Transgender teen overcomes obstacles to fulfil dream of becoming cheerleader at high school
With her slender frame and model looks, cheerleader Phoebe Cesinaro seems every bit the high school queen bee.
However, just two years ago Phoebe was presenting herself as a gay male and using her birth name Christian.
Since coming out as a straight transgender girl, the brave sixteen-year-old has faced cruel bullying and been ostracised from her peers.
But rather than hide, the teen beauty decided to transition and fought for the chance to become the school’s first transgender cheerleader.
Despite two failed try-outs, Phoebe, from Kitchener in Ontario, Canada, has since been promoted from the junior squad to the senior squad.
The teen revealed the energetic sport has helped her cope with the bullying and boosted her confidence throughout her challenging transition.
She said: “I tried to get on the team for two years but I just wasn’t good enough so during summer I built my confidence as I had to be happy and confident to get on the team.
“I used to hate being in front of crowds but cheerleading helps my confidence and gave me a place to take out any anger. It makes me feel good.”
Despite her new-found confidence the inspiring teen admitted it was hard to be in the public eye of the school and that acceptance has been gradual.
She added: “When I first got on the team, I thought I’d be happier but I still felt out of place.
“Everyone knew I was transgender and the other girls are all so like feminine and pretty.
“I got a lot of comments, even from the sports players.
“I would have people debate my gender in front of me, calling me ‘it’, staring at me and posting stuff about me on online.
“I tried to keep my head high, though I crumbled really but I didn’t want to stop my transition.
“As more time went on, the team really stood up for me.
“They are becoming like family as I hang out with them a lot, and we have fun.”
Even as a young child Phoebe felt something was wrong and would often dress up as female characters when she played games with her older brother Nathan.
At school she would cut her clothes into crop tops and envied her friends for their long hair and feminine features.
After speaking to another transgender woman, Phoebe came out publicly in 2013 and the following year started hormone blockers.
In March 2015 she began hormone replacement therapy and had her name and sex designation amended on her birth certificate just before her 16th birthday.
She said: “Ever since I was little I was drawn to princesses and pink dolls and I would pretend I was a female character when we played.
“My mum thought I was going to be gay, I would get mad when I was told I wasn’t a girl.
“When I was coming out to my friends, I wanted to come out to my mum too but I was terrified.
“When I did a few months later it was really relieving, like two potato sacks had been lifted from my shoulders.”
Phoebe’s mother, Jennifer Shaw, admits she expected it was going to be a rough road for her daughter.
But fully supported her decision as knew it would be worth it in the end for Phoebe as she could finally be her true self.
She said: “I would always love and support her, she is my child and I’m really proud of her coming out and having the strength to be who she truly is.
“I was so proud of her when she told me that she had made the cheer team.
“Since joining, Phoebe has gained more self-confidence and self-esteem and is happy to be herself and do what makes her happy, not worrying about what others think.
“She is finally beginning to see her self-worth.”
Some of Phoebe’s friends turned their back on her after she came out, but she praised the staff at Eastwood Collegiate Institute for their support as well as her best friends after the support they showed her.
She said: “School have been very supportive, offering advice, they were like my best friends.
“When people bully me now it just shows they are immature.
“Cheer has helped bring me such positive energy and I want to help people to be more confident and how them how to be themselves.
“It’s okay to come out and be the person you see inside.”