LOS ANGELES– It is a moment several months in the making: Caitlyn Jenner‘s first major public appearance since identifying as transgender and undergoing facial feminization surgery.
And it’s happening in the most public way possible: on a stage in Los Angeles in front of thousands of people and millions of viewers.
Jenner, 65, will receive ESPN’s prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award on Wednesday night at the sports network’s annual ESPYs awards ceremony.
Lauren Hill‘s family was also honored at Wednesday night’s show, she passed away from cancer just a few months ago.
It is sure to be much-talked-about, and advocates for the transgender community say it could have positive effects on the public at large.
Jenner is “helping people around the world understand more about what it means to be transgender and serving as an inspiration to countless young trans people who may be struggling to just be who they are,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of the advocacy organization GLAAD.
The ESPYs award will be presented to Jenner by the famed soccer player Abby Wambach who is, like Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist.
According to Joel McHale, the host of this year’s ceremony, interest in Jenner’s acceptance speech has dominated pre-show discussions.
“It’s the first question I get asked” in interviews about the ESPYs, McHale told The Hollywood Reporter.
He called Jenner “insanely courageous.”
Jenner, formerly Bruce, spoke about being transgender for the first time in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that was televised in late April.
In early June, she shared the new name she had chosen — Caitlyn — and appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine.
That same day, her ESPYs award was announced by ESPN. ABC and ESPN are both owned by The Walt Disney Company.
Jenner’s recognition by ESPN has been accompanied by a significant amount of controversy. Some critics have said other athletes are more deserving of the courage award.
But ESPN has defended the decision, citing Jenner’s “athletic prowess and determination” at the 1976 Olympics and the “strength of character” that was on display in her ABC interview.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award has been presented every year since the sports-related ESPYs were established in 1993.
Recent recipients have included football player Michael Sam, “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts, and longtime University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt.