He told CTV News that Cooley helps the team understand issues that transgender youth face and that he helps "give them a perspective that they probably would not have had before" Cooley joined.
The teen's father, Robert Cooley, told ABC News he hopes Cooley's story can help show other parents the beauty that can come from standing behind your kids and supporting them.
"He's never been afraid of challenge, and we've always supported him as much as we could," he told ABC News today. "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."
The teen hopes to become a firefighter or graphic designer, his dad said.