Only a few years ago, NFL fans would have fled the sport if they knew that the league was going to bring in transgender cheerleaders. However, in 2022, fans of the Carolina Panthers will be delighted to welcome the first transgender cheerleader to the sport. As 29-year-old Justine Lindsay practices with the cheerleading squad ahead of the season, the Panthers organization urges “more people need to see this” and that the transgender athlete has just as much a spot on the team as any of the other women in the cheerleading squad.
Back in March, Lindsay announced to her fans – and the world – that she made the Topcats, the cheerleading squad for the Carolina Panthers. In the same Instagram post, the young athlete came out as transgender.
“Cats out [of] the bag, you are looking at the newest member of the Carolina Panthers Topcats Cheerleaders as the first transgender female,” she wrote. “I would like to thank the beautiful and talented dancers who supported me along the way, alumni, TopCats family, and friends for your love and support. I would not have gotten to this moment in my life if it wasn’t for the support.”
She continued, “I would not have gotten to this moment in my life if it wasn’t for the support. Also, to my beautiful coach @chandalaelanouette, you are a special being that I truly cherish. Thank you for taking that leap of faith in me to be a part of your legacy and so many others. This is a moment I will never forget, and I cannot wait to show you all what this girl has to bring. Thank you, TopCats. A dream come true.”
The Carolina Panthers plan to use Lindsay for more than just game day. They will put her to use as a member of the Topcats for business conferences, community events, as well as fundraisers.
The NFL does not officially keep a record of its cheerleaders. However, it is believed that Lindsay is making history as the NFL’s first transgender female cheerleader in the league’s history.
In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Lindsay expressed her pride in being the first transgender woman to be an NFL cheerleader.
“I think more people need to see this. It’s not because I want recognition. It’s to shed light on what’s going on in this world.”
Lindsay was very afraid to come out as transgender. Up until her post, she kept her gender identity private. She said that not even her best friend knew she was a transgender woman.
“I was so scared,” Lindsay said. “There are just some things you can’t post.”
Despite the fear, she fearlessly decided to make a social media post.
“I just felt like whatever reaction I get from everyone, it does not matter,” Lindsay recounted. “And then my phone started blowing up.”
Lindsay told Buzzfeed that she hopes she can inspire other transgender athletes.
“I’m happy because I was able to break down that door and tell people, ‘Hey, we are not just sexual beings, we are actual human beings who want to better ourselves,’” she said.