Caitlyn Jenner received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at last night’s ESPY’s in Los Angeles, and used the opportunity to deliver a powerful speech urging fellow athletes and celebrities to understand the immense challenges trans people, especially teenagers, face everyday.
“It’s not just about one person,” Jenner said. “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 easy to get past the things you don’t always understand, I want to prove that it is absolutely possible if we only do it together.”
The award, presented by ESPN, recognizes individuals who “transcend sports,” and is named after the late African-American tennis champion Arthur Ashe, who was known for fighting discrimination in the sport and raising public awareness about AIDS.
Looking ahead, the former Olympian said she would use her fame to push for transgender rights. Jenner mentioned 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson and 15-year-old Sam Taub, both trans teenagers who killed themselves earlier this year, to illustrate the urgency of the challenges facing teens.
“They’re getting bullied,” Jenner said. “They’re getting beaten up. They’re getting murdered. And they’re committing suicide.”
She concluded her speech with a message for her critics and those questioning the motives behind her public transition.
“If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is I can take it,” she said. “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. So for the people out there wondering what this is all about, whether its about courage or controversy or publicity, it’s about what happens from here.”
Jenner’s transition made national headlines after she sat down with Diane Sawyer for an exclusive interview in April, in which she detailed her journey. She made her public debut with a June cover shoot for Vanity Fair.