NIW2022: Meet Stella Cottee as she talks about her journey since transition

Today’s theme for National Inclusion Week is ‘The Power of Identity – Share who you are’. To support this theme we are going to be sharing some real life stories from own colleagues today to help raise awareness on how important it is to share who you are. Hopefully this will not only help some of our colleagues at Specsavers speak up but also others out there who may be struggling. First up meet PRISM member and Lincoln Morrisons store colleague, Stella Cottee, about her journey since transition, and how she’s advocating for the trans community in both the virtual and real-life worlds.

An online presence of over 66,000…

‘As someone with a sizeable online presence of over 66,000 followers and although the vast majority of messages and comments I receive are positive, I get a lot of nasty ones as well. I ignore and block most of them, but sometimes I’ll call them out – while I don’t feel pressure to respond, I do feel the need to put some trolls in their place! Some messages can be truly, unrepeatably vile – for these people, I don’t really try to educate them, but report them instead. I do have a thick skin, but the worst comments can affect me and knock my confidence.

Being trans is not a choice

It’s much worse for my friends who have more of a sensitive nature – as a community, we lift them up and support them as best we can, and personally, I try to inspire people to take some good out of everything. I feed off positivity – something we should all do – and will never let trolls beat me. I have had some success stories along the way – only this week, I got an apology from one of them, albeit a bit half-hearted, as he said he was just trying to be funny. My reply? Being trans is not a choice, and therefore it’s not something to be used as a butt of jokes.

Since my transition, I’ve been an advocate for the trans community in a number of different spaces – from working with Leicester City Football Club to raise awareness of the Football v Transphobia campaign and being interviewed for the LGBTQ+ business community myGwork. In June, I also took part in a protest in London – I felt it was time to stand up and be counted, to support the community. We protested about the conversion therapy ban not including trans people – as well as all the negativity surrounding trans issues from the gender-critical brigade, which is so common in the media. My mission is to stand against these people – especially those who are trying to ban trans folk from single-sex areas.

Being an advocate and activist not only gives me confidence, but shows the rest of the community that they can be proud of who they are. Ultimately, everyone should be free to be their authentic selves – and continued education and exposure will help us get there. While I feel free to be me, not everyone is in that position – but if we keep on educating and communicating, maybe one day they will be.

My biggest hope for the future is that we won’t even have to have these conversations – instead, we’ll all be able to live our own authentic lives.’

Want to learn more about Stella’s journey? Check her out on TikTok (thestellacottee) and Twitter (@stellacottee).

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