Joanne Monck is an Advisor on LGBTQ+ matters and hate crime and works with Sussex police on LGBTQ+ and trans awareness. She has just been awarded an OBE for Services to Transgender Equality in this year’s Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.
Who are you? What is your professional background?
My name is Joanne Monck. I’m 65 years old and live in Lancing, West Sussex. I own a Garden Maintenance business. I have a national level 2 certificate in Equality and Diversity. I am an Independent Advisor to several organisations on LGBT+ awareness and Hate Crime. I am a trained Schools Role Model for Stonewall.
When did you first realise that you wanted to transition, and, once you had made the decision, how did you go about it?
I first realised I had to transition after contemplating suicide in 2014 after spending my whole life trying to hide the woman that I was born to be and suffering frequently with mental health problems. My first step was to change my name by deed poll from David to Joanne. I then saw my GP who put me on a course of hormones and referred me to the gender clinic at Charing Cross Hospital in London. I had full gender reassignment surgery in Brighton in 2017 having been living as a woman since I started my transition.
Were there any challenges that you faced along the way?
Yes, of course, there were challenges. In the early days of my transition I had to overcome being stared at, being misgendered, and occasional verbal abuse. The biggest challenge was telling my twin sons and my father. My sons were totally understanding; even my father was accepting.
How did colleagues accept your transitioning?
I have always been really open about my journey. I had no wish to hide myself. All my friends and colleagues were told, and, because I explained how I felt, they were all very accepting and supportive, although some of my older colleagues were cautious but they came round in time. It was definitely helped by my positivity.
You have devoted a lot of your time – on a voluntary basis – with Sussex police advising on trans and LGBT+ representation and awareness. Why do you think this is so important and what difference do you think you have made and hope to make? How has Sussex police responded in a positive way to your advocacy?
I have been welcomed by Sussex Police as an advisor, giving up my spare time to help shape a policing service that recognises the different needs of people and thereby provide an outstanding service to the diverse community. I have helped to shape policies to ensure they recognise and are considerate of the needs of trans people and the LGBT+ community as a whole. I have delivered awareness sessions to colleagues and officers, which is so important as it increases their understanding of gender identity and the challenges experienced by people transitioning.
Sussex Police respect me as a passionate advocate for equality and the way I have challenged policing to empower the force to deliver a fair service to everyone.
You’re a Stonewall Schools Role Model. What does this involve? And what reception do you get from your schools/ colleges?
As a trained Stonewall Schools Role Model I visit schools on their behalf to talk about my life. A journey from darkness to light, the search for a rainbow and my own issues of mental health and suicidal thoughts before finally understanding that, to be truly happy in life, I had to accept my destiny. My key message to students is that it’s OK to be who you want to be. The reception I get is, without doubt, amazing with students bombarding me with questions
A few years ago Stonewall added “T” to their “LGB” representation. How overdue – and how welcome – do you think this was?
Stonewall adding “T” to “LGB” was a very important move, and long overdue. Whilst sexual orientation and gender identity are on the most part entirely different, they are also interwoven. Many transgender people may be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Through their key role and vast experience towards eliminating homophobia and biphobia Stonewall’s inclusion of transgender under their LGB umbrella has helped towards eliminating transphobia. After all, one of the slogans they use is “stand proud and stand together”.
Looking forward to the future what do you thinks needs to be done in terms of LGBT+ rights, not just in the UK but globally?
Looking to the future, there is a lot to be done. Globally there are still many countries where being LGBT+ is a crime, in some cases punishable with the death penalty. There is a need to educate globally. Even in countries where LGBT+ rights are accepted and part of constitutional law, there is still a vast amount of discrimination, often due to unconscious bias where people just don’t understand. In the UK acceptance of LGBT+ rights has been helped in many cases by organisations and companies being visibly inclusive and diverse. We are all human beings and in the 21st century deserve to be treated with dignity and respect no matter who or what we are.
Personally in terms of LGBT+ rights what are you proudest of?
I think I have helped many people understand who they are and what they need to do to achieve happiness. This year I was the recipient of a Chief Constables Commendation for the dedication and support I give to Sussex Police as a volunteer.
I was also the highlighted winner of the Diversity category in the 2020 We Are The City Top 100 Rising Star awards.