Carolina Panthers hire NFL’s first transgender cheerleader

The first openly transgender cheerleader has joined an NFL team – a “big” moment that he says will hopefully inspire others on and off the gridiron.

Justine Lindsay, 29, said in an interview Saturday that she’s proud to “break down that door” for future cheerleading squads by the Carolina Panthers’ TopCats.

“This is big,” she told BuzzFeed News. “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. “

Lindsay first came out as trans when she announced on Instagram that she was joining the Panthers squad in March.

“Cats out the bag,” reads Lindsay’s post. “I would like to thank the beautiful and talented dancers who supported me along the way … This is a moment I will never forget and I can’t wait to show you all what this girl has to bring.”

She said she was terrified to come out as trans online after keeping her gender identity secret from even her best friend, whom she considers to be like a sister.

Justine Lindsay first came out as trans when she announced that she was joining the Panthers cheerleaders in March.
Instagram / @ jus_lindsay_

“I was so scared,” she told the outlet of the post. “There are just some things you can’t post.”

“I just felt like when I posted it, whatever reaction I get from, everyone, it doesn’t matter,” Lindsay continued. “And then my phone started blowing up.”

Although Lindsay indicated she was transgender on her application, TopCats director Chandalae Lanouette said it was her skill as a cheerleader that got her on the team.

Panthers cheerleaders.
TopCats director Chandalae Lanouette said it was Justin Lindsay’s skill as a cheerleader that got him on the team.
John Byrum / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“My goal is to create a team of individuals that are in 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. Get to that spot, “Lanouette told BuzzFeed.

While prepping for his tryout, Lindsay watched a reality show about the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad and how his appearance was a sizable factor during the selection process.

But Lindsay was pleased to learn when her coach could keep her bald head, which she hopes will inspire “other young girls who may be rocking their bald look.

Panthers cheerleaders.
Justine Lindsay watched a reality show about the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad to help prep her TopCats tryout.
Andy Lewis / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In addition to strutting her stuff on the field, Lindsay will also represent the Panthers at fundraisers and business conferences, BuzzFeed News reported.

Lindsay posted another shot of himself in Panthers gear in early April with the caption, “Who’s with me?”

“I’m ready to give it all I got,” she wrote in the post.

In a new post early Monday, Lindsay pushed back against “negative energy.”

“Understand that we are all [God’s] Children, that he is an awesome God from the sun up to the sun down, “she wrote. “I live through him. Negative hate stay away. “

Lindsay is believed to be the first trans person to be hired as an NFL cheerleader, though the league does not keep official records pertaining to gender identity, BuzzFeed News reported.

Justine Lindsay.
Justine Lindsay said she’s proud to “break down that door” for future trans athletes.
Instagram / @ jus_lindsay_

Fewer than 1 in 3 people know someone who is transgender, according to the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth.

“Our research shows that LGBTQ youth report that seeing LGBTQ representation by celebrities and athletes made them feel good about being LGBTQ,” Sam Ames, the group’s director of advocacy and government affairs, told BuzzFeed.

“Especially in a place like the NFL, which occupies such a powerful position in our culture, that a transgender cheerleader of the story can inspire so much more than victory. She can give young people a dream to hold on to and a future to hold out for. “

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