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Meet Justine Lindsay, the NFL’s first openly trans cheerleader

Talk about the “Pride of the Carolinas”! Justine Lindsay publicly came out as transgender in the same Instagram post in which she announced she had joined the Carolina Panthers’ TopCats cheerleading squad.

With that achievement, the 29-year-old became the first openly trans NFL cheerleader, as BuzzFeed News reported this month.

Lindsay told the site she was “so scared” to come out on Instagram, thinking that there’s “some things you can’t post.”

But Lindsay uploaded the post anyway. “I just felt like when I posted it, whatever reaction I get from everyone, it does not matter,” she said. “And then my phone started blowing up.”

Related: Man proposes to his cheerleader boyfriend during NFL game

Chandalae Lanouette, director of the TopCats, said that Lindsay disclosed her trans identity on her application but that it was her talent that got her a spot on 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 added.

Now that she’s a TopCat, Lindsay will inspire others, whether they’re bald like her and maybe “insecure rocking their bald look,” as she said, or fellow trans woman in need of a role model.

Related: How three Black trans women made San Francisco’s Tenderloin cool again

“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,” Lindsay explained. “I’m happy because I was able to break down that door and tell people, ‘Hey, we are not just sexual beings. 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.’”

As Lindsay said in that momentous Instagram caption, “This is a moment I will never forget, and I cannot wait to show you all what this girl has to bring.”

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