Twenty-nine-year-old Justine Lindsay, a member of the Carolina Panthers’ cheerleading squad, just made history as the first-ever openly transgender cheerleader in the NFL.
Taking to Instagram after officially becoming a Topcat, the athlete had no hold-ups about releasing her identity to the public.
“Cats Out the Bag you are looking at the newest member of the Carolina Panthers TopCats Cheerleader’s @topcats as the first Transgender female,” she wrote in the caption of her social media post, including a picture of her smiling in her uniform.
For Lindsay, the decision to be open about her transgender identity was a big risk, she admitted to media outlets. While she typically lives her life without discussing her experience as a trans woman, she felt it was important to be open about her gender in order to be a role model for fellow trans individuals.
“I just felt like when I posted it, whatever reaction I get from everyone, it does not matter,” she shared, according to BuzzFeed News. “And then my phone started blowing up.”
In addition, the cheerleader commented that she is happy to pave the way for other trans athletes to be open about their identity and “break down that door” for the NFL. Chandalae Lanouette, the Topcats’ director also discussed Lidsay’s transgender identity, noting that her talent is what earned her a position on the squad instead of her bravery.
Justine Lindsay opens up about her desire to pave the way for other trans individuals
“My goal is to create a team of individuals that are absolute fire on the field but are incredible human beings in the locker room, good friends, good people, and at the end of the day, you have to walk through the door first to get to that spot,” Lanouette explained.
Although NFL cheerleader teams have recently made strides to diversify their squads, the large majority of athletes abide by European beauty standards. Not only is Lindsay’s transgender background important, but as a Black woman who is bald, her presentation is just as significant.
When her coach approved of her hairstyle and didn’t require her to change it, the athlete reported that she was looking excited to, “inspire other young girls who may be insecure rocking their bald look.”
In addition, she feels as though representation as a Black trans woman will help bring attention to the struggles transgender individuals go through. “This is big,” Lindsay shared. “I think more people need to see this. It’s not because I want recognition. It’s just to shed light on what’s going on in the world.”
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