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Justine Lindsay Is the First Openly Transgender Cheerleader in the NFL

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The 2022 football season might not start until September, but NFL history has already been made over at the Bank of America Stadium. The Carolina Panthers recently hired some newcomers for the TopCat cheerleading roster, and among them is Justine Lindsay, the first openly transgender cheerleader in the League.

Lindsay announced her appointment to the TopCats in an Instagram post in which she also shared her identity as a trans woman with the world.

“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,” she wrote. “I would not have gotten to this moment in my life if it wasn’t for the support.” She also thanked TopCats coach Chandalae Lanouette for taking a “leap of faith” and including her in the squad’s legacy, describing the experience as a dream come true. “This is a moment I will never forget and I cannot wait to show you all what this girl has to bring,” she added.

While Lindsay made no secret of being trans during the application process, Lanouette said that it was her athletic talents that landed her the gig. “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,” she told BuzzFeed News.

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In the same piece, Lindsay admitted that she felt “so scared” before sharing the post, which makes sense given the dearth of openly LGBTQ+ athletes in the world of sports in general and the NFL in particular, not to mention the ongoing bad faith debates surrounding trans athletes’ eligibility to participate. And now that she occupies such a high-visibility position with the TopCats, representing the Panthers at an array of different outreach and fundraising events, more eyes will be on Lindsay than ever.

“This is big,” she said. “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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