A Symbol of Bravery: Caitlyn Jenner (Also, check your privilege)

There’s been a lot of article writing, commenting, etc. on Caitlyn Jenner’s debut. She’s on the cover of Vanity Fair. She will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYS.

I’ve seen a lot of comments on the web that Noah Galloway should have been chosen over Caitlyn for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award instead of her (despite lacking proof that Galloway was a contender). I’ve seen posts about people who believe that if we’re looking for heroes, we should be looking toward those who fight for the US military.

I have some problems with these comments. First, it would seem that these people truly do not understand what it takes for someone to do what Caitlyn Jenner has done. Accepting who we are is hard for anyone to do. We all have some battle with ourselves and when we finally get to a point that we say, “This is who I am. I accept ME. I love ME” we all deserve recognition. Recognizing and accepting that you aren’t the gender that matches your sex is a whole other level of acceptance that I cannot comprehend. How confusing it must be trying to work that out. Then trying to explain it to the people you love? Holy. Shit. “Yes, you’ve known me as a woman, but who I am is really a man.” Can anyone even really imagine saying that just? Go ahead. Say it. Then, think about what it would be like to tell people you love. Regardless of whether you think celebrities do it to themselves, they are in a difficult position. They don’t have the luxury of a private life like the vast majority of us. Caitlyn Jenner had to accept who she is, tell her family, and then tell the world.

People went apeshit over Michael Sam’s entry into the NFL draft and subsequent drafting. He’s gone on to say that there are other gay players in the NFL (duh), but none of them are coming out. And we all now why – people can’t accept it. Their teammates won’t accept them. They will be shunned in the locker room. And then they may end up playing in the Canadian Football League with Michael Sam. Big, strong football players can’t openly admit who they really are, but somehow Caitlyn Jenner telling us she’s a woman is not courageous?

Second, Caitlyn Jenner IS a hero, probably to millions of people. Because every transgender person has someone else (besides the awesome Laverne Cox) to look at and say, “They’re okay with who they are. I can be okay with who I am. Yes, it’s hard, but if they can do it, so can I.” We should be celebrating Caitly.

Third, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is individuals whose contributions transcend sports. Arthur Ashe was the first prominent black tennis player. That shit was HARD. And it wasn’t just about that. The award came about because of what Ashe did with his life outside of sports, including working to end apartheid in South Africa, and his battle with AIDS. It seems to me that when you consider what the award is really about, Caitlyn Jenner is absolutely deserving of the award.

We should all spend more time celebrating people, instead of wasting our time ragging on people for their achievements. We should be thanking Caitlyn Jenner for challenging us as people to accept and appreciate the diversity in this world.