clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Caitlyn Jenner Honored with Award for Courage

Last night at the ESPY's, the former Olympic Gold Medalist in the Decathlon was given the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Following a compelling documentary, Caitlyn Jenner delivered an emotional speech.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

ESPN took advantage of a night popularly dubbed as No Sports Day to shove their usually unwatchable awards show, the ESPY's, down the public's collective throats. "Why are the ESPY's unwatchable?" you might curiously ask. The simple answer is that I don't know precisely why they are unwatchable as I have never, you know, watched them. But, at least as I hear it from those who have tried to watch them, they are, in fact, unwatchable.

But last night, sandwiched between presumably awful television, was a good moment. If you're a fan of track and field, you certainly knew who Bruce Jenner was before 2015. As a Gold Medalist in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and a former World Record holder in the event, Bruce Jenner has been a figure in our little running-nerd world for a while.

Fortunately for everyone else, Caitlyn Jenner is now part of their world too. The ESPYs honored Caitlyn last night with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. The segment for that particular award was nearly 30 minutes long, but all of those minutes are worth watching. ESPN is not supporting the embedding of that video, but it can be found at this link.

That video opens with an introduction from Abby Wombach and a short, 15-minutes documentary-type thing narrated by Don Draper Jon Hamm. The documentary is mostly just background that most readers here likely know, but, if you have time, it's worth watching nonetheless. Plus, Jon Hamm.

Revealed in that documentary was one interesting tidbit on Jenner's training for the decathlon. In her commentary, she noted that she ran 70 mile weeks in training. That strikes me as a lot to be running, even for an elite athlete, on top of all the event-specific and weight training required of decathletes. What's the payoff of those miles outside of the 1500?

Truly the main attraction here was Caitlyn Jenner's 11-minute speech, which has been transcribed by our friends over at Outsports. I made a couple notes while watching it that I found interesting:

1. Jenner noted that she went through everything privately. She never met anyone else who was transgendered until she came out publicly. She suggested that going through that, especially on her own, was harder than winning a Gold Medal.

2. She discussed the responsibility that comes with being an athlete in the spotlight:

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 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.

To me, this sums up why Caitlyn Jenner deserves this award for courage. Obviously it took tremendous courage to not only accept herself for who she was and be open about it. But, on top of all that, she has the energy and drive to advocate for others going through similar struggles. I don't personally believe that athletes have a responsibility to be role models simply because they are in the public eye, but it is certainly nice when they are. Caitlyn Jenner seems to be absolutely killing it on this front.

3. She got very emotional when she started talking about her family and her fear of hurting them by coming out. This, I imagine, is a feeling many trans and queer people experience--how will those they love react? Fortunately for Jenner, she says her family was incredibly supportive.

4. The main thrust of her speech was a simple one: we should all respect and accept each other for who we are. That's certainly not an earth-shattering conclusion, but I thought she put it well at the end of her speech:

"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 be easy to get past the things you always don't understand, I want to prove that it is absolutely possible if we only do it together."

Now, like most transcriptions of speeches, the words come across more meaningfully when spoken, but I suspect this is great to hear for those dealing with discovering and accepting their identity. Jenner started her speech saying that she never met a transgendered person until after she came out. Putting herself in the public spotlight makes it less likely that others will have a similar experience.

What were your thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner's ESPY's speech?