Caitlyn Jenner ESPY Awards speech: Former athlete urges world to respect transgender people in most moving address yet

'Trans people deserve something vital; they deserve your respect'

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The Independent Online

Caitlyn Jenner used her first major public appearance after transitioning to call on the world to respect transgender people and work towards creating a more inclusive society.

Jenner was presented with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at ESPN's annual ESPYs ceremony honouring excellence in sport in an address watched by members of her family.

In an emotional speech met with a standing ovation, the 65-year-old, who said she had never met a trans person before her transition, highlighted the number of murders, suicides and attacks young transgender people continue to be at risk of.

"All across this country right now, all across the world at this moment, there are young people coming to terms with being transgender,” she said. “They are learning that they are different and they are trying to figure out how to handle that on top of every other problem that a teenager has.

"They are getting bullied, they are getting beaten up, they are getting murdered and they are committing suicide. The numbers are staggering but they are reality of what it is like to be trans today."

Pointing to the recent deaths of two transgender people, she added: "Every time something like this happens people wonder could it have been different if spotlighting this issue with more attention could have changed the way things happened.

"We will never know but if there is one thing I do know about my life it is the power of the spotlight. Sometimes it gets overwhelming but with attention comes responsibility."

The former Olympic athlete described the pressure she experienced in the weeks since her new identity was dramatically unveiled on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine.

"I dealt with my situation on my own, in private, and that this turned this journey into an already incredible education, it's been eye-opening, inspiring but also frightening.

"Trans people deserve something vital; they deserve your respect. From that respect comes a more compassionate community.

A photo posted by King Kylie (@kyliejenner) on

"If you want to call me names, make jokes and doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is I can take it. But for thousands of kids out there coming to terms with the reality of who they are, they shouldn't have to take it."

She also appealed directly to sports stars sitting in the audience to work towards engendering acceptance and tolerance within the sporting community.

"As a group, as athletes, how you conduct your lives, what you say and what you do is absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people," she said.

"I know I am clear with my responsibility going forward to tell my story the right way for me, to keep learning, to do whatever I can do to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated and more broadly, to promote a very simple idea - accepting people for who they are."