NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader Justine Lindsay speaks out about signing with Carolina Panthers

·4-min read
 (jus_lindsay_/Instagram)
(jus_lindsay_/Instagram)

Justine Lindsay has spoken candidly about being the first openly transgender cheerleader for the Carolina Panthers and how proud she is to “break down that door” for future trans athletes.

Lindsay, 29, discussed how she made NFL history in a recent interview with BuzzFeed News, a few months after she shared a post on Instagram to announce that she had officially joined the Carolina Panthers’ TopCats Cheerleaders.

She also acknowledged how the Instagram post was her first time coming out as transgender to both her teammates and her community.

“I was so scared,” she said about sharing her announcement on social media. “There’s just some things you can’t post.”

According to Lindsay, being transgender was a secret that she kept from everyone except her family. However, she said that when she spoke about it publicly for the first time, she wasn’t necessarily worried about how other people’s reactions.

“I just felt like when I posted it, whatever reaction I get from everyone, it does not matter,” she explained. “And then my phone started blowing up.”

Regarding her cheerleading achievement, she emphasised how important it is for people to see because it represents what major things are happening “in the world” today.

“This is big,” added. “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.”

She went on to note how her career could help “break down” barriers for transgender atheltes, as it shows that they are simply people “who want to better” themselves.

“I’m happy because I was able to break down that door and tell people, ‘Hey, we are not just sexual beings,’” Lindsay continued. ‘We are actual human beings who want to better ourselves.’ I felt like, Why not tell the world: ‘Hey, listen, this is a great accomplishment.’

Elsewhere in the interview, Chandalae Lanouette, the Topcats’ director, expressed that while Lindsay said that she was transgender on her application, it was the cheerleader’s work “on the field” that got her onto the team.

“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.

Lindsay also discussed her physical appearance and that when her coach told her that she could keep her head bald, she felt pleased to “inspire other young girls who may be insecure rocking their bald look”.

The athlete opened up about her NFL gig on Instagram last month, detailing how it was a dream come true for her last

“Dreams are reality,” she wrote in the caption, along with a photo of her in her cheerleading uniform. “Dreams can manifest by putting in the work. Dreams can be accomplished with a focused mind, body, and spirit. This is my reality, this is my story. Own it, believe in it, and everything will fall into place.”

Speaking to The Independent, Lindsay addressed how grateful she has been for current and former cheerleaders on the TopCats, as they’ve continued to support her.

“I want to shoutout to my teammates for enduring this opportunity with me as well because I do not make up the TopCats,” she explained. “And I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Alumni TopCats and my recent team for just seeing me as a dancer not an act but a performer. I am very humbled again and thank God because he has yet to slow me down.”

She emphasised how her family and faith have continued to be there for her since her transition.

“I knew when I was younger that I was different but was immediately embraced by my family who cares and loves me very much,” she added. “Also, I understand that I may not be everyone cup of tea, but I know that I am doing this, said the lord, and if I keep following his direction, anything is possible for me. God bless the souls I touch and inspire and hope to inspire more.”

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