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A Texas rule forces students to choose between sports and being themselves.

Mack Beggs is just a 17-year-old boy who loves wrestling.

A Texas rule forces students to choose between sports and being themselves.

Sometimes, rules have unintended consequences. 17-year-old Texas wrestler Mack Beggs is dealing with one of them.

In February 2016, Texas school superintendents voted on a University Interscholastic League rule to require that student athletes compete as the gender listed on their birth certificates. The vote, which passed with 95% support, was intended to restrict transgender athletes from participating as their identified gender.

Just over a year later, Beggs, a transgender boy from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, won the state championship in wrestling — in the girls' division.


Beggs competes at the Texas Wrestling State Tournament. Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via AP Images.

Those new rules prohibited Beggs from competing against other boys — as he wanted to — putting him in the awkward position of having to quit wrestling or compete in the girls division.

"Wrestling is my life," wrote Beggs on his Facebook page. Some parents argued that taking testosterone gives Beggs an advantage over the girls he's wrestling against — and they'd probably be right, which is why the NCAA and International Olympic Committee both have policies outlining under what circumstances transgender athletes can compete against athletes of the same gender and when they should have to compete against athletes of the gender they were assigned at birth. The Texas UIL policy, however, eliminates a lot of important nuance.

Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via AP Images.

The Texas school superintendents knew that this might happen when they voted in 2016.

Chris Mosier, a three-time member of the U.S. National Team in duathlon and triathlon, tried to warn the Texas superintendents ahead of the 2016 vote, calling the policy a "a barrier to inclusion." As it turns out, he was right.

Mosier is the vice president of program development at You Can Play and founder of TransAthlete.com. He's also transgender.

"No athlete should have to choose between being an athlete and being their authentic self," says Mosier. "Transgender youth should have the same opportunities to compete in athletics as their cisgender peers. Mack is an athlete who just wants to compete in the sport he loves, and this is the only option Texas UIL gave him to continue to compete."

"For all young people," Mosier says, "participation in sports is recognized as an important aspect of developing positive self-esteem and an understanding of leadership, teamwork, communication skills, goal setting, determination, and a host of other positive values. It creates a connection to community and a sense of belonging. All students, including transgender students, should have the opportunity to participate in sport."

Mosier attends the Body at the ESPYs party in 2016. Photo by Dave Mangels/Getty Images.

There are some really simple things anyone can do to create a welcoming and inclusive space for transgender student athletes.

Whether you're a fellow student, parent, coach, teacher, or community member, one of the most basic things you can do to make trans students feel welcome is by affirming their identity. Using their correct name and pronouns is a great start.

The second thing that needs to happen is for administrators to shift from implementing exclusionary rules that create barriers for trans athletes and look to adopt policies that integrate trans students into school athletics. Mosier's website links to some helpful policy documents and guides that help debunk some of harmful myths about trans athletes.

One other thing you can do to show your support for equality is to get involved with organizations that promote inclusion for LGBTQ athletes such as You Can Play and TransAthlete.

Mosier at the 2016 GLAAD Amplified panel in 2016. Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York.

Policies vary wildly by state, which is why we need national guidance on policy for trans athletes — one that doesn't exclude anyone.

"There are transgender students in the state of Texas right now who are competing with the gender with which they identify because they changed their birth certificate," says Mosier. "But transgender students shouldn't have to jump through legal hoops in order to have an experience similar to their peers."

Gavin Grimm's upcoming Supreme Court case about how trans students fit into Title IX protections might provide that that clarity, but until then, it's on us to advocate on behalf of trans student athletes who just want to play sports like other kids.

As far as Beggs' wrestling future is concerned, there's a lot to be determined between now and the start of next season.

Jamey Harrison, the deputy director of the state UIL, the organization behind the birth certificate policy, told The Associated Press that "given the overwhelming support for that rule, I don't expect it to change anytime soon."

If it's overwhelming support that's keeping the discriminatory rule in place, don't forget what you can do to show that you don't stand by those views: (1) Use correct names and pronouns, (2) let your school know you want trans-inclusive athletic policies, and (3) get involved with organizations like You Can Play.

Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via AP Images.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."