With so much hype surrounding Caitlyn Jenner being the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPY Awards, there was no doubt that the Olympic icon would have something powerful to say when she took the stage to accept the award. As expected, Jenner didn’t disappoint as she gave a moving speech about acceptance and the trans community to the world.
During her speech, Jenner shared both moments of humor about her transition to a woman as well sobering stories about the struggles of the trans community and the need for education and acceptance of their lived experiences.
“They’re getting bullied, they’re getting beaten up, they’re getting murdered and they’re committing suicide. The numbers that you just heard before are staggering, but they are the reality of what it is like to be trans today.
“Just last month, the body of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, a transgender young woman of color, was found in a field in Mississippi stabbed to death. I also want to tell you about Sam Taub, a 15-year-old transgender young man from Bloomfield, Michigan. In early April, Sam took his won life. Now, Sam’s story haunts me in particular because his death was a few days before my interview with Diane Sawyer. Every time something like this happens, people wonder, ‘Could it have been different, if spotlighting this issue with more attention could have changed the way things happen?’ We’ll never know.
“If there is one thing I do know about my life, it is the power of the spotlight. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but with attention comes responsibility. As a group, as athletes, how you conduct your lives, what you say, what you do, is absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people. I know I’m clear with my responsibility going forward, to tell my story the right way — for me, to keep learning, to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated. And then more prominently to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences.” Jenner said.
Jenner also shed tears and moved millions as she thanked her kids, many of whom were there, and her mother for showing up to support her throughout her transition and at the awards ceremony.
“Here comes the tough part. I’d like to thank my family. The biggest fear in Caitlyn Jenner coming out was I never wanted to hurt anyone else, most of all my family and my kids. I always wanted my family to be so proud of their dad because of what he has accomplished in his life. You guys have given so much back to me, you’ve given me so much support, I’m so, so grateful to have all of you in my life. Thank you.
“And certainly last, but not least, my mother. My mom who, just a little over a week ago, had to have surgery and I didn’t think she was going to make it, but she is here with me tonight to share this night. Now, you know I always thought that I got my courage and my determination from my dad. He landed on Omaha Beach and fought all the way through World War II. But you know what I’m thinking now, Mom, is that I got all these qualities from you. I love you very much. I’m so glad you’re here to share this with me,” Jenner said.
And we’re glad that Jenner shared such an amazing speech with the world. We truly believe her life and story are going to help usher in major progress for the world, especially for the trans community.
Read some other highlights from her speech after the cut.