By Ken Reed

The most heroic thing Caitlyn Jenner has done in her life is to be honest — with herself and the public.

To do so, to let the world know about her sexual identity, must have been incredibly scary for a sports icon (Jenner won the decathlon at the 1976 Olympic Games, earning unofficial “Greatest Athlete in the World” honors) and pop culture celebrity (as part of the Kardashian family). But Jenner decided to walk through her fear before it was too late.

“If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen,” said Jenner in a Vanity Fair piece.

In a great move, ESPN recently announced that Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the upcoming ESPY Awards show. That’s perfect.

As Dave Zirin said in an excellent column about Jenner, “Arthur Ashe had the courage to show us what it looked like to die without fear. Caitlyn Jenner is demonstrating what it looks like to live the same way.”

Last year, I did a Q&A with transgender professional golfer Bobbi Lancaster. Born Robert Lancaster, Bobbi underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2010. A well-regarded physician in Arizona, she is trying to earn an LPGA tour card while playing on a couple minor league golf tours.

Lancaster is one of the most courageous and inspiring athletes I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing during my career.

One of Lancaster’s hopes is that by living true to herself she can help other athletes, especially young athletes, who are struggling with their sexual identity, to have the courage to live authentically moving forward.

“It is so liberating to live your truth. And so much can be accomplished when a person is finally at peace with him or herself,” said Lancaster.

“One of my key messages when I speak with people is to ‘be true to yourself, to live authentically.’ I think that applies to all of us as human beings, not just those struggling with gender identity. It won’t serve you well, if you’re struggling with certain issues, to hide things, to live closeted. In the long run, you’ll just damage yourself and your relationships.

“My life’s certainly an example. I lived closeted for a long time and I suffered from self-loathing, lack of confidence, a lack of self-respect, etc. Young and old have to hear this message. It’s never too late to get it right, to be true to yourself and follow your dream.”

Here’s hoping Jenner spends the rest of her life spreading a similar message.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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