Justine Lindsay made NFL history last week after landing her spot on TopCats.
Lindsay announced on Instagram that she made the Carolina Panthers cheerleading team for next season, making her the first openly transgender cheerleader in NFL history.
Lindsay actually came out to her teammates and most of the people in her life when she published that post.
“I was so scared,” Lindsay told BuzzFeed News about sending that post to Instagram. “There’s just some things you can’t put out … I just felt like when I put it out, no matter what reaction I get from everybody, it doesn’t matter. And then my phone started exploding.”
Lindsay may not be the first transgender cheerleader to make an NFL team’s squad, as there are no clear league-wide records to confirm this fact. However, she is the first person to be open about it.
While most people in Lindsay’s life didn’t know, TopCats director Chandalae Lanouette said she wrote on her application that she was transgender.
“My goal is to create a team of individuals who are absolutely fire on the field, but who are incredible people in the locker room, great friends, great people, and at the end of the day, you have to walk through the door first to get to that place,” Lanouette said via BuzzFeed.
Cheerleading teams have changed slowly in recent years, both in the NFL and across professional sports in the United States. Many teams have begun to include men and even ditched traditional teams altogether in favor of a “spirit group” or similarly formed organization. The TopCats have two men on their 30-man roster for the 2022 season as well.
Even though it wasn’t her goal, Lindsay doesn’t shy away from the story that comes with making the team. She knows how big of a deal it is as a black trans woman, and what it can mean to so many people across the country.
“This is huge,” she told BuzzFeed. – I think more people need to see this. It’s not because I want recognition. It’s just to shine a light on what’s going on in the world … I’m happy because I was able to break down that door and tell people, ‘Hey, we’re not just sexual beings. We are actual people who want to improve.
“I felt like, why not tell the world, ‘Hey, listen, this is a great achievement.’ “
Justine Lindsay is the NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader. (Instagram/Justine Lindsay)