For the past six years, life stood still for Caitlyn Jenner. With the exception of work commitments, the Olympic gold medalist began spending all of her time at home. She didn’t want to go outside, because she’d lost all her enthusiasm for life. In the past six months, the trans star seemingly experienced a complete 180.
“Now actually, I like going out. And I like being myself,” Jenner said on Monday night. That courageous spirit — and her steadfast dedication to improving the lives of the community she’s now publicly joined — helped earn her a “Woman of the Year Award” from Glamour magazine.
“I never in a million years ever thought I would be here, and I’m sure you didn’t either,” Jenner joked to the audience as she stood on stage at Carnegie Hall to accept the honor. “But here I am, baby, alive and well.”
Jenner called the period of time since she came out “the most eye-opening experience” of her entire life. “For years and years, I never felt like I fit in anywhere. I always felt as an outsider. I never felt good in the male side, and I wasn’t obviously in the female side,” she said. “I was kind of stuck in the middle. But all of a sudden, after making this decision and coming out, it was by far the best thing I ever did.”
During her acceptance speech, the former track and field star also acknowledged the amazing platform she has to change the hearts and minds of those who don’t fully understand the trans struggle for equal rights. Jenner credited the heroic trans women who have preceded her, including Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox and MSNBC’s So POPular! host Janet Mock.
“What I have learned about this community is what a great group of women there are out there, who have worked so hard to be authentic to themselves and authentic to womenhood,” Jenner declared.
Jenner drew attention to one issue facing the trans community — obtaining identification that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression — through a simple anecdote. She admitted that prior to flying to New York for the awards ceremony, she hadn’t been on an airline in more than a year. Why? Because she didn’t have an authentic driver’s license until last week.
“Big deal. Picture and gender marker F. So it’s always the little things in life that really you notice,” Jenner said of her experience. “And I’m sitting on a plane, and for the first time, reading Glamour magazine and not having to fold the cover over so nobody could see what actually I was reading. That I had that thing opened up beautifully, just reading through Glamour magazine. It was absolutely great.”
Jenner’s recognition as one Glamour’s “Women of the Year” — a field that also included Reese Witherspoon, Misty Copeland, Victoria Beckham, and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards — was initially greeted by a flurry of criticism on social media, according to the Associated Press. Those online took issue with her status as a “transgender woman of wealth and privilege. Some apparently thought Jenner was THE woman of the year, as opposed to one of many,” the news agency reported. Glamour Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive responded at the time by noting the backlash was a reflection of “the hostility to the trans community that still exists out there.”
But that negativity isn’t getting in Jenner’s way. Kylie Jenner summed it up best in a video message played on stage last night. “She’s such a good role model for so many people, and I know she wants to do so much good with what she’s doing,” People magazine quoted Jenner’s youngest daughter as saying.