Caitlyn Jenner was honored with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage on Wednesday night at the ESPY Awards, and she gave a moving and emotional speech.
U.S. Women’s soccer player Abby Wambach introduced Caitlyn, who took the stage after sharing a tender moment with her mother.
Before she walked up, Caitlyn kissed her mom, Esther Jenner, who put her hand on her daughter’s face, pulled her close and gave her a kiss on the cheek as mama Jenner shared some private words.
On stage, in an off-white wrap dress from Atelier Versace (according to People) and custom sun washed nappa Iniviting sandals from Stuart Weitzman, Caitlyn opened up her speech with a joke.
“The last few months have been a whirlwind of so many different experiences and emotions, but to tell you the truth, it seems like every time I turn around in life, I’m putting myself in these high pressure situations, competing in the games, raising a family. But I’ve never felt more pressure than I ever have felt in my life than over the last couple of months — picking out this outfit,” Caitlyn said, to laughs from the crowd. “OK girls? I get it. You got to get the shoes, the hair, the makeup, the whole process, it was exhausting. And next — the fashion police. Please be kind on me, I’m new at this.”
With the world watching, Caitlyn opened up about taking her journey public.
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“If there’s one thing I do know about my life, it is the power of the spotlight. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but with attention comes responsibility,” she said. “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 in 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.”
Caitlyn said her journey as a trans person has been harder than her Olympic journey in 1976.
“I trained hard, I competed hard, and for that, people respected me. But this transition has been harder on me than anything I could have imagined. And that’s the case for so many others besides me. For that reason alone, trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect,” she said. “And from that respect comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society, and a better world for all of us.”
Caitlyn thanked the trans community, her mother, celebs like “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox, and journalist Diane Sawyer (for telling her story), and she also recognized her children, who were packed into the ESPYS seats in support.
“I’d like to thank my family. Now, the biggest fear I’ve always had in coming out is I never wanted to hurt anyone else. Most of all, my family and my kids,” Caitlyn said. “I always wanted my children to be so proud of their dad, for what he was able to accomplish in his life. You guys have given so much back to me, you have given me so much support. I am so, so grateful to have all of you in my life.”
Caitlyn concluded her speech by looking ahead to what’s next now that she’s taken her journey public.
“It is an honor to have the word ‘courage’ associated with my life, but on this night, another word comes to mind, and that is ‘fortunate.’ I owe a lot to sports,” Caitlyn said. “It’s showed me the world. It’s given me an identity. If someone wanted to bully me, you know what? I was the MVP of the football team, that just wasn’t going to be the problem. And the same thing goes tonight. If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is, I can take it. 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 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.”
— Access Hollywood Staff
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