Firefighter and former Royal Marine Katie Cornhill gives inclusivity talk to pupils in Lewes

Pupils at a Lewes school met a female firefighter and former Royal Marine to find out more about how society can be more inclusive this week

Katie Cornhill made the headlines when she spoke out about her no cisgender history and has since spent her time visiting schools to educate young people about gender identity issues.  

The ex-commando was nominated for Fire and Rescue Services’ Woman of the Year and is now head of training and development for East Sussex Fire and Rescue.

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Katie told teens at Lewes Old Grammar School how important it was to create an environment in which people can speak out about their identity.  

Katie Cornhill made the headlines when she spoke out about her no cisgender history and has since spent her time visiting schools to educate young people about gender identity issues

She told them: “Try to check that you are not making assumptions about people and ask yourself what you can do personally to make a positive difference to someone who may not self-identify in a traditional fashion. It is so helpful if you can demonstrate that you are committed to supporting different gender identities.”

Ms Cornhill well understands these difficulties. As a young child, she experimented with wearing girls’ clothes but by the age of nine was discouraged from doing so.

As she grew up, she became interested in joining the armed forces and made it into the Royal Marines, passing out as a section commander and serving six years including periods in northern Iraq and southern Turkey. While loving her job, she was still keeping her gender identity to herself and did not affirm her true identity until 2012.  

From then on, she has embarked upon a mission to educate society about her journey and make life easier for those in a similar position.  

Katie told teens at Lewes Old Grammar School how important it was to create an environment in which people can speak out about their identity.

LOGS Head of Pastoral Care  Lucy Roberts said: “As a community we have a focus on recognising the importance of equality and diversity so having the opportunity to hear about someone’s real life experiences is both hugely valuable and inspiring for pupils. Katie’s talk helped to drive home the impact that thoughtless words can have on others and encouraged us all to realise that we can make a difference by not being a bystander. We are very grateful to Katie for sharing her time and experiences with us.”

Katie said: “From the moment I knew that I wanted to be able to live in my true gender identity, I wanted to take other people with me, and you can't do that by not being open about yourself.”  

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