Caitlyn Jenner's Speech On Acceptance

Thursday, July 16, 2015


In December of last year I read an article about a teenage girl who committed suicide by stepping in front a semi truck. Her name was Leelah and she was transgender.

She left a suicide note on her tumblr account, which was published a few hours after her death. Here's part of that note,

"When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was, I immediately told my mom and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that is was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong."

Remember what it was like to be a teen when almost everything felt awful and out of place anyway? Everyone was always judging each other and you never wanted to say or do the wrong thing that might make you feel stupid or look like you don't belong.

Imagine those feelings multiplied times a hundred. Imagine feeling out of place in your own body. From that very first second you wake up in the morning, until the moment you go to bed, you're walking around in a body that doesn't feel like it belongs to you.

I almost get claustrophobic just thinking about how terrible that would be. How isolating and scary it must feel. And then when you finally get the courage to tell someone they confirm your biggest fears. That you're wrong. Sick. Mentally ill.

I will never know what it's like to feel trapped in a body that doesn't feel like it's my own. But 700,000 other people do know what it feels like- it's impossible to know the exact number of transpeople in the world, but that is the number most commonly cited.

I've watched Caitlyn Jenner's ESPY speech from last night as she accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award a few times now. It's an award given to someone every year "who's contributions transcend sports,"-that last part was taken directly from wiki because I wanted to see exactly how the award is defined.

I think a lot of other people could have won this award as well. There are courageous men and women everywhere, fighting their own fight, and the fight for others, in all walks of life. But last night Jenner was the recipient. And really this award isn't about competing with those other people. If you listened to Jenner's speech it wasn't about her being better or more deserving than anyone else. In fact, it was hardly about Jenner at all.

She took the moment as a platform to speak on behalf of the 700,000 other people who don't have the voice Jenner does. Or the support, the spotlight, or the courage- not just yet.

"With attention comes responsibility," Jenner said. And right now she's taken it as her responsibility to speak up for the transcommunity. For the men and women who are being murdered because of their gender, for the kids who don't understand why they're different from everyone else, and for the teenagers who think death is their only way out.

"If you want to call me names, make jokes and doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is I can take it," Jenner said. And the people will. They already have been calling her names and they probably will continue to for awhile. We live in a society where we don't accept what we can't understand.

If Caitlyn Jenner is "mentally ill" as I've heard a lot of people claim, perhaps it's time we rethink our urge to constantly use that label as well. Jenner seems to have a better head on her shoulders and clearer picture on life and the direction she'd like to see this world go in than most of us could ever hope to have.

And finally, if this is all just a big media scam, a ploy to get more attention, I can't say that really bothers me either. Because if Jenner's speech saves even just one more teenager from jumping in front of a semi truck, to me that seems pretty worth the media attention.


30 comments:

  1. love this...so well said. my thoughts exactly. you don't even have to understand it...hell, I can't even understand what it must be like. but just RESPECT others.

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  2. I can't even begin to tell you how much I agree with you and this post. The speech was beautiful and I sobbed loudly (I actually sobbed loudly through 97% of the ESPYs, the other 3% LeBron was on TV). I hope it changes the lives of so many teens that don't feel like they belong, whether they are transgender, gay, lesbian, fat, skinny, unpopular... any of the trillion reasons why kids feel like high school life is a reflection of what the rest of their life will be like

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  3. I can't imagine looking at either one of my children and telling them what they are feeling about their bodies is "just a phase"... I love them unconditionally no matter what and the fact that there are parents that can't do that, makes me so so sad. I couldn't agree with what you said more, if all of this saves even one life then I think all the media attention is more than worth it.

    Everyone deserves to be loved for who they are! :)

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  4. Amen, sister! I could not agree more. P.S. I love the variety of all your posts-heartfelt, laugh-out-loud-funny, observational-keep 'em coming, please!

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  5. I very much agree. I was so moved. And while I did think she did deserve the award (before the show), I understood that there were other people deserved it too and the ESPY's were using it for publicity (before seeing her speech, I could see this argument...which is nothing against Caitlyn). But dangggg, I was moved and she used it. If it was for publicity, I don't care because she used it. How about when she talked about the young kid who committed suicide days before the Diane Sawyer interview?

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  6. Teens these days have it so much harder than we all did - and like you said, if this speech saves one of those precious lives (who don't know quite yet that it will never be easy, but you'll always make it through) - then good. Do it. Say it ten thousand times. They deserve that.

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  7. Yes, this. She was incredible last night and I agree with you, she does seem to have a clear picture of what is important in life. I mean, what really matters. I got the same feeling watching her interview with Dianne Sawyer which was also outstanding!

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  8. Amen! Just, yes. Thank you for this. I come from a very small town in the south and the comments I've seen on my Facebook feed lately about this whole thing make me sick to my stomach. I just wish people would read this post and try to have a little sympathy for this very serious issue that they refuse to try to understand.

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  9. I thought the speech was a great, heartfelt moment for her as well as all the people watching the ESPYS, however, I was and am still confused as to how she received this award...if you look at the past people who have received it, seems a little odd to give it to her. Just think there could have been a different platform for this, but I guess that's why I don't make the decisions on who wins what awards.

    ...and I think I am the only person on your comments with this opinion, but we all can agree to disagree...

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  10. I couldn't agree more. Feeling isolated and out of place is one of the hardest things to feel and giving it a voice and a sense of place and purpose WILL change people's lives. Great post.

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  11. Preach! I totally agree. Her speech was spot-on and so good. I feel so terrible for transgender people who feel they don't belong in our society. I just want to hug all of them and tell them they're loved.

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  12. Ah I wanted to cry during the whole thing!

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  13. I see people on twitter and fb talk bad about her all the time, and it's honestly disgusting. She's a human being too. She's no different from the rest of us. The whole phase comment is cuts deep. I know, I've already had my experience with it. Whispers from the people you love the most, cut deep. "Its just a phase, she just can't find anyone". No, I have met and found plenty of people who were kind and sweet, but they weren't the one for me. I wonder how people would feel if things they did that people don't understand was ridiculed all the time. The are considered an outcast because they are "different".

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  14. Perfectly said Taylor! I feel the same way as well. It makes me so incredibly sad to think of everyone out there hiding who they truly are because of how cruel others can be and are.

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  15. Beautifully said. And completely right.

    Ellen

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  16. You are a fantastic writer! Beautifully said, and thank you for writing!

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  17. I immediately wrote a post as well after seeing the speech. Acceptance. Respect. Empathy. Compassion. All valuable traits for each of us to try to be apart of our daily lives.

    My aunt is in her sixties. She is a lesbian (although she has experienced so much pain and guilt for being who she is that I'm not sure I've ever even heard her use that word). My aunt used to tag along with my grandfather and uncle so she could pitch batting practice to the boys who played little league baseball. I talked with her in May right after the Diane Sawyer interview with (then) Bruce Jenner. My aunt said quietly "I understand. I always wished I was a boy. If I had been born a boy, liked women like I do, and had the interests that I had, then I would have been normal." Those words will always be with me, and I will always show compassion to others with this battle.

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  18. Love your commentary! Just yes to everything!

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  19. I followed Leelah last year. It was definitely a gut punch when she committed suicide and then reading her letter right after. I have seen so many hateful comments about Caitlyn and it's getting out of hand. That's the only thing I am tired of hearing and seeing. All the mean and nasty comments towards her. I had a very close friend in my teens who was transgender. She was honestly the best friend I have ever had. She taught me about boys and their secrets and she even taught me how to apply makeup. She was just a regular person. She just happened to have some extra parts but was in the works of getting the surgery. I don't know where she is today, I have looked with no luck. But she was and still is an inspiration to me. Great post Tay. Great post.

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  20. Thank you so much for this post. It's so tastefully done and I couldn't agree with you more. I'm in the mental health field and I can tell you it is NOT a mental illness, however it can cause considerable distress because of the lack of tolerance we have as a society. It kills me to know that people are treated poorly for something they didn't choose. Just, yes.

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  21. Even for those that do not agree with or understand being transgender, there is no doubt that we cannot all appreciate and respect Jenner's speech. She spoke eloquently, advocating with grace and courage for others that cannot find that same courage yet. It was truly remarkable.

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  22. I'm right there with you! I can never imagine what it would be like to be in their position but I understand that everyone has a struggle of some sort. I had a young lady once tell me that she may be bi-sexual & asked what I thought about that. I simply said, "it doesn't change who you are to me". That's it cuz it doesn't change how I think of her as a person. My thing is that we all should coexist & that as long as you're a good person, I don't care about the rest of the stuff - the sexuality, the religion, the skin color, etc. I just wish that more people were understanding. Maybe someday.

    I have tried to bring up my stepdaughters to feel that way as well. When I first came around, my oldest was against homosexuality, this little girl even once told a gay friend of one of our neighbors that he was wrong for being gay. As soon as I found out about that, her & I had a little convo. Now, one of her friends is a gay guy, she even went to prom with him & fully supports gay rights. Proud stepmother moment. :)

    Mandie ~ http://badbrewpack.blogspot.com/

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  23. very very well said. i remember reading about leelah too and feeling physically sick. you are so right that even if it is a media plow, if it helps just one person feel less isolated and slightly more 'normal' go for it.

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  24. Well said, I was thinking the exact thing after watching her speech. She was very humble in accepting it for herself, but she used it as a wonderful platform to speak out for the 700,000+ people in the transgender community.

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  25. Thank-you for sharing this post. I hadn't seen the video and just cried watching it. I'm old enough to remember 1974 Bruce Jenner and, as weird as it is to see him like this, I fully support his decision. The world has changed so much in my lifetime and I'm so pleased to see people learning the true meaning of acceptance. I do feel for his youngest daughter though. She's 17 years old and allowed to be much older. In the end, she's still very, very young and wonder how the is going to affect her.

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