“Cat’s out the bag. You are looking at the newest member of the Carolina Panthers Topcats Cheerleaders as the first transgender female,” Justine Lindsey announced on her Instagram after joining the NFL team in March 2022.
“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,” Lindsey continued in her post. “I would not have gotten to this moment in my life if it wasn’t for the support.”
Thirty year-old Lindsey, who was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, recalled the exact moment when TopCats director Chandalae Lanouette told her she made the team. Lindsey said she was driving through a part of Charlotte unfamiliar to her and pulled into a parking lot to take the call.
“I heard ‘Congratulations’ and I just blacked out,” said Lindsey. “The next thing I knew I jumped out of my car and was crying and jumping hysterically. These people came over to me and asked me if I was OK, and when I told them what had happened, they gave me a hug and told me they were so proud of me.” The new member of the TopCats said she was moved by the sudden show of support from her community. “It was a beautiful moment, getting that encouragement from people I didn’t even know really hit home.”
After performing in the Panthers’ season opener on September 11th, the cheerleader said in an interview, “It was the best moment I could imagine. It felt like it was about 115 degrees and there were so many people in the stands. It was a beautiful Sunday.”
Lindsey said that since making the team she has received encouragement and congratulations from people in the Panthers organization, the Charlotte community, and on social media, praising her personal achievement as well as her making historical strides for gender identity representation.
“I have had so many parents of young kids in the trans community say thank you for what I’m doing and that their son or daughter is watching me,” she said. “They are so pleased to see that I’m tearing down that wall.”
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Lindsey stressed the importance of sharing her story and the stories of people like her. “I think more people need to see this. It’s not because I want recognition. It’s to shed light on what’s going on in this world.”
Lindsey said that “this is just the beginning” and thanked everyone who has supported her from March to now. “I love them and hope I can still inspire young trans persons to let them know they can do the same thing I’m doing, if not more. I just hope I can be an inspiration to someone out there.”
Lindsey is the first openly transgender NFL cheerleader since cheerleading teams were first introduced to the organization 70 years ago, and she aspires to be a beacon of hope for posterity in addition to those now who are looking for a role model and positive representation on the national stage.