Justine Lindsay, Carolina TopCats, walks on the red carpet during a Night of Pride With GLAAD on Feb. 8, 2023, in Phoenix. The event spotlights LGBTQ inclusion in professional sports. Entertainment A Night Of Pride With Glaad And Nfl Party | Instagram

Justine Lindsay is making history after being hired as a cheerleader for the Topcats, the Carolina Panthers squad, making her the first transgender cheerleader in the NFL.

Lindsay, 29, posted the news on her Instagram account March 30, though it went unnoticed until this weekend when BuzzFeed News interviewed her. From 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 l. 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. I would not have gotten to this moment in my life if it wasn’t for the support. Also to my beautiful coach @chandalaelanouette you are a special being that I truly cherish thank you taking that leap of faith on me to be apart of your legacy and so many others. This is a moment I will never forget and I cannot wait to show you all what this girl has to bring. Thank you @topcats a dream come true.

Lindsay was hired for her talent, not as a way to break any barrier, said Chandalae Lanouette, the Topcats’ director, who added that Lindsay said she was trans on her application.

“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 told BuzzFeed News.

Lindsay is proud to break barriers, she said, especially as a Black trans woman. “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.”

In a post on Monday where she highlighted the BuzzFeed interview, Lindsay took aim at people who have been criticizing her:

Thank you to all my haters who think I’m bringing the organization down, clearly I don’t. The carolina panthers Organization is an excellent one, one that supports all people white, black , yellow trans, straight etc. at the end of the day myself and the other 29 members @topcats made the squad fair and square. so what if I’m 🏳️‍⚧️ so what I’m paving the way for those under me who are scared and afraid to take that step because it is not easy to do when you have ignorant people making comments that didn’t go through the process like the rest of us. I will continue to be that pioneer I will continue to inspire and help my African American beautiful trans sisters until my last breath. So please mind your manners and understand that if you can’t say anything nice please keep it to yourself.

Barriers have been falling in NFL cheerleading in recent years. The Los Angeles Rams hired the first openly gay male cheerleaders in 2018 and the team had five gay cheerleaders at this year’s Super Bowl. The Panthers hired two gay cheerleaders last year and other teams have hired gay cheerleaders as well.

Congratulations to the Panthers for making the move to hire Lindsay and to her for embracing her role as a trailblazer.

You can follow Lindsay on Instagram.

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