July 15, 2015 7:02 PM EDT

Caitlyn Jenner will make her red carpet debut at Wednesday evening’s ESPY Awards, where she will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, named for the tennis player-turned-AIDS activist. She will be presented the award by Abby Wambach, who recently made a splash for her onscreen, post-game kiss to wife Sarah Huffman after the U.S. beat Japan in the Women’s World Cup.

Jenner’s selection has sparked some controversy with critics like NBC sportscaster Bob Costas suggesting ESPN, the network organizing the awards, used Jenner as “just a crass exploitation play, a tabloid play.” ESPY co-producer Maura Mandt denied Jenner’s selection was a publicity stunt. “I think Caitlyn’s decision to publicly come out as a transgender woman and live as Caitlyn Jenner displayed enormous courage and self-acceptance,” she said. “[This] is what the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is about, somebody from the athletic community who has done something that transcends sport.”

Regardless, Jenner believes her role as the face of transgender America is an important one.

“It’s been both eye opening and difficult to see firsthand what so many members of the trans community have had to go through just to be themselves,” she wrote on her blog on Monday. “I hope to help raise awareness of these hardships so that it becomes a less painful process going forward.”

The awards will air Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Write to Tanya Basu at tanya.basu@time.com.

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