Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Why Caitlyn Jenner’s ESPY Award Speech Matters

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Even though I’m a sports fan, I rarely watch the ESPY Awards. But I made a point of it this evening, as I knew Caitlyn Jenner would receive an award for courage (the Arthur Ashe Award, to be exact).

Some have given Jenner a very hard time since she came out as transgender months ago. This mostly is because of two things: One, the former Bruce Jenner has been a high-profile athlete and media personality since he won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon in 1976. And two, Jenner was married to Kris Jenner — matriarch of the Kardashian clan — for quite some time. (They are now apparently on the road to divorce and seem to be living separate lives.)

I said months ago when then-Bruce Jenner admitted that he saw himself as “she” that many people were missing the point. Whether Jenner is outwardly male or female, the soul inside is still the same. And we need to start understanding that people are a diverse bunch, and stop condemning people for being different.

I know, I know. Most people don’t condemn people. (Thank goodness.) It’s only a vocal minority that does. But as Jenner said tonight at her ESPY Award speech (my best paraphrase), she can handle criticism. But the young transgender children out there cannot…they are being bullied, shunned, and treated worse than their peers for the simple fact that they carry more of their differences on the outside.

I wrote about Leelah Alcorn a while back, too. She was a young girl who had a family that totally did not understand her, and parents who were so rigid, they only would refer to her by her birth name of Joshua. Not by the name she knew herself as, Leelah.

The Alcorns did everything they could after their child’s suicide to show that “Joshua” was a normal boy in interviews. They also said they “didn’t believe in that” when any reporter tried talking to them about their biological son’s transgender identity. And they made the funeral service private, kept away Leelah’s closest friends, and took down Leelah’s final note asking for acceptance and tolerance for others (as they had that right, ’cause Leelah was underage).

So I am certain that Caitlyn Jenner understands what’s at stake for transgender youth.

I’m also certain that Jenner understands just how important it is for the entire LGBT community to have positive role models.

Much is made of what Jenner wears nowadays — the hair, the clothes, the shoes, the makeup, etc. And I understand why. The Kardashian clan is widely followed; they are famous for being famous, the lot of them, and the paparazzi cannot help themselves whenever any of them are around. (Why that is, I haven’t the foggiest. But it is undeniably true.)

But I would rather there was more focus on what Caitlyn Jenner is saying rather than what she wears, who she goes out with, whether her divorce is in train or whether or not her family agrees with her decision to be open about her new life as a woman.

What Jenner said tonight about acceptance, about trangender people needing to be respected, was vital. So if you haven’t seen her ESPY speech yet, you really should seek it out. (If you need a quick read, check out this one from Yahoo Celebrity.)

I’m very glad that someone has finally said what needed to be said, though if you’d have asked me a year ago, the last person I thought would ever say it would be Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner.

Please read these words, ponder them, and then ask yourself this question:

What can I do today to be more tolerant, more accepting, and more nurturing?

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