Justine Lindsay is a cheerleader for the Carolina Panthers. She’s also a transgender woman.
That those two facts haven’t caused an uproar is a sign of some really positive movement.
Lindsay’s gender identity hasn’t exactly been a secret. Outsports’ story on her has been a top-10 most-read story on our website each of the last two months; Almost every Sunday of the NFL season — including the preseason — our story has been top-5. In other words: People have seen the story and know who she is.
Of course, there have been some knuckleheads on social media claiming she’s somehow taking an opportunity from a woman or some other nonsense.
The TopCats are not gender-exclusive, with at least two members of the cheer team — Tre Booker and Chris Crawford — being men. This gender diversity is reflected on NFL cheer teams across the league including the Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and others.
The idea that Lindsay is taking an opportunity away from a woman is 100% completely false.
There’s a legitimate debate to be had about how to best include transgender athletes in a (mostly) binary system of sports, where female and male categories dominate.
As more and more trans advocates advocate for the ability of trans women to compete in women’s sports — including college, the pros and the Olympics — with zero medical transition requirements, reasonable questions have been raised about fair competition.
That’s not the case here. Lindsay earned a spot on a non-gendered, non-competitive cheerleading team for the Panthers, and no one can possibly claim her being transgender lead to any “advantage” whatsoever.
It’s great to see the vast majority of people understand that. A cheerleading team is a place where men, women, cisgender, transgender people can co-exist equally, just like almost any other workplace.
The NFL gets it too, highlighting Lindsay — along with other out LGBT Panthers cheerleaders — in the league’s video released to support Spirit Day earlier this month.
So many Americans don’t know any transgender people, creating elements of distrust and misunderstanding that lead to powerful and unfortunate societal pressures for people with gender dysphoria.
It’s great to see Lindsay blazing a trail in the NFL and in North Carolina, hopefully elevating acceptance of people who are transgender along the way.