Justine Lindsay makes history as the NFL’s first transgender athlete

Justine Lindsay made NFL history last week after she earned her spot on the TopCats.

Lindsay announced on Instagram that she has made the Carolina Panthers cheerleading team for next season, making her the first openly transgender cheerleader in NFL history.

Lindsay 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 Instagram post. “There are some things you can’t post … I felt when I posted it, whatever reaction I get from everyone, it doesn’t matter. And then my phone started blowing up.”

Lindsay may not be the first transgender cheerleader to make an NFL team squad, as there are no clear league-wide records that could verify that fact. However, she is the first person to be open about it.

Although most people in Lindsay’s life didn’t know, TopCats director Chandalae Lanouette said she wrote on her application that she was transgender.

“My aim is to create a team of individuals who are absolutely on fire on the field but who are amazing 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 there,” Lanouette said, via BuzzFeed.

Cheerleading teams have slowly changed over the past few years, both in the NFL and across professional sports in the United States. Many teams have started including men and even abandoned traditional teams altogether in favor of a “spirit squad” or similar organization. The TopCats also have two men on their 30-man roster for the 2022 season.

Although that was not her goal, Lindsay does not shy away from the history that comes with her making the team. She knows how big of a deal it is as a black and trans woman, and what that can mean to so many people across the country.

“This is big,” he told BuzzFeed. “I think more people need to see this. Not because I want recognition. 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 real human beings who want to improve ourselves.’

“I felt like, Why not tell the world: ‘Hey, listen, this is a great sport.’ “

Justine Lindsay is the NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader. (Instagram/Justine Lindsay)

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