Tonight, Caitlyn Jenner will be given the Arthur Ashe Award For Courage at the ESPYs. This is significant not only because it is deserved, but because it brings additional visibility to the transgender community.
Pause. I hate that. Transgender people are a part of the ONE community on this planet: HUMAN. That they have been marginalized, sectioned off, ostracized, and castigated owes to the worst trait of the human community - fear of anything or anyone different from the majority.
Reading through comments on an article about tonight's awards show, it is evident that fear and loathing are alive and unwell. The ignorance and arrogance that define the worst of our populace on full display.
And just as with the shitting-themselves-blind fallout over marriage equality, I do not understand why there is such a live-and-let-live famine at play.
Don't understand what transgender is? Fine. EDUCATE YOUR DUMB ASS. Google is your friend. In this day and age, ignorance is an active choice. Don't be afraid to replace your stupidity on a subject with actual knowledge and comprehension.
Don't accept it based on your religious choices? Yes, CHOICES. If you choose to hide behind tenets and doctrines because they make all the decisions for you, FINE. But when you choose to abdicate your free agency over to a religion, you need to STFU up. Repeating what your leaders or chosen book dictate to you means you are not part of any thoughtful or productive dialogue. You are a parrot. And chances are you are parroting words that demean, castigate, judge, and condemn large swaths of the human community.
Don't want to understand it? Fine. A lot of people are happy to wallow in willful ignorance. Just keep your mouth shut.
Don't want to participate? Beautiful! Here's the great thing - YOU DON'T HAVE TO! No one is making you officiate a gay wedding, sanction an abortion, or hold the hand of a transgender person who is emotionally lost.
But here's what you also don't have to do - open your willfully ignorant, hateful, arrogant mouth and spew your venom, bile, and ugliness. It helps no one, and hurts many.
Caitlyn Jenner matters. To many, many people. Just as does Laverne Cox. Just as did, and still does, Arthur Ashe.
Arthur was the first African American man to win Wimbledon and the US Open. The first black man to be ranked #1 in the world. He was also diagnosed with AIDS when it was still completely, wholly, firmly, and ignorantly attached to homosexuality. Arthur was not gay - but he had contracted HIV through a bad blood transfusion during his second heart surgery.
Because of societal ignorance, he hid his condition for years until he learned that an expose' was in the works which would tell the world about his health battles. He beat USA Today to the punch and opened up about his health, and then became a superhero advocate trying to use the rest of his life to raise awareness, educate the public, provide funding for research.
Arthur Ashe made a difference in so many lives. He diffused - or in the case of the supremely, belligerently ignorant, confused - the stigma of AIDS. He died from AIDS related pneumonia February 6, 1993.
His desire to better the lives of others, to turn his life over to teaching from his experience, to bring awareness and light to the darkness of stigma and stupidity is legend. That is why there is an Arthur Ashe award.
He is quoted as saying, "True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost."
Now, one could argue that with Caitlyn Jenner there has been a whole lot of drama. Of course there has. Not because she necessarily wants a bright light on her most personal of life moments, but because we, as a society, love our scandals, gossip, and rubbernecking. And because, like it or not, Jenner has been in the public eye via the Kardashians for years now.
(And please don't bring up the already disproven myth of Noah Galloway, the soldier amputee, being chosen over Jenner. He wasn't. And in terms of drama and publicity, no one made him do Dancing With The Stars...)
Caitlyn's choice to grant interviews explaining her life leading up to her transition is brave. Her decision to begin a blog - http://www.whosay.com/caitlynjenner - brave. And the choice to allow cameras to document her transition and life moving forward, brave.
Brave because it gives voice to so many just like her. Brave because it opens her up to ridicule, hate, bullying. Brave because it just might help lower a 41% suicide attempt rate.
Like Arthur Ashe, Caitlyn has opted for advocacy over privacy. For openness over fear.
Caitlyn is not "mentally ill," as I see so many keyboard commandos sling. Transgender people are not mental cases. They are PEOPLE. People who, for lack of a better way to say it, simply have skin that doesn't fit. The person they know themselves to be is outfitted with a suit that doesn't match. Stripes and plaids, as it were.
And all they want is to find themselves, be themselves, and live peacefully, safely.
Where anyone gets the gall to tell another human being they are not who they know themselves to be, is beyond me. It is as worthless as me telling some hetero redneck they are gay, because I say so. No, no - don't argue with me. You are gay, Bubba - G-A-Y-M-C-A gay.
Pretty stupid, huh?
Human beings are amazing creatures. And the spectrum on which we all exist is spectacularly wide. The more I think about it, the more I learn, the more I believe there is a separate spot for every person on it. No two people are exactly alike in every single way, thought, behavior, like, dislike, attraction, kink, upbringing, etc.
And that is OK.
Hope that someday they will not be viewed as freaks. Hope that living openly, truthfully isn't just a pipe dream. Hope that the better answer isn't death. And hope that society will become safer for them.
ESPN explained that the decision to give this award to Caitlyn is because she has demonstrated "the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years."
Again, you don't have to "get" it. It's enough that the right people DO.