[There was a video here]
Caitlyn Jenner received this year’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs, and more impressively, two standing ovations from the entire room during the live ceremony—one before and one after her wide-ranging, 10-minute acceptance speech, which touched on her transition but was devoted more to her activism on behalf of the trans community. “With attention comes responsibility,” she explained.
In front of an audience filled with some of the most well-known professional athletes in the country, Jenner discussed the harsh realities trans people face today, name checking Mercedes Williamson, a 17-year-old trans teen girl who was found murdered in Mississippi last month, as well as Sam Taub, a trans teen boy who killed himself in April.
Jenner said she felt it was her responsibility to “do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated, and then more broadly, to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are, accepting people’s differences.”
Her speech was clearly crafted to be idiot-proof and easily digestible. “Trans people deserve something vital, they deserve your respect, and from that respect comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society, and a better world for all of us,” she said, as the crowd interrupted her with applause.
She thanked Diane Sawyer, who was in the crowd, and teared up while thanking her children and mother. She tied everything together—her award, her celebrity, her life, her activism—in a show-stopping conclusion that went, in full:
You know, it is an honor to have the word “courage” associated with my life, but on this night another word comes to mind, and that is “fortunate.” I owe a lot to sports. It’s showed me the world. It’s given me an identity. If someone wanted to bully me, well you know what, I was the MVP of the football team—that just wasn’t going to be a problem. And the same goes tonight. If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead. Because the reality is, I can take it. 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. So for the people out there wondering what this is all about, whether it’s about courage or controversy or publicity, well, I’ll tell you what it’s all about: It’s about what happens from here. It’s not just about one person. It’s about thousands of people. It’s not just about me, it’s about all of us accepting one another. We’re all different. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. And while it may not easy to get past the things you [don’t always] understand, I want to prove that it is absolutely possible if we only do it together.
Inarguable and terrific.