After becoming a member of the Carolina Panthers TopCats cheerleaders in March, Justine Lindsay had heard that there was nothing like the team’s first home game of the season. That sentiment proved true.
“It was the best moment I could imagine,” she recalled in an interview earlier this week of the Panthers’ season opener on Sept. 11. “It felt like it was about 115 degrees and there were so many people in the stands. It was a beautiful Sunday.”
Lindsay, 30, is the first openly transgender cheerleader in the NFL. Her arrival on the NFL was first announced in a personal Instagram post back in March and was followed in June by a host of media coverage. Now, more than halfway through the NFL season and in support of Transgender Awareness Week (Nov. 13-19), Lindsay is determined not only to be a role model for others but to enjoy every second of the process.
Lindsay, who was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, recalled the day when TopCats director Chandalae Lanouette told her she made the team. She was driving through an unfamiliar part of Charlotte and pulled into a parking lot of a church filled with people.
“I heard ‘Congratulations’ and I just blacked out,” she said. “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. It was a beautiful moment, getting that encouragement from people I didn’t even know really hit home.”