At this year’s Homecoming male cheer event, you may recall a student doing a dance while the other cheerleaders were flying or holding each other up. That was sophomore Ten Sanchez, a recent member of the transgender community here at Branham.
Among the traditions that Branham celebrates during Homecoming, male cheer has become an increasingly popular spectacle since its inception eight years ago. In the event, male students, coached by female students experienced in dance or cheer, engage in tightly choreographed, gravity- defying acrobatics in an attempt to gain points for their class. Ten is perhaps the first transgender male student to be involved in male cheer, a sign of Branham’s emergence as a welcoming community. Ten is also one of the few in his class who is open about being transgender. The Branham community’s response was mainly positive, aside from a few bullies who dared to question Ten’s legitimacy. With this new identity came new opportunities. Ten is now able to participate in all-male school activities such as Homecoming male cheer, something he wanted to do his freshman year but couldn’t as a result of not being out yet. He added that his participation in the event did not cause any discomfort between Ted and his cisgender peers. “I already knew most of them, and I was already out to them,” he says. “I explained to the other guys who didn’t know [that I was transgender] and they were, like, ‘ok.’”
Initially, Ten says he felt that his peers might not be as accepting as as his close friends and family. However, after Homecoming ended, his fellow male cheer colleagues began to regularly greet him when passing through the hallways. “They didn’t care or see that I was different in any way,” he said about the way his team treated him. Ten said he plans to continue participating in Homecoming male cheer until the end of his high school career. However, he does not think he would be able to keep up with Branham’s own cheer team. Branham is looking into making cheer a coed sport, with the intention of allowing aspiring male cheerleaders to participate at competition level among the girls, but Ten said such a change may ruin the meaning of having male cheer as a Homecoming event.
“I feel like changing it to coed makes it lose some of its meaning,” he says. “It’s a lot funnier seeing high school guys attempting such a hard sport while trying to look sexy.”