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First Transgender NFL Cheerleader Stands Proud in Face of Hateful Trolls

The first transgender cheerleader in the National Football League opened up about her life in a new essay. Justine Lindsay says that in the wake of the anti-trans sentiment around the country, it’s essential to stand up and take pride in who one is.

Lindsay, who has cheered on the Carolina Panthers TopCats squad since last year, wrote about movement and dance as her fascination growing up and inspiration for her professional life.

Writing in Insider, she explained that she lived and breathed ballet growing up.

“I’d go to the computer almost every day, trying to connect it to the internet through AOL, and I’d watch video after video to learn everything I could, from arm movements to leg and feet placements,” she wrote.“I could relate to ballet, which at the time was uncommon to see someone who’s African American be in that arena. I just knew I’d make my way into a world where I could dance,” she wrote.

The first transgender cheerleader in the National Football League opened up about her life in a new essay. Justine Lindsay says that in the wake of the anti-trans sentiment around the country, it’s essential to stand up and take pride in who one is.

Lindsay, who has cheered on the Carolina Panthers TopCats squad since last year, wrote about movement and dance as her fascination growing up and inspiration for her professional life.

Writing in Insider, she explained that she lived and breathed ballet growing up.

“I’d go to the computer almost every day, trying to connect it to the internet through AOL, and I’d watch video after video to learn everything I could, from arm movements to leg and feet placements,” she wrote.

Eventually, dance would lead her to try out and be accepted into the TopCats as the first trans person to cheer for a professional football team. She indicated in her essay that she’d experienced being in spaces not typically welcoming to specific groups.

“I could relate to ballet, which at the time was uncommon to see someone who’s African American be in that arena. I just knew I’d make my way into a world where I could dance,” she wrote.

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Lindsay took the opportunity to join an NFL squad to try to open minds and eliminate barriers to understanding.

“You sometimes never know who you can impact until you break down the wall,” she explained.

Lindsay also shared some of her journey with identity.

“I had started transitioning in college during my sophomore year,” she detailed. “I always knew I was special. I knew there was a young girl inside of me. I just didn’t know who to go to or what resources I had. I didn’t have a big sister who was also trans to look up to, someone who could help me navigate that.”She wrote that although currently, American society is fraught with anti-trans sentiment, she remains optimistic about the strength of the institutions and politicians who support equality.

“I feel like we have strong senators and political champions who want to make change,” Lindsay wrote.

But she noted that while lawmakers wrestle with matters of fairness and acceptance, welcoming different people into participating in society is essential.

“Inclusion of trans-athletes in sports is important because in this world we live in today, we meet so many different, beautiful beings,” Lindsay wrote. “Every person is made differently. If you shut one person out, you’re shutting out a new opportunity, a new idea. So it’s very important to be open-minded to the possibilities.”She said that as a transgender person in the NFL, she had suffered abuse that almost resulted in her stepping away from social media, but she thought the better of it.

“I did face negative comments from trolls who were trying to make me feel bad about myself,” she explained. “At first it was very hurtful because I’m just minding my own business. I even considered deleting my Instagram at one point…”

However, she said she reconsidered and decided to live boldly and proudly.

“Anytime you’re doing something great or positive, someone’s always going to come behind and try to steal your joy. So I just have to continue to do what I love to do,” Lindsay wrote.

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