There are times when cultural changes are quick and drastic, and it's difficult to keep up with the progressing landscape. Periods when social transition is compacted within a tight and immediate time frame. Last week at the ESPY awards, millions watched as Caitlyn Jenner continued to forge ahead in her struggle to redefine normality in America.
It is no news that the backing of celebrities for a cause or event can result in immediate sales increases. Simply being photographed carrying a new energy drink around fashionable city streets, a brand's association with an A-lister is priceless.
Over the past few years, the transgender community has received remarkable press attention with the help of Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, among others. Laverne herself just recently landed the cover of Entertainment Weekly and has been named one of Time's most influential people. Caitlyn Jenner, of the Kardashian-Jenner family, revealed she identifies as transgender. Awareness of the community has exploded.
As Caitlyn Jenner introduces herself to the world, with the backing of a family as influential as it is controversial, she is steering the national conversation regarding individuals previously thought of as sick and inferior.
Watching Jenner's presentation at the ESPY's awards ceremony, I was not only struck by her moving speech, but also by her surroundings. I did not overlook the platform at which she was spreading awareness for the LGBTQ community -- on ESPN, accepting one of the highest awards for a athlete.
Sports, which is notoriously known for its extreme heterosexism, for its "manly men" persona, was not only accepting her -- they were praising her, giving her a 10 minute chunk of air time out of the evening to speak. With Arthur Ashe's smiling photograph in the background, Caitlyn discussed her struggles, the community in general and all the very necessary work that needs to be done.
The morning after the show, ESPN's official Twitter account tweeted, ICYMI: @Caitlyn_Jenner's #ESPYS speech urged acceptance for others who are transgender," with a link to their website for viewers to watch the speech. It has since accumulated over 1,000 retweets and 1,600 favorites.
And when not on Caitlyn, the camera would overlook the audience, showcasing the world's most powerful and influential athletes and celebrities -- many applauding, tears falling.
Caitlyn's daughters, Kendall and Kyle Jenner, along with step-daughters Kim and Khloe Kardashian, were shown frequently throughout the speech. The looks on their faces gave me chills -- they were quiet and listening intently to their mother. But most importantly, the pride and happiness they felt for someone they loved so dearly was clear. It was moving, to say the least.
While transgender issues are clearly not something that can be compared to a new "it" shoe or diet supplement, it is undeniable that the support of the biggest power players can -- and will -- boost morale for the community.
Although I am not transgender, I can only imagine the young kids and teenagers watching that show and the thoughts going through their heads. Seeing top athletes and actresses, who emulate the heteronormative, clapping and cheering this issue was jaggedly emotional. When I was struggling, coming to terms with my own homosexuality, I can very easily say that seeing something like this would have meant the world to me. And would have made that perilous period a little gentler.
It can't be said enough how impactful Caitlyn's actions are for the LGBTQ community. And it cannot be overlooked how much the sports and entertainment industry's backing is doing as well. They may be notorious for endorsing only the fittest, best-looking and scandalous people. But when it comes down to the everyday essence of it, they know when it's time to use their influence to make the world a significantly better place.