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Texas transgender activist, 11, named Time Kid of the Year finalist

Kai Shappley gained national recognition last year when she passionately spoke about trans rights in front of members of the Texas Senate.
News: Transgender Rally
Kai Shappley speaks at a rally against House Bill 25, a bill that would ban transgender girls from participating in girls school sports, at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 6, 2021.Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman / USA Today NetworkJay Janner / Austin American-Statesman/USA Today Network
/ Source: NBC News

Kai Shappley, an 11-year-old transgender girl from Texas, is in the spotlight once again after she was named a Time Kid of the Year finalist. Kai, an elementary school student, first made national headlines in April, when she testified about trans rights before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs. 

After she was named one of five Kid of the Year finalists, Kai and her mom, Kimberly Shappley, talked to NBC affiliate KXAN of Austin about the motivation behind Kai’s activism. 

“I started my activism because I thought it was unfair how they were treating us,” Kai 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.”

Texas is one of over 30 states that considered legislation targeting transgender youths last year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Texas alone considered over 50 such bills, according to the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas. It was one of those bills — a measure that sought to criminalize providing or assisting minors with gender-affirming health care — that led Kai to testify last spring. 

“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 at the time. “God made me, God loves me for who I am, and God does not make mistakes.”

The measure didn’t pass. However, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in October signed a law that restricts transgender students’ participation in school sports, which went into effect Tuesday. 

The Shappley family has moved three times in the past few years and now lives in Austin because “it’s the safest place” for Kai to be, Kimberly Shappley told KXAN. The Shappleys anticipate that they will have to continue fighting bills that target transgender youths, and that’s fine by Kai. 

“I’m a bold and strong, independent little lady,” Kai said, “and I will keep fighting for as long as I need to.”

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