Justine Lindsay has been hired as the league’s first openly transgender cheerleader for the Carolina Panthers, joining the top-ranked team in attendance this coming season. In March, Justine Lindsay joined the Carolina Panthers TopCats cheerleading team, making her the first openly transgender cheerleader in NFL history. Justine Lindsay became the NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader when she joined the Carolina Panthers TopCats team and hoped that she could help break down barriers for her peers in the transgender community.

Speaking with the publication, Carolina Panthers TopCats roster director Chandalae Lanouette told BuzzFeed News it was clear that Justine Lindsay made the team for her talents as a cheerleader and not for checking boxes. Sharing the news via Instagram post, Lindsay said that she made it onto their 30 person roster of upcoming NFL seasons. There may be transgender cheerleaders throughout the league’s history, but there is no record that can confirm this. After being hired by the team, Lindsay told BuzzFeed she was afraid to share the news on Instagram in her first interview. Lindsay told BuzzFeed News last week the announcement was also a way for her to come out as transgender to her new teammates and others.

On Monday, after BuzzFeed published the story about Lindsay, she took to Instagram once more to respond to the hateful messages of transphobia that she had received. By sharing her story in public, the 29-year-old is making space for more trans representation in an area historically highly binary. Lindsay is excited about breaking that doors open for future trans athletes who might be willing to follow in her footsteps in a BuzzFeed News interview. In that same article, Justine Lindsay admitted she felt so scared before sharing the post, which makes sense given the lack of openly LGBTQ+ athletes in the sports world at significant, and in the NFL specifically, not to mention the continuing debate over trans athletes right to compete.

TopCats Director clarified that Justine Lindsay had already disclosed her trans status on her application. Lindsay said that she was aware that getting a spot on an NFL cheerleading squad as a Black trans woman was a significant issue within the arena. Justine Lindsay also thanked TopCats head coach Chandalae Lanouette for taking a leap of faith and including her on the  TopCats roster legacy of cheerleaders, describing the experience as a dream come true. Justine Lindsay added she would continue to encourage other transgender individuals who are scared to make a move. Notably, the Carolina Panthers TopCats included two men on this year 30 person roster of the team. The NFL’s 2022 season is scheduled to begin in September.