In her first major TV appearance as a transgender woman since her interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in April, Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards Wednesday, saying, “It’s not about me. It’s about all of us accepting one another.”
Abby Wambach, a member of the World Cup champion U.S. women’s soccer team, presented Jenner with the award. The crowd rose to its feet as she took the stage in a flowing white gown.
“I get it. You got to get the shoes, the hair, the makeup, the whole process, it was exhausting,” Jenner joked. “And next, the Fashion Police. Please be kind on me. I’m new at this.”
“All across this country, right now, all across the world, at this very moment, there are young people coming to terms with being transgender,” she continued. “They’re learning that they’re different and they’re trying to figure out how to handle that, on top of every other problem that a teenager has.”
The former Olympian then told the story of transgender teen Mercedes Williamson, who was found stabbed to death in Mississippi last month. She also spoke of another trans teen named Sam Taub, who took his own life.
“Sam’s story haunts me in particular, because his death came just a few days before ABC aired my interview with Diane Sawyer,” Jenner said. “Every time something like this happens, people wonder, ‘Could it have been different if spotlighting this issue with more attention could have changed the way things happen?'”
“I know I’m clear with my responsibility in 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,” she continued.
Thanking her family for their support, Jenner said, “The biggest fear I’ve always had in coming out is I never wanted to hurt anyone else. Most of all, my family and my kids. I always wanted my children to be so proud of their dad.”
Jenner concluded by calling for people all over the world to be accepting of those who are different. “We’re all different. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing,” she said. “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.”
She also acknowledged that she is in a more privileged position than many transgender people. “If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead. The reality is, i can take it,” she said. “But for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.”
The award presentation began with clips of Jenner during her Olympic heyday, during which she, then known as Bruce, was one of the most prominent athletes in the world.
During the film montage, Jenner said, “I came to a revelation that out of all the things I’ve done in my life, this was my calling.”
“I Am Cait,” the docuseries chronicling Jenner’s transition and new life as a woman, premieres July 26 on E!