Show­ing courage

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer Ni­cholas Mercer is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at nmercer@cbn­com­

Un­less you’ve been liv­ing un­der a rock, you should know the name Cait­lyn Jen­ner.

You might also know Jen­ner by her pre­vi­ous name of Bruce — the Olympic gold medal­ist and re­al­ity tele­vi­sion star.

Ear­lier this year, Jen­ner came out as a trans­gen­der woman in an in­ter­view with jour­nal­ist Diane Sawyer. Im­me­di­ately, she was con­fronted with scores of crit­i­cisms. Fur­ther­more, Jen­ner was met with praise for hav­ing the courage to come out as a trans­gen­der per­son.

The praise was war­ranted be­cause, let’s be hon­est, trans peo­ple are not uni­ver­sally met with the friendli­est of re­ac­tions.

Last month, Jen­ner made her way to the stage at the ESPYs, ESPN’s an­nual awards cer­e­mony, and ac­cepted the Arthur Ashe Award of Courage. She re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion as she made a speech that preached tol­er­ance and ac­cep­tance.

Jen­ner rec­og­nized her new role as the unof­fi­cial face of the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity and pledged that so­ci­ety should let young peo­ple dis­cover who they re­ally are rather than take some big­oted stance against them.

Re­ac­tion to ESPN’s de­ci­sion to present the award to Jen­ner has been strong on so­cial media. Across mul­ti­ple plat­forms, the sports gi­ant has been both panned and com­mended for the move.

The crit­ics point to peo­ple like mil­i­tary vet­eran Noah Gal­loway or the late Lau­ren Hill as more wor­thy re­cip­i­ents of the award. Gal­loway is a dou­ble am­putee who com­petes in crossfit com­pe­ti­tions, while Hill kept play­ing bas­ket­ball long af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with an in­op­er­a­ble brain tu­mour.

Both would have been wor­thy re­cip­i­ents of the award. In fact, Hill was posthu­mously awarded the ESPY for Best Mo­ment.

When news first broke a month ago that Jen­ner would be given the courage award, I was skep­ti­cal of the rea­son­ing be­hind it. There had to be more wor­thy re­cip­i­ents, I thought.

That was my gut re­ac­tion. Think­ing about it now, my re­ac­tion isn’t the same.

It took guts to present her­self to the world as a woman. It took courage to ask for ac­cep­tance in a so­ci­ety that some­times doesn’t know the mean­ing of the word.

It’s a moot point that Jen­ner has had lit­tle to do with the sport­ing world in the last cou­ple of decades. It took courage to do what she did.

You know what’s not courage?

Hav­ing a heart at­tack on a Na­tional Hockey League bench and then want­ing to stay in the game. Peo­ple call that courage when in re­al­ity that’s just stupid.

To some, play­ing with a blood clot is the def­i­ni­tion of coura­geous. Those peo­ple need to get their heads checked.

Yet, peo­ple have the au­dac­ity to com­pare the two. Look, hockey play­ers are tough. No one can take that away from them.

But reen­ter­ing a game with stitches, bro­ken teeth or just hav­ing had your heart restarted with a de­fib­ril­la­tor doesn’t re­ally count as be­ing coura­geous.

When a per­son keeps mov­ing for­ward de­spite over­whelm­ing odds, that’s courage and Jen­ner dis­played that.

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