An LGBT+ advocate will be presented with one of the highest accolades on the Queen’s New Year’s Honours.
The 65-year-old Lancing resident is one of only two people to be awarded an OBE for Services to Transgender Equality.
Joanne Monck, who has two sons and owns a garden maintenance business, said she was “absolutely gobsmacked” when she heard. “I was totally overwhelmed. I got very very emotional,” she added.
Six years ago Joanne transitioned to become a woman and is now legally female. Until then she said she had lived in a macho role but had secretly dressed as a woman since she was young.
Joanne had a nervous breakdown when she was 20, saying she knew then she should have been born a woman. She said the longer it went on the harder it got. “I’d always been very inward. I couldn’t make friends,” she said.
“The person I am now was always inside me from birth, but that person was almost imprisoned.”
Joanne saw a psychiatrist but said it was not what she needed. “Transitioning was a release from any mental health issues in the future”, she said. Had she not done so she believes mental health problems would have driven her into care.
Since making the decision to transition in 2014 she said her life had changed dramatically. “I’ve got hundreds of friends. I’m very outgoing. I’ll talk to complete strangers – which is something I’d never do in the past,” she said.
After transitioning she turned her efforts towards helping others. Joanne is passionate about equality and inclusion for all diverse groups, including BAME and disabled people.
Her OBE specifically recognises her voluntary work supporting the transgender community. Joanne said: “The transgender community deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as a basic human right, without fear of discrimination, stereotyping and hate. It’s as simple as that.”
Chief Superintendent Steve Boniface of Sussex Police said: “In her role as a public advisor for Sussex Police, Joanne has consistently demonstrated a passion for inclusion and in raising awareness for LGBT+ equality.”
Joanne called on the police herself when she was the victim of online abuse two years ago. She said it nearly made her give up her equality work. “I said, right, I’m not going to let it get me down. This is what I’m passionate about.
“So I was like the phoenix: I rose from the ashes and started all over again.”
The abuse encouraged Joanne to write to the Home Secretary, calling for a change in the law around hate crimes towards the transgender community. She also became an Independent Advisor on hate crime with the Crown Prosecution Service.
As well as recognising her work, Joanne believes the OBE helps to legitimise the cause of transgender equality. She said: “It’s been recognised by the government. It’s been recognised by the Queen. Thirty, forty years ago it wouldn’t have been. We just need to move forward and let everybody be who they want to be.”
Joanne said the award has provided a lot more opportunities for her and plans to write a book about her life.
“What’s next for me? To get a damehood!” she joked. “I’ll just push on with the fight for equality for all diverse groups. I’ll do whatever it takes, and whatever I need to do I’ll give it 100%. That’s all I can do,” she said.
Joanne will receive her OBE at Buckingham Palace later in the year when coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Thank you to Joanne Monck for sharing her story and contributing to this piece.