The NFL Topcats, the cheerleaders for the Carolina Panthers, have welcomed Justine Lindsay as a new member. Why is that grabbing attention? since she is the NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader.
Lindsay shared the information on her Instagram. “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 uploaded to the social media platform a picture of herself beaming broadly in her brand-new cheerleading outfit.
That’s accurate, until now, her gender identity was not well known. In fact, a lot of her closest friends were unaware.
“I was so scared [to post about it]. There’s just some things you can’t post,” she said.
“I just felt like when I posted it, whatever reaction I get from everyone, it does not matter. And then my phone started blowing up,” she added.
That’s probably because there have never been any transgender NFL cheerleaders who have come out in the past. Lindsay expressed her hope that the information would “tear down that door” for upcoming trans athletes.
The hiring managers were aware of the information. The director of the Topcats, Chandalae Lanouette, confirmed that Lindsay’s application did mention her transgender status. But her skills were the only thing that got her the job in the first place.
“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 said.
The NFL isn’t recognized for being particularly progressive in general. In fact, Lindsay, who says she hopes it “inspire[s] other young ladies who may be insecure wearing their bald appearance,” is one of the only black women on the team who wears her hair natural.
Additionally, it’s crucial for individuals to have access to information on the transgender community. “Our research shows that LGBTQ youth report that seeing LGBTQ representation by celebrities and athletes made them feel good about being LGBTQ,” said Sam Ames, the director of advocacy and government affairs at the suicide-prevention organization for LGBTQ youth. “Especially in a place like the NFL, which occupies such a powerful position in our culture, the story of a transgender cheerleader can inspire so much more than victory. She can give young people watching a dream to hold on to and a future to hold out for.”
“This is big,” Lindsay said of her being a black transgender person. “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.”
Check out the video below to hear more from Lindsay!