In April, Bruce Jenner announced he was transitioning to a woman. Two months later, Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world on the cover of Vanity Fair. On Wednesday, she took to the stage at the ESPYs in front of the world’s greatest athletes to accept the prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
In her emotional acceptance speech, Jenner spoke outwardly of the issues surrounding the LGBTQ community. With 41 percent of transgender individuals attempting suicide at some stage of their lives, Jenner made her intentions clear about being the role model they so desperately need.
“I’m clear with my responsibility in going forward,” she said. “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.”
Despite enduring the rigors it took to become one of the greatest Olympic athletes of all time, Jenner said the last few months have been the most difficult of her life. Being under the spotlight isn’t new to her, but moving to the front lines of a social debate certainly is; still, she said she’s prepared to tackle the responsibility head on.
“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.”
Some were critical of ESPN’s decision to present Jenner with the Ashe Award, saying it was merely a gimmick used to boost ratings, or that the honor should have gone to a more deserving athlete. But Jenner insisted this wasn’t about her – it was about all of us accepting one another for who we truly are.
“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: It’s about what happens from here,” Jenner said. “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.”
Jenner’s new docu-series, I Am Cait, premieres July 26 on E!