Caitlyn Jenner gave a heartfelt speech while being honored as the Transgender Champion at Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards on Monday, Nov. 9.
“I never in a million years thought that I would be here,” Jenner, 66, told the audience. “For years and years, I never felt like I fit in anywhere. I always felt as an outsider; I never felt good in the male side, and I wasn’t obviously in the female side. I was kind of stuck in the middle. But all of a sudden, after making these decisions and coming out, it was by far the best thing that I ever did.”
Kris Jenner’s ex opened up about what life was like for her before she decided to come out as transgender, and how her life has changed since she went public back in April with Diane Sawyer.
“Over these last six months, it has been the most eye-opening experience of my life,” the I Am Cait star said. “Because for so many years, I lost my enthusiasm for life. Literally, sitting in my house for almost six years. Because I never really wanted to come out; just to go to work, that was about it. Now, actually, I like going out. And I like being myself. And in doing that, it’s been amazing the opportunity we have for change, for people to understand this issue because it’s so difficult.”
Jenner – who revealed her new identity on the July cover of Vanity Fair – also said that her transition was a long time in the making, and that she first went to her 10 children for support.
“My transition was very, very long,” she admitted. “I had many, many, many years of isolation from the world, of lying to the world, of not being myself. I sat down with each one of my 10 children, and I said, ‘This is my story. This is who I am. What can I do?’ I had a lot of conversations with God. I came to the conclusion that this is why God put me on this earth – to tell my story. To be authentic to myself, to who I am.”
In addition to her children, the 2015 honoree thanked Janet Mock and Laverne Cox for paving the way and helping her to be true to herself.
Jenner, one of a group of honorees that included actress Reese Witherspoon, ballerina Misty Copeland, designer Victoria Beckham, the victorious U.S. women’s soccer team, and a group of women from Charleston, South Carolina, who suffered great loss in the June church shooting there, Jenner told an admiring crowd that the six months since she came out as a woman have been “the most eye-opening experience of my life”, and also said she believes she was put on Earth to tell her story and perhaps make a difference in the world.
Jenner is not the first transgender woman to be a Glamour Woman of the Year; last year, actress Laverne Cox was honored. Still, Jenner’s inclusion had sparked some backlash on social media. “We prefer to focus on the positive,” Jenner said through a spokesman ahead of the announcement.
Cindi Leive, Glamour’s editor-in-chief, told The Associated Press that criticism of Jenner’s inclusion “certainly gives you an appreciation for the hostility to the trans community that still exists out there.”
The annual ceremony mixes high-wattage celebrities with lesser known names, and this year, the award winners included the five women touched by the South Carolina church massacre — Alana Simmons, Nadine Collier, Bethane Middleton-Brown, Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard — and lauded in the aftermath as “The Peacemakers of Charleston.” Also among those honored: Entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes, and Planned Parenthoood’s Cecile Richards.
Copeland, who became the first female African-American principal at American Ballet Theatre in June, thanked Glamour “for honoring a black ballerina.” To the young girls seated in the balcony from various schools and girls clubs, she said, “We’re trying to set the best example for you.”
Witherspoon gave the final speech of the night, speaking passionately about female ambition. “I believe ambition is not a dirty word,” she said. Witherspoon co-founded a production company, Pacific Standard, which aims to make films featuring strong female lead roles — “not the wife or the girlfriend, but the lead,” she said — as a way to fight the gender gap in Hollywood. The company’s “Wild” and “Gone Girl” earned Oscar nominations for Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Rosamund Pike.
Beckham was introduced with a video clip from her children and husband, soccer star David Beckham. She gained fame as a Spice Girl, but has since become a respected fashion designer. She was also honored Monday for her work in AIDS education and prevention.
“I love what I do,” Beckham said. She added that with her fashion, she aimed to make women feel “like the best version of themselves.”
The U.S. women’s soccer team was introduced by late-night host Seth Meyers, who got a cheer when he advised young women in the audience to “never waste a second of your time on (a guy who) doesn’t want your input and advice.”