Caitlyn Jenner Didn't Mince Words About Trans Struggles at the ESPYs

July 15th 2015

In an emotional acceptance speech at the ESPYs, Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient Caitlyn Jenner pleaded for one thing: respect for trans people.

With her mother beside her and her family in the crowd, Jenner stood up to accept the award, saying that between hair, makeup, and fashion, "I've never felt more pressure than I ever have felt in my life than in over the last months."

"The real truth is that just before a few months ago, I had never met anybody else who was trans like me," she said.

Jenner described the experience since her transition, having become a major figure in the trans community over the last few months.

"It's been eye-opening, inspiring, but also frightening," she said. "All across the country, all across the world, there are young people coming to terms with being transgender."

Jenner described how transgender teens face bullying and mentioned that several have committed suicide. She called on athletes to help spread a message of acceptance.

"This transition has been harder on me than anything I could have imagined. And that's the case for so many others besides me, and for that reason trans people deserve something vital," Jenner said. "They deserve your respect. And from that respect comes a more compassionate community." 

She also named some others who have walked the road before her, including Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, and Janet Mock, thanking them publicly. She also recognized another major milestone in the trans movement: that trans people could soon serve in the military

"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," Jenner said. "We're all different. That's not a bad thing. That's a good thing. And while it may not be easy to get past the things you always don't understand. I want to prove that it's absolutely possible if we only do it together." 

Jenner's courageous and highly publicized transition from Bruce Jenner, the Olympian and patriarch of the Jenner-Kardashian clan, to a transgender woman, will be documented in a new E! Series debuting July 26. In a promo video, Jenner discusses her experience with gender identity, the pressure women face about their bodies, and what the future holds for her. 

The ESPY Awards' Arthur Ashe Courage Award is named after iconic tennis player Arthur Ashe, who died of AIDS and was the only Black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon. This award honors people whose contributions transcend sports and "shine[] a light on an important contemporary issue" through courageous action. ESPN announced why Jenner was selected as the 2015 recipient back in June: 

At all times, there are many worthy candidates. This year, we are proud to honor Caitlyn Jenner embracing her identity and doing so in a public way to help move forward a constructive dialogue about progress and acceptance.

Jenner also graced the cover of the Vanity Fair July issue, appearing poised and relaxed in photos at her Malibu home. She first spoke publicly about transitioning to a woman during a highly anticipated, two-hour special with ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "For all intents and purposes, I am a woman," Jenner said at the time. "People look at me differently. They see you as this macho male, but my heart and my soul and everything that I do in life, it is part of me, that female side is part of me. That's who I am."

Her speech Wednesday night was an important platform for the transgender community and the greater LGBT community. She recently described learning more about the important equal rights movement for transgender people, meeting with other transgender women to learn about their experiences. 

Jenner's family was supportive of her, snapping Instagram photos backstage at the awards show in downtown Los Angeles. 

For more on issues facing transgender Americans, check out our video on the battle for gender neutral bathrooms:

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