The boxing promoter, trans advocate and diversity speaker talks self-discovery, changing political views and LGBTQI representation in sports
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS
Kellie Maloney has had a whirlwind of a decade. She is one of Britain’s greatest ever boxing promoters and now she is one of our loudest voices for the transgender community.
In 2014, Kellie came out as trans. It was a landmark moment for the LGBTQI community, helping to further acceptance, awareness and support for trans people.
DIVA caught up with Kellie to find out more about her story and her opinions on issues the trans issues community are facing today.
DIVA: Tell us about yourself?
KELLIE: I was born a male and brought up in south east London, Peckham. I have two brothers, but I always felt so different to them. I never knew what it was, I couldn’t put my finger on it. At the age of 16, I read an article about April Ashley and when I did, everything made sense. I knew I was born in the wrong body and I knew I was female. But I didn’t know how I could explain it to anybody. I thought that I would fight this until the day that I die. The older I got, the harder it became to hide it.
What led you to eventually transition?
I made an online profile, calling myself Kellie Black, and started speaking to other people who were in a similar position to me. I found a friend who recommended some groups that I could join to meet people in real life. At this point, it was the pinnacle of my career. I was terrified of going out and people recognising me. I started attending a group in Worthing so I could meet more people like me. I was always the first there, so I could do my hair and make-up and I was always the last to leave so I could undress and nobody would see me. My story broke in 2014 and I had no choice but to tell everyone. I spoke to a number of newspapers and agreed to go with the Sunday Mirror, because they gave me editorial rights. They would also let me proofread the story and make sure they were using the correct terminology. My life totally changed when it was out there. I was reborn and it felt like I was living a new life. I was finally myself.
How would you describe your relationship with the LGBTQI community now that you’ve transitioned?
I’m more connected to the LGBTQI community than ever before. I’ve got lots of friends and I support a number of events all over the world. I am a believer that the T is totally different to the LGB – the T is about your gender and the LGB is about your sexuality. We need each other’s help though, and we need to support each other. The trans community is still fighting for recognition and acceptance. We can learn from the LGB community and what it has achieved. I’m at the stage in my life where I realise love is not about the gender. You fall in love with the person and I don’t need labels.
How would you describe LGBTQI representation in the sports world?
It’s getting better. A lot of people don’t come out though because of the pressure. I feel like if I had come out earlier, I would have done a better job. If you’re hiding who you are, you can’t do the real job you should be doing.
Trans issues and politics are closely linked and you’ve been very involved in politics in the past. As your sense of self has evolved, how do you think your politics have evolved?
I think the politics I was involved with wasn’t the real me. It was something I got involved with through other people. I never realised how transphobic or homophobic UKIP was. I never realised how small-minded these people were. The more I got to know about the party, the more I realised it wasn’t something I truly believed in. These days, my politics are very middle of the road. I like to look at all options before I make any decision now. My politics have very much been a part of my journey and a part of discovering my identity.
You’re currently a diversity speaker with Champions Speakers. How did that come about?
As soon as my story broke I was invited to do a talk for a group of lawyers. The response at the end was amazing. People said they thought it was an amazing story and that I really speak from the heart. Some people even said they were going through the same thing and that I had given them the courage to face it. It got really great feedback and I love doing it.
What do you want people to take away from your talks?
I want people to know that no matter who they are, we are all human beings. We all deserve respect from one another no matter what colour, religion, sexuality or gender we are. People will always appreciate you when you’re being yourself. I’ve never had so many friends as I do now living as Kellie. I’m still learning to be myself, but people like me for who I really am. I started to make friends, because I was finally being myself and people liked me for who I was. I believe that until the day I die, I will learn something knew everyday. We’re always discovering how to become a better versions of ourselves.
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