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11-year-old Texas transgender activist, Kai Shappley, named Time Kid of the Year finalist

'Activism matters to me because it is a way to show that we belong. It's a way to show that we will fight for what is right,' she said.

11-year-old Texas transgender activist, Kai Shappley, named Time Kid of the Year finalist
Cover Image Source: YouTube/Kai Shappley

An 11-year-old Texas transgender girl who testified against anti-trans legislation is in the spotlight once again after she was named a Time Kid of the Year finalist. Kai Shappley, an elementary school student, first made national headlines in April last year when she made a stirring speech in front of the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee against a proposed law that would brand her mother as a child abuser for supporting her. "I love ballet, math, science and geology. I spend my free time with my cats, chickens, FaceTiming my friends and dreaming of when I finally get to meet Dolly Parton," she testified. "I do not like spending my free time asking adults to make good choices."



 

Speaking to NBC affiliate KXAN after she was named one of five Kid of the Year finalists, Kai opened up about the motivation behind her activism. "I started my activism because I thought it was unfair how they were treating us," she said. "We've seen a lot of what's going on multiple times in history, and it's just history repeating itself over and over. It's terrible, so I started speaking out because I wanted that to stop." During her appearance before the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee last year, Kai urged lawmakers to vote against Senate bills 1311 and 1646, which banned doctors from providing gender-affirming treatment to transgender kids like herself.



 

"It makes me sad that some politicians use trans kids like me to get votes from people who hate me just because I exist," she said. "God made me. God loves me for who I am. And God does not make mistakes." Although she held her own before the lawmakers that day, the youngster told TIME that she felt furious beneath her composure. Lawmakers were avoiding her gaze, she said, glancing at their watches, scrolling on their phones or doodling on papers. When the opportunity came to ask her questions, none of them had anything to say. "Seriously? None of y'all want to know more about me?" the then-10-year-old quipped.



 

Although neither of the bills passed, Texas governor Greg Abbott later signed a law that restricts transgender students’ participation in school sports, which went into effect Tuesday. The April 2021 testimony wasn't the first time Kai garnered attention. The now-5th grader has been publicly sharing her story and advocating for trans equality for years. She's traveled the country with her mother, Kimberly Shappley, speaking at LGBTQ rights rallies, worked with the ACLU on pro-trans projects, and met with national lawmakers to urge them to pass the Equality Act, which would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 



 

However, last April was the first time she'd ever testified on her own. "I wanted to show them that all these lies people have been spreading [about trans kids] are not true," she said, explaining why she chose to go solo. "It makes me want to keep on going, knowing that there are so many people who rely on me. Activism matters to me because it is a way to show that we belong. It's a way to show that we will fight for what is right. We won't sit silent." Speaking of her daughter, Kimberly Shappley said: "Kai was born with this strength. This isn't anything that she was taught. It's just who she is. It's why she was able to transition at a young early age. Being the mother of a transgender child who's consistently under attack, being her mom has made me a better person. It's made me a better Christian. It's made me a better neighbor. It's made me a better friend. It's made me a better mom to all of my kids."

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