Jenner steps out as Caitlyn, wins courage award

Jenner introduces herself to the world on the July issue of Vanity Fair.

Since Caitlyn Jenner revealed herself to the world on the cover of Vanity Fair, she has received praise and congratulations from many, yet hatred and negativity from others.

Why can’t people just let others be whomever it is they want to be?

On Friday, April 24, Bruce Jenner confirmed in a two-hour television special with Diane Sawyer that he was in fact transgender and was beginning his transformation to become a woman.

The cover of Vanity Fair’s July issue released on Monday, June 1, revealed Jenner’s new female identity. Some could hardly recognize Jenner, yet those who did were able to see a human finally being comfortable in her own skin.

It is heartbreaking that we live in a world where so many are afraid to become who they want to be and instead, live in a constant state of uneasiness, feeling as though they don’t belong. A person’s transition does not harm anyone else — despite how uncomfortable people might feel — but it is harmful for anyone to hide his or her true identity. Those opposed to transgenderism should simply remain as they are and stop hating on individuals who wish to be someone different.

When it was announced by ESPN just hours after the cover photo was released that Jenner would be presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the network’s ESPY Awards next month, the backlash was downright insane. For days, and even still, people are firm on the belief that other athletes should be receiving the honor. Famously, Bob Costas — a professional sportscaster — slammed ESPN for its decision, saying, “It strikes me that awarding the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation play — it’s a tabloid play … In the broad world of sports, I’m pretty sure they could’ve found someone — and this is not anything against Caitlyn Jenner — who was much closer, actively involved in sports, who would’ve been deserving of what that award represents.”

Named after tennis star Arthur Ashe, the honor has been given to one deserving athlete each year since 1993. According to espn.com, recipients possess strength “in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.”

The award is meant to go to someone who has shown an extreme display of courage and Jenner is worthy of that title.

Cases were immediately made for others to win the award, such as Noah Galloway, a veteran who lost both his left arm and leg and suffered other injuries after an improvised explosive device attack in 2005, according to abc.com. After recovering, Galloway became a personal trainer and competes in different fitness competitions. He is also a motivational speaker, a model and a former “Dancing With the Stars” competitor. Many feel Jenner and Galloway are incomparable with the latter being much more deserving of the award.

No matter how different Galloway and Jenner’s situations are, their actions were the same. Galloway competes and preaches to audiences to never give up and fight through their struggles. Jenner, a former gold medal-winning track star who set a world record in the 1976 Summer Olympics and now a celebrity in the limelight, showed the world that it is OK to be whomever an individual wants to be, no matter the criticism they may face. Perhaps Jenner’s transition is the attention needed for transgender people to be more accepted and is the spark necessary for others struggling to fully embrace themselves.

Courage is courage no matter how it is shown. Yes, soldiers who risk their lives are courageous and perhaps shouldn’t be compared to someone who changed genders — yet the two are both deserving.

It is time more people listen to those who take action to allow themselves to be the way they feel, and learn to accept others for who they are. No matter the awards received and the praise given, one thing is abundantly clear — Caitlyn Jenner is finally free to live her life as she wishes.

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