CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Justine Lindsay is an NC State graduate, a dance enthusiast, and the first-ever transgender member of the Carolina Panthers’ elite cheerleading squad, the TopCats.

“It was more so like ‘Hey, I’m me. I’m gonna go out and put my best foot forward and see what happens,'” said Lindsay.

What happened next was a grueling audition process, one in which Justine competed with hundreds of other hopefuls, all vying for a handful of spots on the TopCat squad.

In the end, Justine made the cut, becoming the first transgender person to don the TopCat uniform.

“But I have to give a shout-out to Tre and Chris from last year without them I don’t think I would ever be in this place today.” said the 29-year-old Lindsay. 

Tre and Chris are Tre Booker and Chris Crawford, who made their own history last year when they became two of the first three men to become Carolina Panthers TopCats.

“I was scared that I wasn’t going to make it because men had auditioned before and I’m thinking maybe they are making that decision to not add men,” said Booker.

But Tre and Chris did make it, something they both chalk up to hard work.

“To this day it still feels surreal it was enlightening and challenging a little bit intimidating to come into a space that’s built for women and being one of the first three males to come in I feel that I had to continuously improve and earn my spot to be here,” said Crawford.

Both Chris and Tre are members of the LGBTQ+ community, and this year they’re both going to be TopCats again. Tre hopes it’s a sign of the times.

“My black queerness is not gonna change, the way I show up the way I am, it’s not going to change,” said Booker.

But both Tre and Chris say making a statement isn’t their primary goal. They’re here to dance and to remind Panthers fans to keep pounding.

“We are also still humans so I think once people got past that he is a male and we now have male cheerleaders, and kind of remember they’re also human they have hearts I think I can win people over at that point.”

And now, with Justine on board, the Carolina Panther TopCats are poised to make history, all while entertaining football fans.

“I hope I can be a pioneer to the young trans women and men behind me and just be able to say, ‘Hey, if I can do it, you can do it.'”

And to do that, Tre says you have to bring it.

“I see people as people and if your energy is fantastic, ‘Hey, come join the party.'”