Trans People Are Just Ordinary People Who Want To Be Happy
This episodes guest is Katie Neeves she has been a professional photographer and filmmaker for 34 years, but she came out publicly as being transgender almost 3 1/2 years ago, after living for 48 years as a man. Katie formed cool to be trans to support and inspire other trans people, and also to educate others on trans issues by showing them that trans people are just ordinary people who want to be happy.
“I was assigned a sex-based purely on my primary sex characteristics based on what was between my legs. I was assigned male at birth, and I was given the name Martin Albert Neves. So that was me labelled. However, at the age of around three or four, my head and my heart started to tell me something very different to the label I was given at birth. And one of my earliest memories around the age of three or four years was of my mum catching me trying on a pair of my sister's knickers. And I remember when I tried them on it felt so right. But then she caught me. She told me to take them off. And for every day, the following week, she would pull my shorts down, and she would check to make sure I was wearing my own pants. Humiliating, but it's sowed the seed for a very long time that what I was doing was wrong, it was dirty, it was naughty. It's not what respectable people did. The thing is, however much my mum told me off or humiliated me over this, the urge and the need to cross-dress as it was then would always be with me. I don't blame her mum for that. I mean, it was the early 70s and it's just how things were then. she's a product of a generation, so I get it. You know, I understand why she reacted that way. So don't blame her at all.”
"So throughout my childhood, I used to secretly dress in my sister's clothes whenever I had the opportunity, and whenever I did it, it felt so right. But then those feelings of feeling right but very quickly replaced by feelings of guilt and shame and self-loathing. And so every time I did it, I would promise myself that I would never ever do it again. And I tried so hard to not do it again. But every time I tried the urge and the need to dress would always come back and usually with a vengeance. So this vicious cycle went right on until my mid-20s. And so by that time I trained to become a press photographer, and I was working initially on newspapers in Kent, before moving up to the Midlands when I got a job as a senior staff photographer with the Coventry New Telegraph I stayed there for five years before leaving set up my own freelance photography and video business, which are called Martin Neves photography and film see the problem of that name gave me later on."
“Because my first wife never accepted my crossdressing as it was then, we tried counselling over it several times. But it only papered over the cracks. It never really solved the problem. But also, there's another issue in that I wanted kids and she didn't.”
"I realised I had a condition called gender dysphoria. And what that is, is a great feeling of unease and stress caused by a mismatch in how I felt in my head and my heart. My gender identity, as opposed to my primary sex characteristics and the label I've been given at birth, I think about gender dysphoria, it can vary in intensity, and it very often increases over time. And that's exactly what happened to me. But at the time, I was happy as a man who needed to crossdress, and that's all it was. So I thought I treated it more like a hobby that will always be part of me. And I never in a million years thought that I would ever need to transition. So at the time, the level of gender dysphoria that I had was low enough that cross-dressing once a week linear or over longer periods was okay, that was fine. That was enough."
“About the same sort of time, my gender dysphoria increased dramatically. It went through the roof. So much so that I just didn't know what gender I was at all. I hadn't got a clue. And I was so desperate to find out. I was even typing into Google. What gender is Martin Neves? No, no, that's crazy. Because the answers only come from me. It couldn't come from anyone else, particularly Google. But I was desperate. It's what desperate people do. Perhaps Google should change their slogan to where desperate people go."
"I didn't know what gender I was at all. I hadn't got a clue. So I just had to face this on my own. So the first thing that I decided to do was to get some counselling and I found a counsellor who had experience of talking to people with gender issues. And I had four sessions with her and in hindsight, I think I should have had more sessions. Because at the end of those sessions, I wrongly concluded that I was gender fluid."
"So when a baby's born, the doctor or midwife looks between the legs of babies, and depending on what they see, they assign the baby as either a boy or girl. It is just a binary choice. That's all they've got in this country. And in other parts of the world, this is just starting to change now, but it's certainly over here. That's what we still have is just that binary choice boy or girl. The thing about sex, is that sex itself isn't binary, by nature it is very messy, it doesn't do black and white, it doesn't do binary things, it's very messy, does a whole spectrum of these things. And so sex itself isn't binary. And so it's just under 2% of the population are what's called intersex. So we think of, you know, xx and xy chromosomes, it's not as simple as that many people have an extra chromosome, you can actually have up to five problems. Hence, many people have an extra chromosome, and they're intersex.”
“One of the conditions they could have, they could have a vagina, but then they can have internal testes. But obviously, when they're born, the internal testes can't be seen. So it's only the vagina that is seen. And so the baby gets assigned as female, as we go. So, but that's just about sex, but that's got nothing to do with gender. When a baby is born, it has no way of knowing what the baby's gender is - what gender is the sex of your brain. And the thing is the baby, you know, baby can't speak that anyway. And Fred isn't developed enough to know it's not until they get to about two, three or four, when they start getting a sense of their gender. So gender is basically you know, it manifests itself in how you feel in your head in your heart, and you just know, but for, for 95% of the population, their gender identity matches their sex characteristics and the label, they've been given a birth. And to those people, I say, Well, lucky them. But for about 5% of the population, there is a mismatch. And there's a problem there."
"Just as sex isn't binary, gender isn't binary, either. There's a whole spectrum. And it's not linear either. So many people are what's called agender. So they don't have a gender at all. But just for simplicity purposes, for this podcast, just think of it as being linear, with 100%, male at one end and 100% female at the other end, and we're all on the spectrum somewhere. And most people who are not trans just tend to think they are 100%, male or 100% female because that's what's on the birth certificate, but they haven't really, there's only because their gender hasn't caused them any issues, because there's no mismatch, so they've never had to look at where they are on the spectrum. Whereas for people like me who are transgender, gender has caused us some issues, we've had to look at where we are on the spectrum. So for people that are roughly in the middle of the spectrum, they're non-binary, so they don't feel either male or female. And for gender fluid people, they're roughly in the middle of the spectrum, but sometimes they feel male, sometimes they feel female. And this can vary by the day, by the week, whatever. And all these things are perfectly normal, perfectly natural ways of being a human being. There's nothing wrong with human beings, but an awful lot wrong to do with the binary system and labelling system that we're all forced to adopt at that moment and the fact that the sex, the label, sex label, overrides gender in terms of the birth certificate, so like these people that have gender reveal parties, it really winds me up because it's not a gender reveal party, there's no way of telling what the baby's gender is either at birth or pre-birth, you know, from a scan, you can't tell that it's got nothing to do with all these those parties are is that my baby has or hasn't got a willing party. That's all they are. That's all they are. That's all they are. And in it places too much importance on sex rather than gender."
"I was working through a self-help workbook called you and your gender identity by a gender therapist from the States called Dara Hoffmann Fox. It's a brilliant book. And it's like psychotherapy in a book really, there's a lot of work involved in going through it. And it took me about two months to work my way through it. And by the time I got to about three-quarters of the way through the book, it became obvious that I wasn't gender fluid. I was in fact a transgender woman. I realised why I thought I was gender fluid in the first place, and it was my fear of admitting to myself that I was trans that was stopping me."
"During that session, she uses techniques such as deep meditation to get you into a really relaxed state, so you can get past all your fear and access your inner truth. So I went along for that session on the 11th of January 2018, it’s a date I'll never forget. And during that session, she didn't give me any answers at all. She just asked me a series of questions. It was question after question after question after question. She was relentless. Now whether she got the questions from spirit or not, I don't know. I'm glad she asked me all those questions. And she allowed all the answers to come from me and from my inner truth. And it was such an emotional session, I cried buckets that day, I really did. And it was at the end of that session, that I admitted to myself that I am a transgender woman and that I needed to change my body. And that was the point that I really felt female. And I really felt that Martin had stepped back and Katie had taken over. So now, after all, three different approaches, I had discovered my true gender identity. So what now? What was I going to do with this new piece of information? Yeah, I had a happy home life, I had a successful business. Could I put all of that in jeopardy just for this new piece of information eating away, then, but then again, could I go back to how I was before with this new piece of information eating away at me? I didn't think I could. And the trouble is, I didn't want to be trans."
"I should point out at this stage that sexuality and gender are completely separate entities and they're not linked. So in my case, I've always been attracted to women, and I still am. It's been one of the constants in my life. It's just the labels changed for me. So So previously, I was labelled as a heterosexual man. Now I'm labelled as a lesbian. It feels absolutely no different to me. I'm just attracted to women. "
"The next dilemma I had was what to do about the name of my photography and video business when I changed my name to Katie, because it was very boldly branded after my old male name. Martin Neves photography and film, I thought, well, I could change the name to Katie Neeves photography and film when I changed my name to Katie. But the trouble is at that point it had been an established brand for 22 years, and it was and still is actually ranked second in the UK on Free index, just through customer reviews. So with all those reviews, and everything, I just, I couldn't change that. "
"I was so worried about the reaction to it because I was freelance and so I didn't have any long term contracts with anybody. If my clients had a problem with my being trans, then the phone stopped ringing and I'd lose all my clients and I'd lose my income. So my whole livelihood, my reputation, everything rested on the reaction to that one video. It was a huge moment for me. So anyway, I came back and I nervously looked on Facebook, I needn't have worried because I was inundated with hundreds of messages of support, it was amazing. I felt so loved. And I didn't do any work for three whole days because I was so busy replying to all these lovely messages. And as well as having messages from friends from clients, I had messages from other trans people who'd seen it who, who said that they'd been struggling."
"Coming out went from being something that I was absolutely dreading to being one of the most uplifting experiences of my life, second to the birth of my daughter but it was right up there."
"Stonewalls trans Mental Health Survey of 2012 showed that 84% of trans people in the UK have attempted suicide at least once and 48% have thought about it. And she said to me if only someone like you was out there at the time that he was going through this that could have let him know that it's okay to be trans because it really is okay to be trans. And that really got me thinking I thought I've got to do some good with this. So I decided to vlog my whole journey and bring people along on the journey with me, demystifying the whole process, to educate people. I needed to show people that trans people are just ordinary people who want to be happy, but then also reach out to other trans people to let them know that it really is okay to be trans."
"The waiting times just to get seen at NHS gender clinics after being referred by a GP, can be anything between three and five and a half years, not months, but years, three and a half, five and a half years, just to get the first appointment then you don't get treated at all - it is a chat, with a nurse or clinician, then some people wait up to a year for their second appointment. And that's another chat usually with either a psychotherapist or with a GP. It’s normally the third appointment when they start assessing you to give you hormone therapy. So it's a really long process. And then there's a fourth appointment where you started talking about surgery if you want to go down that route because not all trans people do want to go down that route. Because the transition is split into three main sections, there's lots of different subsections within it. And not everybody takes every step along the way. But there are three sections to it. So the first section is social transition. So that's things like changing your name, by deed poll and on your driving licence, and passport and all that kind of stuff and changing it everywhere. And then and then changing your appearance. So in your hairstyle makeup, your facial hair, you with what you wear and everything. Then just being accepted, just living full time in your desired gender so that that's the social transition that side of it. And then the next step is a hormonal transition. So that's taking hormone blockers that block the existing hormones in your body. And then cross-sex hormones that give you the hormones that match your gender. And then the third stage is the surgical transition. And then the various different surgeries that are available. Most of it is not on the NHS, most of it has to be self-funded. So for trans women in England, there's only one surgery that's available. There's two in Scotland, but only one in England. And for trans men, there are two surgeries available in both countries."
There hasn't been a day that I've got up in the morning, in those last over the last three years and thought, well I’ll pretend to be Martin today, not a single day, you just feel so right. And I've lost count of the number of people who've told me that I look so much happier now. And I'm not surprised because it's the real me. I'm just loving it. I'm just living my truth. It is just amazing. You know, a lot of people talk about gender dysphoria, but this is gender euphoria. And it really does feel euphoric. It's amazing."
"My biggest piece of advice to people is if they're planning on doing something big, whether it's in their personal life, or within the career or in any big change and they're worried about it - just acknowledge that fear, but then go for it anyway. Because I found that reality is usually a lot easier than you fear."
"I've got 1000 messages of abuse of hate recently. But that's only because I've put my head, so well above the parapet and it's just part of the job. It shouldn't be part of the job, but it is but there's a certain section of society who are very anti-trans and they don't represent the majority of people in the majority people absolutely fine."
"There is still a big issue I think particularly in secondary schools there's a lot of both transphobia and homophobia in secondary schools and so there's a lot of work that needs to be done there."
"I find myself particularly in demand and things like June, which is pride month for Transgender Day of visibility, or Trans-awareness Week, all these different inclusion weeks and all these sorts of things. You know, I find myself in big demand, and I'm doing these gigs all over the place. And then as soon as those weeks or months or whatever is over then nobody wants to know anything. Well, actually, what these organisations are doing, they're ticking boxes."
"It wasn't long before she called me Dad, because some of these other kids heard her. And then I remember there's one little boy. He looked at me, he put his hands on his hips and said on one side, he said, so are you her mum or her dad? So I said, I'm her dad. I'm transgender. But that's why I look like this. It was like, oh, and then it was like bees around a honey pot. So I found myself doing this impromptu trans awareness training session, age-appropriate language in a ball pit. Then they just carried on playing. And that was it."
"That's what I'd say. Just live your truth. Because if you try and live your life for other people, then that's no way to be happy. If you live your truth, then that is the easiest way to be happy. I'm okay. We will have to make sacrifices to do it. I've had to make huge sacrifices for this. And I've lost family and I've lost friends over this. You know, and it's been really hard. It's been a tough journey. But I'm so much happier doing it. And so I am living my truth and I'm absolutely loving it. I really am. "
RECOMMENDATIONS You and your gender identity by Dara Hoffmann fox https://amzn.to/3bdJzLA
Website: www.cool2btrans.co.uk - mentoring page of Katie’s website, to other support and groups for both trans people, parents and partners of trans people
Katie Neeves has been a professional photographer and filmmaker for 34 years, but she came out publicly as being transgender after living for 48 years as a man. Katie formed Cool2BTrans to support and inspire other trans people and also to educate others on trans issues, by showing them that trans people are just ordinary people who want to be happy. She uses humour to deliver trans awareness training in an entertaining way. Katie appears regularly in the media and she’s on both ITV's and the BBC's lists of experts.
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ABOUT THE HOST
Emma Last is a qualified Mental Health and Wellbeing Trainer and Coach. She has co-written both the First Aid Industry body’s accredited First Aid for Mental Health and Wellbeing training for Adults in the workplace and those working with children.
Emma also has over 20-years, experience in leading teams and developing strategies for change. She worked in senior leadership for a large corporate until early 2018, when she came to a turning point in her career due to being on the brink of burnout and wanted to gain more of a balance in her life. She then rebooted her life and founded her company Progressive Minds.
Emma also works with workplaces and schools on their Mental Health and Wellbeing strategies and provides training and coaching to support employees through challenging and changing times. Emma also works with individuals to help them to perform at their best by working on their mental fitness, which incorporates stress/burnout prevention and resilience and agility development through her Human Reboot Movement Coaching Programme. Her clients say they have become more mentally fit, happier and gain the results they want in their lives.
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