Caitlyn Jenner's ESPY Speech and the Respect That Trans People Deserve

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce, accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during Wednesday’s ESPY Awards. Variety notes it was her “first formal award… since announcing her transition [from man to woman].”

In her acceptance speech, Jenner called upon society to treat transgendered people with respect. From Variety:

“Trans people deserve something vital,” she said. “They deserve your respect. And from that respect, comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society and a better world for all of us.”

“If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead. I can take it. But for the thousands of kids coming to terms with who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.”

Jenner’s call for respect should be heeded to the extent that all human beings deserve to be treated with a certain level of dignity. Calling people names and making jokes at their expense is generally disrespectful regardless of their status.

“They’re getting bullied,” Jenner said of trans youth. “They’re getting beaten up. They’re getting murdered. And they’re committing suicide.”

No one should get bullied. No one should get beat up. No one should get murdered. These aren’t statements exclusive to transgendered people. Few rotten souls object to the notion that transgendered people should have their individual rights recognized.

However, a crucial distinction should be made between the respect that all people are due and an expectation of acceptance and approval. Jenner expounded:

“With attention, comes responsibility. As a group, as athletes, how you conduct your lives, what you say, what you do, is absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people,” she told the room. “I know I’m clear with my responsibility.”

She went on to tout a simple goal: “Accepting people for who they are.”

Respect and acceptance are neither mutually exclusive nor tied at the hip. I can respect someone and uphold their rights without approving of them or what they represent.

Through the ongoing LGBT movement in our culture, this distinction continues to be clouded or disregarded. We’re expected to accept and approve of alternative lifestyles. If we don’t, then we’re somehow disrespectful.

Of course, that’s a two-way street. If it’s disrespectful for a Christian to disapprove of homosexuality, then it’s likewise disrespectful for a homosexual to disapprove of Christianity. That is if we have any real interest in fairness and equity.

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