18/11/2015 07:34 GMT | Updated 17/11/2016 05:12 GMT

Why Caitlyn Jenner Is Woman of the Year

It's very easy to pass judgement based on news headlines and popular opinion. For example, if you do an online search for Caitlyn Jenner winning a Glamour Women of the Year Award, the first results that pop up are news stories on Rose McGowan slamming her acceptance speech at the ceremony and the husband of a police officer who died in 9/11 returning her award because Caitlyn was honoured this year.

Take one look at the comments across the Glamour magazine website and the news articles that speak of negative response to Caitlyn receiving the reward, without looking further into the topic, and it would be very easy to join the crowd of people dismissing her. Cruelty and negativity spreads like wildfire - once comments like "a man playing dress-up" are associated with Caitlyn, that can easily be the first thing that comes to mind whenever she appears in the public eye.

But how many of those people have actually researched Caitlyn's full story, the reasons why she chose to transition so publicly and the work she has done for the transgender community? After doing an online search and being inundated by negativity, I decided to dig deeper and see why Caitlyn actually received the award. The information isn't that hard to find, but it's a lot easier to type a few sentences that make a sweeping statement about someone you don't know than it is to find the origin of the story.

Gender is not dictated by the physical body you are assigned at birth. If you look male but feel female, or vice versa, what right does anybody who does not know of the struggle these people go through have to make comments that suppress them, and make them feel unable to express themselves? Transitioning is, I imagine, a painful experience, both physically and mentally, and is far from an easy process. By choosing to transition in the public eye, Caitlyn had the courage to show other people in similar positions that you can be whoever you want to be. Having surgery is hardly an enjoyable experience, so why would Caitlyn choose to go through pain unless the end result meant something significant to her? I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to struggle with a key part of your identity for your entire life and to make the decision to transition for yourself, let alone to go further than that, deciding to highlight the issues facing transgender youth to a global audience and helping families to understand what their loved ones are going through. It's nothing short of commendable.

The docuseries "I am Cait", designed to educate both Caitlyn herself and the public, features advocates who speak of crucial issues such as suicide in the transgender community. Why do people mourn the losses of those killed in terrorist attacks, then make comments that suppress and drive to suicide people who are of equal importance? If 41% of trans or gender-nonconforming Americans have attempted to take their own lives, why is this staggering statistic of less importance, and people like Caitlyn who work to preserve life greeted with comments that are disrespectful, narrow-minded and ignorant?

For those who post online, whether it's on news stories, the Glamour magazine website or in forums, referring to Caitlyn in a derogatory manner, I recommend researching the work she has done and the struggle she has been through before passing judgement. Get the whole story before you critique it. Put yourself in someone else's shoes before you mindlessly put them down.