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Austin ISD student featured in Emmy award-winning documentary 'Trans In America: Texas Strong'

The documentary, which was posted on YouTube in October of 2018, has more than 3 million views.

AUSTIN, Texas — A student in the Austin Independent School District is now an Emmy award winner. 

Kai Shappley, 8, and her family moved to Austin from Pearland in 2018 for a "more welcoming environment," AISD said. Shappley is a transgender girl, and she wasn't always accepted at her former school.

Before making the move to the Texas Capital, Shappley was featured in a documentary called "Trans In America: Texas Strong."

Shappley told KVUE she wasn't allowed to use the girls bathroom at her old school. 

"It was terrible. All the teachers were treating me wrong, the kids, I always had accidents because I either had to use the nurse's bathroom, which was all the way in the back of the school, and my classroom had this bathroom next to it, but the door would always lock," Shappley said. 

The documentary features Shappley and her mother, Kimberly, who had to confront her religious community while her transgender daughter navigated life at school, which wasn't easy for Kai.

"First grade was really bad - it was twice as bad as kindergarten was because by the time she was in first grade, it wasn't just the students - it was staff members, it was the superintendent - it just felt like the whole world was against her," Kimberly told KVUE. 

While accepting her award, Kai was very excited, smiling from ear to ear.

"My name is Kai Shappley and my pronouns are her and she, like the candy bar," she said smiling on stage.

In addition to the award, Kai is happy about the message she is spreading. 

"I'm glad that I'm helping people learn from their mistakes and learn that we transgender women and men have rights," Shappley said. 

The rights are something Kimberly has had to learn about over the years of supporting her daughter. She was raised Christian and Republican. 

"That was the mindset that I had - and I mean it's embarrassing that I am one of those people at that who had to experience things to help me to realize or to have empathy," Kimberly said. 

But as a mom, she said she had no choice. 

"When a mom is fighting for their kids, it's - you never take a break, because you know how important it is. I won't be here forever," Kimberly said. 

So while she can, Kimberly said she will keep fighting for her daughter and the LGBTQ+ community.

"With my other children, I worked really hard to prepare my kids for the world. With Kai, I work really hard to prepare the world for her," Kimberly said. 

Kai is well on her way. 

"I can tell I'm eight by my size and by how I look on the outside. But on the inside, I'm super mature is what people tell me so I feel like I'm an older woman," Kai said. 

The documentary, which was posted on YouTube in October of 2018, has more than 3 million views.

Copyright 2018 American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc.


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