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As we prepare for London Trans+ Pride 2023 on the 8th of July, Cool2BTrans founder and top Pride Month speaker Katie Neeves sat down in this exciting interview to reflect on her transgender journey. The LGBTQ+ equality campaigner spoke about the importance of inclusivity and why people struggling with their mental health should reach out for support, as she did during her transition. 

From your perspective as an LGBTQ+ campaigner, can you tell us about the importance of diversity and inclusion?

“I think it’s important because of all the negativity that’s put out; we need to counter it. LGBTQ+ events aren’t just for LGBTQ+ people; they’re for everyone because we’re all part of society. We need allies so much because trans people make up around 1% of the population, so we need help from the other 99% to make us feel valid.  

“I’ve got some wonderful friends who are true allies – I’ll give you an example of something that a true ally does. Just before Christmas 2019, I went to a black-tie event and there were several people in the room who knew me. There were two men who were talking just on the other side of the room, and one pointed me out and said, ‘You see that woman over there, that used to be Martin Neeves, I don’t get it myself.’ He started talking about me quite disparagingly. 

“Thankfully, the man he was talking to had previously watched a lot of my vlogs, and so he’d been educated on trans issues purely from my videos. He just said, ‘Well actually, there’s a lot more to it than that’ and proceeded to educate this other man. This was all completely without my knowledge, I only found out about that conversation after the event. 

“That is what a true ally does and shows why allies are vital. A lot of bigotry and prejudice comes from a fear of the unknown. So, if you can take that unknown away through education, the more acceptance there is and the easier it becomes for other trans people to admit to themselves that they’re trans, because that’s the hardest thing.”

If someone reading this is struggling with their mental health, how vital is it for them to reach out for support?

“Extremely. I struggled at the start of the first [Covid-19] lockdown in 2020 because of my business. My photography and video business, and my transition training and public speaking business – which is what I’m really building at the moment – proved really challenging.

“With both, I had a week where all my work was cancelled – everything. I had some great speaking gigs lined up to do and I also had some photography work and stuff, and it all went. So, my whole livelihood was just taken away, through all these emails that kept coming in over the space of a week. I was heading towards a full-on breakdown, really.

“I reached out to my friends, and they were there for me. I have one friend who is into a lot of alternative therapy and stuff, she did some things like hypnotherapy and EFT and all sorts of stuff like that. She did it all over Zoom and it was incredible, she was with me for about two hours on Zoom, just helping me out and it really did help me a lot. 

“I think whoever you reach out to, it’s important to just reach out. It can simply mean talking things through with your friends. When you’re struggling, you need good friends.”

How important has support been in your own transgender journey?

“I’ve had a lot of help throughout my journey from a clairvoyant and spiritual guide, who I happened to meet at a business networking event! Clairvoyants are so interesting to talk to and I was just so fascinated by her that I decided to go for a reading.

“It was her reading that set me on the path I’m on today. She said lots of things that were amazing and just so pinpoint exact. But then she said other things that just didn’t make sense at the time. She said things like ‘a new way of being’, ‘there’s an issue that you’ve always known about, but you’re not fully in integrity with’ and ‘you need to go for a long walk to talk to yourself, talk to nature and talk to spirit, and they will show you what you need to see’. So, I thought, ‘oh alright, I like walking so what the hell!’

“When I finally did do it, it just happened to coincide with my gender dysphoria, which is a great feeling of unease and a mismatch between how you feel in your head and heart, versus your sex characteristics and the sex you were assigned at birth. My gender dysphoria increased dramatically, and whether that was a coincidence or not, I don’t know, but it happened about the same sort of time.

“I’ve gone back to her several times since and it was in a big session with her that I admitted to myself I’m a transgender woman and that I need to change my body. And of course, as soon as you admit that to yourself and acknowledge your true gender identity, you can’t unknow it – the genie wasn’t going back in the bottle!

“But it’s one thing knowing it and another thing doing something about it. I had no choice about being trans, it’s just who I am. I didn’t want to be trans; I didn’t choose to be trans; nobody chooses to be trans! The only choice I had was whether to do something about it. 

“The urge to live my truth was just so overwhelmingly strong; I didn’t want to admit it to myself. I had a happy home life, a successful business. Could I put all that in jeopardy just for that? But it was the real me, and it’s all about authenticity and living your truth, and the desire to live my truth was just so overwhelmingly strong. I just had to do something about it. I’m so glad that I did because I am so much happier now!”

This interview with Katie Neeves was conducted by Chris Tompkins

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