Caitlyn Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and she doesn’t deserve it.
Bruce Jenner came out yesterday with his new identity, Caitlyn Jenner. She was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair courtesy of world famous photographer Annie Leibovitz. And as fast as the news of her new identity came, so did being rewarded with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is part of the ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award) Awards. It’s a sports-oriented award but is not limited to athletes or sports related activities.
Past recipients include, Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Jim Valvano, and the heroes of United Airlines flight 93 (the people that prevented the terrorists on their plane from reaching its target on 9/11)
Caitlyn Jenner has no business being mentioned with these people and winning this award.
She doesn’t deserve the award because she came out after many other transgender people already paved the way. She came out to a society that largely accepts the idea of transgender people. The fact that Caitlyn Jenner’s twitter account broke records yesterday by gaining more than 1 million followers in 4 hours speaks to the amount of acceptance. There was nothing brave about her public transition.
Some transgender trailblazers more deserving of the award would include people like Christine Jorgensen, Sylvia Rivera, and Renee Richards.
Christine Jorgensen was born in 1926 in New York City and after a short tour with the U.S. army, during World War II, Jorgensen traveled to Europe for gender reassignment surgery. After returning to America in the early 1950s she spoke out about her story and became a celebrity. Jorgensen used her fame to campaign for transgender people.
Sylvia Rivera is often called the Rosa Parks of the transgender movement. In 1969 police raided a gay bar called ‘Stonewall Inn’ in Greenwich Village. Homosexuality was still illegal everywhere except Illinois but LGBT activists triggered 6 days of protests following the raid which launched the gay civil rights movement onto the public’s consciousness. In 2005 a corner in Greenwich Village was even renamed “Rivera Way” in her honor.
Seeing as how the Arthur Ashe Courage award deals with sports perhaps the most fitting person to win it would be Renee Richards.
Renee Richards was a professional tennis player who won a case against the United Tennis Association for denying her entry into the 1976 US Open because she was not assigned the gender of female at birth. Her public fight for her right to play as female made her a well known spokesperson for transgender rights.
In a March, 2015 interview she said “How could I have actually gone out there in front of thousands of people as this notorious transsexual and compete against young women?” Renee Richards, born Richard Raskind, said nothing could be tougher than what she endured in the 1970s. “I didn’t know whether I was going to be shot at, or whether I was just going to be yelled at,” said Richards.
That is courage worthy of this award.
I’m not saying Jenner’s experience is or will be a cake walk, like any celebrity in the public eye there will be some people hurling scorn her way, but Jenner is the recipient of the hard work of the transgender activists before her. They were the ones that truly risked their lives fighting for the right to be who they really were.
And it’s them that deserve being recognized, not Caitlyn Jenner.