Caitlyn Jenner Gives Poignant Speech at ESPYS: ‘Trans People Deserve Your Respect’

Caitlyn Jenner accepted her first formal award on Wednesday since announcing her transition, receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS and giving an emotional speech in the process.

“The real truth is that before just a few months ago, I had never met anybody else who was trans,” she said. “Now as you saw, I dealt with my situation on my own, in private. It’s been eye-opening, inspiring, but also frightening.”

She went on to talk about trans youth, mentioning late trans teenagers Mercedes Williamson and Sam Taub.

“They’re getting bullied,” Jenner said of trans youth. “They’re getting beaten up. They’re getting murdered. And they’re committing suicide.”

“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,” she told the room. “I know I’m clear with my responsibility.”

She went on to tout a simple goal: “Accepting people for who they are.”

Jenner also took time to thank her family, much of which was in attendance, and Diane Sawyer for giving her a platform to come out.

“Trans people deserve something vital,” she said. “They deserve your respect. And from that respect, comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society and a better world for all of us.”

“If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead. I can take it. But for the thousands of kids coming to terms with who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.”

The awards show also displayed a video before the speech, recounting Jenner’s story and struggle.

“I’ve always known that I was different than everybody else,” Jenner said in the video. “I could play the male gender role, but I always felt female and that really scared me.”

“Relationships for me were always tough,” she went on in the clip. “I always felt like I was hiding myself from everybody. The only way I could get through life was by distraction. I did not want to deal with myself…. I wasted a lot of my life and nobody really knew who I am. And that’s sad.”

“To take my struggle, throw it out in front of the world, maybe I can bring understanding on this subject,” Jenner said. “It’s time that I do my best… This is not something that people have to die over.”

Jenner’s daughter, Kendall, also appeared in the video, talking about the media speculation and coverage, ultimately supporting her parent: “To finally be free, that must be the greatest feeling in the world.”

World Cup champion Abby Wambach presented the award at the ESPYS, feting the best in the past year of sports, which aired live on ABC.

Caitlyn Jenner first came out as a trans woman in April in a sit-down interview with Sawyer. She continued to make waves by appearing as a woman on the cover of Vanity Fair in June, debuting her new look and name.

Jenner is an iconic presence in the sports world, often called one of the greatest athletes of all time after her gold medal-winning run at the 1976 Summer Olympics.

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  1. kwc says:

    What Caitlin Jenner did not NOT COURAGEOUS. American what are you thinking?

    What is courageous is the hundreds of young men and women in our armed forces who give it all for this country. Some come back missing limbs. Others do not even come back. As a country we have gotten so off track

  2. goatsandmonkeys says:

    Why is the media referring to a man as “she” and “her”?

  3. david t. krall says:

    man oh man!!! I love it…you are right !!! those of us who have the mental capacity and clarity to see this can help save this planet…seriously,,,you are on-target…a bulls-eye !!!

  4. Pookie says:

    A LADY does nit seek to be on the cover if the tablouds every week…

  5. Pookie says:

    How is DAILY news releases, countless magazine and tabloid covers…. dealing with this “in private”?
    I am just grateful we were not subjected to before and after photos of private areas.

    Jenner has shown absolutely no concern for Transgendered people.

    Perhaps she needs to be spokesperson for aging semi celebrities who have coasted along on their five minutes of fame for far too long.

    • david t. krall says:

      another bulls-eye here…bravo and right on!!! We think things are bad now…just wait until the TV show…SHE will play that for all its worth…maybe we’ll see Caitlyn dolls for the holidays…maybe it will be the 2016 trend for Halloween??? Could you just see a bunch a teenagers having fun on Halloween, knocking on your door all being “Caitlyn” ??? Now that is really scarey…maybe somebody can make a movie called, “Attack Of The 50 foot Caitlyn”… I can just see the new hot high school and college poster of “Cailtlyn” being the rage in college dorms, and apts all over the country…maybe even
      “Caitlyn For President…” ISIS’ and ALQADA’S worst possible nightmare….Ton Loc. where are you… your musical talents and style are in desperate need…help us….
      “A Wild Funky Thing Called…..” Sing it, Ton !!!!

  6. Warden says:

    A bunch of PC ninnies praising a man in a weak. Courageous!

    What a freakshow.

  7. Citizen X says:

    He made money off on a tv show doing nothing and then mutilated himself…. COURAGEOUS!

    • david t. krall says:

      I’m with both of you. also…perhaps it has something to with that magic word in TV….RATINGS !

  8. Donna says:

    I actually don’t understand how Caitlyn won a sports award she’s not an Olympian, Bruce was the Olympian so why was she winning this award. I think that it’s great that she’s finally came out & gets to be herself but she didn’t participate in the Olympics.

    • hmmanley says:

      I am with you. I believe people should aspire to be who they want to be, but it has nothing to do with the ESPY awards, so please tell me why this person got an award? Very disappointed.

      • david t. krall says:

        I’m with both of you. also…perhaps it has something to with that magic word in TV….RATINGS !

  9. Coach L. says:

    Having a sex change should be recognized as a courageous sports moment. Playing a Sport, while you’re dying and giving other people inspiration and hope, that’s courageous.

    Lauryn Hill was courageous.

    ESPN was just being PC. They lost millions of viewers last night.

  10. Iván el Terrible says:

    Sorry USA, but if a celebrity who changes his sex just to have other 15 minutes of fame more is what you call “hero” and “role model”, then you shouldn’t wonder why Russia and China laugh at you and you are often compared to the film Idiocracy.

  11. david t. krall says:

    Here’s an interesting point…I remember hearing about and later seeing on TV, Christine Jorgensen. Not too many people today under a certain age may even know of her or anything about her. Now she commanded respect. and even back then, in the 1950’s that said something !!!. Not everybody agreed with her or what she went did to achieve her gender ID, but there was a “reserved” amount of respect for her back then, and that was way before what was known as the “sexual revolution”. There was a certain amount of refined confidence that she projected that showed a sincere effort in her coping with what she wanted to achieve and recognize, within herself, in regards to and with her gender recognition and acceptance within herself and from others..Bruce /Caitlyn “has nothing on her” !!! I’ll bet Caitlyn has never even mentioned her ! It is a far and very unfair stretch and a gross assumption to presume, due to that fact that there are many who have the capacity “to see thru the fog”, this very specific fog…. and BS… of a specific person acting like and has acted and been on bizarre “reality” tv show in way ironically proves it, as nothing more than very real and showing a total “need” and compulsion for celebrity-longing” behavior”…This insight has nothing to do with prejudice or hate, it has everything to do with suspected motives for attention, fame and enhancing noteoriety for or from one particular person. A person like this being held up as an example of courage for a true, real and very important topic such as gender transformation, regardless of one’s personal prejudices or opinions…that is the real tragedy, a real one…and not a “reality” one for lights and cameras…..there are others who can be seen and accepted as heros here…Caitlyn is not one of them….

  12. Mercedes McQueen says:

    I love this message & you Caitlin. Congratulations. Very poignant speech 😊

  13. Sith McGarbage says:

    Takes an enormous amount of courage to accept an award a few months after killing an innocent person behind the wheel and facing no consequences. Jenner should be in jail for vehicular manslaughter not collecting awards. What a joke!

  14. Jason says:

    Courage ? Lolololol. How about a paycheck. ESPN could of choose a whole heap of others , but thru chose a money grubbing self absorbing TV celebrity. Pathetic.

  15. david t. krall says:

    where was his decency and courage when he discovered and realized he could have really moved and changed perspectives years ago….and prevented suffering and saved lives…where and when was his decency and courage then????? A total self-absorbed,
    self-pitying, wallowing phoney…NOT a hero…

  16. Peter says:

    It took Caitlyn Jenner an enormous amount of bravery to even show up to accept this award, let alone make such an emotional, honest speech, let alone invite the public to witness her journey to womanhood. While I agree that Jenner has an enormous amount of privilege in her trans journey (namely, her wealth and white privilege), bravo to Jenner for deciding to use her influence to effect change and really make an eloquent, poignant statement.

    Shame on those who are using the comments section here to spew transphobic nonsense. How dare you act like you understand what being transgender is — shame on you. Either get educated or accept that you don’t understand it.

    • Coach L. says:

      Shame on you for calling people names for disagreeing with the choice of Jenner, for an Award of Courage. Changing your sex, is NOT Courageous…dying while playing a sport and inspiring people, is what the Award was “Originally” created for…and obviously altered.

      Lauryn Hill was courageous.

      • Peter says:

        You quite simply have no idea what you’re talking about. First of all, gender identity is not a choice — rather, gender expression is the choice. Caitlyn has identified as the woman she now is for much of her life, but was not comfortable with expressing that identity. Now she has, which is quite courageous indeed.

        Transphobic, ignorant people like you are the exact reason why Caitlin (as well as Lauryn Hill) deserved to be recognized.

    • Jane says:

      Well said. So much for people knowing how to show a little human decency towards another person regardless of how you feel about their choices.

  17. PC says:

    Award for courage…..hmmmm! I seriously DOUBT it! It takes no courage to alter a body you don’t like! It takes stupidity! To change one’s gender is a slap in the face of The Creator, almighty God! No matter what you do to the body, if you are BORN A MAN, you are ALWAYS A MAN! Born a WOMAN, you’re ALWAYS A WOMAN! The DNA doesn’t change! You can put a kitten in the oven, but it doesn’t make it BISCUITS when you take it out! Stupid….cowardly… plain stupid! Let’s give the COURAGE AWARD to those who DESERVE it! Those who literally lay down their lives for this country! They are real heros!

  18. Contessa46 says:

    Such judgement–I guess you are just perfect–jerks!

  19. Grace says:

    Thank you. I am proud to be an American!

  20. david t. krall says:

    How dare him/her come on stage after that very heartfelt, touching and poignant story about that young girl suffering from cancer and her pro-football player father….besides coming to grips with his gender ID and wallowing in it…did he ever go out and lecture, about it, and the violence within the “trans” or gay comminity (?)) to local colleges, high schools or any public or priivate venue??? even between commercials of the show, and that’s just what it is a SHOW with the rest of that whacked out, ego driven, camera chasing, cell-phone addicted group of people who call themselves a family, who expect the rest of us to act and live in a “1984” like world with no respect for privacy, dignity and
    and discretion…how dare they even show up, and sit a room full of real human beings…and true heros…
    but, I was disappointed…I expected a “plug” or reference to his new show…so I guess I’ll give him or her some credit…but then again what does what he VOLUNTARILY chose to recognize and change have to be about being a hero, as compared to everyone else in that auditorium??? He never really went thru any negative situations regarding this??? So this voluntary transformation at 65 makes him a hero??? I would have much more respect for HER if he (’cause he is really still a he) had the full and complete (surgical) transformation…but not doing so, gives him and reserves for him the right, anytime HE wants to “re-alter” his appeareance and life to act and live again as a male..I expect to hear about that on his, or is it her (?) new TV show….

  21. Marie says:

    Plenty of other WORTHY nominees.

    ABC/ESPN just want to keep this story front and center that is why Bruce Jenner won the award.

    Absolutely shameful.

  22. Fran says:

    so glad the world is a recipe of wonderful delights …. you have so much courage and Caitlyn you deserve the “Courage Award” for being you and with that helping others to know … it’s ok to be themselves …. <3

  23. Marie says:

    Kim Howe

  24. agree says:

    The worst award of the night

    • Coach L. says:

      Agreed 100%

    • gessiewtf says:

      Very hurtful that he considers his life a waste up until his feminization procedures. Very hurtful to his wives, especially the one he was married to for 20 plus years. Being a woman is not about fake eyelashes and hair and boobs, he will never know the courage of women. We would throw ourselves in front of a train to protect our under-age daughter from having such low self esteem that she has had three surgeries, and dates a much older man who writes vile lyrics about what he does to her body. He is so busy preening in the mirror, and now he has been rewarded for his narcissism by receiving an award for courage in sports. If he had any courage at all he would have been a better father and not let his teenaged girl drop out of high school and dress like a prostitute. How is she supposed to have any values when his are so shallow? What a joke.

  25. David Benjamin says:

    Jenner is an iconic presence in the sports world, often called one of the greatest athletes of all time after her gold medal-winning run at the 1976 Summer Olympics…..this is according to whom? Greatest bcuz as a man, he won the decathlon 40 years ago?? That’s awfully jingoistic and ‘Murican; don’t you think?

  26. David says:

    Wow! That is one idiotic and ignorant comment!

  27. david t. krall says:

    Bravo !!!! well said….so right on, and true!!!…my thoughts also…

  28. David Benjamin says:

    That’s just ignorant and rude. Shame on you!

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