It could not be more fitting that Caitlyn Jenner will be receiving the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at this year's ESPYs, as the internet continues to both praise and debate what it means to have a beloved Olympian come out as a trans woman. I can't help but smile thinking about how apropos and fitting it is that Caitlyn receives this award.
Growing up as a black person in this country, Arthur Ashe was always a role model for me. An outspoken, talented and smart black man who confronted the inequality in our world. Silence is violence, and those who speak up not only spark change, but go down in history as leaders for future generations to look up to and aspire to be. Black kids, much like trans kids need adult leaders telling them that there is a life meant to be lived.
Camera, Arthur Ashe's daughter, is my oldest and closest friend. When I came out years ago as gay, she didn't bat an eye. Years later when I came out as trans, the exact same occurred. Our friendship has not only withstood the test of time, but also been tightly bound by unequivocal acceptance. Knowing now, as a happily out trans person, that Caitlyn is being given an award in her father's name is truly love and advocacy coming beautifully full circle. As the young black kid who admired her father, words can't express what it feels, as a young black trans man to see an out and proud trans woman receive an award in his name. We are all truly so much more alike than we will ever know and when we take the time to connect the dots, we are so much closer to those who seemed the farthest.
Arthur Ashe became a tennis megastar, in a time when Apartheid still existed, a time where no black man before him (or after him) had won a Grand Slam, and a time when our country was still reeling from decades of segregation.
The fight for LGBTQ equality has always mirrored in many ways, the movements prompted by racial disparity. As we approach an age where gay rights are no longer being seen as a radical fight but instead a humane and righteous step for our country, transgender folks often find themselves left out of the rally cry.
Slowly the media has begun to embrace those who are transgender as equals. Granted, those we do see are often flawless and gorgeous examples of femininity, the presence of Janet Mock and Laverne Cox in the mainstream is incredibly important for trans visibility.
Caitlyn Jenner was setting world records in the world of track and field whilst Ashe was crushing his competition in the tennis world. We didn't know then that the former was a trans woman, or that the latter would lose his life to AIDS, another crushing common bond shared with many in the trans community, as black transgender women have the highest percentage of new HIV-positive test results.
Our country has seen the bloodshed of far too many blacks just as our country has seen the bloodshed of far too many trans people. When we put into place systems of hate and continually perpetuate them with wrongful facts in the media what often results is the loss of lives and the erasure of groups of people. This is why we need the Arthur Ashe's of the world, this is why we need the Caitlyn Jenners.