The Caitlyn Jenner Effect
Here's something you may not know about me. I'm a massive, 100%, all in supporter of the LGBTQ community. Some of my closest friends happen to be in love with another person who happens to be of the same gender. And it's just as beautiful as my friends who happen to be in love with another person who happens to be of the opposite gender. I cried actual tears of joy the day the Supreme Court delivered the news that same sex couples were allowed to get married. Another thing that you may not know about me is that I love sports and I prefer to watch the ESPY awards over the Oscars. I spend those three hours laughing and crying and remembering. This year felt more inspiring than most. Lauren Hill, the young woman who battled a brain tumor- and sadly passed away three months ago, was given the Best Moment award, Leah Still, a five year old little girl in the process of "beating up" cancer was given the Jimmy V Perseverance award, Danielle Green, a veteran who lost her arm in service, was given the Pat Tillman award. And then of course, there was Caitlyn Jenner who received the Arthur Ashe Courage award.
Caitlyn's award has been highly debated in the weeks leading up to the awards. Many say that others deserved the award more than she does. And maybe she wasn't the most courageous person of the year (it can be debated over and over and over), but there is one thing that is certain- Caitlyn deserves the word "courage" attached to her name. I think of one of my very favorite quotes when I think of Caitlyn Jenner- "It takes courage to grow up and be exactly who you are"- e.e. cummings.
And whether you despise the Kardashian family or not, they have put Bruce Jenner, and now Caitlyn Jenner, back in the spotlight and for that I think we should be grateful. Caitlyn's speech needed to be heard. Caitlyn has put a name and face to the transgender community. Now we can all say that we "know" someone who is transgender. And because of that, as we watch her struggle publicly with all that she's gone through, perhaps we can all learn to develop a bit more compassion for people who are different than us.
I cannot even imagine, in my most wild imagination, what it must be like to stand in front of the mirror and see a man staring back at me from my woman's body. I cannot imagine the agony that someone would feel to live 65 years of life feeling completely distanced from who my outside projects to the world. I cannot imagine the scrutiny that comes from admitting who you really are inside. I cannot imagine having to deal with the backlash, the hurtful words, the disdainful looks. So yes, I think it was courage that allowed Bruce to admit that he is really Caitlyn, knowing the harsh world he was about to enter.
Caitlyn has given transgender people around our country a voice. She has allowed us to see that it's important to open our minds so that we don't lose more people to suicide (41% of transgender people attempt suicide- that is staggeringly, mind-blowlingly high). She's proven that we are all human beings who just want to be allowed to live in the way that we feel is best for us individually.
We've come a long way. I said to my husband as we were watching the awards that just five years ago, there is no way ESPN / ABC would be presenting an award on national TV to a transgender person. But we still have such a long way to go in adjusting our compassion levels. And I think Caitlyn Jenner will help us get there. And that is courage.
If you haven't seen Caitlyn's speech, you can watch it here.