Friday, June 5, 2015

Why Caitlyn Jenner Deserves the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage

It’s been a long time since I actually put any words down in the BD&LL world, but recently something was brought to my attention that seems to be a pretty big deal nationally and it really got me thinking.

I think most people are probably already sick of hearing about the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner situation and everyone seems to have a pretty strong opinion one way or another. The most recent flame to this fire was the announcement that Caitlyn Jenner would be awarded the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2015 ESPY’s.

There are a couple of individuals that people feel are more deserving of this award, with the most prominent being the college basketball player, Lauren Hill, who recently passed away from cancer. As cancer is something near and dear to my heart I felt like weighing in on this subject seemed pretty legitimate for me and my outlet is BD&LL, which is usually a pretty lighthearted blog but every now and then I like to take on more serious subjects, so here it goes…

Let me start off by saying that I followed the journey of Lauren Hill like so many other sports fans around the United States. Her story certainly brought tears to my eyes and when I think of the girl whose life was cut far too short, I certainly think of a courageous battle fought with perseverance which should make her undoubtedly eligible for either the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, or the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.

She was an amazing person who despite getting the news that she was going to die, kept on battling and even used her new found celebrity to raise awareness and funds for cancer research and to hopefully one day find a cure, and man-o-man have they raised funds! Thanks in part to ESPN for sharing her story the organization, The Cure Starts Now foundation, has raised over $2.7 million to help find a cure for DIPGG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma), the cancer that eventually took Lauren’s life.

But in case you don’t know me, that’s not the only thing ESPN does for cancer research. Teaming with Jim Valvano in 1993, ESPN helped to establish The V Foundation for Cancer Research which to date has raised and donated over $130 million into cancer research, and many of you reading this post have contributed to that amount through the organization Hoops for Hope! So, for ESPN to be getting bashed for not choosing a warrior in the fight against cancer for the Courage Award, seems like a big deal…but what they’re really doing is far more important than who they choose for an award.

That being said, people truly are outraged that instead of someone like Lauren Hill, ESPN has chosen a former Olympic Track Athlete who has come out as Transgender for the Courage Award this year. Some of the arguments stem from the fact that the athlete is from a family who has used their celebrity for everything that is wrong with celebrities and personally I truly hate anytime I hear one of their names mentioned. I really think that they are a great example of the things wrong with this country…yet their shows are popular enough to withstand several seasons and people everywhere always seem to wonder what they’ll do next…so the father coming out as Transgender and getting an operation to effectively make him a woman, certainly may seem like a publicity ploy to many. I even felt that way right away.

But I don’t watch the shows, I just know of them and that seems like an inappropriate reason to hate them, and an uneducated one as well. I’m not going to spend any of my precious time catching up on what I’ve been “missing out” on, but I’d like to look at Caitlyn’s situation from a perspective I should…not knowing anything else about her or her family other than the fact that Bruce felt like he was living a lie his entire life. He always felt as though he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. To me that seems like a very strange thing, but I also have no idea how it feels to live my life as a minority or anything other than what I am, and Bruce apparently never felt the same way I always have, comfortable in my own skin.

The idea of Transgender makes many people confused and puts most people off a bit, but if you look back at our colored history there were many different instances where things that seem normal today were thought of as strange an even hated. If I need to remind anyone…”White people” destroyed most of an indigenous people and took their land for their own, we then forced African people to our country and then used them as slaves. Slowly (very slowly) we began to see the error of our ways and started to attempt to make up for these two atrocities but have sort of screwed both parties out of their true identity and tell them to get along with the times. Even after we started to attempt to put things right with these two groups, we were still pretty much treating our women like property and even today they make on average 30% less than men doing the same work. More recently, after years and years of us openly bashing homosexuals (mostly due to religious reasons, (BS)) some states have finally started to realize that the government should have absolutely no say in who we should get to love (the separation of church and state only happens when it’s convenient for the state).

So last year, the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage went to the first openly gay professional football player, Michael Sam, and for the most part, he was heralded. A lot of individuals were still upset about it, but the tides have begun to turn for the homosexual community, making it more socially acceptable…but apparently not for the Transgender community.

I’m sorry, when I think about this it gets me very, very upset. I work with kids during the school year as a bus driver and I see bullies, and I see kids coming from homes that don’t prepare their kids for a day in school. I see kids who are obviously lacking love at home and some that probably love school just because it’s the one place they feel safe and even loved. I love kids, each and every one of them…but they can also be mean. But hate isn’t ingrained in kids; it’s unfortunately learned…often times at these same institutions which so many kids once felt safe and even loved at. It takes a single kid or a small group to spread hate, which always manifests itself onto the weakest individuals, and because our society has an established pecking order, often times the minorities are the ones that get picked on.

I’d like to look at some research, if any has been done, on the rate of suicide in high schools and colleges throughout the years and link up the rise and fall to major events in the social hemisphere. What I’m assuming we would see is that as it became more sociably acceptable to be a black student in a predominantly white school, the suicide numbers slowly fell and the rates would more than likely be similar with women, homosexuals, and other “minorities.”

The point is, by making a big deal out of things such as Caitlyn Jenner and her changing her sexual identity…we create hate.

Lauren Hill exemplified what it meant to be courageous when she knew there was no hope for survival, she also defined perseverance…just like so many other cancer patients I’ve known personally. Speaking with any of their loved ones, they would tell you the same things about their battle, they were a true inspiration, they fought a courageous battle, and the perseverance they showed given insurmountable odds, was a true inspiration…

Most people have dealt with cancer at this point in one facet or another, it’s the uninvited guest which can rip a family, friends, everything…apart. We hate it and we want to get rid of it, so we fight. And we donate money, and we educate people about it, and we do the things to try and keep it out of our lives, but it still comes…and then we fight, and sometimes we win sometimes we lose, but we fight because life is precious and worth fighting for.

It may not seem, at first glance, that Caitlyn Jenner’s fight is similar…but it is. I talked about suicide because so many youth are lost each year because they are constantly bullied for not being like the other kids. Many of these kids are different because they don’t look or act like the majority, they’re easy targets because we as a society say that what they are, isn’t right. We have laws set up making the act of marrying the person you truly love, illegal. And we say that even if you spend your whole life feeling like you’re something you’re not…you’re wrong. That “God” made you that way, and that’s just who you are.

Bruce Jenner spent his whole life feeling like he was something he was not, and he lived 60+ years trying to pretend that he was the thing he felt so strongly that he wasn’t because we as a society told him that he was wrong and he saw that the “majority” hated the thing he wanted to become. So he pretended…and he lived his lie, and one day he said, “No more. I know what I am and I’m going to become it.”

Now look at all the backlash that he’s getting, all the hate that his decision has brought upon him, hate he knew would be there when he came out the other side as Caitlyn…yet he did it. He became Caitlyn and stopped living what he felt was a lie, and being the public figure he was…he didn’t just do it for him, he did it so that the individuals out there struggling with identity issues can see that they aren’t alone. He might not have done it to start the conversation, but I’m sure that she will be at the 2015 ESPY’s accepting the Courage Award and the fact that she will be, puts the subject in the limelight. It allows us to openly discuss it, hopefully educate ourselves about it, and maybe one day accept it. The fact that Bruce knew how publicly this decision would be broadcast, and the effects it could have…makes him courageous…and in my mind, makes him a very worthy recipient of the 2015 Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.

I hope someday…coming out as gay, or transgender is no longer considered a courageous act, much like a black person not giving up their seat to a white person, or a woman voting is no longer considered courageous, it’s the norm. We hate what we don’t understand…so let’s take this opportunity to attempt a better understanding of our fellow men and women, no matter who they love, or what they are.


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