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Behind the outcry against Caitlyn Jenner's ESPY

Caitlyn Jenner officially introduced herself to the world

Caitlyn Jenner officially introduced herself to the world June 1 via a Vanity Fair cover story. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Frazer Harrison

When Caitlyn Jenner was announced as winner of ESPN's Arthur Ashe Courage Award earlier this month, some people were so outraged over who didn't win the prize that a fake news story about Iraq War veteran Noah Galloway sent America's military pulse racing.

Some argued that a man who lost two limbs for his country is braver than a former Olympian-turned-transgender reality star. But it turned out that Galloway, a runner who competes in various races, wasn't even a contender for the award.

In different but related news, more than 100,000 people signed a petition in favor of awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to baseball icon Yogi Berra. The 100,000-names threshold earns the petition an official response from the White House. Freedom award winners are decided by the president or a special board.

But where is Berra's Noah Galloway story? Yes, Berra is a member of baseball's Hall of Fame, served in World War II and has been a vocal supporter of LGBT causes. It could be argued that those credentials aren't quite enough for the freedom award, but there's certainly no opposition to match the outrage unleashed about Jenner.

Perhaps opposition is not prevalent in Berra's case because it doesn't involve a sex/gender change.

Soon after the Jenner award announcement, Twitter blew up with frustration and many advocated for Galloway or Lauren Hill, an inspirational college basketball player who recently died of brain cancer.

Loathing of Jenner is most likely fear of that which is misunderstood. There is no question that the transgender community is an especially targeted group. One example of this misunderstanding is the recent rejection by city officials to extend anti-discrimination laws to gender identity in Charlotte, North Carolina. Transgendered people are still less accepted by the public because their situations might seem confusing.

There is an argument to be made for Jenner's recognition, though. Overnight, whether she wanted to or not, she became the celebrity beacon for the transgender community.

This is about an award after all, and that means when one wins the award, someone might get left out.

If Yogi Berra ends up getting the presidential medal, who will he have beaten? While he has achievements, many others are deserving as well. But because he didn't become she and break the gender norms, there is no public debate as to who else should get the honor.

You bet I'll make one though: Edward Snowden. Yes, the national-security whistleblower should be honored because he made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the U.S.," as the Presidential Medal of Freedom requires.

Even if you don't respect Snowden, we should thank him for the mirror he put in front of us on data collection by U.S. security agencies.

This year's ESPY'S, a made-up awards show (scheduled July 15 in Los Angeles), are catching the eye and ire of people who can only find achievement in traditional acts of courage.

Christopher Leelum, a student at Stony Brook University, is an intern with Newsday Opinion.


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