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Caitlyn Jenner accepts Arthur Ashe Award at ESPYs
by Ben Sanders

This article shared 4984 times since Wed Jul 15, 2015
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The 2015 ESPY Awards were full of raw emotion. Throughout the three-hour sports-awards show on ABC, numerous men and women were rewarded for their bravery and perseverance over the past year. But it was Caitlyn Jenner who arguably stole it for herself.

Jenner, the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, was introduced to an audience of millions by Abby Wambach, who helped lead the U.S. women's national soccer team to a World Cup victory earlier this month.

"It seems like every time I turn around in life, I'm putting myself in these high-pressure situations," Jenner said during her speech. "Competing in the [Olympic] Games, raising a family—but I've never felt more pressure in my life than over these last couple of months. Picking out this outfit. OK, girls—I get it! You got to get the shoes, the hair and the makeup. The whole process was exhausting!"

Jokes aside, though, Jenner used her platform to deliver a simple message: Treat everyone the same—no matter their gender, sexual orientation, etc.

She discussed the plight of trans people all over the world who are bullied, simply because they don't conform to societal gender norms. The numbers speak for themselves: A May 2015 study by the Williams Institute showed that 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people attempt suicide at one point in their lives. Jenner brought up Sam Taub, a 15-year-old transgender boy from Michigan whose death by suicide came just a few days before Jenner's famous one-on-one interview with Diane Sawyer.

And the violence against trans people is not just self-inflicted: Jenner mentioned the late Mercedes Williamson, a 17-year-old transgender woman of color whose body was found in a field in Mississippi. According to police, her cause of death was murder.

It was around this time when Caitlyn Jenner went from being a celebrity giving a speech to an advocate for transgender people everywhere.

"Trans people deserve something vital," she said. "They deserve your respect." And with that, the crowd erupted in cheers. It was one of many.

She also used this platform to thank everyone who's helped her during the last couple of years. The list included her "buddy," Diane Sawyer, her family and, specifically, her mother.

Then near the end of her speech, she spoke to all her haters—all the people who've questioned her motives.

"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 about," she said. "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."

Among some of the night's other winners were the U.S. women's soccer team (best team), teenage Little League baseball player Mo'ne Davis (best breakthrough athlete), the Aaron Rodgers (best NFL player), Serena Williams (best female tennis player) and Rob Gronkowski (best comeback athlete).

B>From an HRC press release:

Another Olympian and LGBT advocate, soccer player Abby Wambach, a key member of the U.S. women's national soccer team that won the World Cup earlier this month, presented the award to Jenner.

"Caitlyn Jenner has already shown the world her courage and honesty, bringing a new and fuller level of understanding about transgender people," said HRC Foundation's Jay Brown, Director of Public Education and Research. "The image of Jenner, with her supportive and loving family, being honored for her courage by World Cup champion Abby Wambach, sends a powerful message to transgender people who all too often face rejection, harassment, and ridicule."

"We continue to hope that Jenner's story will inspire others to live their truth. We also hope that this moment helps to shine a light on the challenges many transgender people with far less access to resources and critical support face each and every day," Brown said.

Last year's Arthur Ashe Courage Award winner was Michael Sam, America's first openly-gay professional football player.

Jenner's honor comes at a time when more and more Americans know transgender people, and support them. A recent national HRC survey revealed that 22 percent of likely voters personally know or work with someone who is transgender, and, of that group, two-thirds expressed favorable feelings toward them. That's up from 17 percent who said they knew a transgender person just a year ago.

The data provides powerful empirical evidence that the increase in the visibility of transgender people in our workplaces, our communities, in our popular culture—including Jenner, Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox, and New York Times bestselling writer Janet Mock—helps propel this growing support.

This positive trend of understanding is perhaps reflected most dramatically in the corporate world, where HRC Foundation's work with Fortune 500 companies through the annual Corporate Equality Index has resulted in two-thirds now offering explicit gender identity non-discrimination protections, and 34 percent offering transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits.

But even with those gains, many transgender people still face tremendous challenges, with great disparities faced by transgender women and transgender people of color. In 2015, at least 9 transgender women - almost all of whom were Black or Latina - have been murdered and 8 young transgender people have died by suicide. HIV continues to disproportionately affect transgender women. And unemployment, discrimination in healthcare, violence and homelessness are major concerns for the community.

More information about the lives of transgender people in the U.S., including the challenges they continue to face, can be found at And a new HRC resource, Understanding the Transgender Community, can be found at .

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