We introduced a new section in March as a way of highlighting the ordinary people in our communities who live extraordinary lives or have extraordinary stories from the past. We are continuing this series with an interview from when I sat down with Kate Hutchinson on Monday 11th June 2018.
I feel lucky to have seen Kate delivering some amazing workshops to students through her role as Regional Officer at Diversity Role Models. She also delivers training sessions to teachers, NHS health professionals and also campaigns for Trans Rights. Her desire to have a positive impact on others is certainly inspiring.
Read on to learn more about Kate.
AL: There are a lot of people out there living extraordinary lives without others knowing them or their stories. Do you agree that you belong in this category?
KH: Previously, I’ve struggled with self-esteem issues due to a lot of things in my life but especially due to being trans and hiding that. I never felt like I was reaching my full potential but now my life has changed. I don’t think I do anything extraordinary, however I am now doing more work that I enjoy and which I hope is helping others.
AL: How would you describe yourself personally and professionally?
KH: Personally, I think I have more confidence than I used to but I’m also aware that I can appear more confident than I actually am at times. I love my life. I try to be open, compassionate and mindful. I enjoy a wide variety of interests, but being in the company of good friends and good music is where I’m happiest.
Professionally, I love the work I am now doing and am confident in what I do. I believe I’ve been called to do this work although I would never have thought this would be the kind of work I would end up doing. When I was in school, I was told I was suited to teaching which was furthest from my mind, however I am now educating young people and adults. As a musician, I’ve found that public speaking is similar to performing and I find that my nerves will disappear whilst on stage in whichever role I’m doing.
AL: What’s a typical day for you, if there is one?
KH: No, there isn’t a typical day due to all the different roles I have. Flexibility is key to each of those roles and I enjoy that aspect of my work as well as the challenge it offers. I’m now more confident in that side of things and when I am faced with something new, I approach it with the attitude of ‘OK so what can I do with this?’ My day could consist of delivering workshops in schools to students or teachers for my work as Regional Officer for Diversity Role Models, training healthcare professionals for the NHS in South Wales to know how best to help transgender patients or perhaps working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) young people in one of my other charity roles. My voluntary roles also offer a wide range of work such as being a committee member of ‘Schools Out’ who originated LGBT History month in the UK, which meant I was busy delivering speeches around the country in February. I also work with ‘All About Trans’, an organisation working with different media organisations to try to improve fair representation of trans people in the media. I’m also Director of ‘Wipe Out Transphobia’ which is a Not-For-Profit organisation aiming to increase transgender awareness. For ‘Pride Cymru’, I volunteer as their trans community outreach officer and am helping to ensure the community are well represented for this year’s Pride event in Cardiff on 24th, 25th and 26th August.
AL: Out of all your achievements, what are you most proud of?
KH: I’m proud I finally embraced the authentic me and stopped being afraid. This happened when I was really ill in hospital and I thought to myself ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen to me in life? Well, I could die and no-one would see the real me.’ That was the moment I decided to live authentically and my anxiety gradually fell away.
AL: What are you currently involved in?
KH: Currently, there is my work as Regional Officer with Diversity Role Models, a charity whose main aim is to prevent homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools. This is done through educating students and teachers to celebrate the differences between us all rather than persecute people for being different. It’s our diversity that makes the world go round. Through the volunteer role models going into school and talking about their lived experiences as part of the LGBT community or as allies, the students and teachers get to hear real stories which has a greater impact than simply telling the stories. I was a volunteer with Diversity Role models for 2 years before applying for this post and I love my work especially now being visible as a LGBT person within schools when I felt I had to hide that part of myself as a student in school.
My voluntary work for Pride Cymru is important at the moment as we are planning for this year’s event on the 24th, 25th and 26th August in Cardiff. Last year, it was attended by around 40,000 people and we are hoping this year will be even bigger. This year we are looking for Pride support for trans people in line with the consultation regarding reforms for the Gender Recognition Act. Reforms that may simplify the process for transgender people to have their identity recognised legally. As Pride started as a political movement, we are aiming to stay true to that with how we mark Pride Cymru this year. We are therefore encouraging people to bring the trans flag as well as the rainbow flag to show their support for trans people. Our campaign hashtag for this year is #proudtobeme.
AL: What makes you want to get involved?
KH: I get involved because I want to make a positive impact in the world. I believe we are here for such a short amount of time so if I can make life better for even just one person through having a positive impact on their life, then that makes it all worthwhile. There is too much negativity in the world so I want to add as much positivity as I can.
AL: Which areas are important to you?
KH: There are many areas important to me, however I focus on LGBT rights and Education and within those headings to break it down further: Trans rights and Youth. As a young person, I struggled with my identity and didn’t see anyone like me as I was growing up which would have helped me accept myself sooner. In each of these areas, people’s mental health can be effected so I’m also doing some work with Mental Health First Aid Wales.
AL: Who and what inspires you?
KH: Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, is a big inspiration as he didn’t compromise his beliefs on LGBT rights even when he thought he would be assassinated for them. I’m also inspired by my colleagues at DRM. Its fantastic to work alongside a group of people with such a passion for equality and diversity. As I was bullied as a child, I am inspired to keep working so that others don’t go through what I did. Although I kept my identity hidden, there were signs early on and I was bullied for being different. No child or adult should be persecuted for anything which makes them appear different, instead they should be treated with compassion and love. Surely life is too short for there to be too much nastiness in the world, we should show each other more love and respect.
AL: Can you imagine a time when you don’t get involved?
KH: Not really, because if I see injustice then I will always want to do something about it. I’ve become less tolerant of bigotry as I’ve gotten older and now that I’ve found a voice then I want to do more. When I was younger, my voice was locked away due to my own anxieties and constant ‘what ifs’ which stopped me progressing through my life. I stopped myself from transitioning sooner as I kept thinking ‘what if I lose my friends, my family, my relationship etc’. A wall of ‘What Ifs’ which became less frightening once I started to chip away at them.
However, I do know that I need to increase my boundaries around my own self-care more as if I do too much then my own Mental Health will suffer. I need to take care of myself more by sitting and being quiet, switching off phones and other technology and spending time with friends. Time away from the campaigning scene also benefits me and allows me to recharge my batteries so that I don’t burn out.
AL: If you had your life over what would you change?
KH: I wouldn’t change much. I know some would expect me to say that I would want my gender identity to match my body from the start but I feel blessed to have had the life I’ve had even with all its ups and downs. I’m grateful to see life from the viewpoint I get to see it from, as I’ve seen life from the viewpoints of male and female ‘roles’ and that has shaped my views as a feminist.
AL: You talk openly about Mental Health and your awareness of your own Mental Health, what advice would you share with those struggling in their lives?
KH: I would say to be nice to yourself, take time for yourself and do the things you need to do and never be afraid to talk about what’s on your mind even if it’s just to one person. Being able to talk about my mental health has saved my life many times.
In terms of those in the LGBT community, then I would say to try to tackle anything you are not confident about or embarrassed by as otherwise it will eat away at you. I can say that the doubts I had about myself before my transition are no longer there. It’s important to be whoever you are.
AL: What’s next for you personally and professionally?
KH: Personally, I’d like to take a holiday and switch off all technology. In the long-term, I’d like a partner to settle down with, however I don’t tend to plan too far ahead these days as I live every day as it comes. I’ll carry on being nice to people and do things for the greater good.
Professionally, I love what I do but in an ideal world, the roles I have wouldn’t be needed as everyone would accept others and be accepted by them. If I wasn’t working in equality then I would be more involved in music as that is a great medium to reach people through. However, whilst equality still needs to be fought for then I’ll continue working in this area.
I’ve also written chapters for a couple of books and I’m working on my own book at the moment so I aim to continue working on that.
AL: Now that our readers know of some of your work, where can people find you?
KH: If you’re interested in our school workshops at DRM check out http://www.diversityrolemodels.org, I can be reached directly through my Diversity Role Models email: firstname.lastname@example.org or through twitter: @katieloukhaos.