U.S. Soccer star Abby Wambach introduced a video retrospective and presented the Arthur Ashe Award for courage at the ESPYS to Caitlyn Jenner last night in Los Angeles. Caitlyn Jenner showed grace, poise, humility and her trademark sense of humor in accepting the Wednesday night.
Taking the stage in a flawless floor-length ivory gown, Jenner joked with the audience, explaining that getting dressed for glamor was just her latest high pressure situation: "OK girls, I get it. Picking this dress? It was exhausting. Fashion Police, please be kind on me, I'm new at this."
And she admitted her transition "has been harder for me than anything I could have imagined."
But as an accomplished public speaker in her previous gender expression, Jenner got to the point of her speech as she revealed what she called the "real truth."
"Before a few months ago, I've never met anyone else who was trans. Who was like me, who was trans. Never."
She spoke passionately about the struggles of being transgender, about the reality of bullying, murder, and suicide, and she challenged the audience to join her in a "very simple idea": "to promote the idea of accepting people for who they are."
With a room full of powerful, wealthy, and privileged people, Jenner stated bluntly:
"I know people in this room have respect for hard work, for training, for going through something difficult to achieve the outcome you desire. I trained hard, I competed hard, and for that people respected me. But this transition has been harder on me than anything I could imagine. And that's the case for so many other besides me. Trans people something vital: they deserve your respect. And from that respect comes a more compassionate community and empathetic society and a better world for all of us."
Jenner thanked many trans people who have come before her and acknowledged all the young trans athletes out there given the chance to play sports "as who they really are." Jenner mentioned that trans people will soon be serving in the military. She ended the speech with a call to action:
"My plea for you tonight is to join me in making this one of your issues as well. How do we start? Start with education. Learn as much as you can about another person."
Jenner also thanked her family, including her elderly mother, all of whom joined her at the ceremony.
In closing, she urged those watching to remember: "It's not just about one person. It's about thousands. Not just me, all of us."
WATCH Caitlyn Jenner's speech from the ESPYS below:
Watch Abby Wambach introduce Jenner and the montage video as well as Jenner's speech:
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