Making her first major public appearance, Caitlyn Jenner has been welcomed with a standing ovation at the ESPY sports awards in Los Angeles.
On Wednesday night, the Olympic gold medallist and transgender reality television star received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, named after the late professional tennis player and AIDS activist.
The honour recognises those whose actions transcend sport, and has previously been awarded to LGBT sports people such as Billie Jean King, Mark Bingham, Robin Roberts, and Michael Sam.
Jenner was supported by her children and stepchildren in the audience, including Kim, Kendall, Khloe, Kylie, Kourtney, Brandon and Brody.
She told the crowd that, “before a few months ago I had never met anybody else who was trans, who was like me. I had never met a trans person, never.”
Jenner said across the world transgender young people are “getting bullied, they’re getting beaten up, they’re getting murdered and they’re committing suicide.” She highlighted the recent murder of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson and the suicide of 15-year-old Sam Taub.
Jenner explained: “If there is one thing I do know about my life, it is the power of the spotlight. I know I’m clear with my responsibility going forward, to tell my story the right way — for me, to keep learning, to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated. And then more broadly to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences.”
Jenner’s children and stepchildren were in the audience to support her
She commented that in her sporting career she had received respect because she had worked, trained and “competed hard”, but revealed that “this transition has been harder on me than anything I could imagine.
“And that’s the case for so many others besides me. For that reason alone, trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect.”
Jenner became emotional when thanking her family for their support. “The biggest fear in Caitlyn Jenner coming out was I never wanted to hurt anyone else, most of all my family and my kids.
“So for the people out there wondering what this is all about — whether it’s about courage or controversy or publicity — well, I’ll tell you what it’s all about. It’s about what happens from here. It’s not just about one person, it’s about thousands of people.
“It’s not just about me, it’s about all of us accepting one another. We are all different. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing. And while it may not be easy to get past the things you always don’t understand, I want to prove that it is absolutely possible if we only do it together,” said Jenner.