At Wednesday night’s ESPN ESPY Awards, Caitlyn Jenner urged other athletes for respect in helping her build a “more compassionate community.”
She was presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for courage for her role as one of the most visible transgender people in popular culture by US Women’s World Cup team captain Abby Wambach.
In her 10-minute acceptance speech, Ms. Jenner vowed “to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how transgender people are viewed and treated.”
"Trans people deserve something vital, they deserve your respect," she said. "From that respect comes a more compassionate community."
The audience – largely made up of athletes – responded to the speech with a standing ovation. Members of Jenner’s family, including step-daughters and reality TV stars Kim and Khloe Kardashian were shown tearing up during Jenner’s speech.
Jenner, who was previously known as Bruce Jenner, came out as transgender in an interview with Diane Sawyer in April, and has since become a figurehead of the transgender rights movement.
“My plea for you tonight is one join me in making this one of your issues as well,” she told the ESPY audience.
Jenner, who won the Olympic gold medal for the decathlon in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, was once considered the best athlete in the world. Here, she was surrounded by and given the support of today’s best athletes.
"She's really brave to have the courage to get through a lot of those things," said 14-year-old Mo’ne Davis, who won best breakthrough athlete. "I know a lot of people give her a hard time about it, but just for her family to give her that support is amazing."
She urged athletes to be mindful of what they said and did. and to remember that it was observed by millions of people. Especially young people, she said.
Much of Jenner’s speech focused on the reality facing trans youths, many of whom are bullied, beaten up, murdered, or take their own lives. Rates of violence against transgender persons in the United States is disproportionately higher than to any other group, reports the U.S. Office for Victims of Crime.
While transgender individuals have become more visible in recent years, many still face considerable stigma. As the Monitor's Harry Bruinius previously reported:
Like gays and lesbians a generation ago, transgender people today are often rejected by their families, have high rates of homelessness, and experience overt discrimination in the workplace, the survey found. They are also the most likely of any group today to face overt hostility and discrimination.
“We are stigmatizable people; we are others; we are ‘those’ people,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, told the Monitor. “It’s still true that every day, all around America, there are tragedies still happening.”
In her speech, Jenner mentioned that she had considered taking her own life in the past.
"If you want to call me names, make jokes and doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is I can take it," she said.
"But for thousands of kids out there coming to terms with the reality of who they are they shouldn't have to take it."
This report includes material from the Associated Press.