Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs on Wednesday night while urging acceptance for others who are transgender.
She received a standing ovation from some of the sporting world’s biggest stars after her 10-minute speech during the annual awards honoring the year’s top athletes and moments.
“This transition has been harder on me than anything I can imagine,” said Jenner, who revealed she was in the process of becoming a woman in a televised interview with Diane Sawyer in April on ABC.
Noting her powerful celebrity platform, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion vowed “to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how transgender people are viewed and treated.”
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Abby Wambach of the U.S. soccer team that won the Women’s World Cup presented the trophy to Jenner, whose voice broke as she thanked members of her famous family, including stepdaughters Kim and Khloe Kardashian. Tears welled in the eyes of Jenner’s younger daughter, Kylie, whose sister, Kendall, wiped a tear from her eye.
“I never wanted to hurt anyone else, most of all my family and my kids,” said Jenner, who admitted that until earlier this year she had never met another transgender person.
She told the audience about trans teenagers who are bullied, beaten up, murdered or kill themselves. She mentioned two people by name whose deaths particularly touched her.
“Trans people deserve something vital, they deserve your respect,” she said. “From that respect comes a more compassionate community.”
Jenner urged the crowd that included football, basketball, baseball and hockey players to remember what they say and do is “absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people.”
“My plea for you tonight is one join me in making this one of your issues as well,” she said.
A video traced Jenner’s life from the time when she was known as Bruce Jenner to her current transition. She was shown applying makeup, buttoning her blouse in her closet and fastening the strap on her heeled shoes.
With her hands clasped in front of her, Jenner joked with the audience about her struggle to select the cream gown she wore.
“OK, girls, I get it,” she said, as the audience laughed. “You to get the shoes, the hair, the makeup, it was exhausting. And the fashion police, please be kind on me. I’m new at this.”
Jenner didn’t walk the red carpet outside the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, and she didn’t appear backstage to talk with reporters, as most of the previous Ashe award recipients have done. ESPN said Jenner wanted her onstage comments to stand.