Meet Justine Lindsay: the NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader

Although she announced it on her Instagram account in March, the news of Justine Lindsay becoming the NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader has gone viral now that it’s Pride Month.

Justine Lindsay is a 29-year-old black, trans woman who cheers for the Carolina Panthers “TopCats,” making her part of two minority groups among NFL cheerleaders. Being the first comes with some setbacks, and Lindsay admitted she was afraid to post her announcement on social media. But since then it has been met with messages of support and well wishes. Of course, not everyone is so friendly. In another post, Lindsay spoke about receiving messages of transphobia. Not one to let it break her spirit, she said “thank you to all my haters” and embraced the role she plays in paving the way for future trans athletes.

Meanwhile, in some states, Republican lawmakers ban trans girls and women from participating in high school and college sports, including a disturbing genital inspection for those suspected of being transgender. Lindsay’s hire will look to start ending transphobic laws like those in the US.

Black cheerleaders are also a minority in the NFL. There is a lot of pressure to look a certain way in this role, and that way is usually straight hair and other typical Euro-centric looks. However, Lindsay was relieved to find out that she was allowed to keep the bald look she now has. She saw her baldness as another opportunity to “inspire other young girls who may be insecure about rocking their bald look”.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Lindsay said she’s excited to break barriers. “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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