Transgender girl at center of Pearland ISD bathroom battle stars in new hit Netflix series

HOUSTON – In 2016, a transgender student at the center of a Pearland school bathroom battle, made national headlines. Now, Kai Shappley is using her voice as an actress on Netflix’s newest hit series, “The Babysitter’s Club.”

She was just about to start kindergarten when Pearland Independent School District leaders decided Kai had to use the boy’s bathroom.

Her mother fought for her daughter's right to be affirmed for who she was, but in 2018, the family decided to move to Austin.

"It was just the safest little place that we could move to for Kai to have equal opportunities as all of her peers," said her mother, Kimberly Shappley.

Kai’s story made national headlines and became the subject of an Emmy-award winning documentary, “Trans in America: Texas Strong.”

Last August, Hollywood came calling.

“I got a Facebook message from someone in LA that there was a spot for a trans girl on The Babysitter’s Club and they asked if she wanted to play the part of Bailey,” Kimberly recalled.

Kai jumped at the chance and had just one week to learn her lines and get a passport so she could travel to Vancouver, Canada for filming.

She said she loved being on set with the other young actresses and really enjoyed the star treatment she received.

“It was actually pretty fun they were all sweet and nice. First-class there, first class back, five-star hotel and it was a famous fancy hotel where I could order all the Shirley temples I wanted,” Kai said.

In episode four of the TV remake of the books written by Ann M. Martin and first published in 1986, art imitates life.

Kai's character Bailey experiences something Kai went through when she was younger, being misgendered.

“I was really angry, like my dude, I’m a female,” Kai said.

It was a sensitive matter that Kimberly said the writer’s handled perfectly.

"For me as her mom, watching the episode I just cried and cried because it was so real. They didn't make a big deal about Bailey being trans, they made a really big deal about how Bailey was treated," she said.

A message Kai hopes comes through the screen loud and clear and leads to more understanding and acceptance.

"People like me like bailey deserve equal rights," Kai said.

Kai said this is just the beginning of her acting career and she’s already got another project on the horizon.

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Emmy-winning journalist, native Houstonian, reader, dancer, yogi.