By: Christine Nicco/TRT Reporter & Columnist—
“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,” said Caitlyn Jenner to a full house at the EPSY Awards.
Strong words, stronger opponent. That is how she killed it. That is how Jenner spoke when receiving her first formal award, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. She was vocal about transgender “kids.” She was clear that she was still learning. [pullquote]”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.”—Caitlyn Jenner[/pullquote]
Her demeanor, attire and overall appearance depicted a woman who is decisive about what she wants to do in her new role. Life experiences and being a trans role model, through her own coming out story and few experiences as an open trans woman, worked well for the message she wanted to share with the world in her resolve.
“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.”
Reports on other media have called her 6-minute acceptance speech inspiring, motivating, powerful, emotional, tearful, and more. What Jenner brought was the spotlight to all transgender people in a way that no other trans celebrity has been able to do.
She mentioned the late trans youth, 17-year old Mercedes Williamson, a transgender woman of color from Mississippi who was murdered; and 15-year-old transgender man from Michigan, Sam Taub, who took his own life. Jenner said Sam’s story stuck with her because it came a “few days before” her coming out in an ABC interview with Diane Sawyer.
She referred to trans “kids” in general and what they are going through.
“They’re getting bullied,” she said. “They’re getting beaten up. They’re getting murdered. And they’re committing suicide.”
Jenner expressed how her position in life will allow her to do more for trans youth.
“Every time something like this happens, people wonder,” she said emotionally. “Could it have been different if spotlighting this issue with more attention could’ve changed the way things happened. We’ll never know. 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.” [pullquote]”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 said as she asked for the audience’s help.[/pullquote]
She spoke of respect for others, especially for trans people. Jenner said the differences that make people who they are should be accepted.
“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 said as she asked for the audience’s help. “I know I am 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 provoke a very simple idea: Accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences. … My plea to you tonight is to join me in making this one of your issues as well.”
She choked up when she thanked her family, most of whom were present at the event.
“Here comes the tough part. I’d like to thank my family,” she said in tears. “Now, the biggest fear I always had in coming out is that I never wanted to hurt anyone else, most of all my family and my kids. I always wanted my children to be so proud of their dad. … You guys have given so much back to me, you’ve given me so much support. I am so, so grateful to have all of you in my life.”
To her mother, she said: “Last but not least, my mother. … She is here with me tonight to share this night. You know I always thought that I got my courage and my determination from my dad … but you know what, I am realizing now mom, I think I got all those qualities from you.”
Her speech brought the audience to their feet in a standing ovation. Jenner’s next TV appearance will be her new reality show series, “I Am Cait.” The show will premiere on the E! channel on July 26.
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