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First transgender cheerleader in NFL

Words by Smiley Team

One of the most recognizable elements of American football is the cheerleaders.

From the high school and collegiate levels – all the way to the NFL – they’re an active part of nearly every game. That role has largely been reserved for cis women and men but soon, Justine Lindsay will make history as the first-ever openly transgender cheerleader in the NFL. 

The 29-year-old will be joining the Carolina Panthers cheerleading squad, the Top Cats. She made the announcement in an Instagram post.

“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 wrote. “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 cannot wait to show you all what this girl has to bring. Thank you @topcats a dream come true.”

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Lindsay told Buzzfeed she was “so scared” to share the post, which also served her coming out post. 

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

Even though she’s making history as the first openly trans cheerleader, the thing that earned her a spot on the team is her skills above all else. 

“Members of the TopCats are hired based on their qualifications and abilities,” the Panthers told NPR. “Our organization is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate because of age, race, religion, color, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin. We wish all the TopCats, including Justine Lindsay, an incredible season.”

The Topcats' director, Chandalae Lanouette, doubled down on this. 

“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.

Lindsay will start her NFL cheer career this upcoming season.

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: The Trevor Project is an organization that helps provide counseling and other services to LGBTQ+ youth. 

SUPPORT: The LGBTQ+ advocacy organization GLAAD put together a list of queer support organizations. Try and find one near you and offer your support. 

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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