Caitlyn Jenner Delivers Emotional Acceptance Speech At The ESPYs

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.
Tonight's ESPY Awards honored the best in sports over the past year. And that included the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, which was given to Caitlyn Jenner.

Jenner received the award for accolades she accrued as Bruce Jenner.

Abby Wambach, a player on the USWNT who presented the award this evening, began with a discussion of what it means to be American. "Part of being an American is understanding that we can always get better," she said. "I never saw Bruce Jenner compete in Olympic games," she continued, citing popular culture as the reference for her Jenner knowledge. "But, like all of us, I never knew the real story."

We then proceeded to hear the real story, a short docu-style film narrated by Jon Hamm, who recounted Jenner's athletic achievements.

"When you go through life with secrets, after a while, it weighs on you," Jenner said in the short film. "I was living my life for other people," she said, talking about his feeling of obligation to maintain a portrait of masculinity. "I always felt female," Jenner said, "and that scared me."

The film also had appearances from Jenner's mother and transgender rights activist Janet Mock.

"Relationships for me were always tough," Jenner said. "I always felt like i was hiding myself from everybody." She also shared that she relied on distractions to take her mind off her true identity. "I didn't want to deal with myself."

We were then guided through Jenner's decision to transition. This is when things became especially challenging. She admits she contemplated suicide after a paparazzi photo emerged depicting her crying. Kendall Jenner, who also appeared in the brief film, said this broke her heart. "People forget that we're actual human beings," she noted.

After the film finished, Jenner took the stage to a standing ovation from the audience and a kiss from her mother. On stage, Jenner, dressed in white, diffused the emotional moment by saying, "Whoa, I have to talk after that?"

"Every time I turn around in life, I'm putting myself in these high-pressure situations," she said. For example, competing in games and raising a family. But, she admitted, the most high-pressure situation was picking out an outfit. "Okay girls, I get it," she joked, "It's exhausting." She pleaded for the Fashion Police panel to take it easy on her — a nod to Jon Stewart's point that women are treated differently in the media.

Jenner then cited statistics about transgender teens who suffer from bullying and the rates of suicide among trans individuals across the country. She knows that she's in a situation to promote awareness for the transgender community. "If there's one thing I do know in my life, it's the power of the spotlight," she said. "With attention comes responsibility." And though she does have that power as a public figure, she was referring to the fame athletes have. She called for more education and for more athletes to take up her cause.

Then, Jenner became emotional. Fighting back tears, she began to thank her family. "You guys have given so much back to me, you've given me so much support," she told her children, who were sitting in the audience. "I'm grateful to have all of you in my life." And last but not least, Jenner thanked her mother, who began crying.

"It's an honor to have the word 'courage' associated with my life," Jenner said, bringing the focus back to the meaning of Arthur Ashe Award. "But on this night, another word comes to mind: fortunate." She expressed her gratitude to sports for giving her an identity and reminded the audience that, while she was prepared for widespread criticism, to remember that youths still finding who they are, may not be.

In the short film, Jenner delivered an especially powerful line: "I'd come to a realization that of all the things I've done in my life, maybe this is my calling."

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