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In The Middle Of A Swirl Of Controversy, Caitlyn Jenner Prepares To Receive ESPY Award

July 15, 2015 3 min read

Tonight, Caitlyn Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. And although some people aren't happy about it, she says her journey has been mostly positive. “It’s been both eye opening and difficult to see firsthand what so many members of the trans community have had to go through just to be themselves,” she wrote in a blog post on Monday. “I hope to help raise awareness of these hardships so that it becomes a less painful process going forward. “That said, the future looks bright. I knew that my transition would get some response, but I certainly never expected all of this. It’s honestly been incredibly positive.” Jenner's overcoming of hardships and having the courage to be herself is what caught the attention of the ESPY Award producers and lead them to select her for the honour. “(Her selection) may not only give comfort to those facing similar circumstances, but can also help to educate people on the challenges that the transgender community faces,” ESPN said in a statement. Not everyone in sports media (or the world at large) has been so enthusiastic about the selection. NBC Sports' commentator Bob Costas had this to say:
“I wish Caitlyn all of the happiness in the world and all of the peace of mind in the world. However, it strikes me that awarding the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation play. This is not anything against Caitlyn Jenner, I’m pretty sure they could have found someone who was much closer to actively involved in sports who would have been deserving of what that award represents.”
That isn't an unreasonable argument. However, I find myself hard pressed to agree. The executive producer of the ESPY Awards explained to Sports Illustrated that although this would likely cause a ratings boost, that was not the reason that Jenner was chosen. “It is very rare you get to tell a story that hopefully affects people and moves people and has meaning and makes a difference,” executive producer Maura Mandt said. “At the same time if it attracts people from seeing it? We are not going to run away from that. Every person who has a cause needs a platform.” I can see why people like Costas object on the matter of merit. It has been ages since Jenner was a competitive athlete but I don't think that disqualifies her from the award. I am an avid sports watcher and I can only hope that Jenner's transition can open up that world to a greater level of tolerance. Just because you don't agree with the transition doesn't mean it isn't a move that takes an incredible amount of courage. Jenner is in a position to help us alter our dialogue, to help us be more tolerant, more understanding, more open. We shouldn't fear it, we should embrace it. I consider Jenner's courageous move to be a courageous move for us all and cannot -- at this moment in time -- think of anyone more deserving of the award. My fear, is that the media will take over and blur the message. The story and the struggle of trans people (and I admit there is a lot about Jenner that is far from 'typical' in the trans community), is at risk of being silenced by media attention to Jenner's transition itself. When Jenner steps on to the red carpet tonight can we give the "wow, she looks beautiful" or the "who are you wearing?" or the "she's just a man and will always be a man" comments unspoken? Tonight isn't about fashion. It isn't about whether or not you think Jenner's transition is an abomination, it is about celebrating one woman's courage in the face of adversity. It is about a woman who struggled for years to be herself in an open and honest away. It is about the countless others, in the sports world and outside of it, that now have someone in a position of power speaking out on their behalf. Tonight is about giving voice to those who don't have it. Do you think the ESPY Award producers made the right choice or do you have a better candidate in mind? Do you follow us on Instagram? [caption id="attachment_98507" align="alignnone" width="100"]snapchat snapcode @BodyRockTV[/caption]  

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