Caitlyn Jenner: Trans people deserve your respect

Accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, Jenner delivered an emotional speech on Wednesday.

Caitlyn Jenner accepts the Arthur Ashe Courage Award onstage during the 2015 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on 15 July 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Picture: Getty Images/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - American athlete Caitlyin Jenner highlighted the emotional hardships and discrimination suffered by transgender people in an award speech at the ESPYs on Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Jenner, who was formally known as Bruce, has been honoured with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, after revealing in April that she identified as a woman.

In her acceptance speech, Jenner said it was important to educate young people and to encourage respect for transgender people.

"From that respect comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society and a better world for all of us."

While her physical transition has fuelled renewed discussion on transgender identity, there have been questions about whether she deserved the award.

Earlier this week ESPN defended its decision to honour Jenner, with ESPY co- executive producer, Maura Mandt telling Sports Illustrated that the decision was influenced by Jenner's display of 'courage and acceptance.'

Jenner dismissed the negative criticism since her reveal.

"If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is I can take it. But for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with who they are, they shouldn't have to take it."

Jenner's children were among those who attended the ceremony.

CLIQUE #ESPY'S ✔️ pic.twitter.com/pJp8e1ZSJS

Actress Laverne Cox described Jenner's compelling words as a historic moment.

Just caught @Caitlyn_Jenner's speech at the #ESPYS. So deeply moved. I feel like an historic moment happened for my community tonight. Thanx

Jenner made a plea to athletes to use their public platform to 'reshape' the ideas around transgender issues and how transgender people are treated.

"I am clear with my responsibility…to promote a very simple idea, accepting people for who they are."