The 65-year-old Olympian took to the ESPYs stage on Thursday night to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award -- where she delivered a powerful speech on acceptance and compassion for the transgender community -- and explained the significance of her much publicized moment backstage in an interview with Robin Roberts.
"I knew Arthur Ashe," Caitlyn revealed, referring to the professional tennis player -- and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon -- who founded both the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health before dying in 1993 of AIDS-related pneumonia. "I sat out there in the audience on many occasions and I thought to myself, 'What if one day I can make a difference in this world and do what I'm doing? I wonder when I can get that.'"
"Tonight was the night," she told Roberts, hugging the Good Morning America anchor.
The ESPYs marked Caitlyn's first live television appearance since her transition. Prior to her acceptance speech, some critics accused ESPN of choosing to award the former reality star simply as a publicity stunt to attract more viewers -- but whatever the case may be, clearly, it worked. After airing on ABC for the first time this year after previously only airing on the cable network ESPN, ESPY Award ratings surged 253 percent, The Hollywood Reporterreports.
Caitlyn, in fact, addressed some of the criticism during her speech.
"If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is, I can take it," she said. "But for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn't have to take it."