MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Profile: Katie Neeves, Trans Ambassador and Founder of Cool2BTrans

Katie Neeves, Trans Ambassador and founder of Cool2BTrans - www.cool2btrans.co.uk Photo by Jayne Walsh.

Covid has reinforced the need to have diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging at the forefront of workplace mental health initiatives year-round. In line with this, employers are increasingly seeking to understand how they need to adapt their approach to support the mental health and wellbeing of trans colleagues.

In this interview Katie Neeves, Trans Ambassador and Founder of Cool2BTrans, gives a sneak peek of the roundtable she’ll be facilitating, in-person, in Central London on 21st October at the fourth annual MAD World Summit.

MAD stands for Make A Difference. The MAD World Summit is the global go-to solutions-focused event for employers dedicated to accelerating the shift from stigma to solutions, turning talk into action and moving workplace culture, mental health, and wellbeing mainstream.

First, can you tell us a bit about your professional background. How did you come to set up Cool2btrans? 

I’ve been a professional photographer and filmmaker for 34 years, but 3.5 years ago I risked my livelihood and reputation by coming out out very publicly as being transgender after living for 48 years as a man and struggling with gender dysphoria all that time.  I made a coming-out video, sent it to all my clients and posted it on all my social media.  Go big or go home! 
Thankfully, I was inundated with hundreds of messages of support, but it could have gone either way.  I then started vlogging my transition to bring people along on my journey with me and my story was picked up in the local media.  This led to interviews for national radio, TV, newspapers and magazines and I‘m now on both ITV’s and the BBC’s lists of experts.
I formed Cool2BTrans to reach out to other trans people to let them know that it really is OK to be trans (because it is) and also to show others that trans people are just ordinary people who want to be happy – just like everyone else.  I use a lot of humour with my trans awareness training and inspirational speaking, as it’s a great tool for breaking down barriers.  It makes it a lot of fun too.
 

From your observations, how are the pandemic and new ways of working impacting the wellbeing of members of the trans community?

Many trans people are quite reclusive and some have enjoyed being able to transition at home without the pressure of being seen in public.  Their anxiety is increasing now we are starting to go back into offices again, as they worry about how well they will be accepted at work.  They also have all the usual worries about whether they will be bullied when they use public loos. 
Others have found it tough being so isolated and not being able to access in-person support groups.  This is made particularly worse when they are living with unsupportive family members, which so many trans people are.  There literally has been no escape for them. 
Flexibility at work is the key here, so employers should listen to their trans (and cisgender) staff to find out how they prefer to work.
 

We are delighted that you will be joining us as a roundtable facilitator at this year’s MADWorld Summit on 21st October in London.  Is there anything you’d like to share with readers about your roundtable “Creating safe spaces for Trans colleagues”.

I will be giving away my top tips on how to be a trans ally and we will be discussing ways that we can all make life easier for trans people in the workplace.  I’ll also be answering any questions about trans people that you have always wanted to ask, but never felt able to ask.  There really is nothing that I will not answer.  I may regret saying that!
 

What are you looking forward to most about the MADWorld Summit?

I’m really looking forward to meeting so many like-minded people who want to make the World a better place by being more inclusive.  If I can help in some small way to make life easier for just one trans person in their workplace, it will have been worthwhile.  I’m also looking forward to stepping away from the web-cam and meeting REAL people again.  I better remember to dress below the waist though!

You can meet Katie in person at this year’s MADWorld Summit on 21st October where she’ll be facilitating the roundtable: “Creating safe spaces for Trans colleagues”.

The MAD World Summit is on Thursday 21st October, in-person at 133 Houndsditch in Central London. The Summit is the go-to event for employers who want to Make A Difference to workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing. For more information visit the event agenda or to book visit the booking page.