Last night, Caitlyn Jenner made an inspiring and emotional speech when she was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards.
The award is named after the tennis player and Aids activist and is given to brave athletes. Jenner received a gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games decathlon.
On accepting the award, Jenner (66) who transitioned from Bruce into Caitlyn earlier this year, and came out officially as a woman on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, used the opportunity to make a rallying cry for transgender rights.
The Olympian described the difficulty she faced when transitioning, saying that:
“Before a few months ago I had never met anybody else who was trans, who was like me….I dealt with my situation on my own, in private.”
“All across the world at this very moment, there are young people coming to terms with being transgender,” she said.
“They’re getting bullied, they’re getting beaten up. They’re getting murdered and they’re committing suicide.”
Jenner then went on to say that she wants to use her position in the spotlight to promote “a very simple idea – accepting people for who they are.”
“This transition has been harder on me than anything I could imagine,” said the Olympian. “And that’s the case for so many others besides me. For that reason alone, trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect.”
The Olympian thanked her family for their support during her transition from Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner earlier this year.
“You guys have given so much back to me. I am so grateful to have you in my life,” she said.
Kendal, Kylie and Brody Jenner were in the audience, as were her step-children Kourtney, Khloe and Kim Kardashian. They all wiped away tears during the inspiring speech.
The decision to give Jenner the award was met with cynicism, from those who felt it was merely a publicity move. But ESPY co-producer, Maura Mandt, said “Caitlyn’s decision to publicly come out as a transgender woman and live as Caitlyn Jenner displayed enormous courage and self-acceptance.”
“[This] is what the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is about, somebody from the athletic community who has done something that transcends sport.”
“If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions – go ahead,” Jenner said. “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.”
“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.”
A number of people celebrated Jenner's speech, taking to social media to congratulate her bravery, including Laverne Cox - transgender star of Orange is the New Black.
Watch Jenner's emotional speech below.
Words: Harriet Hall
Images: Rex Features