Caitlyn Jenner Calls for Transgender Equality in Emotional ESPYS Speech

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It was one for the history books as the ESPY Awards dedicated nearly half an hour of its Wednesday night telecast to honor Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist formerly known as Bruce. In light of Jenner’s coming out as a transgender woman this year, the ESPYS bestowed upon her one of its highest regards, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. In her first television appearance since her sit-down with Diane Sawyer, Caitlyn Jenner took to the stage in a stunning ivory Versace gown to deliver a rousing speech.

“It is an honor to have the word ‘courage’ associated with my life,” Jenner said toward the end of her speech. “But on this night, another comes to mind, and that is ‘fortunate.’ I owe a lot to sports. It’s showed me the world. It’s given me an identity. If someone wanted to bully me, well, you know what? I was the MVP of the football team. That just wasn’t going to be a 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,” she continued. “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.”

That was the theme of Jenner’s passionate and emotional speech. She reflected on her sports career and took time to thank the people who helped her get to this point. Her six children, Burt, Brody, Brandon, Casey, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, attended the ceremony to support her, as did her stepdaughters Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian. A video narrated by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm paid tribute to the athlete’s journey. Caitlyn’s mother Esther also attended, and provided some of the night’s most touching moments.

“When she was receiving that medal, I never thought I could ever be more proud,” Esther said. “But I was wrong. I am now even more proud, and believe me, I’m not losing anything. I’m gaining a better relationship with my child.”

It was as Caitlyn thanked her family in her speech that she began to tear up.

All black ❤️ had to change to match

A photo posted by King Kylie (@kyliejenner) on

“The biggest fear I’ve always had in coming out is that I never wanted to hurt anyone else,” she said, choking up, as she addressed her children in the audience. “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.”

But ultimately Jenner’s speech was about transgender rights—a call for a new era, where trans people can be accepted as equals.

“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,” she said in her closing statements. “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.”