The 2015 ESPN ESPY Awards aired Wednesday night, and the talk of the town was Caitlyn Jenner receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Ever since it was announced that she would be getting this award, people across the country have been complaining about it. Some say Caitlyn Jenner doesn't deserve it. She isn't courageous enough. She didn't overcome cancer or a traumatic injury. She didn't go through enough pain and suffering. No, all she did was get breast implants and change her name.

That's ridiculous. First off, this award is not a competition. There are no "runner-ups." The award is decided on by a group of judges who look at a plethora of different athletes, and then make one choice.

We can all agree that there are so many athletes who deserve this award. Athletes like Noah Galloway, the veteran who lost an arm and leg in Iraq, also showed tremendous courage and bravery as an athlete.

But let me explain why Caitlyn Jenner has done more than that.

We have no idea the type of emotional pain and suffering that the transgender community faces each and every day. Even those who have been brave enough to publicly show their transition are still riddled with doubts, criticisms and constant anxiety.

Sometimes that emotional pain can turn physical. Transgender youth has some of the highest suicide rates in the country. There are plenty of cases right now of transgender men and women who have been physically attacked just because of how they look in public.

So, to sit there and think that Caitlyn Jenner smiling for the cameras and actively giving a voice to the transgender community, a group that is often overlooked and misunderstood in our society, isn't just as brave and courageous as any other athlete, I think is complete and utter ignorance.

I can name on one hand the number of transgender celebrities that appear in the media today. There are less than ten that I can even recall by name. And yet, there are so many transgender people not only in America, but also all over the world.

Do people not understand just how terrifying it must be for a woman, who has had to hide her real self for years all while constantly in the public eye, to decide to finally show the world who she really is? Do they not understand how scared she was? It's hard enough for someone who is transgender to tell one person about his or her true self. My sister was practically shaking from nerves when she told me, and I was the only one there. Imagine having to put yourself out there, after years of hiding, and let the whole world know about something you've tried your whole life to keep secret.

That's what real courage is. And the best thing about it is that Caitlyn Jenner's courage doesn't only affect her, it affects millions. And I'm not only talking about the transgender community. Caitlyn Jenner has become the face of the transgender movement.

Some would say she should do more. She should be donating to charities and volunteering her time instead of filming a reality show about her life. And, while I think giving back is always appreciated, I think she is doing a tremendous amount just by being who she is in front of the cameras.

She has put a name to the transgender movement. If we lived in a society where all transgender people were treated with respect and dignity, where everyone knew and accepted them for who they were, then yes, I guess Caitlyn Jenner being who she is wouldn't be all that courageous.

But we don't, at least not yet. So, for now, let's just all agree that Caitlyn Jenner has done a truly valiant thing. She has decided not to let the world tell her who she is, to take a stand and show others that they can too.

Anyone who can do that definitely deserves an award.


Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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