Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs held in Los Angeles.
Ms. Jenner, 65, has recently made the controversial and difficult decision to transition from male to female after a lifetime of feeling as though she was born in the wrong body, as the wrong gender.
The decision to give Ms. Jenner the Courage Award was, and still is, a contentious one; the Internet blew up with confusion, criticism, and even anger when people discovered that Jenner beat out both Lauren Hill and Noah Galloway for one of the most prestigious awards in sports.
But whether or not you agree with the decision to give her the Courage Award, there is no denying that Ms. Jenner’s acceptance speech was inspiring, eye-opening, and thought provoking.
In her speech, Ms. Jenner shed light on the hardships trans people are faced with on a daily basis. They are often shunned by their own families and friends, abused, beaten, and even murdered for trying to embrace their true identities. And many times, they take their own lives because they cannot handle the difficulties associated with being trans.
Ms. Jenner made it clear that her mission was to redirect her own spotlight onto the thousands of trans people around the world to spread awareness around the adversity they face.
“If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is, I can take it,” she said. “But for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.”
She talked about how, even for her, the road to womanhood has not been an easy one.
“I trained hard, I competed hard, and for that, people respected me. But this transition has been harder on me than anything I could imagine, and that’s the case for so many others besides me,” she said. “For that reason alone, trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect.”
Transgender issues have seldom received attention up until recently because more people have become comfortable with openly identifying as trans. According to a recent survey commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign, there has been an increase over the last few years in Americans who know a transgender person. In 2013, 9% of those questioned knew someone who was transgender, and by 2015, that percentage grew to 22%.
“What’s important is that the number of Americans who know someone who is transgender is growing rapidly,” the HRC reports. “And what’s equally important, those who do know a transgender person are much more likely to have a positive impression of transgender Americans.”
As Ms. Jenner’s movement gains traction, the United States becomes more aware of transgender issues. Perhaps presenting her with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was less about her own story, and more about the thousands of transgender people across the globe having their own stories heard. It’s time to address the transgender struggle that has gone largely ignored for several decades, and there is no better spokeswoman for the job than Caitlyn Jenner.